THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 32, No. 4 April-May, 1989
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
to the President, address changes,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
articles for the Monitor, and letters to the Editor
should be sent to the National Office.
cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made
payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
NFB NET BBS: (612) 696-1975
WorldWide Web: http://www.nfb.org
THE BRAILLE MONITOR
PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Vol. 32, No. 4 April-May, 1989
YES, IT'S LATE
WHAT IS THE CHANCE FOR
by Marc Maurer
I JUST HAPPEN TO HAVE A
by Barbara Pierce
by Mark Schulzinger
DOES REACHING OUT WORK
BRAILLE: A TOUCHY ISSUE
GIVING THE WRITE IMPRESSION
CONGRESS TAKES A HAND IN THE FIGHT AGAINST DISCRIMINATION BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 1989
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
SPECULATIONS ABOUT CD ROM
FOR THE BLIND, MENTALLY RETARDED CHILD: WHERE AND HOW
by Colleen Roth
OF SURVEYS AND TRAFFIC
by Seville Allen
SEMINAR FOR COMPUTER BEGINNERS
by Curtis Chong
Bonnie Peterson Challenges Stereotypes About the Visually Impaired
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1989
YES, IT'S LATE
From the Editor: And some of you have not yet made your reservations for the National Convention in Denver. I am writing this in March, and you won't be reading it until some time in late April or early May but I know that some of you haven't. There is still time, but not much. You don't want to miss our first convention in Denver since 1949 the program, the tours, the hospitality, and the overall excitement. There will not only be prizes but surprises. Better hurry.
WHAT IS THE CHANCE FOR BRAILLE?
by Marc Maurer
Recently I received a letter from a woman who aspires to be a Braille teacher. She took what she regarded as the first logical step in her plan she learned Braille. Although she does not yet have a teaching certificate, she thought that her knowledge of this skill might be useful in her local school district and, therefore, might help her get a job. So she went to the administrator of the program for blind students and asked for a job as a teacher's aide. The result was unfortunately all too predictable. The administrator could not imagine why blind students should be taught Braille, and when the aspiring teacher began to explain (apparently her explanation was both spirited and enthusiastic), the administrator announced that she was being defensive and that the interview was at an end. As I read the letter, I wondered again what the chances are for blind students to learn Braille. The attitude of this administrator is so commonplace as to be the norm. It is shocking not because of its occurrence but because of its prevalence. In widespread among school officials that I think there is a real possibility that this woman's having learned to read Braille (not only with her eyes but also with her fingers) may be a real disadvantage to her as she begins to look for jobs. Some administrators believe that teachers who have achieved fluency in Braille will spend too much time trying to teach it. They assume that using Braille is an outmoded skill and that such teachers are trying to rely on techniques that may have been acceptable in the 1800's but are no longer sufficiently up-to-date. I attended a school for the blind in Iowa for the first five years of my education. Students there were introduced to Braille in the first grade, but I did not learn it. First graders were given a little Braille primer with stories about Dick and Jane and Sally. For a week this primer sat on my desk each day. The person in the front seat of my row (there were two rows in my class) was asked to read the first page. Then the second person was instructed to read the same page. After that it was the turn of the third person. By the time the teacher came to me (as I remember it, I was the next to the last in the row), I had memorized the words on the page. I recited them to the teacher and the class, after which the teacher put a gold star on the first page of my book. It was the only gold star I ever received from first grade through law school.
The teacher suggested that I take the book home and show it to my mother. I very often was able to go home on the weekends because we lived only a little over a hundred miles from the school for the blind. So I took the book with me and proudly displayed my gold star. My mother asked me to read the page, so I recited the text. Since she has always been a suspicious woman, she borrowed the book from me. Later, my mother, who had received certification from the Library of Congress as a Braille transcriber, brought me a Brailled sheet of paper and asked me to read it to her, but I could not. She then explained that it was a copy of the first page of my Braille book. I regret to say that, despite my mother's early detective work, I managed to finish the first grade without learning any Braille. During the following summer, however, she took me in hand. I complained as loudly and vigorously as I knew how, but it did me no good. My mother insisted on teaching me how to read.
As I write this article, I am returning to the National Center for the Blind from California, where I have delivered a speech to the Southern California Safety Institute about the airline problems faced by blind passengers. The speech was written in Braille, and without it I could not have done the job effectively. My mother was right; I needed Braille. My Braille problems are solved or at least partly so. I can read and write effectively. Of course, there is not enough Braille, and there are an increasing number of professionals who would argue that its use has diminished because it is no longer necessary. The real cause of its decline, however, is that the teachers who are supposed to teach it do not know it, and administrators do not recognize that the ignorance of these teachers is a shocking disgrace. In this environment what chance does the blind student have? Of course, the National Federation of the Blind is committed to the teaching of Braille. Some states now require by law that it be offered to blind students. There are other states with regulations mandating that interested youngsters be taught it. These laws and regulations did not come about by accident. The National Federation of the Blind recognizes the importance of Braille and has worked to make it possible for students to learn it. If many of those who are teachers and administrators of educational programs for the blind had their way, Braille would not only become obsolescent but obsolete. But the blind simply will not let it happen. Literacy is necessary for a full life. Without it many opportunities cannot be grasped, and many challenges cannot be met. We will help enlightened teachers and would-be teachers, and we will encourage blind students.
Here is what one aspiring teacher, Beth Marsau, describes as her experience in trying to bring more Braille to blind students. Her first effort failed, but she has made a start. In the long run she will succeed because we will help her do it. Her letter expresses the determination of the Federation to obtain a decent education for blind students and to enable them to participate fully on terms of equality with the sighted. Here are excerpts from Beth Marsau's letter:
Because I want to serve and survive until I can achieve teacher training, I have been applying for teacher aide positions in the public schools. I feel that I have the right kind of attitude to help students learn Braille and the knowledge and ability that are necessary. I have had teaching experience with pre-schoolers, youth groups, and adults, and I feel confident. I have met Dr. Sally Mangold and have purchased her teaching manuals for study. [ Monitor readers will recognize Dr. Mangold's name from the article about Charles Cheadle in the January, 1989 issue. Dr. Mangold recommended Braille for Charles after evaluating him at the request of the State of Maryland, the school district, and his parents. But back to Beth Marsau's letter.] I know I need more formal training, but I feel that I have the right attitude, the love, and the knowledge of Braille literacy, and I could use four years of teacher aide experience while I am enrolled in the formal university teaching program. I do not know if the local school district administrator or the state service for the blind program would hire me.
I have been interviewed by one special services administrator, and I was surprised by the situation I found. I have learned that in the small town where I live, three high school students who are severely visually impaired are receiving no Braille instruction. One of the students, age nineteen and still a junior in high school, has been blind for several years. She can read print if she holds it close to her face, but I do not believe she has ever been given the opportunity to learn Braille. I know that she has been asked by friends of mine who have been substitute teacher aides if she would like to learn it. She said yes. But the teaching of Braille has not been provided. When I offered my services to teach Braille and even when I offered to provide a free demonstration to the three students and their parents, I was told by the administrator of the special services program that he wanted to wait and think it over. When I showed him a slate and stylus and explained that it serves as a pencil or pen for the blind, he asked me what value there is for a blind student in writing Braille. Why not give each student a dictaphone? He insisted that I predict the writing speed of a slate user. When I argued that we ought to encourage basic literacy in school, that the value of writing notes is important, that I could not predict individual writing speed but that I had personally witnessed speedy note takers who use the slate and stylus, that giving a dictaphone to a blind person as the only alternative to writing is as ridiculous as telling kids to forget about fourth grade arithmetic because there are calculators, and that to offer dictaphones to the blind means a lifetime supply of cassettes and batteries, not to mention denying literacy, the administrator stopped the interview. He told me that I was defensive and that no job opening was available at this time. Rest assured that I come to you as a friend and an advocate for the blind. I will pursue this situation in my home town and keep you posted on what happens. I hope to be hired because I want to serve and survive. But even if I am not hired in this particular situation, I will do what I can to reach these students. Perhaps the public schools will end up hiring some other, more qualified teacher, who will help better than I could. It would be good for these students to have a qualified teacher. But my gut feeling is that it won't happen, so I will strive to locate them privately outside the school system.
This is what Beth Marsau says, and we should ponder carefully the implications and nuances. As we struggle (sometimes pleading, sometimes arguing, sometimes reasoning, and sometimes fighting) for the right of our blind children to be taught Braille, the circumstances are remotely reminiscent of the situation of the Christians in the catacombs of Ancient Rome. Let us take a lesson from that early minority, and let our opponents also take a lesson from it.
I JUST HAPPEN TO HAVE A PICTURE
by Barbara Pierce
Occasionally one of the regrets but, more frequently, one of the pleasures of being blind is never having people offer to show you their family snapshots. This ranks in the minds of most of us with the delight of having a built-in excuse for avoiding those interminable evenings filled with neighbors' vacation slides consisting mostly of out-of-focus shots of strangers doing absurd things and of undistinguished scenery taken when the light had been perfect ten minutes before.
The people who are really interested in looking at one's pictures, of course, are members of the family, and the Federation family is no exception. This is the reason we began including photographs in each issue of the Braille Monitor. It is why we report weddings, births, and deaths among our members. Love is the glue that binds us together as a movement, and the details of each person's life are important to us all. Our NFB scholarship winners are people of whom we are most proud. We chose these men and women from among the most outstanding American students, and we have worked with them and given them ourselves and our experience. As we are fond of saying, the greatest gift we have to offer each year's class of scholarship winners (and, indeed, every new member of the Federation) is the NFB itself and its life-enriching philosophy. With all this going for them, it is no wonder that our scholarship winners are accumulating an impressive stack of honors and employment records. So here is a chance to flip through the NFB album of word snapshots. The list is only partial. After all, our winners are many and varied, and it is hard to keep up with them. Most are still in school, but here are some of the most interesting reports we could find in a quick survey.
Michael Baillif was a member of the scholarship class of 1984. He was then a freshman at Claremont College in California from which he has now graduated with honors. He traveled in Europe on a Watson Fellowship in 1988, and he has now been one of the first students admitted to the Yale University School of Law for the fall, 1989, semester.
In early December of 1988 Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois, was making a Job Opportunities for the Blind call on the personnel director for the Pandex Division of the Baxter Health Care Corporation, a pharmaceutical company. She mentioned that Pandex would be interested in hiring blind employees and that at the moment they were looking for a chemist and a software engineer. Mr. Benson knew a blind chemist with a background in business who is now actually being considered for a job, but he could not think of a software engineer. Still, he gave the woman a general pep talk about the importance of Pandex's willingness to consider blind candidates, and he promised to keep his ears open for the name of a blind applicant for the job. When he called back six weeks later to see what the situation was, the personnel executive mentioned that they had hired a blind software engineer. It was Larry Silvermintz, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and a 1984 NFB scholarship winner. Chris Chaltain was also a member of the scholarship class of 1984. When he completed his master's degree in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he applied widely (to more than fifty companies) for jobs. IBM was the only one to offer him a job, and they gave him the choice of two. In August of 1988 he became an Associate Programmer in the General Technologies Division. Eileen Rivera (scholarship class of 1986) and Mildred Rivera (class of 1988) are sisters, both of whom have become active in the Federation since learning about it through the scholarship application process.
Eileen, a graduate of the Wharton School's Master's of Business Administration Program, now lives with her physician husband in Baltimore and works as the Administrative Director for the Wilmer Vision Research Center of the Johns Hopkins University. Mildred, who is finishing her law degree this semester, has chosen from among three San Francisco area law firms. She will begin working for Bronson, Bronson, and McKennan in the fall of 1990. Her new employers have given her a year's leave of absence to attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind for several months and then, perhaps, clerk for a judge for half a year. Patti Gregory won a scholarship in 1985, the summer before she entered law school. She has now graduated and begun work in November of 1988 for the City of Chicago as Assistant Corporation Counsel in the Traffic Division. She is in court every day, resolving several hundred cases, including twenty to thirty disputes before the bench. She will move on soon to another area of city case work, but her experience already has prepared her better and faster, she says, than most of her law school classmates.
Chris Kuczynski, scholarship class of 1985, will graduate from the Temple University School of Law in June of 1989. Though most blind law students are denied the opportunity to work for faculty members as researchers, Chris has been lucky. In the fall of 1987, during the first semester of his second year, one of his professors approached him with an invitation to do research for her. She was a little hesitant about whether or not he could do the work, but she told him that he was clearly the student with the best grasp of the subject and also of the way in which her mind worked. He did so well at the job that he was asked to continue full-time during the summer and again during the current academic year. She also convinced the university to increase her research grant by enough money to pay Chris's reader. Now he has accepted a job beginning in September of 1989 with the Philadelphia law firm of Dechert, Price, and Rhoads.
Ken Silberman also received a scholarship in 1985 at the Louisville convention. He subsequently received his master's degree from Cornell in aeronautical Engineering and now works for the Naval Ship Systems Engineering Station as a mechanical engineer. He says that his job is actually writing data bases in order to keep track of ship records.
Two scholarship winners are breaking new ground in the field of nutrition and dietetics. Sandy Ryan is working as the Clinic Supervisor for the Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc. WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program. She does nutritional counseling, as well as running the clinic. Bonnie Zoladz will graduate in June of 1989 from Cornell University with a master's degree in clinical nutrition. She has been offered two jobs in the Rochester, New York, area where she has been doing her clinical work, but she is being married in June and will settle in Falls Church, Virginia, where she is now looking for work. Her clinical work went well during the fall semester. She was delighted to discover that hospital personnel were flexible and reasonable when working out accommodations for her dog guide. She expects to find a job in the greater Washington, D. C., area once she has moved there.
All of these scholarship recipients are confident, competent people, who truly believe that it is respectable to be blind. They have faced the difficulties in their paths as so many challenges to be solved, and they have succeeded. They are truly an inspiring and an inspired group. They are changing what it means to be blind in America.
by Mark Schulzinger
From the Editor: This copyrighted story is reprinted with special permission of the author. It appeared in the November, 1986, Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact magazine, and we are carrying it so that Monitor readers can see how blindness is being handled by some of today's authors. Although the story has some of the traditional stereotyped notions (such as the foolishness that blind persons feel the faces of their acquaintances to see what they look like), it contains much that is positive. Above all, it departs from the traditional mold the notion that the blind are either totally helpless or altogether wonderful. It shows that we still have a long way to go in educating the public (including authors), but it also indicates how much progress we have made. As Monitor readers know, I have done some research (see the 1974 banquet speech) concerning the way blindness is treated in literature. When you compare this story with the way we were almost universally portrayed in pre-NFB story and song, the contrast is pleasantly obvious. Anyway, here it is.
Now Jason, try again.
Jason McNab pressed his forehead against the cool metal of the head rest and concentrated on the images he saw before him. Do you see the threads?
Damn it, Carlie, I don't see anything that looks like anything. Relax, Jason, said Carlie Skriver. Hyperspace `looks' different from anything you ever saw before. Sometimes you just have to let the impressions flow before you can see it. I can't see it, Carlie. Just like I can't see anything else. Jason pushed himself angrily away from the head rest and felt himself bob against the seat restraints in the weightlessness of the training ship.
Okay, Jason. I'll ask the captain to rotate us back to normal space. We'll rest a bit and talk, then try again. Jason heard her blow into a speaking tube and tell the bridge talker of the Lobachevsky that it was safe to re-enter normal space. There was brief silence and then he heard the power systems of the ship start up, felt the faint breeze of air being circulated again and his body sink back into the couch as the artificial gravity was restored. He exhaled and realized that he had been holding his breath. What was that? Carlie asked. Did you see something? Jason snorted. Don't make me laugh. I can't see in normal space, and I'm sure I'm blind to hyperspace as well. There's no reason why you can't see in hyperspace, said Carlie. She reached out until she touched Jason's arm. He turned toward her, the smell of fear reaching her nostrils as he did so. Listen, she continued. The only things damaged in the accident were your eyes. She felt him stiffen as she spoke the words and rushed on. The nerves from the eyes through the optic chiasm were undamaged. Since that's the part of the visual system used to `see' hyperspace, you should be able to do as well as any other navigator once you get the hang of it. Why do you keep using the word `see'? Jason shook her hand away from contact with him and sank back into the couch. I'm blind I can't see. I'll never be able to see again, and what good is an artist without eyes? I can't see the canvas or the pigments, I can't see the brushes or the subject. Hell, forget it Carlie, I'm useless.
Carlie listened to his anger and his despair and felt herself tightening inside in response. She fought her body for control and spoke, keeping her voice deliberately mild. Take a break, Jason. The crew has to freshen things up before we can try again anyhow. There was a knock on the door, and she called out an invitation to enter. Hi gang. She heard the breezy voice of Hank Wells, the ship's surgeon, as the door opened. How'd it go?
Not bad for starters, she answered more confidently than she felt. I think Jason needs a little rest before we continue. Sounds reasonable. Jason, do you want something to help you sleep? No. The voice was still bitter but with an edge of tiredness to it. Just leave me alone for a while. I could use some coffee, Hank said brightly. Join me, Carlie? Carlie nodded, then said Sure, Hank, for Jason's benefit. She unbuckled her straps and followed the man out of the cabin. He's not doing well is he? asked Wells once they were in the wardroom.
No. I'm sure he's resisting the whole process. Carlie felt for the mug before her and raised it carefully to her lips. It's a shame. He was a brilliant artist before the accident and there's every indication he could be an excellent navigator. From what I've read, the ability to grasp spatial relationships is essential to such work. He's got a leg up on all the other trainees. That's the problem, Hank. He was `brilliant' as an artist. Now he's nothing just another blind man. She sipped the warmth of the liquid again.
It doesn't make sense to me. The discovery of hyperspace opened up a whole new world to the sightless. In an environment where electricity won't work, where rotation equals linear movement, and where the sighted are visionless, the blind navigator is the only person who can tell the captain how to steer the ship. He laughed. I remember how I felt the first time I shipped out, having to sit in the dark without gravity, afraid to move. That was the first time I envied the blind. Carlie turned to face him. Never envy us, Hank. Don't pity us either. We're handicapped but we got along pretty well before hyperspace travel came along. Sometimes the ability to `see' hyperspace reminds us of all the things we can't see in normal space. She smiled. On the other hand, it feels nice to be indispensable.
Jason lay on his bunk, his eyelids closed against the polished plastic hemispheres that filled the sockets where his eyes had been before they were destroyed in that silly accident. He thought back to it he was casting some gold charms using the lost wax technique. The centrifugal caster, designed to hurl the molten metal into the wax mold, malfunctioned and threw its contents across his face. He couldn't remember the pain, but he remembered the sound of his screams.
Reconstructive surgery helped. The surgeon assured him that the scars had been erased from his face and that the insertion of acrylic eyeballs would give him a normal appearance. There was nothing, though, that could give him back his sight. His gift was still there but his eyes, the organs that guided his hands toward the turning of talent into tangible reality, were gone. He heard the door to his cabin cycle and then the soft tread of feet. It was Carlie's walk his sense of hearing had increased dramatically since the loss of his vision. May I sit down? she asked softly.
Jason shrugged. It doesn't matter.
He felt the bunk give way beneath her mass. Tell me what you saw, Jason.
I saw my house, he said. The house where I had my studio. It was an old house with a tin roof streaked with sienna and cerulian. It showed glints of gold where the sunlight reflected from it and reflections of green from the old maples growing alongside it. No, I meant what you saw when we were in hyperspace. That's what I'm telling you. I saw the house. Jason. He felt the light touch of her hand on his, warm and dry. What you saw was what you wanted to see. Hyperspace looks different from anything we've seen before... before we lost our sight. To me it looks like colored threads on a black background. To some others it looks like connect-the-dot patterns. I saw the house, Jason repeated stubbornly. Okay, she squeezed his hand. Try and get some sleep. We'll make another run in a few hours. The bunk rebounded as she rose, and Jason heard the door open and close as she left. He put one hand over the one she had touched and tried to visualize how she looked. He got no message. Hoarsely he began to sob.
We're going to make a short run now, said Carlie. Four lights to Centaurus. It's a straight run if you go by ship's drive but, she chuckled, an awfully long one. In Hyperspace it's shorter but more complex. Explain it to me again, said Jason. Hyperspace seems to fold differently from normal space. In normal space if you wanted to walk two city blocks, you'd start at point `A' and walk directly to point `B.' If you were doing it in hyperspace, you might have to go straight for two steps, turn 45 degrees and walk ten steps, turn 60 degrees and walk five steps.That's a poor analogy, but it serves as well as any. It doesn't make any sense.
No, it doesn't. But it's the way things work. Are you ready to try?
Jason nodded, then remembered she couldn't see the gesture.
Carlie gave the talker the request to enter hyperspace and felt the almost subliminal hum that meant the ship's gyroscopes were being brought up to speed. Then the sound of motors stopped as all electrical systems were shut down. A whistle over the speaking tube told her that translation had been accomplished. Now look, she told Jason. What do you see? He concentrated on the blackness before him. Alicia, he replied. Huh?
Alicia as I painted her ten years ago. She was sitting on a chair under one of the maples. I dressed her in a yellow sundress and a broad straw hat. The shadows chased around her in the spring breeze. Carlie sighed. Just follow along with me, Jason. Our first thread goes off at an angle to the left. She blew into the speaking tube. Ten degrees port. There was a slight disorientation as the helmsman cranked the handles that rotated the gyroscopes and moved the ship in the proper direction. Stop... Two units thrust. Microweight gripped them as hyperbolic jets were valved on. Reverse thrust. On the bridge the helmsman, timing by his own pulsebeat, followed her directions. Thank you. Now, Jason, we moved along the first thread. I can see our transfer point here. We're going to have to swing almost fifty degrees starboard. Do you see it?
I see the old rowboat I painted in Kennebunkport. It was drawn up on land and placed upside down next to a building. The weathered wood was streaked with white and the shadows were cool blue. Forty-eight degrees starboard... A little slower... One unit thrust... Reverse thrust... Thank you. There's the last leg, about two degrees down and to the left. Again Carlie questioned Jason about what he saw and again he described a painting he had created. She ran through the rest of the trip mechanically, trying to tell him what she saw but not demanding any responses from him.
It's frustrating, Hank, she told the ship's surgeon at supper. He just doesn't seem to see anything but his own art. Is it possible that the medical results were incorrect, that he can't see in hyperspace? I don't know how that could be, Carlie. The rehab centers do a pretty thorough job of testing potential navigator candidates. I can run him through the on-board equipment, though, if you think it'll do any good. I'd appreciate it. Without the ability to do navigator work he'll be handicapped all the time. She bit nervously at her lower lip. That's something I want to spare him. Later he asked her to come into his surgery. I can't see anything that would interfere with his ability, he told her. I can stimulate the optic nerves and get signal registration in the optic centers of the brain. He shuffled through test readouts. I can even get some photic driving. By every test available to me he shows up fit.
