Vol. 36, No. 5 May
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
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The National Federation of the Blind
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 36, No. 5 May 1993
TOURS IN THE HEART OF TEXAS by Norma Crosby
NAC'S DECLINE CONTINUES: AN UPDATE
VICTORY FOR THE BLIND OF SOUTH CAROLINA by Donald C. Capps
THE 1993 WASHINGTON SEMINAR: HARD WORK AND HIGH OPPORTUNITY
ENLIGHTENING THE SIGHTED by Rebecca R. Long
THE KEY TO SUCCESS by Joanne Wilson
THE CARE AND FEEDING OF READERS by Peggy Pinder
THE RICHNESS OF LIFE: LIVING WITH A BLIND DIABETIC by Marlene Curran
BRAILLE WORLDWIDE by Fredric K. Schroeder
TECHNOLOGY AND THE REHABILITATION SYSTEM FOR THE BLIND: A CONSUMER PERSPECTIVE by Curtis Chong
BUILDING BRAILLE READING SPEED: SOME HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS by Jerry Whittle
REFLECTIONS ON REHABILITATION by Ramona Walhof
NEWSPAPER FOR THE DEAF-BLIND
BRAILLE RESEARCH CENTER OPENS AT APH by Paula Penrod
SCENT OF A WOMAN a Review by Ronald B. Meyer
Copyright National Federation
of the Blind, Inc., 1993
[LEAD PHOTOS/CAPTION: In less than two months members of the National Federation of the Blind will gather at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Hotel on the grounds of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. As those who attended the 1990 convention know, there is nothing in the world like Texas warmth and hospitality. There is also great beauty in the Lone Star State. Pictured above are the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens, which provide great loveliness to the city. Another beautiful spot is the Will Rogers Memorial (below), which commemorates the famous and beloved cowboy philosopher. These are only two of the many sights awaiting you in Texas this summer. If you haven't made your reservation, do it today.]
TOURS IN THE HEART OF TEXAS
by Norma Crosby
There isn't much time left until convention. If you haven't already made your reservations, you had better turn to and get it done. The telephone number for the Hyatt Regency Hotel at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport is (214) 453-1234, and the address is Hyatt Regency DFW, Post Office Box 619014, International Parkway, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Texas 75261. Consult the March issue of the Braille Monitor for further details about room rates and hotel amenities.
Now it's time to make plans for the tours you'll want to take during your free time in Texas. You can't leave these decisions until you get to Dallas; there's a mid-June cut-off for making tour reservations. So read this article and make your plans. The Texans are waiting. Glenn Crosby, President of the NFB of Texas, and his wife Norma have put together quite a list of activities. Here's what Norma has to say about them:
The 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will, without a doubt, be the best ever. We've been making plans for months, and I think we have pulled together a group of tours and other hospitality that will make all who attend glad they did.
For starters we are planning a night of Texas fiddle music on Saturday, July 3. This event will take place at the Hyatt Regency. You will be able to get additional information about this show when you arrive at the convention. But the fiddlers we have chosen are champions, and they will show you a good time. You will be able to dance or just hoot and holler. Then, for those who crave pizza, conversation, and good loud music, we are planning the pizza party to end all pizza parties. This grand soiree will also take place on Saturday, July 3, at the Hyatt Regency. Both these activities are calculated to get you on your feet and moving, and they are just a warmup for all that will follow.
On Tuesday, July 6, we are taking you all to Bear Creek for a Texas-style barbecue. Bear Creek is an excellent outdoor facility, and we are planning to provide all the free beer you can drink, along with lots of good Texas music and dancing. No suits are allowed at this event. It is strictly casual, and jeans are preferred attire. Tickets for the barbecue dinner will be available at the convention. But remember that the music and the beer will be provided compliments of the NFB of Texas. So come and have a good time. Transportation from the hotel will be free, and we want to see you there.
Tour day comes along on Wednesday, July 7, and we have planned a number of outstanding opportunities for you to get out and see a little bit of Texas. Here is a short description of each tour and information about pricing. However, I want to take this time to ask that you purchase your tour package(s) in advance. Only a limited number of tour tickets will be available once we arrive at the convention. If you don't take the opportunity to purchase your tickets in advance, you may not be able to take the tour(s) you are counting on. The deadline for the purchase of advance tickets is June 11. No request for tickets should be postmarked after that date.
TOUR #1 - Las Calinas
You'll find a tree-lined cobbled walkway reminiscent of those in European villages. One level below the street the walkway takes you along the Mandalay Canal, where you can enjoy waterfront dining and a variety of unique shops and boutiques. If you want to take a tour of the Mandalay Canal, you can jump aboard a Venetian water taxi--cost, $1 round trip. You can also visit the Mustangs of Las Calinas, the world's largest equestrian sculpture. Located in Williams Square, this sculpture is composed of nine larger-than-life mustangs galloping through a stream of granite. If you want to know more about the sculpture, there is a film in the west tower of Williams Square, depicting its seven- year creation. Admission is free.
So you can eat and shop until you drop, and while you're in Las Calinas, ride the Area Personal Transit. This computer- operated aerial vehicle carries more than forty passengers throughout the Mandalay Canal and Las Calinas Urban Center. Price: $10.
TOUR #2 - National Museum of Communications and Studios at Las Calinas Tour
A tour of the National Museum of Communications traces the history of modern communications through memorabilia, hands-on exhibits, and thousands of vintage recordings and broadcasts. This tour also includes a visit to the Studios at Las Calinas, location for the filming of such hit movies as "Robo Cop," "Silkwood," "JFK," and "A Trip to Bountiful." Price: $20.
TOUR #3 - Six Flags Over Texas
Terrific family rides! Sensational thrill rides! There's something for every fun-seeker at Six Flags. The enormous Texas Giant Roller Coaster has been rated #1 in the world by an Inside Track reader poll. The roller coaster is in its fourth season at Six Flags, and it's bigger, smoother, and faster than ever. The whole family will enjoy the water rides such as Roaring Rapids, and the list of rides goes on and on. But there's much, much more to a day at Six Flags.
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, and other cartoon characters greet park visitors and pose for snapshots. Exciting shows abound, including a new Batman Stunt Show, featuring Batman, Catwoman, and the Penguin. And for the very first time there's a glittering, fast-paced ice show in the Southern Palace Music Center. Country music fans flock to the toe-tapping music in the Crazy Horse Saloon, and Bugs Bunny stars in his own production at the Looney Tunes Theater.
There are delicious food and lots of great shopping, including the most exciting Looney Tunes logo store anywhere. If it's fun, you can find it at Six Flags Over Texas, and we hope that everyone will join us for this tour. Price: $29.
TOUR #4 - Fort Worth Stockyards
The Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District was created in 1976 to preserve and protect the unique architectural legacy of the stockyards. Through careful adaptive re-use the area has blossomed into a distinctive and exciting attraction. Restaurants, retail shops, hotels, saloons, and a museum now welcome visitors from around the world.
Stroll through history and enjoy the western atmosphere. Discover why Fort Worth was a favorite of outlaw legends like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Explore the Fort Worth Stockyards and find out why Fort Worth is what you want Texas to be. Price: $20.
TOUR #5 - Billy Bob's Texas
On Wednesday evening you'll be able to visit the world's largest honky-tonk. It's 100,000 square feet of pure pleasure. In the old days cowboys came to Fort Worth to dance with the ladies and listen to the music, and they probably had a drink or two. Well, things haven't changed much, and when you come to the convention, you shouldn't miss this totally Texas experience. There's a rodeo arena inside this Texas-sized bar, and there are forty-two bar stations, where you can wet your whistle, and perhaps you can find a souvenir of your visit to Billy Bob's in one of the retail boutiques that you'll find there. Do the Texas Two Step or the Cotton Eyed Joe all night long. Price: $18.
TOUR #6 - Dallas Alley in the West End Marketplace
Visit any one of the exciting nightclubs you'll find at Dallas Alley. Your tour price includes the cover charge for any of the clubs. There are seven, including Alley Cats, a dueling sing-along piano bar; Alley Oops!, a sports bar; Take 5, a top forty dance club; Froggy Bottoms, a cozy bar featuring rock and rhythm and blues; Bobby Sox, '50's, '60's, and '70's; Paragon, a Eurotech contemporary dance room; and the Roadhouse Saloon, featuring live country music.
Of course, while you are at the West End Marketplace, you might want to take the time to visit some of the other attractions you'll find there. The marketplace is actually housed in three buildings. Most of the clubs of Dallas Alley are in the Old Coca-Cola Building. But there are a variety of retail shops and restaurants in the remainder of the marketplace. You can buy everything from antiques and rare autographs to flags and fanciful fashions. There are restaurants and pushcarts serving hamburgers, steak sandwiches, Texas gourmet wines and food, fudge, cookies, fajitas, submarine sandwiches, pizza, and much more. Price: $15.
TOUR #7 - Mesquite Rodeo
You'll be treated to a fine Texas dinner and a wild rodeo on Friday evening, July 9. Those who visited the rodeo in 1990 had a wonderful time, and if you decide to be a part of this authentic Texas event, we guarantee that you will too. So bring your boots and hat and join in the fun. Price: $28.
TOUR #8 - The Cowboy Breakfast
On Saturday, July 10, after you have spent an entire week of fun at the Hyatt Regency, you can go out and enjoy some Texas hospitality at a real horse ranch. We have made arrangements for you either to ride a horse or to sit back and relax on a horse- drawn wagon, and then you'll be fed a genuine cowboy breakfast, cooked over a campfire. There are no fancy tables here. You'll just pull up a bail of hay and commune with nature. Go back in time to the days of cattle drives, and spend a morning as the trail hands might have a hundred fifty years ago. Price: $26.95.
These are the tours. So don't miss out by waiting too late to purchase your tickets. Advance tickets are being sold at the present time, and you may purchase tickets for as many tours as you want by sending a check or money order to Eagle Tours, Attention: Jackie Gotlieb, 1634 East Irving Blvd., Irving, Texas 75060.
