32, No. 11 December
Kenneth Jernigan, Editor
in inkprint, Braille, on talking-book disc,
and cassette by
National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 32, No. 11 December 1989
THE WINDS OF CHANGE
by Kenneth Jernigan
EVEN THE MINNEAPOLIS SOCIETY FOR THE BLIND CATCHES ON
THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE, SUB-MINIMUM WAGES, AND THE SOUTHWEST LIGHTHOUSE FOR THE BLIND
THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS AMENDMENTS OF 1986: CHANGES IN SUB-MINIMUM
WAGES FOR BLIND WORKERS
by Senator Howard Metzenbaum
AND EMPLOYMENT FOR THE BLIND: THE JAVITS-WAGNER-O'DAY
by Beverly Milkman
TWENTY YEARS AFTER
by Jana S. Moynihan
IF YOU CAN'T
SEE ME NOW: MORE REVELATIONS ABOUT CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES
by Barbara Pierce
STILL MORE ABOUT CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES
AT WASHINGTON UNION STATION: VARIATIONS ON A TIRED,
by Steven Hastalis
HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT?
by Barbara Pierce
by Andrea Engler
MAKING THE CORRECT CHANGE: WEEKLY READER LEARNS ITS LESSON
CONCERNING POKADOT AND
OTHER COMPUTER MYSTERIES
by Kenneth Jernigan
WHAT COLOR IS THE SUN?
by Lauren L. Eckery
READERS' VIEWPOINT: IN
DEFENSE OF BRAILLE
by Teresa Myers
IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
by Barbara Pierce
EDUCATE THE EDUCATED THE
BLAND USE OF BLIND
by Bill J. Isaacs
BLINDNESS ISN'T A HANDICAP
IT'S A NUISANCE
by Deborah Scoblionkov
Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1989
by Kenneth Jernigan
Most (although certainly not all) of the people who are knowledgeable about such things would agree that today the two strongest forces in the affairs of the blind of this country are the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind. Consequently, how these two organizations interact is of considerable importance. Sometimes the relationship has been stormy and sometimes quiet, but it has rarely been what one would call close and cordial. Recently, however, there has been a pronounced change. I suppose it started in the mid-eighties when the Federation and the Foundation began working together in the World Blind Union. It has now spread far beyond that. To begin with, I should say that Bill Gallagher, the Foundation's Executive Director, and I have been meeting on a fairly regular basis for quite some time; and although it is not a controlling factor, I find Bill Gallagher friendly and easy to deal with. In short, I like him as a person. My experience has been that he faces issues and keeps his word. That does not mean that we always agree or that either of us approves of everything the other does. It simply means that it is easier to work with somebody who treats you courteously and shows some responsiveness than with somebody who doesn't.
An incident occurred not long ago which shows what is happening and how the balances are altering. It will be remembered that President Maurer said in his 1989 banquet speech: The American Foundation for the Blind has produced a special psychological test called the `Anxiety Scale for the Blind.' He went on to ridicule the test and tear it to pieces, pointing out how negative it was. Dr. Susan Spungin, one of the Foundation's top officials, was in the audience, having spoken to the Federation convention that afternoon. Shortly after the conclusion of the NFB convention Bill Gallagher called me to say that he felt it was unfortunate that President Maurer had attacked the Anxiety Scale for the Blind, implying that it was current when in reality it was outdated, having been produced in the late sixties. I told him that it was my understanding that the Anxiety Scale was still being used by the Foundation and that if it was, it didn't matter when it was produced. He said he would look into it. A few weeks later he called me to say that he had learned that the Foundation was, in fact, still distributing the Anxiety Scale. He said that he had reviewed it and wasn't sure he could pass it himself. He concluded by saying that the document was immediately being withdrawn from circulation and would no longer be used. This is the sort of responsiveness which can lead to a new climate in the blindness field. I emphasize that the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind are not going to agree on every issue and that when we think it is necessary, we will publicly state that we think the Foundation is wrong. But the incident I have just described could not have occurred ten years ago or, for that matter, even five years ago. Hopefully it may be a sign of things to come.
The name of the Minneapolis Society for the Blind (MSB) jangles unpleasantly on the ears of Federationists living in Minnesota or possessing long memories. As measured by blind consumers (whose assessment admittedly focuses primarily on quality rehabilitation and constructive assistance in finding good jobs), the Minneapolis Society has never been an effective agency. In addition, it has run a sheltered shop, which paid wretched wages and bankrolled a substantial part (some sources say up to seventy percent) of the agency's operating budget. It should come as a surprise to no one to learn that MSB has been one of the most loyal of the NAC agencies. The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped has praised and petted MSB, and MSB in turn has enthusiastically supported NAC and done what it could through the years to destroy the National Federation of the Blind.
Throughout the Seventies and early Eighties the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota had no choice but to concentrate much of its energy and most of its resources in a long struggle against the MSB. Many Federationists will remember the nation-wide proxy battle we were forced to undertake when the Society flatly refused to allow blind consumers to stand for election to its Board of Trustees until a judge forced it to do so in 1979. As a result of that struggle, eight blind consumers were elected to the board and served for several years, although because they were a minority they were unable to do much to improve things for the blind people served by the agency.
In recent years, however, the NFB of Minnesota has been able to move on to other matters. The creation of a rehabilitation center founded on the philosophy of the Federation is only one of the projects that have improved the lives of blind Minnesotans throughout this decade despite the MSB.
Perhaps as a result the Minneapolis Society for the Blind has been slipping further and further out of the public consciousness in the state. Several executive directors have come and gone, and the state rehabilitation agency's internal reports disclose that fewer and fewer blind people are taking part in MSB's full-time rehabilitation program.
The most recent Executive Director of the MSB has been Jane Pazlar, a woman who worked for some years at Litton Industries. A number of years ago she began serving on the MSB Board and, growing out of that association with the Society, was asked to serve as its acting director beginning in 1983. Members of the NFB of Minnesota did not expect her to continue long in that position, but to their surprise, after some months she was given the job permanently. The appointment was not good news for blind people. The clearest memory Federationists have of her from their years of service on the MSB Board is Pazlar's saying repeatedly to her blind colleagues who were asking questions before voting, Get with it, just vote!
Despite her antagonism toward members of the NFB, Pazlar has not found relations with her own board to be smooth sailing. According to reports from within the rehabilitation establishment in Minnesota, rifts began to develop between Pazlar and her board and between the MSB and State Services for the Blind, Minnesota's primary source of rehabilitation funding. Pazlar did not seem to have the political savvy that her position required, according to Joyce Scanlan, President of the NFB of Minnesota and Director of BLIND, Inc., which might be considered as competing with MSB for rehabilitation clients and funding. It has been clear to observers, Scanlan says, that in recent years MSB's share of contract work with State Services for the Blind has been shrinking.
In August, 1989, the MSB Board indicated that it would accept Pazlar's resignation, a move which sources close to the situation report took Pazlar by surprise. The resignation was tendered, and Bette O'Donnell, the Society's chief fiscal staffer was named as Acting Director. The fact that an employee with no previous experience with service delivery was named to head MSB has fueled rumors around the state that there are questions about Pazlar's financial management of the Society.
No one has come forward with specific allegations, but late in August MSB announced that it would be closing its sheltered workshop by the end of 1990. To hear MSB tell the story, one would conclude that this decision is just one more stride forward in the Minneapolis Society for the Blind's committed effort to make life better for the blind. Certainly no one would argue that the closure of the shop will damage blind people; we have maintained for years that the MSB shop was detrimental to the blind of the Twin Cities area. A careful reading of the news story that appeared in the Minneapolis Star on August 25 reveals the true motive behind the decision to close the MSB sheltered shop. Fewer and fewer blind people are willing to work for the low wages paid by MSB and its sister industry programs. The shop, therefore, is no longer the profit-making operation that it was only a few years ago.
As usual the blind are leading the way, and the Minneapolis Society for the Blind is floundering along behind, waving excuses, blaming economic circumstances, and hoping that no one will notice that it is increasingly irrelevant to the blind, who seek their rehabilitation from agencies that believe in them and who find their jobs in competitive employment.
The importance of the Minneapolis Society for the Blind may be shrinking in the blindness community, but its public relations department is still on the ball. Not a word of the agency's leadership upheaval crept into the workshop story as it appeared in the newspapers no speculation about slipping market share or financial problems. Only the up-beat announcement that the Minneapolis Society for the Blind was doing what was best for the blind. That it is, and the blind, at least, know how it happened. Here is what the Minneapolis Star had to say:
Workshop's Passing is Hopeful Sign, Says Society for the Blind
by Diana Ettel Gonzalez (Staff Writer)
For the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, the decision to close its manufacturing workshop signals a recognition that the business community and society in general are more accepting of blind people, say members of the agency.
When we first incorporated in 1914, one of the first things that we did was to provide jobs for blind people. At that point in time, society thought that a blind person had to be in a sheltered environment. Now blindness no longer dictates that a person has to be in a sheltered center, said Bette O'Donnell, interim president and chief executive officer of the society. It announced this week that it will stop operating its manufacturing division by the end of next year. Officials said the division has been losing money, in part because of cutbacks in defense and other federal government contracts. It makes textiles, mops, and medical catheters for the federal government. Society officials say the closing does not reflect a change in philosophy. We recognize, and it's part of our fundamental philosophy, that people with that disability have every right and every ability to succeed at whatever they do, said Jim Lande, chairman of the society.
It is a philosophy that has prevailed in the society for years, Lande said.
But critics of the society claim it wasn't always so. In the 1970's, Joyce Scanlan, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, led the group in a bitter fight trying to gain more control over the society. The Federation sued the society, alleging discrimination against the blind and membership restrictions. The Federation eventually gained some seats on the society's board but severed its ties in 1981 when Federation members resigned from the board.
In a fight that spanned a decade, the Federation also contended that the society's workshop limited blind people's opportunities by offering low-paying manual jobs, and illustrated society's paternalistic attitude toward the blind.
The sheltered workshop has held blind people down for a long time. People looked to this society as the place where blind people belonged, and that limited the possibilities for the rest of us, said Scanlan.
Lande said the fight between the two should be classified as ancient history. Scanlan said that nowadays the Federation and the society largely ignore each other. Whatever the reasons for closing the workshop, it is a move that the Federation welcomes, she said.
Society officials say the nonprofit agency, which provides services for the blind, plans now to focus its efforts on other existing programs. The first is aimed at rehabilitating the visually impaired; the second tries to address problems of an increasingly large number of people in Minnesota who are troubled by declining vision.
It's a matter of deciding for the future where you wish to place your resources to do the widest good for the most people, O'Donnell said.
Lande said workshops aren't a thing of the past, although he said most blind people no longer need them.
In other situations, particularly with respect to people who are both blind and have multiple handicaps, there remains a legitimate role for agencies that provide sheltered work. Other agencies who serve the multiply handicapped are better able to serve that section of the blind community for whom blindness is one of several disabilities. But for people who have just blindness as a handicap, they are best served by having employment in the mainstream, he said.
The society is developing a program to help employees of its workshop make the transition to other jobs, he said. There are two other workshops tailored for the blind in the state, one in Duluth and the other at the St. Paul Society for the Blind.
On Saturday morning, July 8, delegates to the 1989 convention of the National Federation of the Blind turned their attention to the sheltered workshop system and the problems and challenges facing the nation's blind sheltered shop workers. President Maurer introduced the first pair of presenters to address the subject by saying: The next panel is entitled The Right to Organize, Sub-Minimum Wages, and the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind. Two people will be participating on this panel: Glenn Crosby, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, and Fred Schroeder, who is Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and also a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. I spoke with you about the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in the Presidential Report two days ago. We have been severely challenged by the Lighthouse in Lubbock, Texas. It was essential that we do something in this case because a few months earlier the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals had indicated that blind people do not have the right to organize. That was in the case involving the Lighthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas. On the other hand, in Texas we have made significant progress for blind people to be able to organize and also to gain their rights under the 1986 Amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Now Glenn Crosby and Fred Schroeder, I wish to speak to you both directly. I said to the panel before you, ten to twelve minutes, and I don't believe a single one of them paid attention to me. I'm not going to give you twelve; I'm going to give you ten. So pay attention. I'm going to call time on you after ten minutes. Glenn Crosby, go.
G ood morning, Mr. President, friends, brothers and sisters in our movement. It is good to be here, isn't it? Well let me tell you, you ought to have been in Lubbock with us. If you had been in attendance Wednesday in a meeting of the Blind Industrial Workers of America, one of our divisions, you would know that most of our blind workers in the Lubbock shop in the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind earn something in the neighborhood of $2.05 an hour or less.
You would also know that the working conditions in that shop are horrendous. You would also know that out of this fine paycheck that they can accumulate by working forty hours a week, every month these guys were asked to pay insurance premiums. You would know a number of other things. That story, however, is in our Braille Monitor for all of us to read. It's also available by talking to some of our people who are here at this convention. Let me tell you one little point, however, that is not in the Monitor and that these guys may not tell you either. We learned, after talking with our friends in the shop, that they have at least one supervisor there who (on a regular basis when frustrated and aggravated) would walk over to blind workers and slap them. It was so common that these people didn't even realize that they were being assaulted. So you see, that's the kind of thing we're talking about when we are talking about the shops. The workers in Lubbock called the National Federation of the Blind, and we responded by going out to help. We formed a picket line and were able to get a lot of good press coverage. We took pledges and organized a union. We were able to win a hearing from the Labor Department and are now in the middle of filing complaints. And finally, we have now been able to run off the Director (Dale Odom). During the Labor Department hearings last fall he was asked about the training and who all were in training there. He finally said, Well, everyone in the shop is in training. And not only that, but he said that even he was in training. So now we're happy to say that Mr. Odom has gone off to a different phase of his training elsewhere.
In any event, the Southwest story is not limited to Lubbock, Texas. That story is prevalent in practically every shop in this country. We all know it.
And the message that we can all learn from Lubbock is this: If we put our hands together, and if we work in a unified effort, we can improve these conditions. We can help our brothers and sisters in these shops to make a good living and have a decent place to work. The message is clear. We are changing what it means to be blind, and we intend to go forward. We are going to work in every one of these shops until they are decent places for blind people to work. Sir, I'm going to give you back some time. Thank you.
President Maurer responded: Thank you so much, Glenn. When Glenn Crosby and the members of the National Federation of the Blind set their hands and their minds to a problem, you can count on that problem's being solved. Now, I would like next to ask Fred Schroeder, who appeared in a hearing that was held concerning the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind, to come and to tell you about that for ten minutes or such part of it as you want. Fred Schroeder, here's the microphone.
T hank you very much, President Maurer. We are here today to talk about the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas. But the story that we'll be talking about and the story that you have heard has to do really with the sheltered workshop system across the nation. The sheltered workshop system has systematically exploited the unacceptably high unemployment rate among the blind and used that unemployment rate to draw in blind people for whom there have not been other opportunities. Because of the high unemployment rate, sheltered workshops have been allowed to systematically practice oppression of blind people. And we've not had an example more clear than that of the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind in Lubbock, Texas.
The annual report of the workshop showed that the previous year, management collectively received in excess of 420,000 dollars in wages, whereas blind workers collectively received less than 200,000 dollars for their work. We could ask our previous panelists whether private sector industry normally has wages of management in excess of twice the wages of direct labor employees. I don't think it's very common. The workers in the Lubbock facility were being paid on an average of $2.05 an hour. At one time they received health insurance as a work benefit. Last fall, when the workshop announced that times were getting tough and they weren't able to provide the insurance any more, management announced to these workers that the insurance premiums would have to come out of their wages. The workers went and tried to talk to management, but they refused to talk to them about it, so the workers properly turned to the National Federation of the Blind and the Teamsters for help.
We set about to try to organize that workshop. Management took the age-old position that the workers at the workshop were not employees, but clients. Therefore, that money that they were paid was not wages but a training stipend.
So last fall, when I was asked to testify before a hearing officer of the National Labor Relations Board, I was asked to discuss whether or not a person was a client or a worker and how you would determine whether an activity in which a person was engaged was work or rehabilitation. We said that if a guy was an employee, then the money that he was receiving would be wages. And how did we know whether they were wages or training stipends? Well, there are a couple of things that led us to believe they might be wages. The Internal Revenue Service certainly was clear on it. It taxed the wages that the guys were making. IRS didn't think it was a stipend. The Social Security Administration certainly wanted its withholdings. They were pretty clear about it. They didn't think it was a stipend. They thought it was a wage. So it was very clear that the workers in the workshop were getting real money; they were getting real wages not a training stipend. Were they workers?
Were they employees or were they clients? Well, the Immigration Department, through the U.S. Department of Justice, was pretty clear about it. Nowadays you have to have a thing called an I-9 filled out on you if you go to work anywhere, to show that you are legally eligible to work in the United States. The Immigration Department requires the I-9's of people who are working in sheltered workshops. They certainly don't regard it as rehabilitation training. You don't have to sign an I-9 to go get training. You just get an I-9 filled out if you want to go to work. People at the Lubbock facility were certainly engaged in work.
We talked about other things. Were there work rules? Did you have to come at a certain time, and did you have to clock in? Did you have to follow the rules of the shop? If you didn't follow the rules of the shop, could you get fired? We said that those were indicators that a person was engaged in work and not in rehabilitation. We said that the kind of thing that a guy did all day would determine whether it was work or rehabilitation. Are you making a product for resale? Well, they certainly were in Lubbock. What was the kind of work that was involved in manufacturing those products? It seems to me that if it is training, you'd go out and you'd look around the community, and you'd say, Where are the jobs? What kind of skills does a guy need to be able to compete for those jobs? Then you'd train people to develop those kinds of skills.
But that's not what happened at the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind. Instead, they went out and got contracts contracts that made them a lot of money. They didn't really worry about whether the skills used for that kind of work transferred anywhere else in the community. They just wanted to make sure you could do the work to fill the contract to make the workshop money. We said that's an indicator of whether a thing is an employment setting or whether it is rehabilitation.
There are other indicators of work versus rehabilitation and employee versus client status. They have to do with leave. Certainly if you are an employee, you acquire leave and other benefits. So, it was clear to us and clear during the testimony that we made before the National Labor Relations Board that the blind people working at the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind were not clients. They were workers, and they were not receiving training. If they were receiving training, they certainly were not paid for it as well as Dale Odom was paid for his training. I think he was paid in the neighborhood of $40,000 a year. The blind people in the workshop were not being paid at the level that other workers were. I think what was significant in the case of the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind, and certainly in the testimony about my own agency in New Mexico, was that we went about raising the wages of workshop workers. People said you're going to go broke. Blind people aren't going to be able to produce enough to keep the shop afloat. We did it at a time when we had had the lowest federal contract that the shop had ever had, and we were scraping around for work. Yet we raised the wages of the workers in the workshop, and for the three years that our agency has existed, every single year we have turned a profit at that workshop, paying those wages and offering reasonable benefits. We're not going to be flimflammed by the Southwest Lighthouse for the Blind or any other workshop in this country. I was very proud to be part of that hearing and to be able to testify and stand up for blind people throughout this country, who are working hard and deserve a day's pay for a day's work. Thank you, Mr. President.
Thank you, Fred. I commented last November, as we were getting ready for the hearing to determine whether this sheltered shop activity was work or training, that we in the National Federation of the Blind needed to be a part of the hearing for a very good reason. There isn't anybody in America that knows about blindness and the capabilities of blind people in the way that we do. There isn't anybody who can get in there with the knowledge of the law and the experience of management fairy tales. Anybody else might be flimflammed if we didn't get in there. Could the union do it? No, the union knows about labor and management, but it doesn't know about the National Industries for the Blind, the Fair Labor Standards Act exemptions, certificates of exemption from the Labor Department, and other matters. It doesn't know enough about the capacity of blind people to say, You say this is training, but it has all of the earmarks of work. Labor people are accustomed to working with those who are able to see well enough that they don't have to discuss those matters. The special laws that apply to the blind (and there are a number of them) would have confused issues significantly in this case if we had not been a part. As you can tell from the presentations that were made, Glenn Crosby (a tough-minded leader) brought people together, kept them on the streets with the picket signs to demonstrate the unity of the workers and also to show the support of the blind of the state and the nation for the Southwest Lighthouse workers being paid pitifully small wages. Fred Schroeder, Jim Gashel, and others went to the hearing and presented testimony which was the best, the toughest, the clearest we could manage. And within a few months there was a labor union in Lubbock, Texas. That is the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
by Senator Howard Metzenbaum
Following the remarks of Glenn Crosby and Fred Schroeder, reprinted elsewhere in this issue, President Maurer introduced a long-time friend of the organized blind movement, Senator Howard Metzenbaum, to continue the discussion of sheltered shops and their workers. Here is what he said:
We have a real honor this morning. We have met the next gentleman who is to speak with us before. He has been a friend and an ally. We have talked in this convention and in our previous conventions about the rights of blind people in the airways. Senator Metzenbaum has been our friend and has co-sponsored legislation to protect the rights of blind people in the airways. It's not his fault that the Federal Aviation Administration is trying to use that very piece of legislation to implement rules that will prevent blind people from having the same access to airlines that other people have. In fact, he is one of our friends, a great supporter of the blind. To talk with us about implementing the Fair Labor Standards Amendments of 1986, changes in sub-minimum wages for blind workers, we have the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Labor of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources of the United States Senate. Welcome, Senator Howard Metzenbaum.
T hank you very much, Marc. Thank you for again giving me an opportunity to address a convention of the most ruggedly independent group of Americans that I know. Now, as many of you know, it's no secret to anyone which way my politics lean. But I want you to know that, for the good of our country, I wish the Bush Administration every success. As a matter of fact, I certainly hope we never find ourselves again in another Watergate or Iran-Contra type scandal especially since the President's chief of staff is a guy named John Sununu. Now I'd hate to be the Senator who'd have to ask the President of the United States what Sununu knew and whether he knew Sununu knew he knew.