By every test available to you , Hank. Maybe what we need is a psychologist.
This bucket doesn't rate one. Remember, we only do training runs boring stuff, but we get to sleep in our own beds on weekends. As the trainer, you've got to fill that slot yourself. Carlie made a face at him. Thanks. I usually have enough trouble teaching the candidates what to look for and how to estimate angles and thrusts. Well, she shrugged, maybe a little personal reminiscence would help.
Carlie, Hank placed his hand over hers, do you think you should?
She reached out and felt his face, touched the frown lines around his mouth. You really care, don't you? I always have. He smiled, and her fingers trapped it. You're a great gal, and I admire you tremendously. I just don't want you to hurt yourself more than you have to. Do you say that to your wife, too?
Uh, huh. Less than I should, I'm afraid. She laughed. If it's too much for me, I'll come and cry on your shoulder. Okay?
She knocked softly on the door to Jason's cabin, entering when he invited her. I wanted to talk with you again, she explained as she entered.
His voice told her he was on the bunk, so she moved toward the chair bolted to the cabin deck. Do you have much trouble getting around the ship? she asked as she seated herself. Some, he admitted.
Do you ever wonder why I seem to get around so well? A rustle told her he was moving his head. No. I never thought about it.
One of the reasons has to do with the fact that I've served on this ship for a few years, but there's another reason. There was no response. Carlie took a breath and continued. Do you remember Carlotta Russel, the ballerina? Yes.
That was me. My stage name.
Yeah. Mugged, raped, blinded right in the lobby of my condo.
You were wonderful. There was awe in his voice. I was, wasn't I? But no more. No more pas de deux with some tight-bummed hunk. No more entrechats. No more pirouettes while the crowd applauded and begged for more. Jason Huh? I wanted to kill myself. I wanted to dance because I knew that if I danced I could feel cleansed of the other things that were done to me I could burnish it out of my soul through my art. But I couldn't dance.
Yes, damn. And now, when we're in hyperspace, I can feel myself dance among the stars. I can feel up and down and right and left and all the other positions. Jason, navigating saved my life. I'm still blind in the real world, but when I'm doing my job, it's as if I'm whole again.
Jason stood up and cautiously moved toward her voice, reached out, and found her. Did it hurt?
What, the mugging?
No, the learning.
I felt uncomfortable until I got used to it. Then it felt wonderful.
Do you miss dancing?
More than I can ever say. She felt tears start from her eyes.
I feel the same way about painting.
Can I try again?
You bet! Give me time to freshen up, and I'll show you the way back home.
Don't feel so bad about it, Jason. Carlie sat back in the trainer's couch and forced herself to relax. I could tell you were really trying.
I feel like a total failure. Jason's voice sounded strained, as if he were holding back tears. No matter what you did to help me I still couldn't see anything but paintings. Yeah, but this time you got away from your own works. Once at least. Remember you said you saw Van Gogh's `Starry Night' on the second leg.
I remember, but it wasn't Van Gogh's, it was my own copy of it. Carlie, she heard him shift in the couch, I'm still too focused on my painting on myself. I can't let go! I can't accept that, Jason.
You don't want to accept it.
Yeah, that's true, she said reluctantly. I want you to succeed. I want you to have a use for your abilities the way I do. I don't want you to be blind forever. You pity me.
I don't know, she admitted. Maybe I pity myself because I'm not as good a teacher as I thought I was. Maybe I want you to see so much that I've developed a different kind of blindness myself a blindness to why you can't see hyperspace. Blindness and sight, Jason's voice was reflective. You use those terms a lot.
That's how I think about it.
But what did you tell me you felt in hyperspace? Floating? No, dancing. I'm dancing in hyperspace. And you feel the directions.
Right. She paused. Maybe you see hyperspace differently because you're used to seeing paintings. Um. That's what I thought. But I see a different work every time. No repeats?
I wonder. She grasped the speaking tube and blew into it, then asked the normal space navigator for a position check. Jason, she said, we're going to make another Earth-Centaurus run, just like the first one. This time just describe what you see. She gave the order for rotation. Well? I see one of the maples that grows next to my house. I painted it in the fall when its leaves were deep into scarlet. Can you see the house?
Yes, a small corner of it. Carlie?
I don't remember painting the house when I painted the tree. Okay, remember that fact. She gave the order for the first leg of the journey. Now what do you see?
Alicia. His voice was tense. Carlie, I saw this painting before.
Yeah, on the last trip out.
But not in this way. The shadows are different. Wait a moment. Hey, her position has changed! It's subtle, but it's there. Uh huh. Let's go on.
At each leg of the journey the pictures repeated themselves but with subtle differences. Carlie, excited by what was happening, ran the ship through the round trip without stopping, and her head ached a little from the fouled air by the time they rotated back to normal space near Earth.
So I can see in hyperspace, Jason's voice was elated. That's for certain, Carlie began unfastening the straps that held her to the couch, but it certainly is a different way of seeing it.
Jason laughed. I see my own paintings. I suspect the differences between one trip and the next are due to slight positional changes. That's what I think. She got up from the couch and reached out a hand for him. I also think there's another problem. How I can tell the proper `line' for each leg of a voyage? That's it. She took his hand and began to walk toward the wardroom.
Jason stopped and turned her toward him. You're thinking with a dancer's mind, he said. For you everything is position and posture and muscle balance. For me, a visual artist, things are light and shadow and color and orientation on the canvas. You mean, the way I orient myself is postural and way you do it is visual?
Yeah. Each one of us `sees' something different out there and translates it into something familiar. I guess I'm the first oddball trainee who was so visually oriented he couldn't translate into any other terms. All I have to do is learn the various routes, then I can reposition the ship to reproduce what I saw on each leg. It won't be easy, but we artists are used to doing difficult things. As opposed to dancers? Carlie's laugh was soft. Ouch, I deserved that. Carlie? What, Jason.
May I touch your face?
He brought his hands up, ran them lightly over her features. Thanks, he said. I just wanted to see the person who gave me back my sight.
DOES REACHING OUT WORK
From the Editor: We are sometimes told that there is no possibility of ever communicating or working co-operatively with agencies doing work with the blind. We are told this in spite of the fact that there are a number of rehabilitation centers in the country now being run by our own people who, incidentally, continue to be as strong as ever in their Federationism. In truth it is not where one works that counts, nor is it the name of the employer. Rather, it is what one believes and does and is. It is not form but substance that makes the difference. These comments result from a letter which appeared in the December, 1988, Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness , the publication of the American Foundation for the Blind. As Mr. Petrini (the author of the letter) says, he attended the 1988 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. He was not only impressed by what he heard and saw but was willing to talk and write about it. The fact that he is a sighted rehabilitation specialist and that his article was printed by the American Foundation for the Blind should give pause to that minority among us that believes nothing ever changes and no one ever listens. Obviously one letter does not cure the ills of the agency system or change the pattern of our whole way of life, but it does show what is happening and what is possible. We have had differences with the American Foundation for the Blind, and we will undoubtedly have more in the future; but we should always be open to changing conditions and new circumstances. The fact that today is different from the world of even ten years ago is a truism, but this should not cause us to close our minds to its truth and, for that matter, its reality and implications. Be that as it may, here is Mr. Petrini's letter:
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter as a private citizen. I work as a sighted blind rehabilitation specialist in the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center, V.A. Medical Center, West Haven, Connecticut.
I attended the recent National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention, July 2-9, in Chicago, as an observer. As a rehabilitation teacher and concerned citizen, several issues were raised at the convention that require discussion. The first concerns the quality and appropriateness of rehabilitation agencies for blind/visually impaired people. NFB believes that many blind rehabilitation agencies are providing poor services which are not addressing the needs of blind people. As a concerned blind rehabilitation professional, I would like to address this issue which was raised at the convention.
Many blind rehabilitation agencies need to become more current and appropriate in their services for the blind consumer. Some need to emphasize computer technology and low vision services for their clients. The rehabilitation programs of twenty years ago need to be modified to address the needs of blind people in the 1990's. Yet, while change is important, let's remember to keep techniques and approaches that have stood the test of time. Braille continues to be important for blind and extremely low vision people. Braille and computer Braille help blind persons to remain literate a goal we must continue to support. Since the blind/visually impaired population is getting older, we need to develop more rehabilitation programs for elderly visually impaired persons. These would include skills dealing with independent living, coping with aging (leisure and health knowledge skills), and socialization skills if needed. Let us answer NFB's criticisms by looking at our rehabilitation programs and analyzing how they can be improved. Let's get feedback from peer agencies and clients to help us meet the needs of blind clients more effectively.
NFB has begun its own rehabilitation centers in Louisiana and Colorado.
At these centers they reported that the instructors teach blind rehabilitation skills and help their clients to develop good, positive attitudes about blindness. In addition to the traditional blind rehabilitation skills, the students are challenged by preparing sit-down dinners for thirty people, and taking technical rock climbing classes or karate. One NFB rehabilitation student said it was like bootcamp for the blind. I was impressed by how the NFB centers tried to encourage positive attitudes about blindness in their students. These attitudes include believing in themselves as blind persons. We rehabilitation professionals need to encourage our clients to develop similar attitudes. The second issue which came to my attention as a result of the NFB convention was the issue of civil rights for the blind population. As blind rehabilitation professionals and private citizens, we have the obligation to support blind people in their quest for full civil rights in society. We must educate the public that negative stereotypes of blind people as incompetent and helpless are wrong. We know that blind/visually impaired people can be productive, independent members of society; blind people are like everyone else except that they have a visual handicap.
We need to support self-help groups for blind people like NFB and ACB in their quest for full civil rights. We may disagree with some of their ideas and practices, but we should certainly support their struggle for equal rights in our society.
BRAILLE: A TOUCHY ISSUE
From the Editor: This article by Tim Lucas appeared in the January 31, 1989, Indianapolis Star. It is worth reading for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its underscoring of the fact that there is a beginning of public awareness that Braille is being underemphasized in the education of the blind. Ironically it seems easier for the sighted than for some of the professionals in the blindness field to understand the simple truth that those who are blind or who have extremely impaired vision need to learn Braille: Sometimes the words still come slowly for Aaron Cook. Syllable by syllable, one letter at a time, he makes his way across the line of Braille type, pausing frequently when the pattern of raised dots and spaces becomes too complex. Aaron, 14, is a first-year Braille student at the Indiana School for the Blind. After only a few months' instruction, his grasp of the writing system is, understandably, still limited. But for all his mistakes, the Indianapolis boy is already doing better than most of Indiana's blind population. Although many of us assume that Braille literacy is universal among the blind, the truth is far from that. Today, only about ten percent of all legally blind people can read Braille, says Ronald G. Matias, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana.
The Braille literacy rate keeps going down and down, Matias warns. And if something isn't done to reverse it... we are going to become a nation of Braille illiterates. A paper published earlier this month by the Council of Executives of American Residential Schools for the Visually Handicapped echoes Matias's concern.
The paper strongly recommends a re-emphasis of Braille skills for the blind, and suggests that some teachers of the blind may themselves be deficient in Braille and thus cannot effectively teach it to their students.
Matias agrees. The public assumes everyone who's blind learns to read Braille in school. That's a logical assumption, but unfortunately, it's not true.
Instead, he says, most schools today favor an educational philosophy that encourages students who are not totally blind to read large print instead of Braille.
It's part of the whole mainstreaming philosophy, Matias explains.
Before the 1930's, teachers of the blind were often blind themselves and read and wrote Braille on a daily basis. State certification wasn't required; a proficiency in Braille was. Then, after the thirties, Teachers had to be educational professionals with college degrees. Sometimes they were blind, but more frequently they were sighted teachers... who had taken instruction in Braille but who did not read or write it on a daily basis.
They emphasized large print type or sight reading of Braille in the classroom because that's what they knew, Matias says. Moe Haralson, principal at the Indiana School for the Blind, agrees to a point.
There was a de-emphasization of Braille teaching for a period, he says. But it was because researchers came out with a low vision study saying people (who aren't totally blind) are better off reading print.
That philosophy, as we've seen, hasn't worked, Haralson says, so now we've gone back to working with students in two modes large print and Braille.
Braille is based on a six-dot unit which, when arranged variously, forms more than 200 different signs and letters. Of the Indiana School for the Blind's 162 students, 61 (or about 38 percent) can read Braille. About the same number rely on large print materials, while 20 percent are multiple handicap students who cannot read either Braille or large print. The decision to teach a student Braille is based on his abilities and desire, Haralson says.
If he wants to learn it, it's available to him, he says, adding that it generally takes a student two or three years of study to become fluent in Braille.
Despite the initial difficulties, though, students, teachers, and blind advocates alike agree that it's worth the effort. I used to read large print pretty well, but now my vision (is weaker), so I can only pick up one word at a time and I make a lot of mistakes, says Aaron, a near straight-A student. Learning Braille will prepare me for the future in case I go totally blind or can't read print anymore.
GIVING THE WRITE IMPRESSION
From the Associate Editor: I never cease to be astonished at the occupations that sighted people presume to be off-limits to the blind because (in their minds) there is some mystical connection between the activity in question and the means usually employed by the sighted to accomplish it. The most recent job to be brought to my attention as beyond the restricted abilities of the blind is that of writer. Since I have spent a significant portion of every day for the last several years seated at my computer engaged in composition in order to justify receiving my paycheck, I greeted the discovery of this piece of information with amused incredulity.
This was not always so. Though I made A's in high school English, when I hit my college composition course, I quickly drew one conclusion. Although I might not have the least idea what I would eventually major in at Oberlin College, it would not be English. I soon discovered that it was not writing that I found so hard but thinking logically. As soon as I resigned myself to taking the time to plan my sentences, paragraphs, and essays, I discovered that it was possible to survive as an English major. My emergence into the field of magazine editing has been the result of a gradual evolution, but there was never a time when I felt that blindness created a bar to my writing. Throughout the fifteen years of my active involvement with the National Federation of the Blind, I have found a few people who write well, a number more who write competently, and lots of people who would rather avoid the activity altogether. My husband, who teaches composition as well as other English courses at Oberlin, confirms my impression that in this, as in so much else, the blind are simply a cross section of society at large.
In the summer of 1988 Lori Stayer (Vice President of the Writers Division of the National Federation of the Blind and Editor of its magazine, Slate & Style ) received first a phone call and then a letter of inquiry from a graduate student in Michigan. He was doing research on blind writers. Were there any good ones? If so, was it necessary for them to have had sight originally in order to write well now? How could a blind writer revise his work? Could he write convincingly about something he had never actually seen? Mrs. Stayer is a patient woman, dedicated to teaching and to destroying misconceptions wherever and whenever she can. Here is the letter she received, and her response:
July 19, 1988
Dear Ms. Stayer:
In regard to our telephone conversation this afternoon, I am enclosing a check ($2.50) for the purchase of a copy of Slate & Style magazine.
I am currently working on a graduate paper that deals with sight and writing. I have had interviews with blind people including a talented writer and musician; however, many questions I have are still unanswered. Perhaps you could help with the following ones:
1) Janet Emig states in her book, Web of Meaning that she has not found a single case of a noted writer in any genre who was, or is, congenitally blind. She adds that neither lyricist-composer Stevie Wonder nor dramatist Harold Krentz, for example, was born , blind, ...James Thurber and John Milton did not become blind until midlife. Helen Keller, perhaps the best known case of all, did not become blind until eighteen months of age. In a recent international writing contest for the blind, sponsored by the Jewish Braille Institute, not one writer adjudged a winner was born blind. (p.115) I find this very difficult to believe. Do you know of any professional or talented writers who were born blind? Can a congenitally blind person write about abstract notions that a sighted person could relate to? In other words, would a sighted reader know from the text alone that the writer is blind? Could a blind person write about a sunset which he or she had never seen or experienced before?
2) How do blind writers write, revise, and critique their work?
A sighted person can tell if a word is misspelled by looking at it. What does a blind person do? Sighted writers usually read phrase by phrase and often read a sentence out loud in order to revise it. How does a blind writer revise? (Do they erase the braille or simply retype?)
3) A blind person told me in one of the interviews that most blind people are not interested in any type of writing. Is this true? If so, why?
4) What disadvantages, do you think, blind writers have (if any) as opposed to sighted ones? How do they overcome them? Thank you very much for offering to help. Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
Merrick, New York
July 22, 1988
I have sent you a copy of Slate & Style under separate cover. You did not tell me when your paper is due, so I don't know how much time we have to get you the answers you want. If, for example, it is not due until January of 1989, then we have the option of publishing your letter in Slate & Style and soliciting some correspondence from our membership. I have already shared your letter with Tom Stevens, who is the President of the Writers Division, and who was the winner of its fiction contest before his election.
It is difficult to know where to begin answering your letter. You have made certain assumptions which underlie your questions, so perhaps I had better deal with these first. Your first assumption seems to be that because Ms. Emig says a thing, it is so. One needs to ask what sort of research she did and what her assumptions were before she began her book. You express doubt in her conclusions, but they seem to have colored your own later thinking. Your second assumption is that blind people using Braille are in some fundamental way different from sighted people using print. I wonder if it would have occurred to you to ask your question concerning writing and revising about those who read only Italian, because they don't speak English.
In response to your first question, I have not read Janet Emig's book, Web of Meaning. I do, however, personally know a number of distinguished blind writers. Deborah Kent (Stein) is an acclaimed writer of Young Adult books. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, is considered by many to be the outstanding blind writer and thinker in the blindness field today. He has edited the Braille Monitor magazine for years, writing a goodly portion of each issue. He has also written numerous speeches that have shaped the thinking of a generation about blindness. I shall pass your letter on to him for possible response, though I can't guarantee that he will have the time to answer you.
I should point out to you that in the blind community the distinction between congenital and adventitious blindness seems spurious. It strikes people as mostly irrelevant. If you're blind, it's generally agreed that you can't see. The feel for language, the ability to craft a phrase, is seated in the brain, not the eye. And research can be done by anyone, so Debbie Kent assures me.
I do not believe a reader could know from the text that the writer was blind unless the author mentioned the information. Read the magazine I sent you. Except for June Derks and Gayle Sabonaitis (who mention their blindness), you probably won't be able to tell who is and who is not blind. As for writing a description of something you have never seen, many writers do just that all the time; they research their subject, then create a description that fits the details.
By the way, how does Ms. Keller's losing her sight and hearing at the age of eighteen months make her different from someone blind and deaf from birth? Eighteen months is a pretty young age. I myself don't remember anything before my third birthday. Your second question was, How do Blind writers write, revise, and critique their work. The answer is that it varies. One man told me that he uses two tape recorders. Crescence Stadeble, who is a member of our division, uses a typewriter and sighted readers. Nancy Scott uses Braille. Some legally (but not totally) blind writers use print-enlarging devices. Some use word processors that talk or produce Braille output.
Braille readers with real expertise usually those who have read and written Braille since first grade read the way any sighted person does: phrases and sentences at a time. People who are totally blind from birth probably have the advantage here of never having had anyone try to teach them using visual methods. My husband reads Braille at 300 words a minute, which is faster than many seeing people read print. It all depends on practice. The prolific Braille reader has the same advantages in learning to spell (and therefore being able to correct a text) as the sighted reader does. It will help you if you think of Braille as an alternative to print rather than an inferior method of reading and writing. Braille readers read letters and abbreviations, words and phrases, sentences and paragraphs, just as you read print. Those who read letter by letter have had an inferior education, and here, by the way, you can blame sighted educators who have never placed the value on Braille that literate blind people do.
Braille does have a few limitations. It is bulky and not as readily available as print. Most blind people don't own their own books because of the cost, though we are working to change that. It is possible to erase a mistaken letter or two in Braille, but it must be done dot by dot, so most people just fill in all six dots in the Braille cell as one way to eliminate an error. A blind professional writer will probably opt for the newer technology by investing in a word processor, just as a sighted writer would.
As for the person who told you that most blind people are not interested in any type of writing, he doesn't know the blind people I do. The answer to your question is, no, it is not true. How could it be? Blind people aren't a different species from you and me. They are a cross section of society and have a cross section of interests. How could it be otherwise? As to your question what disadvantages blind writers have as opposed to sighted writers, there is one very important problem. Until Braille is taught to all totally and partially blind children, we will raise generations of illiterate blind people, people who can't spell or write or read. This is a tragic problem that cuts across America today.
However, if the blind are educated in the alternative techniques of blindness, including Braille, effective use of readers, and reliance on a well-trained memory, then, no, there are no disadvantages. I note with regret that you didn't ask me what the advantages of being a blind writer are. Your assumptions about limitations of blindness may color your work. As I mentioned, I will share your letter with members of the division and see what other answers I can get for you. I acknowledge that I am not blind. However, my experience includes having a blind husband and attending conventions of the National Federation of the Blind for fifteen years. I have met hundreds, if not thousands, of blind people. You would find it helpful to speak to some who have had good experiences of blindness. I shall see what I can do to have them get in touch with you. I hope I've been of some help.
Lori Stayer, Vice President
Editor, Slate & Style
CONGRESS TAKES A HAND IN THE FIGHT AGAINST DISCRIMINATION BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT
In the February, 1989, Braille Monitor we printed an article entitled: State Department Declares the Blind Unfit. It gives details concerning the discrimination being practiced by the State Department against blind applicants for career appointments in the Foreign Service. Monitor readers will remember that Rami Rabby, one of the leaders of the NFB in New York, received particularly shabby treatment from the State Department and took his story to the press.
