The Braille Monitor

Vol. 34, No. 7                                                                                                   July/August 1991

Barbara Pierce, Editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, on cassette and
the World Wide Web and FTP on the Internet

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President

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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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ISSN 0006-8829


Vol. 34, No. 7                                                                                          July/August 1991




by Susan J. Spungin

by Marc Maurer


by William M. Raeder

by William M. Raeder




by T. V. Cranmer and Abraham Nemeth



by Jim Burns

by Barbara Pierce

by John and Mary Rowley


by Ted Young

by Ted Young

by Norman Coombs, Ph.D.

by Ramona Walhof

by Deborah Kent Stein

by Lois Wencil

by Carla McQuillan

by Marc Maurer




Copyright National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1991


From the Editors: Material appropriate for inclusion in the Monitor crosses our desks in a steady stream, but sometimes that stream becomes a torrent. We had planned to devote the entire July issue to the subject of Braille, but so much else of interest seems to be happening that we have decided to produce a July/August edition in order to catch up and then begin afresh following the annual convention. So the theme of this issue is the struggle for the survival of Braille. Many critical events are taking place right now, and there are still many misconceptions about Braille. If we do not succeed in re- establishing the right of blind children and adults to achieve full literacy, our battles for equality, for employment, and even for quality rehabilitation will be virtually impossible to win.

PHOTO: Small child on couch with Braille magazine in her lap. CAPTION: Tiny hands investigate the magic of Braille. Lacy Lebouef of Louisiana was introduced early to Braille.

PHOTO: Adult hands guide child's hands across a Braille page. CAPTION: Young hands are taught the mysteries of Braille. At the 1988 convention Evelyn Riggans of Oregon took time to teach Cherrane Verduin of Illinois some of the fine points of Braille reading.

PHOTO: James Omvig and Charles Brown sit at head table during meeting of NFB Resolutions Committee. CAPTION: Capable hands guide a committee's deliberations using Braille. James Omvig, for many years the chairman of the NFB Resolutions Committee, depends on Braille to keep meetings running smoothly.

PHOTO: Homer Page sits at his desk in his office. CAPTION: Experienced hands read documents in Braille. Homer Page, university professor and Boulder County, Colorado, Commissioner, uses Braille daily in his job.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Kenneth Silberman.]


From the Associate Editor: After church on Sundays when I was a child, we always stopped at the drug store to buy the New York Times. My parents read it off and on all week long, but during the remainder of the drive home on Sunday, my mother, and later my brother, would read snippets from the front page to the whole family. We all knew that the really important issues and the most pressing crises facing the nation were to be found there.

When living abroad as an adult, I have felt in some ways the same dependence on the Times. I can remember walking along the streets of London and Paris and pausing at the newspaper kiosks with my husband and children to read the headlines in the New York Times. They were a tie with home, a reassuring reminder of what people in the States were thinking about and considering to be important that day. I know I am not alone in this sentimental and emotional attachment to the Times. People across this country and around the world take seriously the ideas that make their way into print in this world-class newspaper.

On Sunday, May 12, 1991, a story by Karen DeWitt appeared on the front page of the New York Times. It was accompanied by a picture of hands using a Braille slate and stylus; the story was about the struggle being waged by blind people to win the right to have Braille instruction available to school-age children who need it. The story was continued later in the first section of the paper, and on the second page there was a large picture of Ken Silberman, an active member of the Federation in Maryland.

Of course, not everything about the story was accurate. The National Federation of the Blind has never contended that every visually impaired youngster should be taught Braille, only that those who want or whose parents want them to learn it should have access to Braille instruction and that its teachers should be competent to read and write it. Moreover, we certainly do not hold technology in disdain. The fact that we do not consider it the be-all and end-all for blind people does not mean that we have no appreciation of speech and large-print access to computers or that the revolution in Braille production is the only technology that we appreciate or will use.

But even with such inaccuracies in the story, the fact remains that the reading public is today more aware of the current debate over Braille than ever before. And people have been clearly told that blind adults believe we need Braille if we are to compete effectively. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." The New York Times heard and put the story on page 1. Here it is:


by Karen DeWitt

Kenneth Silberman was in graduate school when he realized he had to learn to read and write.

Mr. Silberman, who is blind, discovered that the tape recorders and computers he had always used to get through school were of little help in the advanced studies required to earn a master's degree.

He ended up teaching himself Braille and received the degree, in aerospace engineering, from Cornell University. But he is still bitter that as a child with only limited vision he was not taught Braille and thus found himself illiterate in his mid- twenties.

Mr. Silberman's predicament is not unusual. Braille, once taught to all the visually handicapped, has been partly supplanted in the last forty years by such technological aids as tape recorders, voice-activated computers, and machines that translate print into voice. As a result, illiteracy is on the rise among the nation's thirteen million people with visual handicaps. The most recent figures available, from the American Printing House for the Blind, show that in 1989 only twelve percent of visually handicapped students read Braille, down from nearly fifty percent in 1965.

How Militant An Approach?

The illiteracy rate is at the center of a battle over whether the best approach is technology and some Braille or a wholesale return to Braille. The conflict pits advocacy groups dominated by those without visual handicaps against more militant groups dominated by the blind.

Those without visual handicaps want to teach Braille selectively. They say the other aids have a valid place and that the pool of visually handicapped people includes those with other disabilities, like mental retardation or tactile insensitivity, that would preclude them from learning Braille.

But the groups dominated by the blind argue that Braille should be mandatory for any visually handicapped person who is able to learn it.

Both sides agree on the stakes: whether more people with visual handicaps will become independent, productive members of society, or whether they will remain largely on the fringe. Seventy percent of the visually impaired who are of employment age are either unemployed or underemployed, according to Susan Spungin, associate executive director of the American Foundation for the Blind.

How the Groups Differ

Dr. Spungin's group is run generally by people without visual handicaps. By contrast, the more militant National Federation of the Blind is dominated by those with visual handicaps. Still another group, the American Council of the Blind, is similar in philosophy to Dr. Spungin's group and is run both by handicapped and non-handicapped people.

The struggle between those who would require Braille to be taught and those who argue that it should be taught only when necessary has gathered force since the passage last year of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law prohibits discrimination against people with physical and mental impairments. It would, for example, require restaurants to assist blind customers either by providing Braille menus or having a waiter read selections.

The tension over the teaching of Braille grows out of changes in education. Historically, all people with vision handicaps have been taught Braille in separate schools for the blind. But in the 1950's and 1960's, there was a shift toward integrating these students into public schools.

The Degree of Handicaps

Mr. Silberman, a thirty-year-old administrator at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is among those who entered school in that period, just as technology like tape recorders, computers, and machines that translate print into voice were becoming cheap enough for classroom use. The technology was considered a boon to those with visual handicaps, particularly people with low vision, like Mr. Silberman. The feeling among some was that Braille was obsolete.

A person classified as visually impaired is one who has only limited sight and requires specialized care from an eye doctor. A legally blind person is one whose peripheral vision is reduced to twenty percent or who can see only the top E on the optical examination chart with the better corrected eye.

For Mr. Silberman and groups like the National Federation of the Blind, Braille is the solution not only to illiteracy but to dependency.

"There are a lot of blind people who can't take advantage of better employment opportunity simply because they can't use written words with facility," said Marc Maurer, president of the Federation. "It isn't that we're opposed to technology. Technology has enhanced Braille, has made it cheaper, made it more accessible and opened up more jobs for those who are blind."

Resistance From Parents

But Dr. Richard Welsh of the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind disagreed. "Braille is a good medium for some students, but it's not the answer for every student," said Dr. Welsh, a former superintendent of a school for the blind in Maryland who opposed a bill two years ago that would have required the teaching of Braille.

The Federation, whose headquarters are in Baltimore, is demanding that Braille be taught to every legally blind person and is pushing for passage of Braille bills in state legislatures. Laws requiring that legally blind students be taught Braille are now in force in five states. Similar legislation is being considered in several other states.

Dick Edlund, a Democratic State Representative, sponsored the Braille law that Kansas recently passed. "There was some resistance from teachers, but the major resistance to mandating that kids learn Braille was from the parents," said Mr. Edlund, who is legally blind. "A lot of parents don't want to have a blind kid. A lot of them have in their head that if the kid just tried harder, he'd be able to see."

Adapted in the early 19th century by a blind Frenchman, Louis Braille, from a code invented by another Frenchman, Charles Barbier, Braille is a system of six raised dots in sixty-three combinations which represent letters and words that can be read by touching.

Aprons Over the Dots

Opponents of mandatory Braille argue that it is inappropriate for some visually impaired people. They recall a period earlier in the century when students at schools for the blind who had some vision were forced to wear aprons to cover the Braille on their desks because they could see the dots.

"If you can read white dots on white paper with your eyes, then it is probably not appropriate to learn Braille," said Dr. Spungin of the American Foundation for the Blind.

But Mr. Silberman says even partly sighted people should learn Braille.

By the time he was studying astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Silberman said, "I was doing a lot of stuff with taped material, but have you ever tried to look for a specific piece of information on a cassette?" He said he tried to memorize everything, but "the work was getting steadily more sophisticated, and I really struggled. I began to doubt whether I should continue."

He won a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind in 1985 and met other blind professionals who helped restore his self-confidence. As a result, he tackled the study of Braille. Mr. Silberman said that has made the difference between living on Social Secuirty and food stamps and having a good job.

Dr. Spungin said the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Council of the Blind favor the use of braille but object to legislation requiring it for all visually impaired people.

Labels for Disabilities

She said a 1975 Federal law requires that special education students, including those with reduced vision, be given individual education plans, and that such plans can include Braille if parents and teachers think it necessary.

Like some other experts, she explains part of the increase in blind illiteracy by noting that medical advances have made it possible for more children today to survive with multiple disabilities, including impaired vision. But she said that many children are labeled visually impaired when they actually have multiple handicaps and will never be able to learn Braille.

Noreen Rysticken, a Baltimore speech and language pathologist and the mother of a multiply-impaired daughter, opposed the Maryland Braille bill.

"My daughter, Diane, has some functional vision, but she's also very delayed because of hearing impairments and cystic fibrosis," said Ms. Rysticken. "To force teachers to teach her Braille, would cause emotional problems. Braille is a reading system. She'll never read very much."


From the Associate Editor: In the days following the May 12, 1991, publication of the New York Times story about the current Braille battle, (see the preceding article) the subject was discussed widely across the country. Intrigued by the debate, the Scripps Howard News Service contacted both the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to request representatives to participate in the Scripps Howard weekly feature, "Point-Counterpoint," in which an issue is discussed by two people with contrasting views. Dr. Susan Spungin, Associate Executive Director for Program Services for the AFB, was invited to prepare a six-hundred-word presentation of the Foundation's position, and President Maurer was asked to provide the Federation's view. It is significant that the Scripps Howard News Service decided to pursue the discussion about Braille begun in the Denver Post on February 12 (See the May, 1991, issue of the Braille Monitor) and continued by the New York Times on May 12. But it is even more noteworthy that the AFB and the NFB have now become the organizations the nation turns to to articulate the two sides of blindness questions. Braille is very far from a dying issue, and the National Federation of the Blind is increasingly recognized as its pre-eminent defender. Here is the cover letter sent to President Maurer by Pamela Reeves, News Editor of the Scripps Howard News Service followed by the statements by Dr. Spungin and President Maurer:

Washington, D.C.
May 20, 1991

Dear Mr. Maurer:

Thanks for the article you contributed to the Scripps Howard News Wire. It moved on May 19th for use Monday or any time thereafter. The "Point-Counterpoint," a weekly feature on the SHNS wire, goes to 360 newspapers nationwide and generally is widely used. Enclosed is a copy of the piece you wrote and also the opposition piece by Susan J. Spungin, who is associate executive director of the American Foundation for the Blind.

Pamela Reeves, News Editor

[PHOTO: Susan Spungin standing at microphone. CAPTION: Susan Spungin, Associate Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind.]


by Susan J. Spungin

It was not that long ago when teachers forced all left- handed children to write with their right hand. In many respects, this educational practice, now outdated, is not so different in spirit from the proposal to mandate instruction in Braille for all legally blind children.

In both cases, an educational policy, applied universally, does not account for the fact that the needs and abilities of children vary.

Indeed, the American Foundation for the Blind supports Braille as an educational option. Braille is a critical venue for literacy for millions of blind and visually impaired children and adults and is the focus of our agency-wide campaign for literacy.

We cannot underscore enough its importance, especially at a time when there is a dire shortage of qualified teachers available to teach Braille. But we are concerned about making this option mandatory for all legally blind children. Here are some reasons why.

First, there is the nature of legal blindness itself. Despite its literal connotation, legal blindness does not mean total loss of vision; the term includes conditions ranging from moderately severe vision loss to total blindness.

Nearly eighty-five percent of legally blind persons have some useful residual vision. The specific nature of their impairment determines what they can do.

Many legally blind persons, for example, can read print and travel without the use of a long cane or guide dog; others may need to use travel aids but can still read large print. In fact, legal blindness is more an economic definition used by governmental and rehabilitation agencies to define conditions that make individuals eligible for the benefits and services that these agencies provide for visually impaired persons.

Many legally blind children can read print, either in a large print or magnified with the help of optical reading devices. Can you imagine my amazement then when I saw for the first time a legally blind child reading, by sight and not touch, the white Braille dots on the white paper?

Unless there is reason to believe that this child will lose more vision--and there are certainly conditions that do not deteriorate--I can think of no reason why this child should not be reading print.

As it is, legally blind children, especially those mainstreamed into regular classrooms, are expected to keep up with all the regular classroom lessons and activities, as well as learn additional skills they need to function with limited vision.

For example, how to use low vision reading devices and/or specially adapted computerized devices, social and listening skills, how to use recorded materials, how to travel independently, and how to make the best functional use of the vision they have.

Since 1975 there has been federal legislation, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, which requires that all disabled children have an individualized education plan, a blueprint for learning.

For this blueprint to be most effective, educational decisions and plans should be made in concert with a team of professionals and parents.

Conversely, the decision about whether a legally blind child learns to read Braille, large print, or both, would be best served by this team approach, and not by a mandate that is based on an economic definition of legal blindness rather than what best serves each individual child's specific needs.

The American Foundation for the Blind believes that legally blind children should benefit from the full range of educational options best suited to their needs. If those needs dictate that Braille is the most viable option for achieving literacy, we support it.

But we must be flexible and do what is best for each individual child. We do not support the wholesale assignment of one group to a particular educational practice. That is why we cannot fully endorse proposals to mandate Braille instruction for all legally blind children.

(Susan J. Spungin is associate executive director of the American Foundation for the Blind.)

[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer works at his desk at the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind.]


by Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind

Braille is the raised dot system used by the blind for reading and writing. Recent publicity about Braille has brought both information and confusion to the public.

As a blind person myself and as president of the nation's largest organization primarily composed of blind persons (the 50,000-member National Federation of the Blind), I think I know something about the needs of blind persons. A controversy now exists as to who should learn Braille and under what circumstances, but certain things are generally agreed upon. Blind children (and also adults) should make full use of computers, tape recorders, and any other available technology. Visually impaired children should be encouraged to make the best use of any eyesight they have, including learning to read print.

But a legally blind child (one with less than ten percent of normal eyesight) cannot function efficiently using print alone. Sighted children have computers and recorders, but they still learn to read print. They use both eyes and ears to get information. Likewise, if a blind or severely visually impaired child is to compete, not only ears but also fingers should be used. Technology enhances but does not substitute for the printed word.

Then why the controversy? Many of today's teachers of blind children take a single college course on how to teach Braille but cannot read or write it. Because of their lack of knowledge, they tend to think Braille is slow and inefficient. Being uncomfortable with what they don't know, they say that Braille is not needed and opt for expensive technology.

There is also the fact that blindness still carries with it a stigma, and many (including some parents and teachers) want blind children to pretend to have sight they don't possess so as not to be considered blind--the same thing blacks did fifty years ago when some tried to lighten their skins and straighten their hair to try to cross the color line. It didn't work and wasn't healthy for the blacks. The same is true for the blind. The National Federation of the Blind believes it is respectable to be blind, and we don't try to hide it.

Thousands of blind people read Braille at four hundred words per minute. There's no substitute for Braille in taking notes, reading a speech, looking up words in a dictionary, studying a complicated text, or just having the fun of reading for yourself.

Talk of forcing blind children to learn Braille shows the prejudice. Nobody talks of forcing sighted children to learn print. It is taken for granted as a right, a necessary part of education; so it should be with Braille and blind children.

The National Federation of the Blind is asking state legislatures to pass Braille bills, which would require teachers of the blind and visually handicapped to be competent in reading and writing Braille and require that instruction in Braille be available to every visually handicapped child if parents want it.

The National Federation of the Blind believes that no child is hurt by learning Braille, print, or any other skill. The federal act often cited as the excuse for not making Braille universally available to the blind is misquoted. The requirement that each child's individual needs be met was never meant as a cop-out for teachers and an excuse for illiteracy. Just as with the sighted, we the blind need every skill we can get to compete in today's world. With proper training we can hold our own with the best.


From the Editor: Some professionals in the blindness field tell us that only those who absolutely must should learn Braille, that learning Braille may cause feelings of inferiority, that it is normal to read print (and thus presumably abnormal to read Braille), and that a child has only a certain amount of learning capacity when it comes to reading so that if he or she learns Braille and print, neither skill can be learned more than half well. The kindest thing one can say about such professionalism is that it is esoteric. Imagine, then, how these experts will feel if they learn about the happenings in Marissa, Illinois. Here in part is a letter from Volunteer Braille Services in Marissa to President Maurer:

Dear Mr. Maurer:

A lot of exciting things have been happening at VBS the last few months, and I want to summarize them for you as briefly as possible.

On Monday, March 20, 1991, the Marissa School Board voted unanimously to introduce an elective credit course in Braille transcribing to high school students. This will be a two-year course. The first class will be limited to a maximum of ten 10th and 11th grade students. The class will be team taught by John Hemphill, who will have the necessary Braille skills. John is in the process of preparing his trial manuscript so that he will also have this necessary credential.

The goal for the first year will be to enable the students to sight read Grade 2 American Braille and to be able to write it on both the slate and stylus and the Perkins Brailler, with an introduction to computer Braille translation. The basic text will be the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing used by NLS.

The goal for the second year will be to cover the fine points of transcribing and to train the students in the use of the Duxbury Braille translation program. A class project for the second-year students will be to actually transcribe a literary textbook for a Braille-reading high school student in Illinois.

Since it is the policy of NLS not to issue certificates to persons who do not have high school diplomas, we will have the second-year students prepare a full 35-page manuscript and have it proofread by an NLS certified proofreader. To get a passing grade for the second year, the student will be required to attain a grade of 80 or more using NLS grading criteria. Students will be encouraged to prepare a second manuscript which they will submit to NLS along with their high school diploma.

Other highlights of the course will be field trips to the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired with reciprocal trips to Marissa High School by ISVI students, and Braille pen pals. The 86th Session of the Illinois General Assembly amended the Illinois School Code to permit a course or proficiency in American Sign Language to be equivalent to a course or proficiency in a foreign language. VBS, in cooperation with a coalition of the handicapped, plans to introduce legislation in the next Assembly to further amend the School Code to permit a course or proficiency in English Braille to be equivalent to a course or proficiency in a foreign language, so that a high school student may elect to take Braille rather than Spanish, French, Latin etc. We realize there will have to be qualified teachers to teach these Braille courses, and VBS intends to be active in recruiting and training these teachers. We feel this amendment to the School Code will be another step in the long march toward increasing Braille production and improving Braille literacy.

[PHOTO: Portrait of William Raeder. CAPTION: William Raeder, Executive Director of the National Braille Press.]


by William M. Raeder

From the Associate Editor: William Raeder is the Executive Director of the National Braille Press, headquartered in Boston. He has attended and addressed several NFB conventions and is a clear and articulate proponent of Braille. As the chief operating officer of one of the nation's foremost Braille publishing houses, his views on the future of Braille are informed and eminently worth serious consideration. When the Editor of the Braille Monitor invited Mr. Raeder to contribute some thoughts about the current and future prospects for Braille, he offered two short articles, both of which we found interesting and valuable. Here they are:

For people with total or profound loss of sight, Braille is the only medium for literacy. Tape recordings for blind people as a substitute for Braille are hardly any better than they are for sighted people as a substitute for print. This is especially true for materials that need to be referenced.

Generally, throughout our country blind children face the following conditions which are not conducive to learning Braille and becoming literate:

1. Blind children have little or no preschool exposure to reading Braille. Sighted children entering school have already had several years' experience reading cereal boxes, road signs, television ads, labels, and magazine and book titles.

2. Blind first-graders are often sidetracked in the schools from a course of Braille and literacy. Sighted children entering school are immediately put on a track to develop proficiency in reading and writing print. That this regimen is taken for granted and institutionalized is a motivating and disciplining factor, keeping the children on track. Blind children, on the other hand, are often sidetracked from literacy, on the damaging assumption that they don't need Braille and with the further patronizing attitude that tape recordings are easier for them. "Children who need Braille in Maryland and in every other state are not getting it and will not get it, I am afraid, unless their parents and the members of the National Federation of the Blind fight for their right to literacy and a decent education." (Barbara Cheadle, President, Parents of Blind Children Division, National Federation of the Blind).

3. Teachers often have low proficiency in Braille. Sighted children have teachers for whom reading and writing print is an integral and totally comfortable part of their daily lives. Blind children, more often than not, have teachers with little proficiency and comfort in Braille. Although we favor integrated education, placing blind children in the mainstream, we fully recognize that before this practice was popular, the residential schools for the blind were well equipped to teach Braille, whereas all too often the mainstream schools are not.

4. Reading materials in Braille are scarce. Sighted students have voluminous print materials with which to work. New editions of textbooks are published frequently, and numerous extraneous books, pamphlets, and periodicals are available in print. Blind students have few materials in Braille. Textbooks are often out- of-date editions or are not available until partway through the school year.

5. There is an institutionalized prejudice against blindness and Braille. Braille for the blind student is sometimes shunned by the teacher, administrator, or even the parent or student because it further identifies the student as being blind; and, in all too many minds, albeit oftentimes subconsciously, there is a stigma attached to blindness and a damaging attitude of unduly diminished expectations of blind students.

All too many blind children leave school and enter adulthood with a triple handicap. In addition to the physical or sensory handicap of blindness, many have been working in an environment of diminished expectations for their performance and are either illiterate or have unnecessarily limited literacy skills. Blind people proficient in reading and writing Braille have a better chance of obtaining good employment than blind people without these skills.

National Braille Press has a five-point program to combat these conditions and promote literacy in the very early life of blind children:

1. Our Children's Braille Book Club promotes literacy for blind children where it begins with sighted children--right in the home with bedtime story books. Regular children's picture story books, donated by the publishers, are remanufactured to combine print and Braille cleverly page for page, so that a sighted parent and blind child can read together from the same book. (In some cases the parent is blind and the child is sighted.) We publish one new title each month. At year's end, a thirteenth title, The Winnie the Pooh Calendar, provides children with practical information in a delightful form. The books are sold for the same price as the print editions. The annual cost to National Braille Press for this program, over and above the donated print books and the sales proceeds, is more than $23,000.

2. Just Enough to Know Better, our Braille primer, provides sighted parents with the opportunity to learn enough Braille to work with their blind children to help them identify letters and words. It is a delightful workbook, easy and fun to use, but it is very serious about the importance of literacy for blind children. Like sighted children, then, blind children attain reading readiness if not actual reading ability right in the home with their parents.

The text material selected for the reading exercises for the sighted parent is designed to provide encouragement and inspire enthusiasm that the blind child can and will have normal intellectual development. The book provides sighted parents with enough knowledge about Braille to know better than to accept the notion that their blind child is not in a position to learn reading and writing or to accept the notion of a stigma attached to Braille, if these damaging prejudices are encountered. If it is necessary, parents will be fortified to start what is often a long, arduous task of advocating that their blind children's education should include Braille literacy.

3. Learning by doing is important to blind children. Sighted children learn much by simply observing adults carrying out tasks. Some of our children's books promote learning activity. Last year Your First Garden Book, contributed by Little Brown & Co., featured two packets of seeds contributed by Johnny's Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine, to encourage blind children to start their first gardening experience. This year we are producing a children's cookbook. These books stimulate interest and begin to identify Braille and reading as a source of important information for functioning well in life's activities.

