Vol. 32, No. 7 August 1989
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
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FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLINDIT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
THE BRAILLE MONITOR
PUBLICATION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Vol. 32, No. 7 August 1989
From the Editor's Mailbasket: Postscript to the Article
On the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
More Revelations about the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
Blindness and the Use of Partial Vision
by Alfred P. Maneki, Ph.D.
Council of United States Dog Guide Schools Holds Meeting
City Discusses Audible Traffic Signals with Federation
Arlington, Massachusetts, May Yet Go Cuckoo
Time to Switch Partners Again in Virginia
by Barbara Pierce
Blind: Then and Now
by Catherine Horn Randall
Maine Center for the Blind Resents Seeing the Truth in Print
J.O.B. Continues to Change Lives
As The Twig Is Bent
Some Philosophizing on Alternative Techniques
by Jana Moynihan
Litigation Filed Against Carnival Cruise Lines
Conflicting Unprofessional Advice about Braille
USA Today Covers Airline Issue
Jim Walker Dies
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Lori Duffy
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1989
Robert C. Kellogg
4325 Bedford Avenue
Omaha, Nebraska 68111
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
The Braille Monitor
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Dear Mr. Jernigan:
I read the March 1989 issue of the Monitor as is my habit. I have friends and acquaintances that have graced the Monitor 's pages in the past few issues (Cathy Horn Randall, Barb Walker and Laurie Eckery) so I frequently put aside my daily tasks for a moment of leisure reading. This month was no exception. I was shocked to read the article castigating the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. I was very disappointed to find such yellow journalism in the pages of the Monitor ... particularly when the purpose of the article was to score points against your old nemesis, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. The article was also unsigned... which sends the message that it reflected Federation policy.
I am afraid that you did not score a hit on NAC. NAC clearly knows your view of their work. Instead, you have send a torpedo into a school that has, for more than one hundred years, served blind and deaf students. Many of those students are members of your organization or other consumer directed advocacy organizations like the National Association of the Deaf. Robert Dawson, the President of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is a close personal friend of more than twenty years. I have discussed the incidents that are outlined in your article with him on more than one occasion. He is truly committed to solving those problems caused, not entirely by the internal situation at FSDB but, also by benign neglect of the funding agency... the Florida Legislature. For many decades, our residential schools served bright and motivated students like those represented in the Monitor 's pages. Today, however, these schools serve a very different mix of students. These students include the severely handicapped, those who have a long history of failure in other educational programs and even some who in earlier times would have been denied entry as morally unfit. Gone are the days when one dormitory staffer... no matter how committed... can handle twenty-five of these students. The article quotes grand jury testimony which if it were true, would surely have led to charges being filed. The only answer must be that the quoted testimony was not believable. Depending on the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services report would be like getting a true picture of conditions in Central America from Oliver North. Both have plenty to hide given past transgressions. Any accusations by the FDHRS would be like the pot calling the kettle black. The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is moving ahead with efforts to solve their problems. I would hope that your enmity toward NAC would not prevent the opportunity for a representative of the Florida School to respond to the allegations in the Monitor article. Remember... Anything written to please the author is worthless.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Member Omaha Chapter NFB
April 24, 1989
Mr. Robert C. Kellogg
4325 Bedford Avenue
Omaha, Nebraska 68111
Dear Mr. Kellogg:
This will reply to your recent undated letter postmarked April 10, 1989. You send your letter on plain paper, not stationery, and you sign yourself as a member of the Omaha Chapter of the NFB. Thus, you attempt to present yourself as a member of the Federation, commenting in outrage at the injustice done to a deserving and innocent institution in another state, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. But the Monitor is thorough in its research. You neglected to tell me that you are an assistant commissioner of education in Nebraska and that you are in charge of the Nebraska Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, the counterparts of the Florida School. It is not difficult to see why your friendships and sympathies might cloud your judgment and color your objectivity. In fact, your own words are: Robert Dawson, the President of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, is a close personal friend of more than twenty years. Name-calling on your part will not serve any useful purpose. We carefully researched the facts about the Florida School, and I believe they are absolutely true. More than that, I think we greatly understated the abuses at that institution, and I think we can prove it. You say that our article was not signed and that it, therefore, presumably represents Federation policy. Be assured that it does. What has happened at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is nauseatingly disgusting, and we have no apologies to make for a single word we said. We meant it, every bit of it. Moreover, if the facts warrant (and they well may), we will write further articles about the Florida School. We are not dealing with a cozy little club of superintendents and executives who can do as they please and protect their precious reputations. We are dealing with the lives of children. Let let me say these further things to you:
(1) NAC's function in our article is not causative but symptomatic and symbolic. Think about it. Perhaps you will see what I mean.
(2) You plead as an excuse for the gross mismanagement and negligence at the Florida School the lack of funds. The facts dispute your contention. A $20,000,000 annual budget for a single school is hardly parsimonious.
(3) Most people in the country from whom I have heard (including, I might add, educators of the blind) do not agree with your views about the Florida School. The documentation is thorough, and we interviewed both Mr. Dawson and Dr. Tinsley, the principal of the Department for the Blind.
(4) Ordinarily I do not take exception to criticism of Monitor articles, but in this case (particularly, considering the false colors under which you attempted to sail) I do. The blind are determined to make changes in some of the agencies and schools established to give them service, and they will not be swayed from their course.
(5) You ended your letter with a questionable and rather pointless quotation from Pascal (taking the trouble gratuitously to supply me with the dates of his birth and death). Let me now return the compliment: There is no substitute for the truth. Kenneth Jernigan (1926 - present) My final comment to you is that I shall probably print this correspondence in the Monitor . Let the documentation and your words speak for themselves.
National Federation of the Blind
P. S. With further reference to truth and full disclosure: I am informed that although you have from time to time paid dues to the National Federation of the Blind, you have simultaneously paid dues to organizations with opposite philosophies, causing a number of people to think that your motive was not true membership but personal self-interest and an attempt to mislead.
The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) and its supporters have tried to respond to our recent revelations about the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind by saying that all of the wrongdoing has been concentrated in the Department for the Deaf and that the Department for the Blind is not involved. On the face of it this does not make sense. New revelations underscore the shallowness of the NAC argument. When seven percent of the staff of an institution have criminal records, is it really conceivable that one department is pure while the other is tainted? Here is a United Press International story which was widely printed in Florida in April of this year:
School for Deaf, Blind Has Ex-Convicts on Staff
ST. AUGUSTINE (UPI) More than 7 percent of the current employees at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind have criminal records, according to a stories published in Sunday's editions of The Florida Times-Union.
We saw enough reason to alert the school they needed to fingerprint everybody, Jerry Peters, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokesman, said after background checks showed a number of current and past employees had criminal records. The background checks, which used only the employee's name, were ordered after a mentally retarded 9-year-old girl was scalded to death in a shower last October.
Peters said the names of 605 current employees and 380 previous employees were checked through the FDLE's criminal information system. He said a total of 101 charges had been filed against current employees and 109 against past workers. Among the charges faced by current workers are kidnapping, burglary, assault, and possession of narcotics, the check revealed. Former employees who had worked at the facility in the past four years had been charged with crimes ranging from homicide to child abuse. Peters said the FDLE survey is not conclusive because background checks using only names often do not show the disposition of the charges filed against the person. The school has been fingerprinting prospective employees since September, 1988, but has not fingerprinted current employees for more extensive FDLE and FBI background checks. Robert Dawson, the president of the school, said the increased background checks were part of a concerted effort in recent years to tighten hiring and screening policies. The school's hiring practices first came under fire in 1987 when several employees wee charged with crimes against children. Last year, dormitory supervisor Charles Johnston received a life sentence after being convicted of sexual battery on a deaf student.
School officials say they want the Legislature to pass a bill this year that would allow them to run regular fingerprint and background checks on current employees, a move officials from the union representing some of the school's employees say they may oppose.
State law does not bar the hiring of an employee who has an arrest or conviction record unless the crime was a felony directly related to the position for which the person is applying.
by Alfred P. Maneki, Ph.D.
As Monitor readers know, Al Maneki is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. He is also the new editor of The Braille Spectator, the newsletter of the NFB of Maryland. In the Spring/Summer, 1989, edition he wrote a short article based on his personal experience as a blind person with some usable vision. His reflections are straightforward and sensible. Here is what he has to say:
Despite what some have said about the National Federation of the Blind, we are not opposed to the desire of blind people to use the vision they possess, assuming that they employ it effectively and that they have acquired alternative techniques which they can use when it is more efficient to do so. Braille, cane travel, typing, and good listening habits are not inferior skills, and we should be trained to use them when our sight is inadequate to do the job at hand. The problems arise when the blind person who has not been properly trained is forced to rely on clearly inadequate partial vision rather than the alternative techniques of blindness which are more efficient.
The educational system, when I was a child as well as today, always does what is easiest and will do more only when concerned and informed parents insist on the most appropriate training for their children. I grew up before the development of modern computer technology and before Public Law 94-142 and IEP's. At that time most children, even the partially sighted, were sent to the school for the deaf and blind. I know now that this was a typically repressive school in many ways with extremely negative attitudes about blindness. We were neither instructed nor encouraged in cane travel. Shop classes, cooking classes, and recreational activities were minimal. We were never challenged intellectually. There was an emphasis on music, which did nothing for my musical inabilities. I am sure that our teachers felt sorry for us and did not think we would amount to much in our lives.
And yet all children in the blind department were taught to read Braille and to write it with slate and stylus. We were admonished constantly: Don't use your eyes! They'll go bad! It was easier back then for the system to teach Braille to all of us. The school for the blind had to teach Braille anyway. Braille books were available in relatively greater numbers than they are today. All but a very few blind and visually impaired children were sent to the school for the blind anyway. Why bother with large print?
Today, the situation has been reversed. Braille is the bother. Why teach Braille if you don't have to and if the parents will let you get away with not doing so? I am convinced that if I were a child growing up in Howard County, Maryland, today, tests would show that I could read large print. Forget about reading and writing efficiently! These tests would be used to convince my parents that I really didn't need Braille after all. Here again, though it would never be acknowledged, the primary consideration would be the convenience of the teachers and administrators. Video technology makes enlargement of print much cheaper than Braille, and teaching print reading is more familiar, so never mind the eyestrain, the slowness, or the relative lack of portability of the equipment. Inevitably, children grow up and must conduct their lives with whatever training or lack of training they have received. I was very fortunate to have learned Braille in my childhood and acquired other alternative techniques later. I was able to take notes with slate and stylus in my college classes. I had developed good listening habits and could use recorded materials and readers effectively. I was able to prepare for graduate level exams, write a Ph.D. dissertation in mathematics, teach college mathematics, and find rewarding employment in government service, none of which could I have pulled off if I had had only large print at my command.
Here is my advice to parents and partially-sighted students. Never let your school system off the hook. Demand alternative techniques when they are not offered. Insist upon large print if it would help. Make the system work to your advantage by requesting as many alternative techniques as are really useful and efficient. Do not allow yourselves to be convinced by the so-called experts on blindness that it is simply beyond the capacity of the partially blind child to learn both Braille and print. It isn't true. Most important, cultivate positive attitudes about your child or yourself as a blind person, and develop proficiency in the skills of blindness that will allow competent performance. How does one use partial vision, and when is it useful? Every individual is best able to answer these questions personally and should have the training and good sense to know that relying entirely on vision when it is insufficient is foolish. Here is a sample of instances when I find my eyesight useful:
Writing on a blackboard. I learned delivering college lectures that I could write on a blackboard even though I could not see what I had written. Here earlier training with large print would have been most helpful.
* Traveling without using a cane. Although I do not always absolutely need to use a cane, there are times when it is necessary. Some years ago I stopped wasting time trying to anticipate when I might need it. I decided to use it all the time, and I now have one less thing to worry about. With experience and competence with a cane one outgrows self-consciousness about blindness.
* Identifying paper currency. Although I cannot do this rapidly, it is a convenience when I am given change for a purchase.
* Reading labels. This is useful for identifying canned goods, but not much more.
* Reading large print on a computer terminal. This is moderately useful when working with computer program code, which tends to be concisely written.
* Distinguishing junk mail from bills and personal correspondence. This is helpful, but not essential.
* Looking at my Braille watch, rather than reading it with my index finger.
The list could go on, but I think my point is clear. My parents and teachers never really believed that Braille, the white cane, using readers efficiently, and typing would enable me to be successful in life. Nevertheless, I was taught these skills; and although they were started later than was ideal, they have helped me more than the limited sight that I have and use some of the time.
I owe whatever understanding I have of myself and of blindness largely to my involvement in the National Federation of the Blind. Through its teachings and in its practices, the NFB has given me a sense of well-being and completeness that I could not have achieved alone. The NFB is not a cult, as some misguidedly and ignorantly claim. Instead, the NFB represents a powerful and effective effort by the blind to correct the ills and injustices of a frequently misguided society, and all are invited to join in our quest for freedom.
Almost without exception the dog guide schools in this country have refused to have anything to do with the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) and its so-called standards and quality services. This does not mean, however, that the dog guide schools are indifferent to standards of performance or good service. Quite the contrary. It is precisely because they are concerned about integrity and quality that they have rejected NAC. In 1987 the dog guide schools formed an organization to discuss common problems and consider ways to improve their service. The following news release was issued April 13, 1989, to give details about the most recent meeting and about the formation and plans of the organization of dog guide schools. It reads as follows:
There are ten guide dog schools in the United States, each independently funded and operated. Located in the states of Florida, Connecticut, New York, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and California, each facility is a nonprofit organization that trains guide dogs and provides instruction to qualified blind applicants in the dog's use for mobility. There is no charge to the blind recipient for the dog, harness, in- residence program, or after care. The schools train approximately 1,400 guide dog teams a year.
Recently the schools joined together to form The Council of U. S. Dog Guide Schools, a consolidation of the ten independent facilities in the United States, and held its semi-annual meeting at International Guiding Eyes in Los Angeles, California, on March 16 and 17. The purpose of the council is to provide a forum for the exchange and sharing of information about successful operating practices employed by the ten member schools. The concept of the council was initiated by Dr. Stuart Grout, President of the Seeing Eye of Morristown, New Jersey. The first formation meeting was held March, 1987. Dr. Grout explains, The long-term goal of the council is to develop a manual of standards of good practice that will ultimately benefit the safety and lives of the blind students who attend the schools. The council was formed to act on behalf of all ten of the schools and combines the issues of training and the needs of the profession. The selection of names for the council was somewhat problematic in that several of the schools have already trademarked the term guide dog. As a result, the council chose the term dog guide, which describes the type of mobility being used rather than how the dog is trained.
At the recent meeting held at International Guiding Eyes, the council completed writing the by-laws and addressed topics including: international certification, costs to train one guide dog team, the need for instructors, veterinary programs, and training methods.
As the requests for assistance from the blind community increase, the schools continue to expand and gain more visibility not only in their respective communities but also nationally. There has been a need on behalf of the schools for some standardization. Marty Yablonski, Executive Director of Guiding Eyes of Yorktown, New York, and chairman of the council, states: This committee of guide dog schools has been formed to foster the exchange of information and the sharing of skills and knowledge in the art and science of guide dog instruction. This can only benefit the guide dog user and each guide dog school. The next meeting will be held in October at Pilot Dog in Columbus, Ohio. One of the issues on the agenda will be safe mobility in traffic.
As Monitor readers know, the National Federation of the Blind has taken a clear stand on the question of audible traffic signals they are dangerous, misleading, and unconstructive. Communities all across the country, however, continue to raise the question of installing them. Local chapters and state affiliates, therefore, must constantly be alert in order to combat such notions decisively.