Simultaneously the National Federation of the Blind brought the matter to the attention of Congress, and during the Federation's Washington Seminar (held January 29 through February 1, 1989) we were able to get a Congressional hearing. On Wednesday, February 1, Congressman Gerry Sikorski held what is technically called a briefing before his Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service. As will be seen from the testimony, members of both the blind community and the State Department were present to give their views. Since this issue goes far beyond the case of Rami Rabby or even the specific actions of the State Department, it seems worthwhile to let Monitor readers know in detail what occurred. Here is how the briefing went:
Congressman Sikorski. This is a public briefing organized for the members of the Subcommittee. I've requested and received authorization from Chairman Ford to conduct these proceedings, which will be recorded. The full committee will be requested to authorize the printing of the transcript once we officially organize. We have scheduled this briefing to examine the Department of State's hiring policy regarding blind individuals who seek entry into the Foreign Service. In recent years the Department has provided readers to assist blind applicants for Foreign Service Officer positions. Exams were also provided in Braille. However, as we will hear later from some of our panelists, blind individuals who successfully passed both the written and oral portions of this very difficult exam were nevertheless denied entry into the Foreign Service for subsequently failing the Department's physical examination. That examination requires visual acuity. Now, concerns about these policies date back to at least 1975. In 1982 a complaint was filed against the State Department with the Equal Opportunity Commission (the EOC), and in 1987 the EOC completed a staff report which highlighted the Department's contradictory hiring and testing policy opening the door to opportunity, equality, and hope with one hand and closing that door with another. The EOC report concluded: It would be unwise for the Department of State to conduct a recruitment program that would raise false expectations of handicapped individuals hoping to enter the Foreign Service. It went on to add: Recruitment that leads to exclusion based on handicap will increase the possibility of discrimination complaints. The report recommended that the Department modify its recruitment program to comply with the Foreign Service Act of 1980, as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended with respect to hiring, placement, and advancement of handicapped individuals. Now we see that instead of opening doors to the Foreign Service Department, the Department of State installed a dead bolt lock.
Instead of changing the medical requirements or examining the practical application of the Department's so-called world-wide availability policy, the Department decided it would no longer provide the exam in Braille. Blind applicants would not be permitted to use readers, and any blind people who made it through the test would still be washed out on the physical exam even though blind people have honorably served our government and the citizens of the United States in highly sensitive intelligence areas, the Peace Corps, the civil branches of the Armed Services, and even the Foreign Service. This morning our distinguished group of panelists includes the honorable Tom Campbell from the State of California and several very talented blind individuals, who have been or will be affected by the Department's policy; Commissioner Kemp of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and representatives from the Department of State. All of these people are here to help us understand and examine the needs of the Foreign Service and those of qualified blind applicants who seek entry into the ranks to represent our country overseas, and we thank all of them for being with us this morning.
It's the tradition and almost a requirement that we begin with the members of Congress, and with us this morning at his request and with the subcommittee's great appreciation is Tom Campbell, a member of Congress from California. Welcome.
Congressman Campbell. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. My name is Tom Campbell. I'm the newly elected Congressman from Silicon Valley, California. But more important for today's purposes, Mr. Chairman, I am an eighteen-year veteran reader for Recording for the Blind. And that's what I want to talk to you about this morning. In the course of those eighteen years, I have worked with blind people in very many different ways as they obtain information to carry on their functions. I've worked with students at Harvard Law School, who used an Optacon to scan not involving another person, but allowing them to read as though they had sight. I've worked with readers for Georgetown Law School, trying to get them help to get their law degree and assisting them as they became lawyers and succeeded in the federal practice.
As a professor at Stanford, occasionally I would teach blind students, and I had the opportunity to teach economics. (I have a Ph.D in that field.) The question arose: Could a blind student manage the supply and demand graphs? You know, with just a little accommodation, the answer is, You bet. All it takes is: trace the graphs on the palm of the student's hand, and I did that after every lecture. Mr. Chairman, on the basis of those eighteen years of experience working with blind persons, the one thing I am most sure of is that there is nothing a blind person cannot do except see.
I have a personal reason for appearing here today as well. In 1980 I had the high honor to be a White House Fellow. In that class was Hal Krentz, the first White House Fellow who was blind. Hal Krentz had epilepsy, and he could not see. Nevertheless, he became a lawyer, a songwriter, and a playwright. His life was the inspiration for Butterflies Are Free. He wrote the screen play for To Race the Wind. Hal was appointed to the White House, and I think his experience is particularly important as this committee investigates this most important area, to explore exactly how he managed to succeed so very well. He was assigned to Elizabeth Dole, Mr. Chairman, and I think it might be useful to ask Secretary Dole how she was able effectively to use Hal Krentz working in the White House Office of Public Liaison. As his colleague White House Fellow, let me tell you that there was no more productive, efficient member of our White House Fellows class than Hal Krentz.
In earlier arguments about the importance of keeping confidentiality in the State Department and how difficult it is to have outside readers well, I think all of those arguments apply in the White House as well. And yet Hal Krentz succeeded. Mr. Chairman, two years ago Hal Krentz passed away. And when he did, I made a silent pledge (as a number of my fellow White House Fellows did) that whenever any of us had a chance to speak at a circumstance where we knew Hal would have spoken, we would do so. I'm here today to redeem that pledge. I'm here today to speak as Hal would if he had been here. And even more importantly, we're all here today to redeem America's pledge that the best message we can send to the other countries of this world through our diplomats is that America is a country where any obstacle can be overcome. That is a message which will be sent by reversing the State Department's policy.
Mr. Chairman, I applaud your holding these hearings, and I urge you and all members of Congress not only to put as much influence as we can on the State Department to change this particular policy, but to come to the personal recognition of the vision impaired segment of our population as I have and come to that realization that there is nothing they can't do. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you, Congressman Campbell. Let me just for the record introduce you as a new member of the 101st Congress. You've taken a leave of absence from your duties at Stanford University, where you've taught for seventeen years, I believe.
Congressman Campbell. I taught there only for six and a half. I had to learn something before I could teach.
Congressman Sikorski. You've come here as the new Republican member of the House of Representatives. You've served as a White House Fellow, as you mentioned in your statement. You have a Ph.D in Economics. You specialized, in part, in discrimination law and discrimination economics. You've been a reader for Recording for The Blind for eighteen years. That's it. Your statement says a whole lot about the issue that we're dealing with here today and we thank you for your assistance and ask you if you want to join us up here if you'd like and if your schedule permits.
Congressman Campbell. I'd be pleased to, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Sikorski. Apparently there has been some miscommunication as to who is going when and what this consists of today. We have (let me introduce for the record) copies of letters of January 25, 1989, to Mr. Charles Stout, United States Department of State, and to Mr. Sheldon Yuspeh, United States Department of State, who will be on the first panel. I'm sorry. They will be on the second panel. Apparently their rules don't allow them to appear with just citizens. The first panel will be: Mr. Avraham Rabby, who is a human resources consultant. Mr. Rabby, I had occasion last night to read your statement, which is exceptional and of great value. We're beginning with you so that you can set the stage as to how we got here this morning.
Mr. Rabby passed the written portion of the Foreign Service Exam three times and the oral exam twice, yet has been denied entry into the Foreign Service as an officer despite his qualifications. As I recall, you speak four languages and have been involved in international issues for a long time. You currently manage your own consulting firm, which helps disabled individuals find employment. You were born in Israel. You lived in England for fifteen years and have also lived in Paris and Madrid. Mr. Rabby received a B.A. Honors Degree in French and Spanish from Oxford University in England, a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago, and has been a Fulbright scholar. Welcome, Mr. Rabby.
Mr. Rabby. Thank you, Mr. Sikorski. Let me begin by giving a very brief account of my involvement with the State Department, after which I shall analyze point by point the five principal arguments which the State Department has advanced during the last two or three months as to why they believe blind people cannot or should not be employed in the Foreign Service. Since December, 1985, (that is to say, within the last three years or so) I have taken the written exam for the Foreign Service a total of three times. I have passed them all and have done so with the help of Braille papers provided by the State Department, as well as an amanuensis provided by the State Department to mark my answers. In addition, I have taken the oral assessment twice, again using for those examinations a reader and an amanuensis, also provided by the State Department. I have also been granted a security clearance by the State Department's diplomatic security office.
In October, 1986, I went for my medical examination, and during the middle of my examination the State Department doctor read to me a paragraph from his medical standards manual, which said that any candidate having any kind of serious loss of vision, not to mention being totally blind as I am, would be disqualified on medical grounds. In November of 1988, just a few months ago, I was about to sit for my third oral assessment, when three days before the time came, I received notification from the State Department saying that their policy had changed and they were no longer going to provide me a reader or let me bring my own. Let me, as I said, go through the five principal points, the arguments that they have made.
First of all, let's deal with the issue of world-wide availability. The State Department seems to make a distinction between blind people on the one hand and sighted people on the other. They seem to say that sighted people can and should be obligated to serve world-wide and that blind people cannot. Mr. Chairman, I, as well as my colleagues in this room, reject that kind of distinction; and we also reject any thought of relaxing the principle of world-wide availability in order to accommodate the so-called needs of blind people. We do not believe that blind people need or should have the principle of world-wide availability relaxed for them. The fact is that, while the State Department would like to think that at no more than a moment's notice it can shift its Foreign Service Officers from one place in the world to another, in reality it goes through a very laborious and very correct and careful process of analyzing the characteristics of each Foreign Service Officer and his or her applicability and suitability to a particular location and a particular profession. This may vary according to the FSO's education, experience, family involvement, languages, and very often to the desires of the FSO himself or herself. The State Department does this because Foreign Service Officers are not like Fords and Chevrolets that roll off the assembly line, each one identical with the other. Each FSO has his or her own unique strengths and weaknesses. We believe that, in the case of blind people, blindness should be just one more of those characteristics that enter into the mix of the decision-making process determining where to place the Foreign Service Officer. Let me go on to the second point: the use of assistance to read material particularly, classified documents. The State Department says that mechanical means are available for blind people to do that. Let me tell the subcommittee some truths about the technology that is now available. It is true that there are devices, such as the Optacon mentioned by Congressman Campbell and the Kurzweil Personal Reader, which enable blind people to read print. However, these machines are limited in their scope and value. They do not read some type faces. The Optacon, particularly, is extremely slow. A blind person using it usually can't read more than fifty or sixty words a minute. The Kurzweil Personal Reader is hardly a portable piece of equipment, so you can see that there are some very definite limitations to this technology. All blind professionals and management-level people, both in the public and private sectors, have recognized that although these machines have their uses, there is nothing that beats an effective human reader to make one fully efficient, speedy, and competent on the job. What we are looking for in employment in the Foreign Service is not so much independence, because none of us is truly independent, but rather efficiency and competence, speed and productivity on the job.
The third point has to do with the issue of security and personal safety on the job. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that blind people in proportionate numbers are any more prone to accidents and hazards than sighted people are. We know this. The National Federation of the Blind has conducted studies with the insurance industry to demonstrate it. Beyond this fact, however, we need to talk about the social benefits involved in employing blind people. Let me make an analogy with women Foreign Service Officers. If personal safety and security were the overriding and paramount factors in employment of FSO's, women FSO's would not be hired since, as a group, women are physically weaker than men. Women are slower than men, as a group. And yet the Foreign Service...
Congressman Sikorski. (interrupts) I don't know if you would be able to prove that. I doubt that...
Mr. Rabby. (interrupts) ...I don't see why women are separated in the Olympic games or in sports, for example, unless for that reason.
Congressman Sikorski. Probably for the same reasons that you've been separated out. It has to do with people's prejudices and biases and...
Mr. Rabby. ...The times don't show that, Mr. Chairman. The times are for running and jumping and so on.
Congressman Sikorski. I expect that will change, too.
Mr. Rabby. In any case, women still are hired by the Foreign Service because, presumably, it believes that the social benefit from employing women FSO's and demonstrating to the world the equality and respect with which we treat women in this country outweighs any security consideration. Well, we believe that blind people should be given exactly the same consideration and treatment. The fourth point has to do with blind people operating in unfamiliar settings and cultures. It is really amazing to me and to my colleagues in this room that this point should be brought up at all. The State Department only had to look for leadership on this issue to the Peace Corps, which has for years employed, as volunteers, blind people in all parts of the world in unfamiliar settings and cultures and has done so very, very effectively. There are people here this morning to whom this room itself was unfamiliar territory until today, and yet we managed to arrive here and find our seats, and we shall leave here. There's no reason to believe that we couldn't do it in France or China or Japan or any other country.
Finally, the fifth point has to do with the visual cues and indicators that the State Department feels are a necessary part of diplomatic negotiations and which blind people cannot interpret. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, there are in this country blind judges, blind lawyers, blind psychiatrists, blind people who in their day-to-day work have to interpret what the State Department would call visual cues and indicators. And they do so very effectively. So how do they do it? Well, one way they do it is by using audible information. Now, the State Department hasn't learned it yet, but most visual cues and indicators are accompanied by their audible counterparts, such as a smile when one is talking, the rustling of paper, the shifting about uncomfortably in one's seat, and so on. But beyond that, it is important to recognize that, in diplomatic negotiations particularly, if there is a wink or a nod by the person sitting across the negotiating table, the blind person who cannot hear some part of the visual cue is certainly not going to go on with any discussion until he or she does hear verbal response. In any case, to the best of my knowledge, no international treaty or agreement has ever been signed on the basis of a wink or a nod. Everything has to be written on paper, with the i's dotted and the t's crossed. Mr. Chairman, those are the five points that I've been able to glean from various letters and statements made by the State Department officials to members of Congress and to the media, and those are my answers to them.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you very much. Without objections your entire statement will be placed in the record as you provided it. We will move quickly to the second panel and the officials. Before you leave, Mr. Rabby, I do have a couple of quick questions. Your points were dealt with logically and nicely in your statement. I did want to hit on a couple of them. I know that the State Department has made the claim that their Foreign Service Officers must be, by virtue of their organization, their statutory authorization, available on a world-wide basis. This is the so-called world-wide availability argument. Does the Department actually follow this policy in application today?
Mr. Rabby. That, of course, you will have to ask them. All I can tell you is that, to the logical mind of a human resource management specialist (which is what I claim to be, Mr. Chairman), it simply cannot be. As I said in my oral testimony, and as you will find in the written testimony, any placement of a Foreign Service Officer simply cannot be done the way you place so many identical widgets that come off an assembly line in a factory. Foreign Service Officers have specific educations. One may have an expertise in East European political history. Another may not. One may have experience in the African environment. Another may be a complete novice. One may be fluent in Hebrew; another may be fluent in Chinese, and so on. All of these are taken into consideration when they place any Foreign Service Officer in a particular post. What we would like to see is blindness treated as one characteristic and put into the mix of all the blind Foreign Service Officer's characteristics being considered each time he or she is to be stationed anywhere in the world.
Congressman Sikorski. People, in fact, are looked at based on their talents, their resources, their frame of mind at the time, their family situations, and a host of personal idiosyncratic facts and whims, and then decisions are made on that basis. Are they not?
Mr. Rabby. Exactly.
Congressman Sikorski. Let me ask you: One of the State Department's concerns that strikes a responsive cord in a lot of hearts is that concerning classified information. You hit that in your statement. I don't recall that you detailed it in your summary this morning. The argument is that a blind individual is not able to recognize when such information is classified, and that it can be easily intercepted if a blind individual requires a reader who would read that classified information aloud. How does that concern strike you?
Mr. Rabby. Oh yes, they say that the reading aloud of classified information which is used by political and economic officers is bad, except in specially designed acoustical rooms at posts abroad. I think it would be fair to ask them a number of questions. Are classified materials only used by political and economic officers as they have said, and, if so, what about public affairs officers and cultural officers and administrative officers and consular officers? Why aren't they willing to consider blind people for those positions? If out-loud reading of classified materials is prohibited, what about the oral interpreting of classified materials to FSO's who are not familiar with the language of the classified documents? Does that not ever take place? And if out-loud reading of classified materials is prohibited, what about discussion of them? Surely that goes on. It simply does not make sense. But if all discussion or reading aloud of classified material has to take place in this specially-designed acoustical room, put the blind person and the reader in there.
Congressman Sikorski. The point you're making is that if it's an issue, it's an issue for sighted and blind people alike because classified information is not simply read and it's not simply written. It's interpreted; it's translated (in some instances out loud); it's discussed out loud. If that's only done in contained acoustical rooms, then there's nothing wrong with putting the blind person in these rooms.
Mr. Rabby. That's right. The broader point that I am making, Mr. Chairman, is also that the State Department has so far been totally unwilling to acknowledge the valuable contribution that blind people can and should be making in the Foreign Service. If they're initially unwilling to make that kind of policy statement, they will find all kinds of reasons for which blind people should not be hired. These are just some of them.
Congressman Sikorski. You commented on unfamiliar circumstances. You've lived in New York City for how long?
Mr. Rabby. Eleven years.
Congressman Sikorski. Eleven years and it's not the kindest, most user-friendly city in the world.
Mr. Rabby. Yes. On the issue of personal safety and security, New York City in 1988 had 1,900 murders, which is the largest number of murders in any city around the world, that's to say in peace time.
Congressman Sikorski. Washington, D.C., is where we are sitting this morning. It is not the friendliest place. Is there any place in the world that you would not go, refuse to go, or personally not want to go based on the fact that you are blind?
Mr. Rabby. Not based on the fact that I am blind. There are plenty of places in the world where I wouldn't like to go, but the State Department ought to realize that in all of those places, there are blind people living and working very happily.
Congressman Sikorski. In fact, there are blind people who are serving in our Foreign Service today. Is that correct?
Mr. Rabby. Mr. Chairman, I don't have much information about blind people...
Congressman Sikorski. I know one. I met Ambassador... just a few weeks ago who was legally blind, and there are blind people in the Foreign Service ...
Mr. Rabby. However, I do know, Mr. Chairman, that there is a full-fledged blind, totally blind, Foreign Service officer working for the Canadian Foreign Service who has done so for at least ten years. He has served in Tokyo and is now in India. He has a reader/secretary assigned to his position so that wherever he is assigned, the reader/secretary goes with him.
Congressman Sikorski. And those include both industrialized nations and...
Mr. Rabby. And so-called third world countries, yes.
Congressman Sikorski. I spent a year in India a few years ago during college, and I can appreciate the fact that if someone does serve there in the Foreign Service, they probably have experienced a wealth of wonderful and challenging opportunities. They probably have proven the capacity to survive in any country.
Mr. Rabby, do you have anything to add?
Mr. Rabby. No, I don't think so, Mr. Chairman. I think my written testimony includes just about all of the thoughts that I have ever had on this subject.
Congressman Sikorski. (laughing) Will you be available for us this morning should we want to come back and ask you some questions?
Mr. Rabby. Absolutely.
Congressman Sikorski. Our second panel will include Mr. Evan J. Kemp, Jr. (Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission); Mr. Charles Stout, who is the director of Policy Coordinations Staff with the Director General of the Foreign Service, Department of State; and Mr. Sheldon Yuspeh, who is the Coordinator for Handicapped Employment Programs in that same office at the Department of State. Gentlemen, welcome. Come on up.
In the beginning, Commissioner Kemp was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in July of 1987. He's a tireless spokesperson for independent living by disabled people and for an end to paternalism that too often keeps disabled people dependent. Again, it's a pleasure to welcome you here this morning. Your prepared comments will be placed in the record as you wish them. You may summarize as you wish, Mr. Kemp.
Commissioner Kemp. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, staff. This briefing is very important to disabled people because I think again it shows the attitude that excludes us from the mainstream of society. The State Department's actions refusing a blind applicant the right to take a test, either Braille or with a reader or something else, sends a wrong message at the wrong time to both government agencies and to the public sector. The federal government is supposed to be a model employer of disabled people, and I don't think it's reached that very often. We do have a new administration. President Bush is committed to integrating disabled people into society and giving disabled people control over their own lives. He's talked about the 70% unemployment of disabled people. We would like disabled people to get back into the work force. Our 1986 EOC report on the State Department concluded that somebody that was disabled very rarely gets through the twin barriers of the medical standards and the world-wide availability standards. I don't know how much these standards cause the problems or whether it's the attitudes of the State Department. I do think attitudes are still the biggest barrier that people with disabilities have in getting integrated into society.
I don't have (and the EOC does not have) really adequate information on how the world-wide availability standards work. Are there exceptions to that standard? It is written into the law. Sometimes these are followed by agencies very closely, and sometimes not at all. We do know that from the September 30, 1988, report that there are two Foreign Service Officers that are blind. Are they treated differently, or do they still have world-wide availability? There are a lot of things that we need to know, I think, before we can make a determination that the State Department is violating Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
From my own experiences as Executive Director of Ralph Nader's Disability Rights Center from 1980 to 1987, the State Department has a dismal record of hiring people with disabilities. It seems to me that their attitude is that they want to hire what I call the mythical American, the five-foot ten-inch, one hundred-sixty pound, male WASP in perfect physical and mental health. And I think that this is the attitude that they are going under. This does exclude disabled people and other people that are different. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is different from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It says look at the individual. Look at the individual's ability and disabilities, and then look at the job. See if those two can mesh. The State Department still has the medical standards that are vague and exclude disabled people. They look at blindness and they look at groups and still exclude them. I think that this briefing is terribly important. I think that there should be hearings on this, and I think that the Congress should pass specific laws for the State Department in this area. Thank you.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you, Commissioner Kemp. I think there are specific laws dealing with handicapped individuals, and your 1987 report highlights those. We'll get into questions after Mr. Stout has had his say. Director Stout is director of the Policy Coordination staff and the Office of the Director General of the Foreign Service and the director for personnel at the State Department. That's one office. I kind of made you two different things, but that's one office, and Mr. Stout comes to us at the recommendation of and as a replacement for Mr. George Vest, who after a long and successful career, has recently retired from the State Department. Mr. Stout is also accompanied by Mr. Sheldon Yuspeh, who is the State Department's coordinator for Handicapped Employment Programs, and I understand that Mr. Yuspeh will not make a formal presentation but is available for us today to make any comments and answer any questions.
If I may interject at this point, Congressman Dymally is here, and we'll turn it over to him for a statement.
Congressman Dymally. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I come to you and my friends, especially those in California, as a long supporter of those with sight handicaps. As a member of the California legislature since 1962, I have a keen interest in this matter.
I also wear another hat, Mr. Chairman, as the new chairman of the Subcommittee on International Operations of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which has some jurisdiction over the old questions of employment practices of the State Department. And after you have concluded your hearing, the subcommittee would like to join with this committee at subsequent hearings some time after the mark-up of the International Office Bill. We will work jointly on this effort. The subcommittee is committed to pursuing this matter, and I want to give my friends some assurance that the Subcommittee on International Operations, which has jurisdiction over the State Department, is going to pursue this matter with the help of Chairman Sikorski in the hope that we will have a successful resolution of this very troubling problem. So I am very pleased to join you in and want to commend you on these hearings.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you. The Chairman has been a great help and a good friend as we have gone through this Post Office and Civil Service Committee on a whole host of issues, and we thank him for his past activities and promise of future activities as well. We know that all of us can feel better because of it. Mr. Stout, do you want to make your statement?