4. Books for intermediate-age readers, eight to thirteen, are being added to our list this year. Many of the children with whom we started over the last several years have grown into this age group and desperately need appropriate-level materials to keep their reading interests and skills alive.

5. As children advance into adolescence and adulthood, it is important to continue the promotion of Braille literacy as a useful tool. To accomplish this and at the same time to enhance the independence of blind people, we publish practical information in Braille. Our computer-literacy program provides Braille materials for beginners, computer users, and professional computer programmers. Our employment program provides a comprehensive employment book, Take Charge: A Strategic Guide for Blind Job Seekers; a self-assessment workbook, Planning Careers with Confidence; and a resource book. In addition, we have Syndicated Columnists Weekly, dealing with women's issues; and a variety of general-information pamphlets, such as the United States Constitution and Understanding AIDS.


by William M. Raeder

Long-range forecasting of Braille technology is, if we may borrow from Prince Philip, like short-range forecasting of New England weather; we may fairly say that we will have it, probably in abundance, but in just what forms it will come is more difficult to predict. The task of good forecasting is a tough one, dependent on careful observation of current conditions and rigorous analysis and projection of the many forces molding the future. Such forces molding the future of Braille technology, for example, include the focus of current research, the projection of current trends, the impact of other technologies, the pressures from Braille readers, and the market for Braille. Also of concern are the fortunes of national and world economies, politics of government spending for research and social welfare, private funding, and demography. Even cultural values, like the value of universal literacy and social prejudice for or against equal opportunity for blind and deaf-blind people, have their impact.

This paper is not scientific forecasting based on rigorous analysis of these forces by a professional researcher; it is, rather, the projections, speculations, and prejudices of a Braille-printing-house manager who's had a small role to play in the advance of Braille technology. It focuses on personal computer-based Braille transcription systems--their advantages and shortcomings, the need for further development, the challenges to that development, and their importance in the advancement of independent functioning for blind and deaf-blind people. The paper goes on to describe the changing role of Braille printing houses as the processing of information continues to proliferate and as Braille readers are increasingly able to obtain and process needed information independently. It closes by invoking the attention and assistance of teachers, large-scale communicators, and those influencing change in Braille codes to further the advance of literacy and effective independent functioning by blind people through Braille in an age of information exchange.

The most important projection we can make is the continuing development of microprocessor-based personal Braille transcription systems for home or office use. Even now, for less than $5,000 one can buy a complete system, either in the form of a dedicated computer, such as the VersaBraille II, with a Braille keyboard and dynamic Braille display (also called paperless Braille), or in the form of a general-use computer with modem and Braille printer. Either system includes software for communications, text editing and printing, file management, and Braille translation and formatting. Texts for Braille transcription are brought to such systems by telephone line and modem from central databanks, through direct cabling from local databanks, and by using transportable media, such as disks, from various sources. For additional money reading machines with varying degrees of print-reading capability are available for attachment to the system, to provide additional sources of text for Braille transcription.

Three shortcomings of these personal Braille systems limit their use and give clues for developments by century's end: cost, technical complexity, and lack of accessible information. Blind people sophisticated in the use of these systems might disagree, saying that they are inexpensive and simple and provide access to an enormous amount of information. This is certainly true for some blind people compared to what was available before the advent of desktop computers. Indeed, it is very exciting to see a significant number of blind people gaining direct access to large amounts of information through the proficient use of their personal Braille computer systems. An additional significant number of blind people are gaining similar access through voice- response systems, which may stand alone or be integrated with Braille systems.

Over the next decade improvements in quality and functionality and reductions in cost and technical complexity of reading machines, voice synthesizers, and Braille transcription systems will increase their use. The resulting partial independence from Braille printing houses and volunteer Braille agencies for access to information represents a milestone in the social history of blind people. Nevertheless, for these personal Braille systems and voice-response systems to come into general use by blind people, they must become significantly less expensive and less technically complex to use. Furthermore, for blind people to become essentially independent of Braille printing houses and the volunteer transcription services, an even greater abundance of information must be available in machine- readable form.

Features needed in these personal Braille systems by the year 2000 and beyond are:

1) Reliable, durable, and inexpensive, yet larger dynamic Braille displays;

2) Full-page dynamic Braille display, and/or full-page simulation, by simple and effective software-controlled movement of the page image under a single line display;

3) Dynamic display for high-resolution presentation of tactile drawings;

4) Reduction in price for basic systems to that of a good home stereo system;

5) Alternative controls by voice and/or feet, to free the hands for Braille reading;

6) Radio transmission of timely information to be received and stored in digital form for reading at will;

7) Use of laser WORM technology for the dissemination of voluminous reference and periodic materials. ("WORM" stands for Write Once Read Many. Information on a laser-written WORM disk is substantially more densely packed than on a magnetic disk; however, although such a disk can be read virtually an unlimited number of times, it cannot be readily erased and rewritten as can a magnetic disk.)

Principal technical challenges are:

1) The reduction in price of a dynamic Braille display;

2) The further simplification of efficient control systems for the user;

3) Overcoming features designed to improve systems for sighted users. (Windows, icons, mouse controls, and bit mapping can hamper use by blind people.)

Throughout the world, where personal and/or national wealth limit the purchase of personal Braille transcription systems, agency-based microprocessor systems will be established, as we have already seen in North America and elsewhere. These Brailling centers will transcribe and emboss their own materials and receive texts on disks from other organizations and individuals for embossing only. There will be an international traffic in Braille transcriptions on disks for local embossing and distribution. In areas of the world with low economic and technical development, there are three challenges to be met in the establishment of these centers: training, funding, and equipment maintenance.

What will be the changing role of Braille printing houses as personal Braille transcription systems become more generally used and as machine-readable information continues to proliferate? We will see the following changes:

1) The amount of paper Braille produced by Braille printing houses will continue to grow, by the year 2000, but will then represent only about half the Braille distributed in countries with high use of personal Braille systems.

2) The amount of Braille transcribed by Braille printing houses and distributed in paperless form on cassettes and disks will grow from a small amount in the last few years to about one- half of the Braille distributed in these high-use countries in the year 2000.

3) For the next half decade or more, there will be heavy reliance on scanners for reading texts into computers. In addition, continuing refinements in software for Braille translation and formatting will improve production efficiency.

4) The continuing and growing pressure to produce more Braille for less cost will force the further development of automated transcription of high-quality Braille. Text files prepared for print publishing will be automatically transcribed into Braille with little or no human intervention. If human intervention is required to identify text components for highly refined and complex formatting, it will be computer-assisted, for high labor efficiency. This further development will be achieved in three ways:

(a) There will be further development of software systems for interpreting the encoded format information in text files prepared for print publication and automatically converting these files for Braille transcription.

(b) Modifications will be made in the Braille code, to eliminate Braille contraction ambiguities requiring human intelligence for proper interpretation.

(c) Varying quality standards of Braille will be specified, dependent on the level of format refinement required. Changes in Braille code and Braille formatting standards should be made with the knowledge and consent of Braille readers, if not under their leadership.

5) In addition to the increasing proliferation of information and literature generally available in machine- readable form, we will see increasing standardization of computer-based text formatting and coding systems. This will enable Braille printing houses to develop highly refined software packages for interpreting and translating these format codes for Braille transcription and synthesized-voice transcription. In the first two decades of the twenty-first century we will see Braille printing houses making this software available to users for their personal Braille systems so that individuals can receive machine- readable texts from the general publishing industry and fully transcribe them into very high quality, well-formatted Braille. The key improvement here over what we now can do is in the automated refined formatting of the Braille.

6) As Braille readers become more independent of Braille printing houses for their general literary material, Braille printing houses will have an increasing responsibility to provide materials in more complex or specialized codes, such as music, mathematics, foreign languages for which there is still no Braille translation software, and materials containing scientific or computer notation. Development of computer software for translation of texts requiring these specialized Braille codes will be pursued.

Implicit in the above is an expansion of Braille productions, stimulated by an increase in market demand and a decrease of perhaps as much as twenty percent in both cost and delivery time. Far from being relieved of the need to learn and use Braille, blind people increasingly will find Braille an effective and important tool to help them attain positions of higher responsibility and productivity in our complex information-driven society. Technology alone, however, will not bring this about. Three additional steps must also be taken. They are:

1) Improvement in the Braille code, to make it simpler to learn, simpler to use, simpler to transcribe, and more highly standardized;

2) Increased emphasis on the teaching of Braille, and clear definition as to who would be better off learning Braille and who would be better off using residual eyesight to read print;

3) Increased willingness on the part of large-scale communicators to make their materials readily available in a form accessible for blind people.

With this combination of factors we will see, by the year 2000, notable improvements in equality and literacy for blind people and a significant reduction in the difficulties blind people face simply because they cannot read print.


From the Associate Editor: In recent years, and even months, the amount and variety of Braille available for purchase have been expanding dramatically. As Braille readers we are not conditioned to think of ourselves as able to build personal libraries with our favorite literary works, much less books of passing interest. But the revolution in Braille production technology is changing that, and we can begin to accustom ourselves to the luxury of being able to buy books like everybody else and savor favorite passages or refer to important information when we find it necessary or convenient. The editors of the Braille Monitor asked the major Braille publishing houses around the country and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to provide the Braille Monitor with information concerning available Braille materials about which our readers should know. Here is the information we were provided:

The American Printing House for the Blind

With the material provided by the American Printing House for the Blind came a cover note from the Executive Director, Dr. Tuck Tinsley. Here are his comments and the material he provided:

Recently we at APH have noticed what seems to be a most encouraging trend. When exhibiting to the general public, we are finding heightened interest in both the reading and writing of Braille. Not only are people taking the time to work through the writing of their names under the guidance of our exhibit staff, they also ask numerous questions regarding how Braille is produced, its bulk, what sort of material is published, and how the personal computer can be used to create special interest materials desired by people who are blind.

Two or three snowflakes do not necessarily mean a blizzard is on its way. Neither do we mean to imply that the whole country is turned on to Braille. However, these preliminary indications are extremely encouraging to those of us who realize the importance of Braille in enabling people who are blind to be informed citizens.

--Tuck Tinsley

The text of Public Law 101-336, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, is currently available from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in four formats: Braille, large type, cassette tape, and flexible disc. APH will make copies of the ADA available to print-handicapped individuals, courtesy of the American Printing House for the Blind. The first copy is free of charge. Additional copies may be purchased at the prices listed in this article. The catalog number is also included. Braille: Catalog number 5-60000-00, $19.80; Flexible Disc: Catalog number F-60000-00, $0.65; Cassette: Catalog number C-60000-00, $0.75; Large Type: Catalog number J-60000-00, $7.20. Customers interested in obtaining the ADA may do so by writing to American Printing House for the Blind Order Department. This document is also available through the regular National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) distribution network.

APH announces the creation of the Century Series, a special selection of books offered for purchase. This series is designed to enable Braille readers to obtain Braille books at the same cost as the original print editions. It is hoped that the Century Series will help Braille readers develop libraries of their own. APH will produce fifty Braille copies of each of one hundred titles over the next several years. These titles will not conflict with those produced by the NLS or by any of the other major producers of Braille books. Reading and interest levels of these books will range from kindergarten to adult. The Century Series books will be available as long as the supply lasts. Here is the list of titles in the first group of offerings:

- It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, by Robert Fulghum, a book of humorous philosophical essays by the author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, 1 vol., Catalog No. 2-39570-00, $17.95

- Mouse Tales, by Beatrix Potter, four short stories for children, 1 vol., Catalog No. 2-84300-00, $9.00

- My Favorite Goodnight Stories, by Linda Yeatman, a collection of twenty-five retold bedtime stories for children, 1 vol., Catalog No. 2-85000-00, $10.00

- Tekwar, by William Shatner, a science fiction novel for young adults and up, 2 vols., Catalog No. 2-40100-00, $18.00

- The City of Gold and Lead, by John Christopher, science fiction for young adults, 1 vol., Catalog No. 2-23250-00, $4.00

For more information on specific titles, please call or write APH's Consumer Information Services at the APH address. Please specify whether you would like to receive the information in print or in Braille.

APH also produces a number of cookbooks for purchase. A special order form including information about forty-two of these is available upon request.

Anyone who reads Grade 2 Braille and is a U.S. citizen or resides in the U.S. can receive a free subscription to the Braille Reader's Digest; the cost to others is $49.00 a year. The ink-print edition is transcribed in full, except for advertising, into standard English Braille, Grade 2. This service is made possible by contributions from the general public to the Fund for Braille and Recorded Editions--Reader's Digest. To purchase a Braille subscription to the Reader's Digest, write to the Magazine Circulation Department, American Printing House for the Blind.

APH also offers Read Again: A Braille Program for Adventitiously Blinded Print Readers. Read Again is designed to aid students in making the transition from print to Braille by leading them through several levels of instruction. The program begins by helping students develop skills in tactual discrimination. It then goes on to teach Grade 1 and Grade 2 Braille.

Read Again provides the following materials: 1. Teaching and practice worksheets, reading selections and activities, tests, and review worksheets. 2. Cassette tape instructions for use before students can read Grade 1 Braille. 3. A Read Again Teacher's Edition in print or in Braille. There are nine levels in Read Again. Most include tests to measure student progress and selections for reading practice.

Since many sections of Read Again can be ordered separately, teachers are encouraged to pick and choose parts of the program. For further information about the content of each level and for details about ordering, contact APH, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, KY 40206-0085; Phone and Fax: (502) 895-2405.

Associated Services for the Blind

An official from the Braille production department of the Associated Services for the Blind (ASB) in Philadelphia told the Braille Monitor in mid-May that the organization would very much like to provide information about its Braille services and materials for publication in this article. Despite a number of reminder telephone messages, no information had arrived by press- time. We believe that a catalog is available from ASB, but we have no information about its content or prices.

Braille Institute Press

The Braille Institute Press has a catalog of books and materials available upon request. Its charges are 20 cents a page for existing Braille, and 75 cents for binding. The price for transcribing new material is negotiable. The Braille Institute can provide literary, math, and computer Braille; and all work is professionally proofread. New and classic children's books in Braille and Sesame Street books in Twin-vision format are available for purchase. Information and catalogs can be obtained by calling or writing Carol Jimenez or Emy de Jesus, 741 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, California 90029; (213) 663-1111, extension 231.

The Clovernook Center

The Clovernook Center produces a unique Braille computer magazine, TACTIC, which is a forty-eight-page quarterly about microcomputers and adaptive technology for the blind. A consumer- oriented magazine, TACTIC offers articles in a practical rather than highly technical style on existing Braille voice systems. The magazine reviews the literature on newly developed hardware and software as these occur and provides a forum for blind consumers to share problems and solutions. Occasionally, articles are reprinted from popular mainstream publications, but most material comes from designers and users of computer equipment themselves.

Subscriptions are available in Braille format for $10 per year and in large print for $16 per year, payable by check or money order in U.S. dollars to The Clovernook Center, Attention: TACTIC, 7000 Hamilton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45231. Information about surface and airmail charges to foreign countries is available upon request. You may contact Anita Paddock, Circulation Supervisor.

National Braille Press

The National Braille Press produces a number of titles in Braille for purchase. The Children's Braille Book Club enables parents or schools to receive a Braille book each month for the enjoyment of their Braille-reading youngsters. The books come automatically if one prepays an annual fee of $100, or one can decide whether or not to order each month's selection when the flyer announcing it arrives.

Just Enough to Know Better ($12.50) is a print and Braille book intended to enable parents to teach themselves enough Braille to assist and encourage their young children. It includes practice passages that provide positive, lively information about blindness, and the instructional material is clear and uncomplicated.

Perhaps the best-known of the NBP offerings is Take Charge: A Strategic Guide for Blind Job Seekers ($19.95). Co-authored by Rami Rabby, who is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind and an experienced consultant on employment of the disabled, and Diane Croft, marketing manager at National Braille Press, Take Charge is a self-help guide based on the real-life experiences of blind people, as they searched for and found employment in their fields of interest. It proposes strategies for dealing with a resistant job market--including verbatim interviews with employers who speak frankly about their concerns about hiring a blind job applicant.

The most exciting new book offered by NBP this year may well be The Computer Braille Code Made Easy ($7.50). This little book is written in Grade 2 Braille with many examples to illustrate the computer Braille concepts being explained. It also includes a chart of computer code symbols.

NBP circulates a quarterly catalog of new books including short descriptions. An easy-to-use order form comprises the last pages of the mailing. Recent publications include the following:

Area Code Handbook (free)
Bobbsey Twins: The Secret at Sleepaway Camp by Laura Lee Hope ($4.95)
Business Cards (first 100) ($60.00)
Christmas Carols ($5.00)
The Computer Braille Code Made Easy by Dixon & Gray ($ 7.50)
Computer Braille Code Reference Card (free)
C Programming by Kernighan & Ritchie ($24.95)
Creating Careers with Confidence by Edward Colozzi ($10.00)
Emily Post on Etiquette by Emily Post ($12.00)
50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth ($4.95)
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White ($9.00)
The Harvard Student Bartending Guide ($32.00)
Knitting Patterns from Our Special ($7.50)
Our Special magazine, edited by Jeanne Neale (free)
Our Special Crochet Book ($10.00)
Our Special 1990 Cookbook ($8.00)
The Publish-It-Yourself Handbook, edited by B. Henderson ($30.00)
Reference Cards:
WordPerfect ($5.00)
Lotus 1-2-3 ($5.00)
Microsoft Word ($5.00)
DOS Power User's Guide ($7.00)
ProComm ($3.00)
QWERTY ($5.00)
dBase ($5.00)
Set of 7 ($20.00)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ($5.00)
Syndicated Columnists Weekly ($18.50)
Dr. Spock on Parenting, essays by Benjamin Spock, M.D ($23.00)
U.S. Constitution (free)

Individual titles or catalogs may be ordered from the National Braille Press, Inc, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, (617) 266-6160.

National Library Service

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has prepared several circulars compiling information about sources of Braille materials for purchase. Contact your Regional Library to order any of the following publications:

Sources of Braille Reading Materials, 86-2--this is a compilation of Braille producers of every size and many locations across the country. Names, addresses, and phone numbers are listed.

Bibles, Other Scriptures, Liturgies, and Hymnals in Special Media, 88-1--Braille editions of many of these religious texts are listed as well as those in other media. Producer names, addresses, and phone numbers are included. Some materials are available on loan only, some are free, and prices are listed for others.

Reference Books in Special Media, 82-4, and Reference Books in Special Media: Addendum, 87-2--These two publications list an astonishing variety of reference books that are available for purchase or, in some cases, on loan. The reference categories are Business Management; Dictionaries and Thesauri; Encyclopedias; English Language--Grammar, Style, and Usage; English Literature; Foreign Language; Geography and Maps; History; Law and Politics; Mathematics; Medicine; Music and Fine Arts; Personal and Self- Help; Psychology and Psychiatry; Radio and Television; Religion and Philosophy; Science, Pure and Applied; Social Sciences; and Tests.

National Federation of the Blind

The Materials Center of the National Federation of the Blind has prepared a literature order form, which includes all of the reprints, brochures, and books available in Braille from the NFB. Many of these are free; the books, however, are not. In addition the Parents of Blind Children Division can provide a Braille Story Books Resource List upon request. As its name suggests, this print document lists contact information for producers of Braille books and stories for children.

Requests for either of these lists should be sent to the National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Direct requests to either the Materials Center for the literature order form or to Barbara Cheadle for the Resource List.

TBS, Inc.

In response to a request for information about the range of materials produced in Braille by TBS, Inc. of Stuart, Florida, we were sent a partial list of book titles (including the number of volumes and pages and the prices) that are currently in the TBS library.

There are more books under the following headings in its Braille Book Catalog: Non-Fiction: Business, Computer, Cookbooks, Children, Medicine, Religion, Sports, and General Interest; Fiction : Detective/Mystery, Romance, History, Science, Short Stories/Children, and General interest.

To receive a catalog in print or Braille, please write to Triformation Braille Services, Inc., 3142 S.E. Jay Street, Stuart, Florida 34997. The sale of the Braille books listed in this catalog has been made possible through a contract with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Here are several sample titles together with their descriptions: IBM Personal System/2; A Business Perspective by Jim Hoskins, BR 7836, 3 volumes; 701 pages; $84.12. The author, who is an IBM staff engineer, covers the world of the IBM personal computer from the microchip and system board components, to the software that can be used with them. He describes peripheral attachments, the operating systems that control actions, and why different features are needed. 1987.

Weight Watchers Quick and Easy Menu Cookbook, BR 7481, 6 volumes; 1241 pages; $148.91. More than 250 Weight Watchers recipes that can be prepared in less than one hour. Arranged by the months of the year to take full advantage of the in-season vegetables and fruits, each recipe is keyed to a daily menu. Bestseller. 1987.

504 Absolutely Essential Words by Murray Bromberg and others, BR 7900, 3 volumes, 521 pages, $62.52. A self-help book containing forty-two lessons designed to help readers strengthen and expand their knowledge of words, which are then used repeatedly throughout the remainder of the book. 1988.

Who Put the Butter in Butterfly? by David Feldman, BR 8200; 2 volumes; 257 pages; $30.84. Did you ever wonder why a police officer is called a "cop" or why a mess is called a "pretty kettle of fish" or why gibberish is called "gobbledygook"? Here are the answers to those questions and other fascinating facts about word derivations. 1989.

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir, BR 8149, 2 volumes; 315 pages; $37.80. John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838 but in 1849 emigrated with his family to Wisconsin. When an industrial accident almost blinded him, Muir began what would become his love affair with the land. In this account, written in form, Muir tells of his trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where the seed was planted for his lifelong campaign to create a system of national parks. 1988.

Your Good Health: How to Stay Well, and What to do When You're Not, BR 7451, 5 volumes; 1216 pages; $145.92. Edited by William I. Bennett, M.D. and others. Editors of the Harvard Medical School letter, all doctors, offer this guidebook to a sensible, healthy lifestyle. Includes tips for preventing illness, information regarding diagnosis and treatment, hints on dealing with your doctor, and material on new medical discoveries; also sorts out other health facts. 1987.

And the Laugh Shall be First: A Treasury of Religious Humor Compiled by William H. Willimon, BR 7655, 2 volumes; 292 pages; $35.04. A collection of humor and satire with Christian themes. Includes selections by Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Lewis Grizzard, and Sinclair Lewis. 1986.

Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith, BR 7898, 3 volumes; 636 pages; $76.32. After being considered politically unreliable, Arkady Renko is now working as a second-class seaman aboard the Soviet factory ship, Polar Star. But when the body of a Russian girl--who worked on board ship--is discovered, Renko becomes involved in the investigation that uncovers drug trafficking and espionage. Some strong language. Sequel to Gorky Park. (BR 4831) Bestseller. 1989.

Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome, BR 8088, 3 volumes; 671 pages; $80.52. Captain John, Mate Susan, Able Seaman Titty, and Ship's Boy Roger spend a second summer camping on Wild Cat Island. Follows the adventures of the Walker children and their friends through a shipwreck, a camp on the mainland, a secret valley and cave, and a trek through the mountains. Sequel to Swallows and Amazons (RC22220) (BR 5113). For grades 4-7 and older readers. 1981.

[PHOTO: David Andrews sitting at computer keyboard. CAPTION: David Andrews.]


From the Associate Editor: The front-page story about Braille in the New York Times was carried in varying forms in a number of major newspapers around the country, including the Baltimore Sun. And the ripples are still spreading. On May 26, 1991, the Sun published a letter to the editor in response to the May 12 article to which David Andrews, Director of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at our National Center, wrote a strong rebuttal published on June 17. Here is the May 26 letter written by David Poehlman and Mary Brady:

It Is Not Technology Vs. Braille

Baltimore, Maryland
May 26, 1991


Regarding the May 12 article "How Best to teach the Blind ...," it seems to us that the central issue in the battle over Braille is not being addressed. Technology is making literacy for a great number of persons with visual impairments more possible, not less! Literacy is better served by providing the full range of possible alternatives, given individual differences.

As the article parenthetically reported, technology clearly has enhanced Braille, making it cheaper and more available, and has opened up more jobs for those who are blind. Imagine the problems involved in waiting weeks or months to read the daily paper, your college textbooks, or even the New York Times Sunday edition.

