Vol. 32, No. 3                                                                                                 March, 1989

Kenneth Jernigan, Editor

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Vol. 32, No. 3                                                                                                 March, 1989



by Barbara Walker

by David Hyde

by Barbara Pierce


by Kenneth Jernigan




by Joyce Scanlan

by Karen Mayry

by Mary Ellen Gabias


LITERATURE REVIEW: Just Enough to Know Better: A Braille Primer

by Charlotte Verduin

by Tami Dodd




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


The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) prides itself on its assertion that the public can count on the NAC seal of approval as an indication of the excellence of the agency displaying it. Twice in recent years the National Federation of the Blind has had occasion to warn Floridians that the NAC seal, far from being a hallmark of quality, is more often an indication that the institution in question is not serving its constituents well. In the last year the citizens of the state have learned with tragic clarity what we meant.

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) enrolls 530 students from as young as four years of age to twenty-one. Roughly 300 are students in the department for the deaf; almost 100 are enrolled in the department for the blind; and the remaining 128 are either deaf-multihandicapped or blind-multihandicapped. The number of the multihandicapped was 129 until October 13, 1988, when Jennifer Driggers, age nine, was scalded to death in the shower room at Vaill Hall, the residence of 39 multihandicapped children.

On April 26, 1988, a twenty-two-year-old residence supervisor and Boy Scout leader was fired and arrested for sexually assaulting seventeen deaf boys. He is currently standing trial on twenty-four counts of sexual abuse. Four other male staff members (including the father of the man currently standing trial) have been prosecuted for criminal offenses against students of both sexes. One of these four was a teacher in the department for the blind, and his offenses were against blind girls enrolled at the School as students.

Tragedy and abuse have been a way of life at FSDB for several years. In September of 1982, a fourteen-year-old student, Christi Eddleman, fell from her infirmary bed and suffocated in the plastic trash basket liner beneath the bed. She died of complications several months later. About two years ago a blind student, James Thomas, was fatally injured while wrestling with a friend. In addition, at least nine suicide attempts have been made by students at the school during the past year, and abuse of children by other students and staff is widespread.

How could all this have happened in a school with an annual budget of eighteen and a half million dollars and accreditation in good standing for its department for the blind from NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped)? Is it that the staff members are irresponsible and evil? Is it that the parents are heartless and uncaring? Is it that NAC was too loose with its accreditation and lulled the public and officials of state government with its seal of good standing and its assurance that the school was providing quality services?

With respect to this question, there can be no doubt, for the sex offenses committed by the teacher in the department for the blind occurred almost a year ago and received publicity in the press. There was a court action with all of the trappings, but the NAC accreditation was not withdrawn. At the time of this writing (January, 1989) NAC accreditation has still not been withdrawn. Only after (as detailed later in this article) the Associate Editor of the Monitor called and asked probing questions did NAC indicate that it might consider possibly perhaps taking some sort of undefined action. The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (a school riddled with student deaths, suicide attempts, and widespread sex abuse of students by staff) is accredited with NAC's stamp of approval, and that accreditation and approval still continue. Children die; children are subjected to nightmarish unbelievable abuse; yet, NAC accreditation is not withdrawn. If the defense by NAC is that it was unaware of the situation, that is almost as damning as if it had known and failed to act. If the claim is that NAC knew but was powerless, that is equally damning. If NAC (like Pontius Pilate) should try to wash its hands of guilt by saying that the offenses have occurred in the department for the deaf and not in the department for the blind and that, therefore, NAC has no responsibility, that is perhaps most damning of all. Can one department of an institution be pure while the other departments in the overall structure are corrupt? Can a piece of an apple be sound and the rest of it rotten? And what about the sex abuse in the department for the blind?

As we have probed into this house of horrors, we have repeatedly been told of a feeling of despair on the part of the students, a fear to speak out. The revelations are enough to make one weep with outrage, frustration, and sorrow.

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind was founded a little over a hundred years ago, and until 1979 it educated students in either the department for the deaf or the department for the blind. That year the school accepted its first multihandicapped students, and as a result (or, at least, this is the claimed reason), its budget has increased by about thirty-two percent each year since. The 1980 cost for educating each student at the School was reported as $10,944. The cost in 1989 will be $34,943. Yet, each year since 1983 the school has gone to the legislature, warning of dire consequences if it did not receive even larger appropriations than it was given. Despite these predictions of doom, the school (at least, so far as we can determine) has never had to refuse a child because of overcrowding.

When asked, an FSDB official described the institution as being like a private boarding school. Yet, the funding comes from the legislature. A seven-member board of trustees runs the school and answers to the Governor's Cabinet, which is also the State Board of Education. Although the Commissioner of Education is one of the Governor's Cabinet (and is, therefore, a member of the State Board of Education), this is the only connection between the School and the Department of Education (DOE), which has no direct jurisdiction over the School. The School has consistently argued that provisions of Public Law 94-142, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, do not apply to it.

Both blind and deaf children can qualify for admission to the School only by meeting very specific medical criteria. Multihandicapped youngsters, on the other hand, are designated as such by parents and FSDB officials and then enrolled. If the staff cannot immediately determine whether a child meets the institution's criteria, the practice has been to enroll him or her for (depending on which official you believe) either thirty or ninety days while conducting an exhaustive evaluation. It is not surprising that the natural inertia of the situation results in the School's deciding to keep students who are already enrolled regardless of the test results. Whether or not the local school district believes that it is able to educate the child, the parent can choose to have a multihandicapped youngster placed at FSDB if the school agrees.

Those close to the School report that since the passage of P.L. 94-142 and the resulting mainstreaming of many handicapped children, the student body (even in the Departments for the Blind and the Deaf) has changed. For example, about eighty percent of the youngsters currently enrolled in the department for the blind receive counseling of some kind. Relatively few students graduating from the School go on to college.

But the 128 children designated as multihandicapped are not, for the most part, profoundly disabled. Most are either blind or deaf and, in addition, exhibit a behavioral or emotional disorder. Some are mentally retarded, but the retardation is usually mild. It is clear from the catastrophic problems FSDB has had in the past several years that supervising the students outside of school hours presents staff with serious difficulties. Roughly 80% of the youngsters' time is spent in their dormitories. We were told that the position of live-in house parent was eliminated shortly after William T. Dawson became president of the institution in the early 1980's. Differing reasons have been given for this action. Some have said that the live-ins wanted to be moved on the campus not for the good of the students but for their own convenience, but others have said that there seemed to be concerns about abuses by staff if they spent long periods of time with the children and that this is why the position of live-in house parent was discontinued. Be this as it may, FSDB has paid a steep price for its decision. The current practice is to have three eight-hour shifts of residential supervisors, and the youngsters have no opportunity to form strong relationships with house parents since every shift brings new supervisors into the dormitory. There are also many more staff members to hire, train, and supervise. According to an official state report, school administration and staff supervision costs have grown until thirty-three percent of salaries are paid to administrators, and twenty-seven percent of all School personnel have no day-to-day contact with children. Whether as a result of the staff problems or for other reasons, dismaying things have (according to the official report) happened in the dormitories. Deaf-blind students have sometimes spent as much as seven hours without a staff member nearby who could communicate with them. Children have been left for shockingly extended periods of time (up to ten days) in seclusion, and even though the staff-to-student ratio is one to six, children frequently abuse one another without intervention or sometimes even without staff recognition (until later) that injury has taken place.

The residential component of the School's program is not integrated with the two educational departments. So, for example, the principal of the department for the blind has (except tenuously) no involvement with the students in his residential school except when they are engaged in academic pursuits. When we interviewed Dennis Hartenstine (NAC's executive director), he said that NAC could not comment on any part of the School's program which it did not accredit. Presumably, therefore, if dormitory life is not considered part of the department for the blind, NAC (as the accrediting body for the department for the blind) might take the position that it is not involved in what goes on in the dormitory. One can reasonably infer from the comments Hartenstine made in our interview with him that this is the line of defense NAC will use if confronted with its failings in Florida. Not many people would understand or give credence to such hair-splitting distinctions. Most who have considered it at all have undoubtedly assumed that the dormitory arrangements for blind children have been evaluated and accredited along with the academic program in the department for the blind.

Jennifer Driggers was nine years old at the time of her death last October. She was deaf, had some vision problems, and had an IQ of about thirty-five. She functioned at a mental age of between two and three years. She seems also to have had difficulty getting along with other children and staff. She frequently exhibited aggressive behavior although no other student seems to have been injured by her punching, pinching, and hair-pulling.

Jennifer arrived at the school five years ago and caused problems there throughout her short life. In November of 1987 the members of the School staff who worked with her recommended that she be transferred to another facility. Her disabilities, they had concluded, were too profound for FSDB to manage effectively. The administration did not sign this recommendation. In fact, record-keeping procedures at FSDB are so faulty that senior members of the administration apparently did not even know of the recommendation. At least President Dawson is reported to have seemed genuinely shocked when he learned of this assessment at the hearings after Jennifer's death.

Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind officials have been concerned because members of the press have painted their institution in lurid colors. They urged the Braille Monitor to be fair and even-handed in its treatment of the story. Here, therefore, is the list of abuses against Jennifer Driggers culled from staff notes in FSDB's own records. They were compiled and printed in the report produced by the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services:

11-22-85 A handful of Jennifer's hair was pulled out by another student.

11-15-86 Jennifer was hit by another student and found with blood on her face and shirt due to a nose bleed. Also on 11-15-86, she was pushed by another child, causing a bruise on her head.

01-25-87 Jennifer received a cut lip when she was hit by another student.

02-28-87 A blind boy called Jennifer an animal and pushed her.

04-09-87 Another student took Jennifer's clothes off while she was in bed and beat her with a clotheshanger.

04-10-87 Another student hit Jennifer in the head and caused her to bleed.

05-27-87 Jennifer was involved in a fight with a boy was pushed down and this resulted in severe bruises on both of her legs.

09-14-87 Jennifer was found to have severe scratches, her arms were bleeding, there was broken glass found by her bed, and another child was thought to be involved.

10-07-87 House parent left Jennifer to continue dressing herself, and when she returned Jennifer was crying there were marks, bruises and open welts all over her body. These injuries were determined to be inflicted by K.C. by using a shoe and a coat hanger.

02-20-88 Another student hit Jennifer with an umbrella and caused her nose to bleed.

03-26-88 Another student hit Jennifer and caused her to have a bloody nose.

06-06-88 Jennifer was kicked in the clavicle by another student. 09-10-88 Jennifer received a bloody nose after being hit by another student.

09-12-88 Jennifer received a bloody nose after being hit by another student.

09-13-88 Jennifer was bitten on the arm by another student. 09-16-88 Jennifer received a bloody nose after being hit by another student.

09-21-88 Jennifer received a bloody nose after being hit by another student.

Additionally we found the following notes made by staff on the daily comment sheets:

05-29-88 Staff stated, Can you believe Jennifer had no skills, cannot help herself in any way, and has the nerve to try and be stubborn and hit someone! The nerve of her!

09-09-88 Jennifer cries a lot. Children are pretty rough.

09-15-88 Staff had to push Jennifer slightly - then she accepted where she had to be led.

09-16-88 Jennifer was pestered by other kids - cried. She is too lonely to be here.

09-20-88 All these girls can hurt her bad if they blow up. She was lucky that I was in every fight.

09-22-88 Jennifer needs closer supervision to prevent other kids from beating her - happens a lot - kids can't stand her.

09-22-88 Jennifer being rejected by kids and staff (most). Getting more and more bruises from kids. Staff member feels sorry for her.

09-23-88 Jennifer is a mess - bumps and bruises - starts when she hits or pulls hair. Other kids hit back. Jennifer looks like a punching bag. Other kids okay.

Based on infirmary records and daily comment sheets, the following are incidents of unexplained injuries to Jennifer:

11-20-84 Jennifer was found to have unexplained marks on her back.

10-15-85 Jennifer was referred to the infirmary for having redness and edema on her face that was unexplained.

10-30-85 Jennifer was seen in the infirmary for a rash and red swollen face.

11-10-85 Jennifer was taken to the infirmary by dorm parent with unexplained bruise on her left shoulder.

01-12-86 Jennifer was found to have an unexplained bruise on her left upper hip. A notation was made that she had wet the bed and smelled bad.

02-13-86 Jennifer was found to have scratches on her face and neck with no explanation.

02-17-86 Jennifer was found bleeding from an unexplained laceration on her head that had to be sutured at Flagler Emergency Room.

05-06-86 Jennifer was found to have abrasions on her arms, shoulders, and around her neck with no explanation for these injuries.

05-20-86 Jennifer was found to have a bruise on her buttocks with scratches. The house parent stated she did not know what happened but felt like she had sat on something or had been jabbed with something. Later that same day she was found to have an unexplained bruise on her cheek.

11-15-86 Dorm parent found an abrasion on Jennifer's elbow, bumps and abrasions to the child's forehead while the dorm parent was giving her a shower.

11-20-86 The dorm parent found a bump and swelling on Jennifer's forehead. Severe enough for the child to be taken to the Flagler Emergency Room with no explanation for the injury.

05-09-87 Jennifer was found to have abrasions on her back. They were diagnosed as rug burns with no explanation.

10-07-87 Jennifer was found to have a bruise on her forearm.

01-08-88 Jennifer was found to have scratch on her forehead with no explanation.

02-12-88 Jennifer was found bleeding from the mouth. A tooth was missing - the tooth could not be located.

02-17-88 Jennifer had abrasions across her abdomen. Doctor diagnosed them as a rug burn.

02-18-88 Jennifer was found to have a black and blue mark on her upper arm with no explanation.

04-21-88 Jennifer was found to be bruised on her buttocks with no explanation.

09-22-88 Jennifer was found to have puffiness on right eye, curved mark on her cheek - school questions whether this may be a belt mark - many bruises on her legs.

09-30-88 Several round marks described as hickies on Jennifer's face and neck and cuts and scratches with no explanation.

10-30-88 Jennifer was found scalded and unconscious in a shower in Vaill Hall, which resulted in her death.

One hardly knows how to react to such a document. Granted, FSDB officials did not have the advantage of reading a tidily written report before this child was fatally injured, but the data were there. The staff knew that serious problems existed. Something is profoundly wrong in a system that has no mechanism for preventing what happened to this child.

Precisely what did happen is not clear. Jennifer suffered from a complicated intestinal problem, to combat which she was to be given a high-fiber diet. She was then to be placed on the toilet in a comfortable position for thirty minutes at a time. She was to have things to amuse her while she sat. The Health and Rehabilitative Services report states that no change was made in her diet. She apparently was placed on the toilet without the use of a footstool for comfort and was given neither toys nor books. The supervisor had to attend to other children who were decorating for Halloween, so she left two mildly retarded girls, ages twelve and seventeen, to supervise Jennifer. What happened next will never be known. At some point Jennifer vomited, but whether this was while she was still seated or after she was in the shower room seems to be in dispute. She removed her clothes and went (or was taken) into the shower area. One shower head did not have tempered water. All the others were adjusted in such a way that the water could not get too hot. In this one, however, the water temperature was eventually measured at 139 degrees fahrenheit. The staff reported that Jennifer Had a propensity for turning on the hot water in the showers and tubs. But her mother said that Jennifer was frightened of hot water. The two girls have said that they felt the vibration when Jennifer fell. They looked into the shower area and tried to remove her but could not. They then went for help, and the staff were eventually able to remove the child. Testimony before the grand jury indicated that the supervisor was away for only about eighteen minutes. But a source close to the situation told the Braille Monitor that the medical examiner reported she must have been exposed to the hot water for at least thirty minutes for her flesh to have been as thoroughly cooked as it was.

To one reading the bald facts of this tragedy, it seems incredible that the grand jury found no one at fault or even negligent in this situation. According to one source, the School was able to make its case convincingly that there was simply not enough money to provide adequate supervision. The supervisor on duty did not seem to have broken any rules, and apparently no one was prepared to place blame on the two retarded students. But even if the grand jury was not willing to find the School negligent, it did make recommendations. Here they are:

Dormitory staff members need training in recognizing and reporting abuse, aggression control and sign language communications.