Director Stout. Mr. Chairman, Commissioner, I have a short statement. In recent years the Department of State has facilitated the Foreign Service candidacy of disabled persons by providing accommodations that enable such candidates to complete the written and oral assessment process. The relationship of the candidate's disability to performance and safety is not considered unless the candidate successfully passes the oral examination. If disqualified because of a medical or disabling condition, the candidate may request a review by an employment review committee. The ERC (Employment Review Committee) reviews such requests on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the Department can reasonably accommodate the candidate's condition without sacrificing the performance, safety, or assignability needs of the service. Generally speaking, this policy has provided a useful mechanism for giving fair and equitable consideration to many candidates with medical and/or disabling conditions.
However, expressions of dissatisfaction from candidates with severe disabilities prompted a review of the overall policy. The Department established a working group in late 1988 to begin a self-evaluation of our existing pre-employment standards with respect to disabled candidates. The direction of the evaluation is two-fold. Our medical division has been reviewing the department's pre-employment medical standards with an eye towards recommending the elimination of any standard which is not based upon clear, medical management considerations. For example, an applicant who is blind or deaf but otherwise perfectly healthy would not present a medical management issue. If the functional loss, however, is due to a disease process or other medical condition, the applicant's condition would be considered in terms of the Department's ability to provide adequate medical care in the field.
In addition to this medical standard review, the Department is re-evaluating functional performance and safety requirements for all Foreign Service positions. The Department has asked the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to collect information on essential Foreign Service Officer duties in functional terms as part of a job analysis survey that ETS has contracted to do for us in the coming year. This survey and information already collected by our standards review working group will be used to complete an evaluation of our ability to accommodate persons with disabilities in the future. It must be recognized that it is not always possible or reasonable to accommodate every type of functional loss in every job situation. Our goal here is to link directly the accommodations we provide during the written and oral assessment process to job functions which are essential to satisfactory performance in the Foreign Service. Where it is conclusively determined that an accommodation requested in the examination process is incompatible with the performance of essential functions in the field, the requested accommodation will be denied. This approach will help early in the examination process to reduce unrealistic expectations for disabled persons who have functional losses that cannot reasonably be accommodated in the Foreign Service Environment. As you may know, that environment includes the legislative requirement that members of the Foreign Service are available to serve in assignments throughout the world, as put in the 1980 Foreign Service Act. While this process is still in the early phase, our review has shown that the ability to work independently and effectively from original source documents is an essential job requirement for all Foreign Service officer positions.
For this reason the Director General of the Foreign Service decided that the December 3, 1988, written examination would not be given in Braille or with a reader. The policy decision provides, however, that any visually impaired applicant may utilize any accommodation, medical or otherwise, which facilitates working independently from original examination documents. Foreign Service Officers, for example, must necessarily work from original source documents in the field: passports, birth certificates, contracts, what have you. Of all the visually impaired persons who applied to take last December's examination, only one chose not to take it under these circumstances. All other visually impaired applicants took and completed the examination. Our policy also allowed the same applicants extra time and, where necessary, assistance in marking the answer booklet.
Clearly, the current policy does not impose a blanket exclusion on any protected group. This policy only affects persons applying for Foreign Service Officer positions, which comprise approximately 20% of the Department's work force. Over the past several years the Department has met all applicable standards in hiring and retaining persons with disabilities for positions in the United States. The Department employs visually impaired and blind persons in domestic positions and, where appropriate, employs readers. Thus, the policy change the Department has made is not an effort to exclude any group. It is, however, a carefully derived recognition of our limitations to accommodate in one specific way, with a reader, and takes into account job requirements which demand world-wide availability and the ability to function in a wide range of work environments. Mr. Chairman, I will be glad to take questions for the record or to go into general background questions if you have any.
Congressman Sikorski. We thank you, Mr. Stout, for your statement; we appreciate it and your willingness to assist us. Let me, using the EOC findings, just kind of run through a couple of things so that we're all at the same place, and correct me if I'm wrong. According to your report, Commissioner Kemp, the application process for becoming a Foreign Service Officer is lengthy and includes a written and oral examination, medical examination, and background examination. The Foreign Service Act of 1980 mandates affirmative action, equal employment opportunity for handicapped individuals in the Foreign Service. Under Chapter One, Section 101, the Act states that people won't be discriminated against, that there will be equal opportunity and fair and equitable treatment for all without regard to political affiliation, race, color, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition. Under Section 105 of the same act, it discusses merit principles and protections for members of the service and minority recruitment. This is the Foreign Service Act of 1980 again. It says that the Secretary of State shall administer the provisions so that the people in the service are free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and handicap. In addition, the State Department, according to your findings of 1987, established a committee to explore changing the current medical standards to standards that measure functional limitations of handicapped individuals. In that order (EOMD 712), it says, agencies are to analyze selection procedures in order to identify those that impede hiring placement, and advancement of handicapped individuals. As selection barriers are identified, alternatives are to be instituted. Now as I understand, the Department of the State policy here is consistent with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and even broadens it, and there is no exemption for the Department of State from the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Is that correct, Commissioner?
Commissioner Kemp. Yeah, that's true. I do think that Congress was very specific in 1980, but I do think that for Federal agencies and departments, especially the State Department, I think these are sort of a hortatory law, like either grapefruit week or national poultry month. And they don't take that into consideration.
Congressman Sikorski. Oat bran. That's the big wave now.
Commissioner Kemp. Yeah. And they're not taken seriously, and so that's why I was calling for specific laws to really start outlining what they're supposed to do. The Federal Government's been talking about hiring the handicapped since 1947. Of the fifteen million disabled people of working age, less than 1/3 of us work. That's a very dismal record.
Congressman Sikorski. Director Stout, the Department of State has a policy and maybe you can read it for me, on world-wide availability. Can you give me the exact language? I think you're mandated under your statute, is that correct?
Director Stout. As I read in my statement, the act provides that members of the Foreign Service are available to serve in assignments throughout the world.
Congressman Sikorski. Can you read for me the words before that?
Director Stout. I don't have that before me, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Sikorski. So we have the interposing issue of world-wide availability, and as I recall, we have an interposing issue of medical capacity and security (personal security) and security of information that needs to be transmitted classified information specifically. These are arguments that are made to support the elimination of blind people for Foreign Service Officer positions. Is that correct?
Director Stout. I don't believe so. There are many factors that go into the assignability of a person. Obviously, not every officer is going to be assigned at every Foreign Service Post, 135 or so, whatever there are in the world. But we try to make assignments equitably based both on service needs (there are requirements to fill positions), and the preferences and various personal considerations of officers.
Congressman Sikorski. The EOC report was done in 1987, and it is my understanding that the Department told them that they'd establish a committee to explore changing the current medical standards to standards that measure functional limitations of handicapped individuals.
Director Stout. If I may quote, Chairman, our medical division has been reviewing the Department's pre-employment medical standards with an eye towards recommending the elimination of any standard which is not based upon clear, medical management considerations.
Congressman Sikorski. No, I understand that. In one of your letters to me, you gave me credit for instituting that policy, but I am talking about 1987 and the State Department telling the EOC that they have a committee that's looking at current medical standards. That was two years ago.
Mr. Yuspeh. Mr. Chairman, if I might, we have had an ad hoc group working on this for quite some time. The group....
Congressman Sikorski. What's quite some time?
Mr. Yuspeh. Dating back to the date that you gave, sir.
Congressman Sikorski. Oh, that ad hoc group that you are referring to now is the one that the EOC was talking about.
Mr. Yuspeh. That did some of the background.
Congressman Sikorski. What did they decide?
Mr. Yuspeh. The group that is currently working?
Congressman Sikorski. No, the ad hoc group. What did this group do that the State Department told the EOC it had established to explore the change in the current medical standard...
Mr. Yuspeh. (interrupts) Chairman, if I might, the Department has been undergoing the review. We are working, and we have been reviewing drafts of revised medical standards, and we're making an effort at this time, Sir, which is still early on in the process of reviewing our standards, with an eye towards eliminating unnecessary exclusion as required under the act. Congressman Sikorski. Let me mention a suit with the EOC by Donald Galloway, who is blind and had served in the Peace Corps in Jamaica; it was settled in 1985 for about $167,000. In that settlement, the State Department had said it was committed to the policy of affirmative action with respect to the hiring, placement, and advancement of qualified handicapped individuals as mandated by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act and its regulations.
Further, the Department agreed to develop and implement uniform methods by which qualified handicapped applicants for Foreign Service employment are afforded an opportunity to provide relevant information to the Department for its consideration when a review of the specific relationship between the applicant's medical status and the Foreign Service employment is conducted. When did you begin your investigation that led to your 1987 report?
Mr. Yuspeh. In the summer of 1986.
Congressman Sikorski. So then in 1986 there is another investigation going on. In 1987 the report comes out (in it the State Department is credited with having established a committee to explore changing the current medical standards to standards that measure functional limitation of handicapped individuals), and then in the fall of 1988 we have a report of an individual who has passed the written test three times, the oral examinations twice, who, as it turns out, has passed the security investigation, but can't make it over the hurdle of visual acuity in the medical standards and is washed out. He speaks four languages, has a degree from Oxford, and a graduate degree from Chicago, and then, when we ask questions about it, we're told that there is a kind of a group looking at it. (laughter) My point here is I don't think that is good faith evaluation of the problem, and if we're to take the State Department's statements that they want to move ahead and clear this up and make sure that there aren't any standards or barriers (standards that act as barriers), I don't have a lot of faith in those.
Director Stout. Mr. Chairman, in the statement that I read I gave you what we were authorized to say in this briefing. And, as far as I can see, the statement is straight-forward. These are commitments that we're working on, and we intend to carry them through.
Congressman Sikorski. Who do you think you are negotiating with here, the Japanese? I think the American people have a right to know the conduct of the State Department and that their tax-paying money is not being used to discriminate against other American citizens. Let me back up and begin again. What came out of the settlement agreement in the Galloway case that you can point to that, as actions consistent with the sincerity of that agreement, has been taken by the State Department to lessen barriers?
Director Stout. Mr. Chairman, with respect, we are not authorized to go beyond this statement.
Congressman Sikorski. Do you know?
Director Stout. I don't, myself.
Congressman Sikorski. Do you, Mr. Yuspeh?
Mr. Yuspeh. Mr. Chairman, I don't think it would be proper for us to discuss any...
Congressman Sikorski. Do you know, Mr. Yuspeh, what the Department of State did subsequent to the 1985 settlement saying that it would implement uniform methods to allow people to provide information to the medical review people?
Mr. Yuspeh. Mr. Chairman, I'm sorry. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that.
Congressman Sikorski. Why would it be inappropriate? Let me know why it's inappropriate. I'm not asking you about individual cases. I want to know what uniform methods were established subsequent to 1985 by the Department of State so that a qualified individual on everything else, but with questions on medical, can provide to the review board information on his or her medical status.
Mr. Yuspeh. Mr. Chairman, I think in our statement we were quite clear. We have an Employment Review Committee established in which candidates who make it through the entire exam process can present written information to that committee so that that committee can determine whether or not we can accommodate. It's in the statement, sir.
Congressman Sikorski. The statement that was not provided to us prior to the hearing?
Commissioner Kemp. We have it here if you'd like a copy, sir.
Congressman Sikorski. We requested it, but were not provided it. Just as the written statement barring blind people from Foreign Service was not provided to us until I had to jump through three different hoops last year, and finally it came in January of this year. And now you're telling us that you're not authorized and you don't know about some things that the State Department entered into and pointed to as good faith efforts to clear up this problem? I don't find that very reassuring.
Commissioner Kemp. Mr. Chairman?
Congressman Sikorski. Commissioner.
Commissioner Kemp. I have a suggestion. I think that what the State Department is doing now is done by other government agencies that are really thumbing their noses at Congress. I think you should submit your questions to the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee for the Department of State before they get their money in the next budget. I think then they'll answer the question.
Congressman Sikorski. Well, we'll get the answers. (laughter and clapping) I've been around the legislative process ...now this is my thirteenth year six years in the state Senate, six years and going on seven years in Congress. When I came here in 1982, I was put on the Oversight Investigation Committee of the Energy and Commerce Committee. That was Sam Rayburn's fiefdom. My chairman during that time has been John Dingle, and he's taught me that the issue is not whether we're going to get answers to questions. The issue is whether we're going to get them clearly with the least amount of discomfort to the parties involved and as quickly as we should. Now the topic of this morning's hearing is not only common knowledge and publicly discussed and debated. Not only by representatives of the blind community, but by representatives of the State Department and in the public media on radio. I have a transcript of discussion by Mr. Vest, the head of the Foreign Service Office, and National Public Radio here. And these questions are not new. As we know, they were raised as early as 1975. They were raised in the 80's. They were raised in legal settings. They were raised in formal settings. So the answer shouldn't be that hard to come up with. The fact of the matter is, the State Department hasn't lived up to its legal obligations under the Rehabilitation Law, its legal obligations under the Foreign Service Act, the legal obligations it's taken in response to the EOC concerns and other complaints. I'm sure it's discomforting to the people here, and I'm sure they don't want to be in a position where they look as though they personally haven't been doing their work because I'm sure they're fine people with tough jobs doing the best they can. But the point is, the State Department isn't living up to its obligations and eliminating barriers to handicapped individuals and (specifically in these instances) to blind people, and I find that disheartening and disappointing, and I'm obligated to raise it in this kind of forum.
I'm going to insist that the State Department answer the questions. The first question is, what has it done pursuant to the settlement in 1985 in the Galloway matter to live up to that agreement? That is the first question. The second question is...
Director Stout. Mr. Chairman, may we take these questions and give you a written reply?
Congressman Sikorski. Yes, that's why I'm...The second question is, what are the results of the 1987 ad hoc (well you called it ad hoc; the EOC calls it a committee) established to look at the medical applicability on a personal individual basis and make adjustments there. I'd like a written statement on the world-wide availability that establishes why it is applied in the blind situation on a somewhat academic or theoretical basis, but doesn't look at the application for non-blind, non-handicapped people in actual practice. And on that, I think I can ask you a question that you may or may not have knowledge of. Are there blind people in the Foreign Service today in active posts?
Mr. Yuspeh. We have legally blind individuals, two at the moment who have self-identified themselves as being visually impaired.
Congressman Sikorski. And if they had applied now to work, one of them is Ambassador to Kenya, is she not?
Mr. Yuspeh. I'm not aware. I said of those who have self identified themselves, sir.
Congressman Sikorski. Okay. Of these blind people who are in active service today, were they applying today, they would not be hired by the Foreign Service. Is that correct?
Mr. Yuspeh. It would depend on the outcome of their exam process and the individual review.
Congressman Sikorski. Well, they don't have visual acuity.
Mr. Yuspeh. We did not exclude blind people from the Foreign Service, Mr. Chairman. What we did is, we recognized the limitation providing one accommodation as we've stated in our statement, Sir. What we have done is, we have determined that we could not provide readers for people overseas. That's all we did. We did not exclude blind people from serving in the Foreign Service.
Congressman Sikorski. Well, I know you don't want to talk about the Rabby case, but that's just what happened in the Rabby case. He passed the written exam three times, passed the oral exam twice. He has passed the security investigation, and the doctor simply told him he's out because of visual acuity. Am I missing something here?
Mr. Yuspeh. Sir, I cannot comment on Mr. Rabby's case.
Congressman Sikorski. Are you familiar with the Peace Corps, Mr. Stout?
Director Stout. I've never worked with it myself or been in it. I know what it is obviously.
Congressman Sikorski. The State Department works on an intimate basis with the Peace Corps. They work together all over the world, and the Peace Corps is kind of, what do they say, the hardest job you'll ever love. It's as demanding physically and culturally and emotionally as the State Department job, the Foreign Service job. Is it not?
Director Stout. Yes.
Congressman Sikorski. And yet there are blind people who have served overseas in the Peace Corps. We know of blind people in other countries' Foreign Service. We know of blind people that are in the Foreign Service today who became blind, as I understand the facts, after they were in the Foreign Service, and they are subject to world-wide availability requirements, are they not?
Mr. Yuspeh. Mr. Chairman, are you asking us if the Peace Corps...
Congressman Sikorski. No. Are there any Foreign Service Officers currently serving who are not subject today to the full breadth and parameters of world-wide availability?
Director Stout. Oh, there are a number of people who are medically disqualified from going abroad.
Congressman Sikorski. Going abroad?
Mr. Yuspeh. Yes. They are working in the Department of State.
Congressman Sikorski. But not in the ...
Mr. Yuspeh. Foreign Service officers who are not medically qualified to go abroad.
Congressman Sikorski. Okay. The question becomes, are the blind people that are in the Foreign Service subject to the same world-wide availability requirements as anyone else? These people that became blind in the Foreign Service...
Mr. Yuspeh. I'm sorry. We don't have that personal information.
Congressman Sikorski. That's another question. The question is, has world-wide availability been in any way diminished, weakened?
Mr. Yuspeh. In theory, of course, these people are available and should be available on a world-wide basis.
Congressman Sikorski. Okay. Let me just say, there's no reason for those blind applicants not to be treated the same as these blind people who are in the Foreign Service office.
Director Stout. Agreed.
Congressman Sikorski. But they are not. You can't hold up world-wide availability as this magic guard off- screen to protect your unwillingness, refusal to admit blind people into the Foreign Service, and at the same time...
Director Stout. Mr. Chairman, we do not insist that...there's a misconception here. Someone who enters the Foreign Service must be automatically available for world-wide assignments. That is for everyone by definition.
Congressman Sikorski. Then why do you hold up world-wide availability as an argument that blind people can't serve for the Foreign Service?
Director Stout. I don't see it myself as an argument.
Congressman Sikorski. Did you not, in your statement, hold up world-wide availability this morning as a rationale for the State Department's position?
Director Stout. No.
Congressman Sikorski. Okay. Has it not been...
Director Stout. I mentioned, Mr. Chairman, if I may...
Congressman Sikorski. I thought you quoted from it...
Director Stout. I did indeed, and I said that this is in terms of reducing unrealistic expectations of disabled persons whose functional losses cannot reasonably be accommodated in the Foreign Service environment. Part of that environment is the world-wide availability. But that is not a unique matter. Everyone has to be available world-wide.
Congressman Sikorski. That's the problem. I think what I see from this vantage point (and maybe my eyes aren't clear; maybe I don't see as well as some other people) from this vantage point is that world-wide availability becomes the argument to hold up blind people from the Foreign Service.
Director Stout. No, sir. This is just bringing to your attention that there is this specific provision.
Congressman Sikorski. Then, it is no barrier?
Director Stout. An additional barrier. It is a barrier. Well, it's not a barrier. It's a requirement of the Foreign Service Act.
Congressman Sikorski. But there are Foreign Service officers who are active today who are blind and are by definition world-wide available. Somehow, someone's got the idea that because someone's blind, they can't be available world-wide.
Director Stout. I certainly don't make that. I don't posit that statement, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Sikorski. I think that's what your statement said this morning and that's what Mr. Vest and others have said in defense of the State Department's position eliminating Mr. Rabby or any other blind person.
Director Stout. We're in difficulty in the specific point because we don't know these two blind Foreign Service personnel. We have to identify them, see where they are, what they are doing and we will provide a written response, a written comment.
Congressman Sikorski. And on the general question of world-wide availability, it's a subjective classification, is it not? A subjective determination?
Director Stout. It's subjective in the broad sense. An awful lot of factors go into an assignment as you know.
Congressman Sikorski. Someone's desire to serve?
Director Stout. Of course. And family. And schools.
Congressman Sikorski. People won't go to the Soviet Union, for example, or they won't go to South Africa, or they won't go to France.
Director Stout. Mr. Chairman, it's not a matter of people saying they will not go because if there is a requirement for them to go, they will be assigned there.
Congressman Sikorski. People have input to that assignment?
Director Stout. Of course.
Congressman Sikorski. And if you want a person to remain in the Foreign Service, and that person doesn't want to honor an assignment, that assignment will not be made?
Director Stout. Not necessarily, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Sikorski. But that does occur?
Director Stout. Oh yes. It does occur.
Congressman Sikorski. People's interest, their capacities are looked at. It's not a take X in Brazil and put Z in Moscow.
Director Stout. The person has to be qualified for one.
Congressman Sikorski. And so one part of the qualification is language, and not everyone speaks one hundred and (how many countries are there that we...)
Director Stout. One hundred and thirty five.
Congressman Sikorski. And not everyone speaks the hundred or so different languages that are available around. So that restricts world-wide availability.
Director Stout. Of course, we do train people in different languages.
Congressman Sikorski. I understand that.
Director Stout. Particularly Junior Officers, and indeed we encourage them to get as many languages as they can....over a consistent period, but it doesn't mean that once an officer has one of these difficult languages he must serve for the rest of his career in that area of the world. On the contrary, it's wise to give people a chance to move elsewhere and do different things.
Congressman Sikorski. You and I both know Foreign Service officers who won't go to certain countries for family reasons, for personal reasons, for a host of reasons, and we know people that wouldn't be considered for placement in various countries based on an analysis of their talents and where they could best be used, and they'd run into problems in certain countries. Is that correct?
Director Stout. Of course.
Congressman Sikorski. Now, where is the world-wide availability in that situation?
Director Stout. It becomes sometimes a matter of negotiation.
Congressman Sikorski. Okay. I think what we're just saying is maybe you should look at that negotiation process as applies to blind people and handicapped people generally. And I think you have sometimes promised to do that before, but we don't see any track record on it, and the most recent case was just presented here. The guy that gets washed out, who from every...if your testing process means anything, this guy is very well-qualified. If your security means anything, he's okay from a security standpoint. If the oral examination process means anything, he's very well qualified from there, and where he runs into problems is that he happens to be blind. We get the response he's not world-wide available. Not he, specifically, because you don't want to talk about that specific issue, but he happens to be blind, and he can't meet the visual acuity. Or a person in his similar situation couldn't meet the visual acuity situation. So we're back to where we began this conversation.
Congressman Dymally. Just one comment. I regret I have a conflicting meeting. I must leave. I simply wanted to state to Mr. Stout and Mr. Yuspeh that your inability to respond to some of the questions prompts me to suggest to you that I want to give you some notice that the Subcommittee On International Operations, in conjunction with this committee, is going to hold hearings on this matter sometime after the mark-up of the State Department bill late this spring. I hope, by then, you will have been prepared to respond to some of the questions which you have been unable to answer today, and I remind you that the Post Office Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, as you are well-aware, wrote the Foreign Service Act of 1980. So there's continuing interest on both of these committees, and I'm very pleased that the Chairman has seen fit to hold these hearings because there is a problem here, obviously. Just the mere absence of any people with sight impairment in the Foreign Service suggests where there is smoke, there is some fire and we need to look at it, and I'm just giving you some grace period to come up with some...I hope that when we hold our hearings, you will have some specific recommendations to correct this problem.