When paying for tours, you should include a note which tells the tour company your name, address, and telephone number. You should identify each tour you are purchasing by giving its number and name, and you should specify the number of tickets you are purchasing for each tour you select. You may select more than one tour, but please give all the required information for each. Then you can write a single check or money order to cover the entire cost of all your tour tickets. Make checks payable to Eagle Tours, Inc.
In addition to the tours we are offering conventioneers, the NFB of Texas will be running a shuttle all day for a couple of days early in the convention and on Wednesday afternoon. The shuttle will be making stops at both the east and west towers of the Hyatt Regency, and then it will take a route which will allow you to get off at several stops in the city of Grapevine. This shuttle route is designed to give you access to restaurants, pet food stores, a grocery store, and a pharmacy; and of course there will be a stop that will allow you to stock up on any liquid refreshment that you might need. There will be no charge to ride the shuttle, and you will be able to find out more about it by going to the NFB of Texas information tables in the east and west towers of the hotel. Or you can call the Texas Suite. We'll also have information about the shuttle there.
Finally, if you want to go into Dallas or Fort Worth at any time when the convention is not in session, you can contact a company called Super Shuttle, which provides van transportation to and from the airport. They can also arrange trips for a group of people who want to visit a particular place. If you want to go into either Dallas or Fort Worth, the cost for a ride on the Super Shuttle is $15 each way if you travel alone. But, if you can find six friends, you can rent an entire van for $90 roundtrip or about $12.86 per person to travel to either city and back again. The folks at Super Shuttle also tell me that they can work out special rates for other trips in the area. So you might want to give them a call if you need to leave the airport. You must make arrangements for most trips in advance. So you should call them several hours ahead of time. We will have their telephone number at the NFB of Texas information tables and in the Texas Suite.
There is a lot to do and see in Texas, and you shouldn't miss any of it. We can't wait to see you. So plan to be with us July 3 to 10. If you don't, you'll always regret it, and so will we.
[PHOTO: Graphic line drawing of map of United States showing blackened, shaded, and unshaded states (see article). CAPTION: States colored black have more than one NAC-accredited agency. The shaded states are down to one NAC- accredited agency. The unshaded states can boast a NAC-free environment.]
NAC'S DECLINE CONTINUES: AN UPDATE
by Barbara Pierce
In the December, 1992, issue we reported on the activities of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) and its member agencies during the first half of that year, as revealed in the June 30 list of NAC members printed in The Standard Bearer, its semi- annual publication. The end-of-year report for 1992 is now available and is equally interesting, if more depressing for NAC. The first thing one notices is that NAC has moved from its tony address on Madison Avenue in mid-town New York to E. 40th Street. Though there may still be more than one employee in the office every day, Ruth Westman, NAC's executive director, is now apparently answering the telephone.
As we reported in December, at mid-year no new agencies had been added to the NAC list, but observers had expected that the December roster would show at least one addition, the Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind. Dr. Richard Welsh, executive director of that facility and president of the NAC Board, had assured the Advisory Committee on Accreditation in February that his agency could hardly wait to complete the accreditation process and become part of the NAC family. But even though Dr. Welsh periodically announces that the Pittsburgh Guild will soon be on board, it is still absent from the list of NAC member agencies. In fact, not a single new name appears on that list for all of 1992.
On the other hand, during the second half of the year nine more NAC member agencies read the handwriting on the wall and decided to sever their relationship with the accrediting body. Some very distinguished names, indeed, were missing from the NAC roster in December. Here is the list of agencies that exited NAC during the second half of 1992:
Arizona State School for
the Blind and Visually Handicapped
Arizona State Services for the Deaf and Blind
Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches (FL)
Perkins School for the Blind (MA)
Division of Eye Care (ME)
The Lighthouse, Inc. (NY)
Aurora of Central New York
Central Association for the Blind (NY)
Milwaukee Area Technical College/Program for the Visually Impaired (WI)
That brings to fifteen the number of agencies which parted company with NAC in 1992, leaving only eighty American agencies, including one in Puerto Rico, in NAC's orbit. Over the months that we have been reporting NAC's declining fortunes, we have traced the erosion within the various categories of facilities. Here are the data as of December 31, 1992, broken down by category:
Of the seventy-one schools for the blind on the American Foundation for the Blind's complete list, twenty-one (30%) are currently accredited by NAC. Only thirty schools have ever accepted NAC membership, which means that 30% of them have by now had second thoughts and left.
Of the fifty-two state vocational rehabilitation agencies (one in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico), only thirteen (25%) have ever affiliated with NAC, and only six (12%) are currently on the NAC list. Moreover, 54% of the state vocational rehabilitation agencies that were ever accredited have now left the NAC fold.
Twenty-three of the eighty sheltered workshops employing blind people listed on the combined National Industries for the Blind and General Council of Workshops for the Blind rosters are currently accredited by NAC. Considering that NIB has offered for years to pay the costs of accreditation for any member workshop willing to associate itself with NAC, this number is surprisingly low. Half of the shops in this group of eighty have at one time or another agreed to accreditation by NAC, which means that 43% of the forty have now disaffiliated from NAC.
NAC did manage to reaccredit fourteen of its existing members in 1992, and it extended the accreditations of eight more for less than three years. Adding these two groups to the fifteen agencies that bailed out, one can see that for the first time in many years NAC did manage to deal in one way or another with all of its member agencies up for review during 1992.
However, we are now a third of the way through 1993, and it's time to consider what will happen this year. Here are the names of the agencies whose NAC accreditation expires in 1993:
Alabama School for the
Foundation for Blind Children (AZ)
Arkansas School for the Blind
Lions Blind Center (CA)
Sacramento Society for the Blind (CA)
Center for the Partially Sighted (CA)
Miami Lighthouse (FL)
Visually Impaired Persons Center (FL)
Florida School for the Blind
Independence for the Blind (FL)
Georgia Industries for the Blind
Georgia Academy for the Blind
Savannah Association for the Blind (GA)
Illinois Bureau of Rehab. Services
Illinois School for the Blind
Wichita Industries for the Blind (KS)
Visually Impaired Center (MI)
Duluth Lighthouse (MN)
Royal Maid Assn. (MS)
Mississippi School for the Blind
Mississippi Voc. Rehab.
Kansas City Assn. (MO)
St. Joseph's School (NJ)
Catholic Guild (NY)
Guiding Eyes for the Blind (NY)
The Sight Center (OH)
Oklahoma Voc. Rehab.
Oklahoma League for the Blind
Volunteer Blind Industries (TN)
Texas School for the Blind
Industries for the Blind (WI)
Wisconsin School for the Blind
That is the list of agencies making important decisions about accreditation this year. It is vital that their staffs and boards grasp both the precariousness of NAC's financial and professional situation and the profound dissatisfaction of consumers with its accreditation process. We already know of at least one agency that will not appear on NAC's mid-year list in 1993. On January 25 of this year Dr. Nell Carney, former Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, assumed her new post as Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. One of her first decisions was not to renew the Mississippi vocational rehabilitation agency's NAC accreditation. Who knows what other absences NAC's mid-year list will reveal.
Finally, here is the updated map of the United States indicating the shrinking area with two or more NAC agencies, the location of the states with only one NAC agency, and the growing number of states that can boast a NAC-free environment. It is worth noting that, of the sixteen states still having more than two NAC agencies, there are now four states with only two. (Five, if you count Mississippi, which you most certainly must.) These are Arizona, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and now Mississippi. The seventeen states with only one NAC member are Alabama, Hawaii, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia. The following nineteen states have no NAC-accredited agencies at all: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Donald Capps.]
VICTORY FOR THE BLIND OF SOUTH CAROLINA
by Donald C. Capps
Periodically state officials desperate to cut administrative costs by streamlining galloping bureaucracy take aim at state vocational programs for the blind, suggesting that they be folded into some larger service-delivery agency. Through the years this has occurred so often that we now have a clear record of what happens when this so-called improvement is made: almost without exception the quality and amount of service to blind people decline. Blind clients get lost in the hordes of people with other needs. The general rehabilitation counselors who find blind people and their particular needs and challenges in their case loads have less and less experience to draw upon in making recommendations.
The hard and painful truth is that, while an independent agency serving the blind is no guarantee of good service to blind people, it is virtually impossible to provide good and knowledgeable service without a fair degree of autonomy for the agency. That is why the organized blind movement has always argued forcefully that the independent commission for the blind is the state rehabilitation agency model most likely to result in genuinely constructive rehabilitation for blind people.
Twenty-seven years ago the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, with four chapters and virtually no money, was successful in its legislative struggle to establish an independent agency to serve blind South Carolinians. For a number of years after its creation, however, the Commission distinguished itself neither by good service nor by willingness to work with blind consumers of those services. Scandals rocked the agency, and the Federation had its hands full trying to force the Commission to provide adequate and appropriate services to the state's blind citizens. Then, three years ago, following a particularly messy period, Mr. Donald Gist was appointed Executive Director of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind. From the beginning he indicated his willingness to work closely with blind consumers, and he established a good understanding with Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and the senior member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. Mr. Gist attends NFB national conventions, takes an active part in NFB of South Carolina state conventions, and in every way works effectively with the organized blind movement across the state.
In recent months the bigger-must-be-better crowd in South Carolina's state government has been studying ways of combining all kinds of agencies in an effort, they allege, to make government more cost-effective. Not surprisingly the Commission for the Blind was one of the agencies that came under scrutiny.