Given machine-readable versions (computer disk formats) for all the above media, blind users can now access them immediately, using whatever output mechanism they favor: speech, Braille or large print. Thus, the issue is not one of technology vs. Braille, but of technology vs. no technology.

Fortunately, there is a great deal of good news for blind and visually impaired individuals in this regard, which your article, unfortunately did not report.

With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, another piece of legislation will be opening doors and jobs to persons with disabilities. The express purpose of this law is to provide access to assistive technologies, such as Braille printers, telecommunication devices for persons with deafness (TDD's) and communication aids for persons with vocal impairments.

Working in conjunction with teachers, vocational specialists, and consumer groups, this law provides for information and demonstration centers in every state. There is such a center in Maryland, in fact, located within the Governor's Office for Handicapped Individuals.

Real progress is being made in providing helpful technologies to people with all types of disabilities. The battle over Braille needs to be settled by research and create educational programming.

The bottom line is, of course, the bottom line. The federal dollars to perform such research, design such programs, and implement such methods need to be appropriated and directed to such efforts if persons with blindness are to be assisted, with or without Braille.

Mary E. Brady
David Poehlman

There you have the Brady/Poehlman letter, and here is David
Andrews's reply:

Baltimore, Maryland
May 28, 1991

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to a letter published on Sunday, May 26, 1991, titled "It Is Not Technology vs. Braille" from Mary E. Brady and David Poehlman. This letter was written in response to a May 12, 1991, reprint of a New York Times article concerning the teaching of Braille to blind persons.

As the article points out, many blind children, particularly those with low vision, are not taught Braille. They are forced to use large print materials and/or electronic enlarging devices. These methods do work for some, but not for most. Their reading rates are too slow to be truly competitive, and eye fatigue and headaches are common. Further, many persons with low vision lose it as adults. This is exactly what happened to me two and a half years ago when I totally lost what little vision I had. I could read with an enlarging TV system, albeit very slowly. Thankfully, though, I also had good Braille skills so that I was able to continue my career without missing a day of work.

Miss Brady and Mr. Poehlman say that the issue is not technology versus Braille, but technology versus no technology. I disagree! The issue is Braille versus no Braille.

The New York Times article discusses a blind gentleman, incidentally living in Maryland, who had to learn Braille as an adult so that he could continue his education. While this may be hard for you to believe, many blind persons who should be taught Braille simply aren't. Braille is to blind and visually impaired persons what print is to the sighted. You would howl if your local school officials said that they weren't going to teach your children to read print, that they could use tape recorders, computers, etc. However, this is exactly what is happening to our blind children. Recently, when the National Federation of the Blind introduced a bill requiring the teaching of Braille to blind and visually impaired children if the parents wanted it, the Superintendent of the Maryland School for the Blind actually testified against the bill. The issue here is teachers and school administrators, professionals, who think they know best for the blind versus the blind ourselves, who really do know what is best for us.

Brady and Poehlman say that more research is needed. I say that this is hogwash! Blind and visually impaired persons simply need to know how to read and write. We do this by using Braille. Computers and tape recorders are important supplements and powerful tools in themselves, but they are no substitute for reading. Reading is how you learn to spell and punctuate, and how most of us study things in detail. This is true for the blind as well as for the sighted, and no research is necessary to tell me this.

Brady and Poehlman point out how wonderful technology is and how it will make more Braille available. I agree, but unless blind people can read Braille, all the technology in the world won't do us any good. They also talk about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA will increase people's awareness of the needs of the disabled and increase access for many, but it is not a panacea. The main barrier to the complete acceptance of the blind by society is attitudinal, not physical. That is, our unemployment rate is approximately seventy percent because of what people believe we can't do, not because there aren't enough talking computers. You can't legislate the change of people's attitudes.

I personally own three computers and five speech synthesizers and wouldn't give them up for the world. In addition, I am Director of the National Federation of the Blind's National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, the world's largest demonstration and evaluation center for technology used by the blind. This Center incidentally is located right in Baltimore and was not mentioned in the May 26 letter to the editor. This Center contains over half a million dollars worth of equipment, much of it Braille-related. I am responsible for knowing how to operate all of this technology, and the only reason I am able to do so is because I can take notes in Braille, which I can then read and study.

One of our Braille devices is an $80,000 high-speed Braille printer that will print 1200 pages of Braille per hour. Ironically, I keep a $4.00 slate on top of this machine for taking phone messages. A slate is an inexpensive device used for writing Braille by hand.

Technology has its place in the lives of blind persons. Yes, it is opening up more jobs, but blind persons still need good basic competency, such as Braille and cane travel skills, to take advantage of it. Further, technology in and of itself will not get blind persons jobs. We must educate the public about our abilities and capabilities. This is where the National Federation of the Blind comes in. You can contact us at 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230 or by calling (301) 659-9314.

David Andrews, Director
National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind


From the Associate Editor: On April 12, 1991, Governor Joan Finney of Kansas signed the National Federation of the Blind's model Braille Bill into law. Rejoicing over this glad occasion had hardly quieted before word arrived at the National Center for the Blind that the Texas Legislature had just passed an even more impressive piece of legislation. The Texas bill not only secures the right of every functionally blind child to be taught Braille and mandates that all special education teachers of the blind be certified by the state as capable of teaching the code, but it requires that all publishers doing text-book business with the state provide the Department of Education with computer-readable versions of all text materials sold to Texas so that they can be prepared in Braille for blind students. This is an exciting and sensible extension of the Kansas law and leads the way for other states inclined to act responsibly to protect the rights of their blind children. Texas Governor Anne Richards is scheduled to sign this legislation into law at a public ceremony in the near future. Here is the pertinent portion of the Texas Braille Bill:

House Bill No. 2277

An Act relating to Braille instruction for blind or visually handicapped students.

Be it enacted by the legislature of the State of Texas:

Section 1. Section 11.052, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsections (f) and (g) to read as follows:

(f) In the development of the individualized education program for functionally blind students there is a presumption that proficiency in Braille reading and writing is essential for the student's satisfactory educational progress. Each functionally blind student is entitled to Braille reading and writing instruction that is sufficient to enable the student to communicate with the same level of proficiency as other students of comparable ability who are at the same grade level. Braille instruction may be used in combination with other special education services appropriate to the student's educational needs. The assessment of each functionally blind student for the purpose of developing the student's individualized education program must include documentation of the student's strengths and weaknesses in Braille skills. Each person assisting in the development of a functionally blind student's individualized education program shall receive information describing the benefits of Braille instruction. Each functionally blind student's individualized education program shall:

(1) specify the appropriate learning medium based on the assessment report; and

(2) ensure that instruction in Braille will be provided by a teacher certified to teach students with visual handicaps.

(g) For purposes of this section, the Central Education Agency shall determine the criteria for a student to be classified as functionally blind.

Section 2. Section 13.032, Education Code, is amended by adding Subsection (j) to read as follows:

(j) As a condition of certification to teach students with visual handicaps, the State Board of Education by rule shall require satisfactory performance on an examination prescribed by the board that is designed to assess competency in Braille reading and writing skills according to standards adopted by the board.

Section 3. Section 12.03, Education Code is amended by adding Subsection (e) to read as follows:

(e) The Central Education Agency shall require a publisher of a textbook adopted by the State Board of Education to furnish the agency with computer diskettes for literary subjects in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) from which Braille versions of the textbook can be produced. The publisher will furnish the agency with computer diskettes in ASCII for non-literary subjects, e.g., natural sciences, computer science, mathematics, and music, when Braille specialty code translation software is available.

[PHOTO: Tim Cranmer and Abraham Nemeth sitting at table in Harbor Room. CAPTION: Tim Cranmer (left) and Abraham Nemeth at a meeting of the NFB Research and Development Committee at the National Center for the Blind.]


by T. V. Cranmer and Abraham Nemeth

From the Editor: As Monitor readers know, Dr. Abraham Nemeth is the preeminent blind mathematician throughout the world; and Dr. T. V. Cranmer, the Chairman of the Research and Development Committee of the National Federation of the Blind, is internationally known for his innovative work in technology for the blind. Recently the Braille Authority of North America asked Drs. Cranmer and Nemeth to give them their opinions on the desirability of a uniform Braille code. The result was the following article, which has been distributed to the BANA board members and deserves wider circulation.

When I first saw the title of this article, I was afraid it might be the usual plea that we make wholesale changes in Braille and go to a so-called better system. However, Tim Cranmer set me straight on the matter. He said that his concern was just the opposite. He said that both he and Dr. Nemeth now felt that it had been a mistake to create new codes for mathematics, computers, and textbooks--that these should simply have been extensions of Grade 2 Braille with no changes made to existing usable symbols.

He gave as an example the dollar sign. In Grade 2 Braille the dollar sign was formerly a "d" before a number sign. Later it was changed to a "d" in the lower part of the cell before the number sign. (Perhaps I had better explain for the benefit of non-Braille readers--or, in a reversal of terminology, the blindless. The Braille cell is composed of two rows of three vertical dots--dots 1, 2, and 3 on the left going from top to bottom and dots 4, 5, and 6 on the right. The "d" is dots 1-4-5, and a "d" in the lower part of the cell would obviously be dots 2-5-6.) In the Nemeth Code the dollar sign is dot 4 followed by an "s." In the computer code the dollar sign is dot 1-2-4-6 (or an "ed" sign). Now, if all this isn't confusing, it should be.

When I asked Tim Cranmer if the textbook code used still another symbol for the dollar sign, he said no, but he then ruined it by a statement to this effect: "The textbook code uses the symbol required by the host code in which the book is to be written--be it literary, Nemeth, or computer." He gave me other examples, but I shall refrain from mentioning them. The dollar sign is, perhaps, more than sufficient to make the point.

I reminded Tim that he had been the chairman of the computer code committee. To which he replied that he had simply made a mistake and had now lived to regret it. He added, however, that he would never have seen the light (or, as the saying goes, felt the dot) without that experience.

I next asked him if he intended to commit the heresy of saying that Dr. Nemeth regretted promulgating the code that bears his name and was prepared publicly to recant. To which he replied (and this is an exact quote): "Dr. Nemeth does, indeed, agree that it was a mistake to create a separate code for mathematics and that it would have been preferable to create new symbols that would have extended the approved Braille code in use at the time had that been an option. He is currently not ashamed of his work and deserves the accolades which we and others now bestow upon him, but this does not alter the fact that both he and I agree that there should be only one Braille code."

This is what Tim Cranmer said, and I want you to remember that you read it in the Monitor. Be it truth or hearsay, it is certainly newsworthy. In short, I take it that both Dr. Cranmer and Dr. Nemeth feel that the dollar sign in Braille should never have been changed. This is something quite different from the esoteric notions which keep cropping up about making wholesale changes in Grade 2 Braille. An extension is not necessarily a change from what already exists. Chalk one up for philosophy.

Let me say in concluding this editor's note that the Monitor is neither advocating nor opposing what the authors of this article have written. They are thoroughly competent to speak for themselves, so here is what they said to the board of the Braille Authority of North America.

Date: January 15, 1991
To: The members of the BANA Board
From: Dr. T. V. Cranmer and Dr. Abraham Nemeth
Subject: A Uniform Braille Code

We begin by sincerely thanking you for inviting our comments and for giving us the opportunity of making our views known concerning the vital issue of a uniform Braille code. For a long time we have individually thought about, and have jointly discussed, the points we present in this paper. They are not, therefore, the expression of hastily formed opinions and conclusions, but represent our best and most critical thinking on this subject. We are writing this paper jointly because we are in substantial agreement on the issues we present and on the procedure required for addressing them.

The Problem

For a long time now, the blindness community has been experiencing a steady erosion in Braille usage, both among children and adults. This trend shows no sign of abatement, so that there is now a clear and present danger that Braille will become a secondary means of written communication among the blind, or that it will become obsolete altogether. The reasons for this erosion are numerous and complex, but we believe that a significant contributing factor to this unfortunate state of affairs is the complexity and disarray into which the Braille system has now evolved.

We have in mind the proliferation of Braille codes that has occurred in recent times. Without counting the Braille Music Code, which has a valid claim to an independent existence, there are now four basic Braille codes authorized by BANA for use as standards in the production of Braille reading matter. These are: 1) the literary code, 2) the Braille Code for Textbook Formats and Techniques, 3) the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, and 4) the Computer Braille Code.

The literary code is the oldest. It is a general-purpose code, which includes Grade 2 as its main component. There are, in fact, two literary codes--the one sanctioned by BANA for use in North America, and the other sanctioned by BAUK for use in the United Kingdom. After nearly sixty years of discussions, negotiations, papers, and conferences, there has been no substantial progress toward the achievement of a common literary code, nor is such a code likely to be realized in the foreseeable future. Getting our own house in order may improve our contributions to future discussions of this matter. In any case, poor prospects abroad should not delay addressing problems on this continent.

The four basic codes were developed independently of one another, with the result that there are numerous conflicts among them with regard to symbols and rules. The dollar sign, for example, has one representation in the literary code, another in the Nemeth Code, and still another in the Computer Braille Code. The same is true for the percent sign, the square brackets, and others.

From time-to-time, the basic codes are extended in scope by the inclusion of additional modules. Some of these modules have already been adopted as part of the basic code, and some are still under development. Thus, a module on ancient numeration systems and another on chemistry notation extend the Nemeth Code, and a module on flowcharts extends the Computer Braille Code. Not associated with any basic code is a module on guidelines for mathematical diagrams. There may be other modules, either contemplated or under way, of which we are not aware. In any case, all the BANA technical committees are busily at work, each making its own contribution to the continued fragmentation of the Braille system. The present practice of requiring technical committees to review each other's work has not prevented the growth of ambiguities and contradictions among codes presently authorized.

For each of the basic codes, there is an official code book in which the symbols and rules of that code are set forth. For some of these codes, there are associated lesson books designed to help a student of that code to acquire proficiency and experience in its use. After a year or more of regular study and application, and after an additional period devoted to the preparation of a Braille manuscript, which must meet high standards in demonstrating the skill, the student, if he or she is successful, receives a certificate from the Library of Congress attesting to the student's mastery of that code. If the manuscript is rejected, the student must submit another manuscript.

Large volunteer organizations like the National Braille Association and California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped conduct regularly scheduled workshops in all the basic codes and their extensions at national and regional conferences. "Skills" columns are a regular feature in the official publications of these organizations. In these columns, problem situations are proposed and resolved by experts in each of the basic codes.

How much training is required to be able to transcribe a fifth-grade book in arithmetic for an 11-year-old child? Since modern arithmetic books at this level always include a "computer corner" or a "calculator corner," all four basic codes will be needed. How likely is it that a teacher-in-training, with only limited time available to learn Braille, will know enough of all these codes to teach them to this 11-year-old? And how likely is it that this 11-year-old will be able to read and understand the material before him or her in all these basic codes? In less time than it would take to acquire skill and proficiency in all these codes and their extensions, and to prepare the required manuscripts for certification, a student might instead enroll in a major medical school, earn an M.D. degree, and still have time to complete a residency in neurosurgery.

We have previously cited the complexity and disarray of the Braille system as it has now evolved as a significant factor in the erosion of Braille usage, and we feel that this is a fair description of that situation. If our claim is valid, it is no wonder that professionals in the field of the education of the blind are resisting the teaching of Braille; that they are down- playing its usefulness in favor of such alternatives as tape recorders, computers, and closed-circuit magnifiers (when this is applicable); and that some are already pronouncing the Braille system to be obsolete in the light of the "new technology."

In stark contrast, there are no special codes in print related to subject matter, no authorities for setting standards, no disagreement about the written form of the English language, no intrinsic conflicts, no special-purpose modules, no lesson books, no manuscripts, no certification, no workshops, and no "skills" columns. None of these is needed because print is a coherent, uniform system of writing in which any given symbol has an assigned and unvarying identity regardless of the subject matter or of the surrounding text in which it is found. New symbols, as they arise, are added to the existing ones without causing any conflict, and the reader of print learns as few or as many of these symbols as needed to carry out his or her normal activities without needing to learn all the possible symbols. We need to devise a Braille system possessing these features. Such a system would qualify as the uniform Braille code, the development of which we are proposing.

Historical Perspective

In order to understand how the present problem with the Braille system arose, we must examine the role that Braille has played in the lives of the blind from the time it was first introduced to the present.

From the mid-nineteenth century, when Braille or its equivalent was first introduced, until the mid-twentieth century, the life cycle of a blind person followed pretty much a standard pattern. In childhood and adolescence, he or she attended a residential school for the blind with other blind students and with many teachers who were also blind. Employment, when it was available, was mostly in a sheltered workshop or comparable workplace. A few who were more motivated went on to college. Even they, however, found employment, when it was available, in the sheltered workshops. A few became entrepreneurs in home-based businesses or in newsstand-type operations. Some joined the staff of an agency for the blind, where they were provided with relatively unlimited secretarial and transportation services. When employment was not available, the blind subsisted on Social Security, disability, or other state and federal benefits. Some resorted to begging. Most of the blind lived at home with their parents or spouses. Many were sufficiently independent to live alone and manage their own affairs. The rest took up residence in various types of institutional or custodial facilities. Their social life was centered in their families. It sometimes extended to seeking the companionship of other blind friends. For the most part, then, blind people were isolated from the mainstream of society both economically and socially.

Although the Braille system was invented by a Frenchman named Louis Braille, who naturally modeled it to conform to his native French language, it was subsequently modified in North America to meet the spelling and punctuation requirements of the English language. Any system of writing is a window on the cultural level and orientation of those who use that system, and this is no less true of Braille, which is also a writing system. Braille acquired its characteristic features through the cooperative efforts of key educators at the residential schools for the blind. In mute eloquence, the resulting literary code proclaims what the needs of the blind (as perceived by these educators) are and what level of achievement may be expected of them. Since gainful employment in the mainstream of society was thought to be an unrealistic expectation for the vast majority of the blind, the principal use of Braille, as perceived by these educators, was to cater to their religious and recreational needs. The present literary code, which is but little changed from its original form, testifies convincingly to the success achieved in adapting Braille to that use.

Short-form words like "rejoicing" and "conceiving" attest to the importance that was attached to religious literature for the blind when the literary code was first formulated.

At the recreational level, precise conformity to the printed text is not an overriding requirement, as long as the Braille reader can grasp the underlying thought. Thus, when specified by the rules of Braille, it is required to suppress the indication of italic type, to alter punctuation, to transpose abbreviations of coinage and measure, to replace Roman with Arabic numbers, to replace symbols with words, to replace standard abbreviations with non-standard ones, and (where context is the determining factor) to replace reading with guessing.

All of these deviations from print practice combined to create a kind of subculture within the Braille-reading community to which only the blind were privy. Since they lived in relative social and economic isolation, no great harm resulted from these deviations which were accepted as "normal." Unfortunately, these deviations persist and are sanctioned to the present time. Meanwhile, the blind have, largely through their own efforts, extricated themselves to a large extent from the sorry plight which we have described. Today, an enlightened public policy mandates the mainstreaming of the blind into all areas of society--school, workplace, recreational and leisure facilities, and all the rest. Most blind youth attend their local schools, where they are integrated with their sighted peers.

Large numbers of blind adults are employed in almost every conceivable occupation. They are lawyers and judges; they hold elective public office; they are secretaries and teachers, scientists and engineers; they run farms and train horses; and they engage in entrepreneurial activities of every kind. At every turn they learn, work, and play together with their sighted colleagues. Documents that pass between them are translated from print to Braille and vice versa with the ease and speed that only a modern computer can provide. The infrastructure of our society mandates a universal standard by which the proper use of written English is gauged, and the blind as well as the sighted must be held to that standard. The deviations from print practice which were harmless in the subculture we described earlier are today no longer acceptable. When a blind person uses them, a sighted person is likely to judge that blind person as incompetent or uneducated. This is certainly not the image a blind person wants to project when he or she is trying to compete in the workplace with a claim of equal productivity.

Recreation continues to be an important motivation for reading among the blind, as it also is among the sighted. But, like the sighted, blind people read for a variety of other reasons. Among them are self-improvement and keeping current with news, sports, medical, and scientific advances, and late developments in their fields of work. In so doing, they encounter a wide variety of general-interest books and mass- circulation periodicals. Authors of such books and periodicals do not hesitate to use mathematical or scientific notation as required, and they expect their readers to have no more of a problem dealing with such notation than with the surrounding English text. Knowledge of such notation is as much a part of our cultural infrastructure as the ability to read words and sentences. A person who cannot cope with such notation needs remedial help to overcome this area of illiteracy. The blind are but a cross-section of the general population. They have a right to access the same information as the sighted, and if this information needs to be conveyed through the use of mathematical or scientific notation, they should be expected to deal with it in the same way as the sighted. It is time to modernize the Braille system.

Toward a Uniform Braille Code

In this section, we offer some ideas that we feel should be considered in bringing about a uniform Braille code that will meet the needs of the blind in modern society. This paper is not the proper forum for making technical recommendations regarding the form that such a uniform Braille code should assume. We therefore confine ourselves to the issues that need to be considered in bringing such a code into being.

With regard to jurisdiction, we feel that BANA is the only properly constituted body to oversee such a project. The BANA Board consists of representatives from just about every important organization in the Braille-reading community, and these organizations have, over a long period of time, recognized and respected BANA's authority.

A uniform Braille code will require that changes be made to the existing basic codes, and that these changed codes be merged into a single uniform code. It is important not to be intimidated by the prospect of such changes. Changes are not made for the sake of change but for the sake of improvement. In the twentieth century, BANA and/or its progenitors have made several fundamental changes to the Braille system, all of them more noticeable and far-reaching than any that we envision as a result of switching to a uniform Braille code. Examples of past such changes include a switch from New York Point to American Braille, from American Braille to English Braille, from Grade 1- 1/2 to Grade 2, from the Taylor Code to the Nemeth Code, and from one music code to another. None of these changes caused any serious disruption in the teaching or use of Braille. The benefits of a uniform Braille code would far outweigh any temporary inconvenience that might be caused by the shift. Nor should change be resisted solely on the grounds of preference established by long years of habit.

The range of human knowledge is far too broad for any single code to handle effectively all aspects of such knowledge. We would not, for example, expect a uniform Braille code to be capable of dealing with arcane foreign languages or systems of writing which bear no relationship to the Roman alphabet. Nevertheless, there still remains a broad central body of knowledge which embraces most of what might be called Western culture, and it is to this body of knowledge that we envision the applicability of a uniform Braille code. Such a code must be capable of dealing with a wide range of subject matter and at all levels of complexity.

Before attending to the details of a uniform Braille code, it is necessary to formulate a set of clearly-stated and implementable objectives to be used as guidelines and tests on the basis of which to accept or reject a proposed code construct. Deviation from an established objective then becomes a more serious matter than the mere reassignment of a Braille symbol. The following are some of the objectives we feel should guide the development of a uniform Braille code. These objectives may be expanded and other objectives added, as the technicalities of the code begin to emerge:

1) The code must be capable of accurately representing the printed text so that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the text in one medium and the text in the other. It is important that readers in both media comprehend the text in the same way, so that there may exist a broad, "hi-fi," two-way channel of communication between a blind person and his teachers, his classmates, his family, his friends, and his associates at work.

2) The code must provide a Braille format in which the reader can quickly and easily locate the information he or she needs. Since Braille cannot imitate print format with its rich variety of features, the code must use the limited format mechanisms in Braille in a systematic manner and to maximum effect.

3) The symbols and rules of the code must be used uniformly from one subject matter to another, and at every level of complexity. This will make it possible for the Braille user to learn as much of the code as he or she needs for present activities, and then to learn more of the code without unlearning what he or she already knows as new knowledge is added. 4) The code must be as independent of context as possible. To achieve this, symbols must be constructed without regard to their meaning.

5) The code must provide for a means of distinguishing between information contained in the source text and information supplied by the transcriber.

6) The code must provide a highly mnemonic system of symbols. The code would be difficult to learn, and text would become difficult to read if this objective were not met.

7) The code must be extendible in a systematic manner. As new symbols are introduced into the code, they must not conflict with those already in the code, and they must be used according to the rules which already exist and which apply in comparable situations.

8) The code must be formulated so that text is amenable to computer translation either from Braille to print or from print to Braille.