In early March of 1989, Fred Marc of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation contacted Mary Ellen Gabias, President of the Baltimore chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. He had a request to install an audible traffic signal at the corner nearest to the Maryland Rehabilitation Center. What was the Federation's position on such an idea? In a few well-chosen words, Mrs. Gabias enlightened Mr. Marc, who found her arguments persuasive. He asked her to commit her ideas to paper and to send him any other supporting documents she had. At this writing the decision about this particular signal has not been made, but the materials Mrs. Gabias sent are clear and could be adapted by any group fighting the same battle. Here is what Mrs. Gabias had to say:
March 15, 1989
Mr. Fred Marc
Department of Transportation
Dear Mr. Marc:
I'm writing to thank you for contacting the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind concerning the installation of audible traffic signals at the entrance to the Maryland Rehabilitation Center on Argonne Drive. We are happy to provide you with information about the experiences blind people across the country have had with these signals. To put it simply, they don't work. The concept of audible traffic signals would seem to have merit. After all, the reasoning goes, sighted people can see the traffic signal. Since blind people cannot, it is only reasonable to give them equivalent data. The problem with this reasoning is that blind people already have comparable data. By listening to the movement of automobiles, a blind person can reliably determine whether it is safe to cross a street. If knowing the status of a traffic signal were sufficient to make this determination, we would not teach our children to look both ways before crossing; we would simply tell them to watch the light. Blind people need to listen both ways before crossing a street. The presence of a noisy audible traffic signal makes it harder to hear what the traffic is doing. This means that a device intended to aid the blind actually increases their risk during crossing. Audible traffic signals present other dangers. Blind people who learn to cross intersections with such lights necessarily find it unnerving to cross without them. Since most blind people come from areas where there are no audible signals, the presence of one at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center would not assist their ability to travel generally. They would be safe at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center crossing, but they will be on their own, without audible signals, throughout the rest of the city. In other words, if audible traffic signals were really necessary, they should be installed at every intersection. On the other hand, if a blind traveler can negotiate an intersection safely in his or her community, what is the special problem at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center? There are certainly other intersections with similar traffic patterns scattered throughout Baltimore. These practical arguments are important, but there are also philosophical considerations which have as much bearing on the issue. Most people fear blindness almost as much as they do cancer. One of the most pervasive myths is that those who are blind are unable to move safely and confidently through the world as it is. Those who believe this often feel compelled to reconstruct the world to make it easier for the blind. They do this in the name of accessibility, but it is actually harmful. If an individual believes that becoming blind deprives him or her of the ability to function competently, that person will never learn to cope. A good rehabilitation program can help people overcome these misconceptions. However, all of the positive talk in the world can be undermined by the presence of an audible traffic signal which screams, You can't compete! The Maryland State Department of Highways did a study of audible traffic signals in Frostburg two or three years ago. They determined that there was no evidence to indicate that the signals had any impact on blind pedestrians, only that the residents of Frostburg liked them. A copy of their letter to Mrs. Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, is enclosed. So is a copy of the resolution passed by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland at its 1987 convention in Frostburg, Maryland.
Audible traffic signals don't work. They increase the danger for blind pedestrians, and they create a false sense of security. Blind people who depend on them do not learn to make effective use of the sounds of traffic. For these reasons, I sincerely hope that the Baltimore Department of Transportation rejects the notion of installing an audible traffic signal at the Maryland Rehabilitation Center.
Very truly yours,
Mary Ellen Gabias, President
Greater Baltimore Chapter
National Federation of the Blind
Glen Burnie, Maryland
August 3, 1988
Ms. Sharon Maneki, President
National Federation of the Blind of Maryland
Re: Audible Pedestrian Signals
U.S. 40A at Broadway U.S.
40A at Water St.
Dear Ms. Maneki:
This letter is the follow-up to my December 31, 1987 correspondence to you regarding the audible pedestrian signals (a.p.s.) in Frostburg as well as the State Highway Administration's policy regarding these signals. As you are aware, Frostburg State University asked that we conduct a demonstration of an a.p.s. at two downtown Frostburg signalized intersections. It has been well- received by the residents and they have requested that they remain. Our follow-up study included a review of traffic operations at these locations. Specifically, our concern was safety, the qualitative element being accident data. Our analysis did not show any indication of accidents occurring that could be attributed to these audible pedestrian signals. We also conducted a literature search of past research, only to find out that research is very limited. The general consensus of the past research concludes that while these signals have been used successfully, there is a certain mistrust on the part of blind pedestrians of mechanical aids at traffic signal controlled intersections.
Therefore, based on this research and the concerns expressed by your Federation, we have decided against installing these devices in Maryland in the future. With respect to the two locations in Frostburg, we will continue to monitor these closely and, should action need to be taken, will respond immediately. We hope that we have addressed your concerns and we feel this policy will best serve our citizens. It is always a pleasure working with organizations such as yours and we look forward to your input in the future. If we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Deputy Chief Engineer-Traffic
Maryland Department of Transportation
National Federation of
the Blind of Maryland
WHEREAS, Many myths and misconceptions exist about the abilities of blind persons to travel independently and safely; and
WHEREAS, these myths and misconceptions are held by both blind and sighted persons; and
WHEREAS, one such misconception is that audible traffic signals are helpful to blind persons, but in reality, such signals create safety hazards worse than those they are meant to alleviate, because (1) the sound of the signal may block the sound of traffic approaching the intersection, which may be dangerous if this traffic runs against the signal; (2) persons using audible signals may become dependent on them and therefore become less capable of crossing intersections with non-audible signals alone when necessary; and (3) audible traffic signals foster the false notion that blind persons require costly modifications to the environment in order to participate in our society; and
WHEREAS, at the request of misguided blind individuals, the Maryland State Highway Administration approved funds for the installation of an audible traffic signal at the intersection of Main and Water Streets in Frostburg; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is the largest organization of blind consumers in Maryland, and represents the mainstream of progressive thinking on blindness: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this fourth day of October, 1987, in the City of Frostburg, Maryland, that this organization oppose the further installation of audible traffic signals; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly recommend that the Maryland State Highway Administration deny all future requests for funding the installation of audible traffic signals.
Dennis Polselli, Editor of the Cassette Gazette, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts, sends us the following story from the December 7, 1988, edition of the Boston Globe. We who oppose audible traffic signals don't usually think about the issue from the point of view of the city fathers. Here is a glimpse into the troubles that can befall those who misguidedly try to assist the blind without consulting us. The town planners would have done better to ask blind consumers rather than the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, an outfit (not surprisingly) filled with professionals, who think that shrieking sirens or squawking cuckoos are a fitting accompaniment to what they apparently think is the spectacle of a blind person's crossing the street. One is tempted to suggest as the participants in this little adventure never did that the enterprising thief might have been an exasperated blind pedestrian. Here (as reported in the Boston Globe) is what happened in Arlington, Massachusetts:
Little Sound, Lots of Flurry
by Bella English
All the town wanted to do was help its blind residents cross the busy intersection at Massachusetts Avenue and Lake Street. But since Day One, the project has been plagued with problems. First, selectmen agreed to put up audible signals bells which would ring every time the walk signal went on, letting the blind know when to cross the street.
That intersection was identified as one of the most dangerous, recalled Town Counsel John Maher. Town officials contacted the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, and worked with it to choose a device. In September, bells were installed. They lasted nine days. Nine long days, according to neighbors. The alarm-like bells rang every two minutes for 15 seconds, from 6 a.m., when the walk signals were turned on, until 11 p.m., when they were turned off. They drove neighbors in the high density area crazy. Teen-agers hung out at the intersection and pressed the buttons just to create bedlam.
I certainly support your efforts to aid the visually impaired, one woman wrote selectmen, but you are endangering their hearing as well. The writer said she had not gotten a full night's sleep since the bells were installed.
A burglar alarm is hardly called for, wrote another. One man wrote to say he was suffering from sheer auditory pain. One distraught neighbor told The Arlington Advocate that he could hardly describe the horror. The bells were so loud, he said, they will be etched on my brain forever. And a woman wrote: The ring sounds like a store alarm (confirmed by a friend of mine who heard it over my phone)... I do not mean to interfere with the rights or comfort of blind people, but I would suggest that more melodious sounds be investigated. Exit bells. Enter cuckoos. The bells turned out not to be a good choice, conceded Town Counsel John Maher. I think they were put up because someone made a decision on a low level here that they'd get the cheapest possible signal.
Town officials then consulted with the Commission for the Blind, which told them about two other options: a peep peep or a cuckoo for the crossing.
The cuckoo lobby won out over the peep peeps though no one will take credit for the cuckoo. I'm sure they didn't vote `All in favor of peep peeps say aye ,' Maher noted. John Carroll, the director of police, is rumored to be the man behind the cuckoo. Actually, they both sounded pretty much the same, Carroll said. The cuckoo was a very pleasant sound and we didn't get a single complaint from neighbors. For the record, Carroll refused to imitate the cuckoo sound.
Stephen Conroy, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said: What kind of bird it was was never an issue with us. I guess the Commission for the Blind had recommended the bird sound not be indigenous to the area so it wouldn't be confusing. Since the dictionary defines a cuckoo as an Old World bird, and therefore not indigenous to Arlington, the town went ahead and purchased two of the cuckoo devices at $350 apiece and installed them in November. Arlington was proud. It was the first town in the state to experiment with cuckoos. It would be a model. It was fun watching people look up in the sky, every time they heard, `Cuckoo, cuckoo.' It was like we were being invaded by cuckoos. It was a great thing for the town to do, said Advocate editor Carol Beggy.
It was working well, agreed Conroy. It was permitting the blind the use of the community and the ability to make a living instead of waiting at home for a check to arrive. But on Thanksgiving day or night, the cuckoos flew the coop. Or, as the police blotter put it: Larceny of bird noise. They're gone, but certainly not forgotten, said Detective James Allen. We have searched and inquired and taken all the obligatory measures to recover the cuckoos.
Whoever took the cuckoos, which were 15 feet up on a traffic pole, had to use a ladder or stand on a van or truck. The crime is a felony. Who would take the cuckoos? Obviously, a clock manufacturer, quipped Allen. Why is it other detectives get the murders and mayhem and I get the cuckoos? he mused. But if that's the worst thing that happens, we're in good shape. Said Carroll: We absolutely don't suspect the neighbors. I think this is someone who just did it for the novelty, but it's an inconvenience to the blind.
The case is under investigation. Meanwhile, selectmen are considering purchasing new, improved cuckoos, ones that can't be copped.
by Barbara Pierce
The old Dominion has never been a congenial place for blind people to live. In the old days Colonel Watt a tyrant if there ever was one ran the state Commission for the Blind with an iron hand. In his view, blind people had no business becoming parents, so he saw to it that they were sterilized. His regime eventually ended, and after a period in which Doug McFarlin (among others) ran the operation, Bill Coppage took over and held sway (after a manner of speaking) for twenty-one long years. But in April, 1986, the governor fired him. (See the July, 1986, Braille Monitor article, Bill Coppage Thrown Out in Virginia.) Even though Coppage apparently had no inkling beforehand that the state had finally had enough of him, it became clear with the Virginia Auditor's report made public in early September of 1988 that he had managed to take insurance by feathering his nest before his unceremonious departure. It seems that the Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped (VDVH), the successor to the Virginia Commission for the Blind, had received bequests totaling $300,000 some years before. Spending such bequests in the way the benefactors intended is always a complicated business. State agencies may use their funds only to do certain, carefully prescribed things. Coppage seems to have longed for unfettered access to this bountiful source of cash by now it has reached $1.4 million; so Coppage and the VDVH Board of Directors, a policy-making body, conceived what they no doubt took to be a bright idea. They would establish the Visually Handicapped of Virginia Foundation (VHVF) and would bestow upon it a grant from the bequest funds of $95,000 to be used for its own worthy purposes, such as covering certain costs for the 1989 American Council of the Blind national convention to be held in Richmond, Virginia. By happy coincidence, the man named as President of the Visually Handicapped of Virginia Foundation was none other than Dr. Earl Dotson, the Charlottesville dentist who chaired the VDVH Board at the time these arrangements were made. Even more felicitously, who should be appointed Executive Director at a salary of $4,800 a year, paid directly from VDVF funds, but Bill Coppage.
In the meantime Governor Baliles appointed John McCann to replace Coppage as VDVH Commissioner. McCann, who holds a degree from Harvard Law School, did not, to say the least, make the hearts the blind of Virginia leap for joy. At the time of his appointment McCann was the President of the American Council of the Blind's Virginia affiliate, and he was employed as the Director of the Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind (ALL), the coalition of organizations formed by the American Foundation for the Blind at the height of the NAC struggle in an attempt to combat the effectiveness of the Federation. McCann was planning to marry soon, and he let it be known that he was happy to jump ship to Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped with its significantly better salary. Prior to his job with ALL, McCann had been employed for a time at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel. Sources suggest that he was unable to keep up with the work assigned to him and that he resigned from his government job to take the ALL position while he could still get usable recommendations from HHS.
According to Eva Teig, Virginia Secretary of Human Resources and McCann's new boss, VDVH morale in 1986 was at a low ebb. Recognizing this fact and admitting, also, that VDVH was suffering from the effects of a number of problems, McCann promised to clean house and conduct agency business even-handedly, according to Charlie Brown, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Brown says that Teig asked the NFB to give McCann a chance, which the Federation was happy to do. Anything, they told themselves, was better than Coppage.
According to consumers of VDVH services, the twenty-one months of the McCann administration (he resigned effective immediately on March 31, 1989) were remarkable chiefly for indecisive leadership, broken agreements, rising dissension, and continued accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). Eva Teig, on the other hand, maintains that morale among the senior VDVH staff has improved markedly when compared with the final days of the Coppage administration, as well it might. After all, McCann had promised to clean house in 1986, but at the time of his departure, almost all the same senior administrators were still on the scene. Several had changed responsibilities, but (in true government style) they had not lost their jobs. The only two new players were Judy Phillpot Divers, the daughter of the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Nell Carney, hired as Executive Assistant to the Commissioner and now Acting Commissioner. Monitor readers will recognize Carney's name from the days when she and her husband Terry first played a controversial part in the Washington affiliate of the NFB and then, three years later, led members of the United Blind of Washington back into the Federation.
At the time this article is being written (late May 1989) the public announcement of her April 3 appointment as federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Commissioner has been made, but Senate confirmation is still pending. This distinguished appointment has taken most of those who know Carney by surprise, but the fact that she is rumored to have close connections with retired Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee may provide some explanation.
Teig also points to the legislature's allocation of funds for a badly-needed library for the blind and its increased funding of VDVH programs over the past several years as an indication that the department is on the move and heading in the right direction. Others maintain that the presence of the daughter of the most powerful member of the House of Delegates on the VDVH staff provides a more plausible explanation for the legislative support that VDVH has enjoyed recently. Be all this as it may, John McCann has certainly faced intractable problems in his agency, some of which he has made worse. For example, the state vendors' committee (called in Virginia the Vendors' Council) worked with VDVH officials in 1987 to develop Standards of Operation to be used in the Business Enterprise Program. These standards affected a broad range of vending issues and, in the months following their creation, were cited by program officials in disciplining vendors, according to both vendors and senior VDVH staff. Because money had not been available to purchase talking cash registers for all vending locations and to train all operators in using them, the new Standards stipulated that the cash register tapes, where they existed at all, would remain in the facility as part of the operator's records. The daily reports would be reviewed by the supervisor.
Then in January, 1989, McCann announced that all cash register tapes would in future be sent together with daily reports to Richmond. When the vendors' committee pointed out that this was a direct violation of the new Standards of Operation, McCann replied that the Standards were not in effect since he had not signed off on them and they would now have to be revised before they could be used. Happily, the impasse seems to have been resolved by McCann's precipitate departure from VDVH. The NFB advised the Vendors' Council Chairman Joe Shankle against agreeing to McCann's plan of reinstating the taskforce that developed the original Standards of Operation as the body to revise them. Shankle therefore took the stand that the whole Vendors' Council would have to decide whether and which vendors would take part in the revision process. That meeting took place in May, and the Council has appointed participants for the new taskforce.