Enter the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. Today there are thirty-eight local chapters across the state and a great deal of commitment to preserve the commission structure, which is just beginning to produce the fruits of cooperation and shared commitment to real rehabilitation of blind people. Hundreds of blind South Carolinians and their friends went to work. They wrote letters and visited their legislators. They traveled by the van-load to the State House for critical meetings and for the final vote in the House of Representatives. This is the way Don Capps, writing in his weekly "Positive Note" to state Federation leaders, summarized what happened next:
Date: March 11, 1993
To: Executive Officers, Board of Directors, Chapter and Division Presidents
From: Donald C. Capps, President, NFB of South Carolina
Another great, great victory at the State House! By an overwhelming vote of ninety-eight to eleven the House of Representatives adopted an amendment earlier today which will keep the Commission for the Blind a separate and independent agency. This is the result of the hard work and commitment of all of you across the state who conscientiously and diligently contacted your area legislators. This history-making success is particularly important and significant at this time, as all amendments introduced by various legislators to keep other state agencies and commissions independent failed by a large margin. It is significant that one of the agencies that wanted to stay independent and separate, but failed by amendment, was none other than the Department of Mental Retardation, under which the Judiciary Committee wanted to place the Commission for the Blind.
This most impressive legislative triumph is strong evidence of the tremendous influence, prestige, and hard work of the NFB of South Carolina. The amendment's chief author, and the 1992 recipient of the NFB of South Carolina's Distinguished Service Award, Representative Joe Wilder, magnificently led the charge for us. In his comments to the entire House, Representative Wilder singled out the Federation for its work, stating that more than sixty legislators had either signed on to the amendment or given outright commitments to support it.
While the NFB of South Carolina, with its more than three decades of legislative victories, certainly led the way, both Earlene Gardner, chairperson of the Commission's Board of Commissioners, and its Commissioner, Donald Gist, were most helpful at all times. Last week, you will recall, I talked about Representative Doug Jennings, Chairman of the Judiciary Sub- committee on Constitutional Law, who did not vote with us today, but in opposing the amendment was about as gracious as he could be under the circumstances.
Immediately following the ninety-eight to eleven vote, Federationists and others scrambled out of the gallery down the stairs to the Rotunda area to celebrate quietly and to meet many legislators who rushed out of the House to congratulate us and to share in the victory. T.V. cameras from two television stations were also waiting.
Immediately after our amendment passed, the House defeated an amendment which would have lowered the salaries of administrative law judges. I was told by one legislator that the member who offered the amendment told him that, with the Federation of the Blind behind the amendment, the entire House would have voted to require that all legislative law judges be blind. Another legislator, Chairman Billy Boan of the Ways and Means Committee, who initially opposed our amendment, voted with us today and commented that he certainly admired our politics and would welcome that brand in his area.
Many of you this week endured a lot of inconvenience getting up early to board vans and arranging for others to substitute for you at your jobs. I'm aware of all of this, but I want you to know that you made the difference in this memorable success. I attribute the victory primarily to the strength of the Federation's grass roots network in this state. Remember, placing the Commission for the Blind under the umbrella system was supported by the Governor's office, the Judiciary Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, and the Speaker of the House. This huge victory you made possible will send a clear signal that the rank and file blind of this state do have political power and know how to use it when we must. We know who we are, and we were not willing to go back to the days of the Welfare Department. While this legislation will be later considered by the Senate, our victory today simply means that there is virtually no chance whatsoever anyone will now tamper with the independence of the Commission. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your hard work and dedication.
There you have the text of the March 11 "Positive Note" written by Don Capps. A week later there was a little more to add to what had already been said. Here are excerpts from the March 17 "Positive Note":
On Friday, March 12, Odell Austin, President of our Orangeburg Chapter, went with me to visit Senator Marshall Williams of Orangeburg, who is the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Williams assured us that the Commission for the Blind would remain independent and that we had nothing to worry about. We also rejoice that our efforts on behalf of the School for the Blind's remaining independent were successful....
Recently Commission officials, Earle Morris, and I met with Senator John Drummond to discuss and secure his support for the continuing independence of the Commission. Senator Drummond is with us all the way and came up with a classic statement: "The miracle of the Commission and the Federation working so closely together is surpassed only by the Resurrection." Last week at the State House the many Federationists in the House Gallery received recognition from House members. Representative Harwell of Florence spotlighted Jerry Bryant, Milton Tant, and Ronald Benjamin. Representative Simrill spotlighted Lenora Robertson and Gena Hannagen. Lobbyists and others were impressed with our discipline as well as with our white canes and guide dogs. They frequently suggested that we take the elevator to the Gallery, obviously believing that we wouldn't be able to negotiate the tricky stairs, but we never missed a step. When the ninety-eight to eleven vote was announced, lobbyists shook our hands and admired the results we caused. Several top state leaders suggested that we compromise, but we knew what we wanted and stuck to our guns. For four days we went to the State House and patiently sat in the Gallery with our canes propped on the balcony railing, where the legislators could see them well. Our presence spoke more eloquently than anything else. Representative Wilder and others know that, when they introduce a bill for us, they will be backed by the NFB of South Carolina. When Representative Wilder presented the amendment to keep the Commission independent, he explained that some sixty members of the House co-sponsored that piece of legislation. In his speech Representative Wilder stated, "The blind of our beloved state know who they are, and they do not want to return to the days before 1966." It was a first visit for many Federationists in the House Gallery, observing what we are told is democracy in action. We will be back.
[PHOTO: Crowded room of people attending 1993 Washington Seminar. CAPTION: More than 400 Federationists crowded into the Columbia Room for the briefing that kicked off the 1993 Washington Seminar.]
1993 WASHINGTON SEMINAR:
HARD WORK AND HIGH OPPORTUNITY
by Barbara Pierce
By the late afternoon of Friday, January 29, 1993, it would have been clear to an observer at Washington, D.C.'s National Airport or Union Train Station that representatives of the nation's blind community were gathering for some purpose or other. If the observer had followed any one of these hurrying travelers, he would have discovered that they were converging on the Holiday Inn, Capitol, at 550 C Street, S.W., a few blocks from Capitol Hill in the heart of the city.
By Sunday evening some four hundred people would be wedged into the meeting room where President Maurer and other leaders of the National Federation of the Blind outlined recent activities of the organization and discussed the legislative agenda which Federationists would be presenting to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate during the following three days. More people would arrive by van and bus from surrounding states on Monday and Tuesday for this important activity, but the Sunday evening briefing is traditionally considered the kickoff of the NFB's annual Washington Seminar.
By the time the briefing began at 5:00 p.m., hundreds of Federationists had been working in the hotel and exploring Washington for days. Sixty-five out of the hundred or so who would eventually do so had already made the trip to Baltimore to tour the National Center for the Blind and the International Braille and Technology Center and had gone shopping for literature and equipment in the NFB's Materials Center. Many more had begun the weekend in group meetings and seminars at the National Center for the Blind and had then traveled to the Holiday Inn in time to take part in the Washington Seminar.
The largest single pre-seminar activity was the Mid-Winter Conference of the National Association of Blind Students convened at the Holiday Inn, Capitol. It began with a standing-room-only party on Friday evening, January 29, where old friends were reunited and newcomers were welcomed with enthusiasm. Mindful of the crowded agenda the following day, the partyers slipped away relatively early so that they would be fresh and alert for registration at 8:30 and the conference opening at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The program was perhaps the best the student division has ever put together. Members of the National Association of Blind Students will receive a much fuller report of the day's activities in the Student Slate, the division's taped newsletter. Every agenda item was lively and interesting, and division president Scott LaBarre kept the program moving with wit and firmness. Participants enjoyed it all. Perhaps the most anticipated item was episode III of "The Young and the Skill- less," the on-going saga of Charlotte Fox's struggle to live a productive and fulfilled life despite the roadblocks thrown up by an ignorant society. Several members and friends of the National Association of Blind Students performed this latest episode of Jerry Whittle's soap opera with high good humor and energy, and the audience roared its approval when the play ended. Several of the other presentations made at the January 30 conference appear elsewhere in this issue.
One hundred forty-nine people took part in the Saturday evening conference banquet. Fred Schroeder, member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, was the evening's principal speaker. His address was warm and funny and touched his audience deeply.
By early Sunday afternoon Mercury, the nerve center of the Washington Seminar's material-distribution and data-collection activities--named for the hotel meeting room in which it traditionally is housed--was operating full tilt under the efficient management of Sandy Halverson and her crew of faithful workers.
An interesting commentary on the effectiveness of the Mercury operation was provided Tuesday morning by a new member of the House of Representatives who accidentally turned up in Mercury looking for the meeting his secretary had scheduled with a group of Federationists who were waiting for him in his own office. When they finally got together, he commented that he had never thought to see a group of blind people managing data with such efficiency in Braille, and he was grateful that Sandy Halverson could provide him with his office telephone number, which he had not yet memorized.
Hard work efficiently carried out and deep camaraderie-- these are the hallmarks of the Washington Seminar, as they are of the entire National Federation of the Blind. By Wednesday participants were packing up and making plans to return home and write the all-important follow-up letters to their Senators and Representatives. The legislative work of the Federation for 1993 had just begun. As Federationists checked out of the hotel, they promised to keep in touch and see one another in Dallas in July.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Rebecca R. Long.]
ENLIGHTENING THE SIGHTED
by Rebecca R. Long
Rebecca Long is a senior political science major at Gannon State University in Erie, Pennsylvania. She has also become a committed and perceptive Federationist, thanks to the Washington Seminar. Here is her story as she tells it:
I was more than uncomfortable. It was my second day working as an intern for Leadership Erie, a leadership program for adults of the Greater Erie Community in Pennsylvania, and here I was at lunch sitting next to the only disabled person in the group. Her name was Judy Jobes, and she was blind. "Disabled": that is how I thought of her at that lunch a little over a year ago. Now Judy is one of my closest friends and my greatest mentor in my career. She is anything but disabled. My understanding of blindness has grown because of Judy but even more because of the National Federation of the Blind.