Director Stout. I take your point, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Dymally. Thank you very much, indeed.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you, Mr. Dymally. The EOC made two recommendations in its 1987 report: that the Department develop and implement medical standards to focus on functional requirements rather than the medical conditions in all flexibility in analysis of applicability of requirements to specific jobs and posts. That's the first. My question is, what has the Department done to develop and implement those medical standards, and I'd like that in writing.
And second, the second recommendation of the EOC is that the Department broaden its interpretation of world-wide availability to allow flexibility in assigning individuals posted, or appropriate to their qualifications. And I want to know what the Department has done on that, and why (under that flexibility approach), Mr. Rabby or someone who is blind cannot be admitted? That's the second question.
Mr. Stout, the final question: the Department's interest, as I understand, is having Congress provide an exemption from the Rehabilitation Act for the Department which would forever preclude handicapped individuals from entering into the Foreign Service. Is this true?
Director Stout. That's news to me, Mr. Chairman.
Congressman Sikorski. You're not aware of the Department requesting or asking for or preparing a request for the Congress to exempt the Department of State's Foreign Service, or any part thereof, from the Rehabilitation Act?
Director Stout. No.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you, all of you. I want to give you an opportunity or whatever to make any concluding comments. Mr. Yuspeh, Mr. Stout, do you have any concluding comments? I suspect that we'll get, in a reasonable amount of time, written answers to the questions that have been left unanswered.
Director Stout. You will get them.
Congressman Sikorski. Okay. Commissioner Kemp, you get to clean up here.
Commissioner Kemp. I think this briefing is very, very important, but I've been in this field...
Congressman Sikorski. Before you leave, Mr. Stout, I want to thank you, so if you'll just hold with us for one second...
Director Stout. Of course.
Commissioner Kemp. I've been fighting for the rights of disabled people for over twenty years. Congress has talked about the federal government being a model employer. There have been hearings like this when an agency really stubs its toe. But until Congress, I think in the appropriation hearings, really gets serious about this, the federal government is not going to be a model employer. So I think that one suggestion from this briefing I'd like to see is that the appropriations committees be asked to really delve into this area.
Congressman Sikorski. You've made that recommendation, and I heard it the first time and the second time and the third time, and I couldn't agree more. What we intend to do is provide the appropriations people in both the Senate and the House with copies of the transcript of this briefing this morning and ask them to insist through the appropriate process that appropriate changes be made. We can keep having meetings like this, and they can be about the blind in one instance, and they can be about another disability in another instance, but until the changes are made, we're just going to have a lot of hearings, a lot of briefings, and a lot of meetings. We'll make sure, and I think you heard Mr. Dymally and the Civil Service Component of Post Office, Civil Service, and Foreign Affairs; and we'll get the appropriations people on it and follow through. Commissioner, thank you very much. Director, Assistant Director, and Coordinators, thank you very much for your assistance this morning. We will begin the second panel. We appreciate the opportunity to talk about this matter this morning. Thank you, Mr. Dymally.
Our third panel this morning consists of Mr. Marc Maurer, the President of the National Federation of the Blind; Ms. Heidi Sherman, a student at BLIND, Inc. and a student at the University of Minnesota; and Ms. Elizabeth Schuster, a graduate student of international relations at the American University. On my left is Judy Sanders who is my District Director, runs my Minnesota operation, and has sensitized me to a few of these problems. She's here as my special advisor. Ms Heidi Sherman is our next panelist. She's a fellow Minnesotan, here in Washington to participate in the Federation's current seminar. She's a student of BLIND, Inc., which is Minnesota's new comprehensive training program for the adult blind. She's also a student at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Russian area studies and German area studies, and I know she has a plane to catch back to Minnesota so she can attend class and not get thrown out. We're going to turn the microphone over to you, Heidi, for a few comments. Your statement will appear in the record as you submitted it, and I ask that you make your comments now.
Ms. Sherman. Mr. Chairman, two weeks ago I was informed that, due to current State Department policy, I would be denied employment in the Foreign Service. At first I was outraged because of yet another case of prejudice against the blind allegedly because of safety. I have always seen myself to be as qualified as any of my peers in my field. I've spent ten months as a foreign exchange student in Austria, and last summer I spent two months in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, conducting research. Currently I am also enrolled in BLIND, Inc., an orientation program. The students at BLIND, Inc. develop alternative techniques with which we will be able to compete on an equal basis with our sighted peers. Through Braille and independent cane travel, I will be able successfully to handle any tasks encompassed in Foreign Service positions. It is my responsibility, not that of my employer, to work out the techniques which I will use.
The State Department's policy, as I see it, is one of overt prejudice. Any qualified blind individual is just as capable as any qualified sighted individual. Yet, the sighted continually deny us equality due to the misconception that blindness and helplessness are synonymous. I resent the discriminatory actions of the State Department, which stem from ignorance of the true essence of blindness. The State Department has no knowledge of and does not understand the alternative techniques that I will use to handle classified documents and travel independently in any foreign country. It is up to the blind individual and no one else to assess his or her own capabilities. The United States prides itself in serving as a leader in the international struggle for human rights. American embassies every day around the world are packed with people hoping to procure an American visa and to visit the land of the free. Yet, isn't it ironic that, for the American blind person seeking a position in the Foreign Service, these same embassies are enemy territory? I sometimes wonder whether the American government is ashamed of its blind citizens. To the State Department I would like to say:
Your policy of discrimination is hurtful to many. However, we the blind are able and accustomed to dealing with institutions such as yourself, uneducated in the area of blindness. We will fight until this policy of discrimination is abolished, and then you shall see us representing the finest of our government in the Soviet Union, Zambia, Pakistan, Chili, China, and anywhere else in the world. However, until that time you are denying the State Department the opportunity to work with qualified and capable individuals, due to your outdated superstitions. As I see it, we must recognize and use each other's talents to the benefit of both the State Department and ourselves. With the simple step towards the elimination of bigotry, we will also aid in the restoration of the reputation of the United States in the fight for human rights. In the last few days, hundreds of blind people have come to speak to you of problems facing us as blind citizens. We have come with a voice united. We will settle for nothing less than first-class citizenship in the area of the State Department and any other governmental matter.
And lastly, to the State Department I would like to say that I look forward to the day when we will address each other as colleagues.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you, Heidi. Marc Maurer has served as the President of the National Federation of the Blind since he was unanimously elected to that post in 1986. It means he does better than most of us. He is a member of the Bar of Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa; and he currently specializes in civil litigation with an emphasis in business, equal employment opportunities, aviation, and civil rights. I want to thank you for coming this morning and welcome the members of the Federation attending the briefing this morning. Your testimony and any other materials you wish to submit will be placed in the record to be authorized when the committee organizes, and I ask you to summarize your comments. Welcome.
Mr. Maurer. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman I am Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind is a nationwide organization with over 50,000 members, who have come together to take collective action to improve opportunities for the blind throughout our society. The subject of concern before this committee is the policy of the United States Department of State not to employ blind persons in the Foreign Service. A few months ago the State Department was honest enough to say that inasmuch as it was not going to hire blind persons anyway it would not offer its Foreign Service examination to the blind. We think it is praiseworthy for the State Department to be honest. However, to claim that this blatantly discriminatory policy is both required by law and in the national interest seems to be the height of chicanery. All blind people are excluded from the Foreign Service those with extensive experience in international travel, those with facility in several languages, those with understanding of international relations, and those with superior ability to negotiate with people and handle personnel. It has nothing whatsoever to do with legitimate job requirements. Blindness is the only reason that they are not allowed to serve our country with distinction. Mr. Rami Rabby has testified this morning. The circumstances of his exclusion from Foreign Service candidacy are so striking that they attracted national attention last fall. However, I would emphasize that Mr. Rabby's case is only one among many instances of blatant discrimination against the blind in the Foreign Service. The actions taken regarding Mr. Rabby are inconsistent with our national policy that the handicapped should not face discrimination in hiring. Blindness is not a bar to competent service for our government. The State Department should not be permitted to make it become one.
In mid-November, 1988, Mr. Rabby was notified that the State Department had changed the testing conditions for blind people. Use of Braille or the assistance of a sighted person to read the printed text would no longer be permitted. Apparently, other blind candidates were also notified of this decision. Since that time various representatives of the State Department have claimed that their new policy is not discriminatory. This new policy (they say) does not exclude all blind people from taking the Foreign Service test. Their reasoning seems to go like this: We do not discriminate against the blind. However, candidates must be able to see to read our tests. And these are the government officials who are protecting the safety of Americans abroad. If similar logic were permitted outside the State Department, any employer could refuse to hire blind people and hope to get away with it. We are here today because we believe our government must uphold a standard of fairness, and this means that nondiscrimination laws apply to the State Department just as much as they do to any other agency of the United States. By its action, the State Department has said to all employers (government agencies or otherwise) that all blind people (no matter how well qualified) are not competent to perform jobs that are security-sensitive or in unfamiliar settings. Thousands of blind people already do jobs that require top security clearances. Some blind persons now working for the government do translation and decoding of sensitive national security and intelligence information.
However, they do not work for the State Department. And on the subject of work in unfamiliar places, I ask you: How many jobs are there with which the employee is familiar beforehand? If the State Department can do it, all of the jobs of all of the blind people who are working in unfamiliar locations or who are handling sensitive information are in immediate jeopardy. Should there be a double standard one for the State Department, and one for everybody else? If the State Department is permitted to make these arguments stick, what job security will there be for the blind? No blind person anywhere can hope to avoid the twisted logic of the State Department. Every other employer will say: If it is good enough for the State Department, it's good enough for us.
Mr. Chairman, because the State Department has demonstrated such a firm determination to evade the clear intent of the law, we are asking for your help. The State Department should come to understand that the law applies to it as well as to other segments of our society and that an exaggerated claim involving national security does not automatically put the decisions of the State Department beyond scrutiny. The State Department must be brought to its senses. The blind have faced stereotypes, injustice, and inflexibility before. But we are not discouraged. All minorities face these manifestations of discrimination on their way to freedom. Recognizing them for what they are is the first step in eliminating the prejudice. We have called these misdeeds by their true names, but we have also done something else. We have come to recognize our own abilities, and we will insist that others see us as we are capable human beings with the same talents and strengths possessed by others. The State Department will have to come to terms with reality. We have contributions to make, and we will fight for the right to make them.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for permitting me to come here this morning to present information to the committee, and I want to congratulate you on an excellent hearing. [After Mr. Maurer's testimony Ms. Elizabeth Schuster spoke as follows:]
Ms. Schuster. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, all of you who have taken the time and effort to come to this hearing. I would like to tell you a little background about myself and then about the process of my application for the exam and the results. All of my life I have been very interested in international affairs. In my family, we had many international visitors, and when I was sixteen, after I finished high school, I spent an exchange year in Switzerland where I learned French, German, and Italian and did a lot of other exciting things. After that I attended college and subsequently finished one master's degree in journalism and, as the chairman has said, I am working on my second master's studying international relations focusing on the Soviet Union in International Communications. My future goal is to work either with government or the humanitarian sector with international communications in some way. Subsequently my interests have led me to want to take this Foreign Service exam. I went through the normal application procedures and received an admission ticket. Although I had sent a letter with my application explaining that I would need some special testing conditions as a legally blind person, there was no special indication of that on the ticket so I called back and was told, Well, we'll get back to you in about a week, and we'll let you know.
About two weeks later I called back, and I was talking with Marleen Freeman, who is one of the secretaries, and she said, Well, we're sorry we've had this new ruling which does not allow either readers or Braille.
I was very surprised. I said, Well, what about cassette? And she didn't know how to answer that, so she referred me to her superior, Paul Canney, who told me that cassette was also not one of the options. I talked with him for some time, and he in turn referred me to Mr. Yuspeh who called me back the next day (this was in late November) and explained a similar line of argument to what we've heard this morning.
One interesting statement that he did make to me in terms of functional independence of the blind was, Well, would you like to have...would you like to be on a bus that has a driver that has to have someone standing beside the driver saying `Turn left? Turn right? Do this? Do that?' I was, needless to say, very surprised.
Congressman Sikorski. Who said this?
Ms. Schuster. This was Mr. Yuspeh on the telephone in the late November conversation. It's in my statement. I was very surprised to hear this as I said, and, as a result of realizing that reading the exam by magnifying glass letter by letter would take slightly longer than the time allowed us, I chose not to take the exam.
After this decision I again contacted Mr. Canney and requested a letter of explanation, which I (in due process) received. In conclusion, at this point I feel barred from one of the ambitions of my life which is working with the Foreign Service, work abroad, work not as a handicapped person but as an American citizen, who longs to serve her country. I have been accepted by the Peace Corps, and I plan to go either this summer or possibly next year as an English teacher, and I'm very much looking forward to this chance of being in an unfamiliar environment teaching English, an unfamiliar language to some people. But I hope that this decision will be reconsidered, not only for myself, but for other blind people, all of us who would like to take the exam and stand a competitive chance of entering the Foreign Service. I know that the Foreign Service is an extremely competitive process, not only for the blind but also for the sighted. But I think that we deserve as much of a chance as anyone else, and I thank you for your time and attention today.
Congressman Sikorski. Elizabeth, thank you. I've asked Mr. Rabby to join us at the panel and do some clean up here.
Mr. Maurer. Mr. Chairman?
Congressman Sikorski. Yes, Mr. Maurer.
Mr. Maurer. As I was sitting here listening to Mr. Stout this morning, he described the circumstance for taking the examination, and he said that one person, after being offered the opportunity to go and read the test personally, had decided not to take it. I wondered who the person was. I now discover that there are two people in this room. Consequently it is the same logic that I have found from the State Department before. Apparently, Ms. Schuster was there, and apparently she decided not to take it, but Mr. Rabby was told not to come. So perhaps there were two who chose not to take it under those circumstances. I don't know how you'd say it, but it does seem to me that sometimes the statements get stretched somewhat in this room.
Congressman Sikorski. Well, not mine.
Mr. Maurer. No, no, Mr. Chairman. I didn't mean that.
Congressman Sikorski. That's not uncommon for this vocation, Marc. On the issue of classified information, do you have any reason to believe that blind people will be less protective of national secrets, classified information, than sighted people?
Mr. Maurer. No, Mr. Chairman, I have no reason to believe that. I had, not a top security clearance, but a security clearance from the government of the United States when I was employed in the office of the General Council at the Civil Aeronautics Board. I have practiced law for some time, and handling confidential documents has been part of the bread and butter of the practice. I understand that some people are concerned about being able to recognize anomalies, such as whether a signature might be valid. If you are intending to introduce a document with a signature on it, and there's any question about the validity of the signature, and you aren't a court of the United States, you are advised that you had better get a handwriting expert to tell you about the validity of the signature. I suppose that being able to see it might help somewhat, but the testimony of someone who looks at it is not as valuable, at least the lawyers believe, as the testimony of a handwriting expert. Consequently, it does seem to me that both the ability of a human being to handle security documents, however they may appear, and the likelihood that they would handle them with discretion and propriety is as great for the blind as it is for any other group.
Congressman Sikorski. Thank you. Ms. Schuster, about how many words a minute can a sighted person read?
Ms. Schuster. A college graduate usually reads, I believe, three to four hundred words a minute.
Congressman Sikorski. About how many words a minute can a blind person read with an Optacon, the one of the two remaining mechanical devices that's open to an applicant taking the test?
Ms. Schuster. There are different estimates, but it's certainly not in excess of one hundred words per minute, which is slower than one speaks.
Congressman Sikorski. Do you know what percentage of blind people in this country use Optacons?
Ms. Schuster. That I don't know. It's probably quite a low percentage because it's a very expensive and high tech machine.
Congressman Sikorski. And the other one is...what's that called?
Ms. Schuster. The Kurzweil Reader.
Congressman Sikorski. And that's an expensive, bulky machine? And, as I understand, that one translates from writing to voice? And the Optacon translates from writing to pinprick kind of writing?
Ms. Schuster. Right.
Congressman Sikorski. Both of them are bulky or expensive and would be very difficult to utilize in the testing situation. Has anyone figured out why it would be inappropriate for a blind person taking the Foreign Service test not to have a reader, but to have a marker? I ask that because, as I understand, the testimony is that readers can't be provided willy-nilly on the job, and we want to make the test as close as possible to an equivalency of the job, so we're not going to allow readers anymore, but we will allow markers. Did I miss something, or am I on-line on that one? Elizabeth, will you move the mike over to Mr. Rabby for a second?
Mr. Rabby. Mr. Chairman, I think you are absolutely on-line. It's something which puzzles me. I'm sure it puzzles everyone in this room, but I have learned over the past few months, at least, that some of the State Department arguments are just unfathomable.
Congressman Sikorski. Well, you sound like a diplomat. Let's go on. Heidi, have you thought about changing your career plans now that the State Department has made it virtually impossible to take the exam?
Ms. Sherman. No, I've never thought that, and I do not intend to change my career plans because I do expect that the policy will be changed.
Congressman Sikorski. If you were selected into the Foreign Service, what kind of difficulties do you expect to encounter as a blind person abroad? You've been abroad, you commented in your opening statement. I just want to highlight that again.
Ms. Sherman. In the past when I have traveled abroad, I have never experienced any problems which any normal sighted person would not encounter. I won't encounter any problems because I feel that I will be trained enough to handle them.
Congressman Sikorski. Well, we've heard about world-wide availability. We've heard about the need for reader assistance, and that's just unlike what the job involves. We've heard about security and personal safety issues. We've heard about unfamiliar settings and unfamiliar cultures, and we've heard about visual cues and indicators that are being missed by blind people. But it seems to me that blind people can be just as available world-wide as anyone that is currently in the Foreign Service. Functioning today, we have Foreign Service people who are blind who are working under the definition of world-wide availability. Other countries have Foreign Service officers who are blind, and I'm sure it applies to other disabled people as well, that there are disabilities and there are things that prevent people from functioning in a job. They are not automatically the same. In fact, in many cases they are not the same at all. We have blind people who can be available world-wide as readily available world-wide as people currently in the foreign service. We have blind people that are just as trustworthy and just as protective of national security as sighted people. Blind people can fend for themselves anywhere in the world today, and they do so. There are blind people who, as Mr. Rabby (I think) pointed out, are now living in all parts of the world today and don't have any more difficulties than sighted people. We have blind people in the Peace Corps, which is probably, in my opinion, a much more demanding job than the Foreign Service and for a lot less pay. We have blind people who are no less capable and probably more capable of dealing with unfamiliar settings. These issues are not new. They've been raised now for over a decade, and it's only reasonable to expect that we get full answers. Blind individuals are serving in the U.S. Foreign Service. Blind people are serving in the Foreign Services of other countries. There are blind individuals decoding sensitive national security information and serving world-wide as volunteers in the Peace Corps. I'm deeply concerned about what I've heard this morning even more concerned about what I've not heard. People expect that their tax dollars will not be spent on discriminatory programs.
My committee and I, along with Mr. Dymally, will see to it that any qualified people, regardless of their visual acuity, will have the same chance as any other applicants to the Foreign Service. I want to say that this nation was founded on the principles of liberty and equality, and wherever you go abroad, our embassies stand as a monument to human rights and freedom. It is ridiculous for blind applicants to the Foreign Service to be reduced to begging and pleading for an opportunity to serve their country. It's inconceivable to me that the State Department should deny the right to serve to those who are perfectly capable of doing so. It's wrong. It's cruel to people who have a visual disability, to people who have other handicaps, to prevent them from serving where they could do (as Congressman Campbell pointed out earlier) so much good.
The Director of my district office, Judy Sanders here, is more than capable. She works in a congressional district in a state where it's not always physically easy to get around in the middle of winter, in the cold, in frigid, snowy Januaries. She helps desperate people, people with no money, no homes, no families to support them. These folks don't know where to turn. To bar the door of Foreign Service to people with capacity for getting things done like Judy Sanders is wrong. Thank you all for coming.
LEGISLATIVE AGENDA 1989
Early this year a new Congress and a new President of the United States took office, and on Sunday, January 29, the blind of the nation came to Washington to present their legislative agenda and concerns. As has been the case in recent years, we used the Holiday Inn Capitol as our headquarters. Almost 400 people (including Stevie Wonder) were present at the Sunday evening briefing to review position papers and plan strategy.
(Note) During the next three days we visited almost every Congressional and Senatorial office and participated (see elsewhere in this issue) in a committee hearing. It was an exciting and productive occasion. Here are the materials we distributed to Congress and the media.
Legislative Priorities for the First Session of the 101st Congress
One-half million people in the United States are blind, and fifty thousand Americans become blind each year. Millions of others friends, neighbors, family members, business associates, and co-workers (although not blind themselves) are nonetheless affected by blindness and its social and economic consequences. As a result, public policies and laws concerning the blind have a profound impact throughout our society. The blind as a group share a unique struggle. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, the physical loss of eyesight itself can be reduced to the level of a mere nuisance. Misconceptions about blindness, coupled with lack of good training and limited opportunities, are the real handicaps. Although most sighted people have had some contact with blindness, it is still largely misunderstood and continues to be more a problem of public attitudes than physical disability.
Public policies and laws that result from misconceptions about blindness or lack of information are often more handicapping to the blind than loss of eyesight. This is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). NFB is a private-sector resource of knowledge, encouragement, and support for the blind and for all people (blind or not) who seek greater freedom and opportunity for the blind. We are proud of our self-help traditions, philosophy, and achievements. The vast majority of our members are blind. We join NFB through local chapters and statewide organizations everywhere in the United States.
We are the voice of the nation's blind the blind speaking for themselves. Our priorities for the first session of the 101st Congress express our assessment of current issues in need of solution to improve the lives of the blind of all ages:
(1) Congress should amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to assure fair treatment for the blind in air travel. This request seeks enactment of legislation to make unmistakably clear the Congressional intent that persons who are blind may not be subjected to unfair and discriminatory restrictive seating practices of airlines. The Air Carrier Access Act (Public Law 99-435) already prohibits discrimination against the handicapped in air travel, but most airlines are still ignoring the law, which the Department of Transportation (DOT) has yet to enforce by regulation. The airlines and federal authorities appear to have little regard for the law or the will of Congress. It is outrageous that blind people are still subjected to arrests when they take seats assigned to them by the airlines. Law- abiding blind citizens have been hauled off to jail for not accepting discriminatory orders of airline personnel. Yet, DOT enforcement authorities refuse to intervene to protect the personal liberties and safety of blind passengers. The fact sheet entitled Air Travel Rights for the Blind gives more details and suggests specific legislation that the 101st Congress should enact. There would be no cost to anyone, including the government and the airlines.