9) The code should interface well with Grade 2, so that someone who is reading straight literature (words and sentences) will hardly know that he is reading in a changed code.


By far the most important of our recommendations is that BANA be convinced of the seriousness of the situation with regard to the use and availability of Braille, and that it take immediate action to remedy that situation, giving it higher priority than any of its other ongoing activities. Some recent statistics put the use of Braille among those who need to use it at twelve percent. Each year the statistics in this regard become gloomier. If this trend is permitted to continue, BANA will, at some not too distant time in the future, find itself presiding over a largely moot and philosophical domain.

As a practical matter, we recommend that BANA appoint a technical committee to bring into being a uniform Braille code of the kind that we have been describing throughout this paper. The members of this committee should, above all, be knowledgeable in all the current Braille codes. Whether they are teachers, administrators, volunteer Braillists, or representatives of any other group is largely irrelevant. More important is that they be committed to the successful outcome of their task and that they be thoroughly convinced of the need to succeed. For reasons of efficiency, this should be a small working committee wherein each member makes a positive contribution. Can it be done? The surest way of being convinced that something can be done is to do it.


From the Associate Editor: In March of 1990 the Council of Executives of American Residential Schools for the Visually Handicapped (CEARSVH) approved passage of a position paper on literacy for blind students. The document was circulated and then reprinted in the fall of 1990 by Re:View, a publication connected with the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). As one might expect from an organization of educators in the blindness field, the CEARSVH attempted in this document to have its cake and eat it too. The authors wanted to say all the currently fashionable things about the importance of increasing literacy among blind students, without at the same time offending those in the field who are beavering away at vision stimulation research and low vision services. The predictable result is a mishmash of platitudes that ducks the real issues underlying the decline in literacy among blind students.

The simple truth is that if a person cannot use print rapidly and for a sustained period, Braille is the only efficient alternative. Audio tape can be used for some things, but in fundamental ways it is no substitute in some kinds of reading and virtually all kinds of writing.

In addition to reading and personal writing, a literate blind person who cannot use print quickly and easily must be able to type in order to communicate with those who do not read Braille. Although it is convenient, in fact increasingly necessary, for everyone in our society (blind and sighted alike) to master the computer, its use should not be dragged into any discussion of basic literacy. The computer can be a powerful tool for those who have already mastered basic skills, but for the beginner, personal instruction, work sheets, and practice are essential and can rarely be provided by a computer program.

The CEARSVH paper takes a bold stand against requiring all visually impaired students as a class to learn Braille. It discusses high-mindedly the right of every student to be assessed individually and taught appropriately. The only trouble is that no one advocates the reflex imposition of Braille on blind students, only relief from the resolute demand that print be used at all cost. Current efforts led by the National Federation of the Blind to legislate increased Braille access for elementary and secondary students do seek to insure that every student who needs Braille has the opportunity to get it. Our actual intention is to protect the individual's right to learn Braille and to guarantee that the special education teachers who work with blind children be certified by the National Library Service as competent in the Braille code. We believe that if teachers can read and write Braille well, they will not seek to avoid teaching it by convincing themselves and their students that Braille is obsolete or unnecessary for the student in question.

Like computers, most social systems have default settings. All other things being equal, the assumption is that things will be done in some specified way. There was a time when professional educators began with the presumption that blind children should be taught Braille. Extenuating circumstances might alter that judgment (a substantial amount of stable vision or significant mental retardation, for example), but by and large blind youngsters began by learning Braille. The proliferation of technology and the decline of proficiency in Braille among teachers of the blind have resulted in an absurd shift in attitude and a reversal in the default setting for literacy. The presumption now is that blind students will learn print. If there are extenuating circumstances (no vision at all or parents who demand Braille, for example), the student may be lucky enough to receive the necessary Braille and typing instruction--though by no means is this assured. Only in a society in which this topsy- turvy state of affairs is the standard could a position paper endorsing the concept of literacy for the blind by an organization of school administrators be thought necessary, and only in such a Through the Looking-glass world would it include the absurdities that fill this one.

The Editor of Re:View, the publication that reprinted the CEARSVH paper, invited Barbara Cheadle (Editor of Future Reflections, the National Federation of the Blind's magazine for parents and educators of blind children, and President of the Parents of Blind Children Division) to write a response to the CEARSVH position paper for publication in the Summer, 1991, edition of Re:View. Here are both the original paper and Mrs. Cheadle's rebuttal:

Literacy for Blind and
Visually Impaired School-Age Students

A Position Paper of the Council of Executives of American
Residential Schools for the Visually Handicapped

Blind and visually impaired school-age students need to develop their maximum potential in reading, writing, and computing to fulfill their current and future opportunities and responsibilities. The Council of Executives of American Residential Schools for the Visually Handicapped (CEARSVH) defines literacy as mastery and application of reading, writing, and computing skills to allow an individual to function efficiently now and in the future.

Considerable discussion and controversy currently exist over issues concerning literacy. This debate parallels the call in regular education for re-emphasis on basic skills to counter the decline in student achievement scores during the past decade. In addition, consumers and professionals who work with visually impaired students are concerned about diminishing levels of achievement in literacy skill, Braille usage, and instruction in the use of abacus, slate and stylus, specialized Braille code, and other skills. The membership of CEARSVH determined that in light of the current discussion and controversy over modes of reading, writing, and computing it would be beneficial to develop a position paper that strongly re-emphasized the importance of functional literacy skills for the students for whom the CEARSVH membership has educational responsibility. The issues in the current debate over literacy for blind and visually impaired students and the positions adopted by the Council on those issues are discussed below.

1. Stronger Emphasis on Instruction in Literacy Skills

The Issue

Literacy among blind and visually impaired students may have been de-emphasized inadvertently because of competing curricular offerings, required courses, special education instruction, and related service provisions identified in the student's Individual Education Plan (IEP).

CEARSVH Position

The Council encourages a strong emphasis on the mastery of literacy skills. It fully supports providing all curricular courses and related services identified on the student's IEP but strongly opposes accommodating those needs at the expense of time scheduled for reading, writing, and computing skills. To make sufficient time for literacy skill training during a student's schooling, the Council recommends that students (a) be encouraged or allowed to delay graduation and to spend additional years in school, (b) enroll in summer school programs in residential or public schools, and/or (c) enroll in residential school programs on a short-term basis if the needed service at the recommended frequency and intensity is not available in the public school program.

The Council recommends that guidelines and standards for frequency and intensity be established, implemented, and monitored to ensure that all educational placements have appropriate service provisions and that no student is under- served. (The details of this recommendation need further study and development.)

2. Individualized Selection of the Mode of Reading, Writing, and Computing

The Issue

Braille usage, in some cases, has been significantly de- emphasized, and some students have been restricted inappropriately to print or auditory modes. Although these modes may be more available and accessible, they may not be functionally more efficient for current or future reading, writing, or computing needs.

CEARSVH Position

The Council recommends that an IEP multidisciplinary team determine which mode is the most appropriate and efficient to meet the individual student's needs for reading, writing, and computing. This decision should be based on ongoing, comprehensive assessments that determine the individual student's present functioning levels, current and future needs, learning style, and other variables such as visual prognosis, reading rates, and comprehension.

The Council rejects any wholesale generalization that one mode is superior to another but recognizes that one mode may be better than another for a particular child's individual needs. For example, although the use of the print mode may be a very valid goal, given the wide availability of this medium, that fact should not overrule consideration of functional efficiency if, in the estimation of the student's IEP multidisciplinary team, the use of print is less efficient than another option.

The Council encourages flexibility in the development of IEP's. IEP's for students may include instruction in dual literacy modes, such as Braille and print, if their assessments conclude they need and can benefit from both.

The Council further supports and encourages informing parents and students of all potentially relevant, appropriate, and efficient options for developing literacy.

3. Legislation Mandating One Mode

The Issue

Legislation requiring all blind and visually impaired students to receive Braille instruction would undermine, usurp, or supplant state and federal laws that mandate determination of special education provisions by an IEP multidisciplinary team based on comprehensive assessment and program planning specific to an individual student's needs. Moreover, such class-action legislation, which presupposes that all blind and visually impaired students function on the same level and have the same needs, would restrict many visually impaired students who appropriately need and could effectively use print or other modes.

CEARSVH Position

The Council strongly believes that the selection of modes of reading, writing, and computing should be made by an IEP team on the basis of an ongoing, comprehensive assessment and determination of the student's present functioning levels, learning styles, visual prognosis, current and future needs, and other variables. The Council is strongly opposed to any legislation that would require each and every blind and visually impaired student, on a wholesale, class-action basis, to use and receive instruction in one mode irrespective of, or in disregard of, his or her individual needs.

4. Technical Assistance

The Issue

Today teachers of the visually handicapped teach students with a broader range of needs than in the past; programs with a single teacher of the visually handicapped may not be able to meet the diverse and broad range of student needs.

CEARSVH Position

The Council encourages its members to assist university teacher training programs by providing pre-service practica, extended internships, and continuing education opportunities in which prospective teachers can have meaningful, realistic, and comprehensive opportunities to become proficient in teaching various literacy skills. Prospective teachers should be made aware of, and encouraged to take advantage of, outreach programs, staff development, or technical assistance services offered through many residential schools if they are planning to be employed in itinerant or other single teacher programs where supervisors may not be knowledgeable in specialized adapted literacy modes and/or professional colleagues may not be available for consultation and assistance.

5. Continuing Education Opportunities for Experienced Staff

The Issue

Inservice programs may not be available to teachers who have lost proficiency in the Braille code or other literacy skills because they have not recently had students needing this training.

CEARSVH Position

The Council supports and encourages providing refresher inservice training opportunities to teachers who have not retained skill proficiency. In those cases where experienced staff have not been exposed to new literacy skill modes, for example, computer technology, the membership further encourages providing continuing education opportunities.

6. Emphasis on Literary Skill Teaching Methodology

The Issue

Although pre-service training programs require prospective teachers to master the Braille code and other literacy skills, the programs do not offer intensive comprehensive, and in-depth course work and experiences in the methodology of teaching students to develop reading, writing, and computing skills.

CEARSVH Position

The Council encourages university teacher training programs to focus more comprehensively on course work and experiences in teaching methodology to ensure that prospective teachers develop competencies to teach literacy skills in all modes.

7. Accessibility of Adapted Educational Materials

The Issue

Blind and visually impaired students experience significant delays in receiving Braille materials. The absence of appropriate materials means that students who use Braille (a) cannot work independently, (b) are forced to use less appropriate alternative modes, and (c) do not keep pace with their peers or reach their levels of achievement.

CEARSVH Position

The Council strongly recommends legislative mandates and/or incentives to publishers to provide Braille materials at the same time print versions are made available to nonhandicapped school- age students. With current advancements in computer technology, the simultaneous publication of print and Braille materials should be a reasonable goal. The Council asserts that it is discriminatory not to provide Braille materials at the same time nonhandicapped students are provided with print materials. The Council agrees to cooperate and lend technical assistance to government agencies and publishers to provide access to information to which blind and visually impaired people are entitled.

NOTE: This paper was drafted in October 1988, revised the following year, and adopted by the Council in February, 1990.


There you have the CEARSVH position paper. Here is the letter that Barbara Cheadle wrote to the Editor of Re:View in response:

Baltimore, Maryland
July 11, 1991

Ms. Helen Strang
Managing Editor, RE:view
Washington, D.C.

Dear Ms. Strang:

Thank you for the invitation to make comments on the position paper of the Council of Executives of American Residential Schools for the Visually Handicapped as printed in the Fall, 1990, issue of RE:view. Here are my comments. As far as the consumer is concerned, the CEARSVH position paper says nothing new, different, or profound. It alternates between trying to deny and then trying to distort the issue of Braille literacy. The paper goes to great length to make it appear that Braille is only a minor part of the literacy issue when, in fact, it IS the literacy issue.

If one didn't know better, one would assume after reading this paper that there are all these equally good reading modes (a term frequently used, but never defined) just floating around out there ready to be used by blind folks "...The Council rejects any wholesale generalization that one mode is superior to another..." and "The Council further supports and encourages informing parents and students of all potentially relevant, appropriate, and efficient options for developing literacy." This is nonsense! There are only three ways to read: visually, auditorily, and tactually. As a reading and writing system, Braille is the only true equivalent to print. No one would seriously suggest that print be replaced with audio tapes, television, or talking gadgets. And no matter how you dress it up with educational jargon, tapes, talking computers, and even live readers--useful as they may be--are no substitute for Braille. Contrary to the implications of the position paper, the literacy issue among blind children has nothing to do with being taught to use a magnifier, a cassette machine, or a talking computer. ("...In those cases where experienced staff have not been exposed to new literacy skill modes, for example, computer technology....") Blind children have been inundated with every large print, complex magnifying device, talking computer and gadget as fast as the engineers can think them up and produce them. Mostly blind and visually impaired youth today are illiterate because they have inadequate or nonexistent Braille skills.

Nor does Braille literacy have anything to do with the IEP process. None of the legislation passed or now under consideration in state legislatures in any way "undermines, usurps, or supplants" the IEP process. In fact such an accusation would be like saying that we couldn't pass a law that persons charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty because this would undermine our criminal justice system. After all, the court is supposed to determine who is guilty or innocent.

Of course the procedures followed in court determine innocence or guilt, and of course the IEP process determines the course and content of the child's special education program. However, neither can proceed without basic assumptions. In the case of the court, we have to decide if we will assume guilt or innocence. All the procedures that follow will hinge on that one assumption. If you doubt it, go back and read your medieval history.

In the case of the education of blind children, we must decide what assumptions we will make about literacy and Braille. Will Braille be the standard of literacy for the blind, or will print continue to be the assumed standard? No matter how much CEARSVH and others in the field of education try to deny it or distort it, the current assumption--print as the standard-- doesn't work.

That's why we are facing a crisis today. We have children who can only read print slowly, with great strain or difficulty, and/or only with complex electronic dependent magnifying devices; children who can't spell and who don't know the basic rules of grammar because they can only read recorded books; youth who get out of school and can't compete equally in college because they don't have the skills they need to take independent, efficient notes with a slate; youth who can't function independently because they have no efficient method of self-communication--they can't even write out a simple grocery list which they can read unless they have something with a battery or an electric plug nearby. This is what the crisis is all about, and this is why there will continue to be attempts through the state legislatures to establish the right of blind children to acquire basic literacy skills which means Braille.

The irony of the CEARSVH position paper is that, while on one hand it clearly wants to keep the status quo intact, and alternately denies and distorts the issue to do so, it, on the other hand, would obviously like to take advantage of the crisis in order to beef up sagging residential school enrollment and prestige.

There has been and continues to be a need that has not been met (with some exceptions) by the residential schools. Some go so far as to say that the schools are a dead letter office, a place merely to warehouse children others cannot, or will not attempt to, educate. This has been true in many instances, but it doesn't have to be true.

There has been such a lack of perception and willingness to cooperate with parents on the part of the schools, it is little wonder that the schools and the consumers are so often at loggerheads with each other. But, again, it doesn't have to be this way.

The real tragedy is that everything the CEARSVH states that residential schools could do to help turn this crisis around would be constructive IF they were willing to deal with the real issue. And the issue in many ways does go beyond the question of Braille literacy. It has to do with the belief--or lack of it-- that a good education is both possible and desirable for the blind, that the blind can compete on a basis of equality.

These are my comments. Thank you again for the invitation to respond, and I look forward to seeing the issue in which these comments are slated to appear. This is one of the most vital issues concerning the education of blind children today, and I'm pleased that your publication is willing to give it the space it deserves.

(Mrs.) Barbara Cheadle, President
Parents of Blind Children Division
National Federation of the Blind

[PHOTO: Tuck Tinsley standing at microphone. CAPTION: Tuck Tinsley, Executive Director of the American Printing House for the Blind.]


by Barbara Pierce

A couple of years ago, one of the teachers in my county's education program for blind and visually impaired children (significantly entitled the Sight-Saving Class) told me with evident pride that no youngster in the history of the program had ever needed Braille. A little probing on my part revealed that during the eleven years of the class's existence, the staff had consistently driven away the totally blind children and had refused to tackle Braille with those youngsters whose parents had the audacity to raise the question of introducing it. There are new teachers in that program now, but alas the attitude does not seem to have changed.

The saddest thing about this anecdote is that it is not unusual. It demonstrates with stark clarity why we must find a way to require that the special education teachers of blind children in this country be competent to read and write Braille. The teachers in my county's program today don't know Braille or believe in it, so even if they were compelled to teach a child to read using the code, they would make a mess of it.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the newest statistics released by the American Printing House for the Blind indicate that the percentage of blind children reading Braille in the nation's educational system has fallen yet again, this time from 12 percent to 10.1. The nonreaders now outnumber the print readers by a bit, 29.4 percent to 29.2. Presumably this indicates that almost thirty percent of all students in the study are multiply-handicapped blind children who are not candidates for learning to read using any medium. But it is that other almost thirty percent that breaks my heart. Some of them are of course youngsters whose vision is stable and competent to read print comfortably and efficiently for many years. But all too many of them need Braille now to compete with their sighted friends, and many more will be lamenting in a few years that when they were young, they were not taught the Braille they need as adults for jobs or college. Here is the text of the American Printing House for the Blind's press release reporting its findings:

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has recently released a new study on students registered under the Federal Quota Program. Each year legally blind students are registered with APH for purposes of the federal Act to Promote the Education of the Blind of 1879. This yearly census is used to determine the number of eligible students enrolled in various schools and agencies in order to allocate federal funds intended for the procurement of special books and educational materials produced by APH.

Periodically, in-depth studies of these data are conducted to discern trends and characteristics of this relatively small, yet diverse population. The new report, Distribution of Quota Registrants in 1990 by Grade Placement, Visual Acuity, Reading Medium, School or Agency Type, and Age: A Replication of Wright's 1988 Study, consists of a study which examines the data compiled from the 1990 Federal Quota Registration. Additional attention is given to comparing the information reported in this study to the 1987 Registration data prepared by Wright (1988).

Highlights of the report include the following:

- Most students (85.3%) were registered by State Departments of Education.

- The remaining 14.7% were enrolled in either residential schools for the blind, rehabilitation agencies, or multihandicapped facilities.

- Nearly one-fifth of the students occupied early childhood grade placements; 30.9% were enrolled in grades 1-12; 14.8% were adult trainees; 30.0% were other registrants; and the remaining registrants were classified as either academic nongraded, postgraduate, or vocational students.

- An almost equal proportion of students were either visual readers (29.2%) or non-readers (29.4%); 10.1% read Braille; 11.2% used auditory material; and 20.1% were classified as prereaders.

- Percentages of legally blind students in three visual acuity groupings were: 43.8% had vision between 8/200 and 20/200; 7.7% had vision between "counts fingers" and 7/200; and 48.4% had vision no greater than hand movements or form and object perception.

- Of students reported as reading with vision of 8/200 and above, 86.8% read visually, 9.0% auditorily, and 4.2% Braille.

The report is available free of charge from the American Printing House for the Blind. Please contact us at the following address: American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., Department of Educational and Technical Research, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085, phone and fax, (502) 895-2405.


by Jim Burns

From the Associate Editor: In the March, 1975, issue of the Braille Monitor we first published this article by Jim Burns, who was at the time a librarian at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. In an issue largely devoted to the subject of Braille, it seemed appropriate to reprint this valuable little summary of its history. The discussion of technology is, of course, sixteen eventful years out of date, but Mr. Burns's assessment of the value of Braille is still right on the mark. Here it is:

For all practical purposes, the year 1975 marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the Braille system of embossed writing. Its life, though relatively short, has been a stormy one. Just as most inventions do not come in a single flash of intuition, Braille had a rather painful gestation period. This was followed by an unfortunately neglected childhood. Then came an adolescence fraught with strife before contending factions finally allowed Braille to ripen into the mature, universally accepted system used today.

In the early 1800s, when Louis Braille became a student at the Royal Institution for Young Blind in Paris, there were in existence over twenty different systems of embossed type.1 At this school the studious young Braille could choose from among a collection of only fourteen books printed in a system of large italic Roman letters in relief. This had been invented by Valentin Hauy, the founder of the school, and not surprisingly was the accepted mode of reading there. However, as was the case with most of the other existing methods of printing for the blind, Hauy's was a slow, cumbersome way to read. Each character had to be tediously scanned to be recognized and then each had to be slowly built onto those coming before and after to form words. In addition, it did not provide a means of writing for the blind.

In 1821 Charles Barbier, an artillery captain in the French army, visited the school. Two years earlier he had invented a system of writing by dots based on phonetic principles. Called "night writing," it had originally been meant for use by soldiers on the field of battle at night. Barbier had then improved it, renamed it Sonography, and taken it to Dr. Guillie, head of Braille's school. Guillie had expressed concern about the complexity of the invention (words were not spelled out but were written phonetically; the great many dots often required for a single word made deciphering a lengthy process). Thus it was not until the undaunted Barbier's second visit to the school that the system was introduced to the students.

Louis Braille eagerly learned Sonography but soon became aware of several flaws in it. No attention was paid to conventional spelling because of the phonetic emphasis; there was no provision for punctuation, accents, numbers, mathematical symbols, or music notation; and the complexity of the combinations made reading difficult. At first Braille sought mildly to modify the system, but after a meeting with an obstreperous Barbier, the 15-year-old schoolboy decided to concentrate on devising a completely new method of dot writing.

Braille worked intensively on his invention. By 1825 he had, among other things, cut Barbier's 12-dot cell in half, and his system was more or less complete.2 In 1827 Braille applied his brainchild to music notation. Finally, in 1829 he published his Method of Writing Words, Music, and Plain Songs by Means of Dots, for Use by the Blind and Arranged for Them. He followed this in 1834 and 1837 with yet improved versions of his method.

The Braille system was eagerly seized upon by blind students in Paris. However, it had to combat resistance from the old guard of sighted teachers, who criticized the use of an alphabet whose configurations were so different from those of print. After all, the sighted teachers could not easily read it. Braille was also criticized on the ground that the use of such a different mode of reading "set blind people apart" from others. The fact that near illiteracy due to the failings of the preferred systems of embossing tended to set blind people apart from others was overlooked. Thus Braille was for years largely ignored by teachers of the blind, and it was not until 1854--three years after Braille's death--that his own alma mater officially accepted his system. Likewise, it was not officially recognized anywhere in the United States until the Missouri School for the Blind adopted it in 1860, and Braille was not extensively used in Great Britain until after 1868.

In the United States, Braille had not only to weather competition from embossed letter systems such as Moon Type and Boston Line Type, but it also underwent a long period of internecine warfare. A few used the French arrangement. Others used Joel W. Smith's American Braille, a modified form of the original system in which the most frequently occurring letters were given the fewest dots. Yet others preferred New York Point, a more radical change by William Bell Wait making the cell horizontal instead of vertical, two dots high and from one to four dots wide depending on the width of the letter represented. All of these had their advantages and disadvantages. The economy of dots in American Braille made writing by hand easier. New York Point saved more space and made reading speedier, but had such a cumbersome method of forming capitals, apostrophes, and hyphens that these punctuation marks were rarely used. The French version was bulkier but offered uniformity with Great Britain and most of Europe. Therefore, while New York Point was officially recognized by the American Association of Instructors of the Blind in 1871, all three forms were used.

This conflict--the War of the Dots--resulted in the need to produce such widely used books as the Bible and popular textbooks in three forms. It also made it difficult for blind persons brought up on different systems to communicate. This situation lasted until 1918 when a revised version of the original French system was adopted. However, the agreed-upon form--Revised Grade 1 1/2 Braille--still differed from the more heavily contracted Grade 2 system used in the United Kingdom. More committees were formed, more meetings were held, more speeches were made, until a speaker at one of the ensuing national conventions was moved to suggest: "If anyone invents a new system of printing for the blind, shoot him on the spot."3 At last, in 1932, with no new systems devised and no known fatalities, an agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States established Standard English Braille, Grade 2 (a compromise heavily favoring the British version) as the contracted form for everyday use in English- speaking countries.

In the meantime Frank Hall had invented the Braillewriter to speed up the hand copying of Braille (1892); and in the same decade, he had invented the Stereograph used to emboss the zinc plates for the production of press Braille. By 1932 further improvements had been made in both of Hall's inventions. Braille was finally free to mature and develop to its true potential.