My experience with the Federation began in January of this year. I came home from class one day to find a message from Judy asking if I'd like to attend a conference in Washington, D.C., during which we would talk to Members of Congress about issues of concern to the National Federation of the Blind. I was hesitant but decided not only to attend the conference but to drive the six of us to D.C., since I would be the only one in the group with full sight. My friends and parents were baffled by this decision, dwelling on the burden they felt I was inflicting on myself. However, the opportunity to watch the political process in action shimmered before me, and I ignored the skepticism of my family and peers. Being a political science major, I couldn't pass up the chance to observe interest-group politics. Before the trip I envisioned learning primarily about advocacy; I wasn't thinking how much I could learn about blindness. Judy told me that the experience would change my life, but I didn't understand what she was talking about at the time.
As I loaded luggage handed to me by my Federation companions, I began to get concerned. How was I going to guide all five of them at the same time? How much sight did each of them have, and how was it going to help? What if I did or said something that offended them? How much help was too much? How much were they depending on me? All of these questions pass through the mind of a sighted person when put in a situation dealing with a group of blind people for the first time. Finally I decided I couldn't worry about it, and if I did make a mistake there would be about 500 blind people at the conference who could let me know.
Saturday there was a student seminar, and throughout the whole morning I was disturbed. These blind students were upset with the injustices of the educational system. It was clear that they felt cheated of their right to be considered equal to sighted students. I sat in the audience and thought to myself, "These students may be intelligent, but you cannot ignore the fact that they are blind and that blindness has to be considered disabling." I couldn't comprehend what it was these students wanted. By the time we sat down to lunch in the hotel restaurant, I was completely annoyed with myself for not being able to empathize with these students and the problems they were clearly having. But during that meal I slowly began to understand.
After being handed a Braille menu, I realized that the waiters had assumed that I must be blind. After all, their reasoning clearly went, why would a sighted person be interested in attending a conference for the blind? Deep in conversation at the time, I didn't acknowledge the waiter when he brought my entree. Presumably in an effort to be helpful, he pushed the plate I was eating from away and pulled the new one across to rest in front of me. This simple act was so terribly patronizing that I suddenly started to realize what these students wanted--to be treated with decency and respect for themselves and their abilities.
For the next five days I was shoved into chairs, grabbed by the arm, stared at, pointed to, and referred to (usually in a hushed voice) as disabled. Those who realized I could see cast sympathetic glances at me as if I'd been trapped into community service or something worse. Even the assistants in Congressional offices, many of whom had dealt with the Federation members before, didn't realize how offensive it was when they looked to me as a leader simply because I could see. In those six short days I began to see blindness as less a tragedy and more a simple albeit bothersome hindrance. I began to realize that Judy had asked me to attend, not because the Pennsylvania group needed sighted supervision, but because she knew that the experience would be invaluable to me.
The philosophy of the Federation was evident once I allowed myself to see it: "Given proper training and opportunity, blind people can compete on terms of real equality with their sighted peers." The Federation's ability to organize is amazing; even the legislative offices in D.C. noticed and commented on it. With this kind of organization and efficiency brought to bear on the problem, obtaining proper training for all blind persons is a potential reality. The Federation does more than provide training, advice, and support for its blind members; it enlightens sighted people simply by the example set by those members. The achievement of the Federation's goal of ensuring that proper skills and attitudes are taught to blind people will help to dispel the misconceptions about blindness that are held by the general public. The organization has already done this for me.
[PHOTO: Joanne Wilson standing at microphone. CAPTION: Joanne Wilson.]
THE KEY TO SUCCESS
by Joanne Wilson
From the Editor: At this year's Mid-Winter Conference of the National Association of Blind Students the keynote speaker was Joanne Wilson, member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, President of the NFB of Louisiana, and Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The following article is taken from her remarks:
When Scott LaBarre asked me to speak this morning, he said the theme for the day was success and that I should talk to you about how to be successful. So I want to tell you a story that began in about 1880. It's the story of a boy named Newel Perry. Newel, who was blind, became an orphan, and none of his relatives wanted to take on the job of raising him. So he was sent to the California School for the Blind, where a man by the name of Warring Wilkinson was the superintendent. Mr. Wilkinson became Newel's guardian and raised him at the school.
Early on Newel met another boy who was a little older. His name was Cecil Smith, and Cecil took Newel under his wing and began to show him around the school. Gradually, with Cecil's help and guidance, Newel mastered the plan of the campus. He began to recognize that despite blindness he could do and learn things that he had always assumed were beyond his capability. And Cecil Smith continued to act as his mentor.
In 1892 Smith, who was the son of wealthy parents, decided to spend his final two years of education in a public high school. Because of his family's social position, this was fairly easy to arrange, but when Newel decided that he wanted to try the same challenge, Warring Wilkinson told him that it was not something that he could do. He asked the young man why he wanted to go to public school and what his long-range plans were. Perry replied that he wanted to go to college. At that Wilkinson crushed the hope in young Perry by telling him that blind people didn't go to college; they made brooms and caned chairs.
After hearing this news, Perry became despondent. His grades fell because he had lost all interest in his academic work. Wilkinson called him in for a talk and questioned him about his decline from one of the school's best students to his present sorry state. Perry responded that, if there was no academic future for him, he saw no reason to bother studying. Warring Wilkinson reconsidered his earlier pronouncement, and he and his brother Charles, who was Perry's math teacher, then set out to raise the funds necessary to send Perry to the local high school.
Now Perry's sights were truly set on a college education, but again people discouraged him from the attempt. In an effort to strengthen his arguments in support of his dream, he wrote letters to the seven most prestigious schools for the blind in the country, asking whether they believed that a blind student could do the work required for a university degree. Seven letters came back from professional educators of blind students, and every one said that Perry's dream was impossible.
But Newel Perry was not to be discouraged now. He finally persuaded Wilkinson and others that he should have a chance for an education, and eventually he earned not only a baccalaureate degree but a doctorate in mathematics from a German university, where he was discovered to be a brilliant mathematician.
Then began the heartbreaking job search. Newel Perry could not find a single university anywhere willing to take a chance on hiring a blind mathematician. He returned to the California School for the Blind to teach math. In 1934 he organized the California Council of the Blind, a group of blind Californians dedicated to improving life for themselves and all other blind people. Newel Perry devoted his life to this cause and to raising funds so that deserving blind students could go to college. One of Dr. Perry's students was Jacobus tenBroek, who founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940. He adopted and expanded the founding principle of the California Council--that if ever things were to improve for blind people, they would have to do it for themselves--and applied it to the national scene.
Jacobus tenBroek surpassed his mentor, Dr. Perry. He became a lawyer and found teaching jobs at both the University of Chicago and the University of California at Berkeley. His protege was Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who in turn mentored President Marc Maurer. In this chain I have described to you beginning with Cecil Smith, each man has broken new ground. Small things build on each other to make the big things happen. And none of us would be in this room today if it hadn't been for Cecil Smith, Newel Perry, Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and Marc Maurer. They have constructed the base that has enabled you to attend public high school and college. It all comes down to changing expectations.
Expectations are funny things. For example, until the 1950's everybody knew that a human being could not run a mile in less than four minutes. Then Roger Banister broke that barrier, and now there's a whole list of men who have run a mile in under four minutes. But one person has to push the barriers back and set the new standard before a new generation can surge through. Most of us have to see that things can be done before we find the courage to meet our own challenges.
Not too long ago Fred Schroeder was at the Louisiana Center for the Blind doing some staff development for us. One of the faculty said, "I do job development here, and I struggle all the time with students who don't really want to go to work. How can I motivate them to try?"
Fred's answer went right to the heart of the matter. He said, "Take them to a local chapter meeting."
As I thought about what he said, I remembered what it had been like for me as a teen-ager who was losing sight. I hated being blind. I refused to associate with blind people or identify myself as a blind person. I wouldn't use a white cane, so I spent all of my time thinking about sight and worrying about what I couldn't see. I had no time to daydream about the guy across the street; I was busy worrying about how I was going to get through the next day. I cried myself to sleep at night, and during the day I spent all my time and energy straining to see or agonizing because I couldn't.
Then I went off to become a student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, and I met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. I learned lots of things--skills that helped me compete with other students. But most of all I learned that it is respectable to be blind, and I learned to have confidence in myself as a blind person.
I enrolled in college and majored in elementary education. In my senior year my advisor called me in to break the news that they weren't going to let me student teach, which was the very last requirement I had to fulfill in order to earn my teaching certificate. I was practically speechless. I had a 3.8 grade point average and had done every lab and taken every course required. I demanded to know why they were doing this to me.
The professor explained that I was about to graduate, and I wouldn't be able to find a job teaching, so it was pointless for them to try to find a student teaching placement for me now. I asked if they guaranteed other students jobs after graduation, and she admitted that they did not but this fact was beside the point.
I knew that this decision was unfair, so I turned to the National Federation of the Blind. Dr. Jernigan went to work for me. Through his contacts he opened an entirely new school system to the university's student teaching program, and he found a teacher who was willing to work with me. Three other student teachers were assigned with me to fulfill their teaching requirements in that school system, and the university is still sending student teachers into that district.
If I had not been a member of the National Federation of the Blind, believing in myself as a blind person and convinced of the injustice of that professor's decision, I would probably have sat back, feeling badly used, but ultimately coming to believe that a blind person had no business in an elementary school classroom.
But it isn't just the skills of blindness and the self- confidence to use them that the Federation teaches. You learn how to organize--look at this wonderful seminar that we're attending today. You learn your way around the political world and how to get things done. You learn people skills. After all, this organization is a people's movement, and it's a cross section of the entire society. You learn to educate and advocate, and you learn how to give and how to think. All of these things together contribute to molding successful people.
But the most fundamental gifts that Federationists receive from this organization are the skills of blindness in the context of the Federation's philosophy. Neither of these alone is sufficient to bring you success. I had a young man in my office the other day. I asked him to tell me about himself since, having flunked out of college, he was considering enrolling in the Louisiana Center for the Blind. He said that beginning in the second grade he had never read a word from a book or seen what was written on the chalk board, but he had gone through school and done well. He listened carefully and worked hard. He had always wanted to go to college and was sure that he could succeed if he just carried on with things as he had been doing them. But it hadn't worked; he flunked out. Now he was at the Center to see about acquiring the academic and personal skills of blindness he clearly needed in addition to his self-confidence and good philosophy.