(2) Congress should amend the Act of March 3, 1879, To Promote the Education of the Blind to give qualifying institutions a choice in selecting items to be purchased from the American Printing House for the Blind or from other suppliers. This proposal seeks to modernize and improve options available for obtaining textbooks and educational materials for blind students. The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is a private, nonprofit agency chosen by Congress 110 years ago to receive federal funds in order to manufacture and furnish instructional materials specially adapted for use by the blind. Under existing law the Printing House is the exclusive, federally funded producer of educational products for the blind. In the years since 1879, other suppliers of books and devices have become available. Their products, in some instances, represent the latest and best technological advancements. Also, other producers of Braille books have been able to reduce prices below those charged by APH for producing comparable items. Purchasing demands for APH products were once centralized through statewide schools especially set up for education of the blind. Now, however, with the integration of the blind throughout the educational system, the demands for materials are quite diverse. Purchasing from APH exclusively is increasingly inefficient and costly. All institutions are in need of expanded sources of supplies of materials at the lowest possible cost. The fact sheet entitled Access to Education: Reforms Needed in Services to Blind Children and Youth explains what Congress can do now to help provide more materials for the federal dollar while meeting the new demands.
(3) Congress should amend the Social Security Act to give blind persons the flexibility they need in choosing acceptable and desirable sources of post-secondary training and employment services. This request seeks enactment of legislation to allow blind persons to select, design, and pursue the assistance required to become employed and self-supporting. Under existing law, beneficiaries of Social Security programs (and all other blind people seeking training and employment services) are blocked in most cases from obtaining this help through any agency other than the one agency designated to provide rehabilitation services to the blind in each state. Existing law authorizes Social Security to reimburse the state agencies when a beneficiary achieves employment, but states are reluctant to participate substantially in this results-oriented program. Funding participants (rather than programs) would be a better option. That can be done by letting each beneficiary choose which agency or training sources will be most responsive. The beneficiary (not a government agency) is often in the best position to know which training sources can best meet the need. Under a plan which gives blind beneficiaries greater freedom to choose among providers for their training and employment programs, cost-effective reimbursement for services could be made to private agencies and training sources as well as to state rehabilitation agencies. The fact sheet entitled Breaking the Monopoly: Expanding Choices in Rehabilitation for Blind Adults gives more details and an outline of the specific legislative changes that the 101st Congress should enact. Blind people are asking for your help in securing positive action by Congress in the areas outlined here. Legislative proposals to achieve these objectives are prepared and available for consideration by the 101st Congress. Many priorities confront this session of Congress, but the needs of the nation's blind must not be neglected in the legislative agenda this year. We of the National Federation of the Blind stand ready to assist our Representatives and Senators in understanding our needs and taking meaningful action to address them. In partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, each member of Congress can help build better lives for the blind, both today and in the years ahead.
Air Travel Rights for the Blind
A bill to amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to prohibit discrimination against blind individuals in air travel. The Problem: Arbitrary restrictions on seating of blind passengers are a most common form of degrading discrimination against the blind in air travel. The restrictions are not the same for each airline but generally apply to seats near emergency exits. There is no way to know from airline to airline (or from flight to flight on the same airline) which seats are expected to be off limits.
Airline personnel routinely humiliate and bully blind people for sitting in their assigned seats near the exits. Law- abiding blind passengers are even arrested and hauled off to jail for taking seats assigned to them by the airlines. Flight delays beyond two hours are common in these incidents, during which airline personnel incite anger in other passengers toward the blind. When police will not arrest a blind passenger (because sitting near an emergency exit is not a violation of the law), flights are purportedly cancelled just long enough to deplane everyone. Then, the same flight is reboarded and dispatched without the blind passenger. Air transportation for the blind is thus denied. Existing Law and Regulations: Section 404� of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (enacted by Public Law 99-435) already prohibits discrimination against qualified handicapped individuals in air travel. Proposed rules were issued last year, but the final regulations (required by law to be issued by January 31, 1987) have not yet been published.
DOT's proposed rules are the first step of a plan to legalize discrimination against the blind in air travel by means of restricted seating. The second step of the plan is being developed in another rulemaking by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The entire procedure and approach is deliberately deceptive. On the one hand DOT's proposed rule says that no one may be excluded from any seat on the basis of handicap unless otherwise determined by the FAA. The deception is that FAA's rule will require a seat restriction. Officials say that the rule will not discriminate against the blind, but sight will be required for any passenger to be seated near an exit. FAA has never had a regulation to limit seat assignments of the blind before, and there is no present or known justification for a new regulation now.
Proposed Legislation: Congress should amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to assure fair treatment for the blind in air travel. Identical Senate and House bills entitled The Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act have been introduced by Senator Ernest F. Hollings and Congressman James A. Traficant, Jr.
The bill calls for inserting a new sentence at the end of paragraph (1) of section 404� of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 as follows: An air carrier shall not restrict seating in aircraft on the basis of the visual acuity of a passenger or the use by a passenger of a white cane, dog guide, or other such means of assistance.
This measure would not interfere with the FAA's responsibility to require safe air travel. Criteria that have a safety-based justification could be used to support policies that exclude passengers from seats near emergency exits. Restrictions based on blindness or visual impairment have no safety basis and would therefore be prohibited.
Need for Legislation: This bill provides a clear-cut solution to a problem that must be addressed. In all of the history of air travel, blindness has not been a hazard. Some airlines have not excluded blind persons from seats near emergency exits. Others have done so. They have used the nondiscrimination law to convince the FAA to make rules to restrict seating of the blind. Airline personnel admit that they cannot accurately determine passenger abilities (or disabilities) to act as required in emergencies. In many instances they do not challenge passengers who pose obvious safety problems for themselves and others. Excessive carry-on luggage, although hazardous, is routinely permitted by the airlines as a passenger convenience. Also, passengers who have already had too much to drink before they reach the plane are often seated near emergency exits without question. Once on board the aircraft, these passengers may continue to consume liquor while seated near emergency exits. By allowing and condoning this unsafe behavior, airlines and airline personnel are placing millions of air travelers at risk. Some passengers who are now given seats near emergency exits have poor judgment and cannot act responsibly during evacuation procedures. Others will panic and may not act at all. Unknown heart conditions are common but not visible in passengers given seats near emergency exit doors. These passengers have safety risks that the airlines knowingly accept or negligently do not attempt to identify. Instead they target the blind for exclusion.
The attempt to impose seat restriction regulations on the blind disregards the will of Congress expressed in Public Law 99-435 and its underlying legislative history. The statute, which was intended to remove unfounded limitations on the blind, is being turned on its head and used against the blind by the airlines. FAA's rulemaking procedure represents an aggressive attempt by the airlines to legalize discrimination. Congress should resolve this issue in favor of safe and discrimination-free air travel by passing The Air Travel Rights for Blind Individuals Act.
Access to Education: Reforms Needed in Services to Blind Children and Youth
Background: The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is by law the only federally funded supplier of instructional materials and equipment for the blind in elementary and secondary education. The funds annually appropriated directly to APH are used to produce textbooks in Braille and large type versions. Certain types of adapted equipment, educational materials, and supplies are also provided. This has been the case since 1879, when APH first began manufacturing books for the statewide residential schools for the blind that existed at that time. This year there are about 40,400 blind or visually impaired youngsters attending elementary and secondary schools and another 4,000 blind persons in adult programs. Only a fraction of the students enrolled in elementary and secondary schools attend state residential schools. The vast majority are taught in their home communities. The textbooks they need are selected locally. Collaboration by state schools to supply the same books for each state at all grade levels is no longer possible.
Existing Law: The Act of March 3, 1879, entitled An Act To Promote the Education of the Blind, first granted federal financial support to APH for manufacturing and furnishing books and other materials specially adapted for instruction of the blind. The law in its present form has a such sums authorization, with an actual appropriation of $5,345,000 for FY 1989. At the beginning of each year APH counts the number of blind students attending public and private nonprofit institutions for the education of the blind in the United States. These census figures are then used by APH to establish each institution's allotment for books and materials from APH during the ensuing fiscal year. Some of the federal dollars are used for research and development activities, and a small amount goes for advisory services. The current appropriation provides each institution with an allotment of approximately $111 per student. The situation with respect to producers of books and educational devices for the blind has dramatically changed since 1879. One hundred years ago the American Printing House for the Blind was the only major producer. Today there are at least one half dozen other sources of books and materials which are at least as effective as APH. Some of them offer materials at lower costs and some offer products which APH does not supply. If blind students are to have the benefit of the best and the most for the dollars, then the one hundred-year-old monopoly of APH must be eliminated. Examination of the continued use of APH as a single supplier is now urgently required.
Proposed Legislation: Congress should amend the Act of March 3, 1879, To Promote the Education of the Blind to give qualifying institutions a choice in selecting items to be purchased from APH or other suppliers. The amendments being proposed would maintain APH as a primary manufacturing facility and central clearinghouse of information about available books and materials. However, if an item meeting a qualifying institution's requirements is available from a source outside of APH, the federal funds provided through APH would have to be used for any purchase, at the option of the qualifying institution. Under existing law as described, the federal funds can only be used for products that APH manufactures or sells directly. The appropriation cannot be used to buy products from other suppliers. This provides a strong incentive to the institutions not to purchase items from other suppliers, even though products that more nearly meet the need (or better fit within the institution's budget) might be available somewhere else. Also the present situation encourages high prices and inefficiency at APH, as is almost always the case with monopolies. Improvements Needed: Equal access to education for blind persons means having the books and materials necessary to compete and learn. APH has provided these items responsibly for many decades. However, changing demands require changing approaches. Increasingly, it is necessary to expend federal dollars to obtain quality materials at the most favorable price possible. Faced with competition, APH may not be the lowest priced book producer in all instances. For example, the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, buys large quantities of Braille and recorded books and magazines from several manufacturers, including APH. But the prices charged by APH for Braille book production currently exceed those of all other suppliers. Like APH, all of the other suppliers are nonprofit, but unlike APH, none of them receives a federal appropriation. Prices charged by APH are usually not the lowest among competing suppliers. In 1879, APH was the only producer of instructional materials for the blind, and there were a relatively small number of schools needing these items. Now there are thousands of schools with varying demands for materials. The schools need more materials at less cost. They also need the new devices to aid the blind, representing the most up-to-date applications of modern technology that are being made by a growing number of small nonprofit and profit- making groups. Costs for these items are quite favorable, and in some instances unbelievably low. Some of the more exciting innovations include pocket-sized computers that talk, large type display terminals, and Braille output devices. Communications technology using computers now makes possible the cost-effective production of Braille books to meet individual demands. These developments and more have happened so rapidly that APH as a single supplier cannot hope to keep pace and provide in-house the most up- to-date items for everyone. Therefore, the demand could better be met by permitting qualifying institutions to use the federal funds available to obtain products from APH and other sources. This expansion would be a modest improvement in the law, would save federal dollars, would increase the number and type of materials available, and pose no administrative problems. It is a cost-effective approach that Congress should now enact.
Breaking the Monopoly: Expanding Choices In Rehabilitation for Blind Adults
A Bill: To amend titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act to promote the rehabilitation of blind beneficiaries under the SSI and OASDI programs, and to assure that the blind receive the most appropriate employment and training services which are available by permitting them to select the agencies to which they will be referred for such services.
Background: Federal support for rehabilitation of the disabled began in 1920, but programs for the blind were not eligible to receive federal assistance until 1943. Current rehabilitation services include various forms of medical, social, recreational, vocational, educational, and research- oriented programs that are intended to improve the living conditions and life styles of all disabled persons in America. Employment (once the principal focus of the law) is now one of many objectives. This shift in emphasis has taken attention and financial resources away from supporting the individual employment needs of the blind in favor of serving the broader disabled population. The result is that the employment goal is now subordinate. However, recreation, social services, and even medical care needs will almost all be met for the vast majority of blind people if they get suitable jobs with pay and responsibilities commensurate with their individual abilities.
Existing Law: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Pub. L. 93-112), as amended, authorizes most of the current federally supported rehabilitation programs. Recipients and beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can also obtain rehabilitation services (paid for with SSI and SSDI funds). Not counting the funds for rehabilitation provided by Social Security, almost 1.5 billion dollars in federal financial assistance is distributed to the states under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act. The designation of a specific state agency to serve the disabled and blind is a prerequisite for receipt by any state of its share of the federal funds. Titles XVI and II of the Social Security Act also require that SSI and SSDI beneficiaries must be served through the same state agency system. Under these arrangements the designated state agencies control the money (and in many respects the lives) of blind people who are trying to become productive citizens free from government support. Options for most blind people to choose among sources of training are realistically nonexistent. This lack of a free choice for each blind person to obtain needed services from a public or private source that will meet his or her own individual needs is a major deterrent to effective, responsive training and employment services, leaving almost 80 percent of employable blind people largely outside of our nation's workforce. Proposed Legislation:
Congress should amend the Social Security Act to give blind SSI and SSDI beneficiaries greater freedom to choose and design their own training and employment programs. A bill to accomplish this objective has been introduced in the House by Congressman Harold Ford. It presents a natural alternative to the present Social Security funding arrangement by allowing recipients of SSDI or SSI benefits to designate for themselves individually selected agencies, public or private. Under the bill, each blind beneficiary could choose a rehabilitation agency to provide services directly or obtain services from other programs. This approach (funding the participants and letting them choose their programs) would give each person a wider selection of relevant training and employment opportunities.
Since most blind people who are not employed receive either SSDI or SSI cash benefits, they would be immediately eligible under the bill to obtain individually needed training and job-related assistance. A beneficiary could continue with a rehabilitation program under the existing state agency structure. Alternatively, with the help of an individually chosen agency, a beneficiary could obtain training and employment services through a personally selected program. In either case SSI or SSDI funds would eventually pay the costs as is now done through state rehabilitation agencies only. The outlays from the Social Security funds would not be increased.
Need for Legislation: Expansion of the Rehabilitation Act to support a broader range of services (including those of a social, recreational and independent living nature) has brought about demands for training and employment services for the blind which the single state agency system is ill-equipped to meet. The program just described would be a natural adjunct to the current structure. It would leave the existing funding arrangements and services under the Rehabilitation Act intact with all of the present financial support. The advantage would be greater selection of relevant services not limited to those available through assistance by a single agency in each state. State boundaries (and limits on out-of-state expenditures) would not prevent finding the best program for each individual. Under the improved program a source of funding (not tied to any state or any agency) would be available for anyone who wanted to exercise a free choice. By stimulating competition among agencies to make their philosophies and programs attractive to potential participants, funding through Social Security would create a healthy, new environment of services full of new opportunities and vitality. In addition, Social Security funds paid to achieve training and employment goals would reduce demands for continuing cash outlays from the SSI and SSDI programs. This is a cost-effective approach that Congress should now enact.
THE SECRET OF SUCCESS
by Suzanne Bridges & Paul Lorensen
This article is reprinted from the Spring-Summer, 1988, issue of The Student Slate, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind Student Division. Suzanne Bridges and Paul Lorensen are staff members at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
It should not come as a surprise to any of us that the public exaggerates the successes and accomplishments of blind people. The real problem exists when we, as blind people, do the same thing. How easy it is to believe that ultimately we will be successful simply because we have completed college or have become employed. The degree of our success depends as much upon our attitudes toward ourselves as blind people as it does upon our accomplishments and credentials. To think otherwise is both naive and foolish.
Consider the blind professor who regards himself as successful. Suppose that he is of the sort who prides himself on the fact that his colleagues are unaware that he is blind (or so he thinks). He refuses to use a cane and has never bothered to learn Braille, even though he can only read magnified print at little more than ten words a minute.
In class he lectures without notes, and he requires that his students sit in assigned seats, which he memorizes. His wife helps him by reading all of his students' papers and homework assignments, and she records his comments and grades as well. When she is unavailable or angry with him, he adjusts his fluorescent lamp and painstakingly corrects his papers himself, using a magnifier or his closed circuit television. Since he lives outside of town, he relies upon his wife to drive him back and forth to the campus. Of course, the professor must restrict himself to teaching activities during the day, because his wife does not drive after dark. Even if she did, however, he would still teach only during the day since he has retinitis pigmentosa and does not see anything at night. To his few friends and colleagues, who know about his sight problem, our friend the professor is amazing. To his wife, he is an exhausting taskmaster. Is he a success? He would regard himself as such. Now, consider the young blind woman who is employed in the computer field. She resides with her parents who have provided her with every technological advantage throughout her years of education. As a result, she is an expert on virtually any piece of equipment to be found for the blind. Praised to the hilt for her accomplishments in spite of her blindness, by both her family and her employer, she has been recognized through numerous awards such as handicapped citizen of the year. So impressed with her abilities are her employers that they accommodate her every need, ranging from providing transportation to and from work to limiting her job functions to those which can be easily accomplished with the special technology which she requires. Co-workers have been heard to remark on her dedication since she works through coffee breaks and even eats her lunch at her desk. Her parents and friends admire her loyalty to her family since she prefers to spend her evenings at home with them instead of going out. And her parents righteously acknowledge the many praises from their friends and acquaintances concerning their own bravery and sacrifice in raising such a special child. Is she a success? She and her parents would regard her as such. In both of these examples blindness has been viewed as an obstacle to be overcome at all costs in order to be successful. In the first example blindness has been carefully concealed like a criminal record. Under no circumstances should anyone know about it. But if blindness should rear its ugly head, then others should recognize how well-adjusted our blind professor is, how successfully he has compensated for his blindness and overcome adversity, and how well he passes for normal. In our second example blindness has become a badge of courage, signifying triumph over tragedy. In both instances success hangs precariously on self-deceit and distortion. In reality neither the professor nor the computer expert is as fully successful as either believes.
So, exactly who is successful? Suppose we were to tell you that one of the most successful people we know is a young divorced woman with two children, who is completing her college degree and who happens to be blind. Her story is not unlike that of many women, blind or sighted, so what makes her a success? The major ingredients are not her accomplishment in the face of adversity or her courage, but rather her self-confidence, her belief in herself, and her attitude toward blindness. From a background which included a failed marriage, an unfinished college education, and chronic illness, this woman dared to aim for something that no one else could see and she hit it. Her husband doubted her; her rehabilitation counselor doubted her; and, at times, she doubted herself. But her instinct would not give way to the doubts and misconceptions of those around her. Somewhere she would find others who knew how to help her get where she wanted to be.
This young blind woman was sent to a traditional, paternalistic orientation center, where she was exposed to every conceivable negative attitude and stereotype about blindness and given only brief exposure to some of the skills she would need. Realizing that her expectations were clearly greater for herself and blind people in general than those held by the traditional, paternalistic orientation center, the young woman departed that program and entered a more progressive orientation center operated by the blind, which solidly followed the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. She not only learned skills which were essential to her success in college and her future career, but she learned that it is respectable to be blind. In this attitude factory her belief in herself was nurtured, and she developed self-confidence. She came to regard blindness not as an obstacle or a tragedy but as a characteristic. Using her alternative techniques and her positive attitude toward blindness, she began to succeed. Unlike the professor or the computer expert, she placed her confidence and reliance upon herself and not upon technology or limited vision or a spouse. Her accomplishments were her own, and she orchestrated her life in such a way as to include all of the experiences of college life, both social and academic. She learned how to hire and use readers, how to take notes in Braille, how to arrange transportation, how to manage her household and her children in the midst of her college career, how to approach professors and the public concerning her blindness, how to travel independently at any hour, how to socialize, and how to take control of her own life. She learned through her involvement in the National Federation of the Blind to give to others and to believe in herself.
Success is a process which, for blind people, is as dependent upon the proper attitude toward blindness as it is upon accomplishment. To become successful, we must learn, use, and believe in the skills of blindness: Braille, cane travel, etc. We must view blindness as a respectable characteristic, which neither must be hidden out of shame nor distorted for personal recognition or gain. We must take a hard critical look at ourselves and evaluate our competence. If we can do better, then we must. Through our involvement in the National Federation of the Blind and proper training at orientation centers which believe in blind people, we can be successful in every sense of the word.
Think about it the college professor, the computer expert, or the young woman on her way to a new life what kind of successful blind person do you want to be?
SPECULATIONS ABOUT CD ROM
From the Editor : I sometimes think that I don't know the difference between a RAM and a ROM or, for that matter, a BIT from a BYTE and, for that further matter, that I don't want to. There is (so I am told) a PROM, an E-PROM, and an EE-PROM none of which has anything to do with a dance. But when all of the ribbing is done, life would be a great deal less pleasant than it is without computers and computer technology. There is hardly an aspect of our daily existence which isn't being altered on an ongoing basis by the computer.
And, of course, what is true for the sighted is also true for the blind talking clocks, talking calculators, Speaqualizers, and the rest. With respect to reading we have been feeling the effects of technology for a long time. First it was the hard disc 33-1/3 talking book record, then the 16-2/3, and finally the flexi disc 8-1/3, with proportionate savings every step of the way. But that was yesterday. Where do we go from here? What will library service and production for the blind be like in the years ahead? Yes, I know we must continue to have Braille in fact, more of it than we now have. And no, I am not advocating a retreat from literacy. But recorded material has a definite place (a very important place) in the future of the blind to get information. We can't have an either/or (Braille or recorded) situation. We must have both and (good as it is) we can't be satisfied with the status quo. When I was a child I was repeatedly bombarded with a statement which went like this: I used to complain because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet. That bromide, which was calculated to keep me from complaining and make me happy with what I had, always bothered me.
There is certainly something to be said for gratitude, and one should not expect the impossible; but I was often tempted to respond to the lecture about being grateful for feet with the flip comment: I used to be content because I had feet until I met a man who had shoes. There is probably merit to both points of view. It depends on the circumstances and the particular propaganda you are trying to push at the moment. Maybe the most sensible (and even the most moral) approach is a mixture of both.
We as blind people should unquestionably be glad and grateful for the advances which have been made in technology and the increasing access we have to the printed word, but we should not spend so much time being thankful that we stop striving for progress. Along this line, Tim Cranmer recently wrote a letter to Curtis Chong which I think is particularly relevant. Before I share it with you, let me say that our Research and Development Committee is about as impressive a group as I have ever come across. They are brainy and innovative, and when it comes to technology, neither we nor they have to take a back seat to anybody.