A central filing system for all injury reports should be maintained. Appropriate dorm staff-to-student ratios should be established for multihandicapped students. The grand jury found 10 to 17 multihandicapped students have routinely been left alone with a single staff member for an entire shift. Dormitory staff members should get emergency training. Dormitory teachers should be made aware of the medical condition of each multihandicapped student in their care. A position at the school should be established to get parents of students quick information about their children. Regular reviews of programs at the school should be started. The 911 emergency system should be updated to pinpoint the exact location of school buildings.

That is what the grand jury recommended, and we wonder again about the NAC accreditation. Is it really conceivable that conditions were this bad in other parts of the School and not bad in the department for the blind? How can one segment of an institution (an institution with the problems of FSDB) be accredited in isolation from the rest of the facility? The members of the grand jury were not the only ones looking at the Driggers case and offering suggestions. Florida's newspapers have been full of the case for months. On November 13, 1988, the St. Augustine Record printed a story that dredged up old memories that the School would, no doubt, have preferred to let rest. Here is what it said:

Driggers Death Mirrors 6-Year-Old D & B Tragedy

by Cynthia Beach

Change the time and place, and the deaths of 14-year-old Christi Eddleman and 9-year-old Jennifer Driggers are all too similar. Both girls died in bizarre incidents six years apart at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind one in a scalding shower, the other suffocating inside a trash bag. Both raised questions about supervision at the state school. Each brought conflicting reports of how long the girls were left alone. Miss Eddleman's case ended with a $125,000 out-of-court settlement. No media attention. No pickets or grand jury. And, according to some, no answers.

The basis of the suit was negligent supervision, said Tampa attorney Robert Banker, who represented Miss Eddleman's mother, Donna. I felt some confusion among the people that were supervising the infirmary at the time.

I felt, yes, there was a lack of supervision in Christi's case, Banker added, and I was ready to prove it. During Banker's preparation of the case, FSDB officials were queried about staffing ratios. Banker argued if there had been additional supervision, the brown-haired girl might still be alive.

Miss Eddleman was found unconscious under her infirmary bed by an aide around 10:15 a.m. Sept. 8, 1982. She suffocated from a garbage bag and garbage can covering her head. She was found with her arms crossed over her chest. Suffering from brain damage, the girl remained in a coma until she died on May 2, 1983. I was very dissatisfied with the whole situation, Mrs. Eddleman said. They tried to act like she committed suicide. We really didn't get any answers.

Miss Eddleman, who was blind from birth, slightly retarded, and epileptic, was on medication and feeling nauseated when she checked into the facility.

With one nurse on duty and two other children in the infirmary, Miss Eddleman was left under the supervision of a maid while the nurse was in a separate section of the facility to tend to other children. FSDB officials said, however, the woman was hired as a nurse's aide, in addition to a custodian. Robert Dawson, president of Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, testified to Banker that Miss Eddleman was left alone for five minutes. Banker said the time she was left alone was never resolved, but evidence was submitted that she remained alone up to 20 minutes.

Dawson refused an interview about the lawsuit. FSDB public information officer Mary Jane Dillon replied to questions about the case with He (Dawson) had no recollection of an allegation of neglect. Yet an attorney for Banker's firm sent a letter to Dawson dated Nov. 17, 1982, saying an investigation conducted into this matter indicates that Christi's injuries were caused solely by the negligence of employees of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Dawson met recently with officials of the state's Office of Risk Management in Tallahassee, the agency which oversees civil lawsuits against state agencies. Said Mrs. Dillon, In a meeting with an official with risk management in Tallahassee... it was confirmed it was not an issue of neglect. An attorney representing the state, Bernard McLendon of Jacksonville, responded to the suit in 1984 by placing the blame on the girl. He contended the death was due to the carelessness and negligence of the deceased.

Nurse Betty Frady, who was on duty at the time of her death, told Banker she was short-handed in the infirmary at the time because another nurse who was supposed to be on duty had called in sick. A replacement was not called in. Only the maid would keep an eye on the students when she (Ms. Frady) was up in the clinic, testified the infirmary's head nurse, Shirley Harvey.

The staffing standards had been compiled by the FSDB board of trustees, who had no medical training, said Dawson, except one member who was a dentist.

Banker also questioned why the infirmary staff allowed the child to use the bathroom alone, leaving her unattended with a tub, sink, shower, and mirror.

But, he added, My impression of that school was it's a good school. They do wonderful things up there. Through no fault of their own, they probably didn't have enough money to care for the kids. The death was investigated by the St. Augustine Police Department, who ruled the death accidental after interviewing staff members. Mrs. Eddleman told police she found a large bruise on her daughter's right side.

As a result of her death, changes in the infirmary were implemented, according to Dawson's testimony. We immediately took all the plastic bags out of the wastebaskets, and the nurses were told, `From here on out, you're not going to have coffee together,' said Dawson, according to court records. But the death of Miss Driggers has resulted in more than a $125,000 settlement.

The St. Johns County grand jury is investigating, along with probes (ordered by Gov. Bob Martinez) of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. Those reports are expected to be completed by December. Deputy State Attorney Steve Alexander said the jury will reconvene when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement report is completed, and a presentment will follow. Department of Education Commissioner Betty Castor has allocated approximately $100,000 to the school for immediate additional staffing at Vaill Hall, the dorm where Miss Driggers died. The jury investigation also could look into requests made by FSDB trustees and allocations given by the Florida Legislature relating to staffing.

If I don't get answers here, said Miss Driggers' mother, Robin Williams, I'm not going to stop.

That was the November 13, 1988, story in the St. Augustine Record , and it is easy to see why the reporter was reminded of the earlier tragedy as she worked on the Driggers story. It is also clear that tragic lapses in staff supervision of students at FSDB are not recent or isolated occurrences. The Department of Education managed to find $100,000 immediately in order to provide ten more dormitory supervisors for Vaill Hall. Though several months have passed since the allocation was made, our information indicates that no additional personnel have yet been hired. Even if (as some have alleged) the delay is more a matter of bureaucratic inertia than laxness on the part of the School, those involved are still culpable. The Department of Education's response to the School's lament that eighteen and a half million dollars a year is not enough to run the School was the first indication that the funding excuse might be taken seriously as a mitigating circumstance. The grand jury's decision in December of 1988 was the second. But not everyone was prepared to say that the School was blameless. At FSDB, School officials seem to believe that the press has been unjust to the institution. They say that the School has been the victim of bad luck and that no one set out to harm these children except, of course, the five male staff members who assaulted students and, after all, they were fired. The press, however, was not the only body to criticize the School as ultimately responsible for what happened to Jennifer and the others.

The Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) was charged with the duty of investigating the School in the wake of the Driggers death. On December 7, 1988, it released an exhaustive study. An independent organization called Therapeutic Concepts, Inc. conducted the actual assessment of the facility, and HRS officials wrote the final report, including eighty-five recommendations. On December 8, 1988, the St. Augustine Record printed two stories about the case, the HRS report, and the FSDB Board of Trustees' reaction. Here are both:

HRS Report Blasts FSDB: Agency Urges Dismantling of Trustees Board

by Cynthia Beach

Unqualified staff, an insensitive administration and excessive physical and mental abuse of students at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind were cited in a hypercritical report released late Wednesday by a state health agency. Sweeping suggestions by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services for the state-run school include dismantling the board of trustees and freezing student enrollment.

The school provides residential and academic programs for deaf, blind, and (on an increasing level) multi-handicapped students. And although a dorm for multi-handicapped students is dangerous for children, the report says, students are at risk of abuse in all FSDB residential facilities.

In addition to nine suicidal acts by students during the past year, drug abuse and depression may also be problems among FSDB students, it states.

An administration which receives 33 percent of the school's tax-funded salaries, it says, has been uninvolved in the day-to-day operation of the school. A general lack of accountability of school administration coupled with poor management practices also was outlined. The report calls Vaill Hall, the dorm for multi-handicapped students such as the late Jennifer Driggers, a poorly staffed, inadequate facility. The findings and recommendations are part of a 100-page report completed by HRS investigators and a private consulting firm, Therapeutic Concepts Inc. of Jacksonville. The report was released Wednesday following a press conference by Gov. Bob Martinez.

Martinez called for the probes following the Oct. 13 death of 9-year-old Jennifer Driggers, a deaf, multi-handicapped dorm student. Miss Driggers died after being left unattended in a scalding dorm shower.

HRS officials feel the school provides excellent overall classroom instruction, but the health and safety of multi-handicapped children and other dorm students have been largely overlooked. The report says about 80 percent of the students' time is spent in dorms, as opposed to 20 percent of time in classrooms.

Aside from staffing inadequacies, HRS officials found poor sanitary conditions for food preparation, fire code violations, a lack of security, inappropriate disciplinary practices, and students who were afraid of reprisal if they reported abuse. Close to 19 percent of the 530 students reported being abused since 1981, with four abuse cases involving neglect at the school.

Miss Driggers, according to separate reports, had been the subject of physical abuse numerous times while at the school, including being beaten by a coat hanger.

The report says some students appeared traumatized by the death of Miss Driggers, but FSDB administration and staff appear insensitive to their mental health needs.

The report, without a timetable, recommends:

The report also concludes: adults who have committed sexual abuse on students be tested for AIDS, a building for multi-handicapped students under construction be checked for suitability, criminal history checks and abuse registry checks for dorm staff, and further analysis of FSDB management.

Management, it suggests, faces problems of increased expenses per child and high ratios of administrative costs to direct service costs.

Administration lacks a sufficient understanding at all levels relating to the needs of the multi-handicapped.

HRS also found administration lacking in:

Other problems for students include:

FSDB Trustee Charges Report Findings Invalid

by Pete Osborne and Deborah Squires

Gov. Bob Martinez has urged the board of trustees of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and two other state departments to implement immediate changes at the school located here. Martinez urged the changes after accepting a lengthy report Wednesday critical of many aspects of the 102-year-old school. But the governor's view is not universally shared by the school's trustees.

In my opinion that report is not valid at all, said board member Celida Grau of Hialeah.

Mrs. Grau, the parent of a recent FSDB graduate, said the governor has been misinformed about everything, and that investigators sent by his office were ignorant about handicaps. However, she said the original scope of the school, to educate the blind and the deaf, should be emphasized. The state has pushed for inclusion of multi-handicapped students that should not really be there, Mrs. Grau said.

Trustee chairman Gene Pillot of Sarasota said, I categorically and strongly disagree with dissolving the board as a governing body. To give the school to the Department of Education is to guarantee that the right kind of attention to governing the school is not going to be given.

Pillot said dissolving the board would be a patently wrong decision. Besides the FSDB board of trustees, which meets here Friday, Martinez sent the report and its recommendations to the state Department of Education and back to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. The trustees meeting was scheduled prior to the Oct. 13 scalding death of Jennifer Driggers, 9, of Ruskin.

School President Robert T. Dawson declined Wednesday to comment upon the report or the governor's recommendations, saying he had just received a 35-page summary of the findings and recommendations. My priorities are set to prepare for the grand jury and the board, Dawson said. I need to spend all the time I can preparing for those two meetings, he told The Record. That's why I made the decision not to make myself available to the press until then. The St. Johns County grand jury today continues its investigation into the death of Miss Driggers, as well as other incidents at the school in recent months. The board of trustees meets at the campus Friday at 9 a.m.

The report given to Martinez detailed a month-long investigation by HRS and contained 85 recommendations prepared by that department and Therapeutic Concepts Inc., a private consulting firm.

Martinez ordered the investigation after Miss Driggers' scalding death in a dormitory shower. Miss Driggers was enrolled in the school's multi-handicapped program.

In his Wednesday press conference in Tallahassee, Martinez said, dramatic change must occur at the school to ensure the safety of the 530 students.

In accepting the report, the governor said the school needs to be changed, overhauled.

The investigation revealed that about 40 students had been reported as abused, and nine suicidal acts by students were recorded in the past year.

Other findings of the report include:

Saying the state would seek to take governing control of the school operated by the board of trustees, Martinez said, We need to reduce the level of incidence of injury. There is urgency here, he said.

However, the governor would not answer questions about the safety of students still residing at Vaill Hall, where the Driggers girl died.

School trustee William Proctor of St. Augustine, president of Flagler College, said I'd have to look at that recommendation, referring to the governor's statements.

It would be premature on my part to make any statement. I would hope the administration would give us some reaction to it, but even tomorrow at the board meeting it would be hard to comment. Stephen Kiser of Tallahassee joins the board of trustees at its meeting Friday.

I don't really know at this point what I'm getting into, he said Wednesday night.

I have no problem conceptually with a single school serving the deaf and blind, and, in addition, serving the multi-handicapped, assuming they have the facility to do that, the staff to do that. Lumping together, I don't think is good for either group, he added, saying proper facilities would be separate. However, if it's going to be a custodial facility, then I certainly think it should meet HRS standards.

Trustees Mike Hannon of Ponte Vedra Beach and Gay Gold, Tampa, contacted by The Record Wednesday night, declined to comment on the matter. But the school's former president, William McClure of St. Augustine, had strong comments:

I think the problem is that the state has regarded the school as a dumping ground a place to send children that have no other place to go. When I was president we didn't have to take these children, he said.

The problem is not with the administration, but with what has been expected of the school in recent years without providing for it. I think Mr. Dawson is a fine administrator. The state has demanded they take these children.

I don't think the state has provided adequately for this kind of child, McClure said. The school has asked for a review because that precedes change, and they haven't gotten that from the state.

In my opinion they (multi-handicapped) shouldn't be there, McClure said in response to Martinez's calls for increased provisions for the multi-handicapped.

I would say the change needs to be going back to the type of student the school has traditionally had, McClure added. Trustee Mary Mauldin, Panama City, attends her last meeting tomorrow and will be replaced by Kiser.

Personally, I think that would be a mistake, she said of the governor's recommendations.

But she said she felt the capable deaf and blind students in the state are being shortchanged under present circumstances. Mrs. Mauldin, who is blind, is an FSDB graduate.

That's what the St. Augustine Record paper said about the release of the HRS report, and other news organizations around the state also focused on the same recommendations and the Governor's public reaction to the findings. The cumulative power of the non-binding recommendations is staggering. There has been widespread speculation about whether or not the School would implement any of them. The board met January 14, 1989, to consider its response to the HRS report. Most of the recommendations would be fairly simple to put into place. Detergent can be removed from containers that say pancake and waffle syrup, and janitorial and medical supplies can easily be made secure. It should not even be particularly expensive to insure that dishes are washed in sanitary conditions in buildings with a water supply hot enough to scald a child to death. And, as a matter of fact, at its January 14, 1989, meeting the Board passed a resolution directing the administration to comply with all of the safety-connected recommendations and to report to the board about how long it would take to complete their implementation. But there are a handful of recommendations which HRS and the Department of Education view as very important that the board will find more difficult to implement. The HRS recommendation to freeze school admissions immediately until the FSDB house is in order was not carried out immediately by the president. Actually, according to one source, what HRS wanted was to insure that the multihandicapped population would not increase until it could be certain that those children were receiving proper treatment. According to our information Dawson has not imposed the recommended freeze on multihandicapped admissions, but as of the beginning of 1989 he has (with the concurrence of the Board of Trustees) reportedly changed the old procedure of evaluating hard-to-place youngsters after admission. From now on, even if a prolonged assessment is necessary, it will presumably be completed before a child is enrolled.

With respect to the knotty problem of integrating the academic and residential programs for the students at FSDB, the board voted to merge the Individual Educational Plan and the Individual Dormitory Plan for each child into one document. This should enable the right hand to know what the left is doing. How the entire residential program is to be integrated into the two academic departments is more difficult to determine. But the question is now under study.

The Board of Trustees is not at all willing to vote itself out of existence, but it is struggling with the problem of accountability. Negotiators have been working on a plan that would, in effect, designate the school as the sixty-eighth school district in the state. The Board of Trustees would then act as the school board. The school would clearly be subject to Public Law 94-142, and referrals of multihandicapped students would be made by school districts. The Department of Education would have jurisdiction over the school. We are told that the board's attorney is examining several very real problems associated with this plan.

In the meantime there may be another, simpler way of resolving the accountability issues. Consideration is being given to strengthening an agreement between the school and the Department of Education which would give the department jurisdiction over the school. These reported negotiations may or may not be successful. According to one source, Betty Caster, Commissioner of Education, has assured the Board that she has no intention of going to the Legislature to ask them for clarification on the question of whether or not the School is bound by Public Law 94-142 and the issue of parental choice. In cases of multihandicapped youngsters this appears to be a deeply held principle at the School, and parents are reportedly adamant about preserving it.