In the meantime, Nell Carney wrote a firm memo to George Koger, VDVH Deputy Commissioner for Enterprises, making it plain that (in her view) VDVH had not handled the matter wisely. Without acknowledging the NFB position in the matter, Carney articulated our view and instructed her underlings to backpedal in their confrontation with the vendors. Here is her memo:
To: George A. Koger, Deputy Commissioner for Enterprises
From: Nell C. Carney, Acting Commissioner
Date: April 17, 1989
Re: Standards of Operation for the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors
At the request of members of the Vendors' Council, I have reviewed all of the information available to me on the Standards of Operation, which were developed and sent to vendors in 1987. While the records are characterized by lack of information, indecisiveness, and confusion, it is abundantly clear to me that the vendors were led to believe that the Standards of Operation were adopted in the form presented in 1987. In a letter to Joe Shankle dated March 1, 1989, former Commissioner John McCann indicates that the program is operating under the old Standards of Operation until otherwise advised. To me, this document signed by the Commissioner identified the Standards of Operation as an official document of the Department from date of issuance in 1987. (Because of poor record-keeping, an exact date of time of issuance is not available.) Mr. McCann's letter to Mr. Shankle also indicates that he is re-establishing a task force to review the Standards and rewrite them. In a letter to Mr. McCann dated March 6, 1989, Mr. Shankle indicates that he will take the matter to the Vendors' Council. As Acting Commissioner, I have officially approved the only set of Standards of Operation available to me as of this date, April 17, 1989. I believe it would be appropriate to have a task force look at revision of the Standards of Operation, but I agree with Mr. Shankle that this matter should be brought before the Vendors' Council since the Randolph-Sheppard regulations specifically require that policies, procedures, and standards be developed jointly with vendor representatives. As Deputy Commissioner for Enterprises, you should negotiate the establishment of a task force for the purpose of revising the Standards of Operation with representatives from the vendors and from the nominee agency management.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
This is the Carney memo, and it was issued in a climate in which vendors make a number of allegations reflecting their general dissatisfaction with the way in which their program has been run. Despite having a nominee agency, Business Opportunities for the Blind (BOB), Koger works hard to insert VDVH into the day-to-day operations of the vending program, according to vendors. When VDVH found itself in 1988 with a substantial shortfall in federal funding, it was the Business Enterprise Program that was first tapped to make up the additional funding out of its budget. The vendors take credit for beating back this threat to their livelihood, but they say that the VDVH impulse was indicative of agency attitudes toward Business Enterprises. Vendors report that in the beginning, McCann seemed to give the impression of discussing matters with them and frequently responded positively to their concerns. Increasingly, however, he turned for consultation away from consumers of services back to his senior agency officials, and as he did so, VDVH programs settled back into business as usual with blind people at the bottom of the heap. Nell Carney, who assured the Braille Monitor that in VDVH she had observed some of the finest and most committed professionals she has ever seen, also admitted with regret that VDVH personnel generally in all programs have for the past decade, as far as she can tell, remained remarkably non-responsive to the populations they serve. The vendors say that Carney so far has been fair and open- minded. They wish she were planning to stay on for a while, but they are grateful for the respite and redress she has provided this spring.
Not surprisingly, the sheltered workshops employing the blind in Virginia have also experienced difficulties, compiling a painfully familiar record of oppression against blind workers. Shortly after McCann arrived, he shifted George Koger into the position of Deputy Commissioner for Enterprises, which includes ultimate authority for the vending and sheltered shop programs. As one would expect, the workshops in Virginia have provided anything but true shelter or real employment for the blind. The situation is best summarized by Charlie Brown writing in the January, 1988, edition of the NFB of Virginia's newsletter. Here is what he said:
The Richmond Workshop
Bad Management, Quality Services, and NAC
by Charlie Brown
Some time ago, Ed Peay, President of our Richmond Chapter, wrote to George Koger, Deputy Commissioner of the Department for the Visually Handicapped, and asked him thirty questions about the Virginia Industries for the Blind facility located in Richmond. Mr. Koger answered Ed's questions in a letter Ed received at the end of November, 1987. We think many of you will be interested in his responses to the questions. According to Mr. Koger's letter, there are 33 blind workers and two trainees employed in the workshop. All of the blind workers are employed in direct labor all of the supervisors and management personnel are sighted. Only 15 of the 35 blind workers receive the Federal minimum wage. All of the sighted production workers, of course, must receive at least the Federal minimum wage.
Mr. Koger also states that the average annual earnings of a production worker is [Mr. Koger's grammar, not ours] $6,676.80 per year. Remember that this figure includes the relatively higher earnings of the sighted production workers who must be paid the minimum wage. Mr. Koger goes on to say that The average for non-production workers is $11,264.26. Again, remember that all of these folk are sighted. One sometimes wonders if VDVH is operating a sheltered shop for the sighted rather than one for the blind.
There is the additional matter of layoffs. Mr. Koger informs us that The Industry has laid off blind employees on two (2) occasions over the past three (3) years.... No sighted employees were laid off during this time period.... The average duration of a layoff for a blind employee would be about eight (8) weeks of intermittent work. In his cover letter Mr. Koger, to his credit, concedes that The Industry has not been managed well for a long period of time. It will be a slow process to correct all of the problems of the past. In this regard, the last time the workshop director was let go was in 1987.
Long-time Federationists know that we have been pointing out problems in the workshop for years. Officials have promised us that things would get better, but they have not. During all of this time, anyone who picked up a VDVH brochure or saw the agency letterhead found, proudly displayed, the NAC seal. This symbol proclaimed that the agency and its workshop program were fully accredited everything was deemed to be OK. We, the blind, were just troublemakers. The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC), everyone was told, would assure that blind people would receive quality services. Without NAC, who knew what might happen to the VDVH programs? Well, for one thing, people might have paid attention to the problems that continue to exist in the Richmond workshop a lot sooner if VDVH had not chosen to hide behind the fictitious NAC assurance of quality. But all that is water over the dam. Yet what are we, the blind of Virginia, to believe when in spite of everything, VDVH Commissioner McCann tells us that he is wedded to NAC ?
That is what Charlie Brown wrote in early 1988, and things have not yet changed appreciably in the workshop program. The reforms McCann pledged to bring about in VDVH clearly did not include improving the lives of sheltered shop workers in Virginia. This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows how little NAC-accredited agencies usually care about the best interests of the blind people they are charged with serving. But in talking with the Braille Monitor, Nell Carney pointed to her work on behalf of the sheltered shop workers as the single most important thing she had accomplished during her tenure at VDVH. She says that she organized a taskforce to set goals for the next five years for the industries program. As part of this group's work, they managed to discover a classification for these workers which would lift them out of the sometimes decades-long designation of temporary workers. As of July 1, 1989, the blind sheltered shop workers will, Carney says, become state employees; and they will all begin earning at least the minimum wage. They will also, she says, receive medical insurance as a benefit. When rumors of McCann's departure started circulating early in 1989, it began to look as if despite his being wedded to NAC, there was going to be a divorce in the family. The NFB of Virginia has worked long and hard to convince VDVH officials and their boss, Eva Teig, that reaccrediting with NAC would be irresponsible. Signs began to appear in April that this effort was bearing fruit. Teig told the Associate Editor of the Braille Monitor in an interview that Charlie Brown had been very helpful on this issue, and that the agency would be looking closely at the matter. According to sources within VDVH, the agency has never taken its annual reports very seriously. This blase attitude on the part of senior officials of one of NAC's flagship agencies is astonishing and most instructive. It confirms, if confirmation was ever necessary, the NFB's contention that NAC member agencies do not strive for excellence. They do not even find it necessary to contrive the appearance. NAC has now reached such a pass that virtually any cobbled-together set of documents will satisfy the high-principled folks who dish out NAC's accreditation.
In September of 1987, when Carney came on board as McCann's assistant, she says that she pointed out that the self-study must begin the following spring, since McCann had already made it clear that VDVH would seek reaccreditation. She says that the annual report, a document cranked out by the clerical staff, using word processing to change the figures each year, was submitted as usual that September, but McCann made no immediate efforts to begin work on the self-study. In March of 1988, according to Carney, McCann assigned a member of the clerical staff who was to retire the following June to do the self-study. McCann may have been wedded to NAC, but he could not have had much respect for his marital partner. As reverently described by NAC officials, the self-study is the heart of the accreditation process a deeply revealing exercise in self-examination and exploration of problems and potential, conducted by the agency's best and brightest. Yet McCann assigned a single clerical worker on her way out to do the entire job. Because she had no interest in or commitment to the task, she ignored it. In September Carney reports that she pointed out to McCann that with the self-study not yet started and the October 31 deadline approaching, the staff could not possibly complete the self-study in time. McCann agreed, cranked out the annual report as usual, and requested a one- year extension, which he of course received promptly. In the meantime, it should be kept in mind, NAC was reporting that the Virginia agency was fully accredited. As 1989 began there was increasing talk within the senior staff about the notion that VDVH had outgrown NAC and that NAC was no longer a force to be reckoned with, but according to our sources, the truth was that the staff just did not want to bother to undertake the self-study. Carney admits that she was not eager to take the lead in dropping NAC, but McCann was adamant that he would not preside over VDVH's withdrawal. He was on his way out, but his team was going to begin the self-study process or, at least, was going to appear to do so. He appointed Judy Divers to head the team. She was not amused; in fact, she was desperate to dump what one staffer characterized as the paper white elephant.
Carney says that, as soon as McCann had departed, the senior staff voted to recommend to the Board that VDVH not engage in the self-study required for reaccreditation. According to Carney, in Divers' eagerness to jettison the self-study idea, she described the senior staff recommendation to board members as being for nonrenewal of accreditation. Carney says that the board then voted at its May 11 meeting to table the self-study until its evaluation committee could study accreditation alternatives. The committee has one year to report to the Board, a period extending well beyond the December 31 accreditation deadline.
One does not have to wonder very hard to know what NAC is likely to do. Desperate for numbers and the appearance of continued viability, NAC supporters are already saying that VDVH did not really reject NAC accreditition. It just decided that it needed more time to do its self-study. But what will NAC say on November 1, 1989? Will it say that the DVDH is accredited? Will it say it is not accredited? Or, more likely, will it make a speech and offer a lame explanation? Confusion over what actually happened and what was supposed to happen at that May 11, 1989, meeting there has certainly been, and Carney puts it all at Divers' door. When Judy Divers called Seville Allen prior to the VDVH Board's meeting, she explained, according to Allen, that the NFB was going to like what would come out of the meeting concerning NAC. VDVH was not going to go through the renewal process this year. Instead, a committee would be appointed to investigate accreditation alternatives and make a report to the board. Divers did not want the consumer groups to get involved with forcing or fighting this decision. Seville Allen questioned Divers. She reports that she said, You mean that you want me just to shut up and vote, and things will go the right way? Divers agreed that Allen had gotten it right. In reporting this action to the Braille Monitor Charlie Brown commented that VDVH had left open the option of deciding that NAC was the horse to back, but with the self-study off the drawing boards for 1989, the NAC accreditation was bound to lapse. Word spread quickly of the VDVH defection, and it had the effect that sighting vultures circling always has (see the Michigan story in the July, 1989, issue of the Braille Monitor ). One can only speculate about the impact of the news within the NAC establishment, but the effects of it were soon apparent. Though no one admits to having been on the receiving end of pressure from either NAC or the American Foundation for the Blind, Judy Divers, whose job includes public relations responsibilities, wrote a memo on May 18, 1989, which is striking both for its existence at all and for the ways in which it differs in tone and substance from her earlier conversation with Seville Allen and with the recollections of other meeting participants about the substance of the board discussion. Here is the text of the memo:
To: Constituent Organizations and Other Interested Parties
From: Judy P. Divers, VDVH Board Administrator
Date: May 18, 1989
Subject: NAC Accreditation
As the Board Administrator for the Virginia Board for the Visually Handicapped, it has come to my attention that a number of concerns have been raised regarding action taken by the Board on May 11, 1989, on our NAC accreditation. I would like to take this opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings concerning this issue.
As many of you know this Agency has been involved in NAC for a long time and it has served a very useful purpose for our Agency. In the years since we first sought NAC accreditation, a number of internal and external controls have developed for our Agency. Among these are consumer advisory groups, our annual State audit, a full-time Internal Auditor, a policy-making Board, and a Strategic Management Plan.
We were scheduled to start our self-study for NAC in the Fall of 1988, but were unable to meet that deadline. As a result, we have requested an extension of the time requirement and been granted that from NAC. Because we are unable to do the self-study due to limited staff resources, we brought the issue before the Board at its last meeting. The decision of the Board was to table the NAC issue and put the issue of accreditation into its Evaluation Committee. The Committee will study the NAC accreditation and any other means of accreditation available to the Agency. The request which went out on our Rehabnet concerning Agencies with NAC accreditation was done at the request of the Board in order to determine how many agencies have done this type of accreditation. If there are further questions concerning this issue, please bring them to my attention. We are in the process of transcribing the Board minutes and they will be mailed next week. Interested parties can see the discussion that ensued on this issue, the motion and subsequent action on the same.
We did not drop our NAC accreditation. That accreditation is paid up and valid through December 1989. We anticipate that the Evaluation Committee will have studied this issue and made a recommendation to the Board for action by the time our membership expires. I hope this clears up any misunderstandings concerning this issue.
This is what Divers says, but Carney says it simply won't happen. But let us return to matters that were preoccupying John McCann in his final months at VDVH and keeping him, presumably, from pursuing the NAC renewal as assiduously as his Affiliated Leadership League colleagues would have liked. The financial chickens from the Coppage administration were coming home to roost, and they were causing McCann embarrassment. The State Auditor announced in early September, 1988, that VDVH had to reclaim its $95,000 from the Visually Handicapped of Virginia Foundation along with $18,000 in accumulated interest. Remember that the auditor is talking about a NAC-accredited agency, one that has been accredited with all of the marks of approval for many years.
There was a good bit of negative publicity associated with the ruling. Here is what the Richmond News Leader had to say on September 9, 1988:
Transfer of Funds to Aid Blind Was Improper, State Auditor Says
by Bill Wizen
The transfer of $95,345 in state funds to a private foundation set up to help Virginia's blind residents was improper, the state auditor says, and the state should take back the money, plus $18,000 in interest. But the non-profit group, the Visually Handicapped of Virginia Foundation, doesn't have $113,345 to pay the state.
A just-released audit of the state Department for the Visually Handicapped says former Commissioner for the Blind William T. Coppage transferred $95,345 of department endowment funds to the Richmond-based foundation in April 1986.
Coppage, who serves as the foundation's executive director, said Wednesday the money transfer was proper and was approved by the State Board for the Visually Handicapped. He also said the state attorney general's office approved establishment of the foundation.
Coppage, who now lives in Charlottesville, said the foundation has only about $85,000.
After the foundation was set up, it worked closely with the state board and the department in making grants that supported a number of department activities, said Coppage and his successor at the department, John A. McCann.
Meanwhile, Coppage, who is paid $4,800 a year by the foundation, said he has raised several thousand dollars in private donations to support foundation activities on behalf of the blind. The audit report said Coppage transferred the money on the recommendation of the state board. The board took part in setting up the foundation in October 1985, the report said. What we were doing was to make sure proper use was made of the funds, said Foundation President Earl Dotson. Dr. Dotson, a Richmond dentist, was chairman of the state board at the time the foundation was established but no longer serves on the board.
He said the foundation was patterned after private foundations that have been set up to raise money on behalf of state-supported colleges and universities.
Dr. Dotson said the idea of establishing a private foundation to help the blind had been under consideration for several years. This was a protection measure to be sure that the (endowment) funds were to be used for what they were intended, he said. The only vote against transferring the money was cast by a board member who felt the money should be lent to the foundation and not transferred to it outright, Coppage said. Although Coppage said he believes the transfer was proper, State Auditor Walter J. Kucharski's office said in its audit report that the transfer was invalid.
Subsequent reviews of this transaction have indicated that neither the board nor the former commissioner had the legal authority to authorize a transfer of funds to the foundation, the report said. The report covered the Department for the Visually Handicapped for fiscal year 1987, which ended on June 30 last year.