That same day I got my monthly call from Jenny, who has participated in several of our summer programs for blind children. Her skills are great. She reads Braille well, and she can travel pretty well anywhere she needs to go. But about once a month Jenny calls me for reassurance: "What do I do when people push me around in the cafeteria line, just trying to help? There's a great big tall blind guy in my school, and they baby him. Is that right? Should I insist on keeping my cane? What do I do when they over-help me?" Jenny has the skills, but she still needs assistance in sorting out her philosophy. Without the framework of sound philosophy and good attitudes, Jenny's skills wouldn't be enough to make her fully competent.
So we need an underlying structure from which to push off if we are to become successful, and we need skills and confidence. But we also need something more. If you put fleas into a covered jar, for a while they will jump up and hit their heads on the top. But after a few experiments they learn to jump just high enough to avoid hitting the lid. After that, even if you remove the lid, the fleas will not escape because they've learned to avoid bumping their heads.
The same thing happens to a lot of blind people. There are many forces that work to keep us in our jars. The rehabilitation system, for one, often works to keep blind people in a safe and familiar place. How many of us have had rehab counselors tell us that those radical NFB members expect too much from blind people. "You can't do that job; That isn't something that blind people do." Disabled student offices--some of them are good, but many of them work overtime to keep us in that little box. How about family members? How many kids have heard parents say, "You can't cook; you don't have to empty the garbage." The clear message is that blindness keeps a youngster from learning the skills and assuming the responsibilities that sighted brothers and sisters take for granted. Friends and acquaintances keep us in the jar as well. They say, "Let me help you; that's a busy street. I couldn't do that without looking; you're wonderful, but I'll finish it."
But the people who are most likely to keep us in our little jars are ourselves. I think of a young man I knew a couple of years ago. We were having a student seminar, and late in the evening we got hungry and decided to load up a van and go out for hamburgers. Everybody was talking about how hungry they were and how much we were going to order when we got there. The restaurant turned out to be fairly dark inside, and I realized that this young man was not ordering with the rest. When I asked where he was, I was told that he was out on the front steps. When I went out to see what was the trouble, he told me that he just wasn't hungry anymore. He clung to that story and never did go in despite the fact that he had been one of the most enthusiastic advocates for the hamburger outing. He knew and I knew that the real problem was that he had retinitis pigmentosa, and he couldn't see very well in dimly lighted places. He didn't trust his blindness skills, and he was afraid that he would trip in the dark restaurant and make a fool of himself. He sat outside hungry in a jar of his own making because he was afraid to stretch.
It isn't easy to become everything you can. One of my favorite stories is about Ryan, who was in our children's program last summer. He's ten, and one day I asked him what he would do to help blind people to get ahead. He said he'd form a company of blind people and they'd have meetings. When I asked what they would do at these meetings, he said they would make speeches to each other and get together to do things that would help blind people. He's a natural-born Federationist, isn't he? But one day he and I were at an amusement park, and we went into a snack shop for lunch. Ryan ordered a Coke and a hot dog, which cost $2. But Ryan had only $1. The woman behind the counter took in the situation. She looked at this little boy with his child-size white cane and his single dollar bill, and she said, "That's all right, Honey, give me your dollar; you can have the hot dog free." I cleared my throat in the background, and Ryan looked regretfully at the hot dog. Then he said, "That's all right. I'll just take the Coke because I only have a dollar."
He carried the Coke outside. There he burst out, "Who made up that rule; who made it up anyway!"
I said, "What do you mean?"
With great indignation he said, "That rule's all right sometimes, but not when you're hungry!"
There are too many people who are ready to grab the rights, but when it comes to the responsibilities that really stretch you and enable you to grow in new dimensions, they don't want to bother. It's tough when you're hungry.
But if it weren't for all the people who have gone before us, all those who reached beyond and raised our expectations, we wouldn't be here today. And if it weren't for all the things you are going to do to help tomorrow's blind students, there would be no hope for them. Scott asked me to talk about the key to success. I think it is joining and working with the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO: Peggy Pinder stands with microphone in hand. CAPTION: Peggy Pinder.]
THE CARE AND FEEDING OF READERS
by Peggy Pinder
From the Editor: One of the most valuable professional skills a blind person can acquire and use effectively is managing readers. The ability to recruit, hire, supervise, and fire people providing this service is vital to virtually every blind person who hopes to succeed in school or employment. Recognizing this fact, the planners of the 1993 National Association of Blind Students Mid-Winter Conference asked Peggy Pinder (Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, President of the NFB of Iowa, and an attorney in private practice) to pass on advice and opinions drawn from her experience during a number of years of working with readers to absorb huge amounts of information. It may surprise you, but it is sound and practical advice for those who must get the most out of every hour of reader time. Here is what she had to say:
I have been asked this afternoon to speak about what I have called in my own mind "the care and feeding of readers." It is an important topic for all blind people. I'll begin by defining accurately what we are talking about when we say that we as blind people are hiring a reader. We are not hiring someone to read. If that's what you think you are doing when you acquire a reader, then I think you are starting with the wrong premise. In fact, you are attempting to procure a method of acquiring information, how and when you want it. So the commodity you want is information in the package you define.
Most of my remarks today will be directed toward the paid relationship because that is the ideal one. Someday you will be paying readers in connection with your job, and you should get practice doing the same thing while you are still a student. The vocational rehabilitation agency in your state should cover the cost of your readers while you are a student. When you hire this information-acquisition tool, you are clearly in need of something. In the contracted relationship you establish, the other party (the reader) also needs something. Your first job is to figure out what that is.
When you can say, "I am the blind person, and I want information," and the other person says, "I am the reader, and I want money," the matter is very clear and tidy. It is possible to establish the contract with some other permutation if you wish, but this one is ideal, because it gives you what you most want-- control. When you go into a reader relationship, you must explicitly and implicitly establish that you are in control. Failing to do so is the biggest single mistake that people make in handling readers. They allow themselves to be convinced that the reader's feelings and needs and desires are the important ones in the relationship. If my reader wants to go to the bathroom, of course I'm going to let her go. I believe that it is important to be courteous to and considerate of people with whom you are interacting, but the reader does not make the determination about when and where and how fast and how long and what; you do. And if you don't go into a reader relationship with that firmly in mind, saying it explicitly and conducting yourself as though you believe it, you will let the reader determine the most valuable thing in the relationship--how much you are going to get out of it.
This is true not only because you need a specified quantity of information packaged at a given rate, but because you must also learn how to hire, supervise, and fire readers. In college you can make all the mistakes and learn the techniques in a relatively painless situation. If you master all this by the time you get out into the working world, you will have a leg up on both your blind and sighted competition. The first advantage is that you will know how to get information. You will never be placed in a situation in which you can't get the data you need. Sometimes information is difficult or impossible to scan using today's technology. Most of the material I deal with, for example, can't be scanned. It's handwritten, and there's so much of it that I need to look at bits here and there. So the only efficient way to access it is through human readers. For you as for me, most of the material you will deal with for the rest of your life is likely to require live readers, not computers. A lot of technological development will have to take place over a number of years before this situation is likely to change much.
So you need to learn how to interact with readers--find them, train them, and get rid of them. But you also have to learn that you can do it--not the Disabled Student Services Office, not Mom and Dad, not the itinerant teacher, not your roommate, not your boyfriend or girlfriend--nobody but you directs this very important part of your life: the management and acquisition of the information you need! If you come out of your degree program having mastered this skill, you are set for life with one of the most important techniques you will ever learn. Aside from the confidence you will acquire by knowing that, if you lose one reader, you can find two more, you will also be a skilled middle- manager. Your sighted contemporaries don't have to learn to manage their own time and that of others in determining how and when they are going to study. They pick up a book and begin to read. You have learned to deal with scheduling and control issues. If you have mastered the supervision of readers and are confident in your ability to do so, you can justify putting on your resume that you have middle-management skills.
When the topic of obtaining readers comes up, most people don't even talk about the things I've been saying here. They say, "I can't get readers." Finding the readers you need is a full- time job until it is done. Every time you lose one, getting the replacement becomes a full-time job again. When I was in college, I got readers by putting up notices on all the dormitory bulletin boards. By the time I got them all up, I usually had more readers than I needed. When I went into the working world, I didn't have bulletin boards anymore, so I put ads in the newspaper. This method also yielded me more readers than I could ever use because with both techniques I swept so widely that I got plenty of opportunities to pick and choose among the candidates myself. I can absolutely guarantee you that, if you place a classified ad in the newspaper, you will have to put an answering machine on your phone line to notify people that you have already filled the position. People are out there looking for jobs or hoping to earn a little extra money. You want to find those people. Don't ever make the mistake of under-advertising for a reader.
Personally, I would never take a list from a disabled students services office or anywhere else. I want my readers to know that I am the one who found them, that I outline the job, and that I am the one with whom they have to deal. Not only is it easier to control the situation if the reader needs the cash, but it is a lot easier if he or she is your age or younger. I don't find it easy to control readers older than I, and I never have. I'm sure that is a pretty common phenomenon. There are undoubtedly glorious exceptions, but probably not many, particularly since younger people tend to be the ones who need the most money.
As you can tell, I have never had trouble finding candidates for my reading jobs. I begin by telling them what I want, and I assess their reactions to what I have said. I usually give readers a test; I hand them something to read. Almost no one does a good job of reading that first time. I am more interested in assessing their reactions to being given the book, to being told to stop and go to another page. I am assessing their basic reactions to the constraints of the reading discipline, their interest in the money, and their responses to the little speech I make them. I have developed it over the years, and it covers the things that most people are daunted by and the errors that most people make when they read to a blind person.