Perhaps a word should be said about the parents' reaction to the the revelations of the past year. One mother withdrew her son from the school in the aftermath of the Driggers death. Another parent testified before the grand jury about her son's treatment at the school before she withdrew him several years ago. She had tried then to make other parents take her warnings about staff abuses seriously, but they were reportedly unwilling to do so. Throughout this past fall, parents have been fiercely loyal to the school. They rallied to protest the efforts of the assistant state's attorney who was pleading Florida's case before the grand jury. They were part of the cheering section in a gathering that took place when the grand jury found the School not guilty of negligence in December of 1988. And they have been lobbying Craig Kiser, the new member of the Board of Trustees and a blind attorney. These parents are convinced that the school is the best place for their children and that it is being maligned. Many in the blind community in Florida wonder how much of this support for the school is a direct result of parents' panic at the prospect of having to provide year-round supervision of their children. It is impossible to judge from the outside, but one would feel more confidence in the wisdom of the parents' stand if the general public (parents of blind, deaf, and multihandicapped children included) were free of ignorance and prejudice concerning such youngsters.

Maybe there is hope for the students at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, but one would have to be powerfully optimistic to believe it. Judging from the amount of distrust, fear, and despair reported among students in the HRS findings, the children are not hopeful about their situation. Perhaps now that state officials have entered the picture, changes for the better will be made at the School. From now on, the institution will presumably be accountable for its actions to outside experts. This, of course, is what one expects as a benefit of accreditation. And on this subject the HRS had an interesting comment:

There was, its report said, no evidence of an ongoing self-assessment based on the school's objectives, goals, and organizational framework. There were no effective problem-solving activities, including an ongoing review and evaluation of services provided for the students and procedures for remedial action, as deemed necessary. The School for the Blind had pursued accreditation, but this process was not an internal quality assurance mechanism.

This is what the HRS report says. NAC is the accrediting body referred to, but it is interesting to note with what respect HRS treats the highly touted (by NAC, at any rate) self-study required of member agencies. HRS says that there was no evidence of such internal quality assurance mechanism. When the Associate Editor of the Braille Monitor asked Dennis Hartenstein, Executive Director of NAC, for his reaction to the FSDB situation, he said, I can't comment on any programs that we do not accredit. Many of HRS's findings and recommendations, however, apply to the entire School, and all the children at FSDB are suffering from the School's current crisis. Hartenstein was asked specifically if NAC would be concerned by an incident in a member agency like the one in which a male FSDB teacher in the Department for the Blind, after plea-bargaining, offered no contest to a charge of battery against a blind female student. Under Florida law, A person commits battery if he: (a) actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or (b) intentionally causes bodily harm to an individual. It is the charge typically brought when authorities are backing off from pressing charges of sexual offenses. Sources have assured the Braille Monitor that this case was only the most clear-cut of several brought against the teacher in question by female high school students. Hartenstein replied that NAC certainly would be concerned about such a problem and was only waiting for the report on the incident. Since it occurred in May of 1988, the report seems a little slow in arriving on Mr. Hartenstein's desk. But then there were a lot of problems at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind last spring, and record-keeping does not seem to be the administration's long suit. The problems faced by the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind are complex and difficult. Every such school is struggling with the question of meeting the needs of multihandicapped youngsters. Society does not know how to deal with such children, and dumping them into schools for the blind or deaf, when that impairment is one of the child's handicaps, has become the standard solution. In cases like Jennifer Driggers', it is not the correct one, however, and schools and parents should insist on seeing that the proper determination is made. But as so often happens, the schools seem to be eager to insure their continued existence by snapping up every child they are offered, and parents too often are grateful to have any assignment at all made for their children. But regardless of whether or not a given youngster belongs in a particular school, it must be a fundamental principle that every child should be safe safe from assault by teachers, staff, and other students; and safe from subhuman care. Even if FSDB officials are correct in their contention that they are trying to do their best for the students enrolled at the school and that no one knowingly set out to injure Jennifer Driggers, the press and public's outrage focused on the school during the past several months has been justified. In fact, the only fault to be found with it is that it did not begin sooner. The Board of Trustees, or whoever is finally charged with running the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, must find and train competent staff, people who can keep accurate records and devise sensible procedures. Recruitment for dormitory staff has already improved with the doubling of the number of references required and the stipulation that the writer have known the applicant for two years. Such changes take no additional funds and very little extra time.

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is not going to go away. There are children living in Florida who need the kind of care provided by such an institution. There are others who will be dumped there because families or local schools cannot or will not keep them at home for their education. The same statements can be made about every residential school in the country. We in the National Federation of the Blind must be vigilant. In a very real way these are our spiritual children. We must fight for their right to a good education in the most constructive environment which can be provided. We must do what we can to guard their safety and well-being. We must also insure that the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind and its like are no longer dangerous places for children.

Postscript: After completing this article, we received further information. On January 20, 1989, the Associate Editor talked with both Robert Dawson, President of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and Tuck Tinsley, Principal of the Department for the Blind. On January 23, 1989, the Editor talked with Tinsley.

Mr. Dawson said with respect to the live-in house parent question that it had traditionally been the practice at the School to have live-in house parents plus a roving supervisor who circulated through the dormitories throughout the night to see that all was well but that the School became worried about the provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The concern was that since the house parents would be expected to be available for emergencies anytime during the night, compensation would have to be paid as if they were on full-time duty. Dawson said that such compensation had not been paid and that, accordingly, the practice of having live-in house parents had been discontinued. With respect to more staff to supervise activities at Vaill Hall, Dawson said that the promised $100,000 for extra employees has just now (January) been received. He said that immediately after the Driggers tragedy, staff was transferred from a segment of the deaf program to fill the need at Vaill Hall on a temporary basis and that those staff will now be able to return to their former assignments.

Dawson emphasized his conviction that the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is deeply committed to the welfare of its students and that both he and the board are behaving accordingly. He says he feels that the HRS recommendations are seriously flawed but that the school will move quickly and decisively to implement those that are valid. In view of the long years of chaos and mismanagement one has to wonder why the Driggers death and the HRS report were needed to make Dawson take action action which he says will be immediate and thorough.

Dr. Tinsley, who is said by some to be the brightest and most sensitive administrative staff member at the school, has apparently decided to leave. On January 19, 1989, we were informed that Dr. Tinsley had accepted the position of President of the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, succeeding Dr. Carson Nolan.

The Associate Editor began her conversation with Dr. Tinsley by alluding to this new appointment. He said that he felt that the problems at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind were almost entirely in other areas of the institution and not in the department for the blind. He said that the HRS report commended the staff of the department for the blind for warmth and understanding and the dormitory for being cheery. In this connection no mention was made of the sex abuse charges. Dr. Tinsley told the Associate Editor that NAC met in Houston during the weekend of January 14, 1989, and renewed the accreditation of the department for the blind of the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind for the maximum term. He said that NAC commended the school for its work study program, which brings Flagler College students onto the FSDB campus; its eye health care program; its ear, nose, and throat clinic; its mobility pass program; and its dormitory curriculum. In addition, he said that the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools has also recently accredited the school with commendation. In this connection it should be kept in mind that outside accrediting bodies such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools tend (this is part of the problem) to rely on NAC accreditation and simply rubber stamp what NAC does. It is to be hoped that the Florida case will go a long way toward changing this.

When Dr. Tinsley talked with the Editor on January 23, he confirmed that there was a sex abuse offense by a staff member in the department for the blind against a blind student some time early last year and another such case of sex abuse by a teacher in the department for the blind in either 1986 or 1987. Dr. Tinsley couldn't remember exactly when. In answer to a question from the Editor Dr. Tinsley said that he believed at least some time was spent in jail by one or the other of the offenders. He said the school was very concerned about such things.

When Dr. Tinsley was asked whether NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped) had been aware of these problems at the School, he said yes. He said that the NAC team had been on hand last year in the midst of some of the revelations. When he was asked to comment on whether NAC's silence about the problems of the school and its reaccreditation of the school in January of 1989 might not legitimately give rise to questions about NAC's claim that its seal of approval is an assurance of quality services, he remained silent.

Dr. Tinsley said that the Florida School is a good institution and that the charges against it are politically motivated. He gave no explanation as to why anyone would be motivated to attack the school politically, and he confirmed the facts concerning the major abuses we have detailed.

It will be remembered that Dennis Hartenstine, NAC's executive director, told the Monitor's Associate Editor that he was waiting for a report concerning the sex abuse incidents in the department for the blind at the school before taking any action. In light of subsequent developments we can reasonably guess what he meant. If Dr. Tinsley's report is accurate, NAC reaccredited the school on the weekend of January 14, 1989, with accolades and commendation. The facts speak for themselves, and neither the blind of the nation nor the self-respecting agencies and schools will forget or remain silent.

Subsequent developments we can reasonably guess what he meant. If Dr. Tinsley's report is accurate, NAC reaccredited the school on the weekend of January 14, 1989, with accolades and commendation. The facts speak for themselves, and neither the blind of the nation nor the self-respecting agencies and schools will forget or remain silent.



by Barbara Walker

As Monitor readers know, Barbara Walker is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. This article is reprinted from the Fall, 1988, issue of Future Reflections, the magazine of the Parents Division of the National Federation of the Blind. It was given as a speech at the July 2 Parents Seminar at the 1988 National Federation of the Blind convention in Chicago. Barbara Walker was one of three panelists who spoke on the topic: "Laying the Groundwork: Independence for the Blind Infant, Toddler, and Preschooler." Here is what she said:

When my son John, at the age of three, said he wanted some fruitcake that had been in the refrigerator for quite awhile, I said: Just a minute, please. I need to see what kind of shape it's in. His response was immediate: It's in a rectangle shape, and I want some. And he was right. It was. Chalk up one more reminder of how literally children interpret and respond to their world. I have always been blind. My sister, Laurie, is also blind. Our older brother, Lani, isn't. There was, to our parents' knowledge, no history of blindness in our family. Discussing my sister's case, the doctors said they didn't know the cause of blindness, but thought there was probably a one in a thousand chance of recurrence. Since I arrived blind fourteen months later, either I'm one in a thousand, or they didn't know what they were talking about. All of us are now grown, married, and have children none of whom is blind.

In dealing with the subject of laying the groundwork for blind youngsters, I draw from my own childhood and the raising of my own children who are currently seven and four-and-a-half. My message is, as are most things of consequence, easier to say than to live. It is simply that parents should have equal expectations of blind and sighted children in activities and goals and, more importantly, should cultivate equal expectations in the children themselves.

But what exactly does this mean? Let me be specific. A moment ago, I mentioned my son's response to my use of the word shape. That incident and many others continue to help him define that and other words. An important word for children to define is blind. As a child, the first phrase of definition I internalized about blindness was that I didn't see very well. At a very early age I knew that not to do something well was not good. It may seem like an exercise in semantic game-playing, but if you really think about it, most of us would rather affirm that we are a certain way or have a certain characteristic than accentuate our inability to do something well. I think this is especially true of characteristics which are beyond our control. A child who is told that he or she doesn't see very well may try desperately to do it better, especially if doing so would please his or her parents. A child who is told that he or she is blind will, most likely ask: What's blind? in the same way anything else might be questioned. Your response, not only in words, but also through your attitudes and actions, will set the stage for your child's life.

So what does blind mean? It means that, in varying degrees, you don't receive information directly through your own eyes. It does not, however, mean that you can't get that information. Obviously, telling an infant this in words won't affect him or her any more than telling him or her that he or she is first or tenth-born, a boy or a girl, a blessing or a burden, etc. It is primarily through your attitudes and actions that your baby will learn about him- or herself and the world. So, what are blind babies like? If my sister and I were typical, and I believe we were, it would be as impossible to generalize about blind babies as it is to do so about any youngsters. My sister, from what I remember my mother's telling me, crawled, walked, and talked at about the same time as neighbor kids her age. She ran away from home more than once while still in diapers, handled everything she could get to, was adept with her fingers, questioned incessantly, and insisted on a prominent place in her world. I, on the other hand, neither walked nor talked until I was about two, showed little visible evidence that I was particularly curious about my environment, and was clumsy and awkward with my hands and body breaking many things with which I came into contact.

As toddlers and preschoolers, we continued to show contrasts. Laurie, at age two, walked along the piano reaching up to pick out melodies on the keyboard. She generally chose gentle play interacting with others, real or imaginary and was afraid of high slides, going on carnival rides, and the like. I loved rough play wrestling, running hard, swinging and/or climbing high, flipping over and off of bars, throwing and catching balls, etc. and I loved high slides, carnival rides, and the like. I could go on and on, but I hope my point is clear. Blind babies, toddlers, preschoolers in fact all blind children, youth, and adults have as wide a range of interests, abilities, and approaches to life as do others, even when raised in the same family. As I have mentioned before, there was no known history of blindness in our family. Our parents knew nothing about blindness. They struggled with stereotypes as all of us do, but their hope for us was the same as that for our brother that we would eventually be contributing and fulfilled adults, no longer needing or wanting to live under their care. Mom, the more verbally expressive of our parents, said there were many times when she didn't understand how we would or could do things, and it scared her to have us try. But she didn't stand in our way. She learned Braille so that we could correspond privately. She persistently went to bat for us when we were left out or mistreated not in ways that made us dependent upon her, but in ways that preserved respect and dignity for everyone, and provided us with experience in everything from fielding questions to finding alternative methods for doing things ordinarily done with the use of sight.

Dad showed his acceptance of us in other ways. He showed us how things worked. He pointed out nonvisual qualities of things generally perceived visually, like the contrasting cool and hot pavement where his shadow passed. He made us doll cribs and a playhouse; punch pillows; and shelves that would accommodate Braille books. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with punch pillows, or who may know them by another name, they are flat cushions with a solid bottom used for tracing or free hand drawing with a stylus or cutter to make raised-line pictures or cutouts.) Dad also took me fishing, showed me how to shoot baskets, and encouraged my interests in competitive sports. My sister and I were given hands-on experiences whenever their availability and our interests coincided. I was a very shy child, and sometimes my self-consciousness prevented me from taking full advantage of these opportunities. If Laurie was along, I generally asked her later about whatever we had seen, and she would explain it in detail sometimes creating a replica to show me.

Underlying all of these things were our parents' respect for us as people and their encouragement toward our finding a place in society not a pigeonhole created by them or anyone else, but a place we could earn as others do. That genuine attitude of respect and affirmation of our worth and dignity did more than all the experiences and skills combined in allowing us to grow and become contributing members of society. Laying the attitudinal groundwork does have results. I think an example from my recent past will illustrate.

One morning last month, as I was dropping my children off at their Vacation Bible School rooms and heading down to teach the fifth- and sixth-graders, one of my daughter's teachers stopped me in the hall. She said that when the first- and second-grade class was talking about Jesus' helping disadvantaged people, the other teacher in the room had asked Marsha what she does to help her disabled parents. (Both my husband and I are blind.) Marsha hesitated, and the teacher relating the incident to me told Marsha she could pass. At that point, Marsha said something like:

This spring, when Mom had her appendix taken out, I helped her pick things up off the floor, carry things, and get things she needed. Marsha, whose seventh birthday is today, just completed first grade. She is certainly aware that we do some things differently. But if this response is a reflection of her perception of life (and I have every reason to believe that it is), she doesn't at this point equate these differences with disadvantages, either for herself or for us. I'm not intending to imply that my family no longer struggles with the consequences of blindness, both real and imagined. We do, as does everyone who is blind or associates with the blind.

But I am saying that if we lay the groundwork well that is, if we provide equal, although not necessarily identical, opportunities to blind and sighted youngsters (for example: Braille rather than print, a model rather than a one-dimensional picture, verbal rather that visual instruction to be imitated, etc.); and if we see blindness as a characteristic rather than a handicap, living our lives in such a way that the inconveniences blindness causes are seen as nuisances (no more, no less) our children, from babyhood on, will internalize that attitude, and the result will be that we will raise blind and sighted children who will expect to live and work as equals, and our society will change. You and I, both singly and as a unified voice in the National Federation of the Blind, have the opportunity to share in that exciting process.



by David Hyde

This article is reprinted from the Fall, 1988, issue of the Oregon Outlook, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. David Hyde is the President of the NFB of Oregon.

