Vol. 32, No. 1                                                                                                    January, 1989

Kenneth Jernigan, Editor

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Vol. 32, No. 1                                                                                                    January, 1989



by Kenneth Jernigan

by Diane McGeorge

by Michael Baillif

by Kenneth

by Marc Maurer

by Barbara Pierce


by Barbara Pierce


Barbara Cheadle

by Kenneth Jernigan

by Ronda J. Del Boccio



by Marc Maurer

by Fred Schroeder



Copyright � 1989, National Federation of the Blind, Inc.



by Kenneth Jernigan

In the July, 1988, edition of the Monitor we carried an article concerning the problem which Science Products is having with the American Foundation for the Blind. It will be remembered that Tom and Lee Benham (the owners of Science Products) are objecting strenuously to the fact that the American Foundation for the Blind is, as they see it, unethically competing with them and threatening their livelihood. In the words of the Benhams in their April 4, 1988, letter to AFB Executive Director Bill Gallagher: It has come to our attention that AFB has submitted a voice system to Lifescan for their review for use with the Glucoscan Blood Glucose Monitors.

This is high-tech language, but it deals with down-to-earth issues. It raises a question which has far-reaching implications and is likely to touch the lives of most of the blind of this country. A nonprofit organization in the blindness field (sheltered shop, service agency, or consumer group) does not pay taxes. It has favored status in mailing costs, and it can receive tax-free donations and bequests. Mostly this is beneficial to the blind, but what happens as technology proliferates and prices come down? Does the time come when the advantage becomes a hindrance?

As I understand it, the Benhams have a small mom and pop operation. Benham is bright and inventive, and his wife apparently has a good business head and is a full partner in the work. They do not have a large staff, a far-flung fundraising network, or the name of Helen Keller. They feel that they can compete in the marketplace and that through the design and manufacture of products (products which they feel can make life better for the blind) they can make a living. According to their version, they saw an opportunity in the early 1980's to help both themselves and the blind. They could design and manufacture a talking device to assist diabetics in testing blood sugar. To produce such a device would require considerable lead time and the investment of a sizable chunk of their life savings. Moreover, Tom Benham was in his seventies. Should they take the gamble?

They felt (remember that this is their version of it) that they could deal with the competitive market and do good both for themselves and the blind, but they recognized that they could not compete against a large nonprofit organization with all of its built-in legal and financial advantages. Therefore, they went to New York to talk with the American Foundation for the Blind, the only nonprofit group which they thought might be a threat. They say that they were assured that the Foundation would not attempt to upstage them.

With this encouragement the Benhams took the plunge. It is now several years later; their talking technology is on the market; and the American Foundation for the Blind (having first copied the Benham's design) is using its nonprofit advantage and financial power to undercut and take sales from the Benhams. I cannot emphasize too strongly that this is the Benhams' version of what happened, but the accuracy of their perception has nothing to do with the basic question a question which perhaps has low priority today but which may ultimately come to be all-important.

First let us clear away the nonessentials. We are not considering whether the American Foundation for the Blind is a good or a bad outfit. It may be one or the other, or (more probably) a mixture. For that matter (even though their story is dramatic and compelling) we are not even primarily considering the Benhams. The question is the proper role of a nonprofit organization in the production and marketing of technology. It may be the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, or somebody else.

AFB takes the position that the talking glucose tester is a useful product and that they are helping blind people by selling it at the lowest possible price. They say that the blind benefit and that the number of sales will be too small to tempt most manufacturers. They cite the example of the Sharp talking calculator, the Sharp talking clock, and the IBM talking typewriter. These items were manufactured by Sharp and IBM with the thought that there would be enough volume to allow them to make a profit. There wasn't. They didn't. The products were withdrawn from the market, and mostly even the components are not now available. Can anyone reasonably argue that there could be any harm to the blind if a nonprofit organization should begin to manufacture these products? Perhaps not but what about mom and pop operations and backyard entrepreneurs, people like the Benhams? Again, the argument can be made that the Foundation can produce such items at a lower price than even these individuals and groups. Is it reasonable to raise the price so that small businesses and enterprising individuals will be encouraged to venture? Upon superficial examination the answer would seem to be simple but wait! In the last century in a situation which is admittedly not completely analogous, Standard Oil made a similar argument. It could and did undersell everybody else in the business, and it had difficulty seeing why anybody could object to lower prices and better products. But some did object, and eventually almost everybody objected. Standard Oil's lower prices were not achieved without cost to the public. They not only received kickbacks from the railroads which shipped their oil but also what was called a drawback from their competitors. The drawback worked like this: Standard Oil would pay the railroad a given amount to ship a barrel of oil. Their competitors paid the same amount. Then, the railroad kicked back (say a dime a barrel) to Standard Oil, not only on what Standard had shipped but also (the drawback) on all the competitors had shipped. Standard Oil did not regard itself as immoral or acting against the public interest, and John D. Rockefeller was unquestionably sincere in both his church activities and his philanthropies.

Certainly the American Foundation for the Blind is not Standard Oil, and its executive is not John D. Rockefeller. And, of course, the analogy is not precise or complete. But there is at least an element of similarity. If the Foundation and the Benhams can (all other things being equal) produce a talking glucose tester at the same cost, the advantage is with the Foundation. The Benhams must pay taxes and are not likely to receive bequests. Moreover, the Foundation (because it receives government grants) gets subsidized by those taxes. It can be argued that there is at least an element of the drawback in the situation.

The reason monopoly is opposed and competition encouraged in the business community is that it is felt prices will be lower in the long run as a result. Moreover, if there are lots of people in the field, they keep each other honest and have the maximum incentive to find new techniques and processes. Monopoly tends to encourage complacency, waste, inefficiency, and poor service. This is true in the business community, but many would argue that it does not apply in the nonprofit area, where service instead of profit is supposedly the objective. However, this too is arguable. Be this as it may, the question of the proper role of the nonprofit organization in the manufacture and distribution of hi-tech items is likely to be an increasing topic of discussion. Congressional committees are studying the matter; magazines and newspapers are writing about it; and the Benhams are telling all who care to listen. They have sent copies of their correspondence to members of Congress, state and federal officials, and leaders of the nonprofit community. Here is the latest round:

New York, New York

July 26, 1988

Dear Mr. Benham:

Your letter has been reviewed by various staff and board members at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). It has never been AFB's policy or intent to undercut prices of commercial developers and manufacturers. Every year the Consumer Products Department catalog is reviewed and changes are implemented as indicated by market, cost, and other factors. This type of review will occur again this year.

Should you desire any additional information, please feel free to contact us at any time.


William F. Gallagher, MSW
Executive Director
American Foundation for the Blind


Southeastern, Pennsylvania

August 25, 1988

Dear Bill:

We appreciated your letter of 26 July but note that you have failed to address the issue.

If it is not your intent to undercut prices of commercial developers and manufacturers why is your price of $399 undercutting ours by 35%? The lowest price we have seen on the Orange Medical Beta Scan is $475 ($595 when introduced). Your price is 15% less than theirs, reducing the likelihood that they will improve or produce a new model. Diascan sells for over $600. Boerhinger Mannheim's unit sold for over $800 and was taken off the market. Med-Equip's unit at $395 does not talk, it beeps; your price will hurt them, too. It is obvious that AFB is using its nonprofit benefits to undercut the prices of all of us who have developed and worked in this market. You pay expenses with donations; you are not obliged to make payroll for direct labor and overhead from sales revenues. Failure of your Talking Blood Glucose Analyzer will not affect AFB's future.

Science Products produced special employment aids for the vision impaired on a shoestring for 25 years. We were afraid to make a commitment to a major project because the possibility of nonprofit competition from AFB always existed. In 1983, recognizing the need as a result of many requests from our customers, Tom and I came to New York for the specific purpose of asking you and your staff what your intentions were regarding voice output for a blood glucose analyzer.

On the strength of your assertion that you had no plans for such a device, we made a major investment to help blind diabetics. Had you indicated you might, at any moment, embark on such a project, we most certainly would not have proceeded. There is not enough dollar volume in the market to support our program in competition with nonprofit subsidies and we know it! We accepted the risk of for-profit competition because we know the market and we know how to approach it. We knew that we had a good chance to bring a successful product to the market and keep it there as we have during the difficult developmental years before AFB's intrusion. As of the date of this writing we are receiving phone calls from our customers asking us to explain why we charge so much when AFB has a unit similar to ours at half the price not only are you taking away our business, you are also taking away our credibility, undermining other projects in addition to the one in question.

This is the second time that AFB has singled us out for competitive targeting. The first was some years ago when your representative came to our facility to review the commercial products which we offered in our catalog. These same products then appeared in your catalog. It is becoming obvious that your direct assault is intentional: You have copied our blood glucose analyzer module, even using the same box to house the voice unit that we used, trading on an image we have spent several years and substantial resources establishing!

As a nonprofit organization with significant stature in your field, you have a responsibility not only to your potential clients but to the overall welfare of the group you serve and to the nonprofit concept in general. You receive benefits from the government which are currently under fire in both Washington and at least some state capitals. Irresponsible actions in competition with the free market may cost nonprofit organizations dearly and the more irresponsibility law makers can see, the more likely there is to be a curtailment of tax and mailing benefits. My representatives in Washington and Harrisburg will be aware of the harm AFB has caused us, as will your representatives in New York State. A responsible nonprofit approach to the matter in question would include a market study to determine the effect of the entry of a major nonprofit manufacturer/marketer into an already mature market. It would include not only the impact of your competition on those already producing aids for the blind but also on companies producing the basic commercial device: were you asked to design a free adaptation for the benefit of one commercial manufacturer to the exclusion of others? If such a study was made, I would appreciate seeing a copy. Certainly no one asked us how we would be affected and we are a major supplier of such aids who will be seriously harmed. We are sure the blind community is interested in knowing how you determine what products to put in your catalog and which companies to target for direct competition. Smith-Kettlewell designs special aids for the vision impaired. They are very careful not to compete with the free market they will design but they will not manufacture or market. They are being responsible both to our free enterprise system and to the vision impaired. They truly encourage others to use their varied resources and skills to bring items to the market to help the blind. AFB's policy seems designed for the benefit of interests at AFB not for the benefit of the blind.

If you take away from us only one sale of a voice module for a blood glucose monitor you are doing both us and your blind constituents an injustice. You will deprive us of revenues:

1) to resolve individual customer problems as they arise. 2) to pursue design changes that will lead to a better and less expensive product in the future.

3) to respond to design changes made by original equipment manufacturers (extremely important) and to keep up with current technology.

4) to market more widely in order to make more blind people aware of product availability.

Our commitment to the blind market in the past has been total. Our approach has been one of responsibility to the customer and to the original manufacturers. We have built into the pricing of our Digi-Voice module an allowance for wholesaling to qualified representatives of the glucose analyzer company so that qualified assistance is available to the blind user at his location. Our catalog has always contained cautionary information concerning use of the instrument (we see no such caution in your catalog regarding professional training). Science Products is forced to end its total commitment to the blind market as a direct result of AFB's unfair and irresponsible competition. We will continue to market products already designed and to develop projects which require relatively small investments of time and money. We will be pleased to undertake projects for which development funds can be made available to us. We will not in future make the mistake of investing heavily from our own limited resources since we now know that AFB will not hesitate to move into competition on any product we design even if we have your statement to the contrary. You apparently want us out of the market and we lack the financial resources and the time to resist.

Science Products has a wealth of background in development of aids for the vision impaired. Tom Benham is one of the most capable (if not the most capable) human engineering consultants in the field. He spends hours on the phone each week with individuals discussing their particular needs and problems (at no charge). From these discussions he has developed and refined instrumentation applications to be of maximum possible use to the vision impaired. For the sake of the blind, we hope AFB has someone comparable on staff who will provide this service while Tom is designing equipment for industry in order to pay the rent!

Very truly yours,

Lee Benham

Owner, Science Products

P.S. In reviewing your letter of 18 April I note your statement `no such low-cost Blood Glucometer with voice is being marketed.' Glucometer is the proprietary trade name of the Ames Corporation. Science Products has been marketing the Talking Glucometer based on the Ames device for four years, as you should well know since it was the device we discussed with you at the beginning of our project. `Low-cost' is easy when you pay no taxes, mail your extensive advertising material at nonprofit rates, and depend on tax free donations to subsidize your programs.


Southeastern, Pennsylvania

August 25, 1988

Board of Directors
American Foundation for the Blind
New York, New York

Dear AFB Board Member:

Enclosed is the next round of correspondence concerning AFB's move into a mature market with an underpriced and unfairly competitive product.

Because I appreciate and admire much of what AFB does and has done, I am loath to pursue this problem to the extent outlined herein. However, I have a firm basic belief in the ability of the free enterprise system to deliver the best products at the best prices in the long run, and I sincerely believe that AFB's action is unethical and contrary to our country's free enterprise principles and the best interests of the vision impaired. I do not believe that nonprofit benefits were granted to enable large, tax-free organizations to force small businesses out of a market any market or to deprive small businesses of a fair return on investment in developing and marketing a new product. Also, we are fighting for our life's savings! During the first half of the 20th Century AFB did a tremendous service for the blind in providing special aids and appliances not available elsewhere. In the 60's and 70's technological advances expanded the horizons of the blind exponentially. Blind people became independent, some affluent. Their buying power increased. At the same time the Federal Government mandated accessibility and third-party funds became available for adaptive equipment. Many for- profit companies began producing aids for the vision impaired, some in direct competition with AFB. As a result of the entrance of free enterprise into the market, blind people have available a variety of products conceived, developed and produced by many creative, innovative, diverse, and enthusiastic entrepreneurs. Mail Order businesses competing with AFB have been efficient enough to undersell AFB on many products even though they mail catalogs at full postal rates, pay taxes, and have no source of revenue other than product sales. AFB is no longer needed to deliver these products to the blind others are doing it quite well and very competitively If AFB continues its old approach, inevitably some of these entrepreneurs will be harmed by unfair competition. As private enterprise takes over more of the market, there is less left undone, less need for a paternal nonprofit organization to provide what the market does not.

There is little AFB can offer that private enterprise cannot do better. The only place left for AFB to go is into a market already developed by entrepreneurs, the only tactic to gain a portion of the market is to undersell. This tactic can very soon discourage all of us if it is carried to its logical end. A few years ago AFB developed a folding cane, not because the blind needed another folding cane, but because cane suppliers were selling to other retailers for the blind at the same price AFB had to pay and AFB could not retain its market share. Result:

Donated money was used by AFB to finance development and manufacture of a product already on the market with the express purpose of undercutting the cane manufacturers to retain a competitive position. There may be other instances of this aggressive competitiveness on AFB's part of which I am unaware.

I see AFB's present attack on Science Products as another manifestation of this same, very dangerous, policy. Whenever AFB decides it wants control of a product or line of products it can simply use its nonprofit resources to undermine the competition, discouraging entrepreneurs who could make the free enterprise system work for the blind.

As the enclosed materials indicate, we will not be able to work in the blind market as we have in the past. There may be others like us who are discouraged from participation by AFB's money and policies. If so, the loss to the blind is tremendous. If AFB were providing all that the blind might ever need, there would be no other suppliers. The fact that we, and others, have found projects to work on over the years is an indication that AFB is not doing everything for everyone and that there is a need for people like us. But we need security.

We need to know that we have a fair chance of recovering our investment on any given project so that we can prepare for the next project and the next payroll and be in business, strong and secure, when our customers need us in the future to service the devices we have made. AFB has deprived us of that security.

I would be happy to discuss this problem with you and suggest that you might get interesting responses from others who are competing with AFB. Most are afraid to speak up for fear they will be the next target!

For the first time in its 30 year history of serving the blind Science Products has a full technical staff with the ability to respond in a timely and creative way to the problems of blind individuals.

It is a shame these resources, gathered with the good-faith assumption that AFB would not undermine us, will be working for industry and not for the people who could most benefit from our long experience. Please know that this is a very serious matter. I believe it merits more than the non-comments we have received from Mr. Gallagher.

Very truly yours,

Lee Benham, Owner

Recipients of Letters Protesting AFB Competition 8/25/88:

Senator John Heniz

Senator Arlen Spector

Lawrence Gibbs, Director of IRS

U.S. Postmaster Anthony Frank

Executive Officer, Anti Trust Division,

Department of Justice

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Senator Alfonse D'Mato

Congressman William Green

Congressman Peter Vroon

Itala S. Cappabianca, Chairman

Select Committee to Study Business

Activities of Nonprofits

House of Representatives

AFB Officers



by Diane McGeorge

The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado affiliate is working to make this year's Convention absolutely unforgettable. We have several things going for us in this attempt: the city of Denver, the geography of Colorado, and its history. Keep this in mind as you make your plans for July. Who knows when you will be back to the Mile-High City again! Plan to make the most of your time while you are here.

Friday, July 7, will be our free afternoon this year, and we expect to offer four tours for you to choose among. More details will be available later, but here is enough information to whet your appetite. Central City is a small town famous at the turn of the century as the richest square mile in the world. Silver and gold mining created its wealth, and its homes and shops have been preserved or restored to reflect the life of this town a hundred years ago. The opera house and the saloon where The Face on the Bar Room Floor is still visible are only two of the buildings you can tour. There are food and drink and shopping to satisfy every taste, and our bus tour will have Federationists back at the hotels by dinner time.

Another, more ambitious possibility is the trip to Georgetown. This, too, is a preserved turn-of-the-Century town with lots to see and do. After looking around and shopping a little, the group will board the narrow gage railroad train for a thirty-mile trip into the mountains through spectacular scenery. We will visit the Silver Plume mine before returning to Georgetown by train and then to Denver by bus.

Estes Park is a city located in the Front Range outside of Denver. Again, there is lots to see and do in the town itself, but we can also make arrangements to travel to a ranch on the north fork of the Big Thompson River for a dinner prepared in a genuine chuck wagon.

For those who have limited time on Friday afternoon for sightseeing, the tour of the Coor's brewery in Golden, Colorado may be just the ticket. The group will be transported in an English double-decker bus. Golden (the home of Coor's) is only a half hour drive from Denver, and the tour includes a look at the bottle and can manufacturing operations as well as the brewery that produces one of the country's best beers. Tourists are treated to an appropriate sample of the product before they leave Coor's. Needless to say, this is always a popular trip.

A number of people have spoken to me about the possibility of participating in a technical rock-climbing expedition while they are in the area. I am delighted to report that we have made arrangements with the instructors who work with the students and staff of the Colorado Center for the Blind to provide a day of instruction and climbing on Monday, July 3 and Monday, July 10 if there is enough interest. We must have at least ten people in the group to make it worth doing, and no more than twenty can sign up. The cost will be between $20 and $25 for transportation, ground school, and the climb. Anyone who is interested in this unique opportunity must contact me by May 1 so that I can make the necessary arrangements for the group.

Even if you can't picture yourself climbing sheer rock faces, you might seriously consider arriving early for the Convention or staying a day or two afterward to do some sightseeing in the area. Denver boasts a number of interesting attractions within a walk or city bus ride of the hotels. The Art Museum, the State Historical Museum, and the Denver Mint are nearby. One can also tour the home of the Unsinkable Molly Brown and the Brown Palace Hotel, concluding with high tea. Denver has two excellent amusement parks, both of which include kiddy-lands. One of them, Elitch's Gardens, is surrounded (as its name suggests) by many beautiful gardens.

Aspen, with its unexcelled scenery and world-famous music school, is accessible by bus. So is Colorado Springs. Here you can visit the Air Force Academy or take the cog railroad up to Pike's Peak. The Garden of the Gods has incredible rock formations and provides wonderful hiking opportunities. The Cave of the Winds has its entrance at the bottom, and one climbs up through the formation.

Another possibility, if you have two days, is a trip to Glenwood Springs where Doc Holliday, the famous gunslinger, is buried. Did you know that he was a dentist who came to Colorado to die of tuberculosis? The hot mineral baths attracted him and still draw people from everywhere. You could find no better, more relaxing way to prepare for or recover from the rigors of our National Convention than to make a side trip to Glenwood Springs. You must allow two days for this visit. The Colorado Hotel, where Doc Holliday lived, requires a reservation months in advance. There are, however, many other overnight accommodations in the area.

If you have access to a car, there are a number of wonderful trips in the Denver area that you can take. Lookout Mountain is the location of Buffalo Bill Cody's grave and offers spectacular scenery. The Red Rocks Amphitheater provides a breathtaking natural setting for outdoor concerts on summer weekends. One can enjoy a picnic supper while listening to popular artists perform. Evergreen is a picturesque little town that has become an artist colony. Much of the work of local artists is on display and for sale.

If you would like assistance in arranging any of these tours or want suggestions about others, you can contact Nancy Richardson of The Western Wanderer, 6343 S. Monaco Court, Englewood, Colorado 80111; telephone (303) 771-3820.