I tell them that I am not looking for someone to give me a dramatic reading; if I want that, I'll buy a ticket to a play. I do not want people to worry about their inflection. In fact, the best readers I have ever had are those who read in almost a monotone, because that is the fastest way for the human body to emit information. It is true that a good speaker of English automatically inflects at punctuation. You can't stop yourself from doing it a little. I tell readers not to worry about making sure to read expressively. Don't give me drama; give me data, as fast as you can get it out. My fastest readers have learned that they can read almost without moving their lips.
I often cite the example of the guy I had as a reader when I was a prosecutor. When he was reading to me, people would come to the door and stand there laughing. They would say to me, "You can't understand him," and to him, "You're not even reading." I just shut the door because he and I were perfectly happy; he was reading as fast as he could, and I was listening as fast as I could, and it suited both of us. He also had learned--as have all my best readers--what I tell all of them to learn: the technique of reading without having a clue about what they are saying. I tell readers this because, if they know that it is a good idea, they will develop the technique faster, and if I don't tell them, it will upset them when it happens. I also tell my readers that it is impossible for them to read too fast for me. When I read a recorded book, I automatically double the playback rate. If you can't understand books at a very fast speed, you should practice doing so, because it is an invaluable skill for students or working people who have lots of material to get through.
I also tell readers that I have heard every English word and many foreign ones as well pronounced in every possible way. I don't care if they don't know how to say the word correctly. If it occurs frequently, I'll tell the reader how to pronounce it because the mispronunciation will irritate both of us. But by and large I really don't care how they pronounce the word if they will just get it out. If they are really too afraid to take a stab at it, I tell them to spell it and go on.
With that little speech I pretty well get very good, very efficient reading right from the start because I have touched on everything readers are most afraid of. And I have told them what my parameters are. Later on, if I have to say that a passage is too dense for them to take at speed, they can slow down. It is much harder to try to speed up a reader who has been used to reading for you at a slow speed. Set your readers at a fast rate first, and slow them down when you need to.
I have a few comments about specialized reading. I will take just about anybody as a reader, if he or she can speak the language. I would say that if you are taking a foreign language course, you do need a reader with that specialized knowledge. But in chemistry, mathematics, or symbolic logic, for example, you can train almost any accurate reader who shows up on time to deal with the special symbols. Yes, there is specialized knowledge involved in reading such subjects, but don't assume that you can't do the teaching. After all, you need to know what those symbols mean. If you don't, you have to get the first reader you have scheduled for the course to take the time to describe them to you. You cannot afford to hire readers who already know the symbols and take the attitude that you don't need to know what they look like because the reader will take care of that part. Your response to that attitude must be, "No, you won't. I'm paying you to provide me with the information I want, and that includes the symbols." Don't ever fall into the trap of hiring a knowledgeable reader in a particular subject who then becomes your tutor as part of the reading responsibility. You are not hiring for that function. If you need a tutor, hire one. Your reader must always know that you are in charge: When I say skim, you skim; when I say skip, you skip. Don't put up with pauses or with comments like "Wait, this looks interesting." The other thing you have to make clear is that you expect your readers to read everything on the page unless you tell them to omit it. I am certain that, if you lay down the guidelines I have just described, you will have competent readers.
It is your job to schedule your readers in such a way that you will always be able to get the assignments done. This may mean that you will have to find some readers who can be flexible and some who can allow you to increase the time on short notice. You may need to establish the policy with some readers that you can cancel an appointment at short notice. You should structure things in such a way that, when you finish a class, you can sit down and use the time following with a reader. You don't want to have to go to an employer someday and admit that "my reader was sick yesterday, so I lost that hundred-thousand-dollar contract because I wasn't able to read the material." In other words, part of mastering this management skill is learning to do multi- layered scheduling with the option to cancel and scheduling sufficient reader time with the option to increase the hours if necessary. You never want to admit to a professor that you couldn't complete an assignment because you didn't have a reader. That is not a valid excuse.
If a reader is not working out for whatever reason, you will know it right away. Remember, you are not locked into keeping him or her; let such readers go. Never mind that you like the person; fire him anyway. You can go out and have beers with him, marry him, or do anything else you want with him, but don't keep him as a reader! You have no responsibility to be nice to that person; your job is to get information out of him. If you want to socialize, do it in some other context, but do not ever fall into the trap of thinking that you have to keep a reader because his or her feelings would be hurt if you severed the reading relationship. Your job is to get rid of poor readers and do it in a civil and humane enough way that you can keep them as friends if that's what you want to do.
All that I have said is true in some sense of volunteer readers as well, but the difference is that they are being paid in a form that is not the coin of the realm. Long-term volunteer readers are either motivated by an impulse to be nice to a blind person or fulfilling some requirement imposed by a church or social organization. Either way, they are not responding to you and the money you control. If you are absolutely compelled to use volunteer readers, you must figure out what their motivation is and find a way to turn it toward yourself in order to establish personal commitment and response to you. It is still true that everything I have said about paid readers is also necessary in your relationship with a volunteer reader. Volunteers must read everything on the page, respond to your directions, and get the words out as fast as possible. And, if they don't, you have to fire them too.
There you have what I know about readers and the way to establish a good working-relationship with them, delivered as quickly and concisely as I know how to say it.
THE RICHNESS OF LIFE: LIVING WITH A BLIND DIABETIC
by Marlene Curran
The following article is reprinted from the Winter, 1992, issue of the Braille Examiner, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Marlene Curran, whose husband Patrick was a committed Federationist who died of diabetic complications in November of 1991, addressed the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Her remarks were both moving and instructive. Here is what she had to say:
Diabetes is only an eight-letter word, but if it enters your personal world, it will be your lifelong partner. You should treat it with respect, so you must accept it, research it, and learn to control it. Don't let it control you!
Don't be a closet diabetic; become a professional diabetic with a positive attitude. After you were diagnosed with diabetes, your first reaction was probably, "Why me?" along with being scared. I know for a fact through experience that a lot of doctors either try to scare you with the disease or don't tell you enough about it. I'm still trying to figure out which way is better.
Before I was married, I knew Patrick was a diabetic. My knowledge at that time, almost thirty years ago, consisted of knowing that he had to have a shot every day, exercise, and watch his diet. I believed that, if he did those things, he would be okay. Like other people I thought insulin was a cure for diabetes, but as I know now, insulin is only a treatment. Now, almost thirty years later, I have to admit my ignorance. I should have researched his chronic illness. I learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss; it is dangerous. Lack of knowledge will only bring you closer to complications. I can tell you this from my personal experience.
I was married to a juvenile, brittle, type 1 diabetic for almost thirty years. In case you're not sure what all this means, a juvenile diabetic is one who becomes a diabetic between birth and age nineteen. Brittle refers to a diabetic condition which includes unpredictable swings in blood sugars. If I had known then what I should have, I could have been more understanding when Patrick became moody or ready for an argument. I thought he was being difficult for no reason when in reality his blood sugars were affecting his moods. He was a closet diabetic. He kept information about his disease to himself. He didn't want people to feel sorry for him or to watch him constantly and say, "Are you supposed to be eating that?" or "Are you supposed to be doing that?" In reality, he was a very independent and strong person with a terrific sense of humor and a positive attitude toward life. The first and most important thing for a diabetic is to have a partner, family, or friend who will always be there for you and who knows as much about the disease as you do. I admit our marriage was not always a bed of roses, but we had a special closeness and love for each other which, I might add, seems very rare in today's world.
Diabetes can strengthen marriages. Working together to control diabetes can, in fact, bring a new closeness. The enduring day-to-day love that comes from living through and with problems together and helping each other play out whatever hand you are dealt, trying to turn it into a winning one, is (though it may not seem like it) one of the greatest gifts a couple can be given. Our family and friends thought of Patrick and me as one person, always together no matter what.
Before Patrick started to lose his sight, it would take him anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour to summon the courage to give himself that shot. I'd like to add that this was in the early '60's, before disposable syringes. The original ones had to be boiled in water on the stove. As it got harder for him to see, he asked me if I would mind giving him the shot. I admit I was scared, but I learned, and the relief he got from not having to do it himself made me feel useful and part of his life.
The day-to-day stress diabetics live with can build feelings of guilt and anxiety because they remind us of a deeper fear, the fear of diabetic complications. No matter how much you may try to forget the possibility of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, or heart disease, your mind remembers at some level that you are at risk. Anything that suggests this risk becomes a further stress. Stress definitely is a factor in high blood pressure, which in turn contributes to the development of a number of diabetic complications. Effective management of stress is an important factor in any program to reduce the risk of complications. Poorly managed stress has a major impact on the health of everyone, not just diabetics. Stress is believed to contribute to heart disease and hypertension. Although other factors also play a role in any of these conditions, reducing your stress level is likely to increase your chances of living well.
Almost every morning, as I prepared Patrick's lunch for work, I would slip a love note into his lunch box, just to let him know I loved him and was thinking about him. The guys would always tease him (but I knew they were jealous). I also want to stress how important it is to explain diabetes to your children, when they are old enough to understand the illness. With diabetics' frequent mood swings, you don't want your children to think they may have caused the explosion.
Only a person who was not devoted to his or her spouse would say, my kids come first. My daughter knew, as soon as she could understand, that anything I had to do for her father had to come first. Throughout Patrick's and my life, we always kept her informed of everything that was happening. Because of the constant care I had to give to Patrick, he in turn gave quality time to our daughter, never letting her feel that we loved her any less because of the attention he had to get. Patrick and my daughter Kimberly were very, very close, and she never regretted coming second. Over the last eight years Patrick had three kidney transplants, two life-threatening cases of pneumonia, congestive heart failure, two leg amputations, and blindness.