Now, as Marc has said, I've had a long-standing relationship with NFB for many years, a productive working relationship, and I want to thank you for your support on so many issues during that time. I like being at this convention for a special reason. I was riding on an elevator and I want you to know that I haven't taken an elevator since I've been here that hasn't been a crowded elevator. But I thought that the remark of a lady on that elevator this morning was wonderful when she was talking about how crammed in we all were when she said, It's all right. We all like each other. I thought that was wonderful. Now I enjoyed some free time away from Washington the last ten days. I had an opportunity to reflect on the things that are going on back there some positive things and some not so positive. But they all center on one basic theme our basic, fundamental rights as Americans. When I return to Washington next week, thanks in large measure to the Supreme Court, these issues and this theme will be topic A: the First Amendment and the question of amending it. This Senator is opposed to amending it. The Supreme Court's having addressed itself to the issue of reproductive rights, my recognition that there are strong advocates on the side of free choice and on the side of right to life, I respect their positions, but that's certainly going to be a controversial issue before the Congress. Civil rights and the cutbacks by the Supreme Court of the United States this Senator will address himself to trying to put back in place the rights that the Supreme Court has taken away. We will also address ourselves this coming Thursday to a piece of legislation, which I have authored, banning the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons in this country. We don't need them.
Now we will also look at some lower profile issues issues little noticed by the news media but probably more important to some people's lives. The resolution of these issues will affect you both in the context of blindness and in the broader context of your rights as Americans. As I told you earlier, I have had a long association with this organization and your members, and I've learned something very important in that time. I have learned that blindness is a disability; it is not one that need inhibit a blind individual's productivity, intellectually or physically. Yes, you have special needs; but in my opinion, when those needs are met, you need not be treated specially. You have more to offer in your determination, in your dedication, and in your willingness than any sighted person in this country. Unfortunately, when you are treated specially, too often it is to your detriment. Let's take the Fair Labor Standards Act, for example. The special treatment you have been receiving from that law is objectionable, and it's unjustified. The Fair Labor Standards Act, as most of you know, sets our nation's minimum wages. And this Senator says to you that when the President and the Congress can in the same week deal with a three-hundred-billion-dollar bail-out of the Savings and Loan Industry, it sure'n the devil shouldn't be fighting over an additional thirty cents an hour in the minimum wage.
The Fair Labor Standards Act hasn't been so fair for every worker because since 1938 we've allowed a sub-minimum wage for disabled workers and too often that has included blind workers. A sub-minimum wage was wrong then, and it's wrong now. A blind worker (or any other worker) who can do the job should not be paid a sub-minimum wage. (The world has changed a lot.) In the past fifty years since 1938 when the Fair Labor Standards Act was first enacted, technology has changed, attitudes have changed, and finally (almost fifty years after its enactment) the law has changed with respect to the sub-minimum part. In 1986 I authored some landmark changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act changes which sought to improve employment opportunities for Americans with Disabilities, changes which would ease paperwork burdens on businesses which employ disabled workers, and changes which will guard against abuses of those workers. With the help of this organization and your very able Washington representative, we've won the legislative battle. The NFB supported my amendments to the Act, and that support was instrumental in assuring the President's signature on the legislation. For the first time an employee in a sheltered shop has the right to challenge the wage determination of the employer. That's a special right, and we're going to fight to see that that right is implemented with regulations to be issued by the Department of Labor. Under the new law, the Amendment to the law, you'll get a hearing from an impartial administrative law judge appointed by the Department of Labor; you'll have the right to face your employer and cross-examine him with legal council, just as you did in Lubbock in the case previously mentioned.
And for the first time, the burden of proof for justification of the sub-minimum wage will fall on the employer, where it should be. And unless I miss my guess, employers are going to have one tough time proving that a sub-minimum wage is justified for a blind worker. Now as with most legislation, we didn't get everything we wanted. It's a process of give-and-take. I predict that as a result of this change in the law, the day will soon come when a sub-minimum wage to a blind worker will go the way of the dinosaur. I have been assured by the Department of Labor that within the month they will issue final regulations on this issue. And I have let the Labor Department know my view that the final regulations must protect the rights of employees to receive wages based on their individual productivity, not on their individual disability. I have let them know that their supervision of the new law must be meaningful, it must be tough, and it must be fair. And I've let them know that if we get anything less, we'll be back at them with new legislation. They know I'm on your side. But I didn't come all this distance simply to talk about our past achievements. We've got work ahead of us, and we need your help again. Next week in the Labor and Human Resources Committee, we'll be voting on a bill that will mean equality and justice for all Americans who are disabled. In the 1960s we extended the guarantee of civil rights to minorities in this country. It was perhaps our greatest social accomplishment of the century. Inadvertently or otherwise, one minority was excluded the disabled. I've talked with your leadership with your President and Jim Gashel about the fact that there are some concerns about the blind concerning the language that's included in that law having to do with the disabled. I tell you now: we'll work out the problems to see that the blind are treated fairly, but basically we'll see to it that no longer will it be possible in this country to violate the rights of the disabled. They'll be treated equally and fairly, as all other Americans are.
Let's face it. Despite the undisputed abilities of blind Americans, discrimination occurs all too often. And this kind of discrimination is just as wrong as discrimination against any other minority group. You don't want to be treated special; nor do you want to be especially discriminated against. You want to be treated equally and fairly, as all other Americans are. The Americans with Disabilities Act will put into place definite hiring policies with respect to the disabled.
But it's not enough simply to make discrimination against the blind or the disabled officially illegal. We must go much further. We must raise the consciousness of the nation. We must strike at the conscience of the people of America. We must make discrimination against the disabled unacceptable. And too many people in America, too many in this room, have felt the pain and heartache of discrimination. It continues today; it's happening now. It's wrong, and our bill will stop it. We'll fight together to make a great bill for all disabled Americans. But we need your help. We'll get the bill out of committee. But we have opposition in Congress. There's opposition in the business community. There's opposition in the transportation industry. And yes, there's some limited, but not total, opposition on the part of the Administration. But I believe they'll come on board. You can help us win this battle. Friends, let me tell you something. You are your own best advocates. You have proven that. And I want to say this to you: I don't know of any group in America that when they're on the move, when they are determined, when they make up their minds that it will come to pass, can do more. Then, the blind are a very effective lobbying force. You speak loudly; you speak clearly; you speak intelligently. You can have an impact on the political process. You can send to Washington and to state legislatures people who are concerned about what's happening to you in America, or you can let it just go by default and let somebody else choose who's getting elected. You have the power in your hands to have a far greater impact than just your own vote. You have the power to be a political force, and I just want to say this to you today. I'm on your side, but there are a lot of members of Congress who are indifferent. So get off your butts. Get off your butts, and get out there and let them know how you feel. We can win the battle. Thank you very much.
Mr. Maurer responded to this informative and impassioned speech with the following words: Senator, it is good always to have a friend. It is even better to have one with as much spirit and power as you possess. I remember times when you have come and spoken with us at our conventions in previous years. I see that although my memory was very good, you have exceeded all expectations. We are most pleased that you have come to share with us and also to plan with us for the times ahead. We have concerns about the Americans with Disabilities Act, but we do need to have changes to make better lives possible for us. We know about your commitment as you brought it to us today. Thank you very much, Senator Metzenbaum.
by Beverly Milkman
The final presentation concerning sheltered employment of the blind during the July 8, 1989, convention session was made by the Executive Director of the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped. President Maurer introduced her by saying:
This morning we have been speaking about employment of the blind. One program where as many as four thousand blind people work is under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. The Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act is administered in part by the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped. We have had representatives of that committee come to our convention in the past. The task of the committee is to implement a program to distribute federal contracts to sheltered workshops. There has been a change in the leadership of that committee within the last year. I have had the opportunity to meet the new executive director. She has come to the National Center for the Blind. We have talked pleasantly enough, but also candidly. And we have said to her that there are problems in the workshops prob- lems that we would like the committee to help solve. Exactly what will become of the relationship between the organized blind and the Committee for Purchase is not known. However, we have met with the executive director, and it appears that the executive director may be more responsive to the wishes of the blind than has been the case in the past. We hope, at least, that this is the case. Therefore, to speak with us about upward mobility and employment for the blind in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program, I would like to present the Executive Director of the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped, Beverly Milkman.
I 'm delighted to be here today to talk with you about the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program and its present and future contributions to employment for the blind and other severely disabled individuals. As Mr. Maurer just told you, I am the new kid on the block. After many years at the Commerce Department working in an economic development program which was designed to create jobs for unemployed and under-employed people around the country, I joined the Committee last August. Now, as my father's conservative friends tell me when I visit, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool BUREAUCRAT. You've all heard stories about bureaucrats. I want to share with you one of my favorite ones today. This is a story of a bureaucrat who dashes out of his office for a meeting, and he's running late, and realizes as he gets in the car that he forgot to do something critical. He sees a phone booth, pulls over, gets out, puts his money in the telephone, makes the call, arranges for what he needed to have done, and then heads back to the car, only to discover to his chagrin that he has locked the keys inside the car and the car is running. He's totally freaked, as they say in the parlance of some of our younger friends, and goes back to the telephone booth to call a locksmith, who says that he can't get there for a couple of hours but will get there as soon as he can. So he paces nervously, like an expectant father in the old days. (These days they're more likely to be found inside the delivery room.) Finally the locksmith arrives and unlocks the car just in the nick of time, because of the feelings of the three bureaucrats who were sitting inside, who were really reaching their last gasp.
Now I wish I could tell you that there's not a smidgen of truth in any of that that we're all highly motivated, hard charging, dedicated, creative geniuses. As you can imagine, the truth lies somewhere in between. And over the coming years, as you observe my tenure at the Committee for Purchace, you'll have to make your own judgment as to what kind of bureaucrat I am. In addition to being a newcomer at the Committee, I'm also a neophyte in the blindness field. Although my mother-in-law is a legally blind diabetic and I purchased my lunch for years from a blind vendor in the Department of Commerce, when I joined the Committee eleven months ago, I really knew very little about the issues or the organizations in the blindness field. At that time I'd never heard of NFB, NIB, AFB, ACB, NBC (sorry), or any of the other organizations whose acronyms I now normally recognize. They say that education is the progressive discovery of our own ignorance, and I must say to you that as my education in this field has progressed, I have certainly become aware of how little I know. But I've been very fortunate to be able to pick the brains of some very knowledgeable people, including your own Jim Gashel and Marc Maurer. And I am certainly dedicated to learning as much as I can.
I hadn't been with the Committee very long when I heard about the National Federation of the Blind and some of your deep-rooted concerns about workshops and the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program. From what I'd heard, it was clear to me that you were a group that I needed to talk with. I needed to understand your perspective on the workshop movement. Toward that end I contacted Jim and arranged to visit your headquarters in Baltimore, talk with the staff, and learn more about what you are doing, what your visions were, what you thought of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program, and how we could work together to improve conditions in workshops and generate more employment and training opportunities for blind persons. That meeting and subsequent discussions paved the way for my appearance before you here today.
I appreciate that opportunity, and I thank you for having me. I want to say right now, too, that I apologize that I'm not going to be with you tonight at the banquet. But those of you who have children will understand why I booked a return flight early this afternoon, when my seven-year-old said to me, Mom, you have been out of town on business now for two Saturdays in the last month. And it's really not fair that you're going to be gone on Sunday, too. Maybe next year she will be more understanding, and I can stay with you longer. But I do appreciate the opportunity to be here.
I want to concentrate today, in the time that I have left, on those issues like upward mobility that I know are of particular importance to you in the NFB. But for those of you who may not be that familiar with the Javits-Wagner- O'Day program or the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped, I just want to very quickly give you some pertinent information. As President Maurer has said, the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Other Severely Handicapped is a federal agency. It's a very small, independent federal agency, and it is composed of fifteen members, who are appointed by the President of the United States, as well as a very small staff. Now you have heard the story about the young boy who after listening to his father tell stories about his office, asked his dad if he could go into work with him someday. Well, his father was delighted. After all, the child had never expressed any real interest in his work before. So the father said Great. He set it up and they went into the office, and the son, who was normally a very shy child, insisted on meeting everyone in the office. The father thought that was a bit strange, but he was pleased and arranged for him to meet with everyone. On the way home the father noticed that the child seemed rather downcast and dejected. The father said, Son, you seem a little disappointed. What's the matter? He said, Well Dad, I didn't get to meet any of the clowns you told me you worked with.
I'm pleased to tell you that none of the members of the Committee and none of the twelve other staff members that I work with are clowns. In fact, they truly are very dedicated individuals, who are doing the best they can to administer this program. The goal of the program, as you're well aware, is to generate jobs and income for blind and other severely disabled individuals. This is accomplished through the purchase of commodities and services from nonprofit workshops around the country employing the blind and other severely handicapped. When the program was initiated back in 1938, it focused solely on blind people. As I don't have to tell you, there weren't too many employment opportunities outside sheltered workshops at that time. The intent of the program was to provide stable employment opportunities for people who could not get them otherwise. It was their only job option. Today, I think in large part due to the work of NFB and other organizations, employment prospects are not quite as bleak as they were then. Notice I said not quite. Obviously, unemployment and under-employment rates among blind people are still appallingly high. Still, sheltered workshop employment is not the only option today. And as a result, the role of workshops and the role of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program are changing.
I want to just very briefly run through the types of roles that workshops can play in providing opportunities for blind persons to engage in productive employment. I think the appropriate role workshops can play varies considerably, depending on the abilities and the motivations and the interests of the people who are working in them. They can offer direct labor jobs. These are blue-collar jobs, if you will. They're often on an assembly line as part of a manufacturing process. And in earlier days, realistically, they were probably the kinds of jobs that most blind people could aspire to. However, things have changed.
Blind people, like Eileen [Rivera] and others, who are entering the job market today, do not have to look for direct labor jobs in workshops for employment. In fact, many of the younger blind people who are coming into workshops are multi-handicapped blind. Other people who are coming into workshops these days are older workers, some of whom have been there for years; and through discrimination, or perhaps their own personal preference, they have chosen to remain in workshops as opposed to going outside and being able to get competitive jobs. Others are people who have become blind like my mother-in-law in their older age and feel that a workshop is the easiest place for them to go. They either get skilled training so they can get competitive jobs on the outside or, in fact, stay and remain in the workshop. Whether or not those individuals are able to be promoted in the workshops and move into higher level positions of supervision, management, or certain indirect labor jobs which are higher paying and perhaps require more skills than the direct labor jobs is really a function of the individuals themselves, obviously the policies of workshops, and whether or not the individuals are interested in doing that kind of thing.
To a lesser degree, and it's just because of the number of jobs involved, the sheltered workshops offer employment opportunities in supervision and management positions as well as administration. These jobs are available, not only to people who have worked in the workshops in direct labor positions, but also for individuals who (again I'll use Eileen as an example) have come and worked in other organizations, have acquired skills and training, and are interested in applying those in running a sheltered workshop. In addition to the employment per se, workshops do offer training opportunities. Obviously in the case of the Lubbock situation, that training was probably...having people in training for twenty years, I think, is no one's idea of training. I would not suggest to you that that is appropriate. In short, I think workshops have the potential to be many things for many people. For some people workshops will never be a relevant part of their lives. For others they can provide the opportunity for productive employment.
I want to talk for a few minutes about what you're really interested in. That is, what is the Committee going to do to improve conditions in workshops and assure that they meet, to the maximum extent possible, employment and training needs of blind persons? Well, I've warned you that I'm a bureaucrat. True to form, I'm going to do something that no self-respecting bureaucrat would shirk doing. That is, I'm going to give you a caveat first. That is, the Committee itself is composed of fifteen people, thirteen of whom have other full-time jobs, and two of whom are retired. We have a very small staff. In addition to myself, there are twelve people. In addition, our primary function, as defined in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, is to designate items and price those items that the government will purchase from workshops. So there is a limit to what we can do with those contained resources.
Be that as it may, NFB and other organizations (including the United States Congress, of which Senator Metzenbaum is certainly an outstanding representative) have, over the past years, raised the consciousness levels of members of the committee, I think to an extent that perhaps they had not been raised before. And although they are very cognizant of their primary function, which is to consider which items should be purchased from workshops by the federal government, they are also willing to lend their influence to accomplish other objectives which are consistent with the goals of providing meaningful employment opportunities for blind persons.
There are a number of initiatives that we already have in place. I want to tell you briefly about them today. We have, in addition, a strategic planning meeting, the first the Committee has ever had.
It will be coming up fairly soon. We will be talking within the Committee about a number of issues that are of interest to NFB as well as other organizations working on employment issues related to the needs of blind and other severely disabled Americans. For the first time in the Committee's history, we expect to receive an appropriation from Congress this year that will enable us to do some research, to use objective, outside research organizations (be they consulting firms, research institutes, or university think tanks), which will look at the impact of this program and its operations to give us some data that we have not had in the past. We will be looking at some of the issues that I have discussed with Jim and with Marc as well as others relating to this program. And I think it will give us a solid foundation on which to move forward and on which to make some changes some additional changes I should say.
We have also within the last six months improved, and I think, expanded the Committee's own workshop review function. We have only two people that are devoted to this function. Two out of thirteen is a fairly significant portion of our staff. They spend much of the year on the road traveling to workshops. In the past they were in workshops for between four and six hours per workshop, which doesn't give you a lot of time to get a fairly in-depth knowledge of what's going on in the workshop. The focus of those visits was directly related to the Committee's statutory responsibility. We have now extended the time that will be spent in each workshop, and we have added to the agenda of that visit some things that have not been looked at in the past and which, while not necessarily related directly to our statutory responsibilities, are things that we feel are important for us to know about. One of the things that we'll be looking at (and this relates directly to the situation in Lubbock) is, instead of simply looking to see that a workshop, in fact, has an appropriate system for determining productivity and relating wages to that, we will go the next step and (in a summary way) check out whether or not that system is, in fact, being able to get implemented. As you all know, you can have the best system in the world, and if it's not implemented properly, it's not going to do any good. Again, the Department of Labor has the primary responsibility for this. We have, as a member of our committee, the deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. We have told her that we want to do more, but we recognize that it is their primary responsibility, and so when we see problems, we will be flagging them, bringing them to their attention, and asking Labor to go in and take a hard look. She has committed to doing that.
We will be talking with the workers, which is something that we have not done much of in the past. I encourage those of you who work in workshops or know people who do to let them know that when the Committee staff comes in for a visit at the workshop, they will be wanting to talk to a select number of individuals. If they are interested in sharing with them their complaints, any praise they might have (that's always nice to have obviously), the door is open. I told Jim and Marc back in January, when I visited your Center in Baltimore, that my door was open, too. If they heard of situations in workshops that were participating in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program that they were concerned about, I would like them to bring them to my attention, and we would look into them.
Another thing that we're doing is increasing emphasis on upward mobility. We've been influenced by NFB and others as well in this regard. We are for the first time collecting specific data on various aspects of upward mobility. In addition to just looking at who got a raise, which might or might not be too significant, we're also looking at who got raises in conjunction with true promotions to other jobs and those who move into management and supervisory positions. We are asking this not only during our on-site sessions, but at the end of the year every workshop participating in our program must provide us with that information.
We are also asking workshops for the first time to tell us what percentage of their non-direct labor staff, in other words their management, supervisory, and administrative staff (in the case of blind workers) is blind or legally blind.
We are also talking with the members of the boards of these various organizations. These are, for the most part, nonprofit organizations. They are controlled by local boards, and in talking with them we are trying to raise their consciousness levels as well. We are specifically asking them if they have a policy of hiring blind or, in the case of the other severely disabled population, those folks for management and supervisory positions when they come open. And if they say that they don't, we ask them if they would consider doing such a thing. We've also talked in a preliminary way about wages. That's an issue that we will continue to focus on, hopefully talking with your leaders in NFB.
And as I said, I do want to have a continuing dialogue with NFB to make sure that we're aware of the issues that you're concerned with, to have your ideas. We're not going to agree on everything. I think that's obvious. Even where we agree on a goal, we may not agree on the approach to achieving it. But I think it is certainly in the Committee's interest, and I hope it is in yours as well, to have a continuing dialogue.
While I was at the Commerce Department, I ran an economic development planning program among other things. I worked a lot with planners around the country. They convinced me that planning ahead is an important thing. I'm not as obsessive about it as the Soviet citizen who had worked for a long time filling out the forms to get a car. Finally he was at the last step, and he was told that his application to get a car had been approved. And the fellow said to him, You should come back ten years from today, and you can pick it up. Well, the citizen looked at him and didn't even seem taken aback. He just said, Should I come in the morning or the afternoon? The official said, What difference could it possibly make ten years from now? And the fellow said, I've got the plumber scheduled in the morning.
I don't plan that far head. My plans aren't that long-term. But I do plan to be available to work with NFB, and I hope to be invited to come back and be with you at next year's convention as well. Thank you.
President Maurer then responded to the speaker as follows: Mrs. Milkman, I want to say something to you about what you've said, like this. You say that you are going to go and talk to the workers. I think that's admirable. I think you should. But you must keep in mind that when you go to a workshop, you are on workshop territory, and the workshop management will no doubt bring out a worker or two to talk to you. And no doubt that worker will have something to say. And no doubt the picture will not be exactly the same as if you were in the home, in the kitchen of the workshop worker. If you want to know what is happening in the workshops with blind workers, then you must come, and you must speak to the blind. And the blind workers in those shops are here in this room.