Kucharski said the $95,345 transfer first was spotted in the department's fiscal 1986 audit. He said auditors assumed then that the transfer was proper.
But during the 1987 review, auditors took a closer look at the transfer and concluded that Coppage and the board had no authority to turn the money over to the foundation, Kucharski said.
McCann, who became head of the department in 1986 after Gov. Gerald L. Baliles decided not to reappoint Coppage, said he wrote the foundation on Aug. 4 and requested that it return the money. McCann said he has not received a reply.
Delman H. Eure, a Richmond lawyer and member of the foundation's board of trustees, said Tuesday the trustees will meet soon and take up the department's demand for payment of the money. McCann said the foundation and the state board have worked well together since he became head of the department. He said such a foundation serves a useful function in raising money and supporting programs for the blind. Private fund raising is something his department cannot do, McCann said. He acknowledged that return of the money would break the foundation but he is following the state auditor's directive. The 1987 audit also questioned expenditures of other departmental endowment funds.
The department, for the third year, continues to expend endowment fund proceeds on items which are not permissible under the restriction of various endowment funds, the report said. The report said improper endowment expenditures included money for staff awards and board lunches.
The report also said the department should develop and implement better policies for spending endowment funds. McCann said the department has done so and added the proposed policies have been submitted to Secretary of Health and Human Resources Eva S. Teig for approval.
The audit report recommended that if the department fails to enforce policies governing its endowment funds, the governor will transfer management of the endowment funds from the department to the state treasurer.
In 1980, Gov. John N. Dalton authorized transfer of administration of the endowment funds from the treasurer to the department, McCann said Wednesday.
He said the department's endowment funds at one time totaled about $300,000 but income from investments over the past several years has caused the funds to grow to about $1.4 million. He said plans call for spending about $75,000 annually in endowment interest earnings for programs for the blind.
This is what the Richmond News Leader said in its September 9, 1988, edition and one is left to ask the often-repeated questions: Where was NAC while all of this was happening? What of the claims that NAC accreditation assures financial accountability and that this is the way the public can know that an agency is fiscally responsible? Distressing as are the discoveries of the State Auditor, almost more disturbing is the inevitable conclusion that no one at VDVH or at the Foundation perceives that anyone has done anything wrong. The story reprinted here does not include a single quote from anyone expressing shock, regret, or outrage at this bureaucratic effort to pull a fast one on the people of Virginia. One of the fundamental principles of ethical government is that funds to be made available for absolutely discretionary use by an agency must be raised completely outside that government. This principle, almost universally understood in administrative circles, obviously has nothing to do with the quality standards that NAC holds up for its member agencies.
John McCann wrote to the Visually Handicapped of Virginia Foundation on August 4, 1988 to request that the funds be returned because he was forced to do so. It must have been a painful duty, among other reasons, because of the problems it would cause the Old Dominion Council of the Blind and Visually Handicapped, the Virginia affiliate of the American Council of the Blind. Roy Ward, Chair of the Virginia group's Convention Arrangements Committee and a long-time employee of the Virginia agency, had asked the Visually Handicapped of Virginia Foundation for funds to assist it in hosting the 1989 ACB convention in Richmond. The grant had not yet been made though it had been approved. The evaporation of all VHVF funds resulted in serious problems for Mr. Ward. He wrote a letter to John McCann hoping that Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped (observe the coincidental similarity of names VDVH, VHVF) would help. The letter is revealing on several counts. We have always known how dependent the ACB is on volunteers, but Ward explains that the committee must fill 2,500 four- and-a-half-hour shifts. Assuming and it is a very large assumption that each volunteer is willing to donate forty-five hours or ten shifts, it must recruit 250 volunteers (400 to 500 helpers is probably closer to the mark). No wonder that the cost of feeding and thanking this crowd is $3,000. Ward's estimate of 2,500 conventioneers is, as we know from past ACB actual convention counts, another example (if one wishes to state it charitably) of Council wishful thinking, although if one were to add the volunteers to the attendees, the ACB might break the thousand mark this year.
In any case, here is the letter:
January 8, 1989
Mr. John McCann, Commissioner
Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped
Dear Commissioner McCann:
As you are already aware, The American Council Of The Blind will hold its 1989 Annual Convention in Richmond during the period of July 1-8, with our State affiliate as the host organization. I am writing to update you on plans for the Convention, and to explore ways in which your Department might participate to the benefit of all blind and visually impaired Virginians, as well as those among the 2500 or more Conventioneers who will come to Richmond from all parts of the United States.
For many years Virginia has been considered by experts from all across the United States to have one of the most outstanding total service programs provided by a State Agency for the blind and visually impaired. From your pool of service specialists, supervisory and management staff, and State leaders who support services to the blind and visually impaired, there is a rich pool of talent upon which I feel certain the ACB program committee will wish to call. I trust that their expertise will be made available when called upon.
We urge the Department to set up exhibits during the Convention to help acquaint Conventioneers with program and special equipment and aids available to blind and visually impaired persons. I shall be glad to supply you with costs and other details relating to exhibits. In order to minimize the problems of Conventioneers moving about in unfamiliar surroundings among the four Convention hotels, the Convention Center, the many restaurants to be utilized, on tours and in other ways, we anticipate the need for at least 2500 volunteer assignments during the Convention. We hope that Department staff will be encouraged to volunteer during evenings and weekends, and during work hours according to whatever policy you establish for such activities.
Obviously, the costs for conducting such a large and diversified National Convention are heavy. We solicit any financial support the Department might be willing and able to undertake, at least in part. Some of the major expense items are the following:
Braille programs $4,500
Large print programs 7,000
Cassette tape programs 500
Volunteer expenses 3,000
The volunteer expenses are those related to recruiting and training them, recognizing them for their services via an appropriate certificate, and providing them with a rest area and light refreshments during their four-and-a-half hour tours of duty.
There is one additional expense item which I would like to bring to your attention. You will recall that in July of 1987, when our Old Dominion Council was submitting its successful bid for this Convention, we asked for support from the Department to cover the cost of general liability insurance required by the City of Richmond, as well as maintenance costs for use of the Convention Center for exhibits. At that time the Department saw fit not to approve such an expense, but referred it to the Visually Handicapped Of Virginia Foundation which did approve it. This action was a vital factor in our success in bidding for the Convention. Now we understand that the Foundation has been required to return its resources to the State. This leaves our organization in a difficult and embarrassing position, and we ask that the Department reconsider its prior action in light of the extenuating circumstances. Finally, I am enclosing a copy of a letter to be disseminated widely to potential supporters of our undertaking. I trust that you will see fit to copy it and distribute it to all Department staff, or permit us to do so. We realize that we are asking much from the Department, but feel that there is much at stake for all blind and visually impaired Virginians. While the Convention is sponsored and run by the American Council of the Blind, it is open to and intended for all persons who are visually impaired or involved in or interested in their welfare. Should you desire further information, I shall be happy to meet with you, other members of your staff, the Department Board of Directors, and other State officials as you may desire.
Roy J. Ward
Host Committee Chairman
Old Dominion Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired
That is what Mr. Ward wrote in early January of 1989, but McCann was not quick to answer. On February 12, Charlie Brown wrote to the VDVH Commissioner asking for a copy of his answer to Roy Ward. McCann then settled down to write his response to the ACB request, sending a copy to Charlie Brown. Here it is:
February 24, 1989
Dear Mr. Ward:
This is in response to your letter of January 8, 1989, in reference to the upcoming national convention of the American Council of the Blind to be held in Richmond, Virginia, during the first week of July. Specifically, your letter suggested several ways in which this department could participate in this convention.
Department staff will be available to make presentations and to participate in panel discussions in their areas of expertise. As your program is developed, please apprise me of those you want to invite to the convention and the subject on which they are to present. I feel it would be appropriate for the Department to have an exhibit at the convention; however, as the scope of this exhibit necessarily depends upon cost factors, I will need additional information before making a commitment. I understand that quite a large number of volunteers will be needed to assist with this convention. I will of course make Agency staff aware of this need.
Your letter also inquired about the possibility of financial support for the convention. As you are aware, Department funds have not been nor can they be appropriated for such activities. The only fund source which could be used for such support is the Department's endowment funds; however, all expenditures from endowment funds have been suspended pending resolution of certain questions respecting the management of these funds. Therefore, I regret that this Department will not be able to provide any financial assistance or support to the convention including the $1,900 for general liability insurance and facility maintenance costs. Of course, I will take every opportunity to bring your needs to the attention of organizations and associations which may be able to provide support.
Please keep me apprised of developments as plans evolve for the 1989 ACB national convention. If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.
John A. McCann, Commissioner
Virginia Department for the Visually Impaired
So there it is, a still-unfolding saga of devious behavior, murky conduct, and mixed motives if there ever was one. The blind of Virginia have maintained for years that theirs is not a good state for a blind person to receive good training, rehabilitation, or assistance. Colonel Watt set the tone and chose the music, and there is still powerfully little evidence that anyone has yet substantially altered it. But it's time to switch partners again in Virginia. It looks as if the governor will name another acting commissioner to replace Nell Carney when she leaves for Washington, D.C., probably in July. It is likely that a nationwide search will then be conducted for a permanent Commissioner.
Meanwhile, accreditation alternatives are being studied. The combination of consumer opposition and disenchanted inertia on the part of the staff have resulted in what Charlie Brown characterizes as a uniquely Virginian method of extricating itself from the toils of NAC backing out. The one really bright spot in the picture is Carney's assurance that finally, on July 1, sheltered shop workers will achieve status as state employees with medical insurance and earnings above the minimum wage. VDVH portrays itself as one of the premier service-delivery agencies in the field, but recipients of its services have never been taken in. It has grown complacent and lazy, according to many in Virginia, both inside and outside the agency. The blind across the nation applaud every twitch in the direction of reform that is evident. Hard experience has taught us caution, however. We can only hope that someone with some drive and vision will accept Virginia's current invitation to dance.
by Catherine Horn Randall
As Monitor readers know, Catherine Horn Randall is First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. She also edits The Month's News, the newsletter of the NFB of Illinois. This article first appeared in the February/March, 1989, edition of that publication.
In February of 1979 I took the train to Chicago to learn to function as a blind person at the Illinois Visually Handicapped Institute (IVHI), the state training center for blind and newly blind adults. I would not learn about and join the National Federation of the Blind for another three long years. No one at IVHI told me that the Federation had a Chicago chapter where I could meet other blind people. My confidence was at rock bottom. I knew that to restore it I must learn to use Braille and the white cane. But I also had my own built-in positive attitude and philosophy that blindness was not going to change my life style or destroy my zest for living.
I would need every bit of determination I had to face the months to come. I now realize that an administrative and teaching staff without a positive approach to blindness and deep-seated belief in blind people cannot possibly teach the skills of blindness well enough for their students to use them competitively in the real world.
An atmosphere of hopelessness and eternal despair hit me as I entered the lobby. Students were sitting aimlessly around with nothing to do and nowhere to go.
In fact, until I had lived at IVHI for a while, I didn't know that I could be a rebel when necessary. I battled with the administrative staff to stop treating adults who happen to be blind like three-year-olds. We forced administrators to stop wasting time in weekly general gripe sessions that we called Hee Haw, at least for the semester I was there. I was required to attend group therapy sessions that wasted my time. I told the psychologist that I would not be returning to these meetings. I was blind, not mentally ill. Assignments were seldom given, so evenings and weekends were long. I worked on Braille and spent more time than is healthy bar-hopping, trying to relieve the awful tension IVHI created inside me. We students talked late into the night about our blindness and how we hoped to put the pieces of our lives together when we went home. We needed positive blind role-models to emulate, and we didn't have them. If I could have met Chicago Chapter members of the NFB, I would have had people to turn to who were blind and were truly making it in the real world. With friends as legitimate role models I would have demanded more of IVHI and more of myself.
The six years I have spent as a Federationist have tremendously changed and enhanced my life. I now have hundreds of blind friends from all over the United States who serve as excellent role models for me and for other people who happen to be blind. My Federation work helps me to succeed as a city alderman today. I serve as Jacksonville Theatre Guild President and as Vice President of the MacMurray College Alumni Board. I have more Federation and community work to do each day than I can possibly accomplish, and I have never been happier in my life. The Federation gave me back my self-respect as a blind person, and that is a gift beyond all measure.
From the Associate Editor: The Maine Center for the Blind (MCB) in Providence, Maine, purports to provide rehabilitation and evaluation services for blind people. It also runs a sheltered workshop, which employs twenty-four blind people, and a residence for blind adults. The general public throughout the state thinks of the MCB staff as experts on blindness. The director for the past thirty-five years has been Robert Crouse, a Maine institution in his own right.
But the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine have become used to listening to complaints about MCB from dissatisfied blind clients. People request transcription of materials into Braille and receive tapes. High school graduates go to the MCB for evaluation and never emerge again, swallowed up by the we'll take care of you mentality of the agency. But when the Providence Press Herald printed an article in February, 1989, announcing that MCB had just expanded its fine staff by hiring a new orientation and mobility specialist, it was too much for Bob and Connie LeBlonde, active members of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. For an entire year no one had been teaching cane travel at MCB, and seeing the paper treat the overdue cessation of this shameful deprivation of service as a cause for commendation drove the LeBlondes to write a letter to the Editor. Three days later (and one can only speculate about how much activity on the part of MCB staff went on during those three days), the Portland Press Herald devoted an entire page to statements disagreeing with the LeBlondes' letter. There were seven of these, and wonder of wonders they all were written by MCB employees or clients.
Pat Estes, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine, then wrote a letter responding to this avalanche. She heard nothing from the paper, and her letter was not printed. Calling to inquire what had happened, she was told that her letter had been lost, so she sent another copy. Still nothing appeared in the pages of the Press Herald . She called again, and this time she was told that the paper had decided to do a story on the issue instead of printing her letter.
When the reporter called Mrs. Estes for an interview, it seemed clear that her mind was already made up. She believed that MCB was a fine institution and that its staff were saintly, dedicated professionals with the best interests of the blind at heart. The reporter was shocked and displeased to learn after publication of her story that Mrs. Estes still wished to have her letter to the editor published despite the article. This story is being written in late April, and Mrs. Estes and the largely uninformed public of Maine are still waiting for publication of her thoughtful letter.
What follows is a selection from the correspondence touched off by the announcement that cane travel instruction is finally once again available in the state of Maine. We have not reprinted all of the MCB-produced letters from the March 4, 1989, edition of the Portland Press Herald , nor have we chosen to print the hate mail that the LeBlondes have received. More letters have appeared in the paper in the wake of the article written by Joanne Lannin on April 2, all of which were supportive of the MCB and illustrate how far Maine is from establishing a strong working relationship between the blind and the agencies supposed to assist them. But members of the NFB of Maine did not recognize the names of the writers, so they may actually be from members of the public.
Here is what the NFB of Maine and MCB had to say:
(From the Portland Press Herald Voice of the People Letters Wednesday, March 1, 1989)
We came across a column in the February 21, 1989, Business Tuesday section of the Press Herald which compelled us to write this letter. Over the months we have seen many articles in your paper dealing with the Maine Center for the Blind. Usually, these have stated what a wonderful place MCB is and how lucky the blind of the state are to have access to such a facility. But this column reported on some new faces in positions of authority at the center. It should be made clear that none of these people is blind. Across the country, we have met blind people who are lawyers, psychologists, teachers, and heads of state agencies for the blind. There are no parallels in this state, however.
The only reason we can see for this discrepancy is that either Maine is unique in the fact that no blind people in the state are intelligent enough to hold such positions or that proper training for the blind is not available. Clearly, the second of these must be true, since we doubt that Maine's geographical location is the only one in the country not producing competent blind persons. Why are the blind workers at MCB paid less than minimum wage while sighted employees are paid at a substantially higher rate? Is this one of the great opportunities that MCB extends to blind people the right to get paid less than their sighted peers for the same work? Everyone who donates to this worthy cause should scrutinize MCB closely so that they realize what their donations are actually funding an organization with extremely poor attitudes, which do more damage to blind people's self-esteem than any physical handicap could ever do.