Now, one-hundred-fifty years after Louis Braille devised the system that was used by only a few Parisian students, it is used by approximately 45,000 Americans alone, and perhaps twice that number are able to read it but do not do so regularly.4 Several printing houses in the United States and abroad produce Braille on Braille presses. At least 8,000 certified volunteer transcribers in the United States are at work invaluably supplementing the relatively few titles that can be produced annually on the Braille presses.5 In addition, work continues at the Royal National Institute for the Blind in Great Britain and elsewhere on solid-dot Braille, a method of printing Braille in which heat-sealed plastic dots are deposited on the surface of thin paper, resulting in uncrushable dots that are reduced in bulk by forty-five percent. Continuing exploration is also being made into computer-produced Braille and other new means of mass production. Teachers of Braille continue to experiment with new teaching methods, and many hope that further perfection will be made in the code itself.

What then of the future of Braille? There are some who say that the number of Braille readers is declining and will continue to do so because of continuing advances enabling the blind to read ordinary print (the Optacon, Stereotoner, CCTV systems, and so on) and because of steady improvements in recorded media. One must pause though when confronted with the astronomical costs often involved in purchasing this print-reading technology (some of these devices start in the hundreds of dollars and range into the thousands), when one considers the hardware involved in using all of these electronic devices, and when one considers a potential reading rate that is usually considerably less than that of a good Braille reader. Likewise, Braille is superior in many ways to recorded media. Certain subject areas such as mathematics, some of the sciences, and foreign languages in which more than pronunciation is stressed, practically dictate the use of Braille. Only with difficulty can a person skim or skip from place to place while using recorded media, and a person's reading rate is limited by the speed of oral speech.

It is desirable and right that the use of Braille continue for another reason that is less tangible than the foregoing but of equal or even greater importance. If a blind person does not read or write Braille, he will remain that much less independent. If he cannot read Braille, he will remain dependent on sighted readers or recordings. If he can neither read nor write Braille, he cannot label cans, boxes, cartons, and the like in his kitchen, bathroom, or shop. He cannot take down simple notes, addresses, or telephone numbers. Stated simply, Braille increases independence--a value that far transcends its worth just as a reading/writing tool.

So Braille should and will remain with us. It is an integral tool--as are recorded media and as the new technological innovations can become--in the increasingly successful struggle of the blind to surge forward and take their proper place in the mainstream of society. The fruits of the labor of a blind Parisian teenager one-hundred-fifty years ago must certainly be considered a landmark discovery helping to facilitate this march to independence.


1. Donald Bell, "Reading by Touch," The Braille Monitor, June, 1972, p. 295.
2. Ibid.
3. Robert B. Irwin, "The War of the Dots," from As I Saw It, by Robert B. Irwin (New York: American Foundation for the Blind, 1955), p. 47.
4. Louis Harvey Goldish, Braille In the United States: Its Production, Distribution, and Use (New York: American Foundation for the Blind, 1967), p. 10.
5. Telephone conversation with Maxine Dorf, Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., January 24, 1975.


by Barbara Pierce

Phyllis Campana, who has been Director of Operations at the National Braille Press since 1987, has left the Boston Braille publishing house. On July 22, 1991, she will assume her duties as Braille Division Manager at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky.

In a telephone interview she explained that her overall responsibilities will be generally the same in her new job, but APH is so much larger an operation that her day-to-day activities will undoubtedly differ significantly. When asked if she was being brought in to take a hard look at some of APH's long- standing traditions and habits with an eye to stirring things up a bit, she firmly denied the suggestion, mentioning that she had specifically been told "not to hurt anyone."

Mrs. Campana was very discreet in responding to questions about her relations with National Braille Press and what led to her job change. In effect she said that she thought that some of her colleagues would miss her but that this was a mutually beneficial move for all parties. She is looking forward to the challenge of a new organization and a new city.

Mrs. Campana has lived in Boston for thirty years, and her husband, who is staying in Boston for a number of months to sell their home, has lived there all of his life. But they are both looking forward to Louisville and the American Printing House for the Blind.

[PHOTO: John Rowley standing at microphone. CAPTION: John Rowley.]


by John and Mary Rowley

From the Associate Editor: John Rowley is a scientist and engineer who described to the 1989 convention of the National Federation of the Blind his return to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratories after losing his sight and receiving training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. He is lively and tough-minded, and he brings curiosity and a trained mind to his observations. Recently he and his wife Mary traveled to Japan, a country which they have visited before. This time, however, in addition to touring places of scientific interest, John wished to examine the situation of blind people in Japan. After the Rowleys' return they wrote a detailed report of their trip. Here are excerpts:

For purposes of this tale it is important to understand one aspect of life in Japan, namely travel and the transportation system. The four major islands of Japan extend from north to south roughly the same distance as from Maine to Florida; however, the land area is about the same as California's. Yet only about fifteen percent of this is level enough for use by people, and the population is about 120 million. The major modes of transport are walking, bicycle, bus, subways, trains, airplanes, ferries, and finally automobiles. The public transportation system is very convenient and relatively inexpensive. It is ideally suited to and completely accessible for blind people. This is a very positive element in any decision we may make to live and work in Japan. While there we try to travel much as the Japanese do; in fact, in order to help us understand life in Japan we often take long walks. These usually amounted to between six and ten kilometers per day, and John wore out two cane tips a week during this last visit.

In their own view, the Japanese have made two main efforts in the major urban areas to aid blind people. One is the installation of sounders or beepers at major intersections with traffic signals. When the light turns green, the beepers play a little tune, for example the call of the coo-coo bird in some places, "Coming Through the Rye" in others. They have also installed Braille sections in sidewalks and stairs in highly traveled areas, especially transportation centers like train stations. These strips of tile measure about six inches wide and are generally of two types: stretching the width of crosswalks at street intersections and across the tops and bottoms of stairways are tiles with raised bumps that can easily be felt with the feet; and, down the middle of the sidewalks parallel to the direction of travel, are imbedded tiles with a few parallel raised ridges. John found these aids rather confusing, and he tended to ignore them since his mobility training and trusty white cane made such aids unnecessary. We did see blind people using them and carrying short white canes. From our observations, guide dogs are also used, but the sighted-guide technique seemed most prevalent.

We never had any difficulty with the Japanese people or with limited access during our travels in Japan although Mary reports that there was some intense staring, and often people would make a move to help John, but a brief "dozo" (please) seemed to be all that was needed to assure them that he could manage quite well, "domo arigato" (thank you). There was some amazement about the long white cane, and Mary reports that, especially when John was walking alone, people would stare and turn to watch. The staring would probably be considered impolite especially since we were obviously foreigners, gaigin (outsiders), and therefore considered to be guests in their country. So the blind gaigin with the long white cane must have been the topic of some discussion in the many cities, towns, villages, farm lanes, and mountain hiking paths. Another arena where there was considerable curiosity was in the baths at the hot spring spas and at the Japanese inns and hotels where we stayed. In fact, we had planned our trip to include as many of these Japanese-style establishments as possible. John, as a matter of course, would take his long white cane into the bath area since these are usually sexually segregated facilities. (Public mixed bathing is rather rare in Japan, sad to say. Apparently the puritanical attitudes have come with the westernization/modernization of Japan.) In this all-male environment, there was more open questioning and even an occasional request to demonstrate the use of the cane, apparently much to the astonishment of most of the patrons.

The only times a Japanese person forcefully grabbed John in order to help or protect him were as we walked into or around construction sites. In Japan these situations are considered especially dangerous, probably due to the very crowded conditions and the strong sense of duty to protect the public. Policemen or other safety personnel are usually stationed to control the traffic and construction in areas of possible danger. In such situations the sense of duty and responsibility of these safety guards compelled them to take John's arm and escort him around and beyond the construction site.

Before leaving for Japan, John called the Louisiana Center for the Blind; and Joanne Wilson, the Executive Director, indicated that a Mr. Arai, from the administrative section of the Tokyo City Rehabilitation Services, had visited the Center in Ruston and that an inquiry to him might make a visit to a rehabilitation training center possible. She suggested that John should call Harold Snider at the National Council on Disabilities, who knew Mr. Arai and the situation for blind people in Japan. John had met Harold at the 1989 NFB Annual Convention in Denver, and the conclusion they came to during their phone conversation was that such a visit would be interesting and valuable if it could be arranged. Also Harold reminded John of meeting Mrs. Virginia Okamura at the 1989 Convention. Subsequent correspondence and telephone calls resulted in an invitation to visit the Tokyo Municipal Center for the Rehabilitation of the Blind. Virginia had described the adult training and education systems in Japan at the Denver Convention. She also had indicated that the rate of blindness in Japan is similar to that in the United States but that there have been only a few hundred blind college graduates in Japan during the past decade or so. She said that the major vocational opportunity for blind persons was in physiotherapy and massage and that this profession was the traditional one for blind people in Japan. Tradition plays a very important role in most aspects of Japanese life.

Therefore, during our final days in Japan we had the opportunity to visit a modern national university in the science city Tsukuba, population 150,000 and about eighty kilometers north of Tokyo. My colleagues in Tsukuba arranged a visit with an associate professor of special education in the College of Education. His college trained teachers of the handicapped. The Tsukuba University was known to accept blind and other disabled people, but as they explained to us, no special provisions or help for blind students was provided at the university, and only seven or eight blind students had enrolled. The very difficult and much-feared nationally-administered final high school examination and the individual college entrance exams were thought to be the major impediments for blind college-bound students. We were told that only fourteen blind high school students had applied to take the national test in 1990. The professor was very interested in John's background, the history of his blindness, and his work experience (he was quite astonished that John had continued to work as a scientist after becoming blind), the training that John had received, and especially the tools he used in continuing his work. He was very interested in learning more about the aids and supporting PC equipment, such as the Braille'n'Speak, that were available in the United States, since he used U.S. rehabilitation literature and ideas as teaching materials for his education of teachers of the blind. There was much interest in the long white cane, so John provided a brief demonstration. John believes that there is a junior college providing special programs for the blind in Tsukuba, but time did not permit investigating this institution.

The contact with the Rehabilitation Center in Tokyo was very informative, and we spent a half day there. The facility is located in a modern and busy section of Tokyo, Shinjoku, and is very new, having been constructed since the passage of the Japanese disabilities act in 1981. The building is quite large and very well-equipped and can accommodate thirty-four students (clients). There is a rehabilitation staff of nine, eight men and one woman. Three of the staff are very fluent in English because they have had training in the United States. One of the staff is blind. Their course stresses communications and orientation and mobility.

The facility is very modern and large and occupies a three- story building specially designed and built for the purpose of rehabilitation of the blind. We were given a detailed tour by Mr. Yamaguchi, who had been an active journalist before becoming blind and who taught all courses but cane travel. There are a large library, a well-equipped Braille room, and a tape equipment and typing room with a recording and dubbing section. The area for training in the use of talking personal computers was very impressive (their systems can do word processing in both Japanese and English, as well as producing Braille). The equipment was available to the students both at class times and after hours. A model apartment with a very large and well-equipped kitchen was provided for training in housekeeping and cooking. A gym the size of a volleyball court was used for physical education. A group of students was enjoying a game of catch across the gym in two teams when we visited that part of the facility. There are a large shower and hot bath, a laundry, a service kitchen, and a cafeteria.

We were informed that the students were given counseling on living as a blind person and that the primary training effort was to help the students who wished such training to prepare for the entrance examinations for physiotherapy. We gather that this is a widely practiced and well-paid profession in Japan and is an especially favored one for the blind.

We had little interaction with the students, who were occupying the dormitory on the third floor and the various classroom and recreation areas of the Center, as we toured the building. The language barrier made such interactions difficult, and the students seemed more or less uninterested--perhaps just ignoring the gaigin visitors. The staff, however, was very interested in John's long white cane and the new ideas and potential it presented. They were very concerned about trying to use it in an active and crowded city like Tokyo. However, we attempted to convince them that John had had no problems. They seem to prefer a folding or short cane. They did mention a preference for a cane length that would give two paces worth of information, but no cane or demonstration was presented. John was asked to give a demonstration of the long cane and a short discourse on the training methods. There was some astonishment at the mention of blind instructors and routes widely spread in a busy city. The idea of a blind cane travel instructor was not acceptable either; that was clear.

We were told that there were eleven such centers scattered around Japan and that more were planned. In common with the university professor whom John interviewed at Tsukuba, the instructors at the Tokyo Center said that the Japanese who are working in instructor education and rehabilitation training look to the United States and other countries for information, innovations, and leadership in the introduction of improvements and change.

The evening in Tokyo was capped off with a delightful dinner with Virginia Okamura and her blind friend, who is attempting to pass the Japanese equivalent of the bar exams. Virginia's friend, Mr. Chuji Sashida is currently an instructor in a private school for blind adults and has a research grant to study the techniques used by the working blind to support their work. He seems most interested in personal computer systems used by blind professionals. He would like invitations to visit blind working people who have support systems in place. We will write back to offer such a visit here in Los Alamos. His barrier for the bar examination is apparently that they require him to hand write a thesis as a part of the exam (in Japanese, of course), and he finds this too difficult although he indicated that he can compose very fluently on a PC with a voice synthesizer. There's considerable frustration since they will not allow him to use the equipment and insist on hand-written material. We went to dinner with Virginia, Sashida-san, Yamaguchi-san, and Mita-san, the woman instructor at the Center. It was a very lovely affair at a Chinese-style Japanese restaurant, and good fellowship and conversation all around. We do hope that we might have an opportunity to visit with these folks again soon.

Our overall impression was that the Japanese people have only recently started to face the issues of the disabled among the population, especially those who are blind. It seemed to us that there was a considerable compassion toward and an innate concern for the disabled but that their reactions were very protective and perhaps a bit paternalistic. Also we had the feeling that Japanese culture and society like to keep everyone close to what is considered normal or traditional, and imperfections in things and people alike are viewed with disfavor and treated with some distaste and some rejection. New institutions and traditions are slow to develop but seem to be very strong once established. Japan's new legislation concerning the disabled seems to have set the stage for the needed changes.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Charles Cheadle and his mother Barbara seated in the Harbor Room at the National Center for the Blind.]


From the Associate Editor: What is the most effective way you can think of to focus the American public's attention on the subject of adult-onset blindness and spread the word about the positive work of the National Federation of the Blind? One strategy would be to find a widely-known television actor who is going blind; then interest a popular talk show hostess in interviewing him, two other adults who are losing their sight, and a representative from the National Federation of the Blind.

That is exactly what occurred on the morning of Thursday, April 18, 1991. The famous daytime talk show hostess, Sally Jessy Raphael, devoted her entire program that day to the subject of adult-onset blindness. Dana Elcar, co-star of the ABC program MacGyver has had glaucoma for a number of years, but recently he has lost enough vision to be considered legally blind. The producers of the MacGyver program have decided to write blindness into the script. Mr. Elcar is developing remarkably healthy attitudes about his condition, and the public is, of course, extremely interested in what is happening to his character on the television program.

In addition to Dana Elcar and two women who had lost their sight as adults, Sally Jessy Raphael invited Barbara Cheadle, President of the Parents of Blind Children Division, and her son Charles, thirteen, to be guests as well. Federationists have been working for years to persuade the show's producers to interview members of the NFB, and finally their hard work has paid off.

Most of the program was devoted to Dana Elcar and the blind women, who are all still experiencing difficulties and some problems with adjustment, but the Cheadles managed to get some constructive information across. They also presented both Ms. Raphael and Mr. Elcar with copies of our book, Walking Alone and Marching Together.

Was the effort useful? It is too soon to know whether or not Mr. Elcar and the other blind guests learned enough to allow us to help them, but in the weeks since the program was aired, the telephones at the National Center for the Blind have been ringing incessantly. Callers, most of them blind or close to blind people, wanted to know more about the Federation. Where was the nearest chapter? How could they join? Where could they learn more about blindness? There is no doubt about it; people pay attention to what talk show hosts say and do. And when they interview positive, confident blind people who tell the world that the National Federation of the Blind is the key to a healthy adjustment to blindness, people listen. The result is lots more work for Federationists across the country, but it is the very most satisfying work there is--helping blind people begin believing in themselves again. Here is the section of the Sally Jessy Raphael program in which she interviewed Barbara and Charles Cheadle:

Ms. Raphael: Tell me about yourself, Barbara. Mrs. Cheadle: The most important thing I can tell you about me and about Charles and about everybody here and about everybody out there who is watching and is losing vision is these words, the National Federation of the Blind. Because when Dana and Marilyn and Chad were talking about their experiences of going blind, it is clear that you go through all these emotions. As a parent of a child who is going to lose vision and will have less vision as an adult, I have gone through this too.

It is so important that you get good information and that you get role models quickly. When you call the National Federation of the Blind and ask us to send a representative, it is really a wonderful opportunity to share a positive approach to blindness. In other words, what do you do once you get through the stages--where do you turn?

The National Federation of the Blind gave Charles and me good role models. We know hundreds of blind people who are doing all kinds of things. They taught us what techniques we needed. You see our son carries a cane. He is learning Braille, and he wants to do some interesting things with his life, and we know they're possible because we know blind people out there doing them.

Ms. Raphael: Charles was adopted, obviously.

Mrs. Cheadle: Yes.

Ms. Raphael: At what age?

Mrs. Cheadle: He was two years old. We knew that he had some vision loss, but we didn't know how much. He has glaucoma, so we were fearful that it would be something that would require surgery or treatment. We didn't know until we got him. But after we got him, we went through all the phases: for example, since he has partial vision, figuring out how much vision he has, what it can do, what it can't do. And boy did it help knowing blind adults to talk to who could tell us what to expect.

Ms. Raphael: Charles, do the kids tease you at all?

Charles: Yes they do.

Ms. Raphael: In what way?

Charles: They tease me about being blind or they tease me about being different, and sometimes it hurts a lot.

Ms. Raphael: In what way do they tease you?

Charles: They'll call me "blind boy" or they'll stick fingers in my face and say how many am I holding up? Things like that.

Mrs. Cheadle: Do you remember what I did once with that? This is a trick I learned from my blind friends and from a blind mother who was a worker with me in the National Federation of the Blind. She said, "Well you have to teach your children humor." So when he was telling me about this kind of incident once, he said,"Well they are going to stick their hands up in front and say `how many fingers do I have?'" I said, "Well tell them thirteen! What planet?" [Laughter] That's important--a sense of humor and a sense of perspective.

Ms. Raphael: How do you handle that, Charles?

Charles: Well, sometimes I will ignore it and walk away, or sometimes I will turn the question around on the other person.

Ms. Raphael: It always hurts, doesn't it?

Charles: Yes.

Ms. Raphael: Don't you think it hurts a little less if you can kind of give them back a little something that they are giving you?

Charles: Yes

Ms. Raphael: If you want, afterwards I'll teach you some mean things. Talk show hosts always know this, Charles. [Laughter] Charles, what are you going to be when you grow up? Charles: Well, I would like to be a chef when I grow up.

Ms. Raphael: A chef?

Charles: Yes.

Ms. Raphael: Do you know how to cook anything now? Charles: Yes I do, and having alternative techniques to do things in the kitchen helps me cook more efficiently with my vision loss.

Ms. Raphael: Such as? What do they show you? I have a brother who is a chef.

Charles: For measuring liquids, I can use containers that are measured off at the top so that I don't have to worry about reading measurements and increments. For measuring powders, I can put it in a teaspoon and level it off with a knife to get it more accurate.

Ms. Raphael: I would assume that your sight has nothing to do with your sense of taste, does it Charles? [Laughter]

Charles: Oh no!

Ms. Raphael: Very important for a chef.

Mrs. Cheadle: When he talks about being a chef, this goes back to role models because he has worked with a blind woman who is a caterer in Baltimore, where we are from. We talked about modeling--our national convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be participating in a fashion show with Macy's in New Orleans. We'll be using all blind models.

Ms. Raphael: What have you got there, Charles?

Charles: I have a book called Walking Alone and Marching Together. It's about the fifty-year progress of the National Federation of the Blind.

Mrs. Cheadle: And we would like to make a presentation. We have it on tape here, and we would like to give this to Dana.

Mr. Elcar: Thank you.

Mrs. Cheadle: And one in print for Sally. [Applause]

Ms. Raphael: Charles, do you know how much this weighs? I'm going to have to take it to aerobics class. We'll take a break. [applause and music]

Announcer: National Federation of the Blind, call (301) 659- 9314.


And what has happened to Dana Elcar since his talk show appearance on April 18? Pete, his character on the MacGyver program, has been rolled off to last-ditch surgery in an effort to save his remaining sight for a while longer. Pete's efforts to submit his job resignation have been thwarted by his friend MacGyver, and Pete has done some pretty realistic wrestling with the implications of blindness, coming in the end to the conclusion that life does not stop because of blindness and it is appropriate to let friends help one in time of trouble.

Mr. Elcar has visited the National Center for the Blind and has spent several hours talking with President Maurer. Mr. Maurer invited the actor to barbecue steaks with him in the courtyard of the National Center for the Blind. At first, Mr. Elkar demurred, saying that he didn't think he could do such a thing. But President Maurer can be both gently compelling and very reassuring when the occasion arises. So it wasn't long before Mr. Elcar had discovered that protective gloves would enable him to grill steaks safely and comfortably like any other back-yard chef. More to the point, he has now seen blind people going about their daily business and working efficiently in the sighted world. We must help Dana Elcar to gain both the encouragement and the assurance that will enable him to make a full and healthy adjustment to his blindness. The truth is that, for better or worse, his notoriety as a popular and widely-recognized actor will insure that many members of the general public will come to believe whatever he does about blindness and the capacities of blind people.


If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Ted Young.]


by Ted Young

From the Associate Editor: Only rarely in life is one's fate determined by a single irreversible act. Most of the time we look back and notice that a series of small acts and decisions have shaped our outlook on life and our skills for meeting its challenges. This is a comforting thought since it means that evolving patterns of dependency or timidity can be reversed if one has a little perseverance and grit. Parents, of course, play a key role in shaping their children's attitudes toward themselves and the world around them; and it is worth a little parental reflection to consider in what ways they may unintentionally be clipping their children's wings, particularly those of their blind children.

Ted Young is the president of the NFB of Pennsylvania. In the Spring, 1991, edition of The Blind Activist, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, he wrote about such a small but important episode in his own life. All parents of blind children should take heart from the courage shown by Ted's mother. Here is the story:

The other day I had occasion to wonder why it is that some blind persons are more willing to be independent than others. Yes, I know that this is true of sighted people as well, but that truism was not the point of my contemplation. Anyway, the question carried me back in thought to my first real assertion of independence. I don't know its relevance for anyone else, but perhaps it would prove helpful to a parent confronted with a similar situation.

My parents were not particularly over protective. My father figured out that I could tell if a fish was biting by holding the line and taught me how to fish. My mother talks about how hard it was to follow the advice of the first expert in blindness she ever talked to by letting me wander about the house, bumping into things on my own. But, hard or not, she sat back and let me do it. The problem was that my parents were no more prepared than others to deal with a blind child, and there wasn't a lot of professional help or advice available in central Pennsylvania. As a result, although they knew what I could do when I was being watched or was on familiar territory, they had their fears about letting me be outside the house by myself.

How well I remember that familiar, friendly house of my childhood. Despite the leaking roof and the landlord's complaining because the rent was overdue, despite the many times my mother had little to put on the table for a meal, it was security and home. My world was my often-grouchy father, my always-caring and loving mother, and my three sometimes-okay sisters. I vividly remember being pulled from that security at the age of four to be dropped into the unfamiliar environs of the Overbrook School for the Blind, where I would spend nine months a year until high school graduation.

As time went by I learned to wander, play, and enjoy things independently on the grounds of Overbrook. Here there was no question. I was out on the sidewalks and grounds playing, running, or walking independently with my friends. I was, in short, experiencing my own capacities.

Now we come to that sultry summer day the recollection of which started these ruminations. I can't remember whether I was seven or eight, but I know that I had been to Charlie's, the nearby grocery store, many times with my sisters. What a great place it was--filled with the pleasant smells of meats, vegetables, coffee and run by a friendly owner who gave candy to the kids. To get there one needed only to walk down the front steps of my house, make a left turn, walk a half block to the corner, turn left again, and walk another half block. That's right: no alleys or streets to cross, no big deal, unless you happen to be the caring mother who doesn't know what best to do for her blind child.