For the first question, I'll recognize Dr. Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan. Mrs. Milkman, keeping in mind that what we are saying is not only being tape recorded but going on to video tape and that we are speaking for the record, I want to say something to you and ask you to respond to it. For the record. We have been told repeatedly by the sheltered shops in this country that they cannot afford to pay even minimum wages. Many of them pay sub-minimum wages. And we are being told that it is because they do not have the funds.
At the same time as the American Foundation for the Blind has apparently begun to diminish its financial contributions to the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC), which has done so very much to hurt blind people in this country, and which the blind of this country have rejected overwhelmingly, National Industries for the Blind, which is a combination of the sheltered workshops, officially voted in June that it would pay (as I understand it) up to $200,000 a year as a direct grant to support NAC. This money comes from the wages of workers. Yes, I know it's not called that, but it does come from the wages of workers. So we're asked to believe that they can't afford to pay even the minimum wage, but they can afford to pay a couple of hundred thousand for an outfit that doesn't do anything to help blind people. And, in addition to that, they do it with federal money. Yes, I know it's not called a direct federal subsidy, but they are given federal contracts by law, channeled through your agency, and these are given on a monopoly basis. There isn't anything that's more important than trying to have some honesty in the administration of this program, and as far as I'm concerned that doesn't mean taxing the workers for what the workers have rejected and doing it with a federal monopoly. I want to know, as unequivocally as you are prepared to tell me, what is it that the Committee can do or will do to see that this kind of disgraceful action is discontinued? Mrs. Milkman . That's a tough one. As I have spoken with Jim Gashel at some length, as well as Marc Maurer, the Committee has certain responsibilities under the legislation with regard to the National Industries for the Blind, which is an independent, nonprofit organization with an independent board of directors. We do have responsibility for overseeing some of the operations of that organization. In fact, when this issue was brought to my attention in late spring by NFB, I spoke with the NIB president. I also asked the chairman of the board of the NIB, the president, and another member of the board to come to my office in Washington to brief me on their plans with regard to support of the National Accreditation Council. What I asked them was to give me information on the kinds of things they were considering what steps had they taken to assure themselves that NAC, as it's called, was being an effective organization or had the prospect of being an effective organization in the accreditation field. And I said that on behalf of the Committee I thought that it was important that they thoroughly and carefully consider the decision that they were preparing to make. In addition, I spent one of the Saturdays that I referred to earlier in my remarks last month traveling to Mississippi, where I met with the board of the National Industries for the Blind. I explained to them that I had read the material which NFB had prepared on the National Accreditation Council. I had also read material that was provided by NAC itself as well as the American Foundation for the Blind, which of course, has been supporting NAC for many years. I told them that, while I was satisfied that support of NAC was not inconsistent with the overall objectives of the National Industries for the Blind, I felt that before they made the decision to support it they needed to look very carefully at just how effective an organization it was, what the prospects were for improving it. There is no question, from things that I have read and the NIB board members said this to me, too that NAC could be improved. In fact, in talking with them later I suggested that NFB could play a role in helping to reform NAC. That may be very naive, but that's where I'm coming from. I am the kind of person that believes that you work together on things. At any rate, I made it very clear, on behalf of the Committee (but saying to the NIB board of directors that the Committee had not voted on this and had not discussed it, although I had discussed it with members of the Committee). I thought this was a very serious decision for them to make. I wanted to make sure that they took a number of things into account, including, what has NAC done to benefit blind people?
Dr. Jernigan . Look, Mrs. Milkman, here's where we are, though. That's all very well, but what that really said to them was, okay even though there may be some reform needed. But I think you should understand where we're coming from. If the Foundation, which has poured millions into NAC, feels it has to withdraw I know they have put out a press release to the contrary but I know they have diminished support (that's why NIB is picking it up). They told NAC to get their act together, or else they couldn't continue. Assuming, however, that NAC was the best outfit in the world, assuming that it was exemplary, made up of saints, I don't see how on earth you can justify taking $200,000 of federal monopoly money out of the wages of workers who don't even get minimum wage to give in a grant to an outfit like that. Surely you have enough problems without our having to go to Congress and see if we can get them to start applying pressure to your Committee and creating what some will call an unreasonable row. But we're not going to let this pass. We're not going to try if you've read the material you'll know why to sit down with NAC and work it out. NAC's about to die, and we're going to help it do that.
You have here between two and three thousand delegates representing the blind of this country. A lot of people claim to represent the blind, but if you look about you, you will see here, not just people who are here for themselves, but for their local chapters and state organizations back home. We are the blind of this country and representative of the blind of this country, elected by the blind community to represent them. And we tell you, officially and formally, and for the record, that we believe it is immoral. We believe it is illegal for NIB to take the money that it has from the shops and give it to any organization in this manner and especially to give it to NAC. I don't know whether you want to comment further, but that's our opinion.
President Maurer . I would add one thing. I spoke to you about NAC in January when you came to the Center. You said you'd get back to me with information. It occurred to me in March, since I had heard a rumor that perhaps NAC would be funded by NIB, that I should call you, which I did. I raised the question with you. You assured me that it wasn't going to happen. Then I heard in late May or early June that it either had happened or was in imminent danger of happening that NIB would vote to support NAC. So I called your office once again, and I said, What about this support of NAC? So far, I have not received a return phone call from your office. Now I learned the information anyway. But it does seem to me that a matter which I have told you is of central importance to this organization might have warranted a little more investigation. Mrs. Milkman . I'd like to respond to that. First of all, you did raise it with me. I don't remember, frankly, that you raised it in January, but you did raise it in March. I did talk with the National Industries for the Blind, which at that time told me that they had no plans to do it, and I told you that. I either told you or Jim. With regard to your subsequent call in June (and perhaps this was my error) I have been talking with Jim Gashel, and I think Jim can confirm this. He and I have had several conversations about this matter. President Maurer . The reason that you had them is that I said to him, I have called her office, and so far I don't have the information, and I now have information from another source which suggests strongly to me that it is confirmed and that there is money going out of NIB and into NAC's treasury. Call and find out. He called and found out. I didn't get it from you. He got it from you because I told him to go find it.
Mrs. Milkman . It's not worth getting into a Who shot John over it, but I feel that I have lived up to my responsibility as a public official to communicate with you. I feel that I have been very open with you. In fact, there are many in the blind field who are not here today, who are members of other organizations, and who are not happy that I have been so open with you. I'm a public official, and I view this as my responsibility, and obviously, this is a group that I must listen to, and I will.
President Maurer . I should say this to you, Mrs. Milkman. I hope that we don't get into a problem of mis-assessing, because we are committed on this issue, as you have seen by this convention, and we don't want to have an abrasive relationship. But if it is required for decent wages and working conditions in the workshops, we will regard it as no real choice, and we will have to have one. We will bring to the attention of the Congress that this money is being spent in the way that it is and that it's not going into the pockets of blind people. They say they can't pay this money, and yet there seems to be at least a $200,000 surplus, and that ought to be used for the blind. We'll tell the members of Congress that.
Mr. Schroeder . It seems to me that there are six thousand jobs through the sheltered workshop system around the United States that are supported, in large part, by the federal government. Those are jobs that blind people desperately need to have, but we need to have reasonable wages in those jobs. The workshops say, first of all, that they employ multi-handicapped people, who after all, can't produce that much, and that's why they have to pay them sub-minimum wages. In our agency in New Mexico in 1986, the Commission for the Blind then included a sheltered workshop. That workshop was paying sub-minimum wages, and on June 30th of one year they had sub-minimum wages, and the very next day we just went in and upped everybody to minimum wage. We didn't go and fire anybody or turn over any of the workforce. We didn't change it by one person. Not only did we up everybody to minimum wage, we took the so-called work activity people, who in some cases were getting as little as $5 in a two-week work period, we upped all of them to minimum wage, and we're still making a profit. Blind people are working hard and are profitable, and the sheltered workshop system is just frankly systematically exploiting the condition of unemployment. In connection with that, I want to say quickly on that upward mobility business, I was very disappointed last year when the General Council of Workshops for the Blind published what they regard as an upward mobility plan. If you read it carefully, they have framed it in such a way that their statistics will shoot up, looking like all kinds of blind people are getting raises when they aren't. For example, it says that if you go from a status where you are presumed not to be employable outside, to a status where you are employable, that's a raise that's a promotion. So a guy who gets a rehab case opened on him, that's a promotion. A guy who goes from direct labor to non-direct labor, even if he doesn't get one penny more in wages, he's considered to be promoted. A guy who goes from working in the shop to working on the outside, which is a good thing, even if he doesn't get an increase in pay, even if he took a decrease in pay, by virtue of going to a job outside the shop, he's considered to be promoted. I think that what we're talking about is integrity, and the workshop system has lost faith with blind people. That's why you see the emotion that you see. We need you to help us correct that situation.
Mrs. Milkman . I was listening to Fred earlier, and I applaud what he has done in New Mexico. I think that's something that we need to see if other workshops can do around the country. I look forward to working with Fred in that regard. With respect to the General Council of Workshops and their promotion policies, I did get a copy of the letter that Fred wrote. I think he's probably sent one to me. I can't remember exactly how it came into my hands, but I read it, and I had a very similar reaction to what Fred had. I met with the General Council of Workshops on this matter, discussed with them why they had done it that way, what it was all about, the fact that I felt it was misleading, and in fact appeared to be a very defensive kind of thing as Fred just said. They explained to me what they had in mind and what they didn't have in mind. They agreed that perhaps it had not been a particularly well-worded statement of policy and that they would change it. I think that we probably all know what a promotion is and what it isn't. And I think the General Council does, too. I understand, as I say, their motivation in doing it, and I don't think it was intentionally to mislead, but it certainly came across that way, and they agree with that, and it will be changed.
Mr. Maurer . I believe I understand their motivation, also. The NIB people and the General Council of Workshops are the same, you know. They wanted to say that they were doing a great job in the workshops. So they came up with a standard to say that a lot of people were multiply handicapped in those shops and that you couldn't really expect as much of the multiply handicapped. What did you have to do to be multiply handicapped? Well, if you were twenty pounds overweight and blind, you were multi handicapped. It's that kind of thing that makes a person suspicious. They may have had the best intentions in the world, but on the other hand, blind people are still getting less than the minimum wage. I talked with a man at this convention about wages of a $1.68 an hour. How many people at NIB get that kind of money? They all get more, and you know they do.
Jessie Lee . To the officials of NFB, to the honorable Senator from Ohio, Mrs. Milkman, and rank and file NFB members and their associates who came to this wonderful convention, I'm here from Rochester, New York. And the story I'd like to tell you is not a good story, but it must be told. We blind members in Rochester are considered clients who have to be toilet-trained, who have to have assistance to get decent housing, and who are paid less than the minimum wage. Myself, I was a member of the United States Air Force, I was a crew chief in the Strategic Air Command, I was stationed in New York, and I was honorably discharged. I've had over fifteen years of managerial experience. I have an undergraduate degree in business administration; I have a master's in public administration. Both degrees came from Washington, D.C. And do you believe it? I can only make $4.21 an hour right now. It's unbelievable!
The state of New York paid for the Association to find me a job. They have a placement agency there. They wanted me to pay $17.50 per hour for them to locate a job. Up front. They never found a job. Yet and still, seven jobs came through the Association for jobs there at the Association in the range of $22,000 to $45,000 a year. I was never told of any of those jobs. Why? Because they say I am mentally retarded and I cannot work at the Association for the Blind. If those jobs are not gainful employment, why do they want to work there?
As far as your Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, Mrs. Milkman, I think you should look more into it because they say at the Association in Rochester, it does not apply to the blind. It only applies to the sighted. That is on the record. They even have educational programs for the sighted. They have nothing there for the blind or the disabled. Your upward mobility program is for the birds. If you want to work in the workshop and go from bench to bench or become a material handler, then you are in upward mobility. But if you want to be a supervisor or an administrator, which I am, that is a no-no because you are blind. We pay federal taxes every year. What are they going for? Why do we have subsidized discrimination? The federal jobs that you are overseeing come from our pocketbooks, but we do not get the benefit from them. We have people in Rochester making $40 a week one dollar an hour. It costs more than that for them to get the liftline to work. I don't hear anybody saying anything about that.
The Congress and the President talk about all the atrocities that happen in China and Russia; what about the human rights of the blind in the United States? You know, the time has far passed. It's time that we stand up for our rights because we have no help in many areas. The Honorable Senator from Ohio is only one; there are 99 more Senators there. We have 435 House members. They all must be informed about the issue. The food they put on their tables, the rent they get for their homes, come from the taxpayers, and we are taxpayers.
As the old saying has it (you've heard it on radio and television), the Negro College Fund says that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. In the closing of Martin Luther King's speech in 1963 in Washington, D.C., he said, Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we're free at last. Thank you and God bless.
President Maurer . And I would say to you, Mrs. Milkman, here is a man who has had much experience in the work world. He is offered a job at a workshop. That job is a direct labor kind of a job, where he works at a bench. He is not offered any kind of supervisory job although he has applied for a number. What can the Committee do? What is the Committee prepared to do to see that discrimination that occurs in those shops comes to an end? Mrs. Milkman . As I indicated before, at this point what the Committee is doing is asking for data and, in meeting with board members as well as executive directors of workshops (but the board members are the ones who set many of the employment policies), asking them if they are committed to hiring blind people in management and supervisory positions. Whether or not we will go beyond that will be up to the Committee. I can promise you this. It is a question that will be addressed and addressed soon.
President Maurer . Mrs. Milkman, I appreciate your coming to the meeting. I knew when you came, and I'm sure that you knew when you came, that direct questions would be asked of you. I knew when you came that some of the past we have discussed (although it is a brief past) would be brought to your attention. I'm sure that you knew it. Yet you came here representing the agency of which you are executive director, and you came here with good spirit to talk with us about programs that are going to be initiated there. Our direct speech undoubtedly will remain; yours undoubtedly will also remain. Nevertheless, I hope that we will be able to work more closely in the future. We will say, as we have told you, what we think is right. We expect the same of you, and we know we can count upon it. So thank you very much for coming and especially for your good spirit. Mrs. Milkman . Thank you as well. And I look forward to working with you all of you.
By Jana S. Moynihan
This article appeared in the July, 1989, edition of The Blind Missourian, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. Jana Moynihan is one of the long-time leaders of the Missouri affiliate. Her perspective is valuable and helps to remind us all how far we have come as a movement. Here is what she has to say:
Sitting in the middle of the Missouri delegation at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind this year, I heard President Maurer give the registered attendance figures for his first convention in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1969. He compared the figures of that convention (731) with the registration figures for the 1989 convention we were attending (2,012). He wanted to know how much the Federation had grown during that twenty-year period.
It is good to reflect on our past, I thought as a flood of memories about that same 1969 convention, my own first convention, swept over me. Many changes have taken place in the Federation over the last twenty years which can be clearly seen at our national conventions. Yet many things remain the same. It is good to see where we have come from at the same time as we look ahead. The strong contrast in size between the two conventions is not the only sign of change over the last twenty years. In 1969 we had at least six or eight fewer affiliates than now. The ghosts of the 1961 Federation Civil War appeared during the Roll Call of the States in 1969. Alabama, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Florida, and some others failed to appear among the delegations. Great enthusiasm and excitement were generated by the presence of Kansas and Illinois among the delegations in 1969. They had been organized during the previous year. This showed that the NFB was on the move and growing again. Today we have all 50 states and the District of Columbia as affiliates.
At that 1969 convention Missouri had about thirty delegates. Most other states, except Iowa, had about the same number. State representatives introduced every member of their delegations during the Roll Call of the States. I was the only member of our delegation under thirty-five years of age. Today introducing every delegate would be impossible. In fact, 1969 may have been the last year it was done.
Perhaps my comparison of the two conventions may be colored by the changes in my own life during the twenty-year period. I came to the 1969 convention a twenty-four-year-old graduate student working on an MA in history. I lived with my parents and had no job although I hoped to teach junior college history in a year or two. Today, after a seven-year stint as a behavioral therapist, I have completed ten years as an investigator with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. I obtained this last position, in part, through my participation in the Federation. I brought with me a husband, whom I met at the 1978 NFB convention, and two children. Naturally, the changes in my lifestyle have some bearing on what I do at conventions today compared to what I did at my first convention and on what does or doesn't attract my maximum attention.
I recall that there were fewer young people at that first convention although there were many students attending their first or second convention in 1969. The Student Division of the Federation had been organized only a year or two before. Also, except for the delegation from Iowa, many delegates seemed hesitant in their mobility skills. Many older delegates carried collapsible canes or the old wooden crooked canes reminiscent of Bo Peep. One often saw five or six delegates, with hands on the shoulders of the person in front, snake through the hotel led by a sighted guide or, lacking that, by someone with some sight. They reminded me of work gangs with invisible chains bonding them together whether they liked it or not. This year, I saw few delegates who could not travel competently and no more chain gangs wending their way through the convention. Most delegates carried the long fiberglass cane.
Today's convention revealed blind persons in a wider variety of jobs, including professional positions. There are many more minority delegates: Blacks, Hispanics, and persons of Asian heritage. More families are attending, too. There were scarcely any small children in attendance in 1969. In recent years we have established childcare and in 1989 had at least fifty-one children of delegates or blind children of parents who were attending, and that didn't count children who felt they were too old for childcare and were pursuing the type of entertainment teen-agers enjoy.
In 1969, as I recall, we had no blind children at the convention. Of course, we didn't have a Parents of Blind Children Division either. It was good to see the number of children going around the convention this year who were using canes and beginning to develop a knowledge of their own competence and strength through the Federation. It was also good to see their parents actively involved in learning Federation philosophy to pass on to them. The Parents of Blind Children Division is not the only new division or committee established in the last twenty years. In 1969 we had plenty of time to socialize in a small hospitality room, singing around a piano or sitting at tables talking. This year there were seminars, workshops, and meetings going on almost every evening during the convention and during the three days and evenings preceding. While some of these committees and divisions existed in 1969, most have come along since then. Thanks to the numerous leadership seminars and increased communication between the National Board and the state affiliates and general membership, the delegates seem much more aware of the issues being discussed than in 1969. There also seems to be a greater consensus and spirit of cooperation at all levels. Some of the issues at convention this year were also raised in 1969. However, in most cases we can see considerable progress. For example, the problem of low wages and unfair treatment of workers in sheltered shops by management was discussed then as it was this year. However, the blind did not then have the tools to bring the National Labor Relations Board and the unions to our assistance. Through the persistence and force of the Federation, we have these tools today. In 1969 organizing shop workers into unions was only a hoped-for dream. Today, in several instances, it is reality. The same can be said for issues regarding blind vendors. We now have the changes in the law which permit and allow for protection of vendor rights. This was only partially the case in 1969.
In 1969 NAC was only dawning as an issue on the horizon. After almost two decades of unremitting struggle to defeat NAC during the 1970s and '80s, NAC received only minimal comment in the Presidential Report. On the other hand, the airlines seemed to present no threat or problem to blind people during the 1969 convention. In 1969 most of us felt fairly confident that Braille was here to stay. After the technological revolution in the 1970s and 1980s, we find Braille endangered and must rise to make people aware of its value and the need for it to be taught to blind children. In 1969 Iowa had the leading program for the blind in the country because of the Iowa Commission for the Blind where Dr. Jernigan was director. The Iowa delegation evidenced great satisfaction and pride. Today Federation members have learned that State programs can change for the worse as well as the better. We have learned that it is necessary to establish our own centers demonstrating how programs for the blind should function and to advocate that Social Security funds now given to state agencies be distributed through a voucher system to allow blind individuals in need of training to select the programs they believe will most benefit them. The Missouri delegation in 1969 was essentially the Kansas City Chapter. I think we had only two or three members at large from other parts of the state. Kansas City was the only chapter in the Missouri affiliate. Many of the faces of that 1969 convention are gone. Owen Rittgers and Tiny Beedle and Bob Peterson are almost the only members still active. The others are deceased or have dropped out along the way. The same is true of names which were familiar to all Federationists in 1969. Muzzy Marcelino, Tony Mannino, and Isabelle Grant have all gone to their reward. John Taylor, Manuel Urena and Mae Davidow differed with us in philosophy, attacked us, and eventually were left behind by the movement.
Just as in 1969, the banquet is the highlight of the convention. In 1969 Dr. Jernigan gave the banquet speech in the second year of his presidency. President Marc Maurer, a somewhat rowdy undergraduate student in 1969, gave an excellent speech this year. In 1969 I don't recall much of an overflow at the banquet. This year many tables had to be set in the lobby after the Grand Ballroom had filled. Those in the lobby enjoyed the banquet through closed circuit television hook-up. The banquet in 1989, as well as the entire convention, was videotaped. This was not the case in 1969. The method of preservation was audio tape only. In case anyone wants an idea of how much it cost to go to convention in the good old days, here are some comparisons. Registration this year was about $5.00 per person. I don't think this has changed more than a dollar or two over the years. However, this year's banquet was $20.00 per person. In South Carolina, I think it was $10.00 or less. I know that the room rates in 1969 were $12.50 for a double. This year they were $28.00 for a double. There was a $100.00 door prize drawn at the beginning of each session in 1969 as there is now, but the value of other cash prizes seems to have increased with inflation. I recall that in 1969 we were just about as happy over a $5.00 or $10.00 prize as over the $25.00 cash prizes of today. But then isn't the real value about the same? One thing I am glad to see hasn't changed about the NFB national convention is the optimism, power, and enthusiasm that emanate from the delegates and surge through our movement. This commitment inspired and moved me to become an active part of that movement at my first convention in 1969. It raises my spirits today. I can't help believing that the students attending their first convention in 1989 will find the NFB convention as awesome and inspiring as I found my first convention.
by Barbara Pierce
Most Americans who watch television at all regularly are familiar with an attractive young woman who cavorts around a cruise ship among equally glamorous representatives of both sexes. She sings a maddening little ditty that bounces around the brain for hours after she has danced off camera. It begins:
If they could see me now
on a sun-filled cruise
Eating fancy food and doing what I choose.