It was Samuel Johnson who said, Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. I am reminded of this quotation whenever I think about the state of education for blind children in our public schools today. Many, if not most, blind children who work their way through the public schools emerge with few of the skills necessary for survival in the predominantly sighted world. Many cannot read fast enough to do day-to-day work. A great number cannot do simple math without a calculator or computer. Still more cannot travel without a sighted guide, and many (I am tempted to say most but lack sufficient data to do so) function well below their age level. A blind preschooler in Roseburg, Oregon, sees a special education teacher for two hours each month. In a headstart program, this same child would receive twenty hours of enriched instruction each week. A blind first grader receives instruction in Braille for one hour each week while sighted classmates spend a significant part of every day reading print. The blind child is told that physical education is beyond him, while sighted children are encouraged to participate in team sports and in other team- building activities. The blind high school student learns that his papers need not be submitted on time since, after all, it is more difficult for him to write them. Sighted youngsters in the same class receive lower grades for turning in late homework. Teachers do not expect blind students to complete their assignments well; completing them at all is sufficient. Most of us recognize that all education is not what it used to be. It should be made clear, however, that the education of blind children is worse than ever. Students with residual vision are taught to read large print and are indoctrinated with the idea that print is the normal way to read and, conversely, that Braille is abnormal. These children believe that they are better off than, and therefore superior to, the totally blind students who read Braille. Of course, it necessarily follows that they believe that they are worse off than and not as good as children with normal sight.

Why is this information so false and damaging? First of all, a blind student who has had the opportunity to learn Braille reads about as fast as the sighted student reading print. In the second place, most partially sighted students using large print read slowly and with agonizing effort. Also, Braille is much more portable than a seventy-five pound camera and the closed circuit television used by many partially blind students. With proper training totally blind students who use canes are able to travel more efficiently and safely than many partially sighted students who do not. Partially or totally blind students who use all of the techniques available to them have a wider range of accomplishments than those who try to pass as sighted. Think back, those of you who have ever worked with a competent blind person and have seen him or her deliver a speech. The speech was probably written in Braille, and the person was able to look at the audience while reading the text. Often speeches delivered by partially sighted people are (when they are read at all) read from several sheets of paper held two inches in front of the speaker's nose, or from the screen of a closed circuit television. Would George Bush or Michael Dukakis be as effective at twenty words a minute or even forty or sixty? On the other hand, remember that in 1976 the seconding speech for Vice Presidential candidate Robert Dole was delivered by a blind woman, Peggy Pinder. The speech was written and read in Braille and, by the way, not delivered at twenty words per minute. Training in alternative techniques is essential for all blind people, whether or not they have any residual vision. Without such training, we set them up to fail. As parents, teachers, or Braille students, you must think about the education you or your students received or are receiving. Let us not forget Samuel Johnson. His words too often apply to the educational system today in its approach to and attitude about blind and visually impaired students.



by Barbara Pierce

Lee Brown, President of Enabling Technologies, Inc., of Stuart, Florida, makes no bones about it. The field of technology (particularly, technology for the blind) has been good to him. He has made money, and he says that he feels some obligation to insure that if possible the field continue to provide improved products and services to blind people. He believes, however, that this should be done in a context of undiminished profits. The free enterprise system encourages (or should encourage) such energy and initiative. There have been a number of people and companies in recent years that have tried their hand at making money while providing technology and service in the blindness field. But the same economic pressures that have caused airline consolidations have also had an impact on technology providers. There are still a few small (and even smaller) enterprises in the picture, each scrapping for a corner of the market, but the number is shrinking. Although the American Foundation for the Blind, the American Printing House for the Blind, and perhaps one or two others have been players in the technology game for a long time and although newer companies like Boston Information and Technology (see article in this issue) are coming on strong, increasingly the center of the high-tech stage in the blindness field has been dominated by the big three: Enabling Technologies, Telesensory Systems, Inc. (TSI), and VTEK (formerly Visualtek). Over the past few years these three companies have been the subject of constant rumor and speculation their stability, or lack of soundness; their financial strength, or impending bankruptcy; their relations (whether friendly or hostile with each other); and anything else you might care to mention. Recent developments make it necessary for the Braille Monitor to dip into this morass of complexity to seek answers to troubling questions. Technology is increasingly important to the blind. In one way or another it plays a central part in the lives of all of us. Therefore, we cannot be unconcerned when mergers, the disappearance of long-established producers, and the shuffling of products and markets call into question the basic structure of the system.

The Demise of Maryland Computer Services, Inc.

Lee Brown is perhaps the most active single player on the high-tech stage in the blindness field today. How much money he has made and whether he has damaged or enhanced the lives of blind people are matters of controversy and speculation. Deane Blazie, owner of Blazie Engineering and one time President of Maryland Computer Services (MCS), is obviously still disgruntled about the part which Brown played in the takeover of MCS in May of 1986. He maintains that Brown snapped up MCS and walked away with assets and technology worth tens of thousands of dollars. He also accuses Brown of bleeding off funds from Enabling Technologies (Brown's own company) and leaving creditors with unpaid bills totaling at least $200,000. Blazie implies that Brown can get away with this because creditors hesitate to deal as rigorously with a blind man as they would with a sighted counterpart. Readers should know that Blazie and Brown have recently settled a lawsuit, which has dragged on for almost two years, in which Brown accused Blazie of fraud, and Blazie demanded the $20,000 still owed him from the MCS settlement. Each party maintains that he could probably have won if the case had come to trial. But Blazie says he didn't want to pour more money into lawyers' fees, and Brown says that he (Brown) is basically just a nice guy. In the court settlement Brown agreed to pay Blazie $2,500 and give him a Braillo printer, for which MCS originally paid $45,000.

Lee Brown's version of the Maryland Computer Service deal differs widely from Blazie's. He maintains that his primary impulse for stepping in to save the company was a desire to protect the technology users who would have been left high and dry if MCS had gone under in May of 1986. Brown says that the bank held a note for $350,000 at that time and was talking about liquidation proceedings. Enabling Technologies, according to Brown, stepped in to guarantee the note and find someone to buy it. When, almost a year later, MCS did close, Brown and company (according to Brown) were left to pay off the note. In the meantime they had paid nearly $200,000 for technology including that for the Romeo printer, which, according to Brown, needed to have eighty percent of its parts reworked. Blazie hotly denies this statement, maintaining that the Romeo was about ready to market. By Brown's reckoning, then, Enabling Technologies has nothing but headaches to show for having tried to rescue MCS. Their debt load provides a monthly reminder, according to Brown, of the cost of doing good. Regardless of Brown's protestations about his losses, no one can dispute the fact that Maryland Computer Services is no more. What is left of its assets belongs to Enabling Technologies, which paid off Blazie's ex-partner with a block of preferred stock and settled in court to pay Blazie in cash and equipment.

In passing, Brown notes that MCS's books were in such chaos by May of 1986 that no one really knew how much debt existed. Up until ten months before, MCS had had accurate financial records prepared by independent accountants. Brown says that he simply misjudged the extent of the managerial and financial confusion that had crept in since the audit the year before. In his defense he explains that his people had to assess the situation and make their decision very quickly. When the dust settled, Brown says that he was facing twice as much debt as he had expected to take on plus, as it turned out, not getting the Thiel distributorship.

The Adventure of the Thiel Braille Embosser

Something must be said here about Hans Thiel and the Thiel Braille Embosser. MCS, before its demise, had been the U.S. distributor for the Thiel. Blazie says that there was never a contract governing this arrangement, only an understanding. Other people report, however, that Thiel never does any business without drawing up a contract, and, though the confidentiality constraints of the lawyer-client relationship did not allow Thiel's attorney to provide the Monitor a copy, a source close to Hans Thiel said that a contract with MCS had been used as a model in drawing up Thiel's most recent agreement with an American distributor. When Enabling Technologies (the eventual producer of the Marathon Braille printer, which is something of a competitor with the Thiel) began expressing interest in buying MCS, Hans Thiel started looking for another distributor. Blazie says Thiel presumed that Lee Brown wanted to stifle sales of the Thiel and, at the same time, help himself liberally to the Thiel technology in order to speed the development of the Marathon. So Thiel eventually negotiated an arrangement with VTEK (See the Braille Monitor for November, 1986, and February, 1987.) A source close to Thiel says that, in preliminary negotiations, Brown ruined his chances of getting the Thiel contract by trying to take advantage of Thiel.

In any case, Brown reports that, if he had had the least idea in May of 1986 that distributing the Thiel was not to be part of the package Enabling Technologies was buying, the deal would not have gone through, stranded MCS users notwithstanding. He says that he has now seen a telegram that Thiel sent to Blazie and his partner in early May of 1986 which clearly said that Thiel was severing his relationship with MCS as of that time. Brown maintains that, even if there were no written contract, such notification demonstrates that an agreement to distribute Thiel printers had existed and that he was quite consciously prevented from learning of its cancellation.

Be that as it may, in July of 1986 Thiel signed a contract with VTEK to distribute the Thiel Braille Embosser in this country. From the start, Thiel was discontented with the way in which VTEK conducted business. (See the Braille Monitor for November, 1986.) Our information indicates that he has continued to be dissatisfied with VTEK's marketing and pricing of his product. Thiel has recently invested heavily in a large production facility in Ireland, which will turn out many more products than just the Braille embosser. Considering the weakness of the dollar against the deutsche mark, there is widespread speculation in knowledgeable circles that Thiel may be planning to set up his own distribution network in this country.

And Then There Was One

When the Braille Monitor asked Brown how he would characterize the financial health of Enabling Technologies today, he said, People in the field would tell you that we are just about bankrupt, but they've been saying that ever since I have been associated with the company. According to Brown, Triformation Systems, Inc. showed a loss in 1985. That was the year Brown took it over and formed Enabling Technologies by merging it with his hearing aid company and a military production concern he had bought in order to have access to its technical know-how. However, he was on the scene for only seven months of that year, and he says that in five of those seven months Triformation Systems showed a profit. In 1986 Brown says Enabling Technologies made a profit of about $150,000, and in 1987 approximately $122,000. Asked about the drop in 1987, Brown cited the TSI profit for that year as $24,000 on four times Enabling Technologies' volume of business. He doubts whether VTEK made any money at all in 1987, even though he says its 1986 profit neared half a million dollars. Brown's conclusion is that, at the moment, Enabling Technologies is the healthiest kid on the block.

As if to give substance to Brown's speculations, TSI announced on December 20, 1988, that (as of January 27, 1989) it was taking over VTEK. James Bliss (TSI's long-time controversial chief executive) will serve as President of the merged organization, and Larry Israel (VTEK's equally controversial long-time leader) is apparently out despite the fact that he will sit on the TSI board of directors as a minority stockholder. William Schwarz, TSI Vice President for Finance, will become, in addition, the manager of VTEK which will continue to operate, at least for the present, as a separate entity. The merger comes after years of fierce competition between the two companies. In the beginning, TSI concentrated on serving those who required technological alternatives to reading print visually, e.g. the Optacon and the VersaBraille. During the same period, VTEK focused on the closed-circuit television market. Then, in the early eighties, TSI bought Apollo Laser (thus challenging VTEK in the closed-circuit t.v. market), and VTEK responded by getting into the Braille end of the market with the Braille Display Processor (the BDP) and its own Braille embosser (the 'Mboss). Until the time of the merger it often seemed that each of the two was intent on destroying the other. According to Larry Israel, the two companies were almost evenly matched at the time of the merger exactly the same age and approximately the same assets. Now that the merger has taken place, the truly interesting question is: How was the deal financed? If Brown's $24,000 estimate of TSI's profit for 1987 is at all accurate, it is hard to believe that TSI had the resources to swing the deal. Bliss refused to comment on the accuracy of these figures. One of the members of the TSI Board is a venture capitalist, and he might conceivably have been interested in investing the necessary money. There is some speculation that TSI may be planning to go public in a year or two, if the fused company can be made to show a profit. In this scenario, Larry Israel, erstwhile leader of VTEK, would almost certainly have to wait at least a year for a substantial part of his payment. Those who know Israel doubt that he would be willing to do that no matter how eager he says he is to leave active, day-to-day management. Jim Bliss says that the merger was financed with TSI funds exclusively. Israel maintains stoutly that TSI's commercial bank advanced the money for the deal and that VTEK's would have done so if asked. The name of Xerox, however, continues to be whispered as a possible source of the capital. Israel denies this suggestion, and Bliss agrees, saying that he would be delighted if Xerox were interested. Lee Brown says that he knows enough about Xerox's way of operating to be confident that if Xerox were a part of the deal, someone from the corporation would now be sitting on the TSI Board. So far as we can tell, no one is. And yet TSI and VTEK employees continue to wonder and whisper.

Apparently they also continue to look for jobs elsewhere. Before Christmas, 1988, Brown says that Enabling Technologies was receiving telephone calls of inquiry almost every hour from people who were nervous about their jobs or about TSI's soundness or both.

One of the most troubling aspects of this merger is the fate of the closed circuit television market, now that the two most serious competitors are joining forces. An ongoing price war between the two has recently benefited consumers. Presumably there will now be a single retail price with a few state and educational discounts, and that will be that. Monopoly in this field looms on the horizon not just in the closed-circuit television market but elsewhere. Bliss denies this, pointing to Coburn and Obelec as closed-circuit television producers still in the American market. But their share is small, and neither has the marketing capacity to step into the vacuum created by the merger. Enabling Technologies has a competing product on the drawing board, but Brown says he now has so many other irons in the fire that he is not sure he can commit the funds necessary to prevent the monopoly. Israel joines Bliss in pooh-poohing the dangers of monopoly, pointing to the world market as the true field in which all these technology companies are necessarily competing. The TSI-VTEK share of the international market is far from monopolistic, say Bliss and Israel, so American fears are groundless, even absurd. The concern, however, is real. Already, says Brown, customers have called him expressing their worries.

Before any possible monopoly can materialize, however, TSI will have to iron out some very real problems of its own. The consensus is that roughly fifty percent of the closed-circuit t.v. sales are made by a half dozen or so representatives of the two companies. In regions like Washington, D.C., where two of these have been pitted against each other, there may well no longer be sufficient sales volume to satisfy two hotshot salesmen despite the inevitably higher prices which lack of competition will allow.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

In order to understand the next chapter in the Enabling Technologies saga, we must go back to June of 1984 when Lee Brown was still only a member of the Board of Triformation Systems. At that time the company found it financially necessary to sell its Braille production division, Triformation Braille Service (TBS).

The buyer was Arthur Kleinpell, a member of a wealthy Florida family with substantial real estate holdings. Kleinpell had been a large stockholder and member of the Triformation Systems Board, and Guy Carbonneau (then President of Triformation Systems) was less than fond of Kleinpell and company. (See the Carbonneau correspondence reprinted in the April-May, 1985, Braille Monitor).

Kleinpell seemed confident that he could make TBS a profitable operation, but it wasn't long before he found himself tripping over the following provision in Public Law 89-522:

In the purchase of books in either raised characters or in sound reproduction recordings, the Librarian of Congress, without reference to the provisions of Section 3709 of the revised statutes of the United States (41 USC 5), shall give preference to nonprofit-making institutions or agencies whose activities are primarily concerned with the blind and other physically handicapped persons in all cases where the prices or bids submitted by such institutions or agencies are by said Librarian, under all circumstances and needs involved, determined to be fair and reasonable.

What this means when we cut through the verbiage is simply this:

If a nonprofit organization does not bid more than ten percent higher than a profit-making competitor, the contract goes to the nonprofit organization. One would think it would be the other way around since the nonprofit organization does not have to pay taxes and is usually the recipient of charitable gifts and bequests. However, the government has never held itself out as a proponent of logic.