People who have never been to Colorado dismiss our talk about clear air, perfect weather, and breathtaking scenery as just so much propaganda put out by the Chamber of Commerce or, as one might say, hot air. The trouble is that it's all true! We want you to get to know our corner of the world a little better as long as you are here, so plan to spend a little extra time with us in the friendly West. See you at the convention!



by Michael Baillif

As Monitor readers know (see July, 1988, issue), Michael Baillif (President of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind) is traveling in England and other European countries this year on a Watson Fellowship. On October 27, 1988, while traveling in Wales with his parents, Michael was in an automobile accident in which he suffered minor injuries. At this writing in early November, he is recovering and expects soon to return to his research. His work so far has been confined to studying of the blind in England. The yardstick he is using to evaluate the condition of the blind in the United Kingdom is the philosophy about blindness developed by the National Federation of the Blind in the United States. In his report to Watson officials, Michael boldly asserts that the condition of the blind in England is generally dismal. Here are some of his ruminations and conclusions. It is clear that Michael takes his Federationism seriously.

A Beeping Nuisance

Traveling the streets of London presents to the pedestrian numerous challenges, including roads which intersect to form all manner of geographical patterns save right angles, and sidewalks which are cluttered with signs, scaffolding, and every imaginable variety of refuse. Blind travelers face an additional obstacle, the well-meaning English pedestrian. It is virtually impossible for a blind person in London to approach a street corner without being set upon by a benevolent passer-by and dragged across the road to the accompaniment of such reassuring phrases as You're okay mate or It's all right love, we're almost there. This state of affairs, which is highly detrimental to one's mobility, to say nothing of one's self- respect, can be traced to a number of causes, none of which is more boisterously apparent than the audible traffic signal.

Street corners of London are randomly dotted with these signals which emit a piercing beep when it is supposedly safe to cross a street.

These signals, in theory, are designed for the convenience and protection of blind travelers. It is not uncommon, when walking the streets of London, to be assaulted by the din of honking horns, frantic sirens, barking dogs, and (rising above the audio melee) shrieking audible signals. Although their obtrusiveness may lead one to the contrary opinion, it is important to realize that audible signals are by no means placed on every street corner in London. In fact, they are scattered throughout the city in such a whimsical pattern that any blind traveler actually depending upon them as a mobility aid would soon find himself cursing the lack of a beeping signal at a busy intersection. In most cases he soon would be hustled across the street and deposited on the opposite side by a public benefactor. On occasion, however, the blind traveler would be left to depend upon his own abilities when crossing the street and, judging by the fact that the mortality rates for the blind in England are no higher than those of the sighted, would apparently acquit himself reasonably well in this endeavor. Thus, audible signals simply make a good deal of noise and are not a mobility necessity for blind pedestrians. If this assessment of audible signals accurately represented their entire character, they would be a laughable curiosity, ineffective and perhaps even charming in their own beeping way. Audible signals, however, are far from harmless and have a powerfully negative effect on the public perception of blindness. It should not be surprising that the average English citizen is so readily willing to lay hands upon blind pedestrians, regardless of whether they desire any assistance. The profusion of audible signals reinforces the idea that it is external devices, rather than a blind person's senses and skills, which enable him to perform various activities, such as crossing streets, with competence and expedition. Accordingly, when a member of the English public encounters a blind person standing on a street corner at which an audible signal has not been installed, the good citizen generally accepts his responsibility to act as custodian of the blind pedestrian and (either cheerfully or grudgingly) undertakes to conduct him to his destination.

Although the English are charitable people, their good will (which is offered to and enforced upon blind people on the sidewalks) generally does not extend to blind people in the job market or legislative halls. Audible signals perpetuate the myth that the blind are helpless. After all, it is reasonable to ask the question, If a blind person cannot travel to work without the assistance of clamorous, paternalistic gadgets, how can he adequately perform a job without other expensive and noisy aids? If a potential employer has no means of providing such devices, his experience with audible signals and blind travelers will likely cause him to conclude (without a second thought) that blind people are unemployable. Additionally, with audible signals trumpeting the good will and commitment of the English public toward their blind brethren, it is easy for matters of substance to be ignored. The cries of the blind for civil rights and their shouts for independence are all too often drowned out by the screeching of audible signals. Perhaps the most unfortunate result of these signals in England is the stultifying effect which they have on members of the general public who happen to be blind. Because audible signals have been in existence for some time, and as a result of the virtually inescapable assistance provided at street corners without these signals, many blind people never gain complete confidence in their own travel abilities. They regard the few independent street crossings which they safely make as mere coincidence and good fortune. Most are never afforded the opportunity to develop positive attitudes and skills in personal mobility. Those blind travelers who wish to assert their independence are so beset by audible signals on the one hand, and an overly helpful English public misled by these signals on the other hand, that they sometimes despair of quietly crossing even a single street with dignity and without incident.

Audible signals are certainly not one of the more charming aspects of London. Rather, they are among the most clamorous and pernicious environmental hazards with which blind people must deal.

Lunch At The Hard Rock Cafe

Lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe on Piccadilly Street is an indispensable experience for anyone wishing to explore the contemporary culture of London. The Hard Rock Cafe stands as a mecca to which people fond of rock and roll memorabilia, loud music, and American cuisine flock with unwavering devotion. Among the characteristics which make it unique, the Hard Rock Cafe possesses some, such as long entrance lines, deafening music, and several sets of stairs, which would be anathema to the typical blind person described by conventional negative stereotypes. Of course, these characteristics, for a blind person with positive attitudes and proper skills, as for a sighted person, are simply part of the atmosphere of the Hard Rock Cafe to be embraced or rejected as one's general taste and outlook dictate. There are many blind people in England who would like very much to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe but who are prevented from enjoying this experience, not by discrimination or by lack of competent travel skills, but by their own restrictive and self-deprecating attitudes. There is an essential difference between the approach to blindness adopted by the Federation in America and that taken by the average blind person in England. This distinction has been characterized in the following way: A Federationist in America would say, I'm blind, so what? Whereas, a blind person in England would say, I'm blind, please excuse me. This observation, which was actually made by an Englishman, is not meant to be critical of anyone but to emphasize the vital importance of attitude to us as blind people. In England many blind people are vociferous in insisting upon their respectability as individuals. Paradoxically, however, most attempt to gain this recognition without first asserting that it is respectable to be blind. The end result is that, although they possess both the right and the ability to dine at the Hard Rock Cafe, many blind Englishmen nevertheless are excluded from its premises by their own feelings of timidity and insignificance. It is impossible to establish the dignity of the person who happens to be blind without first proclaiming and believing that blindness is respectable. If we attempt to live this contradiction, we are left with entitlements equal to, or exceeding, those of the sighted but not the social status and personal confidence needed to transform these stagnant benefits and privileges into equality. As part of my research project, I reside at a hostel for the blind in London. The hostel embodies a number of subtle contradictions which reinforce the idea that blind people are almost, but not quite, as good as the sighted. The very concept of a hostel for the blind implies that. Although blind people may be competent enough to gain an education and exercise a vocation, they are nevertheless either unable or not welcome to reside within conventional society. Some revealing assumptions about blindness are made within the hostel. For instance, blind residents are expected as a matter of course to climb flight after flight of stairs to reach their rooms. The myth that the blind have difficulty with stairs is appropriately disregarded. By contrast, however, there is a strict prohibition against the moving of furniture for fear it may present an insurmountable obstacle to blind residents. Thus, while one debilitating stereotype is broken, another even more groundless and damaging assumption is accepted in its place.

The attitude toward the white cane is worthy of note as well. Canes are rarely found in use around the hostel. And, in fact, residents are actively discouraged from carrying their canes into the dining room. Officials claim that they would present a hazard to other residents. Interestingly enough, each table in the dining room is provided with a pot of boiling tea at every meal. It is automatically assumed that residents will have no difficulty in helping themselves to the steaming tea. Isn't it reasonable to expect that if an individual possesses the common sense and dexterity to pour tea without scalding himself or his neighbors, he will be capable of using his white cane in such a way that it will present no annoyance or threat to other diners? If at first glance these contradictions seem minute, consider the message they send. When the idea that the blind require special accommodation and attention is constantly reinforced and when the white cane is viewed not as a badge of freedom but as a clumsy annoyance to be dispensed with whenever possible, one cannot assert with any conviction or credibility that it is respectable to be blind. In any case, others are not going to take us to lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, nor should they. We must go there ourselves and we must teach society that our right to be there is as legitimate and respectable as that of anyone else with whom we happen to stand in line, listening to the music and anticipating the meal.

The Power of Law

When considering the importance of the laws which governa society, one is inevitably confronted with the question, Are laws the expression of a society's values, or are the values of a society determined by its laws? The safe answer is, of course, that laws are both a cause and an effect of the various beliefs, desires, and attitudes of a given society. This philosophic point is of more than pedantic interest to us as blind people, for the laws which govern the country will play a central role for better or worse in determining the extent to which our efforts to achieve first-class citizenship will be realized. Nowhere is the dynamic power of the law more apparent than in its effect upon the blind of England and America.

The attitude of the general public in England regarding blindness is as benevolent, although not so well informed, as the attitude about blindness exhibited by most Americans. The English, who for the most part have not been exposed to the positive philosophy propounded by the National Federation of the Blind in the U.S., generally assume that blindness is a terrible tragedy rather than a simple characteristic. Accordingly, instead of being recognized as an emerging minority group, the blind are viewed as a diligent, although pitiable and inferior, subculture. The result of this perception is that charitable solicitations and custodial legislation are warmly supported by the well-meaning English public, while attempts to gain civil rights protection and to establish government assistance programs which foster independence often meet with the cold shoulder of societal indifference.

Given this social climate, it is not difficult to imagine the nature of the laws which exist (or, more frequently, do not exist) concerning blindness. In England a blind person has virtually no civil rights protection. It is common for dog guide users to be denied entrance to restaurants and even taxi cabs. Such discrimination occurs with the sanction of the English law. On occasion, blind people are told that they may not attend a given theater or cinema unless they are accompanied by a sighted attendant. In such instances there is no recourse to civil rights provisions of the law, for such provisions do not exist. The proprietor of any private or public establishment can legally discriminate against the blind, simply by claiming that his actions are based on safety considerations.

The effect of this license to discriminate within the law is much more pernicious than the actual examples of injustice which are countenanced. The fact that blind people are not accorded dignity and respect under the law fosters a view of them as a class which is somehow not deserving of the considerations and rights guaranteed to the average citizen. This trend, attributable to the lack of constructive laws, works such mischief that I recently sat across a pub table from a dog guide user and listened with astonishment while he passionately defended the right of a restaurant proprietor to deny entrance to any person using a dog guide. One can see a vicious circle being established. Bad attitudes lead to destructive laws which in turn perpetuate even worse attitudes. The laws pertaining to blindness in America are generally, although by no means universally, superior to comparable English laws. The American airline industry's exit row seating policy toward the blind undoubtedly does rival the absurdity of repressive laws held over from the 19th century, whether in England or not. The very fact that the airlines have to date been successful in committing substantial injustices against the blind and flouting anti- discrimination laws poignantly demonstrates the shortcomings of current civil rights protection afforded to the blind. For the most part, however, the American laws that refer to blindness reflect and reinforce the positive attitudes about blindness articulated by the National Federation of the Blind. White Cane Laws, prohibiting discrimination against the blind by public establishments, exist, in one form or another, in every state, and civil rights protection for the blind is increasing across the country.

In California, Maryland, and a growing number of other states discrimination against blind people using dog guides has recently become a criminal as well as a civil offense. This new protection under the law has a significance which extends beyond ease of enforceability and is of benefit to all blind people regardless of whether they use dog guides. In this case, the law enunciates the principle that the blind are first-class citizens against whom discrimination will not be tolerated. The cycles of cause and effect, attitude and action, are inherent in the law. These cycles can run either powerfully in favor of, or in opposition to, the attempts of the blind to gain equal status and fair treatment within society. As we are successful in fostering positive attitudes about blindness and reinforcing them through legislation, we will mold the law into a staunch ally which will support us in our efforts to achieve first-class citizenship.

NFB of the United Kingdom National Conference

The National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom (NFB-UK) held its annual National Conference the weekend of August 26-28, 1988, at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. The event, which was a conference of delegates rather than a convention of the general membership as we hold in the United States, was attended by approximately one hundred people. Included in this number were voting delegates representing twenty-nine local branches of the NFB-UK from throughout the United Kingdom.

The primary business of the Conference was the consideration of motions which establish the policies and priorities of the organization for the upcoming year. Among the issues most widely discussed were the need for a comprehensive disability income and the importance of gaining increased consumer representation on the governing boards of voluntary agencies for the blind. One of the high points of the weekend occurred on Saturday morning when Tom Clarke, an influential Member of Parliament, addressed the Conference. He assured delegates of his sympathy with the move for a comprehensive disability income, and he expressed strong support for the goals and activities of the NFB-UK. On Sunday morning all conferees participated in a forum discussing the future of the NFB-UK. The desirability of developing the comparatively small organization into a mass movement like the Federation in America was the main theme of the morning's speakers. Ideas ranging from establishing a youth wing to affiliating with other organizations of the blind were contemplated as a means of achieving this growth. Although no answers were produced by the forum, it furnished some interesting food for thought and provided a glimpse into the possible future of the NFB-UK. The National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom has ahead of it a long journey on the road to changing what it means to be blind and establishing the respectability of blind people. Its members are energetically and diligently working to improve the lives of the blind in the United Kingdom. I salute them as colleagues and friends. The road they travel is the same one we in the United States follow. The precise obstacles confronting them may differ from those facing us, but the causes are the same: public misunderstanding, ignorance, and prejudice. I am grateful to have come to know these brothers and sisters, and I am stronger for having walked with them during these weeks in England.



An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan
At The Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind
Wednesday, July 6, 1988
Chicago, Illinois

When we met for our convention last year in Phoenix, the problems which blind persons are having with the airlines were a major topic of discussion. During the past twelve months the discrimination and abuse have grown worse. Today the situation is such that no blind person anywhere in the country can board a plane without fear of harassment, public humiliation, and possibly arrest and bodily injury.

The incidents involve almost every aspect of air travel insistence that blind passengers pre-board, insistence that we post-board, demands that we demonstrate our capacity to fasten or unfasten a seat belt, requirements that we sit (or not sit) in various sections of the plane, and even attempts to take our small children from us when we are boarding or leaving the aircraft. But the item which has unquestionably created the most heat and publicity centers around exit row seating. It is not that blind passengers have asked to be assigned to these seats but that airline personnel have repeatedly put us there and then insisted (with great public commotion) that we move. In these confrontations the word safety is always trotted out and made the excuse for every unreasonable and illegal act which anybody cares to perpetrate.

In May of 1987 Joseph Sontag and Nancy Kruger were arrested on a Simmons Airlines plane. Members of the Simmons flight crew insisted that Sontag and Kruger give up their canes instead of being allowed to keep them at their seats as permitted by federal regulations, and when Sontag and Kruger refused, the police were called. We filed a complaint with the federal Department of Transportation, and although almost a year has passed, nothing has been done about it and there is no indication that anything will be done about it. In October of 1987 Bill Meeker (a blind employee of the U. S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) was traveling on official business. He experienced what has almost come to be the standard airline treatment. He boarded a Midwest Express airplane for Milwaukee and took his assigned seat. He learned that it was an exit row, and almost immediately thereafter he was confronted and ordered to move, being told that he was violating a federal regulation. When he said that he knew the law, that no such regulation existed, and that he would not move under such circumstances, he was arrested. As is typical in these cases, the charges were later dropped.

Last November Robert Greenberg was refused transportation by American Airlines. He was assigned a seat (an assignment he had not requested) near an emergency exit and was then publicly and abusively ordered to move. When he refused, the flight was canceled and the passengers were told to leave the plane. Everybody but Greenberg was then reboarded. Not only was he not permitted to reboard, but he was also told that he could never ride another American Airlines plane again at any time in the future. He was also denied a refund on his ticket. Once more, we filed a complaint with the federal Department of Transportation and again nothing has happened.

In January of this year Congressman James A. Traficant introduced H.R. 3883, the Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act. There are now 110 cosponsors of that bill, which is pending in the House of Representatives. In February Senator Ernest F. Hollings introduced the same bill, S. 2098. That bill now has twenty-four senate cosponsors. These bills by Senator Hollings and Congressman Traficant prohibit any special seating restrictions for blind air passengers.

Shortly before last year's convention we got a ruling from the Maryland Attorney General that it was unlawful for airlines to apply special seating restrictions to the blind. The effectiveness of that ruling was proved when Sharon Gold, who was flying from Baltimore to California, showed it to the American Airlines crew who were trying to make her move from her assigned seat before takeoff. She did not move, and she was not arrested or taken off the plane. As you will remember, we brought copies of the Maryland ruling to last year's convention and asked all of you to move quickly and firmly to set up meetings with every state attorney general in the nation, and with the manager of every airport. At that time I said to you: Show them the Maryland ruling, and remind them that their state has a white cane law, which has the same provisions that the Maryland law has. Get a ruling from your attorney general. Get an agreement from your airport manager. Once you get the ruling, make many copies of it, and see that every blind person who flies has one in his or her pocket.

Today the attorneys general of ten states have made such rulings, and since Chicago is a central transfer point for air travel, the ruling by Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan has special significance. Attorney General Hartigan is here today, and not only the blind but all others who believe in the rule of law instead of whim and special privilege owe him a debt of gratitude.

If we were really dealing with a question of safety, no one (blind or sighted) would object, but we are not. Consider, for instance, the opinion of an airline pilot. In an affidavit made in 1985, he says in part:

I, Jared Haas, being first duly sworn, depose and state: I have been a pilot for many years. I currently fly 727 aircraft, and I have been employed to do so since June of 1974. I am familiar with a number of blind people, and I am generally familiar with the capacities of the blind. In an emergency situation there are circumstances in which it would be helpful to have an able-bodied blind person seated in an emergency exit row with a sighted person. In those cases in which there is smoke in the cabin, an able-bodied blind person, being used to handling situations without sight, would be able to assist with more facility in the evacuation. An able-bodied blind person would not hinder an emergency evacuation.

That is what a pilot says, and he is not just talking theory. I am aware of at least one case where it was put to the test. Everybody in this organization knows who the late Lawrence (Muzzy) Marcelino was. In the early 1980's he was flying home from Baltimore to California, and when the plane got ready to land in San Francisco, there was a problem. The landing gear wouldn't come down. The plane landed on foam, and the lights went out. An emergency evacuation occurred. It was night, and there was near panic. It was Muzzy who got to the exit and helped the sighted passengers find it.

So far as I have been able to determine, there is not a case on record in which a blind person has been involved in the blocking of an exit or the slowing of traffic in an airline emergency, and as I have just told you, I know of at least one instance (the one involving Muzzy) in which blindness was a positive asset. Yet, the airlines keep prattling to us about safety while, at the same time, knowingly doing things which diminish safety. I refer to the serving of liquor to passengers in exit rows and the practice of permitting excess carry-on luggage to be stowed with passengers at their seats. For that matter, serving liquor at all on a plane in flight probably reduces the safety margins, and so does smoking. I am not saying that these things should be eliminated but only that the treatment of the blind should be seen in perspective.

When I was participating in the regulatory negotiation process last summer to persuade the Department of Transportation to to come up with rules to prevent discrimination against the blind in air travel, I personally heard officials of the Flight Standards Administration of the Federal Aviation Administration repeatedly say that they felt there was no safety question involved in blind persons' sitting in exit rows on planes. They said that if they had felt there was a safety question, they would long since have made appropriate regulations. The Flight Standards Administration is that branch of FAA which is responsible for determining questions of safety in air travel. Only when FAA attorneys began to apply pressure did the nature of the comments by Flight Standards officials change. Rather than oppose the airlines, the FAA apparently finds it easier to duck behind the safety issue.

The problem with the arguments being advanced by the FAA and the airlines is that those arguments are based on the false premise that sighted persons (excluding the elderly, the frail, the pregnant, and children) are uniformly capable and alert. The blind person (with whatever limitations and strengths he or she may possess) is compared with the ideal sighted person a person who in most cases does not exist. Last fall when Senator Dole promised to help deal with the airline problem, he said that it would not occur to anybody to suggest that he should not be allowed to sit in an exit row. Yet (because of his physical handicap), he would not, he said, be able to open the exit.

Several years ago when we were taking both sighted and blind people to the Baltimore airport to make a test evacuation of a World Airways plane, we had to eliminate from consideration many of the sighted that we might have chosen. One had back problems; another had foot problems; and still another had difficulties with heart and blood pressure. In the real world of everyday commercial air travel none of these people would have been excluded from the exit row. Why, then, should the blind be held to a different standard from the sighted?

The truth is that if you consider the scarcity of accidents in proportion to the number of miles which are flown and the relatively small number of blind people who are likely to be on a given flight at a given time, the potential risk would almost be zero even if all of the claims by the airlines about the unsafeness of the blind were true. The serving of liquor to passengers, the permitting of smoking, the carry-on luggage, the undetected emotional and physical problems of the average passenger, and a hundred other things are much more real as problems than the minimal risk potentially posed by the blind plus the fact, as I have already said, that in certain circumstances the blind would have an advantage in helping themselves and others. Nevertheless, the airlines persist in their phony game of It is all a matter of safety, and the FAA bows to the pressure and seeks to take the easy way out.