The purpose, of course, of all this mindless propaganda is to persuade the viewer that he or she would fit into such a scene after putting down several hundred dollars for up to seven days of steaming around the Caribbean on a Carnival Cruise ship. The only real objection to this Madison-Avenue hype is that, if you can't see that actress now, Carnival doesn't want you or your money. (See the story in the August, 1989, issue of the Braille Monitor, Litigation Filed Against Carnival Cruise Lines. ) As so often happens, attention focused on one example of discrimination results in other incidents' being brought to light. After reading about the Urbanek case in August, Marilyn Womble (the energetic President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida) sent the National Office copies of letters she had received from various officials while she was working on a Carnival Cruise case in her state. The situation, which involved Joyce Thorton, a member of the NFB of Florida, was all too common. In March of 1987 Ms. Thorton was a member of a foursome of blind people who wanted to vacation together in the Caribbean. The other couple had a nine-year-old daughter, and Thorton used a dog guide. The cruise line was willing to admit the humans to the ship under certain conditions, but the dog was another matter. Carnival thumbed its corporate nose at the concept of White Cane Laws. Its ships did not sail under the American flag, and its cruise would be in international waters, so no dog period and no discussion. Moreover, each couple would have to find a sighted adult to bunk in the cabin with them someone who could provide them with all the extra information Carnival thought they would need and who could take care of them in case of an emergency. In vain did the four argue that all they required was a little orientation at the beginning of the cruise. Talk of independence and competence was lost on Carnival officials. Negotiations had reached an impasse.
At that time Ms. Thorton did not know of the Federation, and her friends did not like to make waves. She, on the other hand, was not about to introduce a sighted companion into her cabin during her vacation.
She began to look for another cruise line. In the midst of the discussions with the Carnival people, Thorton had ascertained that the Holland America Line had no objections to a dog and would not insist on sighted guides for its blind passengers, but their cruises were not what the four were seeking. She discovered that the Cunard Line would be delighted to have the four as guests. The dog would be no trouble; the steward could place a sandbox near the cabin for the dog's convenience. But Thorton's friends were looking for a less expensive vacation. Late in the spring they contacted the Norwegian Line. They learned that the Norway would be sailing in the Caribbean for seven days in June. At first the Norwegian officials offered the same objections that Carnival had. But Thorton refused to consider paying for a sighted companion to stay in her cabin, and eventually, with poor grace, the requirement was waived. The dog, however, was another matter. At this point Thorton contacted Marilyn Womble, and together they went to the Miami City Attorney, Janet Reno, who was very interested in the case. She assured Womble that if Thorton wanted to report to the ship with her dog, Reno would have police there to back her claim that the dog could accompany her. But again, Thorton's friends did not want a scene, so she did not press the point.
As they were about to board, however, a Norwegian official bustled up with a waiver for them to sign, releasing Norwegian from responsibility for any accidental injury to them that might occur. They refused to sign the paper. The official was angry, but she did not stop them from taking their places on the ship. The cruise was a huge success despite its difficult beginning and the absence of Thorton's dog. The crew was inexperienced with blind people, but they were willing to learn and were not overly protective. They mentioned to Thorton that they had had a dog guide on board once before and that there had been no difficulty with it. They couldn't imagine why management would take such an absurd view of the matter a reaction which confirms again our contention that such rules are devised in corporate headquarters, at a safe remove from anyone who knows anything about the matter in question.
Meanwhile, Marilyn Womble was seeing what could be done to educate Carnival. It appeared that the answer was not much. Carnival officials demanded that she come tour a ship so they could show her how dangerous it was for blind people. Wishing to keep the discussion focused on principles, Womble at first refused. It became clear, however, that principles were far beyond the capacity of the folk at Carnival.
Mrs. Womble eventually agreed to tour a ship and did so with officials, pointing out as she went how the white cane supplies information that the blind person needs. They were dazzled by her performance. Did it convince them that they were mistaken in their assessment of the abilities of blind people? Certainly not. They dismissed Mrs. Womble's performance on the grounds that she has a tiny bit of vision (Womble says that, with her lack of depth perception, she can't trust her sight at all) and that, since she is a state president of a national organization, she is clearly more competent than most blind people.
Some people ask us why we resort to attorneys and the courts so often. But when logic and reason fail, what alternative is there? Here is the letter that the Associate General Counsel for Carnival Cruise Lines, Greggory Rand, sent to Congressman William Lehman of Florida, one of the people whom Mrs. Womble contacted in her effort to bring enough pressure to bear on Carnival to make their company policy comply with Florida law. It is clear that so far, at least, Carnival officials see nothing but sweet reason and corporate considerateness for their passengers in their policy. Here is what the attorney had to say:
June 6, 1989
The Honorable William Lehman
Dear Congressman Lehman:
We are in receipt of your letter dated April 4, 1989, wherein you address the topic of Carnival's policy regarding blind passengers. We appreciate your concern with this issue and that you have taken the time to pursue this matter on behalf of Ms. Marilyn Womble and blind individuals in general. In response to your letter, I would like to first describe our specific policy and the reasoning behind its implementation. Secondly, I would like to give you an overview of the policies of the other major cruise lines on this same subject. Lastly, I will outline the recent changes in our policy, stemming from our meeting with Ms. Womble.
Carnival's long-standing policy has been that all passengers desirous of traveling aboard our ships must be self- sufficient and if not, they must be accompanied by an able- bodied, sighted companion who will take responsibility for any physical assistance needed during the cruise and in case of emergency. [Let us interrupt here to note that Carnival has remained deaf to the pleas of self-sufficient blind people that all they want is to be left in peace to enjoy independently their days of sea and sun. But back to the text.] It is essential to understand the nature of taking a cruise on the high seas and some of the hazards which most people do not consider beforehand. As I am sure you are aware, travel on the high seas involves inherent risks not found in land-based travel accommodations and leisure facilities. A fire, explosion, or collision are potential calamities which history has proven can and do occur. In serious situations such as these, each passenger's chances of survival are directly related to his/her ability to move swiftly and uninhibitedly to their designated lifeboat station. Additionally, the ships, on rare occasion, do encounter heavy weather. If the passenger is incapacitated or not self-sufficient, he is especially dependent upon his limited abilities and his traveling companion(s) for assistance during this precarious time. [Let us interrupt again to point out that the natural extension of the Carnival policy would require that any sighted passenger incapacitated by sea sickness during heavy weather should be required to bring an assistant not subject to the same malady in case of storm.]
During the course of a typical seven-day voyage, this potential for injury exists for approximately 132-1/2 hours during which the vessel is at sea, and is one reason Carnival, as a basic premise, requires that each passenger be self-sufficient. If a passenger is not self-sufficient for any reason (i.e., an infant, confinement to a wheelchair, blindness, etc.), then as stated previously, we require that he travel with someone who is self-sufficient and will take responsibility for attending to any special needs as well as assisting him around the ship. [Carnival, of course, reserves the right to determine which passengers are self-sufficient and which are not. What is it about the travel industry that convinces its members that they are omniscient that they know better than the disabled adult whether extra assistance by the crew will be necessary? But back to Mr. Rand.] Primarily this policy is for his own safety and so as not to hinder the safe and efficient movement of other passengers. All ships are constructed with unique structural designs which are mandatory for compliance with the various classification societies and vessel flag registrations. Examples of these structural anomalies not found in your local Holiday Inn or Hyatt Regency include raised thresholds in entry and passageways, narrow staircases, fire door strips on the floors as well as changes in floor elevation in various areas. Negotiation of these and other structural components of a large cruise ship, even in calm waters, for a person who is not self-sufficient, can be difficult. [No one debates this point, but why should a competent dog guide or cane user be so classified?] It will come as no surprise to you that we receive claims from able-bodied passengers related to these unique architectural and structural designs. You can therefore appreciate the risks faced by a disabled person if the vessel is rolling heavily in bad weather or he is faced with an emergency situation.
Our primary goal is to ensure that our passengers enjoy a safe, comfortable, and thoroughly pleasurable cruise. We believe that we owe our stockholders, employees, and passengers a duty to implement risk-reducing policies so long as those policies remain within the bounds of the law and reflect sound business judgment. [When writing to a member of the United States Congress, Carnival apparently feels more compulsion to pay lip service to the laws of the United States than it does when brow-beating a potential passenger.] Other cruise operators employ the same or similar policies with respect to passengers who are not self-sufficient, whether they are technically handicapped or not. Contrary to the understanding stated in your letter, Carnival is not one of the few cruise lines that has such a policy. Carnival, along with numerous others in the cruise industry, is well aware of the potential dangers and liabilities that exist in these circumstances and consequently has taken the requisite precautions to protect its passengers. Following an investigation into this matter, it has come to our attention that at least seven (7) major cruise lines: specifically, Norwegian Cruise Lines; Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; Princess Cruises, Inc.; Holland American Cruise Lines; Dolphin Cruise Lines; Chandris Cruise Lines; and Commodore Cruise Lines all have the same or similar policies concerning non-able-bodied passengers. Each cruise line implements its policy in one form or another with the same goal in mind: safety of the passenger. I will be happy to provide you with copies of each of the above-mentioned cruise lines' brochures discussing this subject, upon request. As per our policy, we review each passenger's reported medical condition(s) and after conferring with the respective passenger and if necessary his physician(s) and our own medical directors, we determine what requirements are necessary to accomplish these goals. [This policy sounds more reasonable than it is. Conferences with blind passengers at any rate seem to be limited to inflexible announcements of Carnival's requirements.] Obviously we desire to sell as many tickets as our supply of cabin-space allows and therefore seek to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, boarding denial (we usually provide a full refund in these instances). We, however, must then temper those pure business considerations with our obligations to the safety and comfort of the passenger to whom boarding was denied, as well as all other passengers and our shareholders.
As communicated to Ms. Womble when she first contacted Carnival, it was our perception that given the exigencies associated with travel on the high seas, that a blind person (as well as others) might have difficulty and that therefore, the individual must be accompanied by a sighted companion. That perception was based upon our reasonable evaluation that a blind person might have more difficulty in a ship than a sighted person for the reasons stated hereinafter. Ms. Womble expressed her belief that our perceptions were wrong and that blind individuals are as capable as sighted persons on ocean going vessels. We suggested that Ms. Womble accede to a shipboard experiment to show us that we were mistaken. Ms. Womble's response was that she wouldn't stoop so low and that she and the Federation for the Blind would file suit (the quote is Ms. Womble's own words). [And the mistake in the name of her organization belongs to Mr. Rand.] After many conversations Ms. Womble finally agreed with our suggestion and did come to Miami to take a tour on the vessel Mardi Gras at Port Everglades, Florida. I am attaching a copy of a letter to Ms. Womble sent shortly after that tour which describes the results of that tour and our agreement to modify our policy. The conclusions drawn were that although Ms. Womble was quite impressive in her ability to get around the ship, that she was clearly not average (i.e. she is not totally blind being able to perceive light, dark, and shapes; she is independent and self-confident as is best displayed by her position as President of her chapter of the National Federation for the Blind among other life accomplishments). Carnival's modified case-by-case considerations in allowing the blind passenger to travel alone will include (1) whether the individual has taken prior cruises, (2) the independence of the individual, and (3) prior experiences in handling situations on an independent basis. [And how in the name of all that is rational will Carnival officials determine whether a given passenger is independent or has had past experience in handling things independently? Only open-minded discussion with a disabled potential passenger could elicit such information, and Carnival has already demonstrated unwillingness to believe what blind people say about their abilities. But back to the letter.] The final decision, of course, is Carnival's as to whether any individual shall be allowed to sail on our ships. This is a measure that remains the same, regardless of the nature of the medical condition under consideration.
Please keep in mind that with respect to medical-related issues, at no time have we refused passage to anyone, including blind people, unless we determined from the empirical data provided to us that the presence on board of any individual would be a hazard to himself, the other passengers, or the ship.
In summary, we categorically deny Ms. Womble's charge of discrimination. As discussed in detail above, Carnival has its policy requirements in place for the benefit of the concerned passenger, the benefit of other passengers, and to the extent possible, to protect the Company and its shareholders against the potential for unique, high-risk claims presented by a broad spectrum of medical conditions. This is not discrimnation, but is a sound business practice. [Apparently Mr. Rand's unfamiliarity with what constitutes discrimination extends to the proper spelling of the word.]
We regret that we were not able to provide a response prior to Representative Claude Pepper's death. We nonetheless have copied this letter to his office with the realization that a member of his staff will be its recipient. We trust that this provides you with the information you seek in order to determine that Carnival's present policy regarding blind passengers, modified as outlined above, does not amount to discrimination, but rather meets its ultimate and intended goal of preserving and maintaining passenger safety. Should you have any questions or comments concerning the foregoing, do not hesitate to contact the undersigned. Thank you for your attention and consideration.
Very truly yours, Greggory
Associate General Counsel
Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc.
Clearly this is a case for the courts to resolve. Nothing short of judicial instruction will convince Carnival officials of the competence of the blind. As the old saw has it: they know what they think, so don't confuse them with the facts. In the meantime, people who want to see the Caribbean on a Carnival ship might take a leaf from Dennis and Carolyn Ranker's book (see the following story). What would the Carnival know-it-alls think if they were to learn that blind people are traveling on their ships without incident? No doubt we will soon find out.
From the Editor: In the August, 1989, Braille Monitor we carried an article entitled Litigation Filed Against Carnival Cruise Lines. It detailed the struggle which Joe Urbanek, a Federationist from South Carolina, is having with Carnival Cruise Lines. In brief, the story is this:
Urbanek, who is blind, wanted to take a cruise. Carnival Cruise Lines said that he couldn't ride on their ship unless he signed all kinds of demeaning waivers. He refused, and the NFB and the South Carolina affiliate are helping him with a lawsuit to enforce his rights. At the time of this writing (mid-August) the case is still in progress and waiting for trial.
In the circumstances Monitor readers can imagine my surprise when I received a letter today from Dennis and Carolyn Ranker, Federationists from West Virginia. In October of 1988 the Rankers signed up to take a cruise, and you guessed it they wanted to go on Carnival Cruise Lines. Here is the story as Dennis tells it:
Charleston, West Virginia
August 9, 1989
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I read with great interest the article concerning the problem one of our South Carolina members was having with Carnival Cruise Lines. My wife Carolyn and I had an identical problem to this last October. Our dealings with Carnival went something like this: We went to a local travel agent to book the cruise. Both of us had our canes, so the agent obviously knew we were blind. According to her, there is some sort of policy (either initiated by the cruise line itself or possibly the booking travel agents) wherein the line is appraised of blind passengers' intent to use Carnival, most likely through some type of computer code. When we found out about this, we informed the agent in the strongest language short of impropriety we knew how that they (both the agent and the cruise line) would not hear the last of us for a long time if we had to comply with the second-class treatment dealt with in the August Monitor article. Our travel agent, much to her credit, took our names out of the computer, which also deleted the message about our situation blindness to the cruise line. She then entered our names in (at least, she said she did) the same way everyone else's was. By the time our April cruise date arrived, we were a bit apprehensive, fearing we would be turned away at the gangway after flying down to Miami for the week-long cruise. Well, we weren't! The trip went off without a hitch. I might add that the other passengers, crew, and everyone except one person we met at the Miami airport were simply the most hospitable, yet non-custodial, bunch of people you could imagine. If the cruise line is alleging that blind people are, in fact, some kind of extra hazard, Carolyn and I are proof to the contrary. After all, we spent a whole week on and off the ship at various ports of call. Only once did we have trouble when a sighted taxi driver took us to the wrong pier!
To make a long story a bit shorter, Carolyn and I stand ready to help in whatever way we can should some type of personal witness testimony, via deposition or otherwise, be deemed helpful with regard to the South Carolinian and his or their cruise discrimination case. Feel free to contact Mr. Capps and other interested parties, sharing the contents of this letter with them.
Dennis and Carolyn Ranker
I hadn't remembered the incident concerning the Rankers, which either proves that my memory is failing or that we still have an inordinant number of cases involving discrimination. (I choose to believe it is the latter.) In any case, as soon as I received the letter, I called Don Capps to tell him about it and to put him in contact with the Rankers. He said such testimony would be helpful and that our attorneys would follow up immediately. Next I called the Rankers to thank them for their letter and tell them of my conversation with Don Capps. They say they had absolutely no problems on the ship (remember that both of them are blind) and that they are ready and willing to testify. While I was on the phone I asked about the Rankers' new baby (born July 22, 1989). Premature, the baby had real problems during and shortly after birth, but everything is all right now. Mother, father, and baby are well and happy.
When I called, I talked with Carolyn. Dennis had not yet arrived home from work. But he soon came, and I talked with him also. Jobs, babies, vacation cruises, and hopes for advancement and a full life. As we have so often said, we want what others want and the National Federation of the Blind is leading the way in helping make it come true.
by Steven Hastalis
Steve Hastalis is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. He is also a lover of trains and a frequent traveler. Here is what he has to say about recent experiences in Washington, D.C.:
The absurd, custodial conduct I have recounted in the following letter to Amtrak is yet another example of the ongoing nonsense which is inflicted on blind persons when we seek only to buy a ticket and ride, just like everyone else. Regardless of the mode of transportation, the blind have experienced the same clear pattern of discrimination, humiliation, and misunderstanding variations on a theme, a tired, old theme.
When the Federation organized its Illinois affiliate twenty-one years ago in August, 1968, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and others told of purchasing tickets, along with a sighted passenger. Thus, the station agent sold the tickets, assuming the blind person was traveling with a sighted attendant, as the railroad required. The anger and arrogance of some of the personnel at Washington Union Station remind me of President Maurer's comment about the airlines at our national convention a few years ago. The blind are expected to Sit down, shut up, and like it. Increasingly, however, the recurrence of such deplorable treatment only serves to strengthen my resolve to stand for my principles and rights as a blind person. I will not abide by regressive practices and policies based on negative attitudes and myths about blindness. I will vigorously protest arrogant, condescending, custodial treatment. I don't seek strife or confrontation, but I will do what I have to do. I am no longer willing to be treated as a second-class citizen. I demand no restrictions based on blindness. I insist on my right to travel on terms of equality with my fellow sighted passengers.
August 17, 1989
Office of Customer Relations
Amtrak, Union Station
Dear Sir or Madam:
When I was completing my previous All Aboard America excursion to the East last May, I already was making plans for another, with stops in Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and New York City as part of my summer travels.
As background, I have been blind all my life. For the past twenty-five years, I have traveled independently with a long, white cane throughout this country and several others by all modes of public transportation, including rail. As a very well-traveled blind passenger, I feel compelled to share my experiences with you regarding the overbearing behavior by some personnel at Washington Union Station. These individuals were overly zealous in the efforts to assist me and took strong umbrage when I took issue with their conduct.
On Sunday evening, July l6, 1989, I left Chicago on Train 30, the Capitol . We arrived at Washington Union Station ten minutes early on Monday afternoon, July 17. When I stepped off the train, a red cap offered to assist me. Initially, I politely declined. It wasn't practical or necessary because I already had my backpack strapped on and two other bags on my shoulders. A second red cap offered assistance, and again I declined. Both became very angry and offended. They berated me in a most scolding tone of voice, You should accept assistance. Apparently, they expected me to accept help because I am blind and then tip them for it. I therefore resolved not to accept their assistance because I would have felt obligated to tip them and was not about to do so after they humiliated me. Finally, in desperation I told them, I'm from Chicago, and I'm familiar with the ways of big city train stations, so leave me alone. I left Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, July 26. I first arrived in the main waiting room area near the gates at about 9:30 a.m. A police officer, attempting to assist me, grabbed my arm hard. I tried to explain that I'd rather have him walk next to me or give me directions. He became indignant when I asked him to let go, saying, Well then, if you don't want me to help you, I won't. He then walked away, and I went to the seating area near Gate F to await the next departure at 10:20 A.M.
After sitting a few minutes, I realized that I had forgotten something at the home of the friends with whom I was staying. I decided to go back and get it, then to take later trains to Philadelphia and New York, inasmuch as these were unreserved legs of my itinerary. I checked my large bags in the Parcel Room and left Union Station on Washington Metro.
When I returned about two hours later and retrieved my baggage, I began asking about the gate for the 12:30 p.m. departure. By this time, it was 12:28. A first announcement was made for Train 94 and 494, but no gate was mentioned. Therefore, as I continued asking people, the police officer I encountered earlier yelled across the concourse: Don't try to help him. About fifteen of us tried to help him earlier, and he missed his train. He doesn't want help. I walked across the concourse toward the open door where he was standing and replied, No, that wasn't the issue; I just didn't want you to grab my arm.
I felt that he was too angry to care what I might have told him. Therefore, I didn't bother explaining why I missed the train, as he put it.
Again, I asked about the 12:30 train, he yelled, You missed the train earlier, and you missed this one too. The next train is at 1:20. He told another passenger, Take him to Passenger Services. I told that passenger not to take me there, and he directed me to the seating area. Shortly after 12:30, another announcement was made for Train 94 and 494, boarding at Gate J, Track 23. I followed the crowd heading in that direction. Along the way, I met a lady who worked at Amtrak's Corporate Headquarters. I complained to her about the conduct of this police officer and asked her about the system of corresponding gate letters and track numbers at Washington Union Station. She gave me a brief explanation as we walked to the top of the escalator.
Once downstairs, I moved to the left-hand edge of the platform and walked along the train. As I stopped at the end of each car to check whether its vestibule was open, this same police officer repeatedly yelled: Leave him alone; we tried to help him, but he doesn't want any help.
Another man, probably a conductor, asked where I was going. I told him New York, and he directed me forward. The first open entrance was at the forward end of the third car from the rear. Given the self-righteous, condescending manner of this police officer, I was relieved once I found that open vestibule, walked up the steps and was aboard the train.