Robert and Connie LeBlonde
Blind Center Workers Not Exploited
(From the Portland Press Herald Voice of the People Letters Saturday, March 4, 1989)
Freedom of speech is an American right guaranteed by our Constitution, but this letters column is apparently a place where anyone can say anything about other people and even organizations without substantiation or regard for the facts or truth. A March 1 letter to the editor, and the sensational headline selected by this newspaper, accuses the Maine Center for the Blind of exploiting blind people. Nothing is further from the truth.
The center hires staff who must first be qualified for the job they are expected to perform. But blindness, in and of itself, is not a qualification for employment. The center is indeed an equal opportunity employer. The fact is that we employ on our staff eight blind and visually impaired persons in professional or support positions such as rehabilitation teachers, adjustment counselors, and department supervisors.
These people were hired because they were qualified to do the job as a result of their education, training, and experience. That they are also blind may give them greater insight and compassion, but they are professionals first.
The center operates an industries program to provide employment and work experience training to blind persons. We employ 24 blind persons in this program who are paid wages based on their production capabilities. All of our wages meet or exceed Federal Department of Labor regulations regarding handicapped employment. Eighty-seven percent of these workers have a second or third physical or mental disability in addition to their blindness. Many of these workers, because of their multiple disabilities, might not otherwise be employed. Others use this supervised work setting to gain skills and experience before moving on to competitive employment. Several of our production workers earn far more than a minimum wage.
The center provides a wide variety of services to over 600 blind and visually impaired persons statewide each year. We involve the persons we serve on advisory committees to keep us tuned in to the needs of blind persons and to help evaluate our services. Our board of directors is composed of dedicated volunteers who formulate policy and provide the leadership for the center's service programs. Eight members of our board are blind or visually impaired. They also have backgrounds in small business management, law, counseling, education, and sales.
We invite the general public to visit the center and observe firsthand the services we provide. We are open for visitors 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Come by, visit, and see our services in action. See fact, not fiction. See commitment and service, not exploitation.
Robert J. Crouse
Maine Center For the Blind
This is what the MCB Director Robert Crouse says, and here is a similar communication from one of his supervisory staff:
At the Maine Center for the Blind, our rate of pay is based on piece rate. So what workers, blind or sighted, produce determines what they are paid.
This is a sheltered workshop that gives a handicapped person a chance to learn and grow, then move on if they choose. I'm legally blind and slowly losing what vision I have. I was hired as a supervisor in the assembly packaging department and have 20 employees working for me. This job was not handed to me because of my eyesight. It's because I had the qualifications that were required.
Also, continuing education is increasing my knowledge in working with the type of employees I have. Each one of my employees is a paid worker just like me. We don't expect things to be handed to us. We work for what we get. I am not exploited.
Gene F. Stone
This letter by Mr. Stone, one of the supervisors at the Maine Center for the Blind, is understandable straightforward and self-serving. But the next letter is more complex. The pathos (and the letter is certainly characterized by pathos) lies in the fact that the writer obviously does not realize what he is telling us, either about himself or about his exploiters at the Maine Center for the Blind. Here is a man who has a college degree in secondary education in Spanish, English, and theater, and what is he doing for a living? Working as a stitcher in a sheltered shop. Moreover, he is grateful for this so-called opportunity and clearly feels that the Maine Center for the Blind is his benefactor. But let the reader judge. Here is his letter:
I am legally blind and employed by the Maine Center for the Blind.
There are many persons in both the social service community and the private sector who are visually impaired, some receiving the benefit of programs provided by MCB.
To imply that visually impaired persons do not have the intelligence to hold responsible positions within the agency or in the public community is not only incorrect, but an insult to those of us who have worked extremely hard to overcome our limitations and live and function normally in spite of our handicaps. I hold a degree in secondary education in Spanish, English, and theater; an accounting clerk certificate, several years of practical experience in theatrical costume design, and construction, as well as many other skills. To imply that I do not have the intelligence to hold a responsible position is an insult. And there are several visually impaired persons on the staff of MCB with equal or better skills and qualifications than mine. The hiring of new employees or staff is not based on whether the person is visually impaired or not but on the possession of the skills and education necessary to accomplish the tasks that the position involves. Every employee has the opportunity to apply for any position that is open within the center and if qualified may end up in the position. The center provides gainful employment for those who may otherwise not be employable. By doing this, it raises personal dignity and self esteem for those who might otherwise maintain very low opinions not only of themselves but of society in general.
R. Dale Johnson
The next letter has nothing of pathos about it but only the old-line sheltered shop sanctimony, arrogance, self- interest, and appeal to the public's lack of information:
Unfounded suppositions and assumptions reveal nothing but mistrust and suspicion to the uninformed. We on the staff and employees of the Maine Center for the Blind do not have to defend our position. It appears we do have to educate the public. Our doors are always open to the general public, we encourage participation, we are not here to give anything to any person, handicapped or not. We do provide an opportunity to those who wish a meaningful and fulfilling employment position. Wages paid at MCB are not based on the minimum wage but on a survey of related manufacturing positions statewide. Our employees have the opportunity to earn wages exceeding this statewide average. It all depends on their willingness and ability.
Production Consultant and Quality
So says the Production Consultant and Quality Control Manager, and no response is needed. His comments speak for themselves. Appropriately the final letter in this series is signed by ten workshop employees. Is their communication spontaneous? Did someone suggest that they write and also what they might say? We will never know, for their situation is such that coercion (at least, in the usual sense of that word) was probably not needed.
But here is the letter:
We, who are blind and visually impaired employees at the Maine Center for the Blind, do not feel exploited and are proud to work at the center.
Some of us have been employed here for years, while others are newly hired. We put in a good day's work, we do the very best we can, and we are paid according to our production level. We have always been treated as adults and are afforded all the benefits that sighted employees receive; we are expected to be responsible for our actions and our work. We have choices as to how and where we will work; we choose to work at the center. Come by and see us in action.
Erwin Coy and nine other
Center for Blind Exploits Workers
Workshop Employees Insist Jobs Suit Them
by Joanne Lannin
From the Portland Press Herald, Sunday, April 2
Erwin Coy has been working at the Maine Center for the Blind's sheltered workshop in Portland for the past four months. In that time, he says, he has done several jobs and earned close to minimum wage. Sometimes the things I do aren't necessarily the things I like, but that's part of the job, says Coy. I'm here because I need extra money. It's as simple as that. But while the Maine Center for the Blind points with pride to employees like Coy, the National Federation of the Blind of Maine, a consumer group, says he and other workers at MCB's sheltered workshop are being exploited.
Federation officials say the workshop, which is one of four programs at MCB, is paying blind workers less than they deserve, and they say the workshop is not training people to find jobs on the outside. It's a very custodial attitude. They aren't putting blind people out in competitive jobs, says Patricia Estes, the federation's president. Most people feel the blind are being taken care of because we have a center. In reality, the services are inadequate. But center officials and some employees at the workshop say the federation does not understand the workshop's mission, its payment system, or the special needs of its employees.
Those people (the federation) think this is a black hole. That's not true, says Wes Riley, the workshop director. Some of the people who are here now have worked elsewhere. They want to be here in a sheltered environment.
The conflict over the sheltered workshop illustrates philosophical differences between the National Federation of the Blind and MCB over services for the blind. The Maine Center for the Blind is a private, non-profit organization made up of four separate programs: the sheltered workshop, the rehabilitation center, the residence center, and a community service program.
The federation is a nationally based group whose goal is the complete integration of the blind into society. Nationally, the federation is suing a sheltered workshop in Lubbock, Texas, for wage violations. It has also waged battles with sheltered workshops in Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati, Arkansas, and North Carolina. The federation, which has 300 members in Maine, and other civil rights groups such as the Maine Association for Handicapped Persons, believe sheltered workshops undermine their goals. They say such sheltered shops perpetuate the notion that handicapped people can't work side by side with normal people. We absolutely are opposed to sheltered workshops, says Jeff Toorish, executive director of MAHP. We believe people should be in the least restrictive environment.
People there really feel they are stuck, says Connie LeBlonde, vice president of the Maine Chapter of the federation. They need real employment opportunities.
But MCB and state officials say the workshop's mission is not to find employment opportunities for blind people outside the center. They say the workshop is simply the most appropriate setting for a minority of blind people who might not be employed otherwise and that people are only referred to the sheltered workshop when they cannot or do not wish to pursue any other alternatives.
The Maine Center for the Blind maintains a setting for a specific individual who would find it difficult to be employed in a more competitive setting, says Harold Lewis, director of the state's Division of Eye Care in the Department of Human Services. The vast majority of our clients are never even considered for the sheltered workshop. Blind people tend to be trained on the job directly.
MCB's sheltered workshop employs 27 people full and part time. Some employees are referred to the workshop by the state or by the center's own rehabilitation center, or they may apply for work on their own. Employees fill ongoing governmental contracts. Currently, they are assembling flyers' kit bags and parachute helmet retention straps for the Army, neckerchiefs for the Navy, and evidence bags for the FBI.
In addition, the shop has contracts with Bath Iron Works to make 3,500 knee pads for welders and 6,000 canvas tool bags each year. Workers also assemble pens for state workers and printed tote bags for fund-raising and commercial ventures.
According to Riley, the workshop is run like any other business. He says it is currently in the black and has not had to lay any workers off for the past six months.
Robert Crouse, executive director of the center, says 21 of the 27 workers in the sheltered workshop have a second or third disability besides their blindness. He and other center workers say critics with the National Federation do not understand the people they are working with nor the extent of their disabilities.
They are not sensitive to the needs of people who have other disabilities, says Ruth Miotek, the director of the center's rehabilitation program.
There are some people here who will never progress beyond the sheltered workshop, Riley adds. And there are some that could possibly move out, but they've made it clear to us they don't want to.
Mike Abbott may fit that second category. Abbott has worked at MCB's sheltered shop for eight years. He says he has done more than 100 jobs in that time and earned an average of $5 an hour. But while Abbott may be capable of working on the outside, he says he has no desire to.
I enjoy it here. I make pretty good money, he says. Places like this give blind people the opportunity to work. As for pay at the shelter, Riley says it is based on a formula that must conform to U.S. Department of Labor standards and is accepted by the National Industries for the Blind, an agency that doles out government contracts to sheltered workshops. The piece rate formula is determined by taking the prevailing hourly wage for a textile or assembly worker in southern Maine and dividing that by the number of items a sighted worker can produce in an hour. The piece rate is established by putting three sighted workers through time trials. Thus, if the prevailing wage for assembling parachute retention straps was $5 an hour, and the time trials showed that a non-handicapped worker could assemble 50 in an hour, the piece rate would be 10 cents per strap.
All jobs out there have been time studied, says Riley. He says the Department of Labor evaluates their calculations periodically. Estes with the Federation says she has no complaint with paying blind workers at the same rate as non-handicapped people. But she says she has heard complaints from workers at MCB that they have been moved from job to job so they cannot develop the speed or experience needed to earn minimum wage.
One worker, Virgil James, says he quit after four weeks at the sheltered shop because he had only made a total of $35. A decade earlier he says he had worked at the shelter and earned $60 in two weeks. It looked as though they were just trying to freeze me out, James said. I don't like to stay idle, but I don't want to work for nothing.
Riley says James was a unique case involving severe personal problems. He and other workers interviewed say employees are indeed moved from job to job, but only when one contract is filled and another begins. As far as I'm concerned, they didn't do their homework, says Coy, who has done everything but fold neckerchiefs since he started working four months ago. If you're exploited, it means something is being done against your will. I have the option to leave if I choose. Yet Estes of the federation says many blind people would not choose to remain at the workshop if MCB and the state worked with private industry to create viable options for them. These people have a right to be here. But people I talk to say they aren't given many options, Estes says. If you have low expectations, you don't have to give out much in the way of services. We're asking people to take a look at the whole philosophy of how you care for blind people.
This is what the Portland Press Herald said, in its April 2, 1989, article; and perhaps the most revealing part of the entire piece (in fact, the very heart of it) is this quotation from the blind worker: If you're exploited, it means something is being done against your will.
I have the option to leave if I choose. This is what he says but how little he understands! How little he realizes what has been done to him! Very often the most vicious and insidious exploitation is not resented at all by its victims. The pages of history are filled with the story. Does he really have the option to leave? Technically and legalistically yes. Realistically and practically, no.
He is a casualty of the system, a child of the culture which created and then broke him praising the institution that perpetuates the tyranny which keeps him in bondage. If there was ever irrefutable evidence that the sheltered shops exploit the blind and must be reformed, it can be found in the words of these victims, words which the system put into their mouths and taught them to speak.
Here is Pat Estes' March 7, 1989, letter, which the newspaper has so far refused to print:
March 7, 1989
Dear Portland Press Herald,
I am President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine, an organization of blind people working for ourselves. We have some serious concerns about the Maine Center for the Blind (MCB) and the services to, and treatment of, blind workers there. Many prominent citizens contribute to MCB; therefore it is no surprise to me that your paper would devote an entire page to letters from Mr. Crouse, director, and six others he solicited from blind and blind-retarded workers (See Portland Press Herald , Saturday, March 4). We know that he approached some workers with letters already written, but these people refused to sign. I presume, therefore, that if I chose to solicit letters from our members in such volume, that the Portland Press Herald would, in fairness to the truth, print all such less than favorable opinions in full. But I do not choose to work our members up in such a manner.
Since Mr. Crouse assures everyone that he is seeking after excellence in the facility that he runs, I'm sure he would agree that MCB has not yet reached perfection. Therefore, there must be areas in which improvements could be made, and he would be willing to listen to constructive ideas on the matter. The experience of the organized blind movement in Maine with Mr. Crouse is, however, contrary to this. Having been invited to speak to our state NFB convention in 1986 in Auburn, Mr. Crouse refused to take any more questions from the floor and left the convention of blind people saying that he did not have to answer or explain to us. I think that the line of questioning became too direct concerning the hourly wage and the standard of living for blind workers at the Center. Since that experience, Mr. Crouse has refused to speak at our meetings or even to reply to our correspondence. I am sure he feels justified in doing so; after all, we ask the hard questions and consider it our right to do so, and we do not feel it unreasonable to expect answers from those who purport to serve us and know our needs. We will continue to seek the facts about the quality of life for blind people at MCB, and we invite all interested parties to join us.
We have contact with blind people all over our state, and we are aware that many of them will not seek rehabilitation services for fear of being referred to the Maine Center for the Blind. This is similar to the situation that the mentally and emotionally ill have in regard to the services and stories coming out of AMHI. It concerns us that blind workers at MCB have been repeatedly advised over the years not to attend our functions. The National Federation of the Blind is a consumer advocacy group, keeping our members and the community informed about the rights of the blind under the law. Nationally the NFB has helped the workers in many sheltered shops to organize for collective action, as Mr. Crouse knows. The NFB of Maine is concerned that excessive control is exercised by the MCB staff in filtering information to the blind workers. It was quite refreshing to hear that the general public is invited to tour the Center anytime and without notice. In several of the letters that you ran, the phrase come and see us in action was used. The facts are that officers of our organization have been refused complete tours of this facility. We were limited by the times we could have access and by what we could see. We were kept firmly away from the workers.