In truth and in fact we are not dealing with a safety issue at all but a matter of civil rights, and we simply will not be bullied and intimidated into submission. We will speak to the public and the Congress until we get results. And make no mistake about it we will be heard, and we will be heeded. Two incidents this spring graphically illustrate the unreasonableness of the treatment which we are receiving from the airlines. On a Midway Airlines flight from Baltimore to Des Moines Peggy Pinder (the Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa) was arrested for refusing to move to a seat near an emergency exit; and only a few days later Jim Gashel (our Director of Governmental Affairs) was arrested and removed from a United Airlines flight for almost the exact opposite reason. He was sitting in his assigned seat (one he had not requested) in an exit row and refused to move. In Peggy's case the facts are thoroughly documented and particularly vicious and ugly, not to mention ironic.

She was going home to Iowa from Washington after a day of testifying before the Republican National Committee on ways of increasing participation of blind persons in the mainstream of American life and of eliminating discrimination against the blind. When she arrived at the airport, she was ordered to pre-board the plane. She declined but was told that she would either pre-board or not be permitted to travel. She submitted and did as she was ordered. The plane had open seating, so she went to the back and took a seat in the smoking section. She said she did not need a special briefing, but when she was publicly and abusively ordered to take one, she did it. Then, when she refused to change her seat (which was not in an exit row), she was arrested and bodily carried from the plane in a particularly offensive manner. In her own words:

The officer lifted me from my seat and physically moved me into the aisle. At this point I stood up and waited for the officer's next action. The officer positioned himself behind me and lifted me from the floor. He accomplished this by reaching his arms around me from behind and placing his hands on my breasts. From this position he lifted me from the floor and carried me off the plane, at one point saying, `Jesus Christ.'

While asserting my legal rights on board the airplane, I maintained a posture of calmness. I found the personal confrontation emotionally upsetting. I was also upset by being physically carried from the plane and having my breasts grasped. I did nothing to provoke this physical abuse and violation of my person; yet, the officer took control over my body. The fact that Peggy Pinder was arrested for not moving to another seat is confirmed by statements made by Midway officials to the New York Times . The Times article, dated April 3, 1988, says in part:

A Midway Airlines spokeswoman, Sandra Allen, said it is the airline's policy to seat all handicapped people in the first row of the plane near where they can be easily evacuated. According to both the spokeswoman and Miss Pinder, after she refused to switch seats the airport police were called to remove her from the plane. Not only the New York Times but also radio, television, and other newspapers throughout the land discussed the matter. Overwhelmingly the editorial comment was favorable to our cause. Apparently Midway thought it had better change its story. Maybe where Peggy was sitting had nothing to do with it. Maybe she had violated a federal regulation in some other way. Maybe she had refused to listen to a briefing about safety features of the airplane. Never mind that sighted passengers are not required to look at the demonstrations which flight attendants give and that Peggy can hear what the flight attendants say during those demonstrations as well as anybody else.

Under date of April 15, 1988, David Armstrong (Midway's Secretary and Vice President for Legal Affairs) wrote a letter to Matthew Scocozza, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs of the federal Department of Transportation. He began by very chummily scratching out Dear Mr. Scocozza and replacing it with Dear Mat. The story Mr. Armstrong told was one of virtue, long-suffering patience, and saintly behavior by Midway personnel. Peggy Pinder was not ordered to pre-board but politely asked to do so. She unreasonably declined and then was permitted to board with the regular passengers. In Mr. Armstrong's words: Ms. Pinder boarded the aircraft with the first passengers on the regular boarding queue.

Mr. Armstrong went on to portray Miss Pinder as unreasonable, petulant, and immature. In his words: Ms. Pinder indicated that she did not wish to be briefed because she `had flown several times.' Mr. Armstrong went on to say that flight attendants continued (at least four more times) to try to get Miss Pinder to consent to be briefed but that she persisted in her refusal thus violating the federal law, endangering every passenger on the plane, and compelling the pilot to call the police.

This matter of a briefing is made to sound like a divine mystery instead of the routine speech and demonstration which it is. Passengers rarely pay attention to it. They do not stop their conversations or put aside their magazines, newspapers, books, earphones, or calculators especially after their first few flights; and nobody tries to force them or put them under arrest for their inattention.

But let us put this to one side and deal with the more basic question of the contradictory statements. Who is telling the truth Mr. Armstrong, or Miss Pinder? If Midway's statements to the press at the time of the occurrence are not sufficient, perhaps the police report will suffice. In his official statement the arresting officer said: I along with Officer M. Young responded to the dispute.

We approached the suspect with flight attendant Freitag. Flight attendant Freitag again asked the suspect to listen to the handicap briefing. The suspect at this time listened to the briefing. The flight attendant then asked the suspect to move to the appropriate seat which is in accordance with Midway policy. The suspect refused. Officer Young and myself asked the suspect to move to the other seat. The suspect refused. Officer Young then assisted the suspect off the plane per order of the captain.

Peggy Pinder was, if you can believe it, arrested on charges of criminal trespass ; but as is typical in these cases, the charges were dropped. Why? Out of kindness? Don't you believe it! Midway was wrong and they know they were wrong. Sooner or later there had to be a court case to put a stop to this kind of vicious abuse, and this seems about as good a one as any. We hereby serve notice on Midway Airlines that they should ready their defenses and prepare to justify their behavior before a jury. They have tried to forestall the problem by filing a lengthy petition asking the federal Department of Transportation to rule that what they did was in accordance with Department rules and that (take note, Attorney General Hartigan) the states are preempted in the matter by the federal government. As to the Department of Transportation, it has now indicated that it will (at long last) make the rules which the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 required it to issue over a year ago. The proposed rules are a classic example of federal double talk and deceit. They say very piously and forthrightly that air carriers may not discriminate against any blind person in seating arrangements except in instances where the Federal Aviation Administration requires it for safety, but they will establish a list of required functions. With a straight face the chief counsel of the Federal Aviation Administration recently told me that no blind person could be excluded from an exit row seat but that if a person could not see, he or she might be excluded from such a seat. It is all a matter of function, he said, not blindness. And these are the people who are writing the rules and protecting the public.

As we consider what to do about our problems with the airlines, I want to remind you of some of the things which have been said about liberty and freedom. They that give up essential liberty, said Benjamin Franklin, to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Freedom, said Max Stirner, cannot be granted. It must be taken.

We hear, and we understand. We know what we must do, and we have counted the cost. Is freedom meant only for the sighted, or is it meant for us, too? Is it all right (even praiseworthy) for sighted Americans to resist coercion and fight for their rights but not all right for the blind? Can blind people hope to be free Americans? We gave our answer to that question almost fifty years ago. We formed the National Federation of the Blind and it is still here, stronger and more active today than ever before in its history.

The battle lines are now drawn on the issue of freedom in air travel for the blind, and we could not withdraw from the fight even if we would. We will either win or lose. We did not seek this fight, but we have no intention of running from it and we certainly have no intention of being beaten into the ground. We have taken our case to the Congress, and we will also take it to the public and the courts and we intend to prevail. We want no strife or confrontation, but we will do what we have to do. We are simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens.



by Marc Maurer

The nineteenth of August, 1988, was the day on which Midway Airlines violated federal regulations and the principles of the United States Constitution by submitting information to the Department of Transportation in the Peggy Pinder case without serving her or her designated representative with a copy. In the United States the law requires that a standard of fair and substantive justice must be observed. If an individual is to be deprived of life, liberty, or property by a government agency, notice of that action and an opportunity for a fair hearing must be properly given. This standard is fundamental in American jurisprudence and essential to judicial decision making in the courts or before administrative bodies. The due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments make this clear. If you plan to take an action in court or before an administrative hearing officer, you must notify those on the other side that you intend to do so. If you do not, you are engaged in what the lawyers call ex parte communication. Those who are not lawyers refer to this practice by other names. It is sometimes called back-dooring the judge. The rule requiring proper notice prevents private deals. If one group is permitted to meet secretly with the hearing officer and keep everybody else out, what kinds of understandings might be reached? What checks and balances are there to prevent favoritism or worse? Due process requires that parties to a dispute be allowed to face the opposition, examine the evidence, ask essential questions, and present a contrary point of view. On March 31, 1988, Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, was arrested. The circumstances surrounding her arrest were set forth in the May-June, 1988, issue of the Braille Monitor . Peggy Pinder had taken a seat on a Midway Airlines plane. She was in the smoking section, near the back of the cabin. Midway demanded that she move closer to an exit. Miss Pinder insisted on her right to sit where she pleased, and Midway called the cops.

First Midway Airlines wrote to the Department of Transportation to justify its illegal behavior. The letter to Matthew V. Scocozza, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, argued that Midway was not at fault. The Vice President for Legal Affairs for Midway stated that personnel on the Midway plane were trying to give Peggy Pinder a pre-flight briefing, that she would not listen to it, and that this was the reason for the arrest. Of course, affidavits from eyewitnesses and the police report describing the incident show that Midway was lying. Midway's self-serving letter adopts a tone of injured righteousness. But the police report sets it all straight. Here is what Midway said to the Department of Transportation:

Chicago, Illinois 60683

April 15, 1988

Mr. Matthew V. Scocozza
Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs
United States Department of Transportation

Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Mr. Scocozza:

On March 31, 1988, Midway Airlines caused a blind person, Ms. Peggy Pinder, to be removed from its Flight 179 prior to departure from Washington National Airport. It is necessary to write you on this incident because we understand it was discussed at your April 1 meeting with Ms. Pinder and other representatives of the National Federation of the Blind. [Perhaps it is only fair to interrupt Midway's letter to say that this comment by Midway Airlines reveals the true purpose for writing this letter. On April 1, 1988, President Maurer, Peggy Pinder, and James Gashel met with Secretary of Transportation James Burnley and discussed the reprehensible actions of many airlines including Midway. The reports of this meeting and the description of Midway's bullying behavior toward Peggy Pinder which appeared in newspapers around the country seemed to have their effect. This letter suggests that Midway thought it had better write to its best friend at the Department of Transportation as soon as possible before the rights of blind air travelers became a priority. As is also clear from all the documents available, Midway was not unwilling to lie about what happened. Keep in mind that this letter was written just two weeks after the incident occurred long enough for a proper investigation to be done and yet not so long that the memories of those who participated would have faded. It is also long enough to devise a pompous, self-serving explanation. Midway's letter goes on to say.] The incident also received widespread media attention which presented a grossly inaccurate version of the facts. For present purposes, I want you to know why Midway Airlines had Ms. Pinder removed from Flight 179, and more generally, what policies and procedures Midway applies to the transportation of blind persons. [I interrupt the letter to say that as has been pointed out earlier Midway needed to say something to the Department of Transportation because the National Federation of the Blind was reaching the attention of the Secretary of Transportation and the news media. However, Midway's letter cannot be expected to admit this. As you read what follows consider not only the distortion of the facts but also the purposes Midway is trying to achieve. The letter continues:] Our investigation shows that Ms. Pinder's removal from Flight 179 was the only course available to the Midway personnel on the scene. Ms. Pinder repeatedly refused to be briefed on safety/emergency evacuation procedures as required by Section 121.571 of the Federal Aviation Regulations ( FARs ), and without such briefing it was not lawful for Flight 179 to depart from National Airport. [To interrupt once more, Midway's letter does not report that there is no such explanation in the police record and that the witnesses on the scene tell a different tale. Indeed, if Midway had wanted to give Peggy Pinder a special briefing, how could she have avoided it? The flight attendant would have come to her seat and told her about the safety features of the aircraft. Peggy Pinder had no control over the flight attendant and she could not have refused to have the briefing given. She may well have refused to listen to one, but so could everyone else on the plane. Federal regulations may require a briefing be offered. They cannot insist that it be heeded. On the face of it Midway's letter looks like an excuse. Here is more of their lame explanation.]

The Facts:

1. On the date in question (March 31, 1988), Flight 179 was operated by a Douglas DC9-31 aircraft which has a capacity of 115 passengers in a single class, five- abreast seating configuration. Flight 179 operated on a Washington-Chicago (Midway Airport)-Des Moines routing and its departure from Washington National was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Flight 179 had a crew complement of five, consisting of a pilot-in-command (Captain), a first officer and three flight attendants.

2. Ms. Pinder held a confirmed reservation for a one-way trip from Washington to Des Moines via Flight 179 on March 31. The reservation was made by an Iowa-based travel agent on March 29.

3. On the date in question, Flight 179 was operating approximately 20 minutes late due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Chicago. Also, at check-in time the Company's computers were inoperative so that the flight was boarded on an open seating basis; i.e. passengers did not have assigned seats. Prior to boarding, the gate agent advised the flight crew to expect three handicapped passengers, Ms. Pinder and two deaf persons, and 30 unaccompanied children. At departure time, a total of 101 passengers had checked in for the flight.

4. The boarding process began routinely with a gate announcement indicating that persons with small children or those otherwise in need of assistance could pre- board the aircraft. At that point, the two deaf passengers and the unaccompanied children boarded.

Prior to boarding the other passengers, the gate agent advised Flight Attendant No. 1 that Ms. Pinder did not wish to be preboarded. The flight attendant reminded the gate agent that preboarding was needed so that the individual safety/emergency evacuation briefing could be accomplished prior to take-off as required by FAR Section 121.571 (a)(3). Ms. Pinder boarded the aircraft with the first passengers on the regular boarding queue. [Midway's letter does not say so, but Peggy Pinder was forced to board ahead of everyone else. It was only for her safety they said, but back to the letter.]

On boarding the aircraft Ms. Pinder told Flight Attendant No. 1 (stationed at the doorway of the aircraft) that there was no law requiring that she be preboarded and that the Midway personnel had embarrassed and humiliated her. Flight Attendant No. 1 responded that it was not her intent to embarrass, but a flight safety briefing was necessary. Ms. Pinder's reply indicated that she did not wish to be briefed because she `had flown several times.'

5. Ms. Pinder proceeded toward the rear of the aircraft and was met by Flight Attendant No. 2 who was stationed at the window exit row. Flight Attendant No. 2 attempted to point out to Ms. Pinder the guide knobs located on the overhead racks. These devices enable passengers to determine the location of the window exits in emergency situations. Ms. Pinder again refused to be briefed and repeated statements to Flight Attendant No. 2 to the effect that she was being `singled out', `embarrassed' and `humiliated.' Ms. Pinder proceeded to the rear of the aircraft where she seated herself in Seat 23F. Flight Attendant No. 2 followed and attempted to provide the required briefing. Ms. Pinder persisted in her refusal to cooperate.

6. At that point, the aircraft was loaded and ready to depart.

In light of Ms. Pinder's refusal to be briefed, Flight Attendant No. 1 asked the Captain to speak with Ms. Pinder. The Captain did so noting that the regulations required individual briefings not only for Ms. Pinder's safety in an emergency, but for the safety of other passengers. He advised that she would have to cooperate or leave the aircraft. The Captain returned to the flight deck and Flight Attendant No. 2 again attempted to provide the briefing. Ms. Pinder continued to refuse, asserting that no law required that she be briefed. The Flight Attendant then produced a copy of the Company Inflight Manual and read the applicable sections which, inter alia, referred to the FAR Section 121.571 briefing. After further discussion (and delay), Flight Attendant No. 2 consulted with the Captain on the interphone after which Airport Security was called.

7. Airport Security boarded the aircraft, consulted with the

Captain and Ms. Pinder, and Airport Security asked Ms. Pinder to cooperate. She continued to refuse. She was asked to leave the aircraft following which the two security officers were compelled to remove her physically as she declined to leave voluntarily.

8. Flight 179 departed from National Airport at 7:17 p.m. or approximately 47 minutes behind schedule. The delay attributable to the Pinder incident amounted to approximately 30 minutes. This additional delay resulted in 11 passengers missing their connecting flights at Midway Airport.

[Notice how Midway's letter takes the opportunity to blame its own lateness on Peggy Pinder. If Midway is late very often, there are sanctions which can be imposed. Peggy Pinder is a convenient scapegoat. But this is not the last of the innuendoes and the sanctimony. Here is more of what they had to say.]


1. Contrary to the various media reports of this incident, Ms. Pinder was not removed because of her seat location. She selected seat 23F toward the rear of the aircraft, and at no time prior to her removal was she asked to relocate. While Ms. Pinder's activities suggest the need for sanctions under FAR Section 91.8, it does not seem that this would serve any useful purpose at this point. Suffice it to say that Ms. Pinder was removed from Flight 179 because of her repeated refusal to accept the individual briefing mandated by FAR Section 121.571. The Midway flight crew had absolutely no other alternative in the circumstances.

2. Midway Airlines is well aware of its obligations to the blind passengers it serves, and we have developed procedures designed to accommodate the blind with a minimum of embarrassment and inconvenience. In the absence of unusual circumstances, all Midway does is to encourage preboarding in order that the individual briefing can be accomplished efficiently and with a minimum of inconvenience. Midway's policy on the seating of the handicapped (including blind passengers) is flexible and restrictions are kept to a minimum consistent with the safety of the blind and the other passengers on board. In pertinent part, the Inflight Manual provides as follows:

For the purpose of an expeditious evacuation, any disabled person should sit as close as possible to a floor level exit.

However, disabled persons may not be seated:

(a) In an emergency exit row.

(b) When possible , not in the same row as another disabled person (this will assist during evacuation). (Emphasis added)

Thus, the only categorical rule on the seating of blind passengers is the prohibition against their being seated in the over-wing emergency exit rows.

3. Three final comments appear to be in order. First, in developing the policies and procedures applicable to the accommodation of blind passengers, Midway not only considered the established practices of other airlines, it looked into the FAA's Advisory Circular No. 120-32 entitled Air Transportation of Handicapped Persons. Our manuals and training programs are intended to conform to the general guidelines of paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Advisory Circular which deal with attitudes and assistance. Furthermore, we believe Midway's seating rules conform to the provisions of paragraph 9 of the Advisory Circular which states, inter alia, that `[ambulatory handicapped passengers should be seated in areas in which evacuation would normally occur through a floor-level, non-overwing exit.' (Emphasis added).

Second, Midway's rules on the transportation of blind passengers attempt to strike a reasonable balance. We recognize the need to minimize the potential for inconvenience and embarrassment on the part of the blind persons. At the same time, however, we must meet our obligation to all passengers to make safety a matter of the highest priority . Of. 49 U.S.C. 1302 (a)(1).

Third, assuming arguendo that our policies and procedures are deficient in some respect, Midway is always receptive to constructive criticism presented in a coherent, civilized manner. Also, administrative procedures are readily available by which those disagreeing with our policies can seek relief. Midway Airlines is perfectly prepared to participate and, as need be, defend its policies and procedures in such proceedings.

What cannot be tolerated is the sort of conduct engaged in by Ms. Pinder which in essence demands that Midway's field personnel ignore the mandate of the FARs and Company manuals on an ad hoc basis. Even if Ms. Pinder's views may have merit, we must reject the proposition that she may unilaterally override established regulations which, after extensive deliberation, have been written for her safety and the safety of the 100 other passengers on Flight 179.

The foregoing sets forth the results of our investigation of the Flight 179 incident, Midway Airlines' applicable policies and procedures, and how they were employed. If any further explanation of these events is necessary, please let me know.


David B. Armstrong
Vice President, Legal Affairs and Secretary
Midway Airlines

That is what Midway Airlines' letter to the Department of Transportation said. The conduct (they say) of Miss Pinder cannot be tolerated. What was this heinous, unreasonable, opprobrious conduct? Did Miss Pinder recklessly endanger the lives of one hundred people, as Midway Airlines alleged?

The police (who were on the spot and observed what took place) reported that something completely different occurred. Inasmuch as Midway Airlines requested that the police take Miss Pinder into custody, the police must have been aware of the grounds for the arrest. Apparently when the facts show that the airline is wrong, Midway is not above trying to change them. Here, in pertinent part, (as already quoted in the preceding article in this issue) is what the police report said. Compare the language of this document to the statements which were made by Midway in its letter to the Department of Transportation.

I, along with Officer M. Young, responded to the dispute. We approached the suspect with Flight Attendant Freitag. Flight Attendant Freitag again asked the suspect to listen to the handicapped briefing. The suspect at this time listened to the briefing. The Flight Attendant then asked the suspect to move to the appropriate seat which is in accordance with Midway policy. The suspect refused. Officer Young and myself asked the suspect to move to the other seat. The suspect refused. Officer Young then assisted the suspect off the plane per order of the Captain. The suspect was then taken to the police station. The suspect was issued a citation # 8002575 for criminal trespass. The suspect was then released. - (Signed Officer C. D. Prince) Peggy Pinder was arrested at the request of Midway Airlines because she declined Midway's demand that she move closer to an emergency exit. The police are clear about the matter; the evidence is irrefutable.

On June 21, 1988, Midway filed a petition with the Department of Transportation. The airline asked that transportation officials declare the airline's actions regarding the Pinder matter to be authorized by federal airline policy. As part of the complaint process Midway served seventeen other airlines with copies of its petition. Apparently, Midway was trying to drum up support for its discrimination against the blind.

Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind, filed a response to the petition on behalf of Peggy Pinder, dated July 29, 1988. This response was served on the complaining party, Midway Airlines, as required by federal regulations of the Department of Transportation. However, Midway's next move was to submit material to the Department of Transportation without serving a copy on Peggy Pinder or her representative. This is not only a violation of federal regulations, but it is basically unfair. The Constitution makes it clear that in a proceeding where the rights of an individual are affected, that person must be involved at every stage. This thoroughly established principle was ignored by Midway Airlines. It tried to buddy up to the Department of Transportation and cut Peggy Pinder out. This is one more example of the kind of fairness and decency we have come to expect from certain airline officials.