These unfortunate incidents are my most recent in which Amtrak officials have behaved in a high-handed, arrogant fashion over the issue of what, if any, assistance I need as a blind passenger. Based on my travel experiences over the years, I can't emphasize enough that Amtrak personnel should ask if blind passengers need assistance, instead of assuming that we do and forcing the issue. They should not become offended and indignant, as these red caps and this police officer did, when blind passengers, such as I, decline help or take issue with the manner in which it is offered. Of course, assistance, should be available to blind passengers who desire it.
Ironically, the development and expansion of programs to serve persons with all types of disabilities has encouraged the random but increased incidence of demeaning, discriminatory treatment of blind passengers in the name of greater accessibility, accommodation, or safety.
The enclosed materials ( What Is the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Do You Know a Blind Person ) capsulize NFB's positive philosophy of blindness. The Ten Courtesy Rules of Blindness are simple, straightforward pointers which encourage sighted persons to feel comfortable and at ease with blind persons. Please share these with your personnel at Washington, D.C., Union Station, as well as other terminals. This information will aid them in treating blind passengers with the same courtesy and respect accorded sighted passengers.
by Barbara Pierce
When I was in the fifth grade, Girl Scout Troop 745 (of which I was an enthusiastic member) decided to take on an ambitious project for Christmas: we would stage (albeit in a rudimentary way) the story of The Littlest Angel . The artistic members drew murals that would serve as backdrops, and the not-so-talented colored them in. The cutest member of the troop (a vivacious little redhead) was chosen to play the littlest angel, and other girls were tapped to enact major characters. Everyone who didn't have a special role was to be a part of the angelic choir massed on the stairs to sing carols at strategic points in the story. Since there is not an artistic bone in my body and since it was clear that no one would choose me for a part that required walking around in front of an audience, I resigned myself to being one in the crowd of singers. It would be hard to overstate my shock, incredulity, and joy when I came home from school one day to be told that the Girl Scout leader had called to see if my mother was willing to work with me to memorize the entire text so that I could recite the story as my friends silently acted it out. My mother, bless her, gladly took on the extra work; and we launched ourselves at the task. I have no idea how long the story was, but it constituted an ambitious feat of memory for a ten-year-old. I can still quote the opening lines. The production was a huge success. All of us were attired in bed sheet draperies, and, as I remember it, our wings and halos were made of coat hangers and aluminum foil and sprinkled liberally with glitter. Mine were the only ones to have multicolored glitter. I sat on a stool down stage left and gave Sarah Bernhart a run for her money.
Fond parents heaped praise on all our heads after the triumph, and, for almost the first time in my life, I was clearly the most dazzling of the stars. I basked in the glory for several days. But I was rarely unobservant as a child, and, if I do say so, I was (for the most part) capable of honesty with myself. I began to notice that people kept dwelling on my part in the program, and the more I listened to their praise, the more uncomfortable it made me. It dawned on me gradually that Barbara, all-around American girl, was not the person being heaped with adulation. It was rather one of two other people whom I did not know. Either my extraordinary memory was admired and simultaneously explained away by the fact that I was blind and could be expected to do such things as a matter of course, or I was extravagantly lauded by people (especially strangers) who were moved to tears by the thought of a blind child carrying the bulk of the show and doing it well.
At the time I did not understand why suddenly the pleasure of the experience dissolved. I knew that I had done a good job and that it was not because I was blind. I also knew that any of a number of other girls in my troop could have done what I had if they had put their minds to it.
I was painfully reminded of that production as I read the following news article which appeared in December of 1988 on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch . Diana Felice, one of the most active, perceptive, and loyal members of our Capital Chapter in the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, sent it to me together with her letter to the editor in response. Miss Felice, who is sighted, provides a constant reminder that one does not have to be blind to understand to the depth of one's being the message of the National Federation of the Blind. She and our sighted brothers and sisters like her have chosen to stand with us, to fight ignorance and injustice when they see it, and to suffer for their beliefs and actions.
Here is the Columbus Dispatch story: Blind Kids Give Their All For Others This Christmas
by Barbara Carmen
In a school workshop, a blind boy's bloody hands grate wood against sandpaper to make a toy truck for a poor child. A teacher bandages his fingers. The boy will not quit. Somewhere, he knows, a tot waits with an eager heart.
Twenty students at the Ohio State School for the Blind are playing elf to brighten the Christmas of needy children. In return, the legally blind students get the chance to give instead of take.
The kids were so excited, said Chuck Whitman, a vocational education teacher. They receive a lot of good things from people in the community. This is a chance for them to do something for others. Every day for the past few weeks, the students have sawed and drilled and sanded wood that most of them cannot see. They fit the drill bit into a metal guide that marks where holes go in the wood.
A sighted helper watches closely to make sure no fingers get in the way. The students make all 20 parts that go into each truck. Children at the school are either totally blind or have extremely limited sight. Some can sense shapes or see a pinpoint of light. Some have only peripheral vision; others see the world as if they were looking through paper-towel tubes.
How can these kids do what they do if they can't see? I ask myself that every day. They have such spirit, Whitman said. He came up with the idea to make toys for needy children. It does a person a lot of good when you give him the opportunity to do something worthwhile for someone else, he said. Student Lance Dorrell, 13, of Hilliard sands a fat, wooden wheel and envisions Christmas morning.
The children are going to be surprised, Lance said.
I feel very lucky. I have nice things, a nice house. I'm lucky. School Superintendent Dennis Holmes later this week will deliver the 50 finished trucks to Toys For Tots.
I wish our students could be in a position to see how happy 50 children will be Christmas morning when they receive the trucks, Holmes said.
Robert Karman, 17, of Minerva, Ohio, has been working on the trucks in his spare time. It's not difficult. It's just time-consuming, he said.
But I know it will really make a lot of kids happy.
That is what the Columbus Dispatch had to say by way of setting the mood of the Christmas season at the expense of blind people everywhere. Diana Felice spoke for all thinking blind people and our sighted colleagues who have understood our message and joined our battle. Here is her reply to the paper's editor:
I am deeply distressed by an article published in the Dispatch the week of December 19, 1988, about the Christmas project executed by the students at the Ohio State School for the Blind (O.S.S.B.). It is unfortunate that the article's message was neither as positive nor as constructive as the intention behind it. In truth, this article turned out to be a piece of propaganda which was discriminatory, stereotypical, and patronizing. Because of the author's ignorance about blindness and the abilities of blind people, the article missed altogether the truth that was there for the seeing blind kids, like most youngsters, are eager to help others when they have the chance. The story hurt not only the blind but the general public as well. We look for accuracy and top-notch journalism in the Dispatch , but this time I fear that we have received far less than we expected or deserved.
The over-dramatized, near-tabloid style with which the piece was written was alarming. Comments such as ...a blind boy's bloody hands grate... and a teacher bandages his fingers. The boy will not quit are lurid. They play on the credulity of the uninformed and insult the knowledgeable reader's intelligence. Most damaging of all, they rob the blind of dignity.
To point out later that a ...sighted helper watches closely to make sure no fingers get in the way... implies that blind people can't tend to their own safety, so the sighted must take responsibility for them by providing constant custodial supervision. My sighted father severely mangled a thumb and finger many years ago on similar equipment. Perhaps if he had had the supervision of the blind teacher who taught this class, he would not have been injured. By never even mentioning the shop teacher's blindness, the reporter missed an excellent opportunity to inform the public about the capacities of blind people. By the way, do you know of any school that wouldn't have as much adult supervision as possible in a class such as this? I don't. What makes the presence of an aide in this shop so note-worthy at O.S.S.B? Why did this story merit front page coverage? There are plenty of hard news stories concerning the blind that newspapers don't like covering at all, much less on the front page: the 70% unemployment rate among the blind, airline discrimination against them, the State Department's refusal to allow qualified blind candidates to compete in Foreign Service examinations, to name just a few. These stories don't fit the public's notions of blind people. When Barbara Carmen writes that the legally blind students get the chance to give instead of take, she is providing the public with a cozy and inspirational view of blindness that reinforces old stereotypes. As long as I have called attention to Carmen's use of the term legally blind, let me point out that all blind people are legally blind. It is not helpful to anyone to subdivide the group. People with no usable vision are as likely to be capable of accomplishing a given task as are the partially or fully sighted. Emphasis on degree of sight tends to rank human worth according to visual acuity and labels the individual for life. This way of thinking and speaking about blindness allows, even encourages, the partially sighted to deny their disability. Those with a little usable sight are all too often eager to deny their identity as blind people. They are ashamed of who they are, and the hair-splitting involved in talking about legal blindness as opposed to total blindness contributes to this problem. The bottom line is that it is respectable to be blind, and the sooner the general public (including the blind themselves) recognizes this fact and behaves accordingly, the sooner blind people will be able to take their proper places in the community as fully participating citizens. As a twelve-year employee of the Ohio State School for the Blind and an active member of the Capital Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, I have seen firsthand the unlimited array of skills, talents, abilities, and potential of the blind. But as a sighted person, I must also say that I have been the beneficiary of the assistance, guidance, support, patience, friendship, camaraderie, and love of my blind brothers and sisters. They have been my teachers, students, and friends as I have tried to be theirs.
The blind, in short, are America's most underrated, unappreciated, untapped resource. Society simply can't afford to ignore them any longer because they are too valuable. However, don't take my word for it; get to know a blind person. Any of them will be glad to tell you who and what they are when they're not busy acting as attorneys, raising children, sailing solo on the Atlantic or Pacific, teaching, editing, repairing plumbing or electrical wiring, working in labs or hospitals, or finishing a handmade cabinet unsupervised, I might add.
The blind don't need society's permission to be independent, capable, contributing members of society because they already are. What they do need is the sighted public's willingness to accept them as peers by recognizing their right to enjoy the opportunities accorded to everyone else.
You'll be amply rewarded if you take the time to be an active part of the solution instead of being a part of the problem.
Diana R. Felice
P.S. For further information about blindness, please contact Eric Duffy, President, Capital Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio at 262-9378. Thank you.
That is what Diane Felice wrote in response to the kind of Christmas season newspaper story that conjures up synthetic good will at the expense of those about whom the piece is written. When sloppy sentimentality is focused on people far away and wholly unconscious of what is said or thought, the article may be in poor taste, but no one suffers particularly from it. But when the people reading the story live in the same community as the subjects, when the ignorance, misinformation, and condescension of the writer will be reflected in the way people treat the objects of all this compassionate respect, and the subjects of the article are children who will read it and absorb the underlying messages as they bask in the adulation, then such a story is cruel and absolutely opposed to everything that Christmas means.
No sooner had Miss Felice's letter been written and sent than she began to be berated by her Ohio State School for the Blind colleagues. The children had worked so hard on the project. How could she attack it? The reporter had only tried to give credit to the youngsters. What gave Diana Felice the right to criticize her efforts? In vain she pointed out that she had not said anything to belittle the work of the students. She might as well have been whistling up the wind when she tried to make the School staff understand the damage that the piece had done to everyone. But the saddest comment of all was that of the shop teacher. In great anger he told Miss Felice that he would have been furious if his blindness had been mentioned in the story. It is truly tragic to see a competent adult still unable to admit his blindness openly and honestly. This man's comment is a painful reminder of how far we have to go in teaching many blind people that it is truly respectable to be blind.
The job ahead of us is still huge, and doing it well is desperately important to thousands of people who don't even know that they are suffering from their own and other people's misconceptions. But the organized blind are not alone. There are members of our Federation who are sighted, who understand our commitment, and who have placed the yoke on their own shoulders in order to help us pull.
Each of us can do a bit of the work. As the old joke has it: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
by Andrea Engler
This article appeared in the October, 1989, Radio Talking Book Program Guide issued by State Services for the Blind of Minnesota.
Curtis Chong is a man of many accomplishments an activist, computer programming professional, husband, and father who expects the best from himself and encourages others to have high expectations of him as well. One of his goals is to change society's preconceived notions about what a blind person can achieve, and to help the blind build self-esteem and confidence in their ability to live independent and productive lives. He feels that being blind is not the major obstacle, but that the biggest problem is how... (the blind).. feel about it, and how others feel about it.
Although Curtis readily admits that not all blind people agree with what I say, he strongly advocates autonomy and independence for the blind in all aspects of their lives, and favors integration of blind and sighted workers in the widest possible range of occupations. Referring to his own life, Curtis says One of the principles I absorbed was self-reliance, the ability to deal with blindness yourself...as opposed to having everybody else figure out what the answer's going to be to a particular problem. He believes that in the workplace, both employer and employee should focus on ability to do the job, and not on special accommodations for blindness. The employer should expect that we can deal with basic things, like getting things read, finding the bathroom, going to lunch, traveling to and from work. That's not their responsibility. Their responsibility is to provide us with the work environment that we need, and to allow us the flexibility that we need to function as blind people. Although today Curtis Chong is a successful advocate for the rights of blind people and travels all over the country as part of his job at IDS, he remembers a time when opportunities were very limited and he had far fewer expectations for himself. Curt grew up in Honolulu, where his counselors and teachers gave him little encouragement to be self-sufficient and provided no positive blind role models for him to emulate. He says, When I was a kid, I didn't think I could do any of that stuff. The idea of flying alone some place terrified me. I never would have thought that I could do it. Holding a regular job, no way, not something that I thought a blind person could ever do.
Curtis credits the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) as the outside influence that most inspired him, saying I don't believe that I would have what I have today if not for the Federation of the Blind. It's because of the philosophy. Curtis attended his first Federation of the Blind convention in Hawaii as a high school sophomore, where he was exposed to a school of thought concerning the blind that said we were not helpless, and we could grow up to become normal, functioning, productive members of society. Curtis then organized a group of other high school students and we started to take on the agency, and we started to do some public education.
He never missed a convention after that, and after stints at the University of Hawaii and the University of California at Irvine, Curtis attended the University of Minnesota, where he experienced a welcome reduction in the paternalism that had always plagued him as a blind student. Curtis then wanted to go to work but didn't have the necessary skills. He decided to get training as a computer programmer, but first had to convince Brown Institute to allow him to enroll. He graduated first in his class from Brown, went right to work for the State of Minnesota, and was then recruited by IDS Financial Services, where he is now a systems programmer.
All along Curtis stayed actively involved with the NFB. Currently he is Vice-President of the NFB of Minnesota and President of the NFB Computer Science Division, which evaluates adaptive technology. Curtis also serves on the Research and Development Committee of the Federation, on the State Services Technical Advisory Panel, and represents the Federation on State Services for the Blind's Advisory Council. All of these activities keep Curtis very busy, and he is sometimes asked why he continues to fight so hard when he could relax and enjoy his good job, his home, and family life with his wife Peggy and eleven-year-old daughter, Tina. Curt says, I could quit NFB right now, I could give up, I could go home and lead a good life... but what happens down the road when I want to try something new? Curt recounts some of the injustices he feels are still taking place, such as when blindness is raised as an issue in parental custody decisions and adoption, or when a blind person is forced to relinquish an exit-row seat because airline policy assumes the blind are less capable of making an emergency exit than other passengers.
Curtis is pleased with many of the changes that have taken place over the years, changes in attitudes, and in resources available to blind people, and remarks that there's a world of difference today. Yet there is still work to be done. As Curtis puts it, As long as society believes that to be blind is to be less fortunate, and less capable, as long as we're excluded from the mainstream in our society, we are a minority. Curtis Chong is doing his utmost to change all that.
(Note) From the Associate Editor: Every person who is blind encounters daily the bizarre, half-unconscious convictions held by our sighted neighbors about blind people: our sighted spouses or friends clean our homes; we have been sterilized so that we will not have to bear and raise children; we are threatened with malnutrition unless others plan and prepare our meals; we cannot reliably identify objects in our surroundings such as clothing, friends, and coins. Depending on the mood at the moment, one wonders in amusement, incredulity, or exasperation where people picked up such notions. Occasionally such folk have known blind people so deprived of opportunity as to be truly incompetent. Sometimes they have simply made up these silly theories out of their personal experience of closing their eyes and discovering that they are virtually helpless. But most of the time they are the victims of long-forgotten, perhaps hardly noticed propaganda circulated through programs and publications for children and built upon over the years until the original fictions are lost in the welter of assumption and prejudice.
(Note) These vehicles of misinformation to the very young are particularly insidious because the misconceptions of blindness they portray are usually accomplished on the way to making another point humor in the case of the Mr. Magoo cartoons, or as in the case of a Weekly Reader paperback book published recently, education about arithmetic skills and making change.
(Note) Maureen Toonkel, a rehabilitation teacher working in Mankato, Minnesota, stumbled by accident onto the following example of inadvertent damage to the blind by one of the nation's largest and most prestigious publishers for children, Weekly Reader. Mrs. Toonkel recognized the danger and did something about it. Her action is praiseworthy as is the response of the Weekly Reader editors who altered the offending material at least, they say they have done so. Mrs. Toonkel's correspondent did not quote the changes to be made in the next edition of the book in question. Vigilance will continue to be important. Here is the exchange of letters:
February 26, 1989
Ms. Sally Lodge, Editor
Paperback Book Club
Dear Ms. Lodge:
I am a rehabilitation counselor at Minnesota Services for the Blind and Visually Handicapped. I am also the mother of a legally blind five-year-old boy. In addition my husband is legally blind. This past month I ordered a book for my son through the Weekly Reader order forms that are sent home with the children. We ordered the book, Kids' Own Money Book by Barbara A. McCall. A few nights ago my son Flint and I sat down to begin reading the book and doing the exercises and games. When we got to page 10, I was appalled. It says that The coin trader doesn't see very well. He often makes mistakes. You must check the coins in each trade so no one gets the wrong amount. It then shows the exchanges that were made. Apparently this coin trader exchanges a dime for three nickels and a nickel for four pennies. While I understand that the idea is to have children learn about coins and their values, this page implies that not only can't blind people tell their coins apart but they don't even understand how to count change correctly.
Even if the coin trader could not tell the difference between the nickels and the pennies, he certainly would be smart enough to know that for a dime he would need to give the children 2 coins (or 10 coins or 6 coins) and certainly not 3 coins. One wonders how the coin trader stays in business if he doesn't even understand how to count change. Rather than saying that the coin trader can't see very well, the book might have said that the coin trader makes mistakes sometimes. In this book he continues to make mistakes on pages 14 and 18. It is a shame that the book missed a good opportunity to demonstrate that blind people can identify coins and count change. The book could have demonstrated that even without sight coins can be identified by the way they feel. Dimes and pennies are smaller than quarters and nickels. Both the dime and the quarter have ridges on their edges while pennies and nickels have smooth edges.
Usually Weekly Reader does a good job in providing educational materials for young students. That is the reason I was so shocked to see the degrading way in which a visually impaired person was presented in a book for young children who are very impressionable. My son and husband were quite hurt by the portrayal of the coin trader as a blind person who could not function adequately. We are concerned that if other students in my son's school read this book, they will make a connection with my son and have a negative opinion of blind students' abilities. I think that books for young children must be carefully screened to make sure that disabled people, minorities, the elderly, etc. are portrayed in positive and realistic ways. After all, it is when our children are very young that their impressions and personalities are forming.
Career Rehabilitation Counselor
cc: National Federation
of the Blind
March 17, 1989
Ms. Maureen Toonkel
Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training
Services for the Blind
Dear Ms. Toonkel:
Thank you for your letter, pointing out the questionable exercise on page 10 of Kids' Own Money Book. First, our most sincere apologies. In no way did we wish to imply that a blind person cannot function adequately. If that appeared to be the implication, I can assure you that the error was entirely unintentional. It's always our own persistent goal to make fair and appropriate representations of worthwhile concepts. And, in fact, we ourselves in the mean time had come to realize this lapse and have had a correction made. It will appear in our next reprint. We very much regret that in the course of the manuscript's originally being handled by a variety of copy editors and proofreaders, the lapsed judgment of including this exercise did not become very apparent. In the interest of pursuing textual accuracy, some scrutiny of content evidently was sacrificed.
To convey fully your finely articulated arguments, I'm also sending a copy of your letter to the author, on whose behalf I'll also say that this was an unfortunate oversight. She, a former teacher, is herself very sensitive to the numerous needs of different children and the responsibilities of good education. Thank you again for writing. We appreciate your concern and commend your active involvement in very worthwhile matters.
Elizabeth G. Zuraw
Sr. Editor, Special Projects
Weekly Reader Paperback Book Clubs
by Kenneth Jernigan
It is a well-known fact that I am computer illiterate and that I am just as happy to keep it that way. Indeed, there are those who say that I exploit the situation. Perhaps but as the saying goes, You have to ride with what you've got.
In my capacity as Editor of the Monitor I receive numerous requests to run announcements about the availability of this or that new computer product, process, or miracle. Each claims to be innovative, wonderful, and very nearly indispensable and I am sure that a few of them are. However, there are problems in bringing the glad tidings to Monitor readers. Let me specify. In the first place I always have to ask myself whether the terminology is so specialized and the prerequisite knowledge so detailed that most Monitor readers will, instead of reading on with gasps of excitement, simply yawn and go to sleep. As I have said concerning other topics, it doesn't matter how vital or important a thing is if people won't read it, it shouldn't be included. When we start talking the lingo (like booting and rebooting, directories and subdirectories, paths and batch files, refreshing the screen and reformatting the disk), I get nervous and so do lots of others.
At the same time the computer is coming to play an evermore important part in the lives of each of us. It is a tool of significance in the march of the blind to freedom, and the Monitor (as a principal voice of the nation's blind) must deal with it accordingly. There are new developments which should be reported and, of course, the average member of the Federation (despite the neolithic perspective of the Monitor Editor) is at least as well informed about computers and computerism as the average sophisticated anybody else. So we should report when we should report, and we should refrain when we should refrain. But how to do it? It is a matter of balance. To begin with: If I can understand it, that is sometimes a plus and sometimes a minus. I must say at the outset that I start with a negative impression when a product has a cutsie name unless, that is, it is really clever and not just trying to be.