Over the years we have heard many complaints about MCB that I'm sure (based on the letters printed March 4) the staff there would like to eliminate. For instance, Braille and cane travel can be hard for a blind person being rehabilitated to get at MCB. One of our members wanted to learn how to use the expensive computers that were just sitting idle and was told that they weren't to be used. Another was told where clients were allowed to cross the street, while others are taken to the bank to have their Social Security checks cashed before turning around and giving the counselor all but $20.70, which is that resident's allowance for one month. Another worker applied for a day off to attend a funeral, only to be embarrassed while at the service by a call from an MCB staff member wanting to check up on his/her whereabouts. Workers are made to purchase their own white canes despite the fact that several have been donated to the Center. A great deal of money is funneled into the Maine Center for the Blind from our state and federal government as well as from private contributors. But when the toaster breaks down, the staff takes a collection from the residents to get it replaced! I could continue with tales of custodial attitudes at the Center, which in truth do not promote independence and self- respect. The NFB of Maine also questions the numbers that Mr. Crouse uses. We do not count eight blind people on the MCB staff and would like to see a list of the positions held by blind staff workers. Also, it is legal under Federal law (as Mr. Crouse knows) to pay blind persons less than the minimum wage, provided that the worker's production level warrants it. That is, a blind worker's production level (how many pieces he or she assembles per hour) must be based on a comparison with a fair rate, that is, a sighted worker doing the same work. So, when a blind person is moved to a new machine, his/her work will not be comparable to that of an experienced sighted worker on such a machine. Also, it is not fair to move workers continually from job to job just as they gain experience and speed and the better hourly wages that go with them. We have had complaints of such maneuvers at MCB and of people earning as little as $17.00 for two weeks' work. Mr. Crouse is right: the federal government buys such articles as those made at MCB, but the method of figuring the hourly wage must comply with the formula as prescribed by federal officials or else it is illegal. The fact remains that it is very difficult to compute such figures since Mr. Crouse expects us just to take his word that workers at MCB earn well over the minimum wage. Mr. Crouse will not make public such information or give it to his workers. He intimidates the blind employees, preventing them from seeking out the National Federation of the Blind of Maine for help or affiliation.
The organized blind movement of this state will continue to work to upgrade the living standards for all blind people. Mr. Crouse's letter required a response. I do not expect my letter to be any better understood than Mr. and Mrs. LeBlonde's, which you ran March 1. The LeBlondes were quoted out of context and grossly misunderstood by the writers and, therefore, misrepresented in the letters that you carried in your March 4 issue. I have serious doubts whether or not the LeBlondes' letter was read in full to the workers who wrote letters; I know that it was not read to all blind workers. I doubt seriously that this letter will be carried from worker to worker as was the LeBlondes'. It certainly will not be read in its entirety. I have little hope that this letter will be understood in the spirit in which it was written, that of seeking after facts and truth and not being satisfied with generalizations.
The officers of the NFB of Maine would love to tour the Maine Center for the Blind and to work with Mr. Crouse for the good of blind people. We want blind people at the Center to be aware of their rights and not afraid to claim them. We want contributors to the Center to know what they are getting for their money. And we hope that they and the legislators will also seek after the facts and the truth. None of us should be made to keep our questions simple for Mr. Crouse. I'm sure he and his staff must be accountable to someone.
There is a lot of money involved in such work; the NFB of Maine would like to insure that the blind get their fair share in a non-prejudiced environment, one truly conducive to independence and self-respect. I want to thank this paper for the space they have devoted to this issue.
Patricia Estes, President
National Federation of the Blind of Maine
From the Editor: One of the most successful efforts of the National Federation of the Blind has been and is our Job Opportunities for the Blind program, conducted in partnership with the United States Department of Labor. During the past few years almost 1,000 blind persons have worked with us through JOB in finding competitive employment. One of these (Robert Tabor of Kansas) recently sent us a letter which Federationists will want to read. He has given his consent for us to use it, so here it is:
April 11, 1989
Dear Mrs. Gabias:
Pursuant to our telephone conversation two weeks ago, I am pleased to inform you that I have located full-time employment as a staff attorney with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. This is a full-time state service position, with all appertinent salary, pension, and benefits. I will commence work on April 18, and my starting salary is gratifyingly adequate and certainly comparable to what other attorneys similarly situated are receiving. You will find enclosed for your placement files a confirmatory letter of offer from the State of Kansas. My position duties entail full-time involvement with enforcement of the Super Fund hazardous waste clean-up program, funded by the U.
S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although Super Fund has been in existence since 1984, Kansas is still in the developmental stage of the program. This involves the creation of original work product, such as standard form contracts, notice letters, injunctive relief orders, and other special pleadings. I first became a registrant of JOB at the post-convention JOB seminar at the 1985 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Louisville. I have also attended other JOB seminars at the national and state levels.
Although I learned of my job through the Kansas Division of Personnel Services, I feel certain I would not have obtained it without the generous assistance of JOB.
First, the seminars enabled me to meet with and to hear from successfully employed blind persons in a variety of professions and occupations. These meetings often occurred at critical times when the chips were down, and when courage and stick-to-it-iveness had bottomed out. Somehow, learning of others who have accomplished the seemingly impossible task of finding gainful employment in a professional field supplies one with the needed courage to continue the job hunt for a bit longer. The JOB monthly bulletins, together with the seminars, gave me the foundation materials which enabled me to synthesize a package which I call job search theory. This includes, among other things, network building and pre- advertising job-hunting techniques. I personally utilized these techniques by offering my time as a voluntary intern to a legislator during the 1989 session of the Kansas State legislature. This legislator was acquainted on amicable business terms with the chief counsel at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the agency for which I will be working. I learned that this representative made a recommendation on my behalf, based, I believe, on he work I had done for him. I hope to share more details concerning this method at future JOB seminars. Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that JOB has done much to dispel the mistaken notion that blindness should be avoided or skimmed over, as a topic of discussion. It must be dealt with openly and honestly during the interview. Witness my second interview, at which the need, or lack of need, for accommodations consumed much of the discussion time.
Let me conclude by thanking the staff at JOB for all your assistance and for a job well done throughout the years.
Very truly yours,
Robert L. Tabor
One way we can acquaint civic and social leaders, as well as members of the general public, about the work of the NFB is by having city and state officials issue appropriate proclamations. This is happening all over the country. From time to time we print one or another of these proclamations in the Monitor, not only to show what is happening but also to provide model language and to serve as a reminder of what the state affiliates and local chapters should be doing on a continuing basis.
Office of the Mayor
City of Wichita Falls, Texas
Whereas, the National Federation of the Blind serves as the vehicle throughout the nation which works tirelessly to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind, and Whereas, it is the goal of this organization to integrate the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted, and Whereas, the work of this organization in winning security, equality, and opportunity for the blind in Texas and throughout the nation is to be highly commended.
Now, Therefore, I, Perry Goolsby, Mayor, do declare the month of March to be National Federation of the Blind Month in Wichita Falls, and do encourage all our citizens to welcome to our city the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas as they assemble for their 1989 Annual Convention.
Perry Goolsby, MAYOR
From the Editor: When does a person become mature? At what age does he or she become responsible for helping make the world better, not only for himself or herself but also for others? More to the point (at least, for purposes of this discussion) how old must an individual be to become (in the active, full sense of the word) a Federationist? How about 13? What about 9? The Associate Editor and I recently received a letter from two students at the Ohio State School for the Blind, which helped me answer the question. I found the letter both delightful and heart-warming. I also found it instructive, for it told me that our message and philosophy are beginning to permeate every segment of the blind population children, adults, and the elderly; the rich and the poor; the educated and the illiterate. It renewed my faith in the ability of people to act in their own enlightened self-interest and to do it collectively. It underscored something which, at the core of my being, I have never doubted that the future of the National Federation of the Blind is going to be all right. Even now the leaders of the fourth generation are developing and reaching for maturity. They are learning their Federation philosophy at an early age and living it on a daily basis. Read the letter from the students at the Ohio State School for the Blind, and you will see what I mean. Here it is:
April 20, 1989
Dear Dr. Jernigan and Mrs. Pierce:
Our names are Jason Ewell (age 9) and Mike Leiterman (age 13), and we wish to tell you about our coalition the student alliance coalition (SAC) at the Ohio State School for the Blind. Our committee grew out of a minor student concern, which was soon put on the back burner for a major issue. Therefore, we are writing to tell you about our efforts over the past year concerning totally blind students being discriminated against as dining room workers.
This policy is unjust because only students with high residual vision have been allowed to hold these positions. Collectively we decided to approach the administrator of residential services to share this concern because she oversees the dining room staff and, if persuaded, could use her authority to aid us. We shared with her our belief that our school should be a discriminatory-free environment, in which we could learn by trying as many things as we wished to attempt. She appreciated our honesty and position. Likewise, she thought that other students should follow our example here at the OSSB. Dorm council was started. Every two weeks we meet for around an hour or so to discuss issues which arise out of living in a residential setting. The dietitian, who acts as immediate supervisor over the dining room staff, came to one of our meetings and agreed to help by restructuring the hiring policy and developing a more efficient training program for all who wish to apply. Weekends and daily after school have been designated as periods for the training sessions.
At this time those interested seem to be satisfied with this new procedure.
We feel glad that we were able to work together to end this problem. Even though this issue really only directly pertains to the totally blind, we felt it necessary that those with residual vision be active participants because what affects one of us, affects us all.
Jason Ewell and Mike Leiterman
by Jana Moynihan
This article is taken from the January, 1988, Blind Missourian, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. Jana Moynihan is a long-time, active Federationist from Missouri. Her is what she has to say.
When we talk about alternative techniques which enable blind persons to function effectively and efficiently, we usually speak in concrete terms. We speak about methods, skills, devices, or the latest technology. We discuss Braille, Optacons, taped or recorded material, talking calculators, computers that communicate through Braille or voice, white canes or guide dogs, Visualteks, etc. I believe that before we get to the concrete discussion of alternative techniques, every blind person and every parent of a blind child should give some thought to the philosophy applying to our selection of alternative techniques when and how they should be used, and which ones will be best for which blind person. We should also consider how they are presented to blind children or newly blinded adults, and how their use is encouraged and taught. Basically alternative techniques mean, to me, any method, skill, device, or technology which allows me as a blind person to perform a given activity or task effectively and efficiently in the predominantly sighted world. But there are some alternative techniques which a blind person must develop which are really not skills or knowledge or methods or devices. Actually it might be better to call these things associated techniques because they are more mental than physical. Besides knowing all the necessary skills, a blind child or adult needs, I believe, to develop creativity, flexibility, and a certain degree of assertiveness to make the skills, methods, and tools he or she acquires really work as alternative techniques. Why flexibility? The blind person should be familiar with a wide range of methods, skills and equipment so that he or she can be in a position to know which ones will be best in a given situation. One reason is that all the options are not always readily affordable and available to the blind person, the school, the employer, or even the rehabilitation agency. For example, I would like a small portable computer with a voice output, which I could use as a word processor to write up interviews with witnesses in my job as an investigator for a federal civil rights agency. This device would cost about $25,000.00. Much as my supervisors would like to purchase this equipment for me, due to budget cutbacks it isn't practical right now. Since I have a reader who goes into the field with me and can write up the interviews to be signed on the spot by the witnesses, the equipment I want isn't crucial to my doing my job. It would make me more independent and would mean that my reader and I wouldn't have to push so hard when we are in the field, but my ability for detailed recall and experience in working with a live reader allow me to do what is required. I once had a friend who was applying for a job in telephone sales or collection. He had been legally blind since childhood that is, he had what the experts call some usable vision. He lost most of this vision rapidly about the same time he lost his job. He did get some Braille training and review and was probably competent enough for his own purposes when he began his job search. However, he had been bitten by the technology bug. He heard of the VersaBraille, a device which converts Braille into print in combination with a regular printer. It costs several thousand dollars. He decided he just had to have this great piece of equipment in order to do the kind of work he had in mind. So according to what he told a number of us, he always specified in job interviews when employers wanted to know what special equipment or assistance he might need... he said that he needed a VersaBraille. Naturally he never seemed to be the candidate chosen for the job. It never seemed to occur to him that he could have done those jobs adequately by Brailling information from his phone contacts on a Braille writer and typing it up for the information of any sighted persons who needed it. While it is true that Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act does require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified handicapped persons, it was not reasonable for this blind person to expect the type of small business operations to which he was applying to provide an expensive piece of equipment when he could do the work using much less expensive equipment, standard office equipment, and basic Braille and typing skills. By not being flexible, he lost chances for several jobs.
Why creativity? The blind person needs to be able to analyze a problem and determine which alternative techniques will best solve it. Sometimes this means developing new methods or combining known skills or negotiating acceptance of doing things in a different manner. In college I had to take Art History. It was required. At first I wondered how I was going to pass since we were being shown a lot of pictures and slides of various works of art and were supposed to note the techniques or advances for which each artist or painting was important. I decided that since the lecturers and required texts didn't adequately describe things so that I could clearly answer questions about the artists and their works in the detail our instructor wanted, I would just have to have read to me everything available on the individual artists which time permitted. I went to the book store and library and lined up my readers. At the end of the course, I had the highest marks not only for that particular class but for all students in art history for that term.
Now for assertiveness! I can imagine some people reading this who are inwardly cringing at the word. To a lot of people it means arrogance, rudeness and argumentiveness. That isn't what I mean. I believe that every blind child should be worked with to develop what my mother called backbone, the strength (as politely and firmly as possible) to stand up for one's rights the strength to believe in one's ability and not give up. I believe that the need to sometimes be assertive should also be stressed to every blind adult. I know too many blind people, including myself at times, who have backed away from something we really wanted to do because people said it wasn't possible for a blind person to do that. Showing self confidence and being able to indicate that one has a plan in mind for handling the situation or doing the job doesn't always eliminate the prejudice or open the doors, but it goes a lot further than saying, What's the use in trying....they are probably right....I am blind so I probably can't do that. Who should use the alternative techniques available to the blind such as Braille, cane travel, etc.? I feel very strongly from personal experience that all blind persons with vision of 20 over 200 or less or with a substantially limited field of vision should receive at least sufficient training in these skills so they can use them adequately for their own purposes. I know that it is common practice nowadays among teachers of blind children with what the professionals call some usable vision to stress reading print with aids, such as the Visualtek, and supplemented by recorded materials. However, the fact is that for most legally blind persons using sighted techniques (however they may be enhanced and enlarged) is not as efficient as reading in Braille. Working with tapes and live readers is also fine, but some things just can't be done easily or independently that way. I feel very fortunate that my parents insisted and even fought for my local school system to have me receive Braille instruction in school and also insisted and persisted until I agreed to receive instruction in the use of the white cane before going to college. Although several surgeries prior to my third birthday had given me some of that usable vision during my school years and I could read large print and some regular print materials with the help of very thick reading glasses, I could never really read efficiently or without strain. Then, just after getting my first job, I began losing the sight I had through glaucoma resulting from scar tissue left from my surgeries. Within a short period had no useful reading vision left. If I hadn't learned Braille I would probably have had to quit that job as behavioral therapist and teacher for developmentally handicapped children. My job required that I keep detailed progress notes and graphs on each child. I had to present both a written and an oral summary of the progress of each child in each of several specific areas at periodic staffings. When I first started working I kept all records in print form. After about six months, with the glaucoma, I could no longer do this. Because of the Braille training my parents had insisted the school provide, I was able to switch without any problem or break in employment. My husband and I know many blind people who had (or still have) some vision. On the whole, those who had even some Braille training as children are doing much better than those who didn't get it. Those who didn't learn Braille often later have lost what vision they had or have found that they simply could not rely on reading print and keeping up with the demands of college or their jobs, or effectively keep personal records. The ones who hadn't been given the chance to learn Braille as children also often had some trouble learning it and using it later because many of them seemed to have acquired the feeling that it was inferior to reading print and that they were inferior because they had to use it.
This brings me to my final point. I believe it is most important (especially, when teaching alternative techniques to children) that we take care how we present these techniques. Many of us have heard teachers or parents say things like Now, Mary has some sight so she can read print but John is totally blind. He has to read Braille. Some parents have gone so far as to say to children things like Now you're with us so you don't need to use that cane. So put it away.
Or they may say: My son doesn't need Braille. He can see some.
He isn't blind.
Now children take all of this in. They process it, and what they come up with (regardless of anything else said to them) is that being sighted is okay. Being a little sighted is inferior to being sighted, but it's better than not having any sight that being totally blind is the pits. It also tells the child with some usable vision that the closer the alternative techniques he or she uses are to those used by the sighted, the better they are.