Of course, Peggy Pinder (through her representative, James Gashel) has asked that the material submitted secretly by Midway Airlines be stricken from the record. Whether it is eliminated or not, Midway's actions typify the struggle blind people have with airlines and the Department of Transportation. Rational decision making has no apparent role. Blind people are consigned by Midway (and often by officers of the Department of Transportation) to a status and a category different from all others. Ordinarily, when a governmental agency creates a classification of human beings, there must be some rational basis for doing so, and this rational basis requires evidence. There are no reasonable grounds for classifying Peggy Pinder differently from others. Midway wants it done anyway, and it is willing to resort to secrecy and downright lying in order to accomplish its purpose.

If we would let them, the airlines would treat blind people as second-class all the way. But we are organized and we know what to do. Blindness does not mean inferiority, and we will not let any amount of airline hysteria make us feel or act as if we are inferior. Cheap, underhanded tricks indicate a certain measure of desperation. If we were not as close as we are to showing that the airlines have no case, Midway would not be acting as guiltily as it is. They know that they are likely to lose, and we intend to help them.



by Barbara Pierce

Anyone who takes part in Federation gatherings of any size must be struck with the vigor and power of our songs and the importance of their part in our march toward freedom and first class status. Like the labor organizing and civil rights movements before us, we have evolved a body of music that tells our story, rallies our spirits, argues our case, and satirizes those who oppose us. Though sometimes one person writes a song and (more rarely) the music, authorship is usually by ad hoc committee, picket line, or car-load. The point of view and voice are always the same, ours. The tone ranges from wry amusement to angry determination. Far from making these songs repetitious, this consistency lends strength and conviction to our music. The listener knows where we stand and where we intend to go. Those who marched in Atlanta outside the NAC board meeting in 1981 can never forget the electricity that surged through the line as the half chant, half song took shape:

NAC and the Council are one of a kind: Both organized up against the blind.

Every picket line since has been enhanced by that singing chant and its variants.

The Federation's capacity for instantaneous inventiveness showed itself repeatedly in the NAC demonstration in Minneapolis in 1980. The police told us that we could not picket, so we constituted ourselves as the Standards and Accreditation choir and stood singing for hours. That was the fall when J.R. Ewing on Dallas had been mysteriously shot and when Jesse Rostin, Director of the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, had just as mysteriously been fired. Almost from nowhere a song surfaced, sung to the tune of Frere Jacques:

Who got J. R.? Who got J. R.?

Where did he go? We want to know.

We've come a long, long way,

and we want to know today

Who got J. R.? Who got J. R.?

Such songs as this are so topical and come so clearly out of the exigencies of the moment that we abandon them as soon as the need passes, but there are others that are so clever and that capture the truth and conviction of our experience so powerfully that we keep singing them even after the battle is pretty well won. The United Airlines Song is a good example. It is sung to the tune of The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.

United Airlines and the old FAA

Say blind folks can't carry their white canes today.

They say they're a hazard and get in the way, But we say our white canes will stay. We fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Our white canes won't shatter in emergencies, So take your hands off of my cane if you please. United, we are NFB.

The way that our words play off the lyrics of the original, the way the song states in a very few words our point of view in that battle with the airlines, and the unswerving conviction of who we are: all these mark this song as classic NFB music. One can think of any number of other examples that serve the same purpose. From So Long to NAC and the Council here is the third verse:

We go to the workshop to slave every day. We don't want their handouts;

We just want our pay,

An honest day's wages for an honest day's work,

So here's what we say to those agency jerks!

The chorus to The Library Song, our variation on Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the boys are marching, is even recognized in library circles as capturing the attitudes of the more backward library-service providers:

Wait, wait, wait, your book's not in yet. We'll try to have it next year without fail. We are not your corner store. We cannot do any more.

After all, we know just one percent read Braille.

With a Little Bit of NAC, sung to the tune of With a Little Bit of Luck, is a song not well known in the movement, but there is lots in it to enjoy. Perhaps the verse that illustrates best the way in which NFB songs use irony and dry wit to make their point is the following:

They say the agencies have got the finest people.

Their staff diplomas clutter up the walls.

They say the agencies have got the finest people,

But, with a little bit of NAC,

with a little bit of NAC,

They will be no help to you at all!

Part of the reason our songs are such a powerful force for cohesiveness is that they belong to us alone. They express our point of view (not the feelings and experiences of the workshop directors, the rehabilitation administrators, or the public at large, but ours), and they call attention to the things in the system that damage and demean the blind. They are also easy to learn and sing. Recently I ran across an album of songs which is written and recorded by Jeff Moyer, an administrator at the Cleveland Society for the Blind, that sets out to give voice to the disability rights movement. Its title is Do You see me as Equal? , and it is produced by the Music from the Heart publishing company. Moyer is himself blind or rather (as he makes clear between songs) partially sighted. Several of the songs, perhaps the ones that work best, are written about and attempt to express the feelings of retarded people. His own brother lived in an institution for some years, and Moyer has strong empathy for that group of people. One song is performed by the TouchTalker and is written as if by a person without speech. The melody is not very memorable; but the technology is mildly interesting. If it had actually been written by a person who depends on the TouchTalker, the song would be acceptable (as Dr. Johnson says) Not because it is done well, but because it is done at all. As it is, I find My Voice Has Wings condescending and presumptuous.

But the most startlingly disappointing songs are the ones about blindness. With a lame (one is almost tempted to say dog-eared) effort at humor Moyer proposes that guide dogs and attack dogs be crossbred to provide Attack Dogs for the Blind. The song is called Guiding Teeth, and its point of view is that of the people who run this novel training operation. The tune is from the Marine Corps Hymn. The second verse goes:

Well we'll get you where you want to go, And no doubt, without a care.

And we'll help you when you want a friend, Ever Vigil, snarling there.

O, the heavy chain and the curling lip Mark the champion of its line.

And we're here, we're now,

we're Guiding Teeth,

Attack Dogs for the Blind!

Since he uses the word elsewhere on the recording, I presume that Moyer simply doesn't know that the adjective form of vigilance is vigilant, not vigil. This song is intended to be funny. In introducing it, Moyer proposes that guide ducks would provide a service to the partially sighted since, by heading into puddles, they would enable the user to step around them. But it is embarrassingly pathetic, not funny. I am appalled at the image of blind people that is projected. Annoyed by overly helpful strangers? The song tells you what to do. Have enemies? At last, as Moyer puts it, you have a remedy a dog to drop your every foe. Here, in all its devastating falsehood is the image of the helpless blind person. My sense of humor is not titillated but outraged.

In some ways the saddest song on this album (sad because of the quality of its self-revelation) is The Stalker, the final verse of which plaintively snivels:

Now I'm weaker and I'm weary,

I fear the race is lost.

For I know my foe is measuring my stride,

And in these final moments

With the panic's growing hold,

I know there is no place to run,

No place to hide.

So the hunter and the hunted do their timeless, ancient dance,

And the prey cannot avoid the last embrace,

And as the distance closes

And exhaustion slows my flight,

The Stalker pulls beside

To steal my sight.

These are the sentiments of a man who genuinely believes that blindness is a kind of dying. Moyer says that this song speaks to the way he feels in his down moments, but a weak-kneed apology does not really mitigate the overall falsity and only adds to the impression of whining excuse. However poor the music and poetry the real shoddiness is in the philosophy. It reinforces all the old myths, all the unhealthy stereotypes about blindness that keep us down and out, objects of pity to everyone including ourselves.

I was particularly interested in the one song in this collection dealing with sheltered workshops since the Federation has several favorites on this juicy theme. It is Work, Work is Our Goal, and it is the best song of the group. Moyer undercuts it on the recording, however, by explaining that it is not directed at vocational rehabilitation people or work evaluators. Presumably he has in mind sheltered shop personnel who exploit workers and consider that no job is too demeaning for a disabled person. He objects to pressuring workshop employees. As he puts it in his unpoetic and obscure manner:

And if any may mope,

Would rather just loaf,

Let them do so off the public rolls.

The point of view is that of the workshop manager, and the tune belongs to Home, Home on the Range. The final verse is the cleverest, but to understand it the closure with successful employment. Here is how it goes:

Oh, give me a stage

Of the post-industrial age

Where fast food holds employment for all.

Where McJobs is the rage

And 26's engage

New careers at McMinimum wage.

Work, work is our goal

For everyone we've ever seen,

And when someday we stop

At that Heavenly shop,

We'll subcontract to keep the robes clean.

The lyrics here capture a painful truth for sheltered shop employees, and they are mildly clever. But the song is undercut by the necessity of limiting its focus to those scandals which are common to all disabled workers. The Federation songs about the workshop experience speak directly to our lives as competitive workers who are still exploited and taken advantage of. In So Long to NAC and the Council the second verse says:

There are prisons and dungeons of all different kinds , But none can be worse than the shops for the blind. They'll work you for nothin', and they'll tell you why, If we give you more money, you'll lose SSI.

I don't know any member of the NFB who would seriously argue that our body of songs is great music; they weren't intended to be. They are witty, powerful, and absolutely true to our philosophy. In addition, all the best of them are easy to learn and even easier to sing. They tell our experience with slavery, and they give voice to our determination to be free.

Moyer's album Do You See Me as an Equal? is finally disappointing because it does not do well any of the things it sets out to do. Melodies are forgettable, and his rhymes astonishingly poor. The lyrics are hard to sing because he often tries to get too many stressed syllables into a line. But worst of all, the philosophy rings false to the core, and the sentiment squishes like an over-ripe apple. These songs will not do for us and, for that matter, not (so far as I'm concerned) for anybody else.

We in the Federation are used to making our own music; it is strong and resilient like our movement. Our march to freedom will be accompanied by song as every such march has always been. And the music will be our own.



Dennis Groshel operates a vending facility at a Veterans Administration medical center located in St. Cloud, Minnesota. That fact alone would not appear to be news for the Monitor . There are over 3,800 blind vendors in the United States. So why is Dennis Groshel somehow special why is his situation newsworthy? involving the future of Dennis Groshel's business. The immediate effect was to double his income. However, that is not the reason for this article. The Groshel decision strengthens the priority rights of other blind vendors on federal property. Of at least equal importance, the arbitrators struck down a forty-two-year-old policy of the Veterans Administration. The policy was to exclude blind vendor sites at Veterans Administration homes and hospitals nationwide.

Arbitrations that can have such a sweeping effect on the entire blind vendor program are rare. However, with careful and competent leadership by the blind themselves, such decisions can happen. We who are blind have learned that we must count on ourselves for strong leadership and direction. The outcome in this case is one more illustration. It illustrates again the strength, commitment, and competent leadership of the National Federation of the Blind. We understand the law and how best to apply it. We know when to act and how to act in ways that do not jeopardize the rights we have already fought to secure. Blind vendors in ever increasing numbers have found this to be true. The case of Dennis Groshel is one more reason. Here are the details. According to sworn testimony of Veterans Administration officials, Dennis Groshel is the only blind vendor now operating any type of business at a Veterans Administration medical center. There are blind vendors in office buildings occupied partially or exclusively by the Veterans Administration, but Groshel is the only blind vendor in a VA hospital. His business consists of vending machines.

There are 172 VA homes and hospitals throughout the United States, the medical center at St. Cloud, Minnesota, being one. Most of these facilities include cafeterias, snack and sundry shops, barber and beauty shops, gift shops, vending machines, and similar conveniences. These services are arranged for or provided by the Veterans Canteen Service, which is an arm of the Veterans Administration. The Veterans Canteen Service provides many services directly through its own employees but vending machine services, such as those at issue in this case, are provided through outside contractors, not through employees of the canteens.

The VA hospital at Fort Lion, Colorado, is the single exception to the practice of contracting for vending machine services. At that location the vending machines are serviced by canteen staff. Otherwise, at all other sites the machines are cleaned, filled, and maintained by commercial vendors, all of whom (except for Dennis Groshel) are sighted. The Veterans Administration likes to use commercial vendors for vending machine services at VA hospitals because the machines are installed at no cost to the Veterans Canteen Service. Using commercial vendors also provides revenue to the Veterans Canteen Service. Under contracts with the canteens, the vending machine operators pay commissions on their gross sales. The amount of the commission to be paid by each commercial vendor is fixed and agreed upon in the contract. The vending contracts are awarded competitively by the Veterans Administration in order to bring the highest fee and (supposedly) the best service possible. In terms of this discussion, Dennis Groshel has been a commercial vendor. The contract for the vending machines he operates began in 1977. The contract was between the Minnesota State Division of Services for the Blind (now known as the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training) and the Veterans Administration. The contract was renewed in 1982. Under each contract the blind vendor (not originally Dennis Groshel) was required to pay the Veterans Canteen Service a commission on gross sales from the vending machines. The rate in recent years has been approximately 17 percent, or about $13,400 in 1987. Dennis Groshel has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for several years. He attends meetings of the Federation and reads Federation literature. He makes it his business to know his rights. Since he is a licensed blind vendor under the Randolph-Sheppard program, he has certain rights as a result of holding a license to operate a Randolph-Sheppard vending facility. In Federation meetings and through our literature we have carefully explained these rights and in many instances have been responsible for securing them in the first place. Therefore, it is not surprising that Groshel began to ask why he should be required to make vending machine commission payments to the Veterans Canteen Service.

By the time the vending machine contract came up for renewal again in 1987, officials of the Minnesota state licensing agency (The Department of Jobs and Training) were also asking why. The more they thought about it, the more they came to the same conclusion that we had reached. There should be no commission charged by the Veterans Canteen Service for the vending machine operation at St. Cloud. The Randolph-Sheppard Act gives blind vendors a priority to operate vending facilities (or vending machines) on federal property. This does not mean that the blind vendors are required to pay a commission to any federal agency in order to obtain the priority. A commercial vendor that agrees to pay a commission does not earn a priority over a blind vendor who does not pay a commission. Such a practice would allow commercial vendors to circumvent the priority given by law to the blind. There is no authority in the Randolph- Sheppard Act for a federal agency to charge a blind vendor a commission. State licensing agencies can require blind vendors to pay a portion of their net proceeds to be used for maintaining and managing the vending program in the state. A commission charged by a federal agency on gross sales of a vendor, however, is a different matter and not authorized by law.

Once they realized these facts about the Randolph-Sheppard Act, Minnesota officials decided that commission payments to the Veterans Canteen Service and a commercial vending contract with the Veterans Administration were no longer in order. Not unexpectedly, it took some urging by Groshel and the Federation to help state officials reach this conclusion. But the Minnesota officials were not averse to persuasion, and they signed on for the battle. Instead of agreeing to the terms of another commercial vending contract, the Minnesota agency insisted that it should not be required to compete against commercial vendors in order to allow Dennis Groshel to continue to operate the vending machines. For its part the Veterans Administration responded by offering Minnesota the opportunity to submit a normal competitive bid (complete with commission) for another commercial contract. At this point the battle was joined. In circumstances such as these, the state agency for the blind faces a challenge. Most of the agencies have convinced themselves and the vendors that the best policy is to go along and get along. At times such as these the agency talk turns to salesmanship and a cooperative, team spirit with the federal partners. There was some of this in the Minnesota case, but not much. At one point it appeared that Minnesota might settle for a deal that would keep the vending facility in operation but still require Groshel to pay the commission. Talk of such a settlement ceased when the Minnesota officials understood that Dennis and the Federation would consider such an offer to be a sellout, not a settlement. These were the alternatives for the Minnesota agency: (1) Challenge the Veterans Administration's attempt to extract a commission from a blind vendor on federal property; or (2) Face a grievance from the blind vendor and the National Federation of the Blind. The choice was made, and the battle with the Veterans Administration was on.

The stakes were high, and the Veterans Administration was serious in its campaign to require a commercial vending contract for the St. Cloud medical center. The contract under which Dennis Groshel had been operating was scheduled to expire on the last day of July, 1987. At that point Groshel and his vending machines would have to go. But a federal district judge issued an order blocking the VA's attempt to take this action.

The federal injunction which kept Dennis in business at the medical center simply maintained the status quo. It did not free Groshel from paying seventeen percent of the gross income of his business to the Veterans Canteen Service. The court left the issue of the vending commission payments and the entire long-range future of the vending facility itself to a federal arbitration panel, which was being assembled in accordance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The panel in this instance included one member appointed by Minnesota, one appointed by the Veterans Administration, and a chairman, appointed by the other two. Minnesota chose James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. The arbitration began in February of 1988 and concluded (at least, for this round) in early September. The outcome affects Dennis Groshel and the Minnesota vending facilities program immediately, but it promises to have an even more significant long-range impact on the Randolph-Sheppard program of the entire nation. Arbitrations, however, do not set binding legal precedents. Another panel could decide a similar case differently and would not have to explain why it did not follow the direction given in this case. Even so, the Minnesota decision is bound to be important, because it is the first decision of its type, overturning the long-standing policy of an entire federal agency concerning its relationship with blind vendors.

The decision of the arbitrators was unanimous. The panel found that VA hospitals are not exempt from the Randolph- Sheppard Act. This means that the Veterans Administration cannot require the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training to submit a competitive bid for continuing to have vending machine service provided by Dennis Groshel at the St. Cloud site. The arbitration order directs the Veterans Administration and the Veterans Canteen Service to maintain the vending machine service as a blind vendor operation and to negotiate with the Minnesota agency to establish the terms of a permanent agreement.

Concerning commission payments, the arbitrators found that the Commission rate (seventeen percent of gross sales), which Groshel had been required to pay, was inequitable. The decision went on to note that the Randolph-Sheppard Act does not contain authority for a federal agency to charge commissions on sales from blind vendors. The panel concluded that it was not in a position to establish any specific commission rate and ordered that no commission be due or payable, at least for the immediate future. Beyond making the determinations just described, the arbitrators did not mandate the specific terms of the continuing arrangement that must exist between the Minnesota state agency and the Veterans Administration. Under the order, these parties are given six months during which they are expected to negotiate a permanent agreement. Any remaining issues that cannot be resolved at that time can be submitted to the same arbitration panel for another decision. During these negotiations the Veterans Administration is expected to maintain its position that vending commissions must be paid at VA hospitals. The Minnesota agency will no doubt continue to hold out for a commission-free agreement. The stand-off which is almost certain to develop will likely go back to arbitration. There is no doubt that we will hear much more about this case in the future. Meanwhile, Dennis Groshel continues to operate his vending machines under the commission-free terms of the arbitration award.

Even though this dispute between Minnesota and the Veterans Administration unquestionably has tremendous importance for Dennis Groshel, it may at first glance not appear to have a great deal of relevance to the concerns of other blind vendors throughout the country but it does. It is precedent-making, and there is every likelihood that it will have far-reaching implications concerning contracts at similar VA hospitals all over the nation. If the case had been decided against Minnesota, not only Groshel but also the entire vending program would have suffered a significant loss.

Therefore, the National Federation of the Blind joined forces with Minnesota to prevent the loss. The success we have so far achieved speaks for itself. Whenever and wherever the rights of blind vendors are threatened, we will take action. Dennis Groshel is a prime example and a case in point.



by Barbara Pierce

This issue of The Braille Monitor is the second one on which I have worked as Associate Editor. I am far from having mastered either editing in general or the highly complex combination of information and experience that go into the job of putting out this particular magazine. Several things, however, have struck me as a newcomer to the day-to-day work of our National Office. I thought that Monitor readers might be interested in them.

The money we invest each month in staff salaries could not, I believe, be better spent. I have never seen dedication to a cause by paid employees like that of our staff. They are at their desks by 8 a.m. every day; many of them are there before, sometimes long before that hour. At 6 p.m. there are still people around, dealing with the day's problems. They work evenings, sometimes late into the night, and they cheerfully come in on weekends if that is called for. In short, they combine the expertise of professionals with the dedication and commitment usually found only in volunteers.

The depth and breadth of the need crying out to the Federation for redress defy description. The mail comes in almost by the truckload, and the phones at the switchboard ring incessantly. Many of the people who call are in desperate trouble: vending crises, Social Security snafus, despairing parents, civil rights violations, bureaucratic idiocy, and the list never ends. Trying to meet such need is very much like bailing out a leaky canoe with a teaspoon; the faster you work, the more there is to be done.

So what? you may say. We've heard it all before. Many of us have even seen the Center in action. But when one visits an office for a short time, one always wonders how much of the seeming activity is honest business and how much is flurry caused by inefficiency or disorganization. I can assure you that, in this case, the best people we can get are going flat out at the National Center to support our work across the country. Watching them in action has redoubled my resolve to do as much as I can in Ohio to carry my part of the load.