Take, for instance, the release I recently received from the National Braille Association. It began like this: National Braille Association is pleased to announce the distribution of a new computer program, POKADOT, by Len Dozier of Washington for IBM and most compatible systems with one disk drive and 256K of RAM.
What is one to make of such a sentence? Braille consists of dots, and you poke them through the paper so we play on the word polkadot and come up with the name POKADOT for the program. Not funny, not original, and not calculated to inspire confidence in the innovative capacity of the inventor. Yet, everybody is entitled to a quirk or two, and I try to remember that working with computers (like everything else) gets tiresome and needs something to relieve the monotony besides which, some people may not regard my jokes as very funny either.
So how do I decide whether to carry the release about POKADOT? First I read it and see if it makes sense to me. If I think it may have merit, I then send it to some of the members of the NFB Research and Development Committee to get their opinions. In this case I sent it to quite a number, and at the time of this writing (mid-August) I have had two replies, one from Tim Cranmer and one from Curtis Chong. I want to share their comments with you since I think you will find them informative and since I also think it will help you understand the process of how things get into the Monitor , and how they don't.
Maybe I don't need to say it, but probably it can never be mentioned too often or emphasized too strongly. I do my absolute utmost (regardless of my own personal opinions and prejudices) to bring all of the important information I can to Monitor readers and to tell it in as balanced and objective a way as I know how. This is not to say that I don't have opinions or that I don't express them, nor is it to say that I feel called on (in the sanctimonious name of so-called objectivity) to present some cockeyed opposing view every time I take a stand even though that opposing view obviously has no merit. I won't try to conceal the truth just because it weakens my case. That's where it starts, and that's where it stops. If it is something that is important to the blind, if it is something that needs to be told, the Monitor will print it.
I realize that it is not always easy to live up to this standard especially when it goes against your preconceptions, your friends, or your own personal interest. But the effort has to be made. It has to be made all of the time. It has to be made regardless of who doesn't like it. And it has to be made with judgment, compassion, and common sense. If it is made successfully, the publication and the organization prosper. If it is not, then the publication and the organization are on the slide. And the final determiners are the results and the readers. The Monitor and the Federation (and, incidentally, the Editor) are willing to live or die by that standard, so I'll leave it at that. Now back to the National Braille Association and POKADOT. Publish? Or not publish? We probably won't survive or perish whichever way we decide, but the matter is worth considering so here is what Messrs. Cranmer and Chong told me:
July 22, 1989
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
It is now two weeks since I returned from the national convention in Denver, and I find I am still carrying a letter handed to me by Miss Myrick with your note requesting an opinion. Better late than never.
NBA (the National Braille Association) is the organization for volunteer transcribers. POKADOT referred to in the letter is an inexpensive software package that would be of interest to NBA members. The following part of their letter could be a good Monitor Miniature:
National Braille Association is pleased to announce the distribution of a new computer program, POKADOT, by Len Dozier of Washington for IBM and most compatible systems with one disk drive and 256K of RAM. Program features include: six-key Braille numbered-line entry; Braille dot screen display; direct ASCII keyboard input; ASCII review; help screens; manual on disk; tab settings; delete, insert, and search; 70-90 page file length capability; input files directly from ASCII file including DUXBURY for editing; word wrap; easy single page or entire file embossing; compatible with most embossers. The program is distributed by National Braille Association, Inc., 1290 University Avenue, Rochester, New York 14607, for $5 in American currency postage paid. Technical questions can be answered by Lee Calligan, 66 Noe Avenue, Madison, New Jersey 07940, (201) 377-4683.
July 24, 1989
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
Here, as you requested, are my thoughts about the POKADOT program being distributed by the National Braille Association. Unlike programs such as NFBTRANS, POKADOT appears to be a tool uniquely designed for use by transcribers who already know Braille. Instead of translating plain text into Grade 2 Braille, POKADOT permits transcribers, using six keys on the computer keyboard, to type as if they were using a Perkins Brailler. The dots of the Braille cell entered in this way are displayed on the screen, thereby providing the transcriber with the means visually to proofread what is being entered.
Although POKADOT may be the cheapest program of its kind, it is certainly not unique. I know of another program, called MicroBraille, that is marketed by Norman Blessum of California. This program has been available for many years and has been picked up by a number of transcribing groups. My information is that it enjoys a favorable reputation among Braille transcribers who use microcomputers.
I am told that although MicroBraille contains a wider range of functions, it cannot handle files as large as POKADOT can. Also, at $5 per copy, POKADOT is certainly a lot cheaper than MicroBraille.
From our point of view, I do not think that POKADOT is anything to get up and shout about. Certainly, it is something that Braille transcribers ought to know about. But for blind people, Grade 2 Braille translators such as NFBTRANS are of much greater significance.
So there you have the opinions of two who should know. And when I showed this article to a few of my colleagues, one said that it set a fine tone and should be printed. Another said it was preachy, not to mention being downright sanctimonious. Still another said that the point should be made but that I didn't need to beat it to death. Another allowed that such stuff was all right if I didn't do it too often. Ah, well if you don't want answers, don't ask questions. And a final thought: Can one be his own colleague?
by Lauren L. Eckery
Lauren Eckery needs no introduction to Monitor readers, nor does her daughter Lynden. Here is Lauren's latest article, taken from the Fall, 1989, News From Blind Nebraskans, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska.
The burning hot sun of midsummer is shining brightly today as I sit out here on the patio beginning to write. What color the sun is is not particularly relevant to me at this moment. I know that for some blind people the color of the sun or, for that matter, what anything looks like visually, seems irrelevant. I do not take this view, however. I am highly interested in my world, including what things look like. There are those who might insist that this could not be so.
Back in 1972, when I was nearing graduation from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, a sighted male friend and I were discussing my future. This was a friend I very much liked and trusted. However, he knew nothing about the National Federation of the Blind and its positive philosophy of blindness. I had been approached by the Federation in 1971, had been reading the Braille Monitor , but had only begun to assimilate our philosophy on blindness. Therefore, neither of us understood what he was really saying when he remarked: When you get an apartment of your own, if you have cockroaches, they won't bother you because you won't see them, so you won't even know they are there. Besides, if you don't know what they look like, then you won't know how awful they are. I thought this statement odd and rather gross, and I laughed. I was not aware at that moment that he had indeed epitomized the heartbreaking experience of many of us.
As Pearl S. Buck has written: There were many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts being broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream whatever that dream might be.
My dream, of course, was to be a normal, first-class citizen in our society. My dream, at that particular time, might have included him in that apartment of the future. He had obviously highly respected me as a student, equal to himself, but he really did not respect me as a blind person.
It was only recently, as I began formulating this article, that I remembered his words of seventeen years ago, realizing at once, with my Federation training, what he had really said. I noticed quite a number of attitudinal cockroaches in his remarks. Attitudes like those exemplified in this person's remarks often bring about our being denied opportunities for normal experiences in the world. As far as visual cues are concerned, many such cues about our world are kept from us. As an example: what color something is or where something is located. On the other hand, often we are given far too many details about visual aspects of our world. An example being the clock method on the dinner plate. Behind all of this thinking are ingrained beliefs similar to those espoused, by implication, by my university friend of 1972. Evidently he assumed that a blind person keeping an apartment by him- or herself would necessarily have cockroaches, since blind people couldn't possibly keep the place clean. (I may not be the best housekeeper, but blindness is not the reason.) If we can see, we automatically notice everything in the world there is to see and we know more about our world because we see it. If we cannot see, we know nothing about the visual qualities of the things in our world indeed, we know very nearly nothing at all forget about the use of other senses, and, of course, forget about our ability to reason.
Countless times in our lives we have heard such expressions as:
Out of sight, out of mind, Seeing is believing, What you don't know (or see) won't hurt you. These are all suggestions of lack, loss, and inferior capacity for reasoning. How misinformed was this fine young man, even though he had known me for several years. How misinformed was I to the extent that I was unable to set him straight about blindness, resulting in discouraging him from remaining in a prominent place in my life. On the other hand, as I began to grow in the Federation, I learned from those who were willing to teach me, and I have also learned from experience (sometimes the hard way) some of the realities of blindness mainly attitude problems and their impact on our lives and the means for resolving such problems. I have also learned (sometimes the hard way) that standing up strongly against such attitudinal barriers, as a unified collective body, will change these negative attitudes once and for all. Shared individual positive experiences can also help toward exterminating such cockroaches from our lives. Toward this end I relate the following experiences:
When I entered into my course of study at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, I lived at home. Later I moved to the dorm, thank goodness! Everyday on the way to school we passed a certain building. One day I asked my mother what that particular building looked like. I was startled by her honest answer:
Laurie, we drive past that building every single day. I don't know what it looks like. I haven't really looked at it. Later, of course, she surveyed the building closely, describing it in such detail that if another blind person had asked me what this building looked like, I could have given as accurate a description of the building as my mother had given me. This is, indeed, a lesson which many people (blind or sighted) fail to learn about sight. Sighted people do not necessarily know more about our world than blind people do. They do not have a constant edge on us simply because they can see and we cannot. Neither are blind people necessarily ignorant about their world simply because they are blind. The blind people I know who are less knowledgeable about their world tend to be those who are bitter about their blindness, refusing to concern themselves with visual factors. This lack of concern may also be noticed in blind people who have not had, or taken, the opportunity to learn alternative techniques of daily living. Or it may be simply that some folks just don't care about those things. Blindness itself does not shut us off from or out of our world. Another example of this lesson came to me recently. Only several weeks ago my eight-year-old daughter, Lynden, asked: Mommy, what color is the sun? She blinks and often sneezes upon looking directly at the sun. Was it possible that she never looked long enough to notice the color of the sun? Was she testing me to see if I knew the color of the sun? What answer did she expect to get from me, the standard yellow?
I am totally blind since birth due to congenital glaucoma. I have no vision in the left eye. Before glaucoma took my right eye, I could see light, dark, and blobs of color. I cried the evening before the surgery, panicked a few times immediately thereafter, and that was it. I was not bitter about never seeing another sunset, because I knew that in my mind's eye I could conjure one up easily enough if I wanted to do so. Perhaps this is similar to the manner in which Beethoven was able to write some of his best music when he could no longer hear he had a good mind, and he used it.
I told Lynden that in the middle of the day the sun is said to be yellow, although it always looked white to me. I explained that toward sunset the color could change from a brighter yellow, becoming more and more orange, sometimes setting in a brilliant red-orange ball with other colors around it (clouds, I surmised). When this occurs, the bright fiery ball on the horizon looks as though it is resting on the ground, quite far away. Eventually it disappears. Sometimes the clouds hide this color. Often the sun does just the opposite at sunrise. Sunrises and sunsets can vary. Artists have painted them; writers have described them in words.
Some people often do not notice them at all, but they are there. I've never seen the sun change color like that. Why does it change color? Why does it look like the sun is on the ground? she asked, curiously. Her questions were getting beyond me. I didn't know enough about the physical properties of light, color, refraction, and distance, plus the rotation of the earth, etc., to explain it all to her. Anxiously I said: Ask your science teacher when school starts again. With a sigh of relief, I presumed the subject closed, only to hear: Mommy, could you see rays coming out of the sun? I told her I couldn't. Me neither, she replied. Then why do people make pictures of the sun with rays coming out all around it? she continued.
I thought: Ask your art teacher when school starts again. However, being somewhat more artistic than scientific, I explained that maybe it was an artistic way to show that light and heat were coming from all directions from the yellow circle which represented the sun in the pictures. That was the end of the discussion for the time being.
I believe that, due to stereotypical thinking, Lynden was surprised by the answer she got from a totally blind person. I was equally astonished that a sighted child would bother to ask a totally blind person to describe something visual, taking the answer seriously. I believe we both learned something extremely valuable from this experience. The knowledge gained and the joy received from this experience were made evident this past weekend as we were riding the bus home from Kansas City to Omaha. Lynden had been sleeping, and I was listening to my Talkman. Suddenly she shouted, with obvious delight, Mommy, the sun is orange and it is on the ground just like you said. (It looked like it was on the ground.) It is red-orange, and it's pretty. I've never seen that before.
I was aware that if I had believed all of the stereotypes about blindness, that I would never have done such a normal thing as to get married and have a child one I was now sharing a sunset with because I might have believed that a blind person couldn't take care of a child independently. I was thankful for this Federation-influenced blessing. I was also aware at that moment that this sunset might have gone unnoticed by both of us had we not had our previous discussion. Certainly it would not have been a life-or-death disaster to have missed the sunset, but there was a particular joy in our sharing, What color is the sun?
by Teresa Myers
The following letter is reprinted from the July, 1989, edition of The Blind Missourian, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. Teresa Myers is an active member of the Missouri affiliate. She has taken to heart the all-important lesson of educating the media whenever an opportunity to do so occurs. This letter was written to the producers of the One Norway Street broadcast on short wave from Boston by the Christian Science Monitor.
July 3, 1989
To Whom It May Concern:
In the early morning hours of June 29, 1989, I was listening to your program One Norway Street, which I usually enjoy very much.
I enjoyed most of this particular broadcast until a feature was presented about a talking computer called The Personal Companion.
Some comments were made during this feature regarding the use of Braille by blind people which I found very disturbing. As a blind person who uses Braille, recorded materials, and a talking computer, I would like to respond to those comments. First let me say that I am not opposed to the Personal Companion or any other talking device or computer. The talking computer I have is very useful. But I think it would be a sad day for blind and deaf-blind people if Braille were ever replaced, as suggested in your program, by any audio device. Let me explain. The reading of Braille teaches blind students spelling, punctuation usage, and rules of grammar, which are not taught by most audio devices. Many blind persons cannot afford talking computers, and state rehabilitation agencies have very specific criteria for assisting in their purchase. Of those blind people like me who do have computers with speech output, many have devices already out of date for which no software to check or improve spelling, punctuation usage, or rules of grammar is available. In addition, the speech of some computers may actually confuse a poor speller since they often pronounce words quite differently from the ways they are normally spoken or spelled.
When looking for a job or performing any job requiring written work, there simply is no substitute for literacy. Braille is the means for blind students to become literate.
There are other reasons I strongly support the use of Braille. When working as a rehabilitation teacher for the blind, I encountered intelligent blind students who were functionally illiterate because their teachers and parents thought they didn't need Braille since they had computers and talking books. These students often read very large print (unavailable without the use of very heavy closed circuit television systems, impractical to move often) at a very slow rate. Such students tended to score badly on achievement tests because they could not read fast enough to complete them in time. Also, some students simply gave up on work requiring a great deal of reading enlarged print since it caused eye strain and headaches and was time-consuming. For these same reasons the students of whom I am speaking had no concept of reading for pleasure. Their grades suffered and from my point of view their lives were impoverished through not reading.
Some students relied on a combination of large print and taped materials for school. If a tape didn't arrive on time from the recording agency, became twisted, or broke, such students couldn't complete homework. Unfortunately late-arriving, missing, twisted, or broken tapes occur fairly frequently. Tapes also do not teach literacy skills gained from the reading of written material. Blind students are too often made to feel inferior by the negative attitudes of those around them. Add to this poor spelling, no reading or very slow oral reading in class, poor use of written grammar and punctuation, and the situation only gets worse.
Braille is also the only method of reading and writing available for those who are deaf and blind. As a person with a slowly progressing hearing loss, I hope there will never come a day when I find myself cut off from all information and communication because talking computers are available to some blind people who can find funding for them.
It is true that deaf-blind people make up a very small minority among the disabled, but since we have the facilities to produce Braille, I see no reason to isolate us further by not producing it.
The objections to Braille on the part of many who are concerned with the education of the blind are usually these:
1) It makes people stand out because Braille books are large and bulky. To this I say, we must grow up enough as a society to stop stigmatizing disabled people. We must make it perfectly acceptable and respectable to be blind. The way to do that is not by teaching young blind people through our actions that it is better to be illiterate and seem sighted than to function effectively and look blind.
2) Braille is costly to produce. True, but the government subsidizes Braille production of some textbooks and many pleasure books, making them affordable to all blind persons. Only a few are eligible for government subsidies to help in purchasing talking computers.
3) Not many blind people read Braille. This objection to Braille is related to one of the statements which disturbed me in your program. The statement was made that Braille is so complex that only about two percent of blind people become proficient in it. Who decides what is proficient? Many blind people use mostly talking books but need Braille for certain things. To understand why Braille is necessary, try the following:
1) Going through a lengthy address and phone number file read onto a tape to find one specific entry near the end;
2) Using a Bible study course referring to specific verses with a tape recorded Bible there are no verse markings on these tapes as there are in Braille;
3) Cooking a complicated dish using a tape recorded recipe;
4) Learning a foreign language through only taped material it is impossible to spell names and words from foreign languages correctly without having read enough written material in that language to understand its rules of spelling as they relate to pronunciation.
Reference books such as dictionaries, concordances, and encyclopedias are often preferred in Braille but are usually unavailable to blind people in any format due to their cost. Some poetry should be read in Braille to be completely understood since the placement of words on the page, the punctuation marks, or alternative spellings are integral to it. Should it be said of a blind person who usually reads taped materials but prefers the Bible, recipes, address files, and poetry in Braille that this person is not proficient in Braille? Unfortunately such judgments are being made by some of those who have great power over the quality of life for blind people. Fewer books are being produced in Braille because people assume that most blind people prefer tapes or only a few read Braille regularly. Both schools for the blind and public schools (into which blind children are mainstreamed) show by their actions (not teaching Braille or refusing to go to the extra trouble of finding Braille instructors as the law requires) and by their words that it is better to look as fully sighted as possible, even if that means functioning poorly, than to stand out as blind, even if this means functioning better. Of course such students will think of Braille as undesirable and difficult!
Why is anyone surprised that students taught in this way dislike learning Braille? Sadly, this attitude about the undesirability and difficulty of Braille is also found among teachers of adults who have recently become blind. I have seen blind clients who were told by rehabilitation teachers under pressure to get cases closed that they were too old to learn Braille or that it was too difficult for people in their particular situations. I know that there are some people who cannot learn Braille, due to severe peripheral neuropathy of the hands or other disabilities. But I have seen many people who were told they couldn't learn Braille master it. Some students choose to learn just enough Braille to keep phone numbers and addresses, play Scrabble or cards, and write down a few favorite recipes. But I can think of only one student in my four years of rehabilitation teaching who did not feel that knowing Braille was very beneficial. I know of an eighty-four-year-old minister who became blind very late in life and was successfully learning Braille at the time of his death. I am not opposed to large print or taped materials, but I believe that every legally blind school child should be taught enough print and enough Braille that it can be clearly determined which will enable that child to function best. Absolutely no preference should be attached to one reading medium or the other. I also believe that every legally blind adult should have an opportunity to be exposed to Braille in a positive and encouraging way. If this were done, people with progressive eye conditions would not fear Braille when they need it, and many more blind people would have less complicated and more fulfilling lives. There are simple and effective methods available for teaching Braille. It is time to demystify the process and make this excellent tool available to every legally blind person who can benefit from it!
Thank you for your consideration of this letter. I hope it will find some person truly interested in the attitudes and educational and rehabilitation policies having a severe impact on the lives of blind and deaf-blind people.
by Barbara Pierce
My younger daughter has been lying in wait for her sixteenth birthday, which occurred yesterday (August 1). Already she has her temporary driver's license, so I know that disillusionment will soon begin. Just because she will soon be able to drive, she is not yet an adult and will not be treated by her parents as though she were one. Moreover, she will be expected to run family errands, even when doing so is inconvenient for her. And most dismaying of all, she will discover just how rapidly a gasoline tank can consume baby- sitting money.
At about the time she makes these discoveries, she will no doubt begin to evolve a new goal some future moment when happily-ever-after will begin. Margy is actually a very well-adjusted young woman, and her tendency to focus her attention on some future moment when everything will be different is no more pronounced than it is in most of us. Still this pattern of thought is a temptation to most people, and it is one that works against emotional health and enjoyment of life.
I came across a poem in the summer edition of Insight, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. It induced in me this current of quasi-philosophical reflection. Here it is:
It was spring,
But it was summer I wanted,
The warm days,
And the great outdoors.
It was summer,
But it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves,
And the cool, dry air.
It was fall,
But it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow,
And the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter,
But it was spring I wanted,
And the blossoming of nature.
I was a child,
But it was adulthood I wanted,
And the respect.
I was 20,
But it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature,
I was middle-aged,
But it was 20 I wanted,
And the free spirit.
I was retired,
But it was middle age I wanted,
The presence of mind,
My life was over.
But I never got what I wanted.
This poem was written by a young man named Jason Lehman, who was fourteen when he wrote it. If he has the good sense to live his life profiting from the implicit advice he offers, he will be a contented adult, at peace with himself and able to contribute much to his world. I believe I will show my daughter his work and take it to heart myself. Jason Lehman's admonition not to focus on future pleasures at the expense of the present can, with as much wisdom, be applied to regretting the past. The well-adjusted blind people I know, for example, have very little time or interest to spend analyzing the onset or progress of their blindness. Life, they believe, is lived in the present, preparing for the future. They are convinced that one must use those skills and abilities which one has been given, and sitting around contemplating what one might have done if one had been equipped differently seems to them an exercise in futility and crashing boredom.