I'm not sure when it occurred to me that, although my sisters were sent to the store all the time, my mother never asked me to go. I do know that on the day in question none of my sisters could be found, and my mother was complaining that she would have to drop what she was doing and go to the store herself. I told her not to worry; I would go for her. That offer was immediately and firmly declined. Although I cannot remember the argument that followed, I do remember telling my mother that I could do it, and I remember her stating that I wasn't going to try. I ended the argument by telling her that I was going to the store, and she could find me there. She replied that I'd better not. I guess she didn't believe me because she eventually went upstairs, at which point I sneaked out the door and was on my own. Down the street and around the corner to Charlie's I went feeling guilty but good. The problem was that once I got to Charlie's, I had no money to spend, and I needed to wait there since I wanted my mother to come and see that I could make it on my own. I did the only thing I could think of at the time which was to sit on the front step of the store and play with a leaf.

I won't go into the beating I got for disobedience or the day or two that followed in which I practiced nonverbal resistance. I was furious to realize that my demonstrated abilities were being ignored and discounted and was determined not to give in. The only protest I could think to make was silence. Although I never discussed it with her, I believe that my mother was torn between the need to punish disobedience and her recognition of my need to be treated like any other child. That was the situation two days later when my mother helped with a major step in my development by phrasing the simple question, "Do you wanna go to the store, Ted?"


by Ted Young

From the Associate Editor: Ted Young is the energetic president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. In the Spring, 1991, edition of the organization's newsletter, The Blind Activist, he reported on the most recent battle the Pennsylvania affiliate has been engaged in on behalf of Kathleen Spear. (See the May, 1991, issue of the Braille Monitor for the account of the tussle with American Airlines on behalf of Mrs. Spear.) Here is the story of what happened last February:

If one believes that blind persons deserve equal rights, shouldn't one also believe that, in a layoff, blind persons ought to take their lumps along with everybody else? That is the question that passed through my mind when the phone rang in February, 1991, and Kathleen Spear reported that she was scheduled to be laid off together with other state employees at the end of the month. Kathleen is deaf-blind and works in the Central Office of Pennsylvania Blindness and Visual Services (BVS), where she coordinates deaf-blind programs throughout the Commonwealth. The program of BVS for this population, which needs services a lot more than some other clients, leaves much to be desired. Although there is a deaf-blind coordinator in each district office, the person holding this position is appointed and carries out numerous other duties that prevent him or her from spending much time on this fairly recently added assignment.

Once again it was necessary to explore what one means when one talks about equality. Certainly the Department of Public Welfare and its stepchild, the BVS, have not hired many blind persons in the past few years. Indeed, it refuses to consider blind or disabled persons in its affirmative action plans, which every office manager is required to draft. Given this discrimination and inequality in the hiring and promotion of blind persons, to include a blind person in layoffs would be to compound the problem, and NFB of Pennsylvania was not going to sit idly by and see this occur. Further, our inquiry revealed that not only was the intention to lay off Kathleen, but the position was slated for elimination, leaving virtually no program for the deaf-blind in the state. It is to be noted that the position in question was originally created through a contract with the Helen Keller National Center and that the Commonwealth had no problem taking federal money at that time. Sure, they had fulfilled the requirements of the contract to continue the service for three years, but now in a crunch the employee and her constituents were to be neglected.

As president of the Pennsylvania affiliate, I called the Deputy Secretary for Social Programs, who simply stated that she needed to make tough decisions and that this was just another one that needed to be made. I advised her that we were not willing to let this happen without a fight, and fight we did.

We went to State Representative Ivan Itkin, who understood the problem and started the political pressure that brought success in this case. In a lengthy letter to Norm Witman, the director of Blindness and Visual Services, he captured our concern for this employee and the entire deaf-blind community.

We are pleased to report that the order to lay off Kathleen Spear has been reversed and that she is still employed by BVS.


by Norman Coombs, Ph.D.

From the Editor: Norman Coombs is a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. When he sent the following article for publication, he said:

Dear Mr. Jernigan:

As a regular reader of the Braille Monitor, I am pleased to see your interest in the use of computers by blind professionals. I must admit that using a computer has changed my life and drastically increased my professional output. One of the aspects of the information age which is presently capturing my personal interest is the CD-ROM and the growing amount of information on it.

I have written up a short article, sharing some of my own experiences and hopes with respect to increasing data being available to blind computer users from this source. If the article seems relevant, please feel free to use it in one of your upcoming issues.

Here is Dr. Coombs's article:

What is a CD-ROM, and what does it mean for blind students and professionals? In the computer world, jargon seems to be increasing almost daily. One of the hottest terms these days is CD-ROM. It is a device for storing information. The CD-ROM looks almost exactly like the compact disc you buy to play music these days. Like the music discs, the CD-ROM has digitized information stored on it. Whether music or pictures or text, information is turned into patterns of numbers and stored optically on the disc. Unlike normal computer discs, your computer cannot write to this disc, but it can read from it. What the term CD-ROM stands for is compact disc, read only memory. So your computer can read from it but not write to it.

Many publishers and other producers of information are now putting materials on CD-ROMs and selling them. One CD-ROM could contain several reference works. Yes, if a blind computer user has a CD-ROM player, he or she can begin to accumulate a reference shelf. Instead of this shelf taking ten or twenty times the space of a print collection, it is unimaginably compressed. So, while a blind user will not need a warehouse to store his own reference collection, he may still need a lot of money to purchase it. But most seeing professionals don't accumulate a large reference collection. They consult such works at their neighboring library. Libraries are now starting to switch from print reference books to having them available from a computer and CD-ROM player. A few libraries that are forward-looking may equip their computers with adaptive devices for handicapped users. If this occurs, it will happen slowly and probably only in places with generous library budgets and with a significant handicapped population. So, it would seem that this will be no more accessible than the print reference material.

Is it reasonable to think of taking your own speech synthesizer with you to the library? Perhaps. I have done this myself on three or four occasions and expect to do it even more in the future. This requires first that you have a friendly and understanding librarian who knows and trusts you and will work with you. Second, it requires that your synthesizer be an external one. I have yet to see the librarian who will let you take the computer apart and insert your own card. You will need to load your speech software and connect your synthesizer. Take a headset so you don't disturb the other patrons. You should also take a spare floppy disk, because you will be able to copy the information you need from the CD-ROM to your disk for later use.

Can you do this with any speech software and any external synthesizer? Both your computer and the library computer will need to be compatible. In most cases we are talking about IBM and IBM compatibles. If you have software like the IBM Screen reader (which requires connecting a special keypad), that may be possible but is also more complicated. The more you want to mess with the library computer, the less the librarian will be happy! So, software that uses the normal keyboard is better. The first time I did this I took a DEC-Talk synthesizer. It is as big as many computers. Not only is it cumbersome to transport, but it requires table space once you reach the library. Smaller, more portable, synthesizers are much less trouble. I am now using the Verbette Mark II, which is four inches long, two inches wide, and one inch thick and weighs only eight pounds. The Verbette can operate from either an AC adapter or a 9-volt battery. It was created by Clayton Hutchinson of Computer Conversations, Inc., located at 6297 Worthington Road, S.W., Alexandria, Ohio 43001. It is easily plugged into a computer's parallel port. The ability to take the synthesizer to another computer and readily access it is extremely convenient. I waited a couple years once I heard it was being designed, and I am glad that I did not get something lacking this versatility instead.

As for buying a CD-ROM player, I am also slow to make a move. Frankly, I am going to wait for the world of CD-ROM technology to stabilize before I invest in one for myself. Meantime, I plan to carry my handy synthesizer to the library more frequently. I also find it easy to take on vacation and borrow friends' computers instead of having to bring my own. Simple, portable adaptive devices can make libraries and many other facilities more useful and accessible.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Ramona Walhof.]


by Ramona Walhof

(The following article appeared in the Summer, 1991, issue of Gem State Milestones, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. Its author, Ramona Walhof, is not only president of the NFB of Idaho and a member of the National Board but also one of our most productive members. Here is what she has to say.)

Several months ago Commission director Ed McHugh came to the Western Chapter of the NFBI and said there had been discussion among optometrists, ophthalmologists, and Commission staff regarding a change of name for the agency. He said that some doctors and staff members were concerned that elderly individuals losing vision may not be getting help for which they are eligible because they do not regard themselves as blind. Therefore, they do not believe they can or should receive help from the Commission for the Blind. The name change being considered was the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Our local NFB chapter discussed this matter for some time, and no one present came out strongly in favor of the name change. Some were very much opposed to it, while others were only a little opposed.

Because of this discussion and subsequent talk at the Commission, the matter was brought to the NFBI state convention for consideration, and the following resolution was adopted:

Resolution 91-01

Whereas, there has been discussion by staff members at the Commission for the Blind and others about changing the name of the agency; and

Whereas, using the word "blind" when appropriate is part of the process of improving the status of blind people in society and the attitudes toward blind people--a primary goal of both the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho and the Idaho Commission for the Blind;

Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho in convention assembled April 14, 1991, calls upon the board and staff of the Commission for the Blind to cease all debate on plans to change the name of the agency in any way.

Still, the question remains as to why some people at the commission think changing its name might be important and why blind people should care.

All of this caused me to do some thinking. I have talked with hundreds, if not thousands, of blind persons of all ages in Idaho. Never once has a single one indicated unwillingness to take services from the Commission for the Blind, the library for the blind, the school for the blind, the National Federation of the Blind, or Resources for the Blind because of the name. Certainly a large number of people who are losing eyesight wish they were not. They do not know whether or not they are blind, and they do not want to admit that they are blind. Many of them believe that being blind would mean giving up independence and relying on others for help more than they want to. All of this is expected, understandable, and reasonable.

Some doctors are not sure when to refer a patient to the Commission for the Blind. Doctors perform essential services, testing and treating eyes. They understand eye conditions, and patients appreciate the care they receive. Doctors are not less competent or good because they are not experts on the techniques and tools used by the blind or the capabilities of the blind. A family doctor refers patients to specialists of many kinds. When an optometrist or ophthalmologist is treating an individual with substantial visual loss, it is reasonable for the doctor to refer that individual to a program or organization that understands a lifestyle that does not require vision for reading, driving, writing, and similar activities. Of course, the doctor must continue to treat the eyes. That is essential. It is not the same as changing techniques. Nobody is going to be unhappy with the doctor for making such a referral. It is the right thing to do.

Both doctors and patients need to understand that it is respectable to be blind. Society in general regards us as blind if we do not read print comfortably and do not drive because of lack of eyesight. Some weep about it; some run away from it; some pretend it isn't so; and occasionally some try to laugh about it. When we are honest, we know that there is a stigma attached to blindness whether we call ourselves blind, sight impaired, low vision, visually impaired, severely visually impaired, hard of seeing, visually challenged, or something else.

The Commission for the Blind has valuable services for people with ten percent or less of normal sight or a prognosis leading to that much deterioration within the next two years. There is a vast difference between 20-20 and legal blindness. Nevertheless, many legally blind persons have sight that is useful and effective for some purposes.

The status of blind persons in society has changed substantially over the past fifty years, but we still have a long way to go. Whether we like it or not, using terminology that cushions the word "blind" reinforces attitudes that limit opportunities for the blind. This is true even if some blind people say that is what they want. And this is why many blind people prefer the word "blind" over other terminology while many others do not like it at all.

When we reach the day that there is no longer any misunderstanding about blindness or blind people, then nobody will care what terminology is used. If we encourage newly blinded individuals and the public at large to be uncomfortable using the word "blind," they will inevitably be uncomfortable with blind people. Adjusting to blindness is not fun, but it is easier and quicker if we face it. A good public information program will do far more to help people take advantage of services from the Idaho Commission for the Blind than changing the name of the agency.

Some will remember that in 1983 Lieutenant Governor David Leroy and the director of the Commission for the Blind (I was that director) made a public service announcement which attracted a great many referrals. Public service announcements are only one part of getting the word around. The Commission's new annual report is well done and should be distributed widely. Talk shows, public speaking, and good relations with other agencies are other public education approaches. Explanation of blindness--what it is and what it isn't--is essential.

The National Federation of the Blind of Idaho contacts hundreds of blind people for the first time each year. We provide to all of them information about services to the blind in this state. We refer some of them to the commission. What I am really saying here is that finding blind people is easy. It just takes a concerted, organized effort. Once you find the people, getting them to take advantage of services which they need and for which they qualify is also easy. All it takes is explanation and encouragement.

Most ophthalmologists and optometrists in this state would be willing (perhaps even eager) to distribute brochures from the Commission for the Blind. This is something the Commission should pursue vigorously. And, of course, the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho must not forget to heed its own advice. We will redouble our effort to distribute literature and spread the word. The only thing about our job that is difficult is that it requires a lot of day-to-day hard work.


by Deborah Kent Stein

From the Associate Editor: The Braille Examiner, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, carries a periodic feature called "Meet a Fellow Federationist," contributed by the respected writer and novelist, Deborah Kent Stein. These profiles of Illinois affiliate members crackle with the vitality and vigor that only a skilled writer can capture on paper. The February/March, 1990, Edition of the Braille Examiner included a sketch of Frances Allen, a member of the Chicago chapter whom Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois, describes as a "rock-solid Federationist who is only kept from more active participation in chapter activities by ill health." Reading this portrait in words reminds one again of what makes this organization great. Across this nation are blind people: men and women, African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, Native American, white, and every other conceivable ethnicity or race who live out our philosophy of hope and determination each day of their lives. People like Frances Allen are the bedrock of the Federation. Meet her now:

For Federationists, 1990 marks not only the start of a new decade, but the fiftieth anniversary of the organized blind movement in the United States. Reflecting back on her long life, Frances Allen (a charter member of the Chicago Chapter of the NFB of Illinois) shares a treasure-house of memories, which reveal how far blind people have come since the early part of this century.

Frances Allen was born in Missouri, where her father worked as a logger. When she was a year old, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. At two-and-a-half, Frances lost her sight after a bout of measles. When she was in second grade, her family moved once more, this time to Chicago, where she enrolled in a public- school class for blind students. At first the pupils learned only Grade One Braille. Later on, Grade One and a Half Braille was adopted in the United States, and Frances began to learn contractions. "There were six or seven versions around of how blind people should read," she explains. "There were New York Point, Moon Type, Boston Line Type, and several more methods before I started school. Then in about 1924 they had a worldwide conference, and Braille was selected as the universal system."

Frances learned to write first with a board slate and stylus and later with a Hall Braille writer. The class had only one Braille writer, so the children had to take turns. "You rolled in the paper, but sometimes it went crooked, and there was nothing you could do about it," she says. "The keys would stick, and there was this loud bell at the end of the line." For arithmetic they used the cubarithm, a large, heavy board with square holes in which cubes with Braille numbers could be inserted.

At John Marshall High School, where she was one of the few black students, Frances was enrolled in a resource room, taking most of her classes with the sighted students. After graduation she took business courses at Wendell Phillips High and in 1940 entered a business college program. When she tried to find a job, however, she met a numbing series of rejections. Few blind people were employed in the early 1940s, and rehabilitation agencies worked almost exclusively with men, most of them blinded veterans. Eventually Frances went to work at an agency called Blind Industries on Roosevelt Road. Blind Industries received War Department contracts, and she made sheets for the armed services, being paid $3 per dozen.

In 1946 Frances applied for a job in the workshop at the Chicago Lighthouse. During her interview the director told her, "We find that people with as much education as you have don't make good workers." To insure that she would be hired, she tore up her original application and rewrote it, leaving out the fact that she had gone to business college.

"At the Lighthouse they did teach me how to use my hands," Frances comments wryly. "They didn't teach me to use my mind, but they did teach me to use my hands." Workers were actually discouraged from pursuing any further education, and when Frances began to study proofreading at night, she kept it a secret. When in 1954 she announced that she was leaving to take a proofreading job, the director was not only astonished but furious.

From 1954 until 1969 Frances proofread Braille textbooks at the Guild for the Blind (at that time the Catholic Guild). She also did some proofreading for the Library of Congress. In 1969 she determined to become a medical transcriber and returned to the Lighthouse to take the transcribing course they had begun to offer. After completing the program, she obtained a job at South Chicago Hospital in southeast Chicago near the Indiana line. Poor health forced her into early retirement in 1976.

In 1950 a friend took Frances to hear a speech by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Hearing him made her question many of the things she had been told about blindness all her life. Over the following years she became a dedicated fighter for better conditions for all blind people. Frances regrets that too few black people have become involved with the NFB of Illinois. "I know there are a lot of blacks who respect and admire the Federation," she contends, "but I'd like to see them become more active."

Frances's activism extends to issues which affect older Americans. She belongs to the Gray Panthers and is a member of the board of directors of the Illinois Council of Senior Citizens. She is also involved in the Illinois Public Action Committee.

Every year at the senior citizens' apartment building where she lives, Frances Allen gives a talk to the residents about coping with blindness. "A lot of them are afraid of me," she says, "because they're so scared of losing their eyesight. I try to explain to them how it really is." In these talks, as in so many of her other activities, she draws on her own long experience as she fights to bring about change.


by Lois Wencil

From the Associate Editor: Both dog guide and cane users would probably agree that life is more lively and complex with a dog. Canes don't look intelligent, cute, or patient. No one is tempted to pat them or talk to them inappropriately, and while one's children may occasionally experiment with the cane, a toy lawn mower or baton can usually be substituted with great success. In short, there isn't much competition for the affections of or the control over a white cane. Moreover, despite the attractions of devotion and sentient companionship, dog guide users must go outdoors in unpleasant weather and work constantly to maintain in the dog's mind and that of every human being in contact with the team that the blind person is in command and controls every situation. Sometimes this is easier to accomplish than others. Clearly, however, committed dog guide users find these annoyances a small price to pay for the satisfaction of working with a responsive animal.

In the December, 1990, edition of "Harness-Up," the publication of the National Association of Dog Guide Users, Lois Wencil of Millburn, New Jersey, wrote an amusing piece about this ongoing struggle. Everyone who has ever battled a toddler for supremacy in any arena will sympathize with Mrs. Wencil, who has written many other articles, two books, and a computer tutorial. She has been a rehab teacher, holds an M.A. in special education, and is the parent of two children. Here is the article:

From the time our son arrived home from the hospital, friends would ask me if I wasn't afraid that my dog guide was jealous or might hurt the baby. As he grew, it was, however, Steve who terrorized her and stretched her endless patience. When he crawled, who better to chase? How still she remained as he pulled himself up by her fur. She seemed to know that if she moved he would fall. Fawn did learn to jump that spring; on several occasions she gracefully cleared the gate that confined Steve to our first floor. His attempts to cut his teeth on her resulted only in mouthfuls of hair. Although we tried our best to rescue her and barricade her from him, she felt compelled to be near me; I needed to be close to him. She, therefore, learned to tolerate this invader into what had once been her domain. First a front pack, then a backpack, and finally a stroller pulled behind kept him safe and her out of his reach when we were outdoors. Sitting prettily at my side, she watched carefully all who stopped to admire our carry-about. My pats and praise were what she wanted.

As he became too heavy and prideful to be conveyed, she slowed her pace to accommodate his stride. Pausing at the down curb, I would scoop him up and carry him across the street. Our purchases were carried in a camping backpack now; my purse was left at home; I wore only clothes with plenty of pocket space for tissues, lollipops, and money.

All went smoothly until we began discussing crossing streets; red light means..., green light means...,etc. We learned to be quiet at corners so Mommy could hear the traffic; he learned stop, look, and listen before you cross the street. He took great pride and joy in knowing when we could safely cross. Then Steve began to command in his deepest, strongest voice, "Forward, Fawn!"

What a quandary; learn but don't practice! If she should respond, should I correct her? Yes! We discussed and rediscussed this point of order, but he was so very proud of his new knowledge. "I'll tell the dog, Mom! My job." In this case, however, there could be no opportunity to let him try.

So we struggled on. He now was growing heavier; at four he would not be treated like a baby. A second traveler would be on board in about five more months. The pregnancy made carrying him both imprudent and dangerous.

In total frustration he began to demand, "Leave dog home; I'll wear the harness!" This was out of the question. "Don't use a cane like Daddy; I'll take you. I'm your big helper." I quickly put a stop to his even trying on the harness because Fawn did resent it. The result was a tug of war between them. The struggle for supremacy raged on!

On a windy spring day we all began a trip for a light load of groceries. "Go, Mommy! We can cross."

With trees swishing, it was difficult for me to hear. "Please be quiet so we can listen."

"No! Go! Forward, bad girl."

Dropping my harness, I patted my friend. "Good girl!" Then turning to him, "Do not tell the dog what to do. I give the command and she moves when it is safe."

This was too much for the budding child-traffic guard to bear. Enraged, he sank to the sidewalk and began to screech. Enough was enough for poor Fawn too. She lowered herself to the pavement and, uncharacteristically, began to whine. What a sight to behold! First I got one up into position and then turned to the other. In the meantime, the first had gone down once again. A car stopped so its owner could offer assistance. However, when I offered both my charges to him as a gift, he beat a hasty retreat. Spanking time had arrived. We drank water instead of juice that afternoon. A week of playing only in the yard convinced Steve that Mommy alone gave the dog commands. For some time after that episode, he remained at home with Dad or a neighbor while the dog and I went shopping.

Supremacy had been determined. When my daughter eventually took her place as a toddler walking beside me, she also learned to cross streets with less talk and more action. Yet today we all still travel safely.



by Carla McQuillan

From the Associate Editor: Carla McQuillan is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon. She first learned about the Federation while she and her family were living in Illinois. Last September she returned to Illinois to attend the state convention, where she delivered a version of the following article as a speech. Catherine Randall, Editor of the Braille Examiner, the publication of the NFB of Illinois, asked Mrs. McQuillan to submit her remarks for publication, including those she had been forced to omit from her speech because of time constraints. The article first appeared in the September/ November, 1990, edition of the Braille Examiner. Here it is:

I am a Montessori teacher by profession, having received my training and certification in California some ten years ago. Over the course of the years, I have held positions ranging from teacher's assistant to assistant administrator. When my husband chose to attend the University of Illinois for his doctoral program, I knew that I had to acquire a teaching position in the area or welcome the prospect of starvation (anyone who has ever tried to raise a family on a graduate student's salary knows that feeling). Since there was only one Montessori school in the Champaign area, I did not have a large field to choose from. To insure my employment at that school, I prepared a portfolio of my work, the likes of which the board of directors had never seen. I included photographs, written explanations of my original materials and projects, an audio cassette of one of my group lessons and storytelling sessions, and an actual sample of one of my materials. Maria Montessori emphasized that, in order to be effective as an educator, one must involve as many of the student's senses as possible. I toyed with the prospect of including a scratch and sniff sticker of one of my cooking projects but decided that four out of five senses would have to do. In essence, I gave the board members no choice in the matter; they had to hire me, and they did.

My family needed medical benefits, and the school didn't offer them, so I helped draft a proposal for the board, which didn't sit well with the administrator. She thought I was a troublemaker, which I was, but we got our benefits the following year. There were a few other things on which she and I didn't agree. For example, I went straight to the board on contract issues because I didn't think the details of my teaching contract were her business, since she was not my employer. I was granted several requests by the board of directors, and as a result my working relationship with the administrator became more advisory with each victory. But I think it was her comment on one particular day that made me realize I could no longer work under these conditions. She saw me in the hall as I was making my way towards the bathroom and exclaimed, as if in terror, "What are you doing out?" Once I had recovered from my initial surprise at having been asked such a custodial question, I quietly explained my quest. I finished out the school year and did not renew my contract.

What does all of this have to do with blindness? It actually has very little to do with it because at that time in my life I was not blind. I was visually impaired, and I was trying my darnedest to hide the fact that I had any vision problem at all.

Following the demise of my teaching career, I decided to go back to school. In 1988 I applied for and received an NFB of Illinois scholarship, and as Steve Benson so accurately phrased it, I am not the same person who came to this organization two years ago. I completed a bachelor's degree program in liberal arts with an emphasis in teaching through the use of storytelling. With no suitable Montessori schools in the area, I decided to start a child care program at home, and I grossed around $20,000 my first year.