I mention these complications, not to scare you or to say all these things will happen to you, but to let you know of the knowledge and experience I have. I am not a diabetic, a professional, or a nurse. I have acquired all my knowledge and experience from day-to-day living. Though I did everything in my power to help make Patrick's life easier, I couldn't save him. Patrick died November 29, 1991, after much suffering from his second leg amputation and from being kept on a respirator. Patrick was a saint on earth who never complained and who was an example of strength, love, and courage for everyone who knew him. He touched the lives of many people who drew from him his love, patience, and positive attitude. All our family and friends think he should be the patron saint of diabetics.
Before Patrick died, we were trying to get together a support group for Type 1 diabetics, age forty and older. We wanted to pass along our knowledge, experience, and love to help other diabetics who are beginning to face complications. Patrick died before he got to see this happen, but I took a class from the American Diabetes Association of Illinois and became certified to head this group, which meets every Wednesday at my house.
It seems to me that losing one's spouse has to be the worst pain any of us will ever face. But it becomes a total loss only if nothing good comes from the pain. The good that has come from Patrick's death is my ability to pass along my time, knowledge, experience, and love to others so I can help them with their problems. Some days my support group helps me more than I help them. I also want to help them avoid the pain of complications by assisting them to keep a closer watch on their diabetes and preparing them for things to come. Of course, you all know about the three most important disciplines a diabetic must acquire: sensible diet, enough exercise, and good sugar control. From my own personal experience I'd like to add two more that aren't given much attention, but are very important. Controlling blood pressure--I learned too late how very important this silent killer is. If we had known then what I know now about blood pressure, we could have been on top of things as complications started to occur.
I am told that many insurance companies will pay for a blood pressure machine if you get a prescription from your doctor stating that it is needed as preventive medicine for your diabetes. This machine should be used side-by-side with your blood sugar testing machine. This is the best advice I could ever give you, because I see how our lack of knowledge about blood pressure got Patrick into complications that we might have avoided. We never had a hint of the high blood pressure until his kidneys started to fail. As I understand it from doctors, diabetics with severe neuropathy won't experience headaches or other typical symptoms of high blood pressure.
Patrick had a number of small heart attacks, which at the time he thought were indigestion. He had no chest pains of the kind I might have had. So please, if you remember one thing from what I have said, please remember to watch and check your blood pressure.
The second point is to keep a journal. As a juvenile diabetic remember that you used to get one shot of insulin a day and take a blood test once a month. That management provided poor control. In the early '80's more common access to glucometers made it easier to test sugars as often as necessary, and doctors discovered that two shots a day afforded better control. I'm sorry Patrick couldn't have had the glucometer sooner. Just think how much better control diabetics can achieve, therefore delaying or slowing down diabetic complications.
It wasn't until Patrick started to have kidney failure in 1983 that I began keeping a journal of his life. Each day I recorded his sugars and blood pressure and kept notes of any problem he might have that day. I divided the book into sections: daily sugars, blood pressures, blood chemistries, hospital tests, medications, hospitalizations, and complications. I never went anywhere without my black book, which easily fit into my purse.
We were always on top of the situation when he entered the hospital or saw a doctor. Knowledge of his health status saved him from repeated and unnecessary tests. When a doctor, and Patrick had at least eight, asked whether he had had a specific test, I referred to the journal and could immediately tell the doctor the test date and result. This system saved a lot of time for the doctors. Always being on top of things helped Patrick to know he had control of his life. The journal also showed a record of all of Patrick's medications.
In closing I'd like to say thank you to fellow Federationists Tony and Mary Burda; Steve Benson; and Ed Bryant, the editor of the Voice of the Diabetic. They all gave Patrick the courage and determination to move on with his life, knowing he wasn't alone and that he had friends to help him with his blindness. I know I still have a lot to learn about blindness, and I hope to become a more active member of the National Federation of the Blind.
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: Fred Schroeder (right) talks with President Maurer on the dais at the 1992 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]
by Fredric K. Schroeder
The following address was delivered at the annual conference of the California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped, March 14, 1992, by Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, President of the International Council on English Braille, and member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. It was first printed in the CTEVH Journal, Fall, 1992. Here it is:
Much is happening nationally and internationally concerning Braille. Certainly we live in a time when it is getting more emphasis, which has resulted in greater availability and increased attention to instruction. Before cataloguing these changes, we must recognize what is cause and what effect. When discussing Braille, it is easy to focus on the changes that have taken place. But all of this increased attention is the natural outgrowth of a growing conviction that literacy represents perhaps the most necessary tool if blind people are to live full and productive lives. In other words, the desire of and for blind people to function on terms of equality has driven the move toward recognizing Braille literacy as a vital step toward their meaningful integration.
The activity surrounding Braille is in many respects dramatic and encouraging. In 1982 an International Conference on English Literary Braille Grade II was held in Washington, D.C. The conference was the first of three organized by the International Coordinating Committee on English Literary Braille. In 1988 a second conference was held in London, England, at which time it was determined that a permanent international organization should be established to continue the work of the Washington and London conferences. On May 30 and 31 and June 1, 1991, an International Conference on English Language Braille was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind hosted the conference at its Lake Joseph Holiday Centre. A primary goal of that meeting was to work toward international cooperation among countries which produce English- Language Braille. During this conference a new organization, the International Council on English Braille (ICEB), was founded. ICEB is headquartered at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Its purpose is to provide a medium for international cooperation among national standard-setting bodies on English Language Braille.
The creation of this new organization is encouraging both from the perspective of the organization's stated purpose and for what it represents in international cooperation. Through the London and Washington conferences people representing standard- setting bodies from throughout the English-speaking world came together to discuss many of the problems of Braille today and tomorrow. Coming together helped foster understanding among the participants, in ways both important and insignificant. For example, at the London conference I first learned that in the United Kingdom the term "full stop" is used in place of our term "period." Similarly, prior to the London conference I had never heard the term "oblique stroke" and was surprised to learn that our term "slash" was not universal. While these two examples are themselves not significant, they speak to an important point. The Washington and London conferences afforded an opportunity for key decision makers to get to know one another and become familiar with each other's customs and points of view. As well as reaching consensus on important issues, lasting friendships were made which were to form the cornerstone of true cooperation. Shortly after ICEB was founded, the organization's purpose of promoting international coordination and cooperation was put to the test.
In October of 1991 the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) decided to undertake a project to explore the consolidation of its various codes (omitting music) into a single unified code. This study came about as a result of a paper proposing the idea of a single unified code, written by Dr. Tim Cranmer and Dr. Abraham Nemeth. At the time that paper was written, I was skeptical about whether the idea had merit. I must admit that much of my skepticism came from my general suspicion of change. In October, when Dr. Cranmer and Dr. Nemeth presented their ideas to the BANA Board, I was surprised not only by my own receptiveness to their ideas, but by the openness of the entire Board to the concept of grappling with the complexities inherent in such a radical change. This tremendously ambitious project will be directed by a committee consisting of the members of the BANA Board, Dr. Abraham Nemeth, Dr. Tim Cranmer, and Mr. Joe Sullivan.
As with the creation of ICEB, the BANA project is a striking example of openness and cooperation. A commitment to greater readability and ease of production is certainly a strong encouragement for looking seriously at a major restructuring of Braille. The cycle of cause and effect--forces for change causing a shift in thinking and by so doing toppling the status quo--can be seen in the BANA project.
As I said, this project has important implications for the fledgling organization of ICEB. One of its fundamental objectives is to move toward greater consistency among the codes used throughout the English-speaking world. If BANA undertakes a project to explore a major restructuring of its code, then the next logical extension would be to involve others in the process. In December of 1991 Darleen Bogart, Chairman of BANA, and I telephoned key decision makers in the United Kingdom to test the idea of expanding the BANA project to create an internationally acceptable unified code.
Since initially I had been skeptical about the idea, I was amazed when the project was greeted with immediate interest. To me the most dramatic implication of considering an international code is that such an exploration would require all parties involved to lay their respective codes on the table. I do not wish to paint an unrealistic picture for you. We may not be able to agree upon an international code. I do not know whether ICEB will even be willing to undertake its exploration formally. For that matter, I can not predict whether the BANA project will yield a productive outcome in North America. Nevertheless, the significance of these events and the cooperation they represent is itself dramatic. The very movement toward increased Braille literacy is a stimulus for change. It is part of the cause and effect relationship which allows one action to build upon another, setting the stage for progress. Other examples of this increased move toward cooperation are evident internationally. In March of 1992 a group from sixteen nations meeting in Zurich made significant progress toward establishing an internationally recognized music code.
Here in the United States the Braille literacy movement can be seen in many ways. Today ten states [the number has now risen to fourteen] have adopted Braille bills--a public policy statement about the legitimate role of Braille as a literacy tool for the blind. Five years ago, when the first Braille bill was introduced, the idea was controversial and sparked suspicion; resentment; and, in some cases, open hostility. At that time Braille bills were regarded as a condemnation of the education system for blind children and hence were viewed as an attack on professionals in the field of work with the blind. Today, only five years after passage of the first Braille bill, the mood has changed. In many states parents, educators, and adult blind people are coming together, not to debate whether a Braille bill should be introduced, but to collaborate on the best way to craft the bill. In addition to the requirement that Braille be considered by the IEP team, two other elements have surfaced in more recent Braille bills. One is a requirement for competency testing for teachers of blind children, and the other, which was included in the Texas bill adopted in the summer of '91, requires textbook publishers to make materials available in a machine- readable format for easy translation into Braille.
The stimulus for the introduction of Braille bills was a shared conviction that our nation has produced a generation of virtually illiterate blind children due to the lack of Braille instruction. Many things contributed to this problem, not the least of which was the mainstreaming movement itself. With a nationwide shortage of trained teachers and children more widely distributed throughout local schools, teachers were faced with the very real problem of choosing print or Braille instruction for a child they were scheduled to see only an hour or two a week. The temptation to favor the print medium, with which they were more familiar, was compounded by a mindset that presumed print reading was superior to Braille. In the 1970's educators came to regard Braille implicitly or explicitly as an antiquated tool for reading. Many felt that new technology would make Braille obsolete, so there was little motivation for teachers to learn the code and even less to teach it.