Yet there are many blind people who are nearly immobilized by rationalizations and excuses. If I had been born blind, I wouldn't miss my vision so much now and could get on with my life. If I had been able to see for at least a few years, I would understand about facial expressions, color, and spatial relationships. If I had always been blind, I would have learned Braille as a small child and therefore effectively. If I had learned to read print first, I would have mastered my signature and print letters and numbers. All of these statements may be true, but they do not constitute excuses for neglecting to sit down and learn the body of information still awaiting mastery. The fact that a thing did not happen yesterday is no reason why mastering it cannot begin today. Very frequently, however, the situation is even worse. We seize upon ignorance today as justification to postpone learning until some vague time in the future or to abandon altogether plans for mastering the material.
The resulting desert of human accomplishment is as bleak as the closing line of Lehman's poem: But I never got what I wanted.
As the poet John Greenleaf Whittier said:
For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: It might have been!
by Bill J. Isaacs
Supposedly, according to Shakespeare, Ignorance is such sweet bliss. Many of the blind, as an emerging national minority, are growing weary of the glib ways in which cartoonists, the media, professionals, and writers of all sorts use the words blind, blindly, and blindness as synonymous with awkward, clumsy, crazy, and stupid. I say, no, no, 100 times no! And I am sure that some of my less restrained blind friends would say, H---, no! As a rule, a trained blind person is exceedingly cautious about what he/she does and where he/she goes, perhaps much more so than the general public. I would not for one moment consider the skillful use of a cane or well trained guide dog as symbolizing clumsiness, stupidity, awkwardness, or craziness. Quite the contrary. The alternative techniques of the blind may appear to be different and, therefore, a bit weird to the sighted observer; but, in fact, these skills for the blind are very practical and help to start them down the road toward an independent lifestyle. Many legally blind persons who would have much to gain by using alternative blind techniques refuse to do so because of the stigma the general public associates with blindness, not too unlike many light-skinned blacks in times past trying to pass for white for the same reason. The use of Braille might look like the back side of a BB gun target to the untrained eye, but for the blind fingers it is a very efficient and orderly means of communication.
I attended a national historical convention in St. Louis recently.
On the first night, there was just one big session where five panelists were reviewing their civil rights- minority situation during World War II. One was a lady who found World War II a golden opportunity to complete her graduate work in history and landed a very good government job in Washington, D.C., largely due to the man shortage created by the war. The second panelist was a Japanese-American who was caught up in the relocation problem. The third was a soldier sent to Europe on a large ship with hidden away black troops in the lower decks. The fourth speaker was a military person in India, who experienced the division between the British raj and the Indian populace. The fifth spokesman was a distinguished historian who couldn't get into the U.S. Navy because he was black and was determined not to be drafted into the Army because he was the only black historian in his state with a Ph.D. outside the armed services. Being the blind father of four adopted children representing four different ethnic-racial classes, I could well appreciate the thoughts presented in the various speeches. When one of the speakers rather lightly made a statement to the effect that the nation moved blindly down the path toward war, my ears pricked up! My wife nudged me and said, You're not going to respond to that, are you?
I replied something to the effect that So help me God, I could do no other.
After two hours of panel discussion, the audience was invited to make comments. I went to the microphone placed in a nearby aisle and stated that I very much appreciated the topics discussed that evening. I told them a little bit about myself and my family, and I thought I needed to do a little bit of educating of the historians present there. There were many well-known and well-established historians from major universities all over the country. No doubt, there were numerous graduate history students in the crowd as well. Since the general topic was on civil rights and minority interests, I thought it was the most opportune time to speak up and speak out. I mentioned that when persons use blind and blindly in ways that are very uncomplimentary to the blind, I'm the one they are talking about. I don't strike out blindly or walk down the path clumsily or awkwardly. My blind friends do not do that either. I think such stereotypical views of the blind are conjured up in the minds of writers who believe that is the way it would be if they were blind. I told the attentive audience that night that when they are writing and mean awkward, clumsy, or crazy, they should say so and not use terms which reflect adversely on the blind. I heard an understanding chuckle from the crowd following that remark.
One of my blind friends stated that careless remarks about the blind did not bother her. She could laugh at such statements because she felt they were thoughtlessly spoken and nothing serious would come of it. I personally believe that when uncomplimentary statements about the blind are carelessly made on an everyday basis and allowed to pass without challenge, it is harmful to us all. The airline people don't take those bland words carelessly and neither do many professionals or members of the business communities who question our ability to do graduate work or fulfill the requirements of a job. We the blind can laugh and joke about our difficulties, but it's quite another thing for the sighted public to create such false imagery. Theodore Roosevelt could say that President William McKinley did not have the backbone of a chocolate eclair, but for the Spanish minister Dupuy de Lome to say essentially the same thing as a foreign visitor led to his dismissal and helped to pave the way for the Spanish-American War. We can politely talk to our relatives about the foibles of one of the members of the family; but it hurts a bit to hear an outsider talk about your brother or your sister in a derogatory way.
There are funny things that we do which are laughable. One legally blind teacher tried to pick up a sheet of white paper lying on the floor in the front of the classroom. She laughed with the students when she challenged them to try to pick up a piece of sunshine. Then there was the blind fellow trailing the right wall in a hallway, when he ran into a girl with a guide dog walking on the left going the opposite way. After he had hugged the girl around the waist about three times, they both managed to go forward in their opposite directions. There is, of course, a place for using blind and blindness in scholarly writings, such as a person blinded by the light or blinded by the fog, or they were all blind as bats when the lights went out in the subway. The comment one hears when one views a sparkling diamond or a beautiful girl that it (or she) will knock your eyes out! is acceptable. The blind could appreciate that, too. It's the equating of blindness with awkwardness, stupidity, and clumsiness that is so intolerable.
In ancient times the philosopher Antiphon tried to shake up the Greeks a bit by challenging their belief that they were superior people and that all of the rest were barbarians. Do not the rest of mankind breathe the same air, drink the same water, eat the same kind of food? he said. Upon what grounds did the Greeks place their superiority? The difference between the blind and the sighted is not all that great. Like the sighted, the blind want to become educated. They want to become employable. They want to get married. They want to buy homes. They want to raise families. Intentionally or not, sighted stereotypes and mental barriers make the achievement of reasonable goals by the blind difficult to achieve.
Many of my relatives grew up in the South, and I can recall as a child that when one of us children behaved in an unbecoming way in the presence of company, it was not uncommon to hear one's elders say, He/she was as awkward as a nigger. When one analyzes that statement, it would appear that no black could be socially graceful or mannerly. You do not hear that statement any more or many others similar to it, which is as it should be. The blind community has often tried to follow in the footsteps of the blacks in improving their lot in the area of civil rights. Sometimes I feel that I want to be like Carry Nation, who went around with her handy hatchet smashing saloon windows and doors in her anti-liquor crusade. I would like to chop out or snip out unflattering words concerning the blind in written matter and oral speeches. It is my association with the National Federation of the Blind which has given me the courage to step up and speak out in this regard when I think the situation calls for it.
A few years ago I kept quiet in a faculty meeting when a distinguished sociologist concluded a rather complimentary speech about the teaching profession with the remark Lest ye be like the blind leading the blind. I felt very uncomfortable with that remark and even more so because I did not speak up at the time. I know that the statement is found in the Bible, but it must be read in the context in which it was written and with the perspective of today's society and culture. Statements such as these need to be seen in light of changing cultures and modern standards.
When I hear the expression striking out blindly, I think of an incident that I was made aware of while walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem a few years ago. I was with a party of about twenty persons, when one of the elderly gentlemen found himself encased between two would-be pickpocketers. Even though he was eighty years old, he flailed his arms and kicked his legs and beat them off successfully. He was sighted. Would you call that striking out blindly? How about sportsmen on the basketball court or on the football field who conduct themselves rather energetically at times to achieve their goals? Is it proper to say they strike out blindly? Would it not be more proper to say they struck out wildly or bravely or determinedly? These adjectives are much more accurate and logical, are they not? It has been reported that Lincoln, observing the slave market in New Orleans, said: If I ever get an opportunity, I'll strike that thing. I would very much like to play a role in removing the hindrances that prevent the blind from being fully integrated into American society, hindrances which keep us from enjoying the basic civil rights which the American Constitution affords. With from seventy to eighty percent unemployment being the norm for the blind American, one can easily see that there are still many bridges to be crossed before the goal is achieved. Think before you speak, before you make comments about blindness. I say to my fellow Federationists:
Do not be a bland leader of the blind.
by Deborah Scoblionkov
Copyright, 1989, The New York Times
This article, which appeared in the True Life Stories section of the October, 1989, McCall's magazine, focused on the Maurer family. The reporter and photographer spent considerable time at the National Center for the Blind and with President and Mrs. Maurer in their home. The article has generated a great deal of positive comment around the country. We have received permission to reprint it. Here it is:
Mornings are hectic times at the home of Patricia and Marc Maurer, both 38. As soon as the breakfast dishes are cleared, they hurriedly prepare their five-year-old son, David Patrick, for preschool; dress their two-year-old daughter, Dianna Marie, and drop her off at a baby-sitter's house down the street; then rush off to work. Marc, in addition to practicing law, has since 1986 headed a 50,000-member organization with an annual operating budget of $6 million. Patricia, a former school teacher, works by his side as coordinator of public information and community relations. The Maurers work hard to ensure a comfortable life for themselves and their children; indeed, their home, a three-story, red-brick row house in a pleasant and close- knit Baltimore neighborhood, is warm and inviting. Portraits of the children are proudly hung above the fireplace mantel in the living room, and good dishes and wineglasses are displayed in the dining room china closet. In the evenings, Marc's favorite relaxation is barbecuing on his backyard grill.
Their lives might appear to be a baby boomer's ideal, were it not for one thing: Marc and Patricia are blind.
As infants, both suffered from retinopathy, or detachment of the retina, to this day one of the leading causes of blindness among babies born prematurely. It is brought on by the high concentration of oxygen in incubators and is not hereditary. Both of the Maurers' children have normal eyesight.
The organization they run is the National Federation of the Blind, based in Baltimore. The Federation advocates the complete integration of the blind with the rest of society and makes education and job opportunities for blind people a top priority. With 70 percent unemployment among working-age blind people, a lot of talent and lives are being wasted, say Patricia and Marc. In his capacity as director of the Federation and in his private legal practice, Marc lectures widely on issues affecting the blind and has initiated a number of legal proceedings to combat discrimination. But mostly, Patricia and Marc want to inspire other blind people to accept their blindness as a physical nuisance or characteristic rather than a handicap. Together, Patricia and I are exploring the possibilities of what blind people can do, Marc explains. But we're not different from other blind people. We might have had different experiences, greater opportunities and training, but we all have the same hopes, drives, and fears.
They weren't always so confident of their capabilities. Both were born in Iowa to parents of strong midwestern stock, who instilled in their weak-sighted children the value of education and the will to persist.
Patricia Schaaf grew up in the small town of Dexter, Iowa population 400. As a child, she had a little residual visual perception and could get by as long as she wore thick glasses. But as Patricia approached her teens, her eyesight rapidly deteriorated to the point where she could not read the print in her school books even using a magnifying glass. She was the only blind person in town, and as a consequence there were no special programs to help her. The closest school for the blind was 300 miles away, and her parents did not want to send her so far from home.
So she attended public schools and struggled to keep up with the other students. Her parents would read her homework assignments to her each evening. But I couldn't get around very well, and relied on friends to help me when we went out, she says, remembering the embarrassments of her adolescence. I was extremely self-conscious.
Marc Maurer was born in Des Moines, Iowa, a capital city. He recalls that he was five years old before he realized he was blind. I could see some colors, some light, and some objects, but everything disappeared beyond ten feet, he says. As a child, I assumed that everyone saw the world like that. Then one day he was shattered to discover that his brother could see way down to the end of the block.
The next year Marc was enrolled in an elementary school for the blind. His mother studied Braille so she could assist him, and she began to transcribe books into Braille for the library. It wasn't long before the reserved boy became a voracious reader. His parents bought a stereo so Marc could also listen to the growing number of books on records. He attended a parochial high school for sighted students, and every evening his mother would read his homework assignments to him, quizzing him afterward to make certain he understood. My mother was wonderful, Marc says. She always insisted that I do things. Nevertheless, he was, he remembers, a loner who enjoyed solitary pleasures, particularly escaping into the exciting books he ordered from the library of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, an organization in which he was becoming increasingly active. Meanwhile, back in Dexter, Patricia attended a church meeting featuring a speaker from the Iowa Commission for the Blind. It was a big event in a small town, she recalls. And it was there that I learned of the availability of books on records and tape. I knew they would be a big help to me.
The next year, during her junior year of high school, Patricia heard a televised public service message from the Iowa Commission for the Blind. She wrote to them for information and two weeks later received a telephone call from the commission's director, a blind man named Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. He told her about a summer training program for the blind in Des Moines. After discussing it with her parents, Patricia decided to attend. At the program that summer she learned how to read Braille and travel independently with a cane. Most important, Patricia says, she learned that it was okay to be blind. And it was there that she met Marc Maurer. I first met Patricia on June 16, 1969, at 4:30 in the afternoon, says Marc with characteristic precision. They were introduced in a philosophy class taught by Dr. Jernigan. Marc and Patricia became friends and frequently stayed up in the dorm lounge talking or, more often, arguing, late into the night. He was intrigued by this engaging and very attractive young woman who spoke her mind freely and often disagreed with his opinions. She, on the other hand, thought he was cold, arrogant, and kind of conceited.
They agreed on one thing: Both had a deep respect for Dr. Jernigan, a man who inspired thousands of people while directing the Iowa Commission for the Blind and during his concurrent 18-year reign as President of the National Federation of the Blind. He became our mentor, Patricia says.
One early encounter with Dr. Jernigan made a particularly strong impression on Marc. Not long after we'd met, he invited me over for a barbecue, Marc recalls. Well, I went, and he put the charcoal in the grill and lit it that's not so astonishing. But then he handed me a welding glove and said, `Now I want you to stick your hand in the fire.' To a blind person, touching something hot is terrifying. Blind people are particularly afraid of fire. I said, `No! You're crazy!' But he persisted, and finally I discovered that with welding gloves you can safely put your hand in the middle of a fire.
That incident proved to he a turning point in Marc's life. By confronting and overcoming his greatest fears, he opened the doors to new perceptions and possibilities.
Dr. Jernigan encouraged Marc and Patricia to pursue higher education. In 1969 Patricia entered Drake University, in Marc's hometown of Des Moines. The next year Marc enrolled at Notre Dame University in Indiana. Occasionally their paths crossed, but nothing romantic developed until one evening during her junior year of college, when Patricia impulsively decided to call her old friend at Notre Dame. She was shocked to realize how much she'd grown to care for him. That phone conversation sparked a correspondence between them that ultimately evolved into love. It was a romance of letters and telephone calls, is how Patricia sums up their year-and-a-half courtship. Finally reunited at a National Federation of the Blind convention in New York, Marc decided he'd had enough of this long-distance relationship. Two minutes later, he announced rather than proposed that they would marry.
Oh, responded the stunned Patricia. When? As soon as it can be arranged.
They were married six weeks later in Des Moines and soon afterward settled into a small student apartment in South Bend, Indiana, near Notre Dame. They were lean times, says Marc of the first years of their marriage. It was definitely a struggle, Patricia recalls, but I never doubted that we'd made the right decision. Upon receiving her degree in education, Patricia was offered a teaching position in a regular public elementary school back in Iowa. When she applied for a teaching job in Indiana, however, she was rejected because of her blindness. Not ones to take this kind of discrimination lightly, she and Marc threatened the local school district, sending letters to congressmen, local newspapers, and television stations. As a result, the district reluctantly employed her as a substitute teacher. After a year the school board, impressed by her performance, offered her a regular contract.
But that year, 1974, Marc graduated cum laude from Notre Dame, and the Maurers moved from South Bend to Indianapolis so Marc could attend Indiana University Law School. There Patricia supported them by working as a data processor.
Finally, in 1978, armed with his law degree, Marc landed a job with the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington, D.C., and the family moved to their present home in Maryland. It was a comfortable and responsible position, Marc agrees, but he had even greater ambitions. After two years he left to start his own law firm, specializing in civil litigation. In 1982 he ran for a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates, but lost.
During Marc's hectic campaign for the state legislature, Patricia was right by his side. Their marriage, says Marc, is a team effort. Then, after nine years of marriage, and with their future looking bright and secure, Patricia and Marc felt that the time had come to start a family.
Patricia admits that most of her initial concerns about motherhood were normal fears any woman might have. I was scared and didn't feel that I was ready for the responsibility of children, she recalls. Later on, though still scared, she felt prepared for the challenges.
What worried Patricia most was how she would teach her children to recognize colors. Ultimately she enlisted the aid of sighted friends and family members, and now David Patrick has become so color-conscious that dressing him has become a problem he refuses to wear clothes that don't match properly! We probably overcompensated, Patricia admits.
The only time I really felt bad about being blind, she confesses, was when David Patrick was learning to use crayons, and he used to plead with me to color with him. She has learned to accept David Patrick's disappointment philosophically. He has plenty of friends to play with, she says.
Patricia knows there will be other problems the children will have to accept. Recently David Patrick became enthralled with motorcycles, and he wishes his dad could give him a ride on one. And eventually David Patrick will have to understand that he and his father will never be able to toss a ball in the backyard together.
But perhaps the most potentially disturbing dilemma the Maurers' children will encounter is how to reconcile their parents' view of being blind with society's perception of the blind as handicapped and helpless. Patricia understands that to a child it must be confusing. David Patrick sees us at home handling situations without any difficulty, but when we go out, he sees other people treating us as though we aren't capable human beings, she says. Of course, their being blind does sometimes create special problems when it comes to the smooth running of their household, but so far no problem has been so big that Patricia and Marc couldn't find a solution. Without the aid of sight or a housekeeper, Patricia maintains order by keeping herself conscious of where I put things and where the kids are and where they put things. But, she adds cheerfully, the kids will usually let you know where they are. To be absolutely sure they always know what's going on, Patricia and Marc have installed an intercom system that connects every room in their home. And when unforeseeable problems arise, Patricia usually finds they can be solved with a little common sense. Once, when both children became sick at the same time and were prescribed different medicines in similarly shaped bottles, she asked the pharmacist to put extra tape on one bottle so she could distinguish it from the other.
For other, more practical matters, the Maurers' neighbors have been more than happy to lend a hand. One woman who lives down the street is also employed by the National Federation of the Blind and gives Patricia and Marc a ride to and from work. And as a matter of course, neighborhood friends stop by the Maurers' home on their way to the supermarket to see if they need any groceries or just to chat.
In many ways, parenthood has reinforced the Maurers' belief that they aren't so different from sighted people. Patricia explains that I used to think I couldn't find things because I'm blind, but after talking with other mothers, I've come to the conclusion that everybody loses socks and misplaces bottles. It was a great realization. Marc found that becoming a father had a tremendous impact on his life, but in ways he hadn't expected. I was misled about the whole thing, he says with humor. Sure, I'd always thought it would be a good thing to have children, but I figured that the principal part of parenting would be responsibility. Nobody ever told me about the great and wonderful joy involved.
Until I experienced it, I didn't know it existed. At bedtime either Patricia or Marc reads the kids to sleep from children's books transcribed into Braille. Like many parents, they're looking forward, albeit fearfully, to the time when their children enter the tumultuous teen-age years. They consider drugs the greatest threat to their children's welfare, and hope and pray that they will have instilled in David Patrick and Dianna Marie the strength and self-discipline to resist destructive influences.
Some people might worry about blind parents having children, says Patricia, but for the serious problems that may come before us, blindness has very little to do with how we will handle them. Dinner at the Maurers' is as chaotic as in any normal household with a young child and an infant, but it is also a joyful affair, partly because of the antics of the irrepressible David Patrick, who is just learning to help out and alternately revels in and rebels against his new responsibilities.
This day the Maurers are preparing a feast. Early in the morning Patricia and David Patrick baked chocolate chip cookies. A neighbor stopped by on her way to the supermarket to pick up a shopping list. By noon Marc had spread his porterhouse steaks on a tray to marinate and had poured a pile of hickory chips into a bucket to soak.
Marc loves to grill steaks during any season, and the Maurers' barbecues have become famous in their neighborhood. Once, Marc got the urge to barbecue in the middle of a winter snowstorm, and his neighbors called the fire department. They couldn't figure out where the smoke was coming from! Patricia explains with a laugh.
Now, with the sun setting and David Patrick watching proudly, Marc fills the kettle grill with charcoal, douses it with lighter fluid and carefully ignites it with a spark gun. He hugs David Patrick close to him, safely out of range of the fire, and waits for the flames to die down before adding the hickory chips. Inside, Patricia prepares sauted mushrooms, zucchini, French-fried potatoes, and fruit salad, while Dianna Marie plays contentedly in her nearby playpen.
Marc gauges the cooking time of the steaks with a talking timer, a device that fits neatly into his shirt pocket and electronically tells the elapsed minutes and seconds through a computer-generated voice. Wearing thick welding gloves, he casually turns the metal grid that holds the thick steaks. In a few minutes they're cooked to perfection. The Maurers easily move around their home without the white retractable canes they both use outside. Bumping into each other occasionally is inevitable, however, especially when gathering around the dinner table, but it's often an excuse for an affectionate hug or pat. When Patricia leans over to feed Dianna Marie in her high chair, she feels with one hand for her daughter's mouth and directs the spoon with the other. Marc refers to Dianna Marie as Little Red for her shock of flaming red hair, which he has never seen. David Patrick, who looks out for his younger sister, is called Little Man by his father.
When David Patrick wants to taste his mother's steak, she offers a speared morsel in his direction. He pauses before taking a bite. I love you, Mom, he shyly offers.
Marc beams with pride. We're doing things that 25 years ago were thought beyond the capabilities of blind people. Of course, there are natural boundaries for us, but unless they're tested, how do we know? Inevitably there are going to be failures, but unless you try, there's no opportunity for growth. Besides, he adds, it's such an adventure!