These children (especially by the time they reach adolescence) would rather do almost anything than use techniques that totally blind kids use because they want to look sighted. They'd rather risk being hit by a car or be considered a snob when they don't respond to visual greetings from classmates in the hall or on the street than they would carry a white cane. They would rather take poor grades or suffer from headaches and hours of laborious print reading than open a Braille book in front of their classmates. It's hard enough for blind children with some vision to resist doing this even when they have been taught alternative techniques and these techniques have been presented positively to them.
I know because I tried to act sighted for a while myself, even though my family had always been very positive in their attitudes toward my blindness and had insisted I read Braille. Once I got my reading glasses (in about the seventh grade) and could read some regular print, I started neglecting Braille, opting for print every chance I got.
I didn't get a lot of my math problems right because they were mis-copied. It took fifteen minutes to read a page. I got a lot of headaches, and teachers passed over me for oral reading because I read so slowly and disjointedly that even well-behaved students were bored to the fidgets. Never mind! I was reading print from the same books as my friends used. My mother got the clue about the end of my eighth grade year what was going on since I never read Braille any more. She tried explaining how important it was. I didn't listen, so that summer (before I could do anything else) every morning I had to sit down and read out loud to her from a Braille copy of the Bible which I had been given a couple of years before. It sounded like the pioneers but since I wouldn't order Braille books from the library it was all she had handy. I think it took about a month (somewhere in the middle of Leviticus) before the message finally sank in that I could read much faster in Braille and could also read orally as well as anyone else.
I hope some of these thoughts about alternative techniques are of assistance to other blind persons and to parents of blind children in helping them work with their children in a positive manner to learn and use effective and efficient techniques which can help them successfully compete in school, on the job, and in daily life.
This article by Donald Capps appears in the May, 1989, Palmetto Blind, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina.
It has only been in recent times that blind Americans have had employment lucrative enough to enjoy what is commonly referred to as the better things of life. Now that there are some blind persons who do earn enough money to fit into that category, there are those who would arbitrarily place limitations upon the blind and even deny them the basic rights and protection afforded others. Joe Urbanek of Walterboro, South Carolina, is one of those blind Americans who has worked hard and is now in a position to afford such things as cruises. In late 1988 he was solicited by an agent of Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. He responded but was told that because of his blindness he would have to sign a special release of liability before he could board the cruise vessel. It is understood that so-called nonhandicapped persons are not required to sign such releases. Mr. Urbanek immediately recognized that the release and its use by Carnival Cruise Lines was discriminatory against the blind. As a matter of fact, he inquired as to whether or not, in the event he signed the release, if he sustained an injury actually caused by the negligence of a Carnival Cruise Lines employee (such as hot coffee's being spilled on him) would he be covered.
Carnival Cruise officials replied that the release would relieve them of any liability for such an injury. Joe Urbanek regarded this as pure nonsense. He contacted the NFB of South Carolina, which in turn had its attorney to file a lawsuit in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, Columbia, SC. The litigation is filed under the State's Bill of Rights for the Blind Act sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and enacted into law by the 1972 General Assembly. The general counsel for Carnival Cruise Lines has written to the Federation's general counsel and uses some old arguments. In his letter he attempts to characterize blindness as a medical condition. He goes on to lump the blind with those having such conditions as arthritis, asthma and allergies, hernia, cancer, colostomy, coronary disease, diabetes, kidney disease, mental retardation, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, various neurological and orthopedic related conditions, respiratory problems, thyroid disease, and wheelchair-bound conditions. Indicating that Carnival Cruise Lines had obtained releases from persons with these diseases and medical conditions, the general counsel attempted to justify the requirement that Joe Urbanek execute such a release. He went on to state: We believe these figures confirm our position that the Carnival policy guidelines requiring certain passengers to sign a release is not based upon whether the individual is considered to be `handicapped' (since the condition may be temporary or not classified as a disability), but whether, because of their medical condition, the passenger presents a greater risk to themselves, other passengers and/or to the Cruise Line by embarking on an ocean voyage. In an apparent effort to reach some out-of-court settlement, the Carnival Cruise lawyer stated, As per our policy, we review each passenger's reported medical condition(s) on a case-by-case basis and after conferring with the passenger, if necessary, his or her physician, and our medical directory, determine what requirements are necessary to accomplish these goals. If Mr. Urbanek has given serious consideration to taking a Carnival Cruise and finds the release objectionable, we would be pleased to discuss with him his particular objections and how we can best accommodate him. The General Counsel for the NFB of SC responded to the Carnival Cruise attorney as follows: Thank you for your letter of April 10, 1989. I have passed it along to my client for his review. In the meantime, you should strictly observe the April 20 time for answering in this case. Under our rules of court I am only able to give you one thirty-day extension. Your letter raised at least two points which should be addressed. First, after representing blind persons and organizations for the blind for several years, I can tell you that blind persons `vigorously resent being lumped in a category with mentally retarded persons and persons with loathsome diseases. Do you have any statistics which show a greater incidence of accidents among blind persons at sea? The second comment which needs addressing is your question as to whether or not Mr. Urbanek 'has given serious consideration to taking a Carnival Cruise and finds the release objectionable....'
Obviously, Mr. Urbanek seriously considered taking a cruise and was refused admission aboard ship unless he signed a release which sighted persons are not required to sign. Just as obviously, he finds the release objectionable or he would not have filed this lawsuit. Finally, the lawsuit would not have been necessary if your company had not refused Mr. Urbanek admission aboard ship without signing the objectionable release. If you are offering Mr. Urbanek the opportunity to take a cruise without any conditions and if you are willing to offer the same courtesy to other blind persons in the future, then certainly we would like to talk with you. If the purpose of your comment was simply to test Mr. Urbanek's will or to talk him into signing a release, then you are wasting your time. I am more than willing to discuss this matter with you at any time. However, I am not convinced by your letter of April 10, 1989, that your company is not illegally discriminating against blind persons. You must understand that every victory won by a blind person in the United States was won after successfully battling arguments such as you have advanced in your letter. Blind persons have won the right to ride city buses, taxicabs, airplanes, and cruise ships after convincing sighted people that blind persons are not diseased or helpless simply because they are blind. Neither does their blindness necessarily represent a hazard to the safety of those around them. There you have it now we will await the inevitable trial of this most important case.
In New Hampshire the school officials told her that her son should learn Braille. In California they told her he should not. It is time to take the mystery and the hogwash out of this question.
April 12, 1989
Dear Mr. Jernigan:
I need some information and could not think of a better person to write to than you. I have an eight-year-old son, Dennis, who has been legally blind since birth. He was diagnosed as having optic nerve hypoplasia and has a visual acuity of 20/600. He is now in the second grade at a public school.
I am an avid reader of the Braille Monitor and have read several articles that make me feel that maybe we are holding our son back by not having Braille taught to him. He is able to read large print and uses a viewer at school, but at home he never reads because the print is too small or he has to struggle, so it would take him all night to read a simple book. When we moved here from New Hampshire four and a half years ago, I called the blind association, and an itinerant instructor came to talk with my husband and me. Immediately she said he would read large print. We asked about Braille, because in New Hampshire the itinerant said he should learn to read large print and learn Braille. The itinerant here was very emphatic about the large print. So after discussing it with each other, my husband and I assumed she knew what she was talking about and agreed to have him not learn Braille.
Now after reading the articles in the Braille Monitor, we feel we may have made a terrible mistake by not having our son taught Braille. If there is any information you could provide us on the benefits or drawbacks of Braille, we would truly appreciate it. We plan on having a meeting with the itinerant to discuss our feelings, but due to her attitude towards teaching Dennis Braille, we feel we need to self-educate ourselves on the issue before speaking with her.
Our son is very independent and actually doing well in school. But if there is any chance that we will be holding him back in the future by not having him learn Braille now, we want to know. Any information you can provide to help us with this difficult decision would be of great importance to us. As of this time, we feel if we were to request that Dennis be taught Braille, the itinerant would put up a hellish fight. But as long as we're his parents and knowledgeable about what we are requesting, I feel they will have to do what we request. Thank you for your help.
May 10, 1989
Dear Mrs. :
I have your letter of April 12, 1989, and I think you are wise to be concerned about the fact that your son is not being taught Braille. Based on my experience with literally thousands of blind people over the past forty years, I believe that both you and your son will deeply regret it if your son does not become proficient in Braille.
You tell me that you read the Braille Monitor. The June, 1989, issue contains a great deal of material which speaks directly to the point. Study and consider the words of Barbara Cheadle and Ruby Ryles. There are good reasons why many of the professionals in the field oppose the use of Braille, and most of the reasons are anything but professional. I don't know whether you are planning to be at the NFB convention in Denver this summer, but it would be helpful to you if you could be there. Regardless of that, you might want to talk with Barbara Cheadle about your concerns. You can reach her at the above address, or you can call her at: (301) 659-9314. I am glad you wrote me, and I hope that what I have said will be of help. Since Braille is neither slow nor inefficient (I can read it at close to 400 words per minute, and I know many others who can do likewise), the reasons for the discouragement by the professionals of the learning of Braille have to be something other than the needs and well-being of the child.
National Federation of the Blind
USA Today is one of the largest circulation newspapers in the country, having several million readers. It has a practice of inviting guest columnists to present opposing views on an issue. The feature appears on the editorial page and is called Face-Off. On June 14, 1989, Face-Off spotlighted the airline issue. Speaking for the National Federation of the Blind was the Monitor Editor. Speaking for the Air Transport Association was Robert Aaronson. A picture and caption accompanied each column.
FACE-OFF: SEATING PASSENGERS NEAR EMERGENCY EXITS
Stop Airlines' Bias Against the Blind
by Kenneth Jernigan
Kenneth Jernigan is the Executive Director of the National Federation of the Blind.
BALTIMORE - Today no blind person can board a plane without fear of harassment and possible arrest and injury. The problem involves attempts by airlines to impose special rules and travel limitations on us. Typical is the requirement that blind persons not sit in exit rows.
If as airlines say we are a hazard in exit rows, it is not civil rights but safety. If we can function as well as others in exit rows, it is not safety but civil rights. Forget the mush about compassion. It is either safety or it isn't. Here is a pilot's sworn statement: I have been a pilot for many years. I currently fly 727 aircraft, and I have been employed to do so since 1974. I am familiar with a number of blind people, and I am generally familiar with the capacities of the blind. In an emergency there are circumstances in which it would be helpful to have an able-bodied blind person seated in an emergency exit row with a sighted person. In those cases in which there is smoke in the cabin, an able-bodied blind person, being used to handling situations without sight, would be able to assist with more facility in the evacuation. An able-bodied blind person would not hinder an emergency evacuation.
In the early '80s, a member of the National Federation of the Blind proved the theory. As his plane approached San Francisco, the landing gear stuck. They landed on foam. The lights went out. It was night. There was near panic. It was the blind man who found the exit and helped the sighted evacuate. If safety is the issue, why serve liquor to exit row passengers or allow carry-on luggage in exit rows? Sighted passengers with hidden problems (heart, back, feet, emotions, removing 70-pound exit row windows) sit unmolested in exit rows. But our argument is not that others are unsafe, so let us be unsafe, too. It is that we should not be held to a higher standard than others, that no blind person has ever contributed to a problem in an airplane emergency, and that in the name of safety we are suffering massive daily abuse.
To another generation Martin Luther King was quibbling and nit-picking, a troublemaking radical.
Airlines Aren't Biased Against the Blind
by Robert J. Aaronson
Robert J. Aaronson is President of the Air Transport Association.
WASHINGTON - Airlines' practice of not permitting some passengers, including the blind, to sit in exit rows is not unlawful discrimination. It is common sense based on concern for the safety of all passengers. Airline policies in this area are based on Federal Aviation Administration research and the industry's experience with emergency evacuations. The seating location of young children and persons with disabilities is important because of its potential effect on the evacuation process and on total evacuation time.
Many tasks must be performed rapidly and accurately by an individual in an exit row if an evacuation is to be fast and successful: Locating and operating the door release mechanism and determining whether the evacuation slide has deployed properly and is safe to use. Assessing conditions outside the aircraft such as the presence of fire or the pooling of fuel, the condition of the wing and distance to the ground, and the ability to select a safe route away from an aircraft. FAA studies indicate someone who has difficulty opening an emergency exit, determining conditions outside the exit or seeing or hearing flight attendants' instructions will likely impede an emergency evacuation, imperiling themselves and others. While there has been no recent study addressing this issue, there is certainly no evidence to support the the proposition that blind individuals will not impede an evacuation. An often-heard comment is that blind persons are capable of reacting better than sighted persons in a dark and smoky environment. But such qualities are unique to each individual: While some blind persons may react better than some sighted persons in some parts of an emergency, there's no test by which such qualities can be discerned by airline personnel boarding passengers. Before Congress decides that blind persons should not be prohibited from sitting in aircraft exit rows, it should authorize a careful, scientific study. To do otherwise would be arbitrarily putting the narrow interests of a vocal advocacy group, one whose position is not shared by other groups representing the blind, ahead of the safety of all passengers and crew.
by Kenneth Jernigan
It has been my painful task during the past few months to report the deaths of a number of prominent Federationists, and there is now another name to add to the list. The news came on Monday morning, June 19. The first account was totally lacking in detail. It was simply the message that Jim Walker had died. The news was all the more poignant because it was totally unexpected. As soon as I received the message, I announced it on the public address system here at the National Center for the Blind, and the reaction was strong and immediate. There were expressions of concern for the family and quiet discussions in the halls and offices.
I thought of Barbara and wondered whether to call her to try to give what comfort I could or to wait and not intrude. Very shortly the question was settled. She called me, and we talked. If you had to characterize Barbara in a single sentence, you would probably say something like this: She is a person of quiet strength and deep sincerity. Those characteristics were evident in our conversation.
She told me that Jim had had no prior illness or indication of heart problems. Early that morning he had felt pains in his chest and thought he should go to the hospital. They discussed whether he should go by ambulance or taxi, and he decided to use the taxi. He thought Barbara should stay with the children (Marsha 8 and John 5), and she did. Jim collapsed in the cab on the way to the hospital and died of a heart attack shortly afterward. There is really not much one can say to make the situation better at such times, but I did what I could. I told Barbara that we loved her and that Jim would be missed. That was about all I knew to say, and I hope it helped a little.
The funeral was held on Thursday, June 22, and John and Barbara Cheadle, who were extremely close to the Walkers and had planned to go to Yellowstone with them after the convention, went to Nebraska for the service. They represented not only themselves but also the National Office of the Federation. Fred Schroeder, a long-time friend of the Walkers, was also present to represent the national body and deliver a eulogy. As I think of Jim Walker, certain characteristics predominate to form the image. Above all, he had integrity and loyalty. When integrity and diplomacy clashed, he always chose integrity. When he had to decide between loyalty and expediency, there was no question. It was loyalty. He made hard choices, and he lived with them, usually without praise or recognition. On a personal level I regarded him as a close friend and will miss him greatly.
by Lori Duffy
From the Associate Editor: The summer before my third birthday, my parents took me on a day-long expedition to pick huckleberries on a mountain in central Pennsylvania. My father has always assured me that blueberries are merely a less sweet and much larger domestic cousin of the huckleberry. I remember vividly the fun of that trip, at least at the start. The pail my parents were dropping their berries into came almost to my waist, but if I bent over carefully and reached all the way down to the bottom, I could just grab a handful of the fruit. Unfortunately, it eventually occurred to my parents to wonder why they were not making more progress in filling their bucket. I was then unceremoniously handed a cup and told to pick my own berries. At that point the day became much less interesting. I have always loved blueberries and in recent years have even enjoyed picking them. This fruit lends itself nicely to washing and freezing in a single layer on cookie sheets before being packed away in bags for use all winter long in pies, coffeecakes, and muffins. Since I am busy these days with this very task, I was delighted to receive Lori Duffy's set of blueberry recipes. She is one of the leaders of the NFB of Ohio and is active in the Parents of Blind Children Division. Her husband Eric was one of the scholarship winners in 1987.