I had been running a very successful program for two years, when we moved to the State of Oregon. Our family is all out west, and we thought it would be a good place for me to start a school of my own. In the meantime I would begin at home as I had done in Illinois and plan to locate and open a facility in the fall of 1991.

Let me provide you with a job description for a woman in the Eugene/Springfield, Oregon, area who runs a home day care business. Please forgive my use of sexist language during this section. I am not generally one to do that, but I don't believe that there is a man alive who would work under such conditions.

Starting salary for this position is nothing. After money is spent for advertising, the going rate is about $5 an hour. That includes the following amenities: no paid vacation days, sick days, holidays, or personal days; no medical benefits; work of at least fifty hours a week with no overtime; and, when one child is sick, income reduction even though you are working the same number of hours. Now, being the enterprising individual that I am, I said, "That sounds like the job for me!"

I attended a meeting for day care providers in the area. It was there that I learned why they were so badly underpaid. The way I saw it, these women fit into one of three categories: 1) the grandma type whose children are all grown, but she just enjoys having kids around; 2) the woman who is either under- educated, under-estimated, or unmotivated to get a job outside of the home; and finally, my personal favorite, 3) the woman who figures that her own kids are going to be underfoot anyway, so she might as well get paid to step on other people's kids as well.

At this point in the meeting--as I tried desperately to find some advantageous angle to this sad story--I realized that perhaps babysitters, meaning teenagers, must be charging even less than these providers were asking. Surely an adult caregiver, providing a consistent, comfortable, safe and (presumably) educational environment day in and day out, should expect to be paid at a higher rate than a teenager who plops down in front of the TV, holding a telephone receiver in one hand and madly stuffing expensive snacks down his or her throat with the other. But I was wrong. The teenagers in this area will not work for less than $2 per hour.

I had gone to college for five years, graduated with high distinction, completed my Montessori teaching certification, and spent eight years in the classroom so that I could start my own business working at poverty level? Not on your life! I knew that I had to take charge and capture the competitive edge.

Allow me at this time to introduce you to yet a fourth category of day care provider, the professional. This is the individual (note the lack of gender reference) who takes his or her job seriously. When my first child arrives in the morning, I look like a professional. My hair is done, my makeup is on, and if I wear pants, my husband asks if I am dressing down for the day. I have a separate classroom set up for the children with shelves around the perimeter upon which are neatly displayed all of the materials and activities for the children's use. The only TV screen in the room is attached to a computer. I have written a summary of my policies and procedures, my rates, my philosophy on discipline, and a brief background statement summarizing my experience and qualifications as a teacher. The time that I am paid to be with the children is spent with them. I do not clean house or do laundry or, as one of the providers put it at the meeting I attended, "vacuum over a child who does not move out of my way." Of course, I have structured my rate scale to reflect this attitude; I am receiving 75 to 100 percent more per hour than most of the other providers in town, and people are happy to pay it.

I once counseled a blind woman who was young and bright and very bitter. She said that she was tired of having to prove herself to her employers. She didn't want to give all of her energy to show that her blindness didn't affect her work. I was puzzled. I can't imagine giving less than all of my energy. Teaching is my profession. I derive a great deal of pride from the work that I do. Parents usually have concerns about employing a blind day care provider, but when they walk into a room that is neatly prepared and organized for the children, they are not going to question how I am able to do it. They are more likely to ask, "Why isn't everyone else meeting your standards?"

There is a tremendous shortage of home day care professionals in virtually every city nationwide. More and more, parents are demanding quality care for their children, rather than the type of care displayed by women in category three. And if the professional caregiver is smart, taking charge of the competitive edge, the income potential is respectable, and there are some excellent tax advantages. What's more, if enough blind people can change the public's perceptions of the job, then perhaps the salaries will change as well. Wouldn't it be glorious if blind people all over the U.S. took charge of the competitive edge--beginning to change what it means to be a home day care provider?


by Marc Maurer

Federationists come together in local, state, and national meetings to share our dreams, discuss the problems and frustrations we face, pledge our support for one another, establish goals for the months and years ahead, and plan strategies for accomplishing our objectives. Sometimes the battles we face are long--very long. Sometimes we encounter a dusty old argument that we have met so often that it has the attractiveness of a bowl of slimy, lumpy, unsalted oatmeal, prepared two weeks before and served at every meal since. It wasn't particularly exciting the first time around, and it has been losing attraction with each reappearance. Are the blind so incompetent as to be barred from jury duty? Is air safety jeopardized by having a blind passenger seated in an exit row? Should state agencies for the blind hold a monopoly over all service delivery programs for blind people? These queries are not new, and the answers to them are painfully obvious. Of course blind people should be expected to serve as jurors. There is no particular risk in having a blind person seated in an exit row. And state rehabilitation programs for the blind must not be permitted to dictate their clients' futures by restricting service. Nevertheless, the questions are continually repeated, and the organized blind must be prepared to meet the challenge generated by such ignorance.

March 8 to 10, 1991, in Tulsa the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma met in convention assembled. There were undoubtedly those who questioned the value of such a meeting. After all, the logic goes, "What could be accomplished in one more meeting?" The agency for the blind in Oklahoma is frequently regarded as among the least receptive to the views of the blind. What good could possibly come from one more meeting, one more exchange of views, one more confrontation? I am sure that some Federation members were tempted to stay home. However, Federationists know that even though our battles are sometimes long and often arduous, we always win because we never quit. A report of the 1991 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma appeared in the March 10, 1991, edition of the Tulsa World. It is enthusiastic, upbeat, and positive. Federation philosophy radiates from the lines of print. It is not only a report, but also a solid piece of public education. And it is one thing more--a record of the victory of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma in bringing the state agency director to recognize that blind clients should have free choice in selecting rehabilitation programs. Here is the way staff writer Melanie Busch told it in the Tulsa World:

Blind Seek Changes In Attitudes, Education

Changes will have to be made before people can erase the image of a blind person being someone on a corner with a tin cup, the affiliate president of the National Federation of the Blind said Saturday.

The president, Eva Chaney, spoke at the organization's state convention in Tulsa. About 50 people attended the convention, which ends Sunday.

The biggest problem for the blind today is the attitude of the public, employers, and agencies, said Charlotte Bellmyer, outgoing state president.

"We can hold any job, participate in the community, and have a family just like anyone else can," Bellmyer said. "I'm not saying every blind person could be a doctor, but not all sighted people can be doctors either."

Many blind people are microbiologists, lawyers, and psychologists; and the opportunities are limitless, she said.

"Many people still have the image of a blind person standing on a corner with a tin can," Chaney said. "That was 50 years ago. We don't need that anymore. I'm proud to be blind. I have what they call blind pride."

But before those opportunities are realized, changes need to occur in the education of blind children, Chaney said.

Braille, now only taught to students who are totally blind, needs to be taught to those who are legally blind, she said.

"We want to mainstream our children so they can grow up with all the facets of life and all the fun," Chaney said. "If you leave Braille out of a child's life, then you're leaving the pages of that child's life blank."

Chaney said blind children should be taught in regular schools instead of being sent to schools for the blind.

The Federation is also striving to get the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to allow people freedom of choice in what training center to attend. The blind rely on the centers to teach such skills as using a cane, reading Braille, and getting along in society. The average training takes six to nine months.

Only two centers are funded by the Department of Human Services, and they often are inadequate, Chaney said.

"I don't want to be taught how to live independently behind closed doors," Bellmyer said. "Why should we not have as much choice of what type of training center to go to and where?"

Norman Dalke, director of visual services at DHS, pledged his support of the freedom of choice proposal.

The proposal must be approved by the Legislature before it can take effect.

"It's not going to start tomorrow, but if we don't start working on it today, then it will never start," Chaney said. The National Federation of the Blind has about 50,000 members nationwide and about 100 statewide.

The Tulsa chapter meets at 11 a.m. on the second Saturday of every month at Po Folks Restaurant, 5111 S. Peoria Avenue.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Greg Hanson demonstrates his martial arts prowess while his wife Susan and Wayne Cooley, also of Iowa, hold the board.]


From the Editor: Greg Hanson is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. He and his wife Sue operate a company called G & S Enterprises, which specializes in unique talking balloons that can be used for fund raising by state affiliates and local chapters. Since all state affiliates and local chapters are constantly in need of new fund-raising ideas, the following material should be of interest, plus the fact that the NFB receives a donation from Greg and Sue Hanson for every item sold. Here is some of the material they sent to President Maurer:

Iowa City, Iowa
June 1, 1991

Dear Mr. Maurer:

Please accept the enclosed check in the amount of $62.50 as a contribution for the General Fund of the National Federation of the Blind.

G & S Enterprises (owned by Greg and Sue Hanson) will donate twenty five cents for each complete balloon with a talking ribbon purchased from us. The Iowa state affiliate purchased 250 complete balloons to be used as a fund raiser.

The enclosed letter that was sent to Bob Ray in Iowa will explain the details. Greg and I will work with any state affiliate or local chapter to assist them with fund raising. As soon as we receive a paid order, the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore will receive a check from us.

If there are any questions, please feel free to call us at (319) 354-6314.

Yours in Federationism,
Greg and Sue Hanson


Iowa City, Iowa
July 27, 1990

Mr. Bob Ray
National Federation of the Blind of Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa

Dear Bob:

Thank you for your interest in "Balloons That Talk." Here is the information that you requested:

All balloons are 18-inch mylar and come in various colors, styles, and shapes, complete with balloon cups and sticks. The talking ribbons have a variety of sayings, including:

Hello Sweetheart
I Love You
Please Kiss Me
You're The Greatest
You Turn Me On
We Love You
Let's Get Together
Howdy Partner
Wish You Were Here
Have A Good Day
I Miss You
I Only Have Eyes For You
I'm Sorry

God Loves You
Jesus Loves You
Come To Sunday School

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday Baby
Get Well Soon
Happy Anniversary

Your Place Or Mine
Kiss Me You Fool
Let's Make Love
I'm A Jackass
I Got The Fever
You Turn Me On

I Love You
Happy Birthday
Merry Christmas

Happy Mother's Day
Be My Valentine
Merry Christmas
Happy New Year
Happy Easter
Kiss Me I'm Irish
I Love America
Trick Or Treat

Thank You
Thanks For Your Business
We Service What We Sell
It's Guaranteed
We Try Harder
Business Is Good
Vote Republican
Vote Democratic

Customized sayings with up to eight syllables can be made with a minimum order of 1,000 talking ribbons with that saying. Custom balloons can also be made with a minimum order of 1,000.

Special Prices for NFB Affiliates and Chapters

Complete balloon and talking ribbon with cup and stick: $2.75 each. For each complete balloon ordered from G & S Enterprises, a donation of $.25 will be sent to the General Fund of the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland. Extra talking ribbons can be ordered separately for $1.50 each with a minimum of 100. Our special Mylar balloons can be ordered separately for $1.25 each with a minimum of 100. G & S Enterprises will pay shipping and freight for all orders sent to NFB affiliates and chapters. There is a minimum order of 100.

Ordering Information

Order sheets will be sent to you by writing to: G & S Enterprises, Post Office Box 624, Iowa City, Iowa 52240. Allow three weeks for delivery. Customized balloons and ribbons need ninety days advanced notice. All shipments shipped UPS prepaid.

Thank you for your interest in our "Balloons That Talk." We are looking forward to serving you.

Greg and Sue Hanson

Some Designs of 18-Inch Mylar Balloons Available

"Hugs Are..." (with Care Bears design)
Unicorn on a blue background
" Get Well" (with bears on yellow background)
" Cheer Up" (with bears)
" I Love You" (silver with red heart and white lettering--heart shaped)
" I Love You" (red with white words--heart shaped)
" Happy Birthday" (fat letters and small balloons design)
" Happy Birthday" (triangle letters, white, yellow, blue)
" Happy Anniversary" (silver and gold with champagne glass)
" Happy Anniversary" (white with red hearts)
" Congratulations" (balloons and streamers)
All-Occasion balloons are also available (call for more information)


From the Associate Editor: My mother was trained as a home economist, and she has always enjoyed cooking and has been very good at it. She has also always been a wise and loving parent, who was not about to let her blind daughter worm out of doing her fair share of chores. These ran the gamut of household tasks, but helping in the kitchen was a frequent part of my duties. It never occurred to either of us that blind children might be barred from such activities. I was twelve before anyone ever showed me a cake mix; all the cakes in our house, including mine, were made from scratch. In apple pie baking, my job was peeling and slicing the fruit. Early in my life I read a story that described the superstition that, if a young girl removed the peel from an apple in one continuous strip and threw the peel over her shoulder, it would form the initial of the man she was going to marry. Much to my disgust, my mother made me go outside to throw my apple peels.

Looking back I realize how much parents and blind children miss when they assume that such shared endeavor is beyond their grasp. Happily there are lots of blind children today, whose parents are members of the NFB Parents of Blind Children Division, who know the satisfaction I felt in working beside a parent in the kitchen and preparing food for an appreciative family. Here are several favorite recipes from the households of some of the younger cooks in our Federation family:

1, 2, 3 COOKIES
by Jeff Balek

Jeff Balek is the son of Tom and Linda Balek and lives in Berryton, Kansas. Tom is the Secretary of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Jeff is entering the fourth grade and is becoming a very good cook.

1 package (6 oz.) butterscotch chips
2 tablespoons peanut butter
3 cups corn flakes

Method: Melt chips and peanut butter over low heat while stirring. When smooth, remove from heat and add the corn flakes. Mix. Drop cookies by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet that is covered with waxed paper. Chill cookies until firm. Then put cookies in canister or covered dish and keep them in the refrigerator to snack on. Makes two dozen small cookies.

by Sunny Shain Emerson

Sunny Emerson is an active member of the Parents of Blind Children Division. She lives in Michigan with her husband Charles and their son Adam.

1/2 cup soft butter
1-1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/4 cups sifted flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped nuts
3-1/2 ounces flaked coconut

Method: Cream butter and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Mix in 1 cup of the flour. Pat into greased 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan. Bake 12 minutes at 375 degrees. Mix remaining 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and other ingredients. Spread mixture on top of crust. Bake 18 to 20 minutes. Cut in bars while still warm.

by Dianne M. Millner

This recipe was submitted by Dianne Millner of Oakland, California. Diane's children, Ashley (3 1/2 years old, blind due to retinopathy of prematurity) and Tori (2 years old) love to help prepare this recipe. Mom lets them stir the liquid ingredients and arrange them in the baking dish. They love this recipe for either dinner or lunch.

1/3 cup each mayonnaise and chopped celery
3 cups chopped cooked ham, turkey, or chicken
1 can (2 1/4 oz.) sliced ripe olives, drained
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
12 slices firm white bread
1 10 1/2-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
2 eggs
1 cup milk

Method: In a large bowl combine mayonnaise, celery, chopped meat, olives, and mushrooms; stir gently to mix. Arrange 6 slices of bread in the bottom of a lightly greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Spread each slice evenly with the meat mixture, then top with remaining bread slices; press down slightly.

In a small bowl beat the soup, eggs, and milk together until smooth. Pour evenly over sandwiches; cover and chill at least 2 hours or overnight. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 55 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 sandwiches.

by Carol Castellano

Carol Castellano and her husband Bill Cucco are active with both Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. Carol reports that their children Serena and John rank tortellini as a food favorite. For a description of Serena and John's cooking prowess, see "Cooking Madness" in the Fall, 1989, issue of Future Reflections, the quarterly magazine of the Parents Division.

1 pound tortellini
3 cloves sliced garlic (more or less to taste)
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
2 pats butter
1 pound ricotta cheese (more or less to taste)
dried basil

Method: Cook tortellini according to package instructions. While tortellini is cooking, saute garlic in oil and butter in small saucepan over medium heat until golden. Remove garlic, if desired. Turn off heat. Stir in ricotta and let melt. Sprinkle liberally with basil. Reheat sauce, if necessary. After tortellini is cooked and drained, pour on sauce, and serve. Serves 3 large or 4 moderate appetites.


**Great Diversity:

From the Editor: As you might imagine, we receive a great variety of requests for this or that to be included in the Monitor Miniatures column. One of the more interesting items came from Lawrence Curtin of Biscayne, Florida. Please understand that in printing this announcement we make no claim concerning its merits or lack thereof. We simply give it to you as we got it. Caveat emptor. Here is what Mr. Curtin says:

I have established a phone line to give people information on ways to enter top national contests that are being sponsored by major corporations. An individual simply fills out his or her name and address on a standardized piece of paper (or post card) and mails it off in a business envelope. This enters the person in the contest. What I am providing to the visually impaired is a way of getting entry instructions on the top contests in the country for a nominal cost. Here is my proposed announcement:

WINNING NUMBER 1-900-737-5825. Win Cash, Cars, Boats, Houses, Fantastic dream vacations. Call Lawrence Curtin's Great American Contest Line right now, and get updated information on ways to enter various contests. Great Contests, Inc. Prizes and cash amounts vary with the different contests. 95 cents per minute.

**Orthodox Christian Lectures on Tape:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Encouragement and instruction in the (Eastern) Orthodox Christian faith. Lectures and homilies by Father Thomas Hopko and others. Payment is on a donation basis. Address: Dana Walter's Orthodox Christian Study Tapes, Post Office Box 25112, Overland Park, Kansas 66225-0112.


Christine Hall is a past president and long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii. She was recently honored by the Lions Club of Honolulu as the 1991 Blind Person of the Year.

**In Memoriam Rita Chernow:

From the Editor: I recently received a call from Ellen diNardo (formerly Ellen Robertson), one of the long-time leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, telling me of the death of Rita Chernow on May 8, 1991. Through the years Rita had been a close friend, so I felt a sense of real personal loss in her passing.

I first met Rita almost twenty years ago. We worked closely together in planning the NFB convention in New York in 1973, and later on other projects as well. In the seventies Rita was chapter president in New York City, and she was also state president for a brief time.

Rita was a combination of warmth, generosity, and spice and pepper. If she liked it, she told you so--but if she didn't like it, she told you that, too. She was a complex person, but one who was simple and straightforward in her principles. Many will miss her. I will be one of them. She made contributions to our movement, and I personally have had a fuller life because of knowing her.

**Save-A-Tree Update:

Connie Hindman of VOICES for Blind, Inc. in Bethel, Maine, has asked us to print the following urgent announcement:

Stop is the magic word! New recycling laws and conservation strategies to help save our planet are definitely changing our habits--yours and ours at VOICES for Blind in Bethel, Maine. Because of new municipal land use zoning ordinances, enforcement, and possible $2,500 fines per day per violation, VOICES has had to make hard decisions about our Save-A-Tree recycling project. It will be ongoing, but relocated and revised. Therefore, until further notice, please cease and desist sending us your surplus educational materials as follows.

We can no longer accept Braille books and magazines, large print books and magazines, plastic discs, and large tactile learning tools, like framed maps. We will continue to accept all electronics, cassette and open reel tapes, Braille writing equipment, Braille watches and clocks, white canes, used eye- glasses and magnifiers.

The ecological and educational significance of Save-a-Tree is impressive; however, it is more labor-intensive and expensive to operate than expected. SAT will be ongoing and even bigger than before. We are trying to establish a new site near a paper manufacturer and labor force to process significant quantities of your surplus Braille education materials in a timely manner. Start-up costs of our expanded program are computed at 1.5 million dollars. Our tentative plans will provide new training and employment opportunities in the waste management industry for unemployed, low-income people. We will also resume sending Gifts of Knowledge to Third World Countries.

When all is online, we will again be soliciting your surplus Braille and large print materials for project development. In the meantime, we urgently request you to hold your materials for us. Please review this urgent announcement carefully and think about developing other habits to recycle, re-use, and reduce.

We welcome your comments addressed to Connie Hindman, Director of VOICES for Blind, Inc., P.O. Box 837, Bethel, Maine 04217, USA.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer congratulate scholarship winner Jeanine Lineback at the Federation's 1990 annual banquet.

**Students Organize:

We recently received the following letter:

During the NFB of Texas convention on March 15-17, 1991, the Texas Association of Blind Students (TABS) was formed and officially chartered as a chapter of the NFB of Texas on Saturday, March 16. At convention's end we had thirteen new members. Officers were elected on the evening of March 15 as follows: President, Jeanine Lineback; Vice President, Sam Jackson; Secretary, Buddy Brannan; and Treasurer, Mary Ward. TABS will begin having local meetings in Denton, Austin, and Lubbock. We also have some projects in the works for later in the year. We feel that TABS will grow far past its thirteen members, and it will become an integral part of the NFB, the state affiliate, and the National Association of Blind Students.

Sincerely yours,
Clyde A. (Buddy) Brannan, Secretary
Texas Association of Blind Students

**Cards Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Braille embossed cards available for all occasions-- Birthday, Graduation, Best Wishes, Thank You, Well Wishes, and Friendship. Each full color five- by seven-inch card is Braille embossed on the front as well as inside with a greeting or scripture verse. Truly lovely for visually impaired, blind, and sighted persons. Cost: $1.50 per card. Catalogue available. Please write or call: Prophecy Designs, Inc., Post Office Box 84, Round Pond, Maine 04564; (207) 529-5318.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke marches with President Maurer in the Preakness Parade.]

**Getting the Jump on the Preakness Celebration:

The Baltimore chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland participates each May in the festivities surrounding the Preakness, the second jewel in American horse racing's triple crown. For two years chapter members have marched in the Preakness parade, and this year a delegation of about fifty, including the Mayor of Baltimore and several City Councilmen marched under the National Federation of the Blind banner. Beginning last year the chapter entered a frog named Mr. Braille in the Preakness frog-jumping competition. This year the chapter decided to get as much publicity for the NFB and blind people as possible out of Maryland's annual Preakness madness. Here is the press release that was circulated before Preakness Week began:

Mr. Braille Hopes for Preakness Comeback
Public Invited to Frog Frolic

Preakness Week--hope springs eternal. The Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland (NFB) will be entering their favorite frog in the Annual Preakness Frog Hop. A tongue-in-cheek reception for the green athlete, Mr. Braille, will be held at 1 p.m., on Tuesday, May 14 at their national headquarters. Frog fans of all ages are invited to attend the first annual Frog Frolic. Come on down to The National Center for the Blind, a 10-minute walk from the Inner Harbor. The Center faces Riverside Park, two blocks east of Light Street, at 1800 Johnson Street in South Baltimore.

The NFB named their frog, Mr. Braille, after the reading and writing system used by blind persons. (Braille literacy is a major goal of this self-help group.) The two-year-old pedigreed frog made a so-so showing last year, coming in fifth his first time out of the gate. But his trainers, Miss Doris Johnson, board member of the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, and Mrs. Lily Walden, long-time member, say Mr. Braille is gearing up for his best season ever. According to Miss Johnson, "Mr. Braille and I train by the book. I drop it, he jumps. He'll leave those other less literary frogs green with envy."

Mrs. Walden added, "After all, he has nowhere to go but up."

Mr. Braille, athlete and literary mascot of the chapter, will be on hand to welcome his guests. Whether new to Braille or old hands, visitors will have a chance to receive free Braille name tags, observe Braille demonstrations, and enter Braille reading and writing contests. Come play poker with Braille cards, Scrabble with a Braille-marked set, or some other of Mr. Braille's favorite games. A frog hopping contest will be held for the younger set, and green punch and refreshments will be served.

The National Federation of the Blind is a peer-support network of blind persons and sighted friends working together to improve opportunities for the blind. Call the NFB at 301-659-9314 if you would like to receive their free packet on blindness.

On Tuesday, May 14, 135 first-graders from Baltimore elementary schools descended on the National Center for refreshments, an introduction to Braille, and some first-hand experience learning what blind people can do. Mr Braille and his jumping understudy, Mr. Braille, Jr., were present in buckets but a little shy of all the publicity.

In addition, the chapter presented Braille Readers Are Leaders awards to seven contest participants. Chapter officers also presented the newly-established award for the city's Bus Driver of the Year. All in all, the day was busy and constructive, and everyone had fun.