But be that as it may, TBS (though usually the lowest bidder) lost book-production contracts from NLS and money for its stockholders. In the summer of 1987 Kleinpell (in what can only be called a novel maneuver) converted TBS from a profit to a nonprofit organization. The state of Florida recognized it as such, and, after some reflection, so did NLS. Unlike the other Braille publishing houses, TBS did not bother to file for tax exempt status under Section 501�(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code. Public Law 89-522 (the NLS statute) did not specifically require it, using instead the general term nonprofit, and NLS's General Counsel determined that Congress had intended that state certification was sufficient to establish nonprofit status. Each state's laws establish the provisions which its corporations must meet in order to qualify as nonprofit. Whether or not a corporation has also applied for and received tax exempt status is, according to the NLS General Counsel, apparently immaterial.

TBS's new status did not have the results for which Kleinpell had hoped. True, NLS contracted to have TBS produce in Braille 200 books and six magazines in 1988. But it was clear to competitors that Kleinpell was subsidizing his production costs. A spokesman at the American Printing House for the Blind reported that, in one instance, the Printing House could not even have purchased the paper to do the job for the amount of Kleinpell's bid. More than one person suspected that TBS was trying to drive everyone else out of the market.

Kleinpell denies the charge, and Lee Brown agrees. His theory is that Kleinpell wanted to become the best Braille producer in the field. For a while he did so and, by losing money in the process, he created a convenient tax loophole for himself and the profits from some of his other ventures. Brown believes that Kleinpell soon got bored and decided to get out. Whatever his motives may originally have been, he soon decided to cut his losses. In August of 1988 Lee Brown and two partners announced that they had purchased Triformation Braille Service. Many have wondered how one goes about buying a non-profit organization. What do you purchase? Without the possibility of making a profit, why would you bother?

Brown insists that Enabling Technologies is not involved with this maneuver, that it is an individual action by him and his partners but it is hard to separate the man from his endeavors. The other Braille printing houses (National Braille Press and the American Printing House for the Blind, at least) say that they are not troubled by Brown's acquisition. They say that since he has less working capital than Kleinpell, they think that bidding on NLS contracts will probably be fairer than with Kleinpell. Brown clearly has his hands full. The 1989 NLS contracts have now been announced, and TBS lost fifty books and has been awarded a demonstration contract to produce only one magazine, Psychology Today. This slap on the wrist is due, Brown says, to the state of chaos into which the previous management allowed TBS to sink. Monitor readers who receive the Braille edition know firsthand how far behind during the last days of the Kleinpell regime the production of magazines had fallen. Mailing lists also seem to have been scrambled, and no one was happy with the results. Brown reports that these problems were readily corrected as soon as he took over. He says that almost all of the same supervisory and production staff who were working at TBS when the problems were so acute are still there. The personnel could always do the job, he says. It was management that was faulty.

When the question, Why did you acquire Triformation Braille Service? was put to him directly, Brown admitted that he wants to be able to influence the amount and type of Braille produced in the United States. As a Braille user himself, he says that he feels strongly that there is not enough Braille in circulation today. He is particularly interested in seeing that more information about business, law, and computers becomes available to Braille readers. He can do this both by the decisions he makes at TBS and by working to find grants to fund pet production projects. All this is laudable of Brown. Unquestionably we need more Braille, and we must encourage people to use it. Two very effective ways to accomplish these goals would be for Brown to keep his prices low and to increase the variety of Braille material available. He says he will do both. The follow-through on this commitment will not only test Brown's sincerity but also the quality of his business acumen. Moreover, it will clarify the picture in the whole field of technology for the blind. Both danger and opportunity lie ahead for the blind of the nation in this thrust and counterthrust in the snarled jungle of technology. Not all of the producers on the scene today will survive, nor should they. If we are lucky, new producers will also enter the picture. The rough and tumble of the free enterprise system has always provided an efficient mechanism for determining who is strong enough to thrive and the consumer has profited as a result.

Of course, the contest is frequently unfair, and innocent bystanders (in this case, blind consumers of technology) can be hurt. This is a very real danger. If the shakedown results either in monopoly (with its soaring prices) or cutthroat competition (with its chaos), the blind will lose. The corner of the technology market that meets our specialized needs is too small for market forces alone to protect our interests in the long run. The blind of the nation must be vigilant and informed. We must be strong enough (this is one of the reasons why we have the National Federation of the Blind) to insist that technology producers listen to us and work with us to develop the products and systems we need to assist us on our way toward freedom. Our strength must be sufficient to convince them that it is in their best interest to pay attention to our opinions. We must always remember and make producers understand that equipment is meant to serve, not to save. Purveyors who suggest that salvation for blind people resides in their boxes or on their diskettes are actually offering us bondage. If we believe them, we are doomed. Like fire, technology can bring warmth and comfort, or it can destroy us. We are the ones who must choose, for we must live with the consequences.



Santa Monica, California

April 6, 1988

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

Quite some time ago VTEK instituted a program of offering each of our customers a free membership (that is, we would pay the first year's membership cost) in their choice of one of the various national membership organizations for blind and/or low vision people. As a result, after we receive the choice cards from our customers, we periodically remit their names, addresses, and our check for first-year dues to the appropriate organization which they have selected. In each case we thought we had cleared this procedure with the respective organization. Recently one of our staff people, Ms. Toni Tanner, said that you had implied that the money we forwarded to you for those people choosing NFB membership ($10 per person) was being treated by NFB as a donation, rather than as first-year membership dues for those people (or, perhaps, she inferred that without any implication by you).

Is this information correct? If so, it appears that we may have had a misunderstanding since the beginning of this program, and we have inadvertently been communciating misinformation to our customers. If that's the case, we'd like to quickly learn what the NFB annual membership dues are for new members and whether we can (with your permission) continue our program along the line we had believed was the case (i.e., where we send you the annual dues and the name/address for a new member). Thank you for your prompt response to this letter.

Very truly yours,

Larry Israel, Chairman

Baltimore, Maryland
April 14, 1988

Mr. Larry Israel, Chairman
Santa Monica, California

Dear Mr. Israel:

This will reply to and thank you for your letter of April 6, 1988, regarding our membership policy. We suggest that blind persons who wish to be members of the National Federation of the Blind join through a division or a local or state affiliate, not directly as members at large through the National Office. Sighted persons who wish to be members at large may do so for $1 per year. For that matter, there is no rule which would prevent a blind person's joining in this manner, but it is hard to see why any blind person would want to. Members at large are asked to become Associates for $10 or more. This allows them to contribute much in the way that other members of the organization do by making contributions through the PAC (Pre-Authorized Check) Plan, but the $10 contribution has nothing to do with dues or being a member. In this connection I herewith enclose an Associate form. As you will see, it clearly states the cost of dues for members at large. These forms are available (as I am sure you know) in great abundance at NFB conventions and otherwise. Since membership in our organization means more than just money and since dues are deliberately kept to a nominal amount, it seems inappropriate for an organization to purchase memberships for blind persons. In a way it is a contradiction of what membership in the NFB is all about. VTEK is, of course, free to make cash contributions to us if it chooses but not as a means of purchasing memberships for blind persons. It is our feeling that blind persons who want to join us should handle payment of their own dues.

I hope this clarifies our policy and gives you the information you want. Thank you again for writing me and for any past contributions which you or VTEK may have made.


Kenneth Jernigan
Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind

Santa Monica, California

May 16, 1988

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

Thank you for your thoughtful letter of April 14. I respect and accept NFB's position regarding its own membership policies. Since this is at odds with the program we had established, it seems most appropriate for us to immediately change our program so that we do not mislead any of our customers. We expect to continue to offer to our customers the opportunity to join various other organizations, with the first-year membership paid by VTEK, but will promptly remove NFB from the list.

In the past we have been sending to your office the names and addresses of people who thought they were going to become members of NFB, along with our contribution (which we thought was a first-year membership fee). In fairness to those people we need to correct this misunderstanding. Before we write to them, could you please advise me if NFB has had any communication with those people, or has utilized those names in any way or added them to NFB's data base? That information would be important so that we can communicate clearly and unequivocally with those people. Thank you for your attention to this request.


Larry Israel, Chairman

P. S. Should the NFB change its views on this topic, we would be delighted to include NFB within the program again.


Baltimore, Maryland
May 31, 1988

Mr. Larry Israel, Chairman
Santa Monica, California

Dear Mr. Israel:

This will reply to and thank you for your letter of May 16, 1988. If you will send me a list of the names and addresses you have forwarded through the years, I shall be happy to try to determine whether the people involved are members at large of the National Federation of the Blind. Of course, some of the people whose names you sent may in the meantime have become members at large by paying dues, or they may have become members of the organization by joining local chapters, state affiliates, or divisions. In any case our policy is that membership in the National Federation of the Blind is meant to be individual and significant. I appreciate the tone and spirit of your letter and your wish to cooperate with us.


Kenneth Jernigan
Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind

Santa Monica, California
June 8, 1988

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

Regarding your letter of May 31, I appreciate your offer of trying to determine whether the people whose names we have previously sent to you are currently members of the NFB. I do not want to put you to that kind of effort, and I can see my question was misunderstood. My question was not directed at asking you to undertake the effort of reviewing the current status of each of those names individually but rather at determining what you had done in general with those lists we sent you each month. It seems from prior correspondence that you clearly did not automatically make them members at large without further action by them. What I was inquiring about was whether you used those names in any other way, such as by adding them to your data base of interested persons, or soliciting them for membership or the like. If that information is available, we'd appreciate knowing. As noted above, no individual review of the names by the NFB is necessary. Thanks again for your attention to this.

Very truly yours,

Larry Israel, Chairman
Baltimore, Maryland

June 14, 1988

Mr. Larry Israel, Chairman
Santa Monica, California

Dear Mr. Israel:

This will reply to your letter of June 8, 1988. We do not add the name of any person to our membership list unless that individual has indicated a wish to be a member, and (unlike some groups) we do not claim members beyond the time they have indicated they wish to be members. As you may know, it has been alleged that once your name gets on the list of some organizations, you can't get it off. We do not follow that practice. Let me be sure that I am making myself absolutely clear. If an individual registers at our convention, that name is retained for future reference, but it is not added to our membership list. If an individual's name is added to the list to receive the Braille Monitor, that is all that happens. That person is not counted as a member unless he or she has indicated a wish to be a member. We may have people (and we certainly do) who read our magazine and are not in agreement with our policies. Likewise, individuals may attend our convention and may not at all favor what we are doing. They may be there to observe, to get information so that they can oppose what we are trying to accomplish, to demonstrate and sell aids and appliances, or to satisfy their curiosity. If they come, we ask them to register. This seems only fair. After all, our special hotel rates are available to them, and it does not seem right to sneak into a group and not let people know you are there.

But all of this has nothing to do with membership. It does not seem honest to claim that people are members simply because they read your publication or come to one of your meetings. According to this reasoning every time I visit a Catholic church or a Jewish synagogue I can expect to be listed as a member; and every time I sign up to read a left-wing or right-wing newspaper, it will be announced that I am one of the party faithful. It is just as bad, it seems to me, to blur your procedures so much that (even though you may not do it technically) you give the impression that everybody who has contact with you is a member. Except when we think it is not in our best interest, we accept gifts from anybody who wants to give them, but we do not then claim that those donors are members not, that is, unless they know they are signing up and indicate that they want to do it. You, as an example, might (assuming you wanted to) make a gift to the NFB, but this would not necessarily mean that we agree with your policies or what you do or that you agree with us. As you know, we felt that it was unwise for us to accept a scholarship from you and VTEK. This did not necessarily imply criticism. It simply meant that we thought the wrong signal would be sent to the blind community if we did it. There was also the matter that our smallest scholarship is $1,800.00 and that the one you were offering was considerably smaller than that. Again, we thought the wrong signal would be sent if we began administering and giving scholarships of that size. Nevertheless, you will remember that at the same convention that we declined the scholarship we invited you to speak on the program and treated you with courtesy. We thought blind people should know about your products and in your own words. Since that time (as you also know) we have carried announcements about your products in the Monitor, which is the largest circulation magazine in the blindness field. I have not meant to belabor this issue, but I think our practice needs to be spelled out in unmistakable terms. There is a difference between ethics and expediency, between struggling for a short-term advantage and having the judgment to take the long view, and between membership dues and contributions. We believe we understand the differences, and we try to practice what we preach.


Kenneth Jernigan
Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind

P. S. As I review our correspondence concerning the matter of memberships, it seems appropriate to make one further comment. If the past names you have sent us are those of people who have told you or your representatives that they wanted to be NFB members, it would be perfectly proper to enroll them as members. However, we take the matter a step further since we believe that membership should be serious and meaningful. We do not enroll people as members on a blanket basis, nor do we do it through third parties. That, perhaps, is one more reason why the Federation is the strongest and most respected organization in the blindness field today.



by Kenneth Jernigan

Recently I was introduced to the Talkman VI, and it caused me to write this article. Let me say at the outset that I think this combination tape player/tape recorder/radio is one of the most serviceable devices I have encountered. It is produced by Boston Information and Technology, a name more and more blind people are coming to recognize. And when we think of Boston Information and Technology (BIT), we think of Mohymen Saddeek, its owner and principal spokesman.

Saddeek is a quiet man, unobtrusive and soft-spoken. I first met him two or three years ago and found that he had been coming to NFB conventions for several years. Born in Egypt and widely traveled, he makes his home in Massachusetts, and he produces some of the most useful and innovative technology now available to the blind. His Talkman VI, for instance, is 5-1/2 by 3-1/2 by 1-1/2 inches and weighs only eight ounces. In this miniature package (which comes with belt clip) are housed an AM/FM radio and a tape recorder/tape player. There is a built-in speaker and also a headphone jack. The unit operates on either AC (there is an adapter that plugs into the wall) or on two double A batteries. The tape player will handle Library of Congress books (four tracks) and will also play stereo cassettes. It has a very effective variable speed function and a tone control to help minimize distortion. It will record only on two tracks, but it will do it at either slow or fast speed. Of course, it will also play at either slow or fast speed, and on four tracks. The price of the Talkman VI (including AC adapter) is $205. Without adapter it costs $190. Admittedly this is a good deal of money, but the performance is excellent. Headphones and instructional cassette come as part of the package. There are also a Talkman V and a Talkman IV. Neither of these units has a radio. Both will play on four tracks at either slow or fast speed, and both have variable speed regulators. The Talkman IV costs $175 with adapter and $160 without.

Saddeek was present at the World Blind Union meeting in Spain last September. I saw him in Montreal last summer at the AER meeting, and as I have already said, he is a regular exhibitor at the NFB conventions. I always visit his display if I can find the time because I know I will find interesting products, a friendly welcome, and a lack of exaggerated claims. He is developing what he calls a talking wallet, which is about the size of one of the small Sharp calculators and will verbally identify the different denominations of bills. He says that the talking wallet should be on the market no later than this summer. The first 2,000 will be marketed through the American Foundation for the Blind, after which they will presumably be generally available. The cost is scheduled to be something over $400 per unit, but hopefully this will go down as sales continue. Saddeek also sells an electronic distance measurer, which can be pointed at a wall or a ceiling and will give you the distance. He sells a bread-making machine and a variety of other items. For information or to make orders, call toll-free (800) 333-2481 or write: Boston Information and Technology, 52 Roland Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02129. The Talkman VI can also be ordered through our aids and appliances department here at the National Center for the Blind. These are exciting days in the development of technology for the blind.



As Monitor readers know, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek (founder of the National Federation of the Blind) died on March 27, 1968. A whole generation of blind people has grown to adulthood during the years since his death, and thousands of Americans (members of the National Federation of the Blind) have come to terms with blindness and society's attitudes about blindness in these twenty-one years. All of us owe Dr. tenBroek a profound debt of gratitude, for it was his wisdom and vision that first gave blind people the courage to dream of freedom and the strength to build our own future. At the spring, 1988, convention of the National Federation of the Blind of California, Federationists celebrated Dr. tenBroek's life and work. The guest speaker for this anniversary Memorial was Michael Tigar, who during the 1960's was Professor tenBroek's student at the University of California in Berkeley. In her introduction of Mr. Tigar, Sharon Gold, President of the NFB of California, said:

Michael Tigar currently holds the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law. He has been a tenured member of the University of Texas faculty since 1983, and also participates in litigation on a regular basis. Before joining the University of Texas faculty, he was a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firms of Williams and Connolly, and Tigar and Buffone. He was Vice-Chairman of the Section on Litigation of the American Bar Association (1987-88), and is Chair of the Litigation Section of the American Association of Law Schools (1988). Mr. Tigar received his law degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He was first in his class, served as Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review , and was elected to the Order of the Coif.