From the Associate Editor : The December holidays are a time of recollection and hope. Hanukkah, Christmas, and even New Year's Eve bring families and good friends together to remember shared joys and look forward to the blessings and opportunities of the coming year. As for any other family, this year in the Federation has had its share of joys: new babies, new jobs, marriages. But it has also seen much sorrow. We have grieved together over the loss of those of our number who have died. We have shared the pain of illness and suffered together in times of distress. In short, we have lived together and loved one another this year as we will next. We will also work to bring our common dream into being. We have made progress this year, and we will make more in our Fiftieth Anniversary year. Whatever the pain or fatigue we feel at this moment, we can take satisfaction in our accomplishments and look forward with anticipation to the challenges ahead.
So take pleasure in this most blessed time of the year. Enjoy your families and friends, and perhaps take time to prepare one of these special holiday recipes. They are, after all, old family favorites.
NORWEGIAN RICE PUDDING
by Sharon Omvig
As Monitor readers know, Sharon Omvig is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Arizona. Her husband Jim's family hails from Norway, and this is a traditional Norwegian holiday dish that Sharon has learned to prepare. It is delicious very comforting in cold, blustery weather. The Omvigs assure us that it tastes good in warm Arizona as well.
1 cup uncooked rice
8 cups whole milk
(part of this may be half and half)
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
� cup melted butter
cinnamon sugar and raisins for garnish
Method : In a large, heavy pan heat 4 cups of the milk. Add the rice and begin stirring the mixture frequently as it cooks over low to medium heat. Add the remaining four cups of milk, which you have heated, and continue stirring frequently for 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
As the pudding cooks it will thicken, so you must stir it more frequently as it progresses. When the mixture is pudding consistency, stir in the sugar and salt and pour it into a large serving bowl. Cover and keep warm.
Make a cream sauce by heating 2-1/2 cups cream in a skillet. Shake together until smooth � cup cream and 4 tablespoons flour. Stir this mixture into the cream, add 1 teaspoon salt, and continue stirring constantly until cream sauce is thick and bubbly. To serve, pour cream sauce over the warm pudding. Pour the melted butter across the surface, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and dot with raisins that have been heated in a little water and allowed to stand for 10 minutes.
by Diane McGeorge
Diane McGeorge is the First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and the President of the NFB of Colorado. This fruitcake recipe is her favorite. When her boys were small, she collected the old Chase and Sanborn one-pound coffee tins through the year. She then baked eight one-pound fruitcakes using this recipe. Before giving the cakes as gifts, she and the children decorated the tins.
4-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
� teaspoon each salt, cinnamon, and cloves
1 pound butter or margarine
1 pound brown sugar
10 eggs, beaten
1 pound candied fruit
1 pound dates, chopped
1 pound raisins
1 pound currants
� pound nuts, chopped
1 cup honey
1 cup molasses
1 cup apple cider
Method: Cream sugar and butter together until light. Add eggs, beating well. Beat in liquid ingredients and then stir in fruits and nuts. Finally stir in the dried ingredients, which you have sifted together. (We used to sift all dry ingredients, but who bothers anymore?) Pour the batter into prepared pans. Line these with foil, then grease and flour the foil generously. You may use loaf pans, tube pans, or small foil disposable pans of any shape. Bake cakes at 375 degrees for up to 2-1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
OLD FASHIONED GINGERBREAD
by Diane McGeorge
This recipe originally belonged to Diane McGeorge's grandmother.
� cup shortening
� cup sugar
1 cup Brer Rabbit molasses
2-1/2 cups flour
� teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda
� teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
� teaspoon nutmeg
� teaspoon cloves
1 cup boiling water
Method : Cream sugar and shortening, then add the egg. Beat well. Add the molasses then sift together the dry ingredients. Alternately add flour mixture and boiling water to molasses mixture. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Gingerbread can also be baked in muffin tins to make gingerbread muffins.
THE FINAL PUNCH
by Joyce Scanlan
Joyce Scanlan is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Minnesota. She serves this punch at all her holiday parties.
1 12 ounce can frozen orange juice
1 6 ounce can lemonade concentrate
1 14 ounce can pineapple juice
3 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 quarts club soda
Method : Mash or puree six ripe bananas. Combine the banana with next five ingredients. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then freeze for at least 24 hours. At least an hour before serving put the frozen punch into a punch bowl to thaw. At serving time pour club soda into the bowl and stir. Punch will be a little thickened due to the ice crystals. Serves 25.
MATZO BALL SOUP
by Hazel tenBroek
When we asked Mrs. tenBroek to contribute a favorite Hanukkah recipe to the Braille Monitor, she offered this one. Members of the California affiliate testify to its excellence. Happy Hanukkah.
2 tablespoons oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
� cup matzo meal
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 tablespoons soup stock or water
Method : Blend oil and eggs together. Add matzo meal and salt to the egg and oil mixture. Blend well. Add soup stock or water and mix until uniform. Cover mixing bowl and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Using a two- or three-quart pot, bring 1 and � quarts of your favorite chicken soup stock to a boil. Reduce the flame and into the slightly boiling stock drop balls approximately 1 inch in diameter formed from the chilled mixture. Cover the pot and cook 10 to 15 minutes. This recipe should make about 8 matzo balls. Variations can be had by adding to the matzo meal mixture finely chopped walnuts, parsley flakes, or any other spice or herb desired.
Traditionally, the fat was chicken fat. In these days of worrying about cholesterol, use your favorite oil. For those who would go really traditional, check the recipe on the box of Manischewitz matzo meal. Matzo meal comes with and without salt. As for chicken soup I'm fortunate. Sharon Gold makes the very best and shares her bounty with me.
When, as sometimes happens, the Braille Monitor makes an error, we try to correct it. The present instance is such an occasion. In the August, 1989, issue we printed an article entitled Maine Center for the Blind Resents Seeing the Truth in Print. The first paragraph of our article reads as follows:
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. This paragraph contains two glaring errors. It is not Providence but Portland, and Mr. Crouse has not been at the Maine Center for the blind for thirty-five years. He has been there for a much shorter time.
We gladly correct these errors, but we wish to emphasize that we believe the substance and tone of our article are completely accurate and, if anything, understated. From our research and all the information we can gather we believe the Maine Center for the Blind is negative in character and harmful instead of helpful to the blind of the state. We are informed that it is referred to by those who should know most about it (the blind of Maine) as the concentration camp. Therefore, while we regret our errors, we do not apologize for telling the truth.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Never used Optacon for sale, $2,900 or best offer, includes owner's manual and carrying case. Contact: Charles Dreher, 98 Park Ridge Drive, #304, San Francisco, California 94131; telephone: (415) 285-6016.
**Information for Computer Beginners Available:
A seminar for computer beginners was held at this year's NFB convention. Information distributed at that seminar is now available from the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science. All we ask is that you contribute the cost we are incurring to make the material available to you that is, five dollars.
Two items are available in Braille or print: Recipe for a First Computer and a Glossary of Basic Computer Terms . We have also prepared a report entitled A Review of Speech and Braille Software/Hardware Systems Designed to Permit Blind Persons to Access the Video Display of an IBM Personal Computer (PC). Because of its extreme length (about forty-six pages) the report is only available in print.
For further information or to request any or all of the above items to be sent to you, contact the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, Curtis Chong, President, 3530 Dupont Avenue North, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55412.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Christian Books on Tape: Bestselling, unabridged books on tape, prices from $9.95-$11.95 plus shipping/handling. Wide range of Christian topics. Call toll-free 1-800-366-8090.
**Word Games and Such:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Trivia Book, Word Game, Braille 'n Speak Users Group. Top Dot Enterprises is now selling Crosstalk Trivia, a trivia book on cassette. Questions are on track one, with answers immediately adjoining on track three. Categories of questions, which are tone-indexed, include sports, geography, t.v., black history, and (mostly) general information. The cost is $7. Word Rally is a Braille and large print word game playable by anyone ten years and up, ideal for one or two players. For $9.50 you receive game books in both Braille and 14-point large print. The game is a contest to build the most and longest words from random groups of letters. Braille 'n Speak owners can join the Braille 'n Speak Users Group and receive two cassette newsletters per year. Blazie Engineering will no longer put out these newsletters. Membership is $10. For any of these offers contact Top Dot Enterprises, 6809 Sacramento Street S.W., Tacoma, Washington 98499; telephone: (206) 545- 1818.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For sale: Perkins Brailler L9717, New has never been used or out of box, $350. Contact: Lois F. Wachtman, Route 6, 11577 Fruit Ridge Drive, Defiance, Ohio 43512.
In mid-September we received the following release in the National Office: You are cordially invited to an opening exhibition titled `Through Different Eyes,' representing the work of Ms. Cherie Heppe. September 17-23, Yah-tah-hey Gallery, 270 Captain's Walk, New London, Connecticut; September 25-29, 99 Pratt Street, Lobby, Hartford, Connecticut; October 24-28, The Distant Drum, 83 Plaza, Route 83, Vernon, Connecticut. Ms. Heppe will be present on the opening day of the exhibition at each location. Cherie Heppe, who grew up in Nevada, is totally blind. Her work in ceramics has been nationally recognized. Her more recent work in bone, leather, and jewelry has been inspired by her move to Connecticut seven years ago. This exhibition is reflective of her unique perspective as she explores her past, her present, and looks to her future.
**Coins to Touch:
We offer the following item without comment. It appeared in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sun-Sentinel on August 20, 1989. It reads:
Exhibits for the Blind
by Ed Rochette
In the Netherlands certain design factors in circulating coins facilitate their value identification by the visually impaired. Other European nations Braille-emboss denominations on their paper currency. And now there is an exhibit for the blind to see and compare the designs of coins of the world. On July 9 the world's first coin gallery for the visually impaired opened at the Museum of the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs. By donating models of their circulating coins, more than 20 nations participated, including Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Egypt, Great Britain, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Macao, Malta, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Uganda, the United States, and Western Samoa.
Models submitted by these governments are several times the actual size and have been recast in epoxy to allow for hands-on examination. The designs are identified and described in Braille.
After touching a model of the South African gold Krugerrand, a visually impaired visitor from the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind commented, This is the first time that I have seen a springbok. The deerlike creature is depicted on the reverse of the Krugerrand bullion coin.
The museum is at 818 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
**Tapes to Sell:
Newstrack Executive Tape Service writes to advise that it records business articles from major publications. Two 90- minute tapes containing this information are produced each month. This service is sold for $249 per year. Articles are selected from magazines such as Forbes, Fortune, Inc., and Chief Executive . For further information write to: Newstrack Executive Tape Service, Box 1178, Englewood, Colorado 80150.
**Clarke & Smith Easiplay Automatic Cassette Player:
As Monitor readers know, W. Harold (Hal) Bleakley is the President and principal owner of Aids Unlimited. He has asked that we carry the following announcement:
The famous English Clarke & Smith Easiplay Automatic Cassette Player has come to the United States. The Easiplay Automatic is not just another machine that has been modified to play National Library Service tapes. It has a totally new design. Shaped like a toaster it will play the Library of Congress 4 track slow speed cassettes or an ordinary cassette at the regular 1-7/8 speed and it is far and away the easiest to operate cassette player ever developed. Just drop the cassette in the slot in the top, like a slice of bread, push down and away you go for up to six (6) hours of reading without touching the machine. If you want to stop for a while, push down on a button, the cassette pops up like a slice of toast and the Easiplay Automatic shuts-off automatically. When you come back to read once more, just push the cassette down again; the Easiplay Automatic rewinds for a moment or two, gives about 30 seconds of review reading and then goes straight on. Several other important features make the Clarke & Smith Easiplay Automatic a most unique and valuable cassette player. First, if you are not sure of the track you are on, it can be found easily by pushing a button consecutively. When you get to Track 1 it will beep. In addition, should you think that you may nod off to sleep, you can throw a snooze switch which stops the Easiplay at the end of the track you are reading and avoids your waking up to find that you are at the end of the whole cassette. A remote cord with an on/off switch and a cigarette lighter cable permitting you to enjoy the Easiplay in a car are two unusual optional accessories. Variable speed control, earphone jack, volume control, tone control, fast forward, rewind, and a mechanical cassette ejection switch complete the wide range of functions at your finger tips with the Easiplay Automatic. Its 4-1/2-inch speaker puts out magnificent sound. The Easiplay Automatic Cassette Player has a one (1) year warranty. Prompt repair service is available should it be needed.
For further details contact: Aids Unlimited, Inc., 1101 North Calvert Street, Suite 405, Baltimore, Maryland 21202; 301-659-0232. Business hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Many of your readers have shown an interest in The Spoken Word. This magazine is an interdenominational Christian magazine recorded on cassette tape. The subscription for the magazine is free of charge. We welcome United States and foreign subscriptions. Please advise your readers that our address has changed and that we should be contacted at: Spoken Word Ministries, Inc., 2432 Milburnie Road, Raleigh, North Carolina 27610; (919) 834-5005.
John Dragona has asked us to carry the following announcement:
LIPTON RECIPES AVAILABLE: The package directions for the complete new line of Lipton Side Dish Products is now available in Braille and large print. Separated into six sections Cool Side Salads, Noodles & Sauce, Pasta & Sauce, Rice & Beans, Rice & Sauce, and Rice and Sauce Long Grain and Wild Rice each recipe is listed in a table of contents. The directions for the twenty-nine varieties all include Side Dish (stove top), Microwave, and Main Dish (suggests additional ingredients to turn one package into a main dish) cooking instructions which are simple to follow by blind or visually impaired people. For a sixty-page, spiral-bound Braille copy (three-hole punch available upon request) or a magazine-formatted large print copy send $6 to: TFB Publications, 238 75th Street, North Bergen, New Jersey 07047; (201) 662-0956. TFB also Brailles appliance operating manuals, as well as other material, and has many other publications in Braille.
We have just been informed by Hazel Staley, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, that Ed and Tricia Tessnear of Wilson, North Carolina, have a new baby. Erin Denise Tessnear was born shortly after midnight on August 22, 1989. She weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces, and was 20-1/2 inches long. Tricia is Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina, and Ed is Chairman of the state affiliate's Scholarship Committee. Congratulations to the Tessnears all three of them.
In a recent letter Don Capps said: Chalk up another accomplishment for the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. The thirtieth chapter of the NFB of South Carolina was organized Tuesday night, August 1, 1989, in Kingstree. The new chapter has a sizable membership and excellent officers. Let's take it from the beginning, however. Several months ago Mrs. Evelyn Dennis of Kingstree, who is legally blind, wrote to us, explaining that she has authored a book and would appreciate any assistance the NFB of South Carolina could provide in helping her publicize it. In June our state secretary, Yvonne Bradley, Betty, and I went to Kingstree and met with Mrs. Dennis. We also developed a list of the names of other blind persons in the Kingstree-Williamsburg County area. It was determined at that time a chapter in Kingstree was possible, and plans were made to return to Kingstree July 31 and August 1 to complete the project. This past Tuesday Yvonne, Betty, and I spent both days calling on blind persons in the area. A meeting was held at a local restaurant, and the thirtieth chapter came into being. The new officers are:
Evelyn Dennis, President; the Reverend Robert Logan, Vice President; William Allen, Secretary; and Frank Chestnut, Treasurer. We were also pleased to have at the meeting the Honorable Jimmy Kirby, Mayor of Kingstree, who is also president of the Kingstree Lions Club. We were also pleased to have our state treasurer (Frank Coppel), along with his wife Gail, as well as the Federation Center of the Blind's Executive Director David Houck, his wife Darlene, and son Kevin to join us at the banquet. The NFB of South Carolina continues to experience solid growth. The Federation is truly representative of the blind of the state.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: For Sale An R1D Optacon in very good condition with good battery life, serviced with new camera cable. Includes carrying case, battery charger, print and Braille manuals, new rubber pad to hold materials. Price: $2,000 or best offer. Mini-Picht Braillewriter from Germany in leatherette case with instructions in print and Braille German text, with English translation. Sturdy metal construction, very quiet, only three pounds. Designed for notes on the road on small-size paper. Price: $200 or best offer. Contact: Constance Griesmer, 836-C Santa Barbara Street, Pasadena, California 91101.
Saturday, September 30, 1989, the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio Student Division was organized in Columbus, Ohio, following a day-long seminar for blind college students entitled Landing on Your Feet. The officers of the new division are Tracy Macincupp, President; Mark Wheeler-Glickman, Vice President; and David Robinson, Treasurer. According to Barbara Pierce, President of the NFB of Ohio, the group is eager to grow and take its place as part of the national Student Division and the state affiliate.
Melissa LaGroue, President of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama and member of the Board of Directors of the National Student Division, reports that she encountered an example of airline logic that left her shaken and incredulous while she was traveling from Atlanta to Columbus, Ohio, to assist in organizing the new student division in that state (see the previous Monitor Miniature). When she boarded the Delta aircraft, she discovered that she had been issued a seat in an exit row. She stowed her cane in accordance with FAA regulations and hoped for the best. Soon a member of the cabin crew arrived to say that the cane, which was lying flat on the floor parallel to the fuselage, was protruding about five inches into the window opening and would have to be moved. Miss LaGroue was discussing this question when the captain came to announce that she would have to move from her seat because a federal law prohibited her from sitting there. When she pointed out that she had been assigned the seat, he retreated to the cockpit, muttering. The stewardess, however, remained on the scene to continue the discussion about the cane. She said that in case of an emergency in which the cabin was filled with smoke, other passengers would not be able to see the cane lying there and would trip over it. Miss LaGroue assured her that the cane would be in her hand outside the aircraft by the time other people passed that way. But nothing would alter the flight attendant's view. She insisted on moving the cane. Her solution to the problem of safe stowage was the thing that left Melissa LaGroue gasping. The attendant insisted on laying the cane across the horizontal bars under her seat and the one in front of her so that it lay completely across the exit row about four inches off the floor surely a position guaranteed to inhibit the rapid evacuation of passengers, assuming, of course, that it remained there after Miss LaGroue's departure. However, the flight was uneventful despite the best efforts of the air crew. **Surgery:
We have learned that E. U. Parker, long-time Federationist from Mississippi, had back surgery on September 1st of this year. Apparently there was a problem with pressure on a nerve, and at the time of this writing (early October) he is unable to walk and must use a wheelchair. He was scheduled to have surgery again in early October to try to correct the situation, but we do not know the results. Walking or sitting, E. U. Parker is able to do more than most. Our thoughts are with him, and we hope he has a full and speedy recovery.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I am seeking correspondence from anyone who is either a medical transcriptionist, a legal transcriptionist, or legal secretary. I wish correspondence by cassette tape or by phone. Hope to hear from you soon. Contact: Jeannette N. Dzikowski, 24085 West Edison Road, South Bend, Indiana 46628; (219) 287-1264.
**Gambling and Gamboling:
Patricia Maurer submits the following:
The Greater Baltimore Chapter, National Federation of the Blind of Maryland held their first annual New Orleans Style Casino Night on September 15, 1989. For the purchase of a ticket, which sold for $10.00, each person received $3,000.00 in National Federation of the Blind play money. The money could be used to play blackjack or roulette, or to shoot craps.
The Greater Baltimore Chapter provided a collection of New Orleans style jazz. Refreshments, including New Orleans style food, were available for a minimal charge.
Patrons, many of whom wore New Orleans style costumes, participated in the auction held at the end of the night. A number of prizes, including a weekend for two at The Harbor Court (Baltimore's most prestigious new hotel), were auctioned off to those with lots of play money. Those who did not have much money left at the end of the night were able to purchase more at $5.00 for $3,000.00 worth of play money.
The event was held at the Tall Cedars of Lebanon Hall. This large and beautiful facility was donated to us by the 45 Association, Incorporated. The Deputy Grand Master of the Masons, Mr. John McWilliams Smith, was given a National Federation of the Blind lapel pin in appreciation for his assistance in making our event a success. The chapter received a great deal of help from the Jaycees of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, who provided us the roulette wheel and craps table. Our New Orleans Style Casino Night raised more than $1,300.00. Thanks to all who contributed to its success.
**Spreading the Word:
Books are not usually as dramatic or immediate as stories in the newspaper or shots on t.v., but their effect is continuing and long-range. We recently received the following letter in the National Office:
I am a general elementary education teacher in the state of Florida. I have recently taken a post working with the visually impaired unit at my school. In order to learn more about the visually impaired, I went to our local library and checked out several books dealing with visual problems.
The most helpful book was entitled A Resource Guide for Parents and Educators of Blind Children, written by Doris M. Willoughby and copyrighted 1979.
Due to the author's high recommendation of your organization, I thought I would write to you and see if you have other books or information available for the blind. One of the children in the vision impaired program at our school is totally blind, and he will be receiving an adapted physical education program. The P.E. teacher is not really aware of things she can do with this blind student. That is why I am writing you. Do you know of any resource material available on the subject of teaching P.E. to the blind?
Any information you could send us about this subject would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.
Michael Baillif, President of the National Federation of the Blind Student Division, writes as follows:
The Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind will be hosting a National Student Conference immediately prior to the 1990 Washington Seminar. Join with us Friday, February 2, to share hospitality and revelry. Saturday's full-day agenda will include such topics as chapter development, membership recruiting, and fundraising. Additionally, there will be events which inspire philosophical thought and social mixing. Capping off the Student Conference on Saturday evening will be a festive banquet.
The Washington Seminar provides an excellent opportunity for students to be more active participants in addressing the legislative and developmental challenges which face the National Federation of the Blind. The National Student Conference will perpetuate and build upon this learning experience. The prevailing Washington Seminar hotel rates will begin on Friday, February 2. For more information contact: Diane McGeorge, 2232 South Broadway, Denver, Colorado 80210, (303) 778-1130; or Michael Baillif, Post Office Box 8A Yale Station, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, (203) 436-2563.