But back to the matter at hand. Here is Tim Cranmer's letter:
November 28, 1988
The CD ROM technology continues to evolve and may be approaching a state of development that may make it attractive as a medium for producing talking books and other materials for the blind. Sony of Tokyo and Philips of the Netherlands have announced standards for CD interactive (CD- I) applicable to animated graphics, stereo, and speech recordings. This latter standard may be of great interest to us it may place us at a position analogous to where we were just a few years ago with respect to the cassette playback systems now used by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Costs are rapidly coming down. The master for a CD ROM is now advertised at $1,500 while per-copy duplication is now offered at $2. Keep in mind that these are street prices today. With competitive bidding on large orders and the lapse of another year or two, these prices could drop by a very large factor. I'm sending you under separate cover commercial advertisements and news items from the Source supporting these observations. [We inject for the computer illiterate that the Source is a national computer database but back to Tim Cranmer's letter.]
The last price I heard quoted for flexible disc duplication was something like a quarter. Our National Office has firm information on this item. Be that as it may, it should be possible successfully to compete with flimsies soon. Consider the fact that one CD ROM currently stores 650,000,000 bytes of data. High fidelity stereo sampling rates permit storing a little more than one hour of music on one disc. Double this when recording monaural speech; multiply by four when you cut frequency response to five kilohertz; and right away you get eight hours plus per CD ROM. All this is achievable without changing any hardware or firmware already standard in the industry. Unfortunately we cannot record books for the blind using public standards and expect permission from copyright holders. So, as we did with cassettes, we will need to reduce rotation speed or some other hardware parameter so that books for the blind can't be played on the public's unmodified CD players.
This is a trivial technical problem. Setting a standard for our market is a larger undertaking and is clearly a task for NLS, and you as NFB representative to the NLS audio committee are in the best position to encourage a feasibility probe of the CD potential for our recording needs.
It should be pointed out that retail prices of less than $200 are now appearing for CD ROM players. This means a price well below $100 is assured should NLS seek a bid for a few thousand machines for a Beta test machine to demonstrate feasibility of the technology. There are many other interesting possibilities such as mixing digital audio with digitized ASCII text to replace the cumbersome tone indexing sometimes used to mark chapter headings. Sections in a book, chapters, pages, and the like could then be located in a second or two. Consider storing only digitized text in a compressed format, yielding thirty-five or forty percent space saving over ASCII. With this arrangement, about a billion characters of text could be stored on a single disc. Assuming an average word length of five characters and assuming an audio listening rate of 150 words per minute, you could listen to that disc 222,000 hours! So what if I'm off by one or two orders of magnitude? (The TSR version of the NFB Calculator won't be here for another week.) Oh, yes, this last blue sky presumes an optimum speech synthesizer, like a DECtalk. Putting aside imaginings of things to come some day, let's urge NLS to take the first tentative step into the immediate future and embrace the CD ROM technology as it emerges on our scene.
T. V. (Tim) Cranmer
EDUCATION FOR THE BLIND,MENTALLY RETARDED CHILD: WHERE AND HOW
by Colleen Roth
Colleen Roth is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio and President of that affiliate's Parents Division. She also serves as President of the Wood County, Ohio, Association for Retarded Citizens. Her daughter Monica was killed in March of 1988 in a tragic school bus accident. Colleen's faith, courage, and Federation spirit continue to be an example to us all. She is eager to assist anyone who may need advice or counsel in raising or working with a blind, multihandicapped child. Her address is 1912 Tracy Road, Northwood, Ohio 43611, and her phone is (419) 661-9171. Here is what Colleen has to say:
I am the mother of a blind, retarded child who would have been seven and a half years old if she had lived. I am also totally blind. Understanding blindness as I do and having dedicated my life to working with and loving multihandicapped youngsters (my husband and I are preparing to adopt and provide foster care for such children), I thought my expertise in educating and caring for these blind youngsters might be useful to other parents making difficult decisions.
When it was apparent that Monica was mentally retarded, I contacted the Board of Mental Retardation in my county. Later, other parents asked me why I had not contacted a program serving the blind instead. In the first year of Monica's schooling I summed up the reasons for my decision this way: If Monica had been a normal blind child with no other disability, I would have placed her in an appropriate educational setting near our home. I would have insisted upon cane travel, early introduction of Braille, and tactile skills. Working with the school or battling alone, I would have fostered in Monica a positive attitude about her own capabilities and the alternative techniques which she would have been mastering. I would gladly have helped teachers find materials and would have provided them with information guiding them toward an understanding that it is respectable to be blind. I would also have demanded that Monica be expected to do work equivalent to that of her sighted classmates and would have assisted with Monica's class when called upon.
But Monica could not compete with children in a regular classroom.
She needed to be with others whose primary disability was not blindness but mental retardation. In teaching a blind youngster, you can present material and ideas as you would to any normal child, merely using a few alternative techniques. Monica, however, needed a lot of special training. Mentally retarded children learn things more gradually than those with higher intelligence. In fact, they may not learn anything academic at all. In the early years a good bit of time is devoted to teaching basic self- care skills, and blindness does not make the teacher's task more difficult. You can place blind, retarded children in a class with other retarded youngsters, and they will fit in and learn with a minimum of extra effort on the teacher's part.
The same cannot be said when trying to place blind, retarded youngsters in a setting where the other children are merely blind. Yet parents and professionals continue to conduct this experiment with our blind children. Schools with classes for the visually impaired in my county have become a dumping ground for children whose parents believe that blindness is the most profound of their children's disabilities. Others cannot or will not deal with the complexities which arise when multiple disabilities are involved. People sometimes excuse themselves by saying that at least they did not abandon their children by putting them up for adoption, but it seems to me that when a parent refuses to demand humane and appropriate treatment for the child, it is almost worse. There is always the possibility that an adoptive or foster parent would have found the right school. I recognize that some parents truly do not know where to turn or what educational setting would be best, but just because a child is blind, a residential school for the blind or a local class for visually impaired youngsters is not necessarily the best choice. When one disability is mental retardation, the child should be taught in a setting structured for the mentally retarded.
Schools for the blind then could be required to increase their expectations of their students by demanding greater academic prowess. They should, as a matter of course, be expected to meet the graduation standards accepted in other schools in the state or region.
We in the National Federation of the Blind must rise up and fight together to change the current sorry state of affairs. We must remember that while we are emphasizing the normality and competence of the blind and are insisting upon their intellectual capacity, we cannot forget blind children who are mentally retarded. They are also part of our family and deserve to be welcomed. They too need to receive our help and support. Sometimes we forget that we possess information and have mastered techniques that would immeasurably assist and encourage parents of multihandicapped children. These youngsters deserve care and education appropriate to their actual needs, and very often it is not and should not be available in programs primarily for the blind. Let us all fight together to protect our blind, mentally retarded children from this manifestation of public ignorance and misconceptions.
OF SURVEYS AND TRAFFIC HAZARDS
by Seville Allen
As Monitor readers know, Seville Allen is the editor of the Newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. She is thoughtful and quick to notice the implications of inane agency activities affecting herself and her blind friends and colleagues. Recently she received a questionnaire produced by the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind in Washington, D.C. In the January, 1989 NFB of Virginia Newsletter, she reported on the document and shared her reflections. Here is what she had to say:
After settling myself at my desk to put in my eight hours, my phone rang. What to my wondering... but news of yet another blindness survey. This time, a familiar Washington area agency for the blind had compiled a questionnaire entitled: Blind Pedestrian Survey. To complete it, the blind person was asked to rank various environmental factors on a scale of 1 to 5, most hazardous being 1. The purpose was to determine the worst pedestrian hazards and problem areas. To assist the agency, such factors as insufficient warning at metro platform edges, no designated pathways in metro stations, location of bus stops, boarding and alighting buses, missed bus stops were to be ranked. This was just the public transportation category. In that of dangerous intersections, the questionnaire went on to have one rank such items as nonstandard traffic patterns, cars blocking intersections, and short duration traffic lights. For construction sites, closed walkway without clear pedestrian walkways, excessive noise, and potholes were to be ranked. A bizarre and useless questionnaire, I hear you say. But it is no more peculiar than the obviously uneducated beliefs of the creator of this survey, who apparently assumes that the environment harbors many hazards unique to blind people such as missed bus stops, nonstandard traffic patterns, short traffic lights, and cars blocking intersections. Think about it not one of these so-called hazards is unique to blind people. For example, if a person is unable to hurry, the light is too short, regardless of blindness. When cars block intersections, everyone is endangered by having to step into oncoming traffic. Here careful judgment is needed. Whether blind or sighted, one can miss a bus stop by reading, sleeping, or day-dreaming. Although noise at construction sites is a nuisance, there is no technology to prevent it.
Reading over this survey, I wondered how the agency proposed to eliminate all of those hazards. The real answer is obvious. If they believe (as we do) that blindness can be reduced to a nuisance, the environmental obstacles identified in this survey would cease to be profound problems in seconds. Mysterious technology and expensive modifications would not be needed. Agency personnel would simply train blind people to use alternative techniques to function in an imperfect environment. Two reflections on the design of this survey occurred to me. First, surveys can be useful tools. This one would be no exception if it emphasized real hazards to the blind, such as receiving unsolicited and inappropriate directions; being grabbed while boarding moving escalators; and colliding with attitudes that deny opportunity for competent, qualified blind people. Second, I gather from these questions that the agency has a preconceived idea of what the hazards are. Presumably all obstacles would have to be eliminated for the blind to travel with the ease of the sighted. There were parts of this survey I did not understand, e.g. what is meant by a closed walkway at a construction site without a clear pedestrian walkway ? And what is a designated pathway in the metro train station ? Perhaps I am baffled by it all because (although I am blind) I am not a professional in the field. It occurs to me, however, that, instead of conducting silly surveys, the most constructive act of charity this agency could perform with its millions would be to fill the city's potholes, thereby eliminating a nuisance to us all.
SEMINAR FOR COMPUTER BEGINNERS
by Curtis Chong
Have you ever thought about buying a computer? Perhaps you are one of those people who is being required to learn how to use a computer, either at work or at home. Maybe you are just one of the many confused and frustrated individuals who have heard that computers are simply marvelous! You've started thinking about getting one for yourself, perhaps, but you find that there is so much information available about hardware, software, screen review programs, and the like as to daunt even the most determined computer neophyte. What kind of computer should you buy? IBM? Apple? Another brand? What is a good word processor? What is the best screen review program? What should you buy if you want to communicate with other computer systems over the phone? And then, once you have a computer, what is the best way to go about learning how to use it?
Well, the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science is conducting a Seminar for Computer Beginners at this year's National Convention to deal with the concerns, questions, and frustrations of people just like you. Although we don't guarantee to answer all of your questions about computers, we will certainly try to deal with as many concerns and questions as we can. We may even have some interesting computer hardware for you to look at and you won't be bothered by someone who is trying to sell you something. The seminar will be held on Monday, July 3, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. somewhere in the headquarters hotel. If you have questions about the seminar or would like to suggest a topic that would be helpful to you, please contact Curtis Chong, President, National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, 3530 Dupont Avenue North, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55412, phone: (612) 521-3202.
FIGHTING BLIND: Bonnie Peterson Challenges Stereotypes About the Visually Impaired
From the Editor: This article by Jill Zuckman appeared in the February 5, 1989, Milwaukee Journal. As Monitor readers know, Bonnie Peterson is the active and energetic President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. She takes her Federationism seriously. Therefore, no matter how gently she may work to change misconceptions about blindness and regardless of how reasonably she may try to achieve improvements in programs for the blind, she will necessarily create a certain amount of resentment and opposition. As we have so often said, no minority ever goes from second-class status to first-class citizenship without passing through a zone of hostility. In fact, properly viewed, the hostility is an indication of progress. While it is true that Bonnie Peterson has created her share of antagonism because of insistence that programs serving the blind provide quality services, the overwhelming response has been positive. She much prefers persuasion to confrontation, and because of her leadership the blind of Wisconsin have greater hope and more opportunity than they have ever had. Discounting the natural tendency of the news media to feature the sensational, the controversial, and the questionable anecdote, this article still gives a clear picture of what is beginning to happen in Wisconsin. Bonnie Peterson is a leader, and the public and the blind of the state are responding to that leadership.
Here is the Milwaukee Journal article:
The taxicab driver was moving along through traffic with his passenger, Bonnie Peterson. He eyed her through the rear- view mirror, taking in the long white cane leaning against the seat beside her. He was the one-thousandth, one-millionth, 20-zillionth person to ask, `What's it like to be blind?' she recalls.
Peterson, a tiny woman whose 5-foot-1 �-inch height belies her energy, went on the attack.
Did you know that a person with 20/20 vision is two-thirds blind? she asked her driver. You can't see far away without a telescope. You can't see close up without a microscope. You can't see through things; you need X-rays. So you're two-thirds blind. How does it feel? It doesn't feel like anything, she said, concluding her harangue. Looking back on her outburst and feeling slightly contrite, she grins. I scared the poor cab driver. He said, `Jesus, Lady, I should pull the cab off to the side of the road.' The point, Peterson says, is that being blind is not such a big deal. It just doesn't matter. It isn't something I dwell on. Peterson is trying to change the attitudes of the sighted toward the blind. She's trying to do it through her work as President of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, a national advocacy and resource organization. The Federation has 50,000 members across the country and about 350 members in the state. In the process, she is stirring up controversy with her outspoken and aggressive approaches. Some critics within the blind community say Peterson's tactics keep her from working within the system that already exists to help blind people. The attitudes she wishes to change that blind people need help, that they are incapable of managing on their own contribute to a 70% unemployment or underemployment rate for blind people in this country, she says. I think people believe blind people are useless. Peterson herself is hardly useless. She teaches public speaking at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha; she is completing a master's degree at Marquette University in interpersonal and intercultural communication; she is chairwoman of the resource development committee at Woodland School (formerly Alverno Elementary School and Children's Place); and she is married and raising two young daughters. Sitting cross-legged on her living room floor in her South Side home, with a mug of coffee by her side and a cigarette in her hand, she talks about growing up partially blind and about her goals for blind people. With bilateral atrophy of the optic nerve, Peterson can see only shadows and some colors, although she can read print from a paper if it's held so close to her face that it touches her nose. Peterson, who turns 36 this month, was elected president of the Wisconsin Federation in November after serving as acting president. Her husband, Joel, 37, a sergeant with the Milwaukee Police Department, listens from the couch. Lindsay, age 3, plays with her toys and alternately runs from mother to father, climbing onto his lap or cuddling under her arm. Some day, Bonnie Peterson says, she would like society to stop treating blindness as a daunting handicap. Once, in Madison, while she was transferring from one bus to another going to Portage, a man walked up to her and grabbed her arm. He said, `I'll take you to the ladies' room. I know where it is,' she recalls.
Her reply: I know where it is, too, Sir, and I don't need to go to the ladies' room.
She took his hand from her shoulder, shook it, and thanked him for his concern.
And Peterson won't forget the woman who noticed she was pregnant and asked: How did you do that?
Peterson acknowledges that many people are curious or simply want to help. But she argues that a blind person should have the right to make an error and correct it, just like anyone else. I don't think blindness is that much more difficult than any other thing, she says, noting that it's also hard to be obese or to have a speech impediment.
Everybody's got their own sadness.
About a month after Adeline and Chester Szortyka brought Bonnie, their first-born, home from the hospital in 1953, they realized that something was wrong.
She never grabbed for the baby bottle when she was hungry; she just cried. And her eyes would not follow people moving around her. Adeline Szortyka now suspects that the daughter's loss of vision was caused by medical treatment given when Bonnie was born prematurely. She was placed in an incubator with extra oxygen for a couple of days. Medical studies later showed that extra oxygen to babies caused blood vessels to enlarge. When the oxygen was taken away, the vessels shrank, causing blindness. Their daughter was fortunate she still had some vision. The Szortykas raised Bonnie to be independent, and Bonnie pushed herself hard. We were amazed at some of the stuff she would try and do, but she was a fierce competitor, says her father. Adds her mother: She would try anything. Whatever anyone wanted to do, she wanted to do, too.
And though her parents encouraged her to try new things, they also worried. We tried to get her to realize that some of these things, they're not possible to do, her father says. He was referring to activities such as riding a bike, which Bonnie learned to do with friends and still does on occasion. When she was growing up on the South Side, Peterson recalls, she wanted to be like all the other kids at the (now-defunct) St. Stanislaus grade school on Mitchell St. So she put up with headaches caused by eyestrain and used what little vision she had for school work. In between classes, she would rush to the bathroom to wash the ink off the tip of her nose the only way to read or write was to press her nose to the paper so her eyes could decipher the print.
Although there were frequent trips to the eye doctor, she never considered herself blind. When one teacher suggested that she learn Braille, Peterson automatically rejected the idea, and no one mentioned it again.
That's what blind people did, and why would I want to do that if I wasn't blind? she remembers thinking at the time. She was doubly hesitant to think of herself as blind, because her image of blind people was distorted. She thought that blind people stood on street corners selling pencils. And she had once seen a horror movie (her nose pressed to the TV screen) with scary blind people walking with their arms outstretched, bumping into each other. Her dreams did not include selling pencils. She wanted to be somebody some day and to marry a nice, handsome guy, she says, gesturing to Joel.
It took her first child Candice, now eight years old, to show Peterson that she is indeed blind.
When Candice was just a baby, Peterson memorized her books and read them back to her. With the rhymes and short phrases meant for children, it was not a difficult feat. But as her daughter got older, the books became too difficult to memorize. So Peterson would hold a book to her face, read a page, then show the picture to Candice. Finally, at age three and a half, Candice had had enough. She pulled away a book her mother was reading to her and took it to her father. I just felt so stabbed, Peterson says, hitting her fist against her heart, the pain on her face as visible as if the incident had happened just that morning. Oh, it was bad. It took a three-and-a-half-year-old to be honest with me. Within two months Peterson had learned Braille. After that, when she read to her daughter, Peterson read from her Braille books and Candice followed along with her printed books. It was these experiences of growing up without learning to read and write Braille and without learning to move around with a cane that have laid the foundation for much of her work with the National Federation of the Blind.
Peterson believes that all blind children, whether partially blind or totally blind, should be taught to read and write Braille and to move around with a cane. (She didn't learn to use a cane until the Federation taught her in 1985.) I will go to my grave fighting for the right of a blind child to be taught to use a baby cane as soon as he or she is able to walk, she says.
But the public schools' practice generally has been to wait until a child loses all sight before teaching the child Braille, Peterson says. And mobility training, or using a cane, is often put off until a child is at least nine or ten years old. She once accompanied a mother to a meeting of educators in Racine to discuss the woman's nine-year-old daughter. The girl's vision was 20/400, which is legally blind.
The mother wanted her daughter, as well as her other children and herself, to learn Braille. The educators were opposed. Peterson says the vision teacher responded: It's almost like you want your child to be blind. Do you know what blindness is? It's a cancer.
In Portage another family with a three-year-old boy asked the school to teach their son to use a cane, in addition to reading and writing Braille. The educators objected, saying that a cane was too technical and could be used incorrectly by a young child. Peterson jumped up, grabbed her cane, and said: This is a stick; that's all this is, a stick. You tap it, it reverberates up your arm and to your brain. It's not sophisticated, technical equipment. Andrew Papineau, a state Department of Public Instruction consultant for the blind and visually impaired, says educational decisions are made based on the individual child. The DPI has no set policy on whether a child must be totally blind to learn Braille and no policy on how old a child must be to learn to use a cane, he says.
Those are philosophical questions that are left to the teachers and the local school district to decide, Papineau says. Parents who disagree may appeal the decision.
It's not for me or Bonnie to say yes or no or, `They're right' or `They're wrong,' Papineau says. We have to have confidence in the teachers' evaluations.
On another front, Peterson criticizes the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps disabled people adjust to their disabilities and then finds them work. She says the agency is more interested in placing people in jobs and closing their files than in helping people establish careers with good jobs.
There are no checks and balances on this place, she says. It's like a rambling colossus with tentacles in every part of the state.
She was particularly angry when a division counselor told her years ago that if she wanted the agency to pay her college tuition, she had to enroll in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Peterson already had decided to attend Alverno College it was close to her home and offered a course of study she wished to pursue.
So she stood her ground and went to Alverno, but the agency paid her tuition only for her first year and part of her second. If she had gone to UWM, the agency would have paid for everything, she says. To earn money for tuition, she got a full-time job at Industries for the Blind, making pens and pencils. Later she filed a complaint with the U. S. Labor Department that Industries had violated affirmative action rules by not recruiting and advancing women and blind people for management jobs. The Labor Department Office of Federal Contract Compliance agreed, though it said there was insufficient evidence to show that Industries for the Blind had discriminated against Peterson. Michael Nelipovich, who works in the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation's office of the blind, says Peterson's characterization of his agency is unfair. Too often people look at those of us in government as not caring, as bureaucrats, and I take exception to that, he says. However, he says, It's always good in having consumer advocates to look over our shoulders, to give us gentle reminders or rattle our cage once in a while.
But he insists the agency staff who work with blind people are highly dedicated. If folks were in the work world to make big bucks, they wouldn't be devoting their life to civil service. Training for newly blind adults is another area that needs reform, Peterson says. She quarrels with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for sending people to its visually impaired program at the Milwaukee Area Technical College. Each year the program offers courses in Braille, mobility skills, grooming, cooking, and house cleaning to about 120 blind adults. During the last three years, Peterson says, twenty-eight students have complained to the Federation that the curriculum is inflexible, some of the instructors are patronizing, and there is no mechanism for students' evaluations. The Federation also says that MATC's accreditation comes from an unreliable organization, NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped). Says Peterson: They [MATC officials] said, `We don't have to change anything because the program has been accredited by the Council (NAC) and we meet their standards.' MATC, she claims, is using the accreditation as a shield against criticism rather than responding to the needs of individuals in the program.
Besides meeting with MATC officials and writing the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Federation picketed MATC in early October and passed a resolution November 5 condemning the repressive policies at MATC which demean the blind. The group also demanded that the state agency withhold funding from the MATC program temporarily. Adds Peterson:
They're not bad people [at MATC]. They just think blind people need to be treated with kid gloves. It's like a big baby-sitting service.
MATC officials recently issued a five-page statement criticizing the National Federation of the blind for using questionable tactics in an attempt to discredit the program. They say they are skeptical that the 28 complaints Peterson says she received really exist. Peterson won't release the names of the complainants to protect their identities. It is obvious that the real issue in this case is not the MATC Visually Impaired Program but an attempt by the National Federation of the Blind to take over accreditation from the National Accreditation Council, the MATC statement said. Peterson denies that. It is also quite evident that the NFB will use any means whatever to accomplish its ends, including distortion and defamation, the MATC statement concluded. School officials say they plan no changes in the program.