He has taught and lectured at Yale, Harvard, the University of Michigan, the State University of New York at Buffalo, Georgetown University, UCLA, and on national, state, local and judicial conference programs. Mr. Tigar is the author of several books (most recently Federal Appeals: Jurisdiction and Practice published by Sheppard's/McGraw-Hill) as well as scores of articles and essays in law reviews and other publications. Mr. Tigar is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education programs.

We are delighted and honored to have Mr. Tigar with us today. I ask you to welcome Michael Tigar, distinguished attorney and scholar and, like us, Dr. tenBroek's student and friend.

When I learned that Jacobus tenBroek had died, I wept. So did all of you who knew him. Why did we weep? Not for him. He was beyond the power of our tears. If there is a hereafter, he would there be judged to use an expression that he favored a worthy citizen. We wept for ourselves, for what had gone out of our lives. Now, twenty years have passed, and perhaps our sense of loss is more muted, not quite so insistent and urgent. And yet, in that perspective, I see and know more of what Chick tenBroek contributed to me, to you, to generations of teachers and learners, and to the struggle for justice. Jacobus tenBroek, the teacher. I came to Berkeley in September 1958 as a freshman undergraduate. I wanted to be a lawyer. As a freshman, you had to take either English 1A-1B or Speech 1A-1B. I liked the sound of Speech. When I went to register, I was told that there was a prelaw section of this course, and I chose that one. Circumstance had brought me in touch with tenBroek. It turned out, of course, that the speech department had become what someone called a liberal arts college in microcosm. Besides the performance-oriented speech courses of a traditional sort, you could learn rhetoric and study Aristotle and Cicero. You would learn freedom of speech from those such as tenBroek and Coleman Blease and Al Bendich who took seriously the theories of Alexander Meiklejohn. tenBroek's prelegal class differed from other freshman speech courses partly in the nature of the material considered questions of man and authority, of equal protection, of freedom of expression. It differed because he taught by the Socratic method. Today, of course, most law professors claim to use the Socratic method, but they do not. They are afraid of what happened to Socrates. They are afraid really to be like Socrates, and to ask questions that expose prejudice, hypocrisy, and sloppy reasoning. But Professor tenBroek was Socratic in more than technique. He really compelled us to confront fundamental issues. In the University community, too, he was a fierce and formidable defender of academic freedom for students and teachers. If Socrates had had such a defender, Athens's hemlock supply would not have been depleted.

I can summon up easily the image of his class. Promptly at ten minutes after eight o'clock three mornings each week, he strode in, placed his cane in the chalk tray, took roll from Braille cards, and began with a challenge to one or more of us: Can you reconcile the seeming antinomy of Plato's Apology and Crito ? What did de Tocqueville mean in saying that a society which seeks equality will find liberty to be endangered? Out of the Supreme Court's words justifying the World War II restrictions on the Japanese, what were the central assumptions which had to be made to reconcile such an interference with the constitutional guarantees of freedom of movement, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and equal protection of the laws? As students, we wrestled with these questions, and also with those posed by Milton's Aeropagitica and Mill's On Liberty , by the Smith Act cases, and by Alexander Meiklejohn's theory of free speech.

The rewards for our persistence were more questions, and unceasing pressure for deeper levels of insight. Are you sure of that reading? Haven't you overlooked the language two pages farther on? And we students were persistent, although perhaps (in reflection) not nearly so wise as we thought. Woven through the memory of our labor, however, is the voice and tone of Jacobus tenBroek questioning, arguing, challenging, nettling.

So he lives on in the work of those of us who studied with him. I had not been long his student when I learned that he had written on constitutional subjects. Thinking to gain some advantage in his class, I went to the library to find his work. This was, for me, a great part of the liberating influence of my education. This was the sort of stuff I had come to the university in hopes of finding. I had, after all, grown up in Glendale, where my Texas-born grandmother and New Orleans-born great-grandmother shepherded me to the Lake Street Baptist Church every Sunday. There in the library was tenBroek's co-authored article titled simply The Equal Protection of the Laws. Today, forty years after it appeared, it remains one of the most cited of all law review articles in the opinions of American appellate judges. This is a statement one can make with confidence in these days of computer legal research.

I discovered also his books, The Anti-Slavery Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment and Prejudice, War and the Constitution still recognized as the authoritative study on the Japanese relocation of World War II. Then, later when I was Editor-in-Chief of the California Law Review , I was able to work with him in preparation of a volume of essays on the law of the poor. He assembled a group of the most eminent legal scholars in America, contributed two lengthy essays of his own and worked with us on the Law Review to turn the entire symposium into a treatise on human rights. He had published pioneer work on the system of welfare law, forcing it to confront its discreditable origin as Elizabethan contempt for the destitute and vagabond, and inveighing against its implacable tendency to ravage the privacy and dignity of those subject to it.

Now, many people here knew Jacobus tenBroek because of his work with this organization and for the rights of those termed handicapped. I want to say that this work was of greater and more enduring worth because it was a part of his grand and consistent image of constitutional rights, an image that he shared, I must add, with Hazel, who was his partner every step of the way. tenBroek grasped, as no other scholar or lawyer of his generation, the essential meaning of equality in the constitutional sense. His was not the abstract and arid speculation grown so fashionable of late. His theory was rooted in the history of the Civil War constitutional amendments, adherence to which was exacted from the former slave states as a condition of re-entry into the life of the federal union. His theory recognized what Abraham Lincoln had known, that unless some commitment to equality came out of this great Civil War, the nation had no right to exist: It would have squandered the blood of its sons and daughters and traduced the promises made to the former slaves. The equal protection of the laws means that some differences are irrelevant for constitutional purposes. We must for almost every public purpose afford equal treatment without discrimination based upon race, or gender, or religion, or alienage, or physical handicaps. It was tenBroek's genius to see that the prohibition against invidious discrimination was offended as much by forbidding a blind person, on account of blindness, to sit on an airplane as it was by forbidding a black person on account of blackness.

But tenBroek also saw that if the analysis stopped there, the right that he so cogently termed the right to live in the world would be hollow and incomplete. People are different, in ways of which the law may take notice. Indeed, in order that all may live in the world in as much a semblance of equality as we can devise, these differences may and often must be taken into account. For black Americans, the right to live in the world means that government must redress the results of past discrimination. For women denied access for generations to large parts of the job market, the right means affirmative action programs that may include gender preferences. And for a blind person, that same right means that government is obliged to pass and enforce laws that ensure, for example, equal access to places of public accommodation, and through such things as white cane laws and laws about insurance and business ownership to the streets and byways and professions where other citizens travel and live and work.

Recognizing and honoring these differences is the essence of equal protection of the laws. Equal protection is not uniformity. It is not false equality. It is not charity. Last night I met two members of the Federation who will be attending Boalt Hall, tenBroek's law school, and I rejoiced. For today when reactionary voices seek to have us forget the lessons he helped to teach, their presence is welcome and needed in this profession of ours.

The reason that Jacobus tenBroek's work is so often cited is that it tells us this truth. It tells us based upon more than theorizing. It tells us based upon deep and compassionate study of the struggle for equality.

Because this study and struggle is the source of tenBroek's insight, its power is yet felt. And for this reason again, the memory of him fills up in some small measure our profound and enduring sense of loss and keeps us faithful to the causes for which he fought.



The following article was originally published in a 1987 issue of The Michigan Focus, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. It was reprinted in the January issue of Insight, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. It provides the parents of blind children with solid, no-nonsense advice. Braille readers are leaders, and kids with canes are kids with confidence. It would be well for everyone with responsibility and concern for blind children to reflect upon what is said here.

If one were unable to travel freely or retrieve and store information, it would be difficult to participate in society to any meaningful degree. Further, the more easily one is able to travel and communicate, the more opportunities for success one will find. Consider the people we generally think of as influential, successful, and admirable the President, senior corporate executives, celebrities, scientists, clergy, educators, and so on. All these successful people have two things in common:

They have well-developed communication skills, which they use effectively, and they travel widely in order to do their work.

Now consider what your blind child is learning or not learning in school: cane travel, Braille (with slate and stylus as well as with a Braille writer), typewriting, abacus, and handwriting. If your sighted child were not learning to read or write in the earliest grades, you would be asking some tough questions of the teachers and the school system. Your blind child is entitled to an equal opportunity for an adequate education. This means (at the very least and from the very beginning) reading, writing, and math.

For the blind child there are several essential skills:

What Your Child Needs:

A Checklist

My child is receiving or has received:

___ Braille Including instruction with the slate and stylus, beginning in pre-school with introduction to children's Braille texts such as Twin Vision Books.

___ Travel Instruction beginning in pre-school.

___ Keyboard Skills Beginning in second grade.

___ Abacus Beginning concurrently with two-column addition.

___ Penmanship Beginning letter identification as early as pre-school or kindergarten.

___ Home Economics With other students, doing the same assignments.

___ Shop/Industrial Arts With other students, doing the same assignments.

___ Physical Education/Sports With other students.



On Saturday, January 7, 1989, Paul Gabias and Mary Ellen Reihing were married at All Saints Catholic Church in Baltimore. Dr. Gabias, who received his Ph.D. in psychology from New York University, organized a chapter of the National Federation of the blind of Nevada in the Reno area in 1987 and served as its president until he moved to Colorado in the summer of 1988. During the 1987-88 school year Dr. Gabias taught psychology at the University of Northern Nevada, and he is currently an assistant professor at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo. Mary Ellen Reihing, the Assistant Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind and one of the most loved and respected members of the Federation throughout the country, needs no introduction to Monitor readers. Before coming to Baltimore she was employed as an assistant to the speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives; and before that, she worked at Nebraska Services for the Blind. Still earlier, she was one of the leaders of the movement in Ohio.

As the weekend of January 7 approached, members of the Gabias and Reihing families arrived from various parts of the country, as did a number of leaders of the Federation. Since Miss Reihing has worked so closely with the deaf-blind, she was particularly pleased by the fact that two deaf-blind people (Margaret Warren of Iowa and Gus Gisser of New York) were able to be present. After the wedding ceremony, which occurred at one o'clock in the afternoon, Dr. and Mrs. Gabias and the rest of the party (approximately 160 of them) came to the National Center for the Blind for the wedding dinner. It was a beautifully joyous occasion.

On the following day the Gabiases left Baltimore for a week of honeymooning at an undisclosed location. Dr. Gabias will finish the academic year in Pueblo, and Mrs. Gabias will (for the time being) continue to work at the National Center for the Blind.



by Joyce Scanlan

As Monitor readers know, Joyce Scanlan is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, and Executive Director of BLIND, Inc. (Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions). This article is reprinted from the Spring/Summer, 1988, issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, the newsletter of the NFB of Minnesota.

When you have occasion to dine out, what do you look for in a restaurant? Would you choose one close by or on a good bus line? Are you interested in a reasonable price? Would you rather eat in a hurry and be on your way, or would you prefer to have a leisurely dinner with smartly-uniformed waiters who will serve you in fine fashion? Depending on your personal preference, you have a wide variety of options from which to choose from self-service cafeteria to sit- down dining room, where your every wish is the command of the attentive staff. A blind person recently called the Minnesota office of the National Federation of the Blind to report a problem he had encountered with two chain buffet restaurants in the area. He said that he had been told by the managers that he was not to return to their establishments unless he brought someone to help him. His experience stimulated a seminar discussion at BLIND, Inc., our rehabilitation center in Minneapolis, of just what help is reasonable for a person to expect when eating at a buffet restaurant. The bill of fare offered by this self-service, all-you-can-eat for $5.75 restaurant chain consists of a salad bar, potatoes, selection of vegetables, breads, several choices of meats, dessert bar, and beverages. The food is generally excellent. When you arrive, you stand in line (if there is one) before paying. Then (picking up your tray, napkin, and silverware) you proceed through your choice of two food lines. The first question students asked was what help is available to customers in general at these buffets? There are people making sure the serving dishes are adequately filled; others are bussing trays and dishes from the tables; one is slicing and serving meat as people pass through the line; still others are assisting elderly people and children in carrying their trays from the line to their tables. Thus, there are several employees available to provide customer service.

Students speculated on all the possible areas in which a person who is blind might ask for help: guidance from the front door, through the line any number of times, to the restroom, to the table; assistance in buttering bread, cutting meat, carrying the tray, identifying or serving the food. It is conceivable that one person could request help in all of these areas. If that were the case, a restaurant would have difficulty maintaining adequate staff to provide the needed service while holding costs at a reasonable level. The advantages of a buffet restaurant are the price, the speed, and the quantity of food available. The trade-off is having fewer employees to provide service. The question arises of what problems blindness might present to a person wishing to enjoy the benefits of a buffet restaurant. Students decided that information was the central issue. Where does the food line begin? What does a specific serving dish contain? It is sometimes difficult to recognize the contents by touching them with a spoon or fork. Where are the vacant tables? We discussed techniques for carrying the tray while using a white cane and for recognizing various food textures. The consensus among the students was that, given certain basic information, which anyone could request, a blind person should be fully capable of handling all that is required at a buffet. Of course, the way in which the request is made is also an important factor. Making unreasonable demands is just as bad as rudely and obnoxiously requiring help or information.

A few days after this discussion, three blind people went to a buffet belonging to the same chain as the two restaurants from which the original caller had been excluded. They brought no one, blind or sighted, to help. They entered the restaurant, stood in line with many others, paid, picked up trays and other utensils, went through the line to get their food, and served themselves. Occasionally another customer would supply information or answer questions. From time to time, they were offered help by restaurant personnel. Did they wish assistance in getting desserts or beverages? (These were in separate lines from the main food area.) Would they like to have someone carry their trays to the table? All three made more than one trip to the dessert or beverage line; some visited the main line for seconds. Information was the only assistance they needed or accepted. When the three were about to leave, the manager, who had offered help several times, asked them if this was their first visit to his restaurant. They said that it was and that they had enjoyed it. They added that they would come again and would bring their friends. The restaurant employee replied that he hoped they would.

Yes, the buffet is an appropriate choice for a blind person who wishes to dine out. Each of us sets an example by which all of us are measured. The impression we create will inevitably affect us all. We must take responsibility for our behavior if we expect to enjoy the same rights as others. There is no reason why both blind and sighted patrons cannot enjoy buffet restaurants.



by Karen Mayry

As Monitor readers know, Karen Mayry is the energetic President of both the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind and the NFB of South Dakota. This article is reprinted from the January, 1989, issue of Insight, the newsletter of the NFB of South Dakota.

Recently, the relative of a man who has been blind for more than forty years called me. So what, you may say. To those of us who believe in the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, his condition is no particular problem. With proper training and alternative techniques, it can be reduced to a mere physical nuisance. But this is the crux of the tragic story I'm about to relate. This man grew up in a small farming community in South Dakota. As a child, he attended public school but was never able to read the blackboard and had to hold printed material within five inches of his face in order to see it. While he remained at home with his parents, his brothers and sisters grew up, went to college, found jobs, married, and lived perfectly ordinary lives. Some time after he finished school, he learned Braille; but when his mother died, he was relegated to a nursing home. My caller explained that since no one was able to take care of him, there was nothing else to be done. At the time, he was in his early forties; he is now in his mid-seventies.

What happened at the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, where this man enrolled for rehabilitation? Did he receive training in independent living skills? No. Where were the rehabilitation services of South Dakota? Did they provide this man with independent living skills? No. Was he one of the few who falls through the cracks, one of the handful not helped by state services? As we know all too well, there are more than a few individuals who never receive rehabilitation services despite the millions of tax dollars allocated by the state and federal government.

Even today some blind South Dakotans are trying to learn skills through the Prairie Freedom Center a program to teach the handicapped independent living techniques. Why? Where is the South Dakota rehabilitation agency? Shouldn't blind people be learning their skills through the very agency established to teach them? If we are finding individuals who have never mastered the alternative techniques of blindness (and we are), the question becomes, why?