Each of you needs to do this as well, and the beginning of a new year is a good time to make the resolve to do so. Our need for funds is acute. Those of us who cannot increase our personal contributions to the NFB (and almost all of us could raise our donations if we really wanted to) can recruit Associate members at large (Associates) for the Federation. Since the beginning of this year only a little over 300 of us have done so. Some people don't have checking accounts, so they cannot participate directly in the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan. But chapters can take those cash contributions and use them to join the PAC Plan as a service to local members. The DIG (Deferred Insurance Giving) Program is an ideal way for an individual or a group to fund the movement significantly. To date 320 individuals or groups of us have bought DIG policies and given them to the Federation. Virtually every chapter in the country and certainly all of the state affiliates can afford to take this obvious step toward guaranteeing the health of our movement into the Twenty-first Century, but how many of us have done so? Whether or not you have, and setting aside the question of whether you can afford to, I'll bet you know someone who would consider purchasing a DIG policy for the NFB as a gesture of respect for you. The long and the short of it is that each one of us must decide how important the Federation really is. I can assure you that the NFB has never in its history done more to help blind people than it is doing at this moment. And we have never needed the support of each one of us more than we do today. If we as chapters and state affiliates choose to avoid making more substantial financial commitments, and if you and I do not bother to find the wherewithal to increase our own gifts, we must admit that we are really saying that the Federation and its work just aren't the priority in our lives that we like to say they are. But because we do bother, each of us can and will make the difference.



by Barbara Cheadle

As Monitor readers know, Barbara and John Cheadle have been active and committed Federationists for a number of years. In Idaho, Missouri, and now Maryland they have worked and laughed and cried with us as we struggle toward freedom and equality. Mrs. Cheadle is the President of the Parents' Division of the National Federation of the Blind, and Mr. Cheadle has been for several years a member of the staff of the National Office. Their son, Charles (known to everyone as Chaz) is an active, bright, ten-year-old. He is also blind in one eye and severely limited visually in the other. Chaz needs Braille now and will need it much more in the years to come. He is lucky that his parents recognize this fact and are prepared to fight for his right to learn Braille and to use it. He is unlucky in finding himself in the clutches of so-called professionals in special education who have declared (among other things) that Braille and print are incompatible.

As you read the following article, keep in mind that there are probably no more knowledgeable parents in the country today, working to protect their blind child's educational rights. Mrs. Cheadle has served as a parent advocate in Individualized Educational Program (IEP) meetings all across the country. Both of the Cheadles have learned from hundreds of blind friends just what can be accomplished with proper training and reasonable opportunity. They have a painful understanding of the absolute necessity for blind people to master Braille as early as possible. They believe unswervingly that, if they can give their son the tools he needs, he can achieve whatever he has the native ability to accomplish. And they are determined not to allow benighted school officials to destroy Chaz's future. Here is the Cheadles' story as it has unfolded to date. Read it and ask yourself what you would do if it were your child whose future lay in the balance.

In our local school district all fourth, fifth, and sixth graders are required to take music. They may sing in the chorus, play an instrument in the band or orchestra, or take general music. But one thing is certain a child will have music. So far as we know, it doesn't matter if the student is tone-deaf and has absolutely no musical talent. Music is required, and that is that. This same school district, which includes some of the best schools in the state of Maryland, will not teach our blind, partially-sighted son how to read and write Braille.

The school district will spend thousands of dollars to teach children to sing and play musical instruments but will not spend a penny to insure literacy for a nearly-blind child. Please don't misunderstand us. We are not opposed to music, and we have no desire to change the school's policy regarding it. But while the other children sing and play their instruments, the door to literacy for a lifetime Braille has been slammed shut for our son, Chaz. It sounds incredible, and we didn't really believe that it would happen to us, but it has. Chaz, who is now ten years old, is totally blind in one eye (due to glaucoma) and has severely limited vision in the other eye due to cataracts and nystagmus. We have been told by several ophthalmologists that his vision will never get better (surgery won't help) but that it is likely to get worse as his eye muscles weaken with time. Chaz will probably experience a noticeable and significant difference in his vision before he graduates from high school. He will not be able to read as long as he can now (he begins to get tired after about thirty minutes of reading), and he will suffer more eye fatigue. Magnification aids, one told us, will not be helpful to him until his eye muscles begin to weaken. When this happens, magnifiers will only substitute for what he can now do by bringing the material close to his eye.

However, when we mentioned Braille as an alternative or supplement to print, one of our doctors assured us Chaz could get by. Well, getting by is not what we had in mind for any of our children! We see no reason why we should not have the same expectations of Chaz as we do for the others. Furthermore, Chaz is a bright child. Teachers and parents of other children get upset and worried when their bright students or children just manage to get by. They call conferences and plan strategies to get the child to live up to his or her potential. Surely our blind son deserves the same concern.

With the encouragement and support of blind friends in the National Federation of the Blind, we decided Chaz should learn Braille as well as print in school. We had some false starts, but we finally got one good, solid year of instruction in the third grade through the Baltimore City school system. But there was still a long way to go. He had learned most of the Braille contractions and rules, but he hadn't done much tactile reading. He needed more instruction and more practice, and he needed to start using Braille regularly in the classroom. Then, in the fall of 1987, we moved to Baltimore County. We were in a different home, a different neighborhood, and a very different school district. Our first meeting with school officials and teachers in the new school took place on September 17, 1987. It passed without incident. We all agreed to continue the Individualized Education Program (IEP) drawn up in his old school in Baltimore City until it was up for review in November. In that IEP Chaz was getting four hours a week of Braille instruction, large print texts and tests, and other materials as needed as well as consultation services from the itinerant teacher of the blind to the classroom teacher about alternative techniques and adapted materials that he would need. Waiting until November, we were told, would give Mary Buchheister, the teacher for the visually impaired in our new school, time to get to know Chaz and do her own evaluation.

We got our first insight into Mrs. Buchheister's attitudes about blindness at that meeting when she said that she didn't like to use sleep shades. She thought it was wrong to take away a child's sight. We disagreed and pointed out that his IEP stipulated that he would use sleep shades during his Braille lesson so he would learn to trust his sense of touch. The only thing that bothered him about the sleep shades was that they itched. But we decided not to make an issue of it then. We thought that we could work it out when she started teaching Chaz. A few weeks later I got a call from Mrs. Buchheister. She wanted to talk about Braille. She said something to the effect that Chaz had terrible Braille reading technique and he was slow. But most of all she couldn't understand why we wanted to teach him Braille anyway. After all, Braille was so slow and tedious. Those are not her exact words, but that was the sense of them. So I talked about all the reasons why Chaz needed Braille and why I disagreed with her statement. She didn't seem to understand or believe what I said. I was beginning to worry. Still, I tried to look at the positive side. She said she was a stickler for technique, and Chaz certainly needed work on that. Maybe she would come around. Later I asked Mrs. Buchheister if she was willing to be his certifying authority for the National Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. She half-heartedly agreed and shortly thereafter sent home a Grade 1 Braille book for Chaz to read. Since Chaz had already learned most of the Grade 2 Braille contractions, enough anyway to read children's books, I was not impressed. Neither was Chaz. After a few tries, he declared that he preferred to read the Grade 2 books I had gotten for him. Grade 1, he said, was too slow.

We never resolved the sleepshade issue either. She really believed that it was bad, even traumatic, to take away his vision. Even though his IEP stipulated that sleep shades would be used, she absolutely refused to use them.

In the meantime, John and I were getting an education in just what schools expect of bright kids these days. We had a sighted son in the gifted fifth-grade class, and Chaz had been placed in the gifted fourth-grade class. Every time I looked at my fifth-grade son's homework, I thought to myself, How is Chaz going to do this next year? His need for Braille became more and more obvious to us. And we recognized he needed it immediately. Then we got our notice for the November IEP meeting. The list of officials who were coming to the meeting included Ms. Harden, an area supervisor from the county office of Special Education. As soon as we read that name, we knew that the professionals were up to something. They wouldn't send someone of Ms. Harden's importance if this were going to be a routine meeting. But the school didn't kick about our request for more Braille instruction. They didn't scream when we said we wanted him to start using Braille in the classroom. They just handed us the evaluation which Mrs. Buchheister, the teacher for the visually impaired, had done. She said he didn't need Braille. So Chaz would not get Braille end of discussion. Actually, we had a lot of discussion, but to no avail. We knew now why Ms. Hardin, the supervisor, was present at our IEP meeting. It was clear that whatever we said, whatever documents we presented, they had made up their minds that they were not going to teach Braille to Chaz. In fact, when we pointed to Doris Willoughby's evaluation which was part of his file it turned out that several of the team members hadn't even read it.

The whole tenor of the meeting was, We are the professionals, and we know what is best for your child.

The evaluation Mrs. Buchheister did, by the way, was not well done. For example, she recommended hand-held magnifying aids without ever having him use one. At one point she said his print reading speed was adequate. Then later, when she recommended against Braille, she reported that he reads with excellent speed and comprehension. She said that he could see her smile at a distance of four feet and retrieve a pencil he had thrown across the room. We never could decide what that had to do with whether he should or should not be learning Braille. Besides, it was clear that she hadn't considered the possibility that Chaz could have been using alternative techniques in place of, or in addition to, his vision for these tasks.

John and I talked and talked about all the reasons Chaz needed Braille. We pointed out that two other school districts had agreed with us, and had included Braille instruction in his IEP. No dice. They wouldn't budge. At one point we were told that they did not have to do anything about teaching him Braille unless he started to fail academically, and only then if we could prove that his vision was responsible for it and that Braille was the only thing that would help him make passing grades.

But the real clincher came when the itinerant teacher asked us and it was obvious that she was upset Why do you limit him by calling him blind? We were stunned. Here we were trying to get a skill (Braille) for our son that would expand his options and opportunities, and she was accusing us of limiting him! We said something to the effect that we didn't think there was anything shameful about blindness or being blind. Of course, we knew it was a limitation, but no more so than a hundred other characteristics. That was the way we saw it. But she didn't. Blind was bad. Braille was bad. And we were bad because we weren't ashamed or afraid to use the word blind with our son who has partial vision. We would not sign an IEP at that meeting. We told them that we only wanted materials (large print books, etc.) while we thought the impasse over.

When we left that meeting, we had to make a decision. We decided that what Chaz really needed was good, positive Braille instruction. Even if we forced the issue then and won, he couldn't get that from this teacher. We decided to let things stand as they were at school for a while and arrange to pay for private Braille lessons. We would try again later. It was still hard to believe that they would not eventually see reason. One thing we did after our November meeting with the school was to arrange for another independent evaluation. Maybe, we thought, with more documentation and the evidence of Chaz's success with Braille in private lessons, we could bring the school around to our view. Fred Schroeder, former director of the special education programs for the blind in the Albuquerque, New Mexico school system and currently Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, did this one. The results were the same. Chaz should learn Braille.

Since we had not signed an IEP in November, we had another meeting in December to approve an IEP officially. This time, however, Dr. Betsy Zaborowsky came with us as our advocate. The county beefed up their representation, too. Dr. Gloria Ergnoth, Director of Special Education for the district, was there this time along with the usual team members (school principal, classroom teacher, teacher for the visually impaired, and the school counselor).

We had decided that we would not ask for Braille instruction, but we would ask that Chaz be allowed to use Braille in the classroom for some class work. This would mean that the county would provide some Braille materials and possibly some Braille transcribing service.

When we went to the meeting, we took Fred Schroeder's evaluation with us, handed copies to everyone, and waited while they read it. After the teacher for the visually impaired (Mrs. Buchheister) read it, she said she wanted to discuss some of the points with us, but Dr. Ergnoth cut her off. It was clear that the county had taken a position against Braille for Chaz, and any evaluation we presented simply was not going to be considered. Dr. Ergnoth was delighted, then, when we told her that we had arranged for Chaz to receive private Braille lessons. She thought that was great. She praised us and compared us to parents who go out and get private music or foreign language lessons for their children (nice but unnecessary was the message). We told her we didn't think this was at all analogous, and we still believed that the school district should be responsible for teaching him Braille.

She didn't like that idea, but the meeting went reasonably well until we said that we wanted to write into the IEP that Chaz would have the option of using Braille in the classroom. We had already agreed that Chaz could choose to use large print materials and magnifiers as he needed them. It seemed only reasonable that he should also have the option of choosing Braille.

And that's when the meeting fell apart. We were told in no uncertain terms that we could have nothing about Braille in the IEP; they would not even concede that Chaz could choose Braille materials to read, or that he could choose to do an assignment in Braille. The message was loud and clear no Braille whatsoever! John was so angry at that point that he walked out of the meeting. Even Dr. Zaborowsky, who had been so calm throughout the meeting, was absolutely floored. At the end of the meeting, she asked Mrs. Buchheister why she was so opposed to Chaz's learning Braille. The reply was, Because print and Braille are incompatible. Now that was a new argument to all of us! I suppose, if it hadn't been our son's education and future we were talking about, we would have laughed; that's how silly it was. We did sign an IEP (without Braille) that day. But we told them that we did not consider this the last word on the subject. We would be back.

In the meantime, Chaz started private lessons with Mrs. Marie Cobb, a member of our local NFB chapter. She was not a certified teacher, but she was enthusiastic and committed. She liked Chaz, he liked her, and she really believed in the importance of Braille. She had been a partially sighted child who had learned Braille when she was in the fifth grade, and she was still a print and Braille reader. She was a great role model for our son. In about four months Chaz learned to read Grade 2 Braille with his fingers well enough to read stories aloud to the family. Some time around March he was evaluated by a certified Braille teacher, who said he was reading at a second grade level pretty good progress for a boy who could barely identify the alphabet with his fingers when he started. He also read over 400 Braille pages from December 1, 1987, to March 1, 1988, for the NFB Braille Reading contest. We were on the way. But he had to have more. He especially needed to be able to use Braille in the classroom for classwork.

Chaz was beginning to give oral reports in class, and print notes would not help. On one report students who used print notes got extra points. Chaz typed out his notes, memorized them, pretended to use them when he gave the report, then turned in the notes for credit. We didn't know he was going to do this, and we didn't condone it, but without Braille, what else could he have done? We called another IEP meeting in March, and James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, went with us to try to get Braille. Even the right to use it in the classroom with support services would have been helpful. We began with the concept that in addition to the visual techniques (large print and magnifiers) Chaz needed non-visual techniques, materials, and services. They agreed. Yes, he needed key board skills (typing and computer), readers, and taped books. But once again, when we came to Braille no way! He could have everything else, but no Braille. We then filed for a due process hearing at the county level. It took place on June 2, 1988, and in preparation we arranged for yet another evaluation of Chaz's visual needs and skills. This time we paid Jane Kronheim, a specialist who is certified in Massachusetts and Ohio. She came to Baltimore to do the evaluation. Her conclusions supported our plea for Braille. We also prepared a video tape showing Chaz reading over an extended period. The tape showed with painful clarity what happens to him as his eyes tire. After a half hour he complains that the print is jumping, and his speed and accuracy fall noticeably. He becomes restless, and his attention wanders. Armed with these new pieces of evidence and bolstered by Jim Gashel's presence, we faced the crowd of officials from the school system drawn up against us at the county hearing. The County Board of Education appointed the hearing officer, who was supposed to be impartial. The school system designated not one, but two, advocates to face Jim Gashel. These attorneys, Marjorie Raffel and Ronald Kaplan, tried to gang up on Mr. Gashel, but he objected to being double teamed, and the hearing officer did agree that only one at a time could question a witness. Everyone on both sides stipulated that the IEP which had continued to be in force all year was inadequate. Chaz clearly needed typing and computer skills, recorded materials, and penmanship.

Braille continued to be the stumbling block. Mrs. Buchheister testified that, based on test results in Chaz's file, she would not recommend Braille. It did not matter that many of the tests in question had been administered while we still lived in Baltimore, and, based on those test results, the city schools had recommended Braille. The evaluations of Chaz that had been done by Doris Willoughby, one of the most distinguished teachers of visually impaired children in the country; Fred Schroeder, an expert in blindness and programs for visually impaired youngsters; and Dr. Betsy Zaborowsky, a licensed clinical psychologist, were rejected out of hand because we had not paid for them. Kronheim's evaluation could not be dismissed, but it was one against the experts ranged on the other side. Not surprisingly, Maynard Simmons, an educator at the Maryland School for the Blind, testified that it is damaging to a child to be taught Braille simultaneously with print. He suggested strongly that we bordered on being abusive parents. He as much as told the hearing officer that video taping Chaz's print reading was cruel.

In mid-June the hearing officer rendered his decision. In an astonishingly poorly reasoned opinion he found in favor of the school system. Among other oddities he discounted the ophthalmologists' finding that Chaz's sight will not improve and will probably worsen. He said that anyone at that hearing might someday go blind, but that fact was not justification for teaching all of these adults Braille. With this piece of logic as a sample of his thinking, his decision came as no surprise. Chaz could not have Braille, He could not be taught Braille; he could not use Braille. He could not have anything to do with Braille. Braille was out.

In the final moments before Jim Gashel and we left for the National Federation of the Blind convention in Chicago, we completed the State Board of Education's paperwork in order to file an appeal of the county's decision. That hearing was scheduled for August 25, 1988, and we were allowed to choose from a list of names of appropriate people the three members of the panel who would hear our case. The state named Dr. Burton H. Lohnes, Director of the Forebush School, a part of the Shepard Pratt Hospital, to chair the panel. The transcript of the June hearing would be part of the evidence.

At the August hearing we also had Fred Schroeder and Doris Willoughby as experts prepared to testify. The school system had no new witnesses. Early in the proceedings Jim Gashel called attention to the fact that the County hearing officer had misreported one piece of information from the June hearing. In response to a question from Jim Gashel, I had testified that the schools had never offered us the option of an impartial assessment of Chaz. The hearing officer's opinion stated that we had refused such an offer. (The transcript of the June hearing is clear, and so was the testimony it recorded. The schools never so much as mentioned the possibility of an impartial assessment.) Ron Kaplan, the head of the County's advocacy team, broke in to say that the schools had offered me this option, but, if I had not understood the offer, they were prepared to make it again. At this point the character of the hearing changed. It became a negotiating session to work out the terms by which an impartial party could be identified to do an evaluation. Cay Holbrook, a County expert, and Fred Schroeder went into another room to try to agree on names of people to do the evaluation. Fred suggested several names, and they agreed on two. The expert they were able to reach was Dr. Sally Mangold, a professor at San Francisco State University. On September 2 Dr. Lohnes, Fred Schroeder, Cay Holbrook, and John and I talked by conference call with Dr. Mangold and determined that she probably could conduct an independent assessment.

Before we had left the hearing, Ron Kaplan insisted that (in order to insure Dr. Mangold's impartiality), everyone pledge not to contact Dr. Mangold. Everyone agreed. We further agreed that, after her report was in hand, all of us at the local level would try again to agree on the IEP. Only if we could not would we return to the suspended state-level hearing.

On September 20, 1988, John got a call from the State Board of Education instructing him to have Chaz report for his test on the following Friday. It was obvious from the conversation that the County schools had been in touch with Dr. Mangold despite their agreement to the contrary, so Jim Gashel called her and learned that Ron Kaplan (the very Ron Kaplan who had insisted on everyone's keeping away from the independent expert) had been in contact with her. In fact, his was the only name associated with the case that she recognized. Dr. Lohnes called Mr. Gashel almost immediately to say that Kaplan was bouncing off the walls because Mr. Gashel had talked with Mangold. Mr. Gashel explained the whole story and told Lohnes that he was writing a letter to all parties explaining what had happened and raising our doubts about Dr. Mangold's independence since she had clearly been in prolonged contact with the county advocate. Dr. Mangold was in fact about to board a plane to come to Baltimore, so we decided to go ahead with the test despite our reservations. Putting aside the matter of the county's contact with Dr. Mangold, we were still troubled about her ability to give an unbiased evaluation.

But she is clearly a professional in the classical sense of the term which means that she is not willing to compromise her principles, yield to pressure, or say what somebody wants her to say. She made the evaluation, and here are her recommendations:



Primary Learning Medium

The primary learning medium is the medium most frequently used during classroom instruction. It should allow access to the greatest variety of educational materials. A primary learning medium can be utilized in a wide variety of settings inside and outside of the classroom. It should permit both reading and writing.

Secondary Learning Medium

A secondary learning medium is occasionally appropriate for a student. It is learned in order to allow a student to perform specific tasks not easily performed in the primarylearning medium. It may alleviate fatigue experienced when using the primary learning medium for extended periods of time.

Reading Charles should:

1. use print as his primary learning medium, especially in subjects such as spelling and basal reading;

2. use Braille as a secondary learning medium (a minimum of three forty-minute periods of Braille instruction per week;

3. complete daily assignments for Braille reading and writing;

4. be given the alternative of using tape recorded texts as a secondary learning medium when the classroom or homework assignments require extensive periods of reading in subjects such as social studies and science (tape recorded material should not be used for subjects such as basal reading, spelling, and grammar);

5. be reintroduced to the potential use of optical aids for near and distant reading (stand magnifiers for near-point viewing and telescopic lenses for distance viewing). Distance viewing might include reading the chalkboard, street signs, and numbers on buses.

Writing Charles should:

1. Receive instruction in typing during a minimum of three thirty-minute periods each week. A silent, portable, battery operated typewriter should be used for writing long assignments, and taking notes in class. The portable typewriter should be an LED display and a variable print size output (i.e. Canon).

2. Use a unique style of writing composed of some manuscript and some cursive letters. The style should be so developed as to allow him to write clearly and require him to lift the pen point from the page as little as possible.