John Conway, who coordinates services for hearing impaired and visually impaired people at the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, says his agency plans to review the MATC program this year. Meanwhile, when budget hearings on state funding of the MATC program are held later this year, Peterson says Federation members plan to testify against state funding. Reaction to this controversy from some other members of the blind community, who historically have disliked the National Federation of the Blind, has been negative. They object to the Federation's tactics, saying it is radical and unable to compromise. It appears to some people that they tend to want us to destroy the system and rebuild it rather than remodel it from within, says Adrian DeBlaey, president of the Midwest Association for the Blind, a Wisconsin group with about 400 members. I wouldn't want to say the National Federation of the Blind is all bad, DeBlaey says.
DeBlaey, who is legally blind, also disagrees with Peterson and the Federation's view that blindness should not be considered a disability. It isn't a devastating disability that can't be dealt with, he says, but then adds: Anyone who says blindness isn't a handicap is kidding themselves. For example, he says, a trip from Southridge Shopping Center to his home on N. 57th St. takes two hours on the bus. If I could see better, I could drive. It would certainly be easier to get around. Gordon Haldiman, president of the Milwaukee-based Badger Association of the Blind, says there seems to be some anti-sighted feeling at the National Federation of the Blind. Both DeBlaey and Haldiman say they believe the MATC program is essentially good, though it may need some fine tuning. They say Peterson and the Federation have overstated the case against the program. But Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, headquartered in Baltimore, says criticism of Peterson is inevitable. I think Bonnie is making change, and I don't think it's going to be entirely peaceful, he says. He says Peterson is pushing the system to become more responsive to the people it serves. And she and the Federation are trying to change the public's perceptions of the blind. No group can go from second-class status to first-class status without making some people annoyed, says Maurer.
Peterson's lecture for her Parkside class today is on persuasion. She tells the students that threats can change what a person does but only persuasion can change what's in someone's heart. After class in the student union, she is back to her coffee and her Benson & Hedges. She says she's not discouraged, that this business of changing attitudes is a day-by- day effort. Is it any different than the struggle with women? she asks. This is the same thing blacks were going through and still are going through.
On the philosophical side, she looks to philosopher Rene Descartes, who first said, I think, therefore I am. What you do with your mind is the essence of a person, she says. Not, I see, therefore I am. Not, I'm pretty, therefore I am. It's what you do with your mind.
SWEET POTATO PIE
by Jenny Smith
Jenny Smith is a member of the Anderson Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina.
1-1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 stick butter or margarine
1/3 cup milk
� teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of mace
1 teaspoon vanilla
Bake at 450 degrees for ten minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees for twenty to thirty minutes.
CHEESY SPINACH PIE
by Eileen Rivera
Eileen Rivera is a former NFB scholarship winner and is now a resident of Maryland, where she actively participates in Federation work and holds (see elsewhere in this issue) a responsible position with the Wilmer Eye Clinic at Johns Hopkins.
1 single pie shell
1-1/2 cups shredded
cheddar and/or swiss cheese
1 chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 packages frozen spinach
2 tablespoons crushed oregano
1 teaspoon each: pepper, sweet basil, salt
3 beaten eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup cottage cheese
Prepare pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for twelve minutes. Remove shell from oven and spread grated cheese in the hot shell. In a large sauce pan, saut the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Next, add the defrosted spinach and spices. Stir the mixture over medium heat for about five minutes. Then, combine the eggs, milk, and parmesan and cottage cheeses in the pot. Stir until mixture thickens. Pour filling into the pie shell and bake for thirty to forty minutes. Great with a crisp garden salad and warm rolls.
CHOCOLATE PIE FILLING
by Mary Hartle
Mary Hartle is a long-time member of the Federation from Minnesota.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Prepare and bake pie shell.
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 tablespoons corn starch
3 egg yolks (save whites
for meringue topping)
1 cup milk
Method: Combine dry ingredients in a pan, straining them as you pour them into the pan (straining prevents corn starch from forming lumps). Beat by hand egg yolks and milk together in a bowl. Slowly stir yolk and milk mixture into pan of other ingredients. Cook all ingredients over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Pour mixture into baked pie shell. Spread meringue topping over chocolate mixture. Bake for twenty minutes.
Gradually combine egg whites saved from chocolate filling above with one cup of white sugar and beat together, using electric beater, until stiff peaks are formed. Spread over chocolate filling.
HOW TO PRESERVE A HUSBAND
by Gwen Rittgers
Gwen Rittgers, one of the most steadfast and faithful members the Federation has ever had, lives in Kansas City. She says: I submit this recipe just for fun.
Be careful in your selection. Do not choose too young. When selected, give your entire thoughts to preparation for domestic use. Some wives insist upon keeping them in a pickle; others are constantly getting them into hot water. This may make them sour, hard, and bitter. Sometimes even poor varieties may be made sweet, tender, and good by garnishing them with patience, well-sweetened with love and charity. Season with kisses, wrap them in a mantle of devotion, and serve with peaches and cream. Thus prepared, they will keep for years.
**E. U. Parker Hospitalized:
From the Editor: I was sitting in my office one morning late in February when I received a call from E. U. Parker. He was his usual cheerful self, but he was not calling from Mississippi. He was in the Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. He checked in on February 23 and had surgery to fuse vertibrae in his neck on February 24. He said he would be home soon and back at it full speed.
The following Associated Press story was widely printed throughout the country in early February of this year:
New Orleans - Ernestine Morais and her classmates were having as much fun grabbing for beads as anyone at the Carnival parade. But they came for a serious lesson.
This is one of our biggest confidence builders. Mardi Gras is the ultimate, said Joanne Fernandes, director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. If you can travel through a Mardi Gras crowd, you can go through any crowd and you can go to any place. And even though they couldn't see the gaudy floats or the plastic beads and aluminum doubloons thrown from them, the members of her group were having a blast.
It's a lot of fun. Time just to cut loose and anything goes, said Ms. Morais of Central, California. California has nothing on New Orleans. We look like we're throwing a tea party compared to down here. ....
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 - Important news for PROVOX users. Version 3.0 of the PROVOX Screen Review Program is now available to registered users for the asking and to others for $295. PROVOX is small, simple, inexpensive, and habit-forming. It now supports a great variety of speech devices and has many new conveniences. Get a full featured demonstration copy for $25. Manual available in Braille, on diskette, in print, and on cassette if you insist. Write for more information or call Dave at (913) 843-0351, or Chuck or Cindy at (913) 842-4016.
Norma Beathard writes: Elections were held at the January 21, 1989, meeting of the Houston Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. Those elected were: Norma Beathard, President; Lawrence Doiron, First Vice President; Joe Triplett, Second Vice President; James Skelton, Treasurer; Diane Paine, Secretary; and Azilee Floyd and Ora Handy, Board Members.
David Brownell, Secretary of the Gate City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, writes: It is with sadness that I must inform you of the December 19, 1988, passing of Gate City Chapter President Edna Heaps. She was an active, loyal member and leader of the New Hampshire affiliate for many years. Despite her limited income and declining health, she was able to attend the Kansas City convention in 1983.
David Walker writes as follows: At the January, 1989, meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of Jefferson City, Missouri, the following officers were elected: President, Betty Walker; Vice President, Rita Lynch; Secretary, Dave Walker; Treasurer, Alvin Toebben; and Board Members: John Crisp, George Bushman, and Brian Wekamp.
**Writers Division Workshop:
The National Federation of the Blind Writers Division will hold a Writer's Workshop featuring author and lecturer, Sue Viders, on Monday, July 3, 1989, in conjunction with the national convention of the NFB in Denver, Colorado. The six- hour workshop will focus on non-fiction writing, with a special emphasis toward marketing authors' work. The cost is $35, which inlcudes all workshop material. For more information about this workshop or other workshops available through the Writers Division, contact Tom Stevens, 1203 Fairview Road, Columbia, Missouri 652203. Advance registration is encouraged. Please make all checks payable to the NFB Writers Division.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I would like to buy a Perkins Brailler. A second-hand one in good condition would be fine. Write to: Ronnie Strote, 1711 Notre Dame Road, Rockford, Illinois 61103.
Most Monitor readers know Margaret Warren, who lives in Iowa and is deaf-blind. For many years she has read aloud to the children in her church. Mary Ann Martin travels with and interprets for her. Margaret is an active member of the organized blind movement. In a recent letter she said:
Mary Ann Martin and I were nominated as the most outstanding volunteers by the Methodist Hill Children's Center. We were interviewed and filmed by Channel 13 yesterday for a special program they are doing on volunteers every Friday this year. Our presentation will be seen tomorrow night at 5:00 p.m. I have been reading to the children for seventeen years as of January. I love doing volunteer work and wish I had more of it. I feel I am wasting my life just reading and writing letters every day, so it is a real joy to me when I can do something useful.
**Radio Reading Services:
The following item is taken from the February, 1989, issue of Hearsay , the publicaiton of the Association of Radio Reading Services: During the winter of 1987 a survey of radio reading services throughout the country was undertaken. At the time of the survey forty states had radio reading services, with 101 in operation. All services have an affiliation with some type of not-for-profit organization. About one-third are affiliated with a university/college/library, one-third with various not-for-profit agencies, and a fourth with the Agency for the Blind and Public Broadcasting.
On January 21, 1989, the Memphis Federation of the Blind elected the following: President, Ruth Broadnax; First Vice President, Lev Williams; Second Vice President, James Broadnax; Secretary, June Mangum; Treasurer, Rosa Young; and Board Member, Willie Mae Northington.
Recently President Maurer received a letter from Robert Greenberg (one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut), which said in part: I have been nominated for a Fulbright Grant for Eastern Europe, and I will, therefore, spend next academic year in Yugoslavia, conducting research for my dissertation.
**Congratulations and Commendations:
Ed Meskys, President of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, writes in the first edition of the New Hampshire Federationist, newsletter of the NFB of New Hampshire, that he and Sandy Parker, who have known one another for twenty years, will be married on April 29, 1989. He also announces that two members of the NFB of New Hampshire have just had books published. Ed Meskys of the Lakes Region Chapter has brought out The Once and Future Arthur, an anthology of original articles about King Arthur in legend and literature, and Rick Holmes of Merrimack Valley has published a history of the town of Derry. Meskys continues to publish NIEKAS, a magazine about science fiction. He has edited and published it since 1962, and in 1967 he received the Hugo Award for the best fanzine or magazine about SF.
**Dog Guide List Wanted:
Priscilla Ferris, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, recently sent the following letter to all NFB state presidents. It has equal relevance to chapter presidents and individual dog guide users. Here it is:
During our national convention, held in Chicago, our Dog Guide Committee became the National Association of Dog Guide Users. Robert Eschbach, President of this Division, has asked me to compile a list of names and addresses of as many dog guide users as we can possibly locate. I am asking your assistance in compiling such a list. Our goal is to inform dog guide users as to what is available to them as a member of our dog guide division. It would be to their advantage if they became a member of our division. We have a division newsletter entitled Harness Up , which is very informational. A mailing list would enable us to send out advance information to those planning to attend our national conventions. As a dog guide user, I know that advance information would help me to plan my schedule to accommodate myself but mostly to consider the needs and comfort of my four-footed friend. Also, the Division is a sounding board for problems which are not unique to just a few but concern all who have chosen dog guides as our mode of independence. Your cooperation in this endeavor will be very much appreciated. Lists may be sent in Braille, print, or cassette (cassettes not to be returned) to the attention of Priscilla Ferris, NFB of Massachusetts, 72 Bank Street, Fall River, Massachusetts 02720. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
**Through the Looking Glass:
We very often find interesting, informative, stimulating, and worthwhile items in the New Beacon magazine, the publication of the Royal National Institute for the Blind in England. However, we sometimes find announcements which at the very least bring a smile and in the most astonishment. Here is one of the latter. It appears in the December, 1988, issue; and it seems to us that the very least we can do is to try to lend a hand in publicizing this expressed need. Here without further comment is the announcement, just as it was published: Bachelor very much wishes to meet, view marriage, short-sighted girl with very strong lenses for high myopia. Absolutely genuine, healthy, sense of humor, professional artist. Please ring 01-602-4799.
Steve Zielinski writes: On January 3, 1989, the Detroit Chapter conducted its annual elections. The following results occurred:
Ray Roberson, President; Donald Drapinski, First Vice President; Steve Handschu, Second Vice President; Steve Zielinski, Secretary; Donna Posont, Treasurer; Board Members Angele Curvin and Charlie Hortin; and Chapter Representative, Alberta Brown.
Ed Bryant, Editor of The Voice of the Diabetic, writes to tell us of increasing public interest in the Voice of the Diabetic, the publication of the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Majors Scientific Books, Inc., which handles subscriptions for libraries throughout the United States and Canada, has requested permission to list the Voice of the Diabetic in their publications.
From the Editor: In my work as Editor of the Monitor I come across wondrously diverse documents and bits of information. Recently Revanne Duckett, one of my former students in Iowa, gave me a book which I thought I should share with Monitor readers. I have it in my hand as I write. It is a paperback and thoroughly unpretentious, but its contents compensate for any lack of glamour which it may fail to exude. As a beginning, consider the title: Entertaining With Insects /or: The Original Guide to Insect Cookery. No, the authors are not speaking allegorically or in metaphors. They mean every recipe of it. Just in case the book is still available and you might like to buy it, here is the pertinent information. The authors are Ronald L. Taylor and Barbara J. Carter. It is published by Woodbridge Press Publishing Company, Santa Barbara, California 93111.
Ted Young, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, writes: The Lancaster County Chapter was formed on Friday, December 16, 1988. Cindy Handel, state treasurer and a leader in the Pennsylvania affiliate, was elected chapter president. This is an energetic, enthusiastic group, and we look forward to many good things from this chapter.
Mary Ellen Halverson, editor of the Gem State Milestones, the newsletter of the NFB of Idaho, reports that the newly elected officers of the Magic Valley Chapter are: President, Marge Ehresman; Vice President, Walt Hine; Secretary, Kathryn Ward; and Treasurer, Kent Ireton.
**Teachers of Blind Children:
Doris Willoughby writes as follows: During the 1988 NFB convention four teachers of blind children had lunch together. Discussing common concerns was very rewarding, and the idea of some kind of group or network was discussed. If you are a teacher of blind children high school age or younger (whether blind or sighted yourself) and interested in discussion with other teachers who share the NFB philosophy, please write to: Doris M. Willoughby, 2711 54th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50310. A get-together will be announced during the National Convention week in Denver. Suggestions for other activities are welcome.
According to The Pathfinder , the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, Dave and Debbie Robinson, recently of Omaha, Nebraska, have moved to Ruston, Louisiana. Mr. Robinson has joined the staff of the Louisiana Center for the Blind as a Job Placement Specialist. Believing that the average blind person can do the average job as well as the average sighted person if he or she is given the proper training and has the proper attitudes, his challenge will be to help blind people to evaluate their own abilities and needs and then assist them either to find work or to help them get the necessary skills to do so. Good luck to the Robinsons.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: The Plough Publishing House Free Braille Lending Library warmly invites readers of the Braille Monitor to borrow our Braille catalogue. The books available, both fiction and nonfiction, deal with current issues such as social concerns for justice, peace and war, personal commitment to Christ, children's education, marriage and faithfulness, personal relationships, and racial issues. It will be noticed that these are serious subjects, and the library does not contain matter for light entertainment but is concerned with life issues from the standpoint of the Christian message. All inquiries to: BMO Department, Braille Lending Library, Hutterian Brethren, Deer Spring Bruderhof, Norfolk, Connecticut 06058; or BMO Department, Braille Lending Library, Hutterian Brethren, Darvell Bruderhof, Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5DR, ENGLAND.
Tim Cranmer submits the following: The Institute on Applied Rehabilitation Technology (IART) in cooperation with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) announces a version of DECtalkTM, which is portable and smaller in size and weight than the original model. DECtalk is a versatile speech synthesizer, featuring eight standard human-sounding voices (four male, three female, one child) and a sophisticated text-to-speech algorithm. DECtalk is recognized as a useful tool for the visually impaired in providing audible feedback of material displayed on a computer monitor. The portable DECtalk is an external serial device enabling it to be used with most computer systems.
This version weighs only seven pounds (with C batteries), and its dimensions are 11 inches by 8.5 inches by 3 inches. On a full charge, the portable DECtalk can be used constantly for up to twenty-four hours. The anticipated cost of the unit will be approximately $2,000. Only a limited number of units will be available. For more information contact: Dr. Howard C. Shane, Institute on Applied Rehabilitation Technology, The Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, (617) 735- 6466.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
VersaBraille II+ For Sale - VersaBraille II+ only one year old, barely used. Everything from mailing packages to manuals in perfect condition. $5,750 brand new will sell for $3,599. If interested, please contact Jon Deden at (800) 333-2858 extension 248 (days) or (303) 722-2529 (evenings).
We recently received a letter from Robin McFarland, Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Northern Kentucky, saying that On January 12 the National Federation of the Blind of Northern Kentucky held their 1989 elections. The officers are as follows: President, Bill Deatherage; Vice President, Robin McFarland; Treasurer, Margaret Yancy; and Secretary, Jerry Rader.
**Help From Campers Requested:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Over the past three years I have become blind and unable to drive. My wife is now driving our thirty-foot fifth wheel and truck. I would like to hear from any other blind campers to see if they continue to enjoy camping and to request any special hints they might have to make their camping more fun. Contact: Fred Hawkins, 328 Shappee Street, Horseheads, New York 14845.
From the Editor : Sandra (Sandy) Ryan was a student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the time I was director. She went on to become a registered dietitian. She recently wrote me as follows: I am writing to offer an exciting new service to Monitor readers and friends. As you may know, I am a Registered Dietitian. One of the things I can do is analyze recipes for their nutrient content and determine diabetic exchanges for the recipe. I can analyze recipes in print, Braille, or on cassette. My price for print or Braille is $1.50 per recipe. I will also do cassette recipes for $1.50 each if a cassette is included with the order. Otherwise, the $3 cost of the cassette will be included with each recipe after the first costing $1.50. Please have interested individuals contact me at 5117 Schubert, Ames, Iowa 50010 or call (515) 292-2328 (evenings only). I am very excited about being able to offer this service to persons interested in eating a nutritious, balanced diet, and especially to diabetics. Analaysis can help everyone to select recipes suitable to their individual lifestyles and needs.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Eureka A4 in very good condition, $1,995, which includes UPS shipping to anywhere in the U.S. Purchased in October, 1988. Price also includes manuals on cassette and disk, plus over 200 games and utilities programs. Contact me in Braille, by cassette, or phone. Mr. Keith Bucher, Box 130, Reader, West Virginia 26167, phone (304) 386-4332.
**New Chapter Organized:
The following announcement appeared in the January, 1989, issue of The Pathfinder , the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana: A team of organizers, including Joanne Fernandes, Ernie Morais, Cora Corwin, Harold Wilson, Zach Shore, and Rachel LeBlanc ventured down to Jennings, Louisiana, in November, 1988 to help found the South Central Chapter of the NFB of Louisiana. Several enthusiastic people from Jennings and the surrounding area were on hand to begin this chapter. The newly elected officers are: Loretta Washington, President; Vernon Breaux, First Vice-President; Lena Vasseur, Second Vice-President; Marissa Perry, Secretary; Shirley Breaux, Treasurer; and Claude Boudreaux and Warren Vasseur, Board Members.
**The Way Of All Flesh:
The spring issues of many monthly magazines include suggested diets designed to inspire or shame readers as they contemplate their summer wardrobes or shop for swimwear. Margaret Warren of Iowa sent us a diet with a difference. We offer it here as an antidote to your other reading. It comes neither recommended nor denigrated. It has struck us, however, as having about it the whisper of truth. Here it is: Breakfast: one half grapefruit, one slice whole wheat toast, eight ounces skim milk Lunch: four ounces lean, broiled chicken breast, one cup steamed spinach, a cup of herb tea, and one Oreo cookie Mid-Afternoon Snack: the rest of the Oreos in the package, two pints rocky road ice cream, one jar hot fudge sauce, nuts, cherries, and whipped cream Dinner: two loaves of garlic bread with cheese, one large sausage, mushroom, and cheese pizza, four cans or one large pitcher of beer, and three milky way bars Evening Snack: one entire frozen cheesecake, eaten directly from the package
1. If you eat something and nobody sees you eat it, it has no calories.
2. If you drink a diet soda with a candy bar, its calories are canceled out by the soda.
3. When you eat with someone else, calories don't count unless you eat more than they do.
4. If you fatten everyone around you, you'll look thinner.
5. Cookie pieces contain no calories; the process of breaking them causes calorie leakage.
by Diane McGeorge
The National Federation of the Blind convention in Denver is where the action will be in early July. Remember the tours! Don't forget to make your reservations for the incredible Georgetown tour on Friday afternoon, July 7. For this exciting tour we board the bus in Denver and head for the hills. Just fifty miles west of Denver is the old mining town of Georgetown (no relation to Diane or Ray). The Georgetown Loop Railroad, a narrow gauge steam train, will be boarded in Georgetown, and from there we'll take the six-mile, one-hour round trip to Silver Plume and back. On to Georgetown. Many have called it a Swiss village tucked away in the Rockies. Full of quaint shops and excellent restaurants, we'll have hours of fun here.
So, go back in time with us, relive the trip, and experience American heritage on our 1885 railroad. This seven-hour western history experience (which includes round trip transportation from Denver, the railroad ride, and shopping in Georgetown) is yours for $26 per person. Reservations for the train are limited and must be made no later than June 16, 1989, with: Nancy Richardson, The Western Wanderer, Inc., 6343 South Monaco Court, Englewood, Colorado 80111. Make your reservations now! If the mountains are not your preference, then a double decker bus to Coors brewery might be your cup of tea or should we say might be your stein of beer! Other tours will be available on Friday afternoon, July 7, so be sure to check our tour desk concerning information for Central City or Estes Park.
Join us Friday evening for a visit to the Comedy Works in downtown Denver. Many famous comedians got started at the Comedy Works for instance, Roseann Barr. So, for an evening of laughs, come to the Comedy Works.
Jazz it up! Something you won't want to miss. On Wednesday evening, July 5, at the Hyatt Regency, for your listening pleasure, Colorado is proud to present the best jazz band in the West. The Queen City Jazz Band plays traditional Dixieland Jazz, Kansas City Jazz, and any other jazz you can think of. So jazz up your evening! Come see the Queen City Jazz Band. Tickets are $5 per person in advance, $6 per person at the door. We'll see you there.
One last comment. The NFB of Colorado is having a surprise night for all of you. Let your curiosity get the best of you. Attend this year's National Convention in Denver, Colorado.