It is a sad commentary on the whole rehabilitation system that South Dakota is not alone in its failure. Many state agencies around the country are not providing proper training for blind people. Often this failure stems from the fact that staff members do not really believe in the capacity of blind people, despite the presence of a few blind employees in the agency. But for the first time, we, the consumers of these services, have a choice. Three independent rehabilitation centers exist where people can get excellent training as well as confidence, self-reliance, and positive attitudes about blindness. The centers are: The Louisiana Center for the Blind, in Ruston, Louisiana; BLIND, Inc. (Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions) in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and The Colorado Center for the Blind in Denver, Colorado. There is also the excellent program at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind Orientation Center. These centers are staffed by sighted people who have learned correct attitudes about blindness and by successful blind people who believe that it is respectable to be blind. They have proven it to themselves and to the world around them through the wide variety of their personal and professional activities. Perhaps if these centers had existed thirty years ago, the man of whom I write and thousands of others like him would not have led such wasted lives.

With the onset of a new year, we in the National Federation of the Blind must strive to ensure that such catastrophes no longer occur. Every time we prevent one such tragedy, we provide yet another answer to the question, Why the National Federation of the Blind?



by Mary Ellen Gabias

As Monitor readers know, Mary Ellen Gabias (formerly Mary Ellen Reihing) is Assistant Director of the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program. She is especially knowledgeable about what it takes for blind persons really to be competitive in the job market. Here is what she had to say in the Spring/Summer, 1988, Future Reflections, the magazine of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind.

Literacy, broadly defined, is the ability to deal effectively with the written word. Sometimes this means creating well-organized, properly spelled and punctuated text. At other times, it means the ability to read and interpret the work done by others. For sighted individuals, literacy involves mastery of print communication whether it is done by pen, pencil, typewriter, or computer. For the blind, literacy involves mastery of a number of distinctly different systems. Braille is clearly the most analogous to print. It is the only system of literacy for blind people which permits the user to read, write, and review material rapidly and efficiently.

The major drawback to Braille is that there simply is not enough of it. It is estimated that far less than one percent of the information printed each year is made available in Braille. Therefore, blind people must integrate their use of Braille into a system of functioning which enables them to use print information.

If the required information is available in machine readable (computer) form, speech synthesis or conversion into Braille is possible and quite efficient. If not, the use of a human reader is still the most flexible and dependable technique for accessing print information.

To understand the proper role of the reader, we must begin by distinguishing between appearance and reality. Is the use of a reader an admission of dependency, or is it a viable method for increasing efficiency? The answer will depend on individual circumstances. Here are some general guidelines to consider. What is the nature of the job to be done? The amount of print reading, in and of itself, is less important than its purpose. For example, both a blind executive and a blind file clerk may require a great deal of reader time. Even so, it may be wise for the executive to get a reader and foolish for the file clerk to do so. The executive is hired to synthesize information and make decisions. The file clerk is hired primarily for the ability to read and sort print. By the time a file clerk trained a reader to do the necessary reading, that reader could do the entire file clerk job. A reader trained to work for an executive would not have the necessary background or experience to make executive decisions.

Can the necessary reading be done in definable blocks of time, or must it be spread intermittently throughout the work day? If a blind worker knows that a reader will be needed every Tuesday from eight in the morning until noon, planning is easy. If the worker needs readers for three minutes at a time, but those three minutes occur randomly, planning is more difficult. This does not mean that blind people cannot cope with flexible work assignments. A little ingenuity can turn a potential problem into an opportunity for increased efficiency for the whole organization.

Blind people preparing for jobs in the year 2000 cannot afford to ignore the issue of sighted readers. The computer will not remove the need. Neither will increased Braille literacy, though both will help blind people use the readers they have more efficiently. Blind workers must know where to find readers, how to work with them, and how to integrate their use into the job setting. The first day on a new job is not the time to learn these lessons.

Training programs which prepare the sighted for jobs are not designed to help blind people wrestle with these questions. Unfortunately, the rehabilitation programs for the blind often do not deal effectively with them, either.

Blind people learn about readers primarily through trial and error and by talking with more experienced blind colleagues. As is true with most blindness issues, the best solutions come from a philosophically consistent understanding of blindness and not from rigid rules. Here are a few examples of situations where the use of a reader has been an asset to everyone concerned. Mr. Jones was a high school English teacher. He had fifty or more papers to grade each night. He also had in-class assignments to supervise. His reading demands were quite heavy, but he found a way to use his need as a teaching tool. He carefully disguised the authorship of papers and used them to teach his students about grammar, punctuation, and style. The students gained a depth of understanding they would not have had if Mr. Jones had simply corrected their papers in red ink. Mr. Jones worked with a local college to find readers. He hired education students who wanted to know what teaching was really like. The students earned spending money and course credits while gaining experience. Mr. Jones got his papers graded. Mr. Charles worked as a maintenance mechanic in a large hospital. His job required that he read a log book. He was also expected to write in the daily log to keep coworkers informed of maintenance projects in progress. Since Mr. Charles could not see to read or write in the log book, other maintenance mechanics would read it to him at the beginning of the shift. When his shift ended, Mr. Charles would dictate his entries to the mechanic who relieved him.

Miss Winchester worked in an office where she was expected to analyze proposed legislation and report on its potential impact. She also answered telephones when the receptionist needed to be away from the desk. She hired a reader for major assignments, but occasionally she asked the receptionist to read short documents.

There was no dictaphone equipment in the office, so most staff members drafted their documents in longhand for the receptionist to type. Miss Winchester typed hers from Braille notes. Often her documents needed only minor corrections. Miss Winchester's methods saved work for the receptionist. Even so, she sometimes had trouble getting the receptionist to do reading. The receptionist seemed to believe that asking sighted coworkers to decipher their handwriting was part of the job, but reading aloud to a blind colleague was doing her a favor. Miss Winchester's efficiency suffered because of this artificial distinction. So did the overall efficiency of the office. The receptionist was astonished when Miss Winchester pointed this out to her. Once the receptionist began thinking in broader terms, Miss Winchester had no trouble getting reading done.

Mr. Jones, Mr. Charles, and Miss Winchester needed readers for different tasks. Mr. Charles needed minimal reading help. Mr. Jones needed a great deal. Miss Winchester needed readers frequently, but for brief periods. Each of them understood the necessity for keeping control and taking responsibility. Each thought carefully about how and when to use readers. Cost was not an issue in any of these cases. Mr. Jones hired his own readers and used volunteers when he could. Reading was such an incidental, although important, part of Mr. Charles' job that the few minutes it took to complete the log had no economic impact at all. Miss Winchester's alternative techniques saved the receptionist more time than Miss Winchester needed for reading.

Blind workers and their employers have found innovative ways to handle reading costs. The most effective approaches permit the blind person to retain control of the use of readers. Mr. Craig is an accountant for a large savings and loan. He hired, supervised, and paid accounting students from a local community college to read for him. In the interest of efficiency, his readers did certain clerical tasks which other accountants used the typing pool to do. His employer recognized that Mr. Craig's techniques were saving the company money. Therefore, they reimbursed him for part of his expenses. Mr. Curtis began work as a computer programmer before Braille or speech access to computers was practical. He hired people to read print-outs and computer manuals. Although the employer was willing to pay for readers, Mr. Curtis insisted on bearing the entire cost himself. The readers always knew that Mr. Curtis, not the company supervisor, was the boss. Later the company bought a speech terminal for Mr. Curtis. They also promoted him to management, which entitled him to some secretarial support. Mr. Curtis did not hesitate to ask his secretary to read to him. However, he still hired readers from time to time when his reading workload was heavy. Each of these individuals devised a strategy for using readers based on personal preference and the characteristics of the job. All of them began by understanding the use of readers as one more job skill. They resisted the temptation to think of their methods as inferior substitutes for sight. As a result, their overall performance was an asset to their employers.



Riverplace is an upscale shopping mall in Minneapolis, which has apparently been having difficulty getting and keeping well-heeled tenants. One of those tenants (or, more precisely, former tenants) was Rizzoli's International Bookstore, Inc., headquartered in New York. As reported in the October, 1988, Corporate Report Minnesota , Rizzoli's was not making any money and decided to duck out on its lease with Riverplace, first unobtrusively shipping most of its merchandise back to New York. Naturally, Riverplace wanted the money for the rest of the lease, so a lawsuit is now in progress.

What, one may wonder, does all of this have to do with blindness and the Braille Monitor? The first part of the article in the October, 1988, Corporate Report Minnesota says:

NEW YORK-BASED Rizzoli International Bookstore, Inc. and Riverplace of Minneapolis could have been compared to two blind men stumbling around in a closed room. Sooner or later, they were bound to bump into each other. When they did, both came away bruised.

Even a decade ago this sort of beginning for a magazine or newspaper article would have been rather commonplace, but our continuing effort to change public attitudes is showing definite results. Today such statements are less frequently made, and when they do occur, one or another Federationist around the country usually takes action. Such was the case in the present instance. Judy Sanders is the director of Congressman Gerry Sikorski's district office in Minneapolis. She is also President of the Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota. She takes both positions seriously. Under date of November 15, 1988, she wrote as follows:

Minneapolis, Minnesota

November 15, 1988
Corporate Report Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dear Editor:

In your October issue Bruce Rubenstein wrote an article about Rizzoli's leaving Riverplace. He made an analogy comparing businesses to two blind men stumbling around in a room who will inevitably run into each other.

I am a blind person who takes exception to that analogy. The National Federation of the Blind spends a great deal of time trying to educate the public about the fact that blindness does not mean clumsiness or incompetence. This article, written without regard to the thousands of blind people who are trying to live normal lives in this country, made a comparison that makes our job more difficult.

Your readers have a right to know that blind people are no longer stumbling around, and we are no longer going to sit by while people write cute stories at our expense.


Judy Sanders, President
Metro Chapter
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota


This item appeared in the Fall, 1988, Future Reflections, the magazine of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind.

Just Enough to Know Better: A Braille Primer

Written by Eileen P. Curran, M.Ed.

Published by National
Braille Press, 1988

A Review by: Doris Willoughby

Parents of blind children realize that if they themselves learn Braille, they can be much more helpful and involved with their children's education. Too often, however, they are bogged down and intimidated by the regular manual for Braille transcribers. Lessons are long and detailed, with rather technical descriptions. Precise rules for arrangement on the page unimportant to the Braille code itself are emphasized. A thoroughly enjoyable new book from the National Braille Press changes all this. Short lessons are clearly presented in an easy-to-read style. Whimsical illustrations and clever wording add humor and a cheerful approach.

Practice passages of Braille text consist of articles which themselves promote positive attitudes: Braille, the Key to Literacy, from a speech by Bernadette Kobierecki, and A Report Card for the Teacher by Mary Ellen Reihing. (The latter is reprinted with permission from Future Reflections, Spring/Summer 1987.) Each passage is given in double-spaced Braille, with the intent that the learner will figure it out and pencil in the words above the corresponding Braille, workbook-style. When the page is turned, the same passage is then found in inkprint for verification.

All of the signs of Grade II Braille are presented, with the common punctuation marks and the numerals. Major rules of Braille usage are given, though not all exceptions and ramifications are explained.

Most of the Braille copy is in the form of actual raised dots rather than dotted inkprint representations. In a few places the Braille dots are a bit weak and uneven, but generally the quality of the dots is satisfactory.

Positive attitudes are emphasized. The Introductory page begins, Great Expectations Your child can learn to read and write, like you do... maybe better.

Those learners who do want to study all the technicalities of Braille transcribing can go on, fortified by this excellent primer, to the study of the regular transcriber's manual. Just Enough To Know Better is available at the reasonable price of $12.50 from:

National Braille Press, Inc.
88 St. Stephen Street
Boston, MA 02115


by Charlotte Verduin

Editor's Note: Charlotte Verduin delivered the following address July 2, 1988, during the Parents of Blind Children Seminar at the 1988 national convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago. Mrs. Verduin is an active NFB member and serves on the board of directors of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind.

My daughter, Cherranne, is eight years old. She enjoys listening to Alf on t.v., reading, and roller skating. She reads, and she does three-column addition and subtraction. She goes to school at our neighborhood public school. Cherranne has been blind since birth due to Retinopathy of Prematurity. That's Retrolental Fibroplasia in the old language. I lived through her infancy, babyhood, and preschool years, so that makes me an expert. How expert may be judged by the product. I hope my ideas that follow will help you in shaping your own best products. First, you need to think positive! I decided to have a can do baby even before I took her home. This was a mental outlook, a philosophy that became an approach; and even a baby picks up on confidence. There are two tips to increase confidence and decrease anxiety. First, learn about child development. It's a natural topic of conversation among family and friends. There are good books to help you: one called The First Twelve Months and another entitled Infants and Mothers . Both books include easy-to-read charts and show the sequence of your major developmental milestones. I found Parents' Magazine easy to read and very helpful, and it covers age ranges up to the teen-age years. Second, recognize that each child's timetable will be right. There is no normal child. Each child will progress through the many tasks of learning at an individual pace. The same child will learn some things fast and some things more slowly. In the mythical normal child, this is referred to as ranges of accomplishment. Such children are referred to as precocious, on task, or late bloomers. Because our children are blind, precocious and on task are usually overlooked. We don't have late bloomers; our children are delayed. Don't buy into this negative outlook.

The National Federation of the Blind emphasizes ability through alternative techniques. I have found that in parenting there are alternative techniques too.

There is a popular statistic out there that states that 70 to 80 per cent of learning is visual. If that has any value, to me it only shows the need to augment or replace visual methods with an alternative multi-sensory approach. How to do that? In infancy, Cherranne had an exciting crib. I paid attention to the texture of her toys. For example, she had two turtles... one was solidly stuffed terry cloth, bumpy and rough; the other was loosely stuffed and crocheted, soft and clutchable, good for sinking little fingers into and shaking! Cherranne's crib had bells, squeaky toys, a chime ball, a happy apple, and a music box. The chime ball and happy apple are both round and make noise. But one has a stem and leaves and a deep bell, and the other is smooth and round and has a tinkly chime. I filled her world with smells and odors... the stink of a new plastic toy hammer, a doll stuffed with potpourri. Bath time, meal time, and changing time are all full of smells, some pleasing, some not so pleasing. Sensory awareness on the parent's part shows the child how rich the world is. It leads the baby to interact with his or her surroundings. You can improve nursery rhymes, songs and games with actions. Baby doesn't have to see you reaching your arms up so big ; you stretch baby's arms out so big. It's the same game, but it's much more useful.

Talk about daily activities... Here comes the t-shirt over your head; first put in your left arm, now put in your right arm. These thoughts help to organize the baby's thoughts. The baby starts to look forward to things happening and the order in which they happen. The key in infancy, I thought, was interaction, not reaction. Bring your baby's attention to the world and spark that natural curiosity that babies have.

For toddlers, encourage exploration. You can utilize the child's trusting nature at this time to attempt new physical activities. Be brave, and teach your child to be brave. Toddlers love to help and imitate. Explain how to do things and get them involved. Toddlers can pick up toys and bring them to you. Toddlers can read along and turn pages with you. Every toddler under creation discovers the favorite toys pots, pans, and lids! Mixing bowls are really fine too. While they are having a thrilling time doing it myself, they learn all kinds of things about in and out, up and down, big and little, and so on. Continue talking about daily activities. More and more is being understood. Cherranne learned to do many things as we talked over the dishes. High up on a stool, wearing an apron that got soaked anyway, reaching into the soapy water, rinsing in the clear water, and stacking in the drainer, we noticed the differences between cups and plates and saucers, forks and spoons. She started counting, she even started adding before she was three years old. She took one fork in one hand and one fork in the other hand; how many forks did she have? She had two.

At this age the child recognizes order, sequence, and relationships. The key now is interaction with more purpose towards independence in daily living skills, social skills and mobility.

At preschool age, it is time for programs. Now is the time for involvement with other children. Infants and toddlers learn a lot from their parents and their family environment. But preschoolers begin to learn more and more from their playmates. Preschoolers are very proud to enlarge their world. It may begin about age two and never ends. It gets very intense at preschool ages. Answer your child's questions, and even sometimes before they ask questions. Also, turn the question around on the child, encouraging the child to use language to express his/her thoughts about the world.

Preschool is the time to begin Braille... learning to move from left to right on a page, going from the top to the bottom of a page, learning to turn pages in a book, recognizing simple shapes. Many preschoolers can learn to Braille their names at the same time as their sighted peers learn to write.