3. Continue to receive instruction in penmanship until he can consistently write short amounts of information and read them back easily.

4. Receive computer keyboarding instruction as an extension of his typing lesson. As soon as possible he should be operating a computer equipped with a voice synthesizer.

5. Should be introduced to talking software and its appropriate academic applications.

6. Receive instruction in the use of the Braille slate and stylus after he can demonstrate third-grade competency on the Braille writer.

Orientation and Mobility

It is recommended that a complete evaluation by a certified orientation and mobility instructor be conducted in order to determine the current needs Charles may have in this area.

Activities of Daily Living

The academic skills learned in the classroom should be useful outside of the classroom. Such academic skills should be useful in making grocery lists, recording telephone numbers obtained from information, reading bus schedules, and reading recipes. Since Charles' focusing distance is very close to the work surface, his tactile abilities should be developed to help in performing certain jobs such as adjusting gas flames, manipulating range settings situated behind burners, cutting with a knife, pouring hot liquids, etc. If Charles is trained to use his tactile sense in performing certain tasks, he may function more safely and/or effectively.

That is what Dr. Mangold found, and for anyone who can read, the message is clear. Chaz needs Braille. With this independent assessment in hand, we awaited the IEP meeting, which was set for November 15, 1988. Unknown to us, both of the county advocates were to be present as well as the usual array of professionals which we have come to expect as standard stage props. Prior to any IEP session, the school system is required to send the parents a notice of meeting, which is to include a complete list of those who are to attend. Marjorie Raffel's name appeared on this list. Ron Kaplan's did not. Mr. Gashel was to go with us, and for this we were very grateful. We kept telling ourselves that the battle had been won and that Braille would be offered now that the independent expert had agreed with us, but We should have known from past performance that the county would not willingly see reason. When we walked into the room we discovered that Ron Kaplan was not only present but planning to take an active part in the negotiations. As a result, the atmosphere was very tense even before we began talking. Mr. Kaplan opened the meeting by stating, in a cold and hostile voice, that they did not like the evaluation, but they would work with it. Mr. Gashel then managed to get consensus on beginning our negotiations by working with the IEP framework we had devised last year, based on the IEP's developed in the Baltimore City schools and upon the evaluations we have had since. At first we made slow and grudging progress even though the professionals were highly annoyed about using our IEP outline. But the tone was bad. Mrs. Buchheister made a number of snide and defensive remarks to Mr. Gashel throughout the meeting.

Miss Davis, Chaz's classroom teacher this year, has been wonderful with him. She has taken extra time and has provided him with the kind of flexible, sensitive guidance that is unfortunately all too rare today. She would be an ideal teacher to work with Chaz as he integrates Braille and keyboard skills into his learning. But when we began talking about the daily Braille assignments that Dr. Mangold had recommended, she was clearly uneasy. I tried to reassure her that you don't have to be an expert to assist a child who is working in Braille. The print text enables the teacher or parent to help sound out words and follow instructions. But it was no good. It seemed clear to me that Mrs. Buchheister had succeeded in convincing Miss Davis that we and Dr. Mangold had conspired to increase her workload. By this time we had reached an impasse. We insisted that Chaz use Braille every day. The county refused. They demanded that Mrs. Buchheister decide when and how and if he would use it. We were not prepared to let the experts sabotage the Braille instruction which Chaz needs and Dr. Mangold had recommended. The county had no intention of abiding by either the letter or the spirit of the assessment, so the meeting fell apart.

We have now notified the State Board of Education that we are unable to agree on an IEP for Chaz. In January of 1989 (this is being written in early December of 1988) the hearing that was recessed August 25 will begin again where it left off. That panel, chaired by Dr. Lohnes, will then write an IEP that will be binding on both sides. We hope for the best. The panel pinned great hopes on the independent evaluation. Now that it is so clear and so supportive of what we wish to have happen for our son, perhaps one small boy will have a chance to acquire the tools he needs in order to make his full contribution to the world. It is hard to know what the impact of all this struggle has been on Chaz. He is still an outgoing, active boy, who is clearly bright. But his grades have fallen this year as we knew they would. He needs the tools that are being withheld. We know what he needs, and we have fought as hard as we can to win the right for him to receive that instruction. And still our son suffers.

I wonder sometimes about all the youngsters who, like Chaz, are being denied this necessary training and whose parents do not know what is going wrong and all in the name of professionalism, a pseudo professionalism which cloaks ignorance, shelters the inadequacy and laziness of the teacher who has not learned Braille, and promotes nothing but ego. The experts assure lawmakers that a Braille bill is not necessary in Maryland because every child who needs Braille will get it. I have experienced to the marrow of my bones the destructive effects of that lie. Children who need Braille in Maryland and in every other state are not getting it and will not get it, I am afraid, unless their parents and the members of the National Federation of the Blind fight for their right to literacy and a decent education. Is this so much to ask for our children? Is it unreasonable to believe that one trusting, intelligent ten-year-old blind child should be allowed to have the tools and training that will give him the opportunity to compete in the world, live a normal life, and earn his own way?

I don't think so, and I don't think the members of the public (once they are informed and understand) will think so either.



On Sunday, September 4, 1988, an ad seeking to promote literacy appeared in the Rapid City Journal in Rapid City, South Dakota. Of course, no one can quarrel with the concept of helping people learn to read, but the ad took a novel approach. It began by showing a picture of an open book containing pages of Braille, with the caption: To see what it is like to be an illiterate, try reading this. Under the picture was the following text:

Some people have eyes but can't really see the words. Illiterate people have never read nursery rhymes or been able to write a letter. They can't even look up a name in the phone book or find a word in the dictionary. These simple tasks cannot be carried out, and these people live in a world that seems confusing and difficult. They may as well be blind. Don't be blind to the facts of illiteracy. Call your local learning center for information on how you can help. - The Literacy Council of the Black Hills 394-4043/348-6709.

Such an ad fifty years ago would have evoked very little negative response, either from the blind or the sighted. Twenty years ago it would have been greeted with mixed reviews. Most of the sighted and a great many of the blind would probably have thought it clever but not offensive. Many of the blind would have been unhappy with it and would have said so, but it is questionable as to how much effort they would have made to do something about it. Today the situation is different. The National Federation of the Blind has been in existence for forty-eight years and has schooled a second and even a third generation in the nuances and implications of harmful publicity about the blind. Likewise, the cumulative effect of the Federation's half century of work is bearing fruit in improved public attitudes, heightened sensitivity, and overall receptivity. The climate of the late 1980's is not the climate of the late 1930's.

Even so, things do not happen by themselves. Karen Mayry is the energetic and perceptive President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. She has built a powerful state organization, and she keeps it strong by constant vigilance and decisive action. When she read the ad in the Rapid City Journal , she quite naturally assumed that it emanated from the Literacy Council of the Black Hills, so she contacted them to set them straight. This was not difficult since she is a member of the organization, as well as other civic groups in the area, and knows her way around.

She found, however, that the Literacy Council of the Black Hills was not responsible for the publication of the ad or, at least, only in a general way. They had given carte blanche authority to the Rapid City Journal to help them in their campaign to promote literacy, and someone at the newspaper had selected and printed the ad without their prior knowledge or approval. Karen next contacted the Journal . She learned that a reporter named Donna Marie Strong was in charge of the literacy campaign and was responsible for the copy. Ms. Strong said that she had taken the ad from a book which was sold to newspapers throughout the country and which was published in 1986.

The editor of the book (Linda Scanlan) was a professor at Norfolk State University in Virginia, and the objectionable copy was the winning entry by one of her students in an ad-writing contest. All of this tracking and tracing took time and effort, and somewhere along the way Karen (with a shrug of annoyance) might have dropped the matter. But she didn't. She persisted not with anger or name-calling but with measured determination.

Hills, bringing the offending ad to their attention and pointing out the harm which such misapplied, well-intentioned gimmicks do to the blind. She also got Professor Scanlan's address and wrote her. All of us would do well to profit by Karen's example and do likewise. This is why the National Federation of the Blind is truly changing what it means to be blind. Here is Karen's letter to Professor Scanlan:

Rapid City, South Dakota
October 20, 1988

Ms. Linda Scanlan, Professor
Norfork State University
Norfolk, Virginia

Dear Ms. Scanlan:

Recently the enclosed ad was published in the Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, South Dakota. This ad disturbs me greatly. Braille is vital to those of us who are blind. Through its use, we ARE literate. This winning advertisement implies that those of us who use Braille are not literate. What an unfortunate implication. It is obvious that Ms. Laura Gay did not know successful, competent blind people, who rely on Braille. Braille is used for employment purposes, correspondence, messages, organization and filing, and reading (pleasure, textbooks, technical information used in business, and the many, many uses for which reading is necessary in our daily lives). Thus, by stating that if you are illiterate, that is what reading would look like to you, and showing a picture of Braille, the ad is giving a negative picture of blindness and the use of Braille. We, the blind, are working diligently to change the image of blindness. The National Federation of the Blind is a forty-eight- year-old consumer advocacy organization working toward equality for all blind people.

The ultimate goal of the National Federation of the Blind is the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. This objective involves the removal of legal, economic, and social discriminations; the education of the public to new concepts concerning blindness; and the achievement by each and every blind person of the right to exercise to the full his individual talents and capacities. It means the right of the blind to work with their sighted fellows in the professions, common callings, skilled trades, and regular occupations.

Please consider the damage that has been done through circulation of this winning advertisement. Braille is often viewed as an inferior method of reading. It is not. Blind persons often read well above 350 words per minute and can compete with their sighted peers on an equal basis. Currently the National Federation of the Blind sponsors a contest for blind students through the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille in order to encourage young people to become proficient and proud of their ability to read Braille. Through this contest and other efforts, we are establishing Braille as a proficient and respectable medium. Help us in our endeavors by eliminating comparisons to other methods of reading in future advertisements.


Karen Mayry, President

National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota

This is what Karen Mayry wrote to Professor Scanlan. And what was the result? Was her letter ignored? Did it elicit an angry response? Not at all. The effort to improve the climate of public opinion (even if long and difficult) is dramatically effective. Although one might quibble about details of the response which Mrs. Mayry received from Professor Scanlan (passages which smack of condescension and a might too much of attempted self-justification), that is exactly what it would be, quibbling. Professor Scanlan's letter is important not only for its content but also for what it says about her future behavior and interaction with others. Yes, the National Federation of the Blind is changing what it means to be blind. Here is Professor Scanlan's response:

Norfolk, Virginia
November 20, 1988

Dear Mrs. Mayry:

This is in response to your letter of October 20 about a recent ad in the Rapid City Journal placed by the Literacy Council of the Black Hills. Neither I nor Laura Gay, the student who designed the ad, meant to imply that reading Braille equates with illiteracy. Ms. Gay graduated a year ago, but I am sure she would join me in a sincere apology to any visually impaired person who may have been offended by the ad.

I commend you for caring enough about your work to write to me. Ms. Gay's ad was part of a national student competition sponsored by the International Newspaper Advertising and Marketing Executives Foundation and the American Academy of Advertising. It was to help a very worthwhile cause combating illiteracy and to provide national exposure for student work. Student work was judged on several local levels by newspaper and advertising agency executives. Ms. Gay's work placed first in the district that included Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. It was then displayed at the INAME national conference and was selected to circulate to member newspapers around the country. These newspapers and local groups fighting illiteracy could select any of the student work to use in their campaigns. Obviously, Ms. Gay's work was judged worthy of use by your local organization (the Literacy Council of the Black Hills) and newspaper.

This background is not given to absolve either Ms. Gay or myself of the insensitivity shown in this matter, but to show you how important the work you are doing is. Many well meaning people around the country who are in positions to influence the American public through advertising in the mass media viewed this ad as effective. None, I'm sure, would have selected it had they understood the implied discrimination.

I hope you have written the Literacy Council of the Black Hills and the Rapid City Journal. I am sending copies of our correspondence to INAME and AAA. None of us helps a good cause if we hurt another in the process.


Linda H. Scanlan

Assistant Professor

Norfolk State University

cc: Susan Schobel, INAME Foundation

Professor Ernie Larkin, Oklahoma University



by Ronda J. Del Boccio

Ronda Del Boccio is a graduate student in counseling at Illinois State University. She is a new Federationist and recipient of a National Federation of the Blind of Illinois Convention Scholarship. This article appeared in the September-October, 1988, Month's News, the publication of the NFB of Illinois.

Vision specialist Dr. Evelyn Rex, who teaches a class called Special Adaptations for the Visually Impaired at Illinois State University, gave students clinical experience credit for something the Federation strongly opposes. She had them wear blindfolds while listening to presentations, then asked them what it was like to be blind.

At the 1988 NFB of Illinois convention a resolution was passed stating that such activity when used for purposes of sensitivity training is deplorable. I had no intention of letting this go on without saying something, so I told the students that being blindfolded is not the same as being blind, and thus they should not consider this experience an accurate picture of what it's like to be blind. Some of the students reported feeling disoriented or isolated. I said that naturally they would feel that way because they were told to participate in the activity without the benefit of training in the skills of blindness. Later the same evening the vision specialist said that blind people are often talkative because they cannot stand silence. I objected, saying that my mouth and my eyes work independently of each other. I know plenty of fully sighted people who feel compelled to fill any silence. The point is that blanket statements about blind people only reinforce damaging attitudes that rob us of our dignity.

Dr. Rex had no comment, but went to to another topic, which was Braille. She said that Braille is an important skill but is difficult to learn and often slower to read than print. Once again I objected. I said that plenty of adults learn how to read and write Braille efficiently. I asked her and the class if they were expert, speedy readers from the first day they learned, emphasizing that any new skill is slow in the beginning, but with continued practice it becomes natural. I also told them that I feel low vision (education likes to make that distinction) people should learn Braille as well as print, because it is often more efficient and gives greater flexibility. I mentioned how much easier it is to have Braille labels on pantry goods and files. And taking Braille notes, especially for use in speeches, makes the presentation much easier.

I also pointed out that so often children are not given the option to learn Braille as well as print and must suffer the eyestrain, headaches, and discomfort of using a plethora of adaptive devices to accomplish in an hour what reading Braille could achieve in perhaps half the time. I also asked them if they thought it would be convenient to carry a closed circuit television to the store to read a shopping list.

Again, the instructor did not comment, but a couple of students asked questions after class.

How sad it is that people who are supposed to be specialists in the field know so little about blindness! As Federationists, we absolutely have to educate people. Think how many students have taken this and other classes from vision specialists. Think about how many new teachers of the blind and disabled will perpetuate outmoded and destructive beliefs and attitudes. The cycle must stop if attitudes are ever going to change. Who will break the cycle if we, the blind, do not?



The following presentation was made on Thursday afternoon, July 7, 1988, at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Chicago. Dr. Jernigan, who chaired the panel, began by saying:

This is an item which is of great concern to us. The National Federation of the Blind is not an agency, governmental or private. It is, as you know, an organization of the blind themselves. Although we have many activities, our prime purpose must never be blurred. That purpose is to serve as a vehicle for collective action. It is to serve, not as a governmental agency, but as a watchdog to see that those agencies do what they are supposed to do and also, it is a means by which we as blind persons can come together to discuss our problems, and then find a way to do something about those problems.

A number of years ago, as you know, we discussed whether or not, in view of the ineffective training being done by many of the governmental agencies, we should set up some pilot programs of our own to perform this training, so that blind persons might have an opportunity and so that we could also point to those model programs. We have a number of them now in operation in the country, and I want to talk to you a little about them and then introduce the panel members. We want to talk about State Centers and the Organized Blind Movement Possibilities, Problems, and Challenges.

This is a panel discussion, and we will deal with the different centers around the country which now have the kind of philosophy we are talking about. You can tell from the results how well this philosophy works. You have heard before from the Louisiana Center. This center has now operated long enough to have a track record of success. The capable director of that center is also the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana. She is Joanne Fernandes.

Joanne Fernandes: The Louisiana Center for the Blind gives to each of its students at their graduation party a plaque, and on the bottom of that plaque it says, Together We Are Changing What it Means to be Blind. All of our students know that that together means every one of you. It means what has been done since 1940. It means the beliefs, the goals, and the dreams of each of you. They know that when they are in the Center, that it's not just the staff, and it's not just the other students or the former student or the Louisiana affiliate. They know that it is the entire National Federation of the Blind. They know that what they accomplish is in your hopes, your beliefs, and your dreams. When they leave the Louisiana Center for the Blind, they know that there is a whole structure in the form of the National Federation of the Blind. And most importantly, they know that they must give back to that structure. They must give back to the National Federation of the Blind and pass on the dreams and the beliefs and the opportunities that they have received at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

The Louisiana Center for the Blind was started on October 1, 1985. In just two and a half years we have served eighty- four students. We now own our own classroom building and our own apartment complex, which the students live in. We have students now coming to us not only from Louisiana but from seven other states. So what do we do at the Louisiana Center for the Blind? We teach cane travel, typing, Braille, home economics the usual courses that are taught in rehabilitation centers. But beyond all that, we teach the genuine beliefs and hopes and high expectations and confidence to our students. We teach them that they truly can change what it means to be blind. One of the traditions that we have at the Louisiana Center for the Blind is our bell of freedom. We have a big old school bell (a hand-rung school bell) that sits up in our Braille room. Throughout our short history, whenever a student calls us with some success or some good news, when something very important happens that affects all of us as blind people, we ring the bell of freedom. In the past few months we have rung the bell for George, who called up and said, I got my first check today from the naval base. We rang the bell when Maria said, I'm twenty-two years old, but this is the first time I went out and bought a dress for myself.

We rang the bell when John, our young lawyer, came running in. He had graduated from the program: I haven't called my parents yet. I haven't told my girlfriend yet. I am telling you first. I just got a job as a lawyer.

We rang the bell after two trips down to the state legislature to work on the Braille law. We rang the bell when we found that the Braille law indeed got passed. We rang the bell for Lillian, who received her GED, and for the many other students who received their GEDs. We rang the bell when Nancy and John, two of our former students, got married. We rang the bell when Lina and Jimmy had their first baby. We rang the bell for our first play on opening night. We rang our bell when the first crop came in from our garden, when we had our first produce as blind people from our very own garden. We rang the bell when all of our nervous and scared students got back from Mardi gras, an event that they had been dreading for weeks. They got through the crowds. They got through the mobs and proved to themselves inside that they could be successful, capable students. We rang the bell when Maria was able to cross Bonner Street, a street which she was scared to death to cross with a cane. We rang the bell when our college students call in and say, Hey, I passed a course, and I got a 3.0 average this semester. We rang the bell when Patty passed her Bar Exam. She is now working as a public defender in Shreveport. We rang the bell when Barry began managing three restaurants in Shreveport, when A. J. got his vending stand, when Joie got his factory job working for Boeing Aircraft, when Connie got a job as a nurse, and when Yvonda successfully finished business school.

We rang our bell when our students successfully prepared and served a meal for forty. We are about ready to ring it again. One of our students is ready to go back to being an elementary school teacher and another back to being a scientist at Los Alamos Labs in New Mexico. We have another student, who is about ready to graduate and go into child care. grandchild, and I need to tell you this story. Johnnie Burns, one of our former students, got herself a job teaching blind kids. We now have one of her students, Kim, in our program successfully learning and advancing, too. She is our first grandchild. We ring the bell when our students call up and say, Hey, I was elected president of our local chapter, or vice president, or I just joined my local chapter. We rang the bell when Zach and Sheena said, We got Pennsylvania and New Jersey to send us to you. We want good rehabilitation training. We rang the bell when Chris lit her first fire on a camping trip.

These are all times when we rang our bell of freedom, but the real truth is what happens to our students. I would like very quickly to introduce you to five of these students, who are lined up at the mike. Zach Shore comes to us from Pennsylvania. You may remember his name. He was a scholarship winner last year. We are real proud of Zach, and I want you to hear from him. Zach Shore: My first day at the center I went into cooking class, and I asked Carol, my instructor, What should I make today? She said, You are going to bake Andrea's birthday cake today. I thought she was insane. I'd never done that before, but she said, You can do it. It really turned out to be pretty good. When I got to my cane travel class on my second day, my instructor, Paul, said, Zach, I'm sending you out on a route today. He had me on the street on the second day, and a wave of panic came over me. This teacher is obviously a raving lunatic. I didn't think I could do it, but I did. I came back safely, and my travel is getting better. The staff is very good. They really care about us. They really push us to do what we don't think we can do, and we find that we really can.

Joanne Fernandes: The next student I would like to introduce is Tom Ley. Tom is from Louisiana and was also a scholarship winner last year.

Tom Ley: Hello. I'm currently a senior at Louisiana Tech, majoring in mathematics and physics education. As Joanne said, I was honored last year to win a scholarship here. One might ask why someone who was seemingly successful would need to go through rehabilitation.

I guess that the answer to that is that it depends on what your definition of success is. Sure, I had been successful in school, and probably if I had gone on, I would have gotten a job but I came to realize that I hadn't been successful as a blind person. What I mean by that is that life is so much more than just succeeding in school and getting a job. You really don't succeed at life and have a full life until you grasp all the opportunities that come your way. I had limited myself, simply because I didn't have confidence in myself as a blind person to go out and grasp those opportunities if it involved going into an unfamiliar situation or doing unfamiliar things. I didn't have that confidence. So I enrolled at the Center for three months this summer, and after just being there for only a month and a half, I can just feel the limiting bonds I had placed upon myself melting away and my horizons expanding about me. That's a gift I can never repay except by working as hard as I can for the Federation and its goals that it has.