**Missed and Remembered:

From President Maurer: Helen Dennemann became a part of the National Federation of the Blind in 1947. I met her first in the early 1970s. Helen was treasurer of our Indiana affiliate. Helen remains today one of the stalwarts of the movement. Recently Helen Dennemann called me to say that Russell Getz died. Russell was one of the people who brought the Indiana affiliate into the Federation. He served as president for several years, and he held a number of positions of leadership in the state organization. Once (perhaps twenty years ago) Russell told me about the time of the civil war in the Federation. There were those in Indiana who wanted our affiliate to leave the Federation and join the ACB. Russell Getz, John Jansen, Helen Dennemann, and a few others kept the Federation spirit alive. In 1970, when I moved to Indiana to go to school at the University of Notre Dame, I found that I needed the Federation very badly. I was glad that Russell and the others had helped to make of the Federation a place where I could find assistance and support. I was sorry to hear of the death of Russell Getz. From the beginning of the Federation in Indiana to January 2, 1991, he remained a supporting part of the Federation.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Rita Lynch presents Missouri State Senator Harold Caskey with a plaque while Myrtle Autenrieth, Brian Wekamp, Betty Walker, and Kevin Roberts (left to right), members of the Jefferson City Chapter, look on.]

**Senator Honored:

Rita Lynch, president of the Jefferson City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, writes to tell us of an award given to Missouri State Senator Howard Caskey at the recent convention of the NFB of Missouri. In accepting the award, Senator Caskey said: "Although I try to help all people of the state, it is gratifying to receive recognition from a group as worthwhile as the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri." Senator Casky was honored for successfully sponsoring a Braille bill in the Missouri legislature. He has been a long-time friend of the blind and works closely with the Federation.

**Wanted, Braille Teachers:

An interesting notice appeared in the May issue of Horizons Magazine. It is encouraging to discover the American Foundation for the Blind investing its time and resources in such a positive effort. Here is the notice:

If you have skills, resources, and successful techniques to share for teaching and/or learning to read and write various Braille codes, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) would like to hear from you for a national mentor project aimed at enhancing the literacy of persons who are blind by providing new opportunities for learning and teaching Braille.

If you are a teacher currently working or retired with expertise in teaching blind persons to read and write using one or several Braille codes, and/or if you are an expert Braille reader and writer with expertise and experience to share, write or call the AFB Western Regional Center at 111 Pine Street, Suite 725, San Francisco, California 94111, (415) 392-4845.

[PHOTO: Michael Gosse standing in National Center for the Blind conference room. CAPTION: Michael Gosse.]


Michael Gosse is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut and a 1985 winner in the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation in electrical engineering. This spring at Lehigh University, where he teaches in conjunction with his graduate fellowship, the students voted to present Michael with the Arthur E. Humphrey Award for the teaching assistant of the year. He has received a $500 prize, and his name will be added to a plaque on display at Lehigh.

In September of 1990 the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Journal on Microwave Transactions and Techniques, the most prestigious international periodical in the field, published a paper titled "Monolithic Integrated Blanking Up-Converter," co-authored by Michael and a colleague. The two were not originally given credit for writing it; so, using his Federation tenacity, Michael went to work to establish the true authorship. In December, 1990, the publication printed an acknowledgement of authorship, and the editor characterized the episode as "an example of bald plagiarism." Congratulations to Michael Gosse, even if most of us wouldn't understand what he is talking about.

**Computers for Sale:

We have been asked to print the following: PC Place, home of high-quality, low-cost computers, wants to help you get into the modern world of computer technology. Our staff of experts is up- to-date with the most recent breakthroughs in the computer world. More important, we are experts on adaptive equipment for the blind and visually impaired. PC Place has everything you need to get an entire computer system up and running with the ease of dialing a telephone. We sell an entire line of synthesizers, screen-access software, Braille and print printers, the Arkenstone Reading System, Braille 'n Speak, and other adaptive equipment. Ask for our products catalog. Why buy your system one piece at a time from different sources and try to integrate the system yourself? Let our team of experts do all the work for you. PC Place specializes in making computer systems user-friendly and easy to work with, as well as providing optimal efficiency between applications software and your chosen screen review and synthesizer package.

Do you enjoy games? Be sure to ask for one of our public domain games catalogs. We also sell a Yahtzee game especially designed to work well with speech and sound effects for easier, more enjoyable play. Games to be on the market soon are Trivioker, a combination trivia and poker game, and Quoteit, a wheel-of-fortune and hangman-type game.

Contact PC Place, 4536 Edison Avenue, Sacramento, California 95821; (916) 481-1777; fax number, (916) 482-2250.

**RFB Breaks Records:

The Winter, 1991, edition of RFB News, the newsletter of Recordings for the Blind, included a brief article which demonstrates the importance of sending semester book requests to the staff as early as possible. Anyone who will need recorded books early next fall should notify RFB immediately. The staff at RFB does a remarkable job, but they can't work miracles. Here are the statistics they reported last year:

RFB experienced a period of record-breaking growth during the first six months of fiscal year 1991, which began in July 1990, compared to the first six months of the previous fiscal year: Book circulation was up 17 percent, with 87,527 books mailed compared to 75,042 for the same period a year ago; new registrations were 35 percent greater, 6,919 up from 5,109; recording studio production was up 6.5 percent, 33,934 recorded hours compared to 31,752; and forty-six percent more telephone calls for book orders were answered--38,630 calls, up from 26,471.

"While the numbers are impressive, they are meaningful only in that they reflect better service to individual people," said Ritchie L. Geisel, RFB's president. "What motivates all of us at headquarters and in the recording units is our borrowers, the people who depend upon our recorded books and library services."

According to John Kelly, RFB's director of Library and Borrower Services, during RFB's peak month, September, 94 percent more calls were answered than in the previous year; 65 percent more orders were taken over the telephone; and 47 percent more applications were entered. "We were able to meet the extraordinary demands because we increased our toll-free lines from three to six," said Kelly. "And we pooled staff from other departments in addition to the Borrower Services representatives, to assist in answering the phones." In the month of September a record 21,015 books were mailed to RFB borrowers, and on one day in September a new record was reached for orders processed in one day, 1,288. John Churchill, RFB's Director of Operations, said that the increase in book circulation was made possible by RFB staffers' working overtime to duplicate and ship recorded books. "We've been working near peak efficiency, and everyone has been pulling together," said Churchill. "It's been a team effort."

**A What For the Blind?:

Seville Allen, Editor of The NFB Vigilant, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, came upon the following piece of information and tucked it into the June, 1991, edition:

Just when we think we have heard of the most ridiculous special product for the blind, someone's imagination goes wild and comes up with a new gimmick. In case you didn't already know it, if you are blind, you may need a special birthday cake. Yes, somewhere in California there is a company that will make a birthday cake especially to suit the needs of the blind. Here are its special features: the cake is covered with marzipan. (The batter itself, I presume, is ordinary.) The marzipan is then covered with thick chocolate and cooled so that the chocolate is very hard. All this is done so that the blind person can feel the decorations on his or her cake.

I read about this special birthday cake for the blind in a column in a disability-issue newspaper. Someone wrote into the paper explaining that she wanted to have a surprise birthday party for her blind friend and needed to know if there was a bakery from which she could order a cake designed specifically for blind people. The resourceful columnist came up with this answer. I do not know whether it was intended to be a serious answer or not. However, I do wonder the following: Do blind people handle birthday cakes so roughly that the cake needs armor for protection? Suppose the blind person is allergic to chocolate? What are the blind person and his or her guests to do if they hate marzipan? Is the cake's frosting-armor hard enough to withstand the ministrations of the U.S. Postal Service all the way from the West Coast to Arlington, Virginia, with its decorations intact? And what about the candles? Have the cake designer/engineers, or perhaps chemists, come up with a candle flame cool enough to touch?

**Serving the World:

Cheryl Cameron of Illinois, who was a 1989 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner, has recently been accepted by the Peace Corps to work for two years in the Dominican Republic. Good luck to Cheryl, and congratulations to the Peace Corps for its good sense.

**Mail Order Business:

Deborah Strother from Ruston, Louisiana, has asked us to print the following:

At the beginning of 1991 I started a Christian mail order business from my home. I will be offering a wide selection of merchandise for both adults and children. If you would like to be put on the mailing list, just drop me a line, and I will be happy to add your name and will appreciate your business. Send your name and address to Lifelight, P.O. Box 1685, Ruston, LA 71273- 1685. If you would prefer to call or have a question, you may call (813) 255-6918.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Prairie State Chapter officers (left to right): Ruth Anne Schaefer, Earl Salems, Allen Schaefer, Jay O'Brien, Evelyn Scanavino, Elaine Salems, and John Salvatore.}


Allen Schaefer, president of the Prairie State Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, reports that on April 20, 1991, the following members were elected to lead the chapter: Allen Schaefer, President; John Salvatore, Vice President; Evelyn Scanavino, Secretary; Ruth Anne Schaefer, Treasurer; and Jay O'Brien and Earl and Elaine Salems, board members.

**Home-Baked Dreams:

Janiece Betker is a blind Federationist from Minnesota who has written several excellent books of particular help to blind people. She has now completed another one. This is what she has to say about it:

More and more blind people throughout the country, tired of the endless job search, the interviews that go nowhere, and the underemployment or unemployment that has plagued them, are turning to the idea of starting up businesses of their own. Thirty-three of these talented and enterprising individuals have consented to be interviewed for this book in the hope that they will encourage others to take the plunge. Their business ventures are as diverse as they themselves are--ranging from window- cleaning to day care providing, book-writing to horse-training. Their experiences vary considerably, yet each individual has important suggestions for those who would follow into this uncertain world of entrepreneurship. Most suggest resources-- books, magazines, workshops, and sources of capital. All but one have agreed to be contacted by anyone who has questions. Names and addresses, along with phone numbers for most, have been included at the end of each interview.

You'll discover interesting facts about these interviewees. Twenty-six of the thirty-three read Braille and use it in their businesses. Most are not doing what they were specially trained to do, but what they are talented at. Several people said that they were content to receive little or no profit for a time if that was what it took to get the business running. An amazing number of these businesses were totally capitalized by their owners, not by agencies for the blind or other organizations.

I found compiling and writing this book fascinating. Each interview I conducted gave me new information. If you too would like to meet some of these talented folks, send today for your copy of Home-Baked Dreams.

The cassette edition consists of two four-track cassettes, housed in an attractive album for bookshelf storage. The print is standard type, in paperback form. The cost for each is $22, postpaid. Please remember to specify whether you wish cassette or print. Foreign orders, please add $5 if you prefer shipment by air. Payment must be in U.S. currency only.

Agency purchase orders accepted, net thirty days. Price reduction for multiple orders. Call for quote.

Please send orders and make checks payable to Janiece Betker, 1886 29th Ave., N.W., New Brighton, Minnesota 55112; Phone (612) 631-2909. Please leave a message on the answering machine if I am not available to take your call.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Ed Bryant.]

**Receiving the Golden Rule:

Patricia Morrow, editor of the Blind Missourian, the newsletter of the NFB of Missouri, informs us that Ed Bryant (editor of the Voice of the Diabetic, the quarterly publication of the Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind) was chosen as Missouri's volunteer of the year. At a luncheon on May 1, he was presented with the J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award, which includes a trophy, a plaque, a commendatory letter from President George Bush, and a $1,000 gift for the National Federation of the Blind. Tom Stevens, one of Ed's colleagues in the Columbia Chapter of the NFB and chairman of the Associates Committee, worked hard to prepare Ed's nomination. Congratulations to Ed and many thanks for all his contributions.

**Braille Bill Becomes Law in Kansas:

Tom Balek, Secretary of the Parents of Blind Children Division and an active member of the NFB of Kansas in Topeka, reports the good news that follows. It is taken from a longer press release that explained to the uninformed the gravity of the Braille literacy crisis and the significance of this legislation. Here is what he says:

On April 12, 1991, Kansas governor Joan Finney signed into law House Bill 2208, a Braille literacy bill. This bill, sponsored by Representative Dick Edlund, will require school districts to make instruction in Braille available to any visually impaired student who desires it.

The bill had passed both the House and the Senate unanimously. In addition to Representative Edlund, who is blind and former president of the Kansas affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, a number of proponents testified before the education subcommittees of both bodies. They included Larry Waymire, vice president of the Capitol Chapter of the NFB in Topeka; Susie Stanzel, president of the NFB of Kansas; Ralph Bartlett, superintendent of the state School for the Visually Impaired; and our son Jeff Balek, a blind third-grade student from Berryton Elementary School.

**Keeping Cassette Playback Machines Healthy:

From the Associate Editor: Some people seem to know instinctively about the proper care and feeding of rechargeable batteries of the sort that power the National Library Service's cassette playback machines; others, like me, demand and expect faithful service from these beasts without any understanding of what makes them happy. Here are several reminders that took some time to gather and that, if you don't already know, may assist you to treat your machine with more respect: It is not necessary to plug your cassette playback machine into a wall outlet until it is completely drained of power. The volume will drop noticeably when the battery is exhausted. Then you should connect the power cord to your house current for twelve to sixteen hours in order to charge the battery fully. You can play the machine during the recharging time--it really can do two things at once. You will not do your player harm by leaving it plugged in for a few hours more than the necessary recharging time, but you should not leave it charging for days. Remember that it is not good for the battery to be used for several hours and then plugged in again for recharging before actually necessary. Batteries are smart little critters, and they remember the point at which they have been recharged before. If you make a practice of recharging early, the battery will become incapable of using all of its power, and you will have shortened its life. Who would wish to be guilty of such a crime?

**New Job:

Steve Benson, member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois, reports that as of June 3, 1991, he assumed his new duties as Staff Assistant for Public Information at the Chicago Public Library. His responsibilities include writing, staff training, and special projects for the Library Commissioner. In October the Chicago Public Library will move to its brand new facility, where Steve expects some of the most innovative public library programming in the country will take place.

**In Memoriam:

Karl Smith, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah, informs us of the death on April 29, 1991, of Richard Cooley of Newton, Utah. Richard died after being bedridden for some length of time due to diabetic complications. Richard at one time was president of our Logan, Utah, chapter and served for a time on the board of our Utah affiliate.

**Eye Care Project:

We have been asked to print the following reminder: A national toll-free helpline provides information about medical eye care to elderly Americans. More than 164,000 needy elderly people have been referred to volunteer ophthalmologists in their communities since the inception of the National Eye Care Project five years ago. Nationwide, more than a quarter-million people have called the Helpline for assistance. The toll-free Helpline of the National Eye Care Project (1-800-222-3938) is an information and referral service, providing brochures on many common eye diseases of the elderly and, for eligible callers, a referral service to a local volunteer ophthalmologist. (Ophthalmologists are the physicians who specialize in all types of eye care: medical, surgical, and optical.)

For this program the physician has agreed to provide a comprehensive medical eye examination and care for any condition diagnosed, at no out-of-pocket expense to the patient.

To qualify for a referral, the patient must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, sixty-five or older, who does not have access to an ophthalmologist he or she has seen in the past. This is not an eyeglasses program, and prescription drugs and hospital care are not covered.


We recently received the following communication: At its meeting of Saturday, April 13, 1991, the NFB of Illinois, Chicago Chapter, elected the following Federationists to its board of directors for the next one-year term: President, Steve Hastalis; First Vice President, Rita Szantay; Second Vice President, Peter Grunwald; Secretary, Laurie Porter; Treasurer, Bob Simonson; and Board Members: Tony Burda, Brian Johnson, Deborah Stein, and Ken Staley.

**Computer Folks:

Richard and Donna Ring, Federationists from New Jersey, have asked us to carry the following announcement:

"We are about to launch a new computer magazine. We call it Computer Folks. We do not wish to compete with capable organizations which advertise their own computer products, nor are we another professional voice. We want to try a new approach. This is your magazine. We have nothing to sell but your ideas.

"We plan to offer from six to twelve issues per year on a sixty-minute cassette. We may expand to ninety-minute cassettes as your letters, articles, and demonstration tapes come pouring in.

"We welcome taped articles and Braille letters with any information or helpful hints for the blind computer user. Tell us your best, your worst, or your funniest experiences with a company or product. Feel free to demonstrate computer, speech synthesizer, screen reader, applications software, bulletin board, shareware, or game. Of course, we shall also feature articles and comments of our own, which we hope will provide help and maybe even a laugh.

"The price for one year's subscription is $20. Please send $2 or a blank sixty-minute cassette for a sample copy. We prefer Braille or taped correspondence since we are blind computer people just like you. However, we will accept typed letters or ASCII text files on an MS-DOS compatible diskette. Mail checks or money orders to: Richard and Donna Ring, 269 Terhune Avenue, Passaic, New Jersey 07055-3326; phone: (201) 471-4211.

**Domesticating Lions:

In every state Lions Clubs and other civic organizations are always looking for worthwhile projects to support. Often they come to Federation chapters looking for ideas, eager to help. Here is one that is all too often overlooked: a cane bank of children-size canes that can be borrowed and returned in exchange for a larger one when the child has outgrown the first. Parents are grateful, and civic organizations are usually delighted to help. All we need to do is to coordinate the project and order and mail the canes. The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa has conducted a cane bank in partnership with Lions Clubs for years. Here is a thank-you letter written by NFB of Iowa President Peggy Pinder to long-time Federationist and active Lion Elwyn Hemken. It tells the whole story. All of us should be making use of this resource as Iowa is. Here is the letter:

Dear Lion Elwyn:

I am writing to thank you and the members of your Lions Club for so generously supporting the White Cane Bank of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. With your help we are able to provide white canes to Iowa's school-age children.

We all know that, as a child grows, he or she grows out of clothing, shoes, coats, and athletic apparel. But this growing also takes a blind child beyond his or her first white cane, since canes must be proportional to the height of the user in order to gather information safely and efficiently. Recognizing that the relentless growth of their children might lead parents to try to skimp on buying new canes when needed, we established our White Cane Bank, which you and your club have so willingly supported. Through our joint efforts, blind kids in Iowa can have canes of the proper length (and can always have new canes when old ones break under normal use).

I'll just tell one quick story to show how helpful the White Cane Bank can be. We offered a cane from the bank to a little three-year-old girl just starting to learn to use the cane to move about. Her dad watched carefully at the same time, learning the techniques so he could help his daughter learn. But he turned down the cane from the bank. He wanted to buy the first one himself, he said, so he could keep Rebecca's first cane just as he was planning to keep her first shoes. After that, he would be grateful for the help of the cane bank.

This story demonstrates how important the white cane is to a blind person. With the generosity of your Lions Club, we are able to continue our service of exchanging canes for kids as they grow, insuring that they have the information (through use of a properly long cane) to move about safely like their sighted peers. On behalf of all the blind kids of Iowa, thank you.

Peggy Pinder

**Job Vacancy:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement: PROFESSIONAL POSITION VACANCY--Executive Director, Mississippi Industries for the Blind, a self-supported blind workshop. Professional selected will possess related administrative, technical, financial, and business experience. Visually impaired individuals are encouraged to apply. Send resume to: Chairman, State Board of Human Services, 421 West Pascagoula Street, Jackson, Mississippi 39203. MIB is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

**In Memoriam:

From the Editor: I recently received the following letter from Norma Crosby of Texas:

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

I am sorry to report to you that on Friday, May 3, 1991, Mr. Tom Moody passed away. During the last years of his life, Mr. Moody suffered a number of health problems, and he was unable to be an active member in our local chapter. However, he remained a dues-paying member and loyal Federationist until the end of his life. I won't attempt to tell you of his work within the Federation. I know that you knew him for many years, and I am certain that you have forgotten more about him than I know. I do know, however, that the work of the Federation was always important to him, and I believe that he would be pleased to know that he was remembered by the Federation at the time of his passing.

Norma Crosby

I did, indeed, know Tom Moody. During the late fifties and early sixties when the Federation was locked in civil war, Tom Moody fought with unwavering courage to keep the organization from being torn apart. Some said that he was too harsh in his treatment of those who were creating the chaos, but this did not deter him. When principle was involved, he refused to equivocate. The Federation owes a debt of gratitude to Tom Moody. In time of crisis he stood forth to be counted and did all that he could. May as much be said of us all at the end of our lives.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Portrait of Olive Wells.]

**Triple and Growing:

Olive Wells, president of the Allegheny County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, writes as follows:

In May, 1990, the Allegheny County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind was formed. The first year has witnessed many positive events for our chapter, which calls Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home. Membership has more than tripled from sixteen at its formation, to a current total of fifty-three active, enthusiastic members. A fact that is even more exciting is that the vast majority of our members are first-time Federationists!

Among our most important accomplishments was our success in resolving two cases involving loss of benefits. A blind widow whose blind pension and medical benefits were terminated, contacted the NFB of Pennsylvania. Members of our chapter assisted with her appeal, obtaining counsel and accompanying her to hearings. Benefits were reinstated within three months.

Another woman, whose husband resides in a nursing home, was very upset when she came to our meeting. Her food stamps were discontinued without explanation. After a call from our human relations chairman, the food stamps were reinstated, and she received the stamps from the previous two-month period as well.

We were successful in having November 16 declared National Federation of the Blind Day by mayor Sophie Masloff of Pittsburgh. The proclamation recognizes the work done by the NFB on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

Pittsburgh city councilwoman Michelle Madoff spoke to us in January, and we were also proud to welcome volunteers from the League of Women Voters, who registered members.

Other activities include a catered luncheon, a chartered bus to the state convention, a fund raiser, and a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the NFB. We are especially pleased to report that at the one-year birthday celebration of the Allegheny County Chapter on May 18, 1991, we held our JOB seminar for blind job seekers, the first of its kind in western Pennsylvania.

I am extremely proud of our new chapter and of our hard- working members. As part of the National Federation of the Blind, we will work together to preserve and protect the dignity of all blind people. Our officers are as follows: President, Olive Wells; Vice President, Mark Senk; Secretary, Margaret Schmitt; and Treasurer, Jane Ames. Our board members are: James Jackson, Sylvia Bose, Iva Blanton, John Blanton, Frances Vitula, and Joyce Norris. Our public relations chairperson is Ellie Goldfon.

**Large Type News Magazine Debuts:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

NEW YORK, N.Y.--A new weekly large type newsmagazine, exclusive in nature, has debuted on the counters of more than 1525 newsstands in New York, and additional cities with similar constituent demographics will see test-marketing at the counters of news vendors later this year.

Each issue of The World At Large, forty pages of news and features weekly, contains approximately 25,000 words, as well as a large type crossword puzzle identical with the top-rated Los Angeles Times Sunday Crossword, but redesigned across two full pages.

Offering a full package not unlike that of any other major national weekly newsmagazines, subject material covered includes World News, National News, Washington Tidbits, Interviews, Politics, Environment, Design, Education, Health, Medicine, Behavior, Art, Books, Music, Film, Entertainment, People, Sports, and then some....

Material published in large type within The World At Large is done so simultaneously with U.S. News and World Report, Time magazine, and others, from which it is drawn under license agreement.

Similarly, The World At Large sells for the cover price of $2.50 at newsstands. Large type readers and servicing institutions across the United States are also served, via mail, at an annual subscription rate of $65 ($1.25 per issue) and a semi-annual rate of $37 (26 issues).

Subscription requests should be sent with payment of $65 per year or $37 per half year to: The World At Large, Post Office Box 190330, Brooklyn, New York 11219. Copies can be expected to begin arriving within four to six weeks after receipt of order. For more information please call (718) 972-4000.


Larry Arnold is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. His father died in February, and out of his grief and self-examination came this short article which appeared in the April, 1991, edition of the Blind Missourian, the publication of the NFB of Missouri. Its message is worth pondering. Here it is:

After my father's funeral, a word keeps haunting me. The pastor talked about the legacy my father had left and the lives he had touched. "Legacy"--I keep finding this word reappearing in my thoughts. "Legacy," as defined by Webster, is "anything handed down from the past, as by an ancestor or predecessor." I have started asking myself, what legacy will I leave? This question comes back in several ways. Especially with the Federation and the blind rights movement, I ask myself what I have done to help my blind brothers and sisters. What have I done to help the next generation of the blind? What have I done to help the Federation achieve security, opportunity, and equality for the blind?

Take some time from your daily routine and ask yourself these same questions. Then assess what your legacy will be. As a member of the National Federation of the Blind, are you only a joiner, and do you contribute only minimally to the goals and philosophy of the NFB? As a non-member, do you participate only by benefitting from the achievements of the NFB brought about by the struggle and sacrifice of others? Do you call on the NFB only when you need help?

You alone can answer these questions. You alone can make the decision. What will you pass on to the next generation? What will your legacy be?