This brings me to a point of advice to parents. You may not want to hear it, but I think it is extremely important for you to learn Braille. I don't know how anyone can teach his or her child Braille, to help them go through school in any subject if a parent doesn't know Braille to catch the children's errors and help them out. Sighted parents can quickly learn Braille by sight. I took lessons for six weeks to learn Braille. The Library of Congress has a self-help Braille instruction book you can borrow from your regional talking book library. Cherranne is now in third grade, and as she learns a new sign in school, I learn it right along with her. I have enough basic understanding of Braille to keep up with her.

Preschool blind and legally blind children should absolutely begin to use a long white cane. There are two essential rules for cane travel. The first is the child's rule... The tip stays on the ground. If the handle is in the child's hand, and the tip is on the ground, you are never going to go wrong. The parent's rule is, The cane goes everywhere and the child uses the cane everywhere he or she goes. As Barbara Walker says, it's a whole lot easier to say it than to live it!

The key again at this age is interaction, but at this age, more often child-initiated.

We can produce independent, competent blind children. For society to recognize their value, we have to sell our product. We have to brag on our children and believe in your child's ability to be independent and give him or her every opportunity to advertise.



by Tami Dodd

Tami Dodd is Vice President of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind. She is currently teaching and working toward her doctorate in English at Michigan State University at East Lansing. Here is her account of recent activities in the Student Division.

During the past few months the National Federation of the Blind Student Division has experienced significant growth. Two new states have joined the ranks of NFB affiliates sporting statewide student divisions. This is a development of which we can all be proud and one in which I am pleased to have played a small part. Here's how it came about. Last July at the NFB convention in Chicago Michael Baillif (our Division President) and I met with Marilyn Womble, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, and a group of blind Floridians who were interested in forming a statewide student division. They wanted information about how this might be done, the advantages of such an organization, and the problems or obstacles they might encounter in the process.

Michael and I answered their questions to the best of our abilities, while stressing the value of a recognized student organization and collective action when pushing for crucial student goals, such as obtaining adequate levels of reader service funding and securing state agency sponsorship for students attending private colleges and universities. They left the meeting with some useful information and a determined commitment to carrying this project through. Melody Lindsey of Stetson University (a former NFB scholarship winner) spearheaded Florida's organizing efforts. With the support and assistance of Marilyn and other NFB-F members, she drafted and sent out a letter to blind students throughout Florida, discussing the need to form a state student division and inviting them to an organizing meeting to be held in conjunction with the NFB-F annual convention in Tampa. Along with other Florida students, she contacted, by phone, as many potential members as she could and encouraged them to participate. Then, in order to help get the fledgling division on its financial feet, she set up and coordinated a 50-50 raffle at the state convention, selling many of the tickets herself. As First Vice President of the NFB Student Division, I had the honor of attending the Florida convention and witnessing the birth of this new student chapter. Armed with a proposed constitution (which I had developed in concert with Melody and Marilyn) I flew to Tampa, met with the students who were there, and on Saturday, September 17, 1988, at the Holiday Inn Busch Gardens I conducted the meeting that established the Florida Association of Blind Students, an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. The new constitution was ratified, elections were held, and Melody Lindsey became the organization's first president. Later that evening Marilyn presented the new affiliate with its official charter. The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri Student Division came about in a rather different way. Both Michael Baillif and I had been contacted during the past few months by various members of the NFB of Missouri who were interested in getting a student chapter started in their state. Some wanted to be officially recognized on their college campuses, and others desired a means of networking with other blind students in order to exchange information and alternative techniques. All were committed to the philosophy and goals of the National Federation of the Blind and hoped to improve the situation of blind students within their state. We agreed that establishing a statewide student chapter would be an excellent way to start. All that remained was to wait for a suitable opportunity.

Fortunately for our hopes, an opportunity materialized in the form of Focus on Success, an array of seminars for blind children and adults, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, and Alternatives for the Blind in Living and Employment. This annual event, held in conjunction with the Missouri Bureau for the Blind, features a seminar for blind students and attracts participants throughout Missouri and even from other states. Michael and I were contacted about this event, and as Michael's proxy, I was asked to participate and work to establish a student chapter in Missouri.

So on Friday, November 11, I flew to St. Louis and caught a shuttle to the Downtown Clarion Hotel. I was joined there by our NFB Student Division Treasurer, Patti Gregory, and other members of the NFB of Illinois Student Division, who were also attending the conference. Throughout that first evening and Saturday we met and talked with students from various parts of Missouri and found their enthusiasm for organizing a student division almost universal. Other members of the state affiliate also provided support and encouragement. Then, on Sunday morning, following a breakfast hosted by the NFB of Missouri Columbia Chapter, NFB of Missouri President Gary Wunder and I initiated the first steps in establishing a new student affiliate. After a brief discussion of the benefits of organizing led by NFB of Illinois Student Chapter President Carla McQuellan and me, Gary and I presented a proposed constitution to the group and oversaw the subsequent elections. Frank Wozniak from Springfield was elected President of the newly formed National Federation of the Blind of Missouri Student Division, and my task was virtually complete. I have the greatest confidence and pride in both the student affiliates I played some part in founding, and I know we will be hearing from them in subsequent issues of the Student Slate . In the meantime we extend a warm welcome to the newest affiliate members of the NFB Student Division.




by LeRoy Sabin

LeRoy Sabin is an active member of the Pocatello Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. His wife Betty testifies to the excellence of this dish.


1 pound stewing beef

2 packages frozen Hawaiian vegetables

2 8-ounce packages frozen

wild & brown long grain rice

1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks

� teaspoon lemon peel

� teaspoon orange peel

Reserve juice from pineapple. Slice beef thinly, and trim off excess fat. (This is very important since, because of the short cooking time, the pineapple juice must be able to reach all of the meat in order to tenderize it.) Bake meat in pineapple juice in oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Add rice and vegetables in layers and sprinkle orange and lemon peel over the casserole. Return to oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.


Frances Townsend is an energetic member of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. As is apparent from the following two recipes, she is also health conscious:


Frances Townsend


1 cup raisins

1 6-ounce can frozen apple juice concentrate � cup oleo (1 stick)

1 egg

1-1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

� teaspoon cinnamon

� teaspoon dried orange peel

� teaspoon vanilla

2 cups granola or rolled oats

Heat raisins, juice, and oleo until oleo melts. Cool. Beat in egg. Mix flour, soda, and cinnamon together. Stir into raisin mixture. Add orange peel and granola. Let dough stand one to two minutes or until the cereal absorbs some of the liquid. Drop by round teaspoons two inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Mash down to flatten. These will not spread as they bake. Bake at 350 degrees about ten minutes or until light brown on the bottom. 1 gram protein, 8 grams carbohydrates.


by Frances Townsend


1 cup dates (cut up)

� cup unsweetened pineapple juice

1 stick oleo

� cup peanut butter

1 egg

1-1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

� teaspoon cinnamon

� teaspoon orange peel

� teaspoon vanilla

2 cups granola or oatmeal

Heat dates, juice, and oleo until oleo melts. Cool. Beat in egg. Mix dry ingredients and stir into date mixture. Add orange peel and granola. Let dough stand until the cereal absorbs some of the liquid. Spread in 10-1/2 by 15-1/2 inch jelly roll pan, and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

The following three recipes were submitted by Peggy Hignell, a leader in the Mid-Hudson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York:


by Peggy Hignell


� cup shortening

1 cup brown sugar

� cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

� teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

2-1/4 cups flour

Method: Mix all ingredients well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes. If desired, you may add one-half cup of any of the following: nuts, raisins, dates, cherries, or chocolate chips.


by Peggy Hignell


1 cup butter

1-1/4 cups sugar

� cup coffee

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons water

2-1/3 cups flour

1 12-ounce bag (2 cups) chocolate chips

Method : Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine and beat well butter and sugar. Mixture should be creamy. In a separate bowl combine and mix well cooled coffee, vanilla, egg yolks, and water. Add the liquid to the butter mixture and beat well. Add flour, beating well. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for ten minutes. Makes two dozen.


by Peggy Hignell

Cream together 1 pound margarine and 1 cup sugar. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and work in 3-1/2 cups flour before opening and crushing a snack-size bag of potato chips. Add the crushed chips to the butter mixture, and stir well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes four dozen cookies.




The Lakes Region Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire held elections on November 19, 1988. The following people were elected: President, Alain Poulin; First Vice President, Roger Lumbra; Second Vice President, John Parker; Secretary, Mildred Dickey; and Treasurer, Claire Parker.

**Father William:

It appears in the January, 1989, Insight , (the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota) and, unfortunately, is often thought to be true of the blind as well:

We have good news for you. The first 80 years are the hardest. The second 80 are a succession of birthday parties! Everybody wants to carry your luggage and to help you up the stairs. If you forget your name or anybody's name, forget to keep an appointment, promise to be two or three places at the same time or spell words need only explain that you are 80! If you spill soup, if your shoes don't match, or if you carry a letter around for a week before mailing it...that's all right, because you're 80! At 80 you can relax with no misgivings. You have a perfect alibi for everything. Nobody expects much of you. If you act's your second childhood. Everybody is looking for symptoms of softening of the brain! It is a great deal better than being 65 or 70! At that time they expect you to retire to a little house in Florida and become a discontented, grumbling, limping has-been, but....

If you survive until 80, they are surprised that you can walk and surprised that you reveal lucid moments!

At 70 people are mad at you for everything!

At 80...they forgive you for anything!

If you ask us...LIFE BEGINS AT 80!

**The Raveled Sleeve of Care:

The following notice appeared in the January issue of Insight , the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota: Crocheting and knitting patterns that have been published by Good Housekeeping Magazine are now available in Braille at fifteen cents a Brailled page. Requests must include the originals, photocopies, or cassette copies of the patterns (to insure a quick return) or mention of the issues and page numbers in which the patterns were published. Crocheting and knitting patterns that have appeared in other sources can also be Brailled; however, originals or copies of those patterns must be accompanied by permission from the publisher to reproduce their material in alternative formats. For more information, or for information on the low-cost Brailling of other material, contact TFB Publications, 238 75th Street, North Bergen, New Jersey 07047, (201) 662-0956. Correspond by Braille, cassette, or print, but please include your full return address in the correspondence.

**For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Newly-repaired Perkins Brailler, excellent working condition, $150. Contact in Braille only: Elizabeth R. Saunders, Post Office Box 667, Macomb, Illinois 61455.


Mary Donahue writes: On Saturday, January 14, 1989, the Austin Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas held its annual election of officers and board members, with the following results: President, Jeff Pearcy; First Vice President, Tommy Craig; Second Vice President, James Bradley; Secretary, Mary Donahue; Treasurer, Margaret Cokie Craig; and board members Norma Baker and Zena Pearcy.

**Down To Earth Braille:

An event of more or less universal importance was recently reported in London, England, by the Associated Press and published throughout the world. Certainly we should not ignore it. Here it is:

Blind to Read Sidewalks Through Their Feet - Scientists are developing a system of Braille through the feet that will allow blind people to avoid obstructions on the road, a laboratory said Tuesday. The blind will read by treading blister-type surfaces that will indicate lamp posts, road signs, trash cans, platform edges at train stations, as well as where to cross roads, according to the Transport and Road Research Laboratory in Crowthorne. The laboratory is testing patterns that can be distinguished without confusing or inconveniencing others, especially those with walking difficulties or in wheelchairs, said Press Association, the British news agency. Braille, a system of lettering using embossed dots that can be felt through the finger tips, was invented by Frenchman Louis Braille in 1829. He was blinded when he was three.


The following item appears in the October, 1988, Observer , the newsletter of the Montana affiliate of the NFB: Our congratulations to Jeff Haworth, who was chosen Volunteer of the Year 1988 at the Montana State Health Care convention. He was presented with a plaque and a book of Montana at the banquet in Great Falls September 14, 1988. He has volunteered 10,000 hours in his five years at the Western Manor Nursing Home in Billings. Jeff is the newly elected President of the Yellowstone Chapter.

**Beat the Heat; Swim and Eat:

Have you made your hotel reservations for the 1989 National Federation of the Blind convention, only a few short months away? Four hotels have been selected to house the delegates close together and just off Denver's 16th Street Mall. The Radisson will be convention headquarters. It has three excellent restaurants, a health club, and an outdoor heated swimming pool. Winnows, the main restaurant, is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. LuluBelle's is open for lunch and Happy Hour, and TQuila's (Mexican flavor) is open for lunch and dinner and becomes a disco for dancing until 11:30 p.m. A short distance on the other side of the Mall is the Hyatt, which has two fine restaurants and an outdoor swimming pool. We are also using the Comfort Inn, close to the Radisson and part of the historic Brown Palace Hotel lots of shops and a very fancy restaurant, The Palace Arms. Finally, we are using the Holiday Inn good food and another outdoor swimming pool. So, pack your bathing suit, and come to three pools a mile high!


Philip Copeland, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Lorain County, Ohio, writes: On Sunday, January 8, 1989, the NFB of Lorain County elected the following officers for a two-year term: President, Philip Copeland; Vice President, James Somplack; Secretary, Robert Smith; and Treasurer, Lois Copeland.

**Braille Greeting Cards:

We have been asked to carry the following: My daughter and I make and sell greeting cards Christmas, birthday, get well, or anything you want. The designs are cut from different colors of heavy paper and then glued to the front of the card. We have a lot of verses for all occasions, so the cards are not alike. It is done by hand except the print inside. Cards with just Braille are six for $1.00. Cards with Braille and print are four for $1.00. Money should be sent with order to: Ruth DiMarzio, 246 Dale Avenue, Mansfield, Ohio 44903.


Dr. Charles Hallenbeck, one of the leaders of the NFB of Kansas, writes as follows: This announcement from KANSYS, Inc., 1016 Ohio, Lawrence, Kansas 66044: Shareware for your IBM compatible computer. Remember TWEEDLE-DUMP by Tim Cranmer? Try our software simulation of that device, the WATCHDOG. The WATCHDOG can be asked to monitor data flow virtually anywhere within your computer and growl in your PC speaker when it happens. Monitor data sent to your screen, to or from your disk, or any other hardware or software interrupt. Get your copy of the WATCHDOG soon. Share it with a friend. Send us $10.00 if you like it.

**Report from Nevada:

Joan Abraham-Tait writes as follows:

Las Vegas, Nevada
November 26, 1988

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

After many years of holding our own here in Las Vegas, the NFB of Nevada is pleased to say that we held our state convention this year in Reno. Attendance was excellent. Our chapter in Reno is vigorous and enthusiastic, and judging from the excellent work which was done in putting on the convention, extremely competent as well.

We met this year on October 22 at the Downtown Holiday Inn in Reno. Twenty-two of us came up from Las Vegas. It was a good feeling to get acquainted with our brothers and sisters in Reno. We hold elections each year, and this year we have an exceptional group to lead the Federation here in Nevada. Because of his outstanding performance this past year, we elected Doug Elliott, the President of our Reno Chapter, President of our state affiliate. The rest of the officers and board members will have a very successful year under his leadership. They are: John Tait, First Vice President; Mary Guy, Second Vice President; Marguerite Baldwin, Secretary; and James Waggoner, Treasurer. Our four board members are: Joan Abraham-Tait, Ella Council, Jerice West, and Terry Glaczinski.

Things are looking up out here. We have a very strong letter from our Attorney General on file at our major airports. The Federation has much to do, but because we have hung on when things were tough, we will work doubly hard now that we see some further progress being made. New officers take over in January, 1989.


We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Smalltalk Laptop computer for sale for $800. Includes three micro cassettes, 'smart' battery charger and cable for hooking up to IBM and compatible personal computers. Very good condition. If interested, contact: Eric Caron, 55 Pleasantview Avenue, Albany, New York 12203.

**Blind Masons:

Fred Flowers is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. He is interested in forming a Square Club of blind Masons within the NFB. Must be a Mason in good standing. You can contact Fred Flowers at: 3525 Woodstock Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21213. Telephone (301) 325-4825.


Recently the Tucson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona held elections. Those elected were: Robert Tullis, President; Lee Kerr, Vice President; Roberta Jensen, Secretary; Joyce Laun, Treasurer; and Ruben Salcido, Board Member.