Joanne Fernandes: Two years ago we gave a presentation, and you heard at that time from Gerald Jeandron. He is back again. In fact, we have a whole flock of our past students with us today. Here's Gerald two years later.

Gerald Jeandron: I thought two years ago that I would be all through with this, but those of you who know Joanne Fernandes know to expect the unexpected. When I was here two years ago, I was a whole different person. I was shy, reserved, and just not confident. Going through the center for the six or seven months I was there made me a whole person, and sometimes I think that the staff and the students want me to go back to the old one because I was shy and reserved. But right now, I am attending LSU, and I have a 3.8 grade point average. I decided to go back to the center half time to learn about computers because I was scared of them. Normally when I have been scared of something, I go back to whatever made me not scared, and the Center was the one place that made me feel comfortable. I recommend it to anybody who is just scared of being blind and isn't confident in himself and wasn't a whole person like me two years ago. I would like to thank all of you for supporting me at the Center, and I would like to thank the NFB for forming it.

Joanne Fernandes: Roland Allen is also one of our former students, and so, Roland, I want to introduce you. He is from New Orleans. Roland Allen: I completed my training at the center around this time last year. When I left, I felt that I gained several important things. But the most important thing that I got from the Center was the fact that I have accepted my blindness. When I first came, I considered myself anything but blind. When I first went to the center, I had planned on going to college, and I was real scared to go, but I knew that I wouldn't make it with the skills I had. After I left the Center, I felt confident that I could get in there and do what I wanted to.

Joanne Fernandes: Our last speaker is Cheryl Domingue from Louisiana.

Cheryl Domingue: Hi. I, too, like Zach, when I first arrived at the Center, thought that not only the cooking instructor was insane, but that they all were insane having me do the things they wanted me to do. The thing I thought was more horrifying than anything else was having a blind travel instructor. I thought that was really crazy. But after a few days of being there, and after seeing what all of the other students who had been there for some time had done with themselves, and after I saw how well my blind instructors were doing, I figured if they could all do it, so could I. I didn't have any confidence in myself at all when I came to the Center, but now have all the confidence in the world in myself. I am now a college student. I completed my first semester at the Nickel State University with a 3.0 average. Without the support of my family and all the friends I have made in the NFB, and especially my two children (Sheila and Shawn) who are here with me, I could not have made it. Joanne Fernandes: Together we are all ringing the bell of freedom and together we are changing what it means to be blind. Thank you. Dr. Jernigan: Once, long ago in Iowa, Joanne was my student and Joanne, you have gone on to do what, in my dreams, I would have hoped that you could and would do. We have said in this organization, that first you have to say a thing so that you can believe it, and then you have to believe in it before it can come true. That's part of what a proper training program for the blind is about. And one thing more, the program you have heard about in Louisiana and the others you will hear about, have at least this difference from the governmental agencies. If Joanne were the director of one of those programs, she would be part of a governmental agency, insulated by civil service; and if she didn't do a good job and you didn't like it there wouldn't be anything you could do about it except write memos back and forth. As it is, she is president of a democratic organization of the blind. If she doesn't do what the blind of the state like, they will unelect her, and that's the way it ought to be. I said in one state once when we got a commission for the blind (Michigan):

I said From this day forward this is a separate agency. It can't hide in the bureaucracy, and from this day forward every blind person will get better service from this agency. Why? Because they know, (the counselors) that when they are out there dealing with this or that individual blind person, next year the governor (it may be a different governor) may appoint that blind person to be on the commission board to be the counselor's boss. They will have that in mind, even at the subconscious level. Let me now introduce to you the director of the second of these centers. This is BLIND, Incorporated. Joyce Scanlan will tell you about it. Joyce Scanlan is the director of BLIND, Incorporated. She is, as you know, also the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. The NFB of Minnesota has long and well represented the interests of the blind of that state, and now the Federation in the state is doing training. But keep in mind that the prime purpose of the NFB of Louisiana or the NFB of Minnesota is not to run a training program. That's important, but the prime purpose is to serve as a vehicle by which the blind of these states themselves can speak with their own voice. Seen in that context, the centers in Louisiana, Minnesota, and the other places you will hear about, are tremendous boosts to the self help of blind people. We are not going to rest in this federation until each and every blind person in the United States has a chance to work to his or her full potential and to earn his or her own way rather than live at somebody else's whim and on public assistance. Here is Joyce Scanlan.

Joyce Scanlan: Thank you, Dr. Jernigan. These are very exciting times for blind people across the country, and certainly in Minnesota. Blind people for a long time in Minnesota have wanted an orientation program which would show its belief in blind people, and that is why BLIND, Incorporated came about. BLIND is an acronym for Blindness, Learning in New Dimensions. We have added a new dimension to our programs in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. We are now able to provide orientation to blindness through training of the kind that Joanne Frenandes has just described as going on in Louisiana. Let me tell you a little bit of how we determined the name of our program. The name BLIND was selected before we decided what words the acronym would mean. The reason for that was that in our state, and I'm sure it's true all over the country, the primary orientation program for the blind (the Minneapolis Society for the Blind) with which everyone here is very familiar, seemed to pride itself on avoiding the word blind and anything to do with blindness. They do low vision aids, and they talk about vision handicaps and visual impairment and low vision, and all kinds of things like that, but they don't want to deal with blindness. They don't want to teach Braille. They don't want to teach cane travel, they really want to skirt the whole issue. We decided that we want to have blindness right up front, so we called our program BLIND. Then we decided that it would mean Blindness, Learning in New Dimensions, because we who are blind may not see visually, but we certainly have all kinds of other ways of learning. We get information through other senses. We also felt that our program had a new dimension in that we would deal openly and straightforwardly with the matter of attitudes towards blindness and understanding what blindness means and, therefore, a new dimension. This decision for Blindness: Learning in New Dimension was made by three people, Judy Sanders, Peggy Chong, and me, as we were riding on an airplane to New York at the very end of 1986 to attend a NAC demonstration. I think that's a very appropriate situation for the making of such a momentous decision.

Now, the struggle for us in Minnesota to establish a new program of this kind was a long, long and arduous ordeal. Blind people have always wanted good services. We have tried many different ways to obtain service, as you all know by our attempts to reform the existing programs at the Minneapolis Society for the Blind. We had a kind of success in that area, which was not exactly what we set out to do. But, at least, it got us to where we were able to do what we have done now and that is to establish a program which we ourselves are able to control and operate. We hung in there over the years when it seemed that we were failing, and we finally have come to where we have the program that we have always wanted.

We also hung in until the time when we would have a new director of our state agency for the blind. This is a real first for us in Minnesota. We have in the audience at this convention the director of our state agency for the blind, Mr. Rick Hokanson. I imagine we have had other directors with us when the convention took place in Minnesota, but this director traveled from Minnesota to Chicago for this convention; and we are pleased to have him with us. We believe that this director goes along with us in wanting good programs for the blind of our state. BLIND, Incorporated was incorporated in 1986 on the very last day so 1987 was a very busy year for us. We had to seek funding for our program from private as well as public sources, resulting in an establishment grant from State Services for the Blind, which covers about sixty-seven percent of our budget, with the remaining portion covered by private sources. We had to find locations for our program. We didn't have an apartment building for our students. We didn't have a center. We had to get those locations. We had to hire a staff.

On January 4, 1988 (the most exciting time for all of us) we opened our doors with staff training, on the very coldest day of the year. Just one week later, January 11, we opened our doors for two very hardy, tough, and tenacious students. It took us six weeks to have five students, and we still have five students (although they are not the same five), but all of our students are at this convention. All of our staff are at this convention as well.

Our early beginnings as a center were in a two-bedroom apartment. We moved from there to a one bedroom apartment. There was a time when we had a home management class, a typing class, a Braille class, and a travel lesson all going on in one room. We were crowded, and sometimes we were a little on top of each other. But we had a dream, and we had a lot of hope.

Ours is an experiential program in which students learn through real live, normal, experiences. Beginning in January, we started by attending events surrounding the Martin Luther King holiday. We had shopping excursions to buy boots and gloves for the winter. We had dinners out. We had a trip, rather an effort, to go to St. Cloud one night for a spaghetti dinner, but I can tell you that the students didn't quite make it. The van ended up tipped over in the ditch, and the students ended up having dinner at Fudruckers. I said to one of the students, Was that one of the more exciting or harrowing events you have ever had? And she said, Oh, no. We had a snowball fight. We've attended movies. We have gone strawberry picking. We've had a picnic. We've had many activities, I'm sure, of which I will never be told.

We teach the usual classes. The students go from the apartments down to the Center on the bus. Our students start right out with the bus on the very first day. We learn by doing, as we are at this convention. Learning to deal with crowds, learning to deal with blind people, a couple of thousand strong, learning to be in new surroundings without being upset, staying in a hotel, eating out, meeting new people, reading all kinds of agendas and other materials in Braille all those are very important learning experiences.

In our early days as a center we had very little furniture. We just had folding chairs with nothing at all hung on the walls. Today we are living in the lap of luxury. We have three pictures of symbolic importance on our walls. There is a picture of a blind runner in a marathon; there is a picture of a blind person reading Braille books to children; and there is a picture of three blind people climbing some rugged looking rocks.

The problem is not to convince ourselves. We believe in what we are doing, and we're going to be successful. The problem for us is to convince the counselors of State Services for the Blind that orientation programs are very important to every blind person in our state.

I want to finish by saying just one more thing. I'm sure that many of you have a question as to how we could reconcile the service provider and the advocacy role that we play, and that would be a long discussion. Since I don't have time to undertake that, I just want to say that (consider the alternatives for us) this is the way it has to be done. Therefore, I feel that we are doing the right thing and that we can do it very successfully as long as we keep our perspective and our priorities in the organized blind movement as they have been our caring for each other, and our love for one another. Thank you.

Dr. Jernigan: The way we reconcile that role, Joyce, is simple. If you do not please the blind of your state, by and large (not one individual person on one individual day but most of the blind most of the time), the blind of the state will have a new president. Now, of course, that wouldn't have anything to do with whether you would be the director of the center immediately, but it probably would over a very short time. So I think we can reconcile the roles without difficulty. If our organization stands for anything, it stands for the concept that it is respectable to be blind and also that we don't want to be taken care of, but that we want to take care of ourselves. It stands for the fact that we want to be realistic about what we can do, but we don't want someone else with their prejudice telling us what realism is. You will find, in the July Monitor that the lead article has to do with a court case in which a guy sued the Federal Department of Education for not accommodating him reasonably. He argued in the court proceedings that it was not reasonable to expect a blind person to do research unless each and every item was in Braille. He argued that it was not reasonable unless he could have bought for him close to $100,000 worth of equipment. Never mind that blind people all over this country are doing research all of the time and don't have their material in Braille. Government's answer was interesting. They said that they had certainly accommodated him reasonably. They had allowed him to get by (well, they didn't say get by). They had accommodated him by permitting him to do only half the number of letters (now, listen to this) that they expected of their normal employees twelve letters a week. They only expected six of him. I keep wondering what will happen to the next blind guy who goes in to apply for a job there. That's not reasonable accommodation, and it's not what we are hunting. What we are hunting is a chance to compete on equal terms, and we can cut it on equal terms with others. If we can't, we're not asking for the job, but we are also not asking for someone to determine for us that we can't have a shot at it. Here is the next of our centers, the Colorado Center for the Blind. Diane McGeorge is the director of that center, and the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. Diane, tell us about the Colorado Center for the Blind. Diane McGeorge: Thank you, Dr. Jernigan. In 1985 the NFB of Colorado took a bill to the legislature. That bill would have established the Colorado Center for the Blind had we got the funding. However, the bill didn't pass. We gave then to Joanne Fernandes all of the materials that we had accumulated to prepare the bill. She took it to the governor of Louisiana, and she got it passed and we were delighted. We were proud that the NFB had a center up and running in the country, but now it's our time in the sun and we're really proud. We didn't go away and sulk, and we didn't go away and cry and feel bad. What we did was to go away and put together some proposals and put together a little money from here and from private fund raisers particularly, a man named Mayer Blinder from the Blinder Robinson Company. We got a little bit of money from this grant and from that grant and we got the money to start. We opened on January 4 of this year, so we have been up and running for six months.

We have all of our students here today, and I'm going to give you a chance to meet each one of them. I've asked them to be brief. We have our staff here, and I want to introduce them to you. Duncan Larsen is our cane travel teacher; Tom Anderson is our communications teacher; Sheryl Law is our daily living skills and computer teacher; Angie Wood is our clerical help; and we've got the greatest staff you can have anywhere. give you a little background on them. But I'm going to let them tell you about our program. Let me just quickly say to you that during the first week (on the first day we opened, on Monday, January 4) it was fifteen below zero, and it stayed that way for about five weeks. We had two feet of snow on the ground, but the students came on a bus. They did grocery shopping on the first day. They prepared their lists in Braille, made their own grocery lists. We all went to the store on the bus. The other things we did during the first week were to expand on independent travel, and at the end of the first week our students (by themselves) prepared, planned, and served a sit-down dinner for thirty-five people.

Somebody said What are you going to do for an encore? For an encore we painted one of the rooms in our center. We couldn't afford to have it done by a professional, so we did it ourselves. We thought it was a great opportunity for our students to learn that you can paint as a blind person. Does that mean that we want them to go out and become painters? I don't care, I just want them to go out and get jobs and they will. But painting was an excellent lesson in learning what you really can do as a blind person. We use sleep shades in all of our training. All center activities (all of them) are done with sleep shades. You hear about blind and visually impaired. There are very few totally blind people. We don't use the sleep shades so that the students can pretend and find out what it is like to be blind. It's to deal with blindness and how you really feel about yourself. For an encore, besides painting, we went to the March on Washington all of us. We have visited a lot of schools and churches and have spoken. We helped build a float and marched in a parade, but I guess you might say that the tops of all of that is when we started a technical rock climbing class. And I wouldn't be surprised if you hear about that from the students. All of the students and the staff participated in this, and we are talking about real live rock climbing, where you use the ropes and the harnesses. We had a full course of instruction, and when I climbed my first one hundred foot rock, I was proud and I think all of our students were too. It's an interesting feeling when you are learning to repel off of the rock and you are about one hundred feet in the air, and your instructor says, Now, all you do is step backward and lean back. We have a great program. We challenge our students. Some of our students have called it boot camp for the blind, and I think that is fairly appropriate. I think one of the most important incidents (and I'm going to tell you quickly because I want you to hear from the students) is this: The students had been in the program for about two- and-a-half weeks, and they were going home from the Center on the bus. The bus driver said, All you blind people will have to sit down. The bus was crowded, and they were standing. All of you blind people will have to sit down because the bus won't move until you do. Our students did not sit down. What I would like to do now is to introduce to you our students and let them talk to you. I have told them each that they have about one minute or a minute and a half. Our first student is Leeanne Harrell. Leeanne Harrell: Good afternoon. I joined the Center on January third. I have some residual vision and I was not ready for the sleep shades at all. One thing I can say is that the Center has helped me to deal with my blindness a lot. I now use the sleep shades, and I travel everywhere. I was in the parade in Kansas City in May, and the first thing I did was to go buy a skirt under sleep shades. I know now how to travel as a blind person and be confident in myself. I am planning to go to school this fall. I don't really know what I am going to major in yet, but I'm going to take some of the academic classes during the first year. I'm thinking about physical therapy. I want to introduce our next student. He is David Petri.

David Petri: I'm David Petri, a student at the Colorado Center for the Blind. The experience I have had with the Center has helped me to believe in myself as a blind person. That's one thing I didn't have when I came to the Center. I couldn't even travel by myself to go to the grocery store or things like that. On the first day I was out traveling to the grocery store, pulling my own cart and things like that. It's gone up from there. I just want to give you a chance to meet everyone else. Thank you.

Jim Barbour: I came to the Center also on January 4. Before I came I was an accomplished rock climber, so I wasn't really sure what to expect when the Center started its rock climbing course. I thought that because I was doing it under sleep shades, I probably wouldn't be able to continue where I had left off. I would have to start all over again. The fact was that after starting the course, I realized that climbing blind wasn't much different from climbing sighted. Rock climbing is one of the things that has really begun to build the core for the real belief that it is respectable to be blind and that we can compete in our society as blind people. Thank you very much. Lelia Clay: My name is Lelia Clay, and I am from the Colorado Center for the Blind. I started on June 18, and so I'm a new student and didn't get to participate in the rock climbing or anything like that. I've been at the Center about two weeks, and I have learned how to catch a bus by myself, not by myself, but how to catch a bus and I went grocery shopping and pulled a cart. And now I'm here at convention, going through the hotel. It's confusing but I'm going by myself most of the time. I think that the scariest experience I ever had was getting here. I went on the escalator from the train, and I was carrying my suitcase, my purse, tote bag, and a cane in my hand and I turned around and I said, Duncan, I want you to know that I am scared.

She said, Lila, I know you are, but you can do it. By Golly, I did it.

Shelly Berger: I'm transplanted all the way from Maryland. When Mary Ellen Reihing suggested that I go to Colorado, I jumped at the chance, but it was mainly to please everybody I had known at the NFB and make them proud of me. I did not know what I was getting into. Since I have been at the Colorado Center for the Blind, I have learned that I can still train horses as a totally blind person. I can still be an effective traveler (sometimes more effective than people with two eyes), and I've also come to realize that I am still a whole person, that I haven't lost anything. I am really glad that we have the opportunity that the NFB helps to provide. Thanks. Ronnie Burgess: I've been blind for a year and two months, and I didn't do anything for six months but sit around and get toted and I enjoyed that, but then I thought I better get up and do something. I went to the Center and got with Diane and Duncan, and I had to do things on my own. That has been a big change in my life. It took me a while to deal with my blindness, but I'm dealing with it now; and it's all right. The guys at the Center are great! They are fine people. I am taking karate, and I couldn't do that if it were not for Duncan and the rest of the staff, but it was really up to me to do the rest, and I can now be really proud of myself.

Kim Cole: I started at the Colorado Center for the Blind on January 4. Anyway, before I came to the Center I had been in the NFB for two or three years, and I thought I already had a good attitude about blindness, that I pretty much had the skills. I had the cane travel and the Braille and all those things, but what I really didn't have was the attitude and the feeling and the knowledge deep down inside me that I could actually succeed and do what I wanted to do. That is really what the Colorado Center for the Blind has given to me. A couple or three weeks after I started at the Center, an experience happened to me that I believe is sort of symbolic of what has happened and what is occurring in the lives of all the students. I was late for the bus, I mean I was running late as I too often am, and I was really cautious before that in walking with my cane under the sleep shades. I have a little bit of residual vision. And so, I decided that if I was going to make that bus, if I was going to be on time to the Center, I was going to have to run to that bus stop. I ran to that bus stop. I learned how to run at last.

Diane McGeorge: Those are our students. They speak for our program. To walk with pride, to live with dignity, to participate in the community, and to know that through the collective action of the NFB, you can give to others that is the only way to live your life, and I am thinking we are teaching all of that and living all of that at the Colorado Center. Thank you very much.

Dr. Jernigan: Now I want to move directly to the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Fred Schroeder is the director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, and he is also, of course, on our national board. He has experienced discrimination because he was blind. Even though he had all the credentials required and could have been certified, a group presumed to say that he wasn't qualified to teach travel because he was blind. Fred Schroeder knows what it is to be blind; he knows what it is to face discrimination; but he also knows how to train and teach. Here is Fred Schroeder, the director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.

Fred Schroeder: Thank you very much Dr. Jernigan. One of the principles that we have been taught in this organization is that, given proper training and opportunity, we as blind people can compete on terms of equality with the sighted. We have known this for many years. Back in the early 1970's Pauline Gomez, a leader of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico, knew that the blind of our state needed training. Blind people didn't have access to orientation and mobility training or Braille or any of the other skills that we need to be competitive, and she and others went to the legislature and had a bill passed that created our orientation center. But that center was placed under the rehabilitation agency, and although the structure then existed, the attitude wasn't right. The attitude that we needed (the attitude that promoted belief in ourselves, the attitude that encouraged us as blind people to go on and do more with our lives) wasn't there. The agency was established. The center was built. It opened its doors, but blind people weren't getting the kind of training that let them go out and become productive citizens. In 1986, the New Mexico Commission for the Blind was established. We are now a separate agency with a three member board. The board is appointed by the governor. Therefore, if the board doesn't do its job, if it hires a director that isn't working in the best interest of the blind, the board can be replaced. It can be got at easily. We can go to the governor and say, The board isn't doing its job and the agency isn't doing what it should to make us productive. I am proud to tell you that in the audience today is the chairman of our board. He is a blind person himself, Mr. Arthur Schreiber. He is the vice president and general manager of the largest radio station in New Mexico, and with his support (and the support of the legislature and governor and blind people throughout the state) we are building an agency that will do right by the blind and assist us in getting the training we need to be productive. When we took over the agency two years ago, a number of things were said about us. Let me first tell you one. The students were told that I had been hired, and that I was a radical. They were told that I was going to come in and do bad things to them. The first thing that I was going to do was to put blindfolds on their faces and they wouldn't be able to see. That would be frightening and dangerous and they would get hurt. That I was mostly a lunatic and that I was going to do this to them. So the students, not knowing better, got together and agreed that on July 1, when I came along and made them blindfold themselves, they would all walk out and how would I like that? So, July 1 came and went, and I didn't say anything about sleep shades. I came around and talked to people and got to know them. Finally, people said, Aren't you going to make us wear sleep shades?