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
� cup water
1 quart fresh or frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Method: Combine dry ingredients in a large sauce pan. Add the water and stir to dissolve the cornstarch. Add berries and cook, stirring over moderate heat until sauce is clear and thickened. Do not crush berries. When sauce is cooked, add the lemon juice. Yield is three cups. This sauce can be used hot or cold. It is wonderful on French toast, pancakes, plain cake, or ice cream. It is a great way to use those berries that are going soft.
FRESH BLUEBERRY PIE
1 cup sugar
3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
� teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cooked 8- or 9-inch pie shell
Method: Combine dry ingredients in a large sauce pan and stir to mix well. Add the water and stir to dissolve the cornstarch. Add one cup berries and cook, stirring constantly over moderate heat until the sauce is thickened and clear. Add lemon juice, and stir well to mix and cool slightly. Add three cups of fresh berries. Gently transfer the filling to the prepared pie shell. Chill thoroughly before serving. This is simply the best blueberry pie you have ever eaten.
BLUEBERRY SOUR CREAM KUECHEN
2 cups flour
� cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
� teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
� cup melted margarine or butter
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
� cup sugar
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
� teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
Method: Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar for kuechen. Add egg, milk, and � cup melted margarine. Stir well. Pour mixture into greased 13x9 inch pan and spread. Arrange three cups of berries evenly on the surface of the cake. Sprinkle with one teaspoon cinnamon and five tablespoons sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool for ten minutes before drizzling the topping over it. Store chilled.
Topping: Melt two tablespoons margarine and add � cup sugar. Stir over heat until the margarine is evenly spread through the sugar. Add � teaspoon cinnamon. Remove from heat. Gently add a cup of sour cream and stir to mix well. This is delicious warm or cold.
BLUEBERRY QUICK BREAD
2-1/2 cups flour
� cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
� teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons margarine or butter
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
� cup chopped nuts
1-1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
Method: Mix dry ingredients together and cut in the margarine, using pastry blender or two knives held scissors- fashion. Combine together then add all at once the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Stir until flour is just moistened. Mixture should be lumpy. Add berries and nuts and mix gently. Pour batter into greased and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 dgs. for one hour and twenty minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool a few minutes before removing it from the pan. Makes one large loaf.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 cup or less sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
� teaspoon salt
� cup milk
� cup melted margarine
� teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Method: Mix dry ingredients. Add first the milk and then the eggs and vanilla to the melted margarine. Toss the berries with 1 tablespoon flour and set aside. Add liquid to dry mixture and toss just until flour is moistened. Add the berries and stir to mix. Batter will not be smooth. Fill paper muffin-tin liners one half to two thirds full of batter and bake at 425 degrees for fifteen minutes, until browned or toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. These muffins freeze well, if there are any left over.
� cup sugar
� cup margarine
� cup milk
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
� teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
� cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
� cup margarine
Method: Cream sugar and margarine together. Add egg and milk.
Add dry ingredients, beating constantly. Fold in blueberries.
Pour into greased and floured pan and sprinkle on topping. Topping: Mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon and cut in margarine, using pastry blender or two knives scissors- fashion. Topping should resemble coarse crumbs.
Bake at 375 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This is sometimes a little difficult to determine because of the topping. This batter can be baked in a 9x9 inch pan. Doubled, it can be baked in a 13- by 9-inch pan usually a good idea because this coffeecake disappears quickly. It can be baked in a 9 inch spring-form pan to make a blueberry tea cake, or it may be baked with or without the topping in muffin papers to make individual muffins or coffeecakes. The temperature for baking remains constant, but the time varies, of course, from about twenty minutes for the muffins to almost an hour for the doubled version. Bon appetit.
Christopher Kuczynski, a 1985 NFB scholarship winner, is completing his final semester at Temple University Law School in the spring of 1989 (this is being written in May). As a part of his last semester at law school, Chris volunteered for a team participating in a national competition in appellate court advocacy. The team wrote a brief and argued orally, being graded on its team skill in handling both tasks in a tournament at the University of Minnesota Law School. Arguing a total of six times in less than three days, Chris's team reached the finals, where it was pitted against a team whose brief-writing score was higher. Victory for Temple depended on a score in the orals high enough to cancel out the opposing team's brief score. With Chris arguing one of the two issues in final competition, the Temple team was victorious, winning this year's national championship in moot court advocacy. Congratulations to Chris and also to Temple for recognizing the quality of this able blind advocate.
Hank LaBonne writes: Listed here are the officers of the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chapter of the NFB, elected in April of 1989: President, Hank LaBonne; First Vice President, June Grant; Second Vice President, Reverend Morris Johnson; Secretary, Carolyn Owensby; Treasurer, George Grant; and Board Members: Patricia Coleman, Judy Carlton, Norman Bolton, and Bill Woodward.
Dr. Charles Hallenbeck, one of the leaders of the NFB of Kansas, writes as follows:
This announcement from KANSYS, Inc., 1016 Ohio Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66044: Products in the oven at KANSYS, Inc., include DREAM-WEAVER, a system for managing your own personal dream journal or notebook. DREAM-WEAVER draws upon the professional as well as the popular literature on the subject. It also draws upon the experience of Professor Charles Hallenbeck, who taught The Psychology of Sleep and Dreaming at the University of Kansas for more than ten years. Write for more information, or call Dave at 913-843-0351 or Chuck or Cindy at 913-842-4016.
Federationists will remember that Dr. Dennis Wyant, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation and Education Service at the Veterans Administration, has spoken at more than one of our national conventions. Recently we received a press release, which said in part:
April 11, 1989
Wyant Sets World Record Wins Gold, Three Silver Dr. Dennis Wyant, National Secretary of the Blinded American Veterans Foundation, set a new world record recently in the Second World Disabled Water Ski Competition held in Perth, Australia. Dr. Wyant averaged 26.5 wake crossings per twenty seconds in the wake slalom event, beating the old record held by Christopher Mairs of Great Britain.
Want Perkins Brailler:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I would like to secure a used Perkins Brailler. Please write or call Renee C. Donalvo, 2120 - 16th Street, N. W., Apartment 507, Washington, D.C. 20009; (202) 667-4276.
TV Programs With Narratives:
We are informed that Jim Stovall has produced some programs for television with narratives of action scenes. These videos are available from the Companion Recording, Inc., 1722 East 57th Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74105. For more information contact Jim Stovall at 918-742-6629.
From the Editor: I have just learned (this is being written on June 12, 1989) of the death earlier today of Mae Davidow of Pennsylvania. During the sixties and most of the seventies Mae was quite active in our movement, but in the late seventies she became a casualty of internal strife in the state affiliate. She served for a number of years as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, and she was also elected to membership on the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. She was colorful, energetic, and determined in all that she did and she played an important part in the expansion and growth of the NFB of Pennsylvania. She was representative of an era, and it is appropriate that we note with sadness her passing.
Buy or Sell:
Barbara Mattson writes to say that she has set up a Used Equipment Clearinghouse. If you have something to sell or want to buy, you may register with the Used Equipment Clearinghouse at 134-A Hall Street, Spartanburg, South Carolina 29302.
It's Spring Year 'Round:
We recently received the following from Olivia Ostergaard from the Fresno Chapter of the NFB of California: Here's the scoop on our chapter: On October 1, 1988, Olivia Tustison and Jim Ostergaard were married in Bakersfield at the First Southern Baptist Church, with about 450 guests present. The couple resides in Fresno, California. On November 19, 1988, Janis Brady, chapter president, and Lon Kafton were married at the home of Lee Scholes, former first vice president, with about 150 guests present. They live in Leemore, California. On February 14, 1989, Mike Uribes and Tammy Frazer were married at the Medera County Courthouse. They now live in Fresno. Olivia is the former president of the Kern County Chapter and acting second vice president until our April 8 elections. Mike was chapter treasurer for eight years.
On the Move:
The National Federation of the Blind has arranged with North American Van Lines to offer substantial discounts to members of the Federation who are moving. A discount of thirty-five percent will be offered to Federation members for moving charges, and a discount of twenty-five percent will be offered for storage charges. There are also credit plans available.
In order to get the discount or obtain further information you should call Mr. Skip Carver at 1-800-873-2673. You must identify yourself as a member of the NFB, and you should then ask for the discounts in the National Federation of the Blind moving program. North American Van Lines will make a contribution to the National Federation of the Blind in the amount of two percent of the money paid to North American Van Lines in the NFB moving program. Those on the move should get these discounts. Not only does it help with the cost of relocation, but it also brings contributions to our national treasury.
Rehabilitation Funds Unused:
The Rehabilitation Services Administration reports that almost $2,000,000 of Section 110 funds (the money used for providing services to the disabled and support to state programs) was returned unused to the federal government at the end of fiscal 1988. Over $2,000,000 was returned at the end of fiscal 1987.
Here is the breakdown of the 1988 money which was returned:
Illinois, $486,443; Michigan Blind, $354,681; Puerto Rico, $268,228; Louisiana General, $204,818; Louisiana Blind, $192,595; North Carolina Blind, $109,342; Guam, $64,164; New Mexico General, $62,279; Ohio $20,378; Palau, $17,094; Marshall Islands, $15,572; Total: $1,795,594. In Fiscal Year 1988 the Northern Marianas did not use $212,519. However, this jurisdiction is authorized to carry funds over from one Fiscal Year to the next, and therefore, these monies are not considered to have lapsed.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For Sale:
Dec-Talk, in excellent condition, $1,000. Please call: Frank Bonfiglio, Archdiocesan Office for Persons with Disabilities, 305 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, Michigan 48226, (313) 237-5910.
Out-of-Court Settlement in Evensen Death:
Monitor readers will remember that Richard Evensen, who was employed at the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and his wife Lorraine were killed in January of 1987 while attempting to cross a road in Wheaton, Maryland. The April 17, 1989, Montgomery (Maryland) Journal reports as follows:
A man who sued two motorists for $4 million after his blind brother and sister-in-law were struck and killed by a car has settled the suit out of court for $210,000. Robert Evensen of Reading, Mass., accused David C. Riddick of Northwest Washington and Tyrone Williams of Gaithersburg [Maryland] of negligence and wrongful death after his relatives were killed in Wheaton Jan. 12, 1987. The suit was filed in county Circuit Court in June 1987.
Lorraine Evensen, 67, and Richard Evensen, 57, who were both legally blind, died from multiple injuries after trying to cross Georgia Avenue at Henderson Avenue with their guide dog, according to court records. The couple had lived in the 2600 block of Henderson Ave. for 14 years.
In separate settlements reached Friday and Sunday, Williams agreed to pay Evensen $170,000 and Riddick agreed to pay him $40,000, court officials said.
Williams' attorney, Thomas H. Talbott, stressed that the settlement is not an admission of guilt, but was the best way to end a case that he called shrouded in emotion.
The Heart of the Matter:
Steve Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, writes:
Before a chapter is organized, prospective members must be located, mailings done, telephone calls made, homes visited, suitable meeting space found, transportation arranged, and many other details given attention. After all the preparation has been completed, one wonders how many will show up at the inaugural meeting.
Early Saturday morning, April 1, 1989, my wife Peg and I drove to Bourbonnais, Illinois, to participate in organizing a new chapter. As we walked into the Bourbonnais Municipal Center Auditorium, we saw clear evidence of preparation and hard work done by Bill and Ruth Isaacs. The room was nearly full of prospective Federationists. The NFB of Illinois Kankakee Heartland Chapter became a part of the Federation family, with 41 charter members. A constitution was adopted, a solid slate of officers was elected, and Federation literature was distributed. At least ten chapter members will attend this year's national convention. The officers are: Bill Isaacs, President; Mary Malone, Vice President; Anita Clark, Secretary; Ruth Isaacs, Treasurer; Bob Sowell and Dorothy Oreford, members of the board of directors.
Robert Southard writes: On Saturday, April 15, 1989, the Tidewater Chapter of the NFB of Virgiinia met. During the meeting (in fact, the final item of business) was the election of officers. They are as follows: President, Robert Southard; First Vice President, Debbie Prost; Second Vice President, Harry Vandevander; Secretary, Bill Parker; Treasurer, Willard Nichols; and are two new board members: Stewart Prost and Leonard Watkins. We look forward to a good and active year.
When ordering literature or appliances, many of you are accustomed to calling the National Center in Baltimore and asking for the aids and appliances department or this or that individual. Because of the increasing activity in this area, we have changed the name of the former Aids and Appliances Department to the Materials Center, which more correctly tells what it is. The Materials Center now has five staff members: Mrs. Tormey (supervisor), Miss DeCicco, Mrs. Gastel, Mr. Conway, and Mr. Smith. When ordering materials, please remember that it may take us as much as five days to process an order. It then may take anywhere from three to five days or longer for the post office or UPS to get an order to you. So, realistically, plan ahead when ordering, since it may take ten to fourteen days for you to receive your order. Normally we will not charge you for shipping costs, but if you ask us to send something by Federal Express, next-day UPS, or some other special handling, we will probably bill you for it. After all, it is only fair that one should pay for lack of planning or unusual costs. We have catalogs available in Braille and print for both literature and aids and appliances. Our address and phone are: National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (301) 659- 9314.
We have been informed that on April 3, 1989, in New York City, Mrs. Lilian Swerdlow passed away. She was in her middle seventies. With her husband, David Swerdlow, she was the co-director of the Elbee Audio Players, a troupe of blind and sighted Players. They brought a variety of major dramas and musicals to the community for more than twenty-four years.
Of License and Law:
The following item appeared in the April 21, 1989, Rocky Mountain News:
A Yuma County man who claims he's legally blind is fighting to keep his social security benefits, which were challenged after he obtained a Colorado driver's license last year. Bobby Drumwright, a 46-year-old unemployed Laird resident, has been receiving $229 a month in state aid to the blind for several years. Three eye examinations in 1988 and one in 1983 showed he had no sight left in his left eye and 20/200 vision in his right eye. To qualify for the benefits, the applicant's vision cannot be better than 20/200 in his best eye. He also must live in a low-income household.
On June 17, 1988, Drumwright was declared irreversibly blind by a doctor.
Miraculously, on June 30, 1988, 13 days later, Drumwright passed a motor vehicle eye test with 20/40 vision, assistant attorney general David Temple wrote in court documents. Temple is representing the Colorado Department of Social Services, which is asking Denver District Judge Sandra Rothenberg to revoke Drumwright's benefits. The judge is expected to rule on the matter within weeks.
The only logical conclusion here is that Drumwright is not legally blind, Temple said. Passing the motor vehicle eye exam is circumstantial evidence that Drumwright lied when he applied for social service benefits.
In early October the Yuma County Department of Social Services cut off Drumwright's benefits after learning he passed the color-blindness test, read 12 road signs and a standard letter chart, and was issued a restrictive license, allowing him to drive with a left rear view mirror on his vehicle. On October 25 administrative law Judge Thomas Moeller reversed social service's decision, saying Drumwright's eyesight had not changed. Drumwright will continue to receive his benefits until the dispute is resolved.
Moeller agreed with Dan Kruger, a social services rehabilitation counselor, that it is very possible that you are considered to be legally blind and yet still can maintain your driving privileges in this state....
29 in Line:
Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, writes in the May, 1989, edition of The Palmetto Blind , the publication of the NFB of South Carolina, that on March 7 the North Augusta chapter came into being. This brings to twenty-nine the number of chapters in the South Carolina affiliate. Eighteen enthusiastic members attended the organizing banquet together with a number of NFB of South Carolina leaders present for the occasion. The new officers of the North Augusta chapter are: Mrs. Essie Kaney, President; Mrs. Nellie Noakes, Vice President; Mr. Pat Malhalland, Secretary; and Mr. John Parker, Treasurer.
In the Spring, 1989, edition of The Barricades, newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, Peggy Pinder, President of the NFB of Iowa, writes as follows: Congratulations to Mabel Nading, who was presented with the United Way of Central Iowa's Senior Citizen Volunteer award for direct services. She was nominated for this award because of her long hours of volunteer work in proofreading textbooks for blind students and for teaching Braille shorthand to a young woman who was interested in seeking work which required it.