I replied, No, but if you ask me if it is a good idea, I believe it is, and I will tell you why. And so it went on like that. I talked to people about sleep shades, and in the fall they got with me again and kept pressing me on it. Aren't you going to make us use sleep shades? And I said, No, probably not. If I do, it will do you more harm than good. If you want to know why I think you should do it, I'll tell you, but I'm not going to make you do it. If you do it with the wrong attitude, it will harm you, not help you.

And so, in January at a state board meeting, the teachers kind of got me and pressed me even harder as to when I was going to do this. Finally they asked why I wasn't going to do this if it was such a good idea. So I said, Look, you guys are the teachers. Go back, and if you think it's a good idea, your students will listen to you. They have confidence in you.

Yes, they said, but we need a policy. No, I said, I'm not ready to make a policy on it. Well, the administrator of that center retired, and we were looking for someone with the right attitudes, who could lead the center and lead it right, and I found Dick Davis of Iowa. Dick had been trained by Dr. Jernigan and he'd grown up in the Federation tradition. He understood what rehabilitation services should be. I hired Dick, and during his first week on the job the staff came to him and absolutely demanded of him that he institute a policy requiring sleep shade training. Dick got all of the students together, and they talked about it. He finally had the students vote on it. We now have a policy that says you wear sleep shades in our orientation center. But we don't legislate good attitudes and we don't beat people into having good attitudes. Rather, we lead them into good attitudes, and that is what we're trying to get done.

There used to be a policy that said you weren't allowed to carry canes inside the building. It strikes me that that is against our state's white cane law, but that was the policy because people would trip each other and it would be a problem. So there was a cane rack. I believe there is still a cane rack, but it probably has an inch of dust on it, because people now carry canes in the Center.

Many other changes have taken place in the twenty-four months. A year ago, we were looking for a new travel teacher and we found Sharon Duffy. Sharon was a blind person who had been teaching travel at the Guild for the Blind in Chicago, and it seemed to me that if you could teach cane travel in Chicago, you could probably teach it in Alamogordo, New Mexico. And so now, blind people are getting the kind of cane travel training they should be getting, and they are getting it under sleep shades. They are getting the right attitudes promoted. We've started many new programs to help build confidence and help people realize that they can be normal, fully participating citizens. We've instituted an industrial arts program. We have hired a new person by the name of Joseph Pattison, and he is undergoing sleep shade training right now. He is a sighted man. All new staff at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind undergo sleep shade training. Joseph Pattison is with us this week. By the way, he is wearing an NFB pin on his lapel. We will soon have a wood shop program. We decided that we want people to get out and participate in the community and do new things, and so we have a dormitory and our dormitory serves meals, and we thought that on Friday night people shouldn't sit around the house. And so, Friday night, we don't serve dinner. On Friday night you have a choice. You can go out and find something to eat around the area, or you can get hungry. We found that mostly people don't want to be hungry. They go out and have dinner. They are getting out and finding new restaurants. Now on Saturdays people don't sit around and watch television. They get out and walk. We have a mall (the Alamogordo Mall), which is three and one-half miles away from our center, and we have students walking down there not the least of whom is a gentleman who is seventy-nine years old. Mr. Chairman, that is what I want to bring to you about our Center. We are promoting the right attitudes about blindness, and with the type of training we are trying to make available, we believe that blind people can go off and participate in society on terms of equality. Thank you.

Dr. Jernigan: We can have these four centers on the platform with pride, and I think it answers the question which some of us had problems with for a while. Newly blinded people would contact me and say, Where can I go for training? I couldn't honestly send them anywhere that I knew in the country that gave decent training. I know that the federal government appropriates over a billion dollars each year for rehabilitation, but we couldn't find anywhere to send blind people wanting training. We can now. As you know, I ran a rehabilitation center, or directed it, for some time, and I can tell you something. It was symbolized by an annual ritual. We had a fireplace at the Iowa Center, and each year when it got to be close to winter the students would repeatedly say, We have a fireplace, and wood needs to be cut. Maybe we should go wood cutting. I would deliberately postpone the wood cutting until the snow was deep and it was cold and the deeper the snow the better. We could have got somebody to give us the wood, and we could also undoubtedly have got a chain saw to use in cutting it. We didn't. We got two-person crosscut saws and single-person buck saws, and on the coldest, snowiest day you could find, we went out and cut wood. Let me tell you something. Some of the people who came to us (especially, the newly blinded) felt sorry for themselves and down. Put a person on the end of a crosscut saw for a day, and by nighttime that person will not feel sorry for himself or herself. It doesn't happen. Moreover, the person will not come back to the Center to worry about blindness. He or she will come back to sleep.

The National Federation of the Blind means many things. It means our scholarship program. It means the training centers that we have helped to develop. It means our Job Opportunities for the Blind program. It means the blind who are working in sheltered shops. It means the blind persons working in vending locations. It means those who are employed in professions (law, teaching, and the ministry). It means the members of this organization who are out trying to do for themselves, and it also means a number of people who are unemployed and who have not been able to find opportunities because of the attitudes of society. Above all, it means that we are truly changing what it means to be blind.



American Association of Retired Persons announced November 14, 1988:

Braille labels are now available for people who are blind or visually impaired, AARP Pharmacy Service announced today. The Braille label is a clear piece of material with Braille printing attached on top of the original prescription label. A sighted person can read the original prescription label since the Braille label is transparent.

The Braille label includes: the patient's name; name of the medicine; directions; date; prescription number; doctor's name. AARP Pharmacy Braille labels are available from AARP Pharmacy, which has twelve locations around the country. The AARP Pharmacy is the largest private, nonprofit mail service pharmacy in the country. The Pharmacy Service fills prescriptions and offers a variety of home health and over- the-counter drug product needs at lower cost. The Service was started in 1959 and now has ten regional and two walk-in only pharmacies around the country.

Pharmacy locations are:

AARP Pharmacy Service
P. O. Box 2755
Portland, OR 97208-2755

(For residents of: OR, WA, AK, HI, ID, MT, WY, CO, & Northern CA Zips 94000-06139)

AARP Pharmacy Service
3823 Broadway
P. O. Box 1444
Kansas City, MO 64141

(For residents of: MO, KS, NE, SD, ND, MN, WI, & IA)

AARP Pharmacy Service
450 York Road
P. O. Box C5020
Warminster, PA 18974

(For residents of: PA, DE, & NJ)

AARP Pharmacy Service
3557 Lafayette Road
P. O. Box 7010
Indianapolis, IN 46272

(For residents of: IN, MI, IL, & OH)

AARP Pharmacy Service
5947 Boulder Highway
P. O. Box 98522
Las Vegas, NV 89193-8522

(For residents of: NV, AZ, UT, and Southern CA Zips 90001- 93999)

AARP Pharmacy Service
5050 East Belknap
P. O. Box 14869
Fort Worth, TX 96117

(For residents of: TX, LA, AR, OK, & NM)

AARP Pharmacy Service
701 Main Street
East Hartford, CT 06108

(For residents of: CT, RI, MA, VT, NH, & ME)

AARP Pharmacy Service
6500 - 34th Street North
P. O. Box 14417
St. Petersburg, FL 33733

(For residents of: FL, MS, AL, GA, & SC)

AARP Pharmacy Service
5701 Midlothian Turnpike
P. O. Box 13671
Richmond, VA 23225

(For residents of: VA, WV, MD, DC, KY, TN, & NC)

AARP Pharmacy Service
144 Freemans Bridge Road
P. O. Box 2211
Schenectady, NY 12301-2211

(For residents of: NY)

Available for walk-in customers only:

AARP Pharmacy Service
3198 East Carson Avenue
Lakewood, CA 90712

AARP Pharmacy Service
1909 K Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20049



by Marc Maurer

On November 29, 1988, Reverend Howard E. May, Jr. died at his home in West Willington, Connecticut. It is hard to think of the Federation without him. He was president of our Connecticut affiliate for twelve years, and in the early 1980's he served a term as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. When I think of Reverend May, I remember a jovial, quiet, peaceful man, who was always willing to help. Although he was ever a man of peace, Reverend May new how to defend the principles he espoused. It is possible to be both tough and gentle at the same time. Howard May taught us all to understand that.

For a number of years Reverend May served as Chairman of our National Scholarship Committee. I will always remember one instance which (at least, for me) captures the essence of the man. At a national convention a few years ago Reverend May fell and broke his shoulder. Although he had just returned from having the bones set, he insisted that he would participate in the banquet and make the scholarship presentation. He did it without a murmur and without a complaint broken shoulder and all. This is only one incident, but it exemplifies the spirit that found its home in Howard May. He was quiet, courageous, and always willing to give of himself. He did not count the cost, and he inspired many.

In 1984, it was written of Howard May that there were few people who knew him who did not love him. He was a man of God who helped bring peace and harmony to those he touched. The National Federation of the Blind was a central part of his life and he was a major part of ours. Howard May has died, but his spirit will not be forgotten. It is this kind of spirit which makes us the people we are.



by Fred Schroeder

On Wednesday, November 16, 1988, Lee Jones died of a massive heart attack while at work. His death was all the more shocking because it was so sudden and unexpected.

Lee Jones was a quiet man, never seeking or expecting the center of the stage. Nevertheless, his contributions to the organized blind movement were varied and significant. He and his wife Loretta were always a team, making their contributions and doing what they could to improve the quality of life for the blind wherever they went. Born and raised in the state of Iowa, Lee received instruction at the Iowa Braille and Sightsaving School and later (during the time of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan's directorate) at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. In the sixties and seventies he worked as a computer programmer in Iowa and finished a degree at Upper Iowa University. Then, in 1978 he accepted a position in computer programming at New Mexico State University at Las Cruces. In 1980, while still employed at New Mexico State, he received his master's degree in public administration. He had been active in the Federation in Iowa, and his participation in the movement continued at an accelerating pace in New Mexico. First having held a variety of offices at the local and state levels, he was elected president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico in the spring of 1980. During his presidency the organization experienced increased growth and recognition. In 1983 Lee and Loretta moved to Mesa, Arizona. In 1984-85 Lee served a term as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona and again distinguished himself by the quality of his leadership.

During these years Lee was not only continuing to make contributions to the organized blind movement but also advancing himself professionally. At the time of his death he was in charge of the adaptive computer laboratory at Arizona State University at Tempe. In this position he was responsible for training blind and disabled students in the use of special computer technology. He began the program in 1985 with only a few odds and ends, but it soon outgrew the disabled students office and had to be moved to a building of its own. In July of 1988 he was promoted, and his duties were expanded to include coordination of the University's access learning laboratory.

So Lee Jones is gone. He was a man who understood the meaning of Federationism and lived it in his daily life. Through his work many blind students were reached and helped to understand the true meaning of independence and self- reliance. More important, they saw in Lee a role model, who not only taught but also lived his beliefs.

And it was not just in his work that he touched the lives of blind people. Federationism was part of everything he did. Although we will miss Lee, we will never forget his contributions toward making the dream of first-class status a reality for the blind.



A seminar for four training centers for the blind (Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, and New Mexico) was held at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore Thursday, December 1, 1988, to Sunday, December 4, 1988. Twenty teachers and administrators from these centers took intensive training during that time, working from early morning until late into the evening each day. During breaks there was time for discussion of a variety of matters, including cooking. Here are recipes submitted by each of the centers.


Harvey Wallbanger Cake

1 package yellow cake mix

1 package instant lemon pudding mix

1 6-ounce can frozen orange juice

� cup cooking oil

4 eggs

� cup vodka

� cup galliano

Mix together all ingredients in order given, adding eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Pour into well greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes. When cooled, glaze with combination of orange juice, confectioners sugar, and two tablespoons galliano.


1 cup butter

1 16-ounce jar peanut butter

1 pound confectioners sugar

2 12-ounce packages chocolate chips

Cream together butter, sugar, and peanut butter. Roll into one-inch balls and refrigerate one to two hours or until firm. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or over hot water in double boiler. Put toothpick in each ball and dip in melted chocolate chips. Return to fridge. Store in air tight container up to two weeks or in freezer up to six months.


Chocolate Mousse

� cup butter

8 ounces (8 squares) semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces

4 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla

� cup sugar

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

In medium saucepan over low heat melt butter and chocolate, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. In large bowl combine four egg yolks and vanilla. Using wire whisk, gradually beat in chocolate mixture to egg yolks, blending well. In small bowl beat four egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add � cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into chocolate. Fold in whipped cream. Refrigerate at least one hour. Serve with additional whipped cream, if desired. Makes 12 (1/2 cup) servings.

Banana All Bran Nut Fruit Bread

� cup margarine

� cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup Kellogg's All Bran

1-1/2 cups mashed bananas

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 cups flour (reserve � cup to dust on candied fruit)

2 teaspoons baking powder

� teaspoon soda

� teaspoon salt

� cup chopped nuts

1 cup candied fruit (dust with reserved � cup flour)

Cream margarine, sugar. Add egg, and beat well. Add bran, bananas, and flavoring. Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add to first mixture and stir until flour disappears; also stir in nuts and candied fruit dusted with flour. Bake in greased loaf pan lined with wax paper at 350 degrees for about one hour and remove from pan. Cool before cutting.


Shrimp & Wild Rice Casserole

2 cups wild rice (uncooked)

6 cups water

6 chicken bouillon cubes

Mix together and bake in covered casserole for 1-1/2 hours at 350 degrees.

In 1 stick (1 cup) butter saut until tender:

1 pound shrimp

2 onions, diced

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

salt and pepper to taste

Then, combine cooked rice and sauteed mixture. Blend well and serve.

Special K Bars

1 cup sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1 cup peanut butter

4 cups Special K cereal

12 ounces chocolate chips

6 ounces butterscotch chips

Method: Bring sugar and corn syrup to boil over medium heat, add peanut butter and Special K cereal, and mix well. Spread evenly into a buttered nine- by thirteen-inch pan. Set aside. Melt together over low to medium heat chocolate chips and butterscotch chips, then pour evenly over top of cereal mixture. Cut into bars.



Chicken Divan

6 to 8 chicken breasts, boned

4 packages frozen broccoli spears, cooked

� cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/3 cup melted butter

� cup bread crumbs

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place broccoli in a nine- by thirteen-inch casserole. Top with boned chicken. Combine soup, mayonnaise, and lemon juice, and pour over chicken. Combine melted butter, bread crumbs, and cheese, and spoon over top of chicken. (The casserole may be prepared to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to twenty-four hours, if desired, before baking). Bake uncovered for thirty to forty minutes at 350 degrees. Serves eight.

Blueberry Dessert

28 graham crackers, crumbled

� cup melted butter

1/3 cup sugar

Mix crumbs, butter, and sugar, then press into bottom of nine- by thirteen-inch baking pan to make crust.


1 8-ounce package cream cheese

2 eggs

� cup sugar

Mix together, spread over graham cracker crust. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes. Let cool. Spread one can of blueberry pie filling over baked mixture. Chill. Serves twelve to fifteen.



Fallen into Temptation:

Recently Karen Mayry, President of the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind, wrote to all members of that division. Among other things she said:

The JDF (Juvenile Diabetes Foundation) is planning to launch a scare tactic campaign this fall. Included in the ad is footage of a fellow (who happens to be blind) preparing for a dance. He is portrayed as a groovy guy, and no one knows that he is blind until he takes his dog and his cane upon leaving his apartment. The script accompanying the ad states that diabetes is a `horrible' disease. Of course, JDF intends to raise thousands of dollars through this campaign for research. Glen Peterson, from the JDF Public Relations Department, said they were not trying to make a statement about blindness. Rather, they were pointing out how horrible diabetes can be. For those of us, Karen said, who live with diabetes and its complications in a positive manner, it is difficult to believe that we face a horrible plight. Very few people live their lives without some complication. Hopefully we can write hundreds of letters to Mr. Peterson and point out that this campaign is more harmful than good. The address of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation is: 432 Hot Avenue South, 16th Floor, New York, New York 10016.

Karen's point is well taken and bears repeating. Each one of us can and should write to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation to register our concern, for each of us is diminished by this fund-raising appeal. Further, this example serves as a reminder. All of us must be vigilant this day and every day. Wherever we see such appeals, ad campaigns, or general references to blindness and the blind, we must act quickly and decisively. It is not too late to make a New Year's resolution to react constructively to every such reference we come across in 1989.


We have been asked to carry the following announcement: We now have on cassette our 1989 catalog of gift items and collectibles. To order send $1.00 to: L. J. Granger, Route 5 Box 1000, Apt. 7, Lake Charles, Louisiana 70611.

New Chapter:

Hazel Staley, President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, writes: The National Federation of the Blind of Rowan County was organized in Salisbury, North Carolina, on October 1, 1988. Chapter officers are: Sharon Weddington, President; John Spencer, Vice President; Pat Scercy, Secretary-Treasurer; and Board Members Renita Ritchie and Burton Vanhoy. This chapter has been in the planning for several months, and we are delighted finally to get it off the ground. We welcome this chapter into our state and national organization. We believe that it will be a great asset to our movement. This is our fourteenth chapter.

Reactivated and Expanded:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement: On January 1, 1989, Warren Sladky reorganized his sales operations to reach the entire population of the continental United States. You may become a member of each of the divisions of the umbrella Wessian Specialties for a one-time-only fee. The slimmed-down `Braille Gift Service,' now cataloged in Braille or on cassette, features: (a) products suitable for yourself and for giving; (b) excellent copies of famous brand-name fragrances and scents, potpourris, sachets, etc., at bargain prices; choice Brailling, mailing, and shipping supplies; fee, $1.00 (specify format). A new concept `Wessian Rec'Ordering Service,' cataloged on two cassettes, features: (a) wide range of recordings not found in record shops; (b) choice of most domestic label recordings; (c) recordings on cassettes or compact discs, not LP's; (d) toll-free ordering; fee, $2.00. WRS is a special ordering service to help the blind obtain recordings that would be hard for them to locate locally, such as classics and the spoken word. Please note that BGS gifts are not aids and appliances for the blind, and that WRS recordings are all originals, not cheap duplicates. There are no print catalogs, and the catalog cassettes are standard speed, playable on any cassette player. Order by Braille, print, or on cassette and specify division(s) from Wessian Specialties, P. O. Box 20015N, Cleveland, Ohio 44120.


Ruby Ryles is First Vice President of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind. She is also the mother of a blind child, a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington State, and a certified teacher. We have just learned that Mrs. Ryles has been appointed for a two-year term to the Board of Trustees of the Washington State School for the Blind.

Braille Cards:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Hand Brailled, easy to carry three by five cards to aid in memorizing Braille. Section one contains the alphabet, plus the word each letter stands for, as well as the dot numbers for each letter. Section two contains letter word contractions. Section three contains single cell signs, plus dot numbers. Section four contains double cell signs, plus dot numbers. Section five contains words beginning with dot five. Section six contains sign letter contractions. Section seven contains numbers and most commonly used punctuation, plus dot numbers. Price $10.00. For information write: Charlene Groves, 1899 Washington Valley Road, Martinsville, New Jersey 08836.

Electric Perkins Brailler:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Dr. Adelaide E. Wink, 61 South Lee Street, Beverly Hills, Florida 32665-9130, wishes to sell an electric Perkins Brailler in almost new condition for $600. She requests that payment accompany the order.

New Braille Teaching Text:

David Hyde, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, writes as follows: Ann Strauss, a rehabilitation teacher with the Oregon Commission for the Blind, has written a new Braille teaching text for the adult reader. The series is called Reading With Feeling and is written especially for those who love to read. Corresponding print and Braille pages enable the student to study independently or with sighted assistance. Examples are taken from thought-provoking literary passages. Practice readings are from published works and have been chosen for their interest and entertainment value. The approach to Grade One Braille is phonetic. Grade Two symbols are grouped so that students can learn quickly and enjoy the process. Send check or money order to MSMT, 1186 Yulupa Avenue Suite 349, Santa Rosa, California 95405; (707) 586-1999. The price per four-volume set is $30.00.


We have received the following information: Jan Bailey and Chris Ann Cuppett, members of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, inform us that they have collaborated on a slim volume for senior citizens or other interested beginners called Grade One Braille for Beginners . It is available for a nominal fee in Braille, print, and on tape from the Communication Center, 2200 University Avenue West, St. Paul, Minnesota 55114-1840. Also available from the Communication Center are: a tape recorded list identifying libraries for the blind and agencies selling aids and appliances for the blind, and a tape recorded lecture entitled Conquering Grade Two Braille. For information about these items write to the Communication Center or call (612) 642-0849.

Of Rocks and Principles:

So far as we know, Thomas Jefferson said it first; but we got it from the November, 1988, Palmetto Blind , the magazine of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina:

In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.