But a generation of illiterate children has stimulated a counterforce bent on changing this direction before another generation is lost. It is not surprising that we are now hearing a call for better preparation of teachers as well as competency testing to insure that those charged with the education of blind children are themselves competent to provide instruction in Braille reading and writing. Ironically, although fifteen years ago the experts believed that technology would make Braille obsolete, in fact the opposite has proven to be true. With an increased emphasis on Braille, technology has been applied to the problem, the effect being greater availability of Braille than ever before.
It is not surprising that increasing attention has been focused on Braille literacy since literacy generally has become a central topic in America today. The need for blind youngsters to be literate is in many ways self-evident. Literacy for these children, as for sighted ones, is vital to their competing successfully in an increasingly demanding world market. A command of the English language and the ability to read and write are essential to everyone for effective communication. Yet as I prepared for this afternoon's presentation, I had a sense that for me as a blind person the importance of literacy took on a dimension which transcended the readily recognizable importance of being literate. I could not help feeling that the role of Braille in my personal life and its absolute importance to me were somehow connected to the cause-and-effect relationships outlined earlier, which have resulted in the current emphasis on Braille.
I have a personal and deep-seated loyalty to Braille, not simply because it affords me the ability to read and write. For me Braille is part of my liberation from a debilitating mindset and a body of beliefs premised on the assumption of limitation and hopelessness. Braille allows me to organize my work, to jot down an address, or to read a recipe; but it also represents the tangible expression of the truth of the principle that, given training and opportunity, blind people can function competitively in society.
When I was seven-years-old, I became legally blind. Over the next nine years my vision gradually decreased. During this time I was not taught Braille; however, this was also during the period which has come to be known as the sightsaving era. This concept was based on the belief that to use remaining vision would cause it to decrease. For this reason I was not allowed to read print while simultaneously being discouraged from reading Braille. The real tragedy was that as a child I already had deeply ingrained negative attitudes about blindness. I equated it with inferiority and therefore wanted nothing to do with Braille or any other skills which blind people use. As my vision decreased, I fell into a pattern of believing that what I could not see, I could not do. Blindness for me represented helplessness, and my fear of blindness had prevented me from learning the skills which would have allowed me to function. My lack of literacy meant that I had no means by which to read and write, but additionally it contributed to my fundamental feelings of inadequacy and isolation.
After becoming totally blind, I can remember a hospital social worker bringing me a Braille watch. I vividly remember struggling to distinguish the dots on the face of the watch and finding it virtually impossible to distinguish between the hour hand and the minute hand, but in a short time I had managed to learn how to read my watch quickly and accurately and by so doing experienced a sense of exhilaration. While I was not yet truly reading, that experience sparked my recognition that as a blind person I was not entirely helpless--dependent on those around me for even the most basic information. Rather than representing my most negative fears about blindness, Braille started to be a means of liberation. For the first time I began to view my limitations as stemming from my lack of training rather than from my lack of eyesight. For the first time a technique associated with blindness became a source of pride, and I began to understand that perhaps I could function competitively as a blind person using alternative techniques.
While I was in college, I had an experience which represented a milestone in my life. In the fall of 1974 here in Los Angeles, I attended a convention of the National Federation of the Blind. There I was first exposed to blind people who were living active, normal lives. I met blind people who were holding professional jobs, buying their own homes, and raising families, all of which I had believed were unattainable for me as a blind person. Rather than fitting my preconception of what life as a blind person must be, these men and women were living rich and fulfilling lives, competing effectively in society. These were people I could admire and whom I wished to be like.
A man who stands out in my mind was Lawrence (Muzzy) Marcelino. When I met him, he asked my name, and I can remember his reaching into his pocket and pulling out a slate and stylus to take down my address and phone number. This seemingly small act was nevertheless significant in my life. Muzzy's use of the slate and stylus represented literacy, but it also represented a shaking off of societal stereotypes about blindness. Muzzy believed he could function competitively and so quite naturally put his beliefs into practice. I, on the other hand, was just awakening to the realization that my fears and misconceptions about blindness were driving my actions and hence were primarily responsible for my inability to compete. Braille for me came to represent literacy in my life with all the advantages normally associated with literacy. The element that I regard as most crucial is that Braille also came to symbolize tangible proof of my ability to live a normal life.
The decline in Braille use in our country over the past two decades is nothing less than a tragedy. Children growing up during this period have suffered lost opportunities by having inadequate ability to read and write, compounded by an increase in lowered self-esteem and diminished expectations. You in this room have contributed in an important way to reversing this trend, helping blind children reach their true potential through the teaching and producing of Braille. Your efforts have helped many attain literacy and, through it, increased opportunity.
In this room this afternoon is a young woman who grew up in California and received special education services through the public schools. Although she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, the conventional wisdom of the time indicated that she had too much vision to be taught Braille. By the time she graduated from high school, she was no longer able to read print; yet she had no alternate means of reading and writing. Through ingenuity and hard work she managed to get through college with good grades, while paying a severe price in damaged self- confidence. Fortunately for her, she recognized her need for training. After completing college, she entered the Louisiana Center for the Blind for six months of intensive training in Braille, cane travel, and the other skills of blindness. I remember listening to a presentation she made shortly after completing her training. After having read Braille for only six months, she read Braille faster than she had ever been able to read print. So Braille represented both literacy and freedom to her.
The movement toward increased emphasis on Braille is gathering momentum; and, as with all social change, events are driving other events. To understand the cause-and-effect relationship which has resulted in today's Braille movement, we must first understand that Braille symbolizes both literacy and a change in our own attitudes about blindness. At first glance it seems obvious that two decades of diminished literacy have provided the driving force for today's Braille renaissance. Yet exploring further discloses that the fundamental shift in our attitudes about blindness has made diminished literacy for blind people intolerable. If we expect very little from blind people, then illiteracy, rather than a problem requiring solution, is accepted as a natural situation, consistent with our low expectations.
The Braille movement today is not simply a response to the condition of illiteracy. It is also the outgrowth of the very positive influence of changing social attitudes. With increased expectations for ourselves as blind people, we expand our potential. As we believe we can do more, we naturally look for the tools necessary to translate our beliefs into action. As teachers and producers of Braille, you have seen the effects of your labor in the lives of those with whom you have worked. As your efforts result in increased opportunities, your positive perception of blindness and expectations for blind people are reinforced and expanded.
This change in our conception of blindness gives meaning to the Braille movement. It gives purpose to the new initiatives aimed at greater literacy. The new spirit of cooperation resulting in the adoption of Braille bills, the development of NLS competency testing, and the initiation of ventures with textbook publishers to make Braille more available to school children is directly attributable to this fundamental change in our conceptions. In North America it has led us to undertake a project to study the idea of a unified literary and math code.
We can see the same spirit of cooperation internationally, and I believe it can be explained by the same cause-and-effect relationship between increased expectations and greater emphasis on Braille literacy. The momentum which has developed may well result in a single internationally recognized literary and math code. This same momentum has already brought us to the threshold of an internationally agreed-upon music code.
Throughout this process mistakes will inevitably be made. Bad decisions will be reached which will need to be reviewed and repaired. Some changes will make Braille more awkward and less readable and will perhaps result in real harm to people. Yet the momentum underway brings the promise of true progress. Many years ago I remember being warned, "If you are not making mistakes, then you are not doing anything." There will be problems as progress is made, yet progress is clearly in evidence.
Braille has allowed me to unlock many doors. It has helped me attain literacy and enabled me to shake off doubt and uncertainty in myself. For this reason I thank you for your role in helping scores of blind children to acquire the tools to reach their full potential. Collectively we are part of the cause-and- effect relationship stimulating change. Self-confidence and a changing perception of blindness must be nourished by the success which comes from having the ability to put that confidence into action. Your efforts and your dedication have touched countless lives, sustaining the momentum in the cycle of cause and effect, leading us closer to the promise of true integration for the blind.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Curtis Chong.]
TECHNOLOGY AND THE REHABILITATION SYSTEM FOR THE BLIND: A CONSUMER PERSPECTIVE
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: Curtis Chong is President of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, and there are few people in the country today with a better working knowledge of the whole range of computer technology useful to blind people, and none with more skill, patience, and creativity in assisting blind computer users who find themselves in a technological pickle. I know, because I've been there, and Curtis has extricated me with speed, good humor, and common sense. He talks and works with hundreds of people each year who are fighting to make sense of the technological revolution for themselves and who are struggling to persuade the rehabilitation establishment to do what it should to assist them.
In recent months he has twice been asked to address gatherings of rehabilitation and technology professionals about issues of particular concern to blind consumers. What follows is first a letter Curtis Chong wrote to John Maxson, Associate Director of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University, when Mr. Chong returned home after the most recent of these speeches. It raises concerns that will undoubtedly become more frequent now that Braille materials for such conferences are increasingly available. Here is the letter:
April 4, 1993
Mr. John H. Maxson
Mississippi State, Mississippi
Let me begin this letter by thanking you personally for your efforts to arrange for someone from the National Federation of the Blind to speak at conferences sponsored by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (RRTC). As you know, I have been privileged to represent the Federation at two such conferences. The first took place last August in Atlanta, Georgia, and the second in Seattle, Washington, March 30 through April 2. The theme of both gatherings was "Let's Not Reinvent the Wheel." Both conferences were developed for an audience consisting of rehabilitation professionals in the field of work with the blind. The principal focus for both was technology, both high-tech and low-tech. A fair number of conference participants were themselves blind, and Braille agendas were available for their use. I myself was provided with a Braille agenda at both conferences, which brings me to the reason for this letter.
Last summer, at the Atlanta conference, I pointed out to you and members of your staff that there were formatting problems in the Braille agenda. I was told then that the reason for the formatting problems was that the final printed agenda had not been available until the last minute. At the time I let the matter rest. I felt that the point had been made and that steps would be taken to prevent a similar occurrence of the problem in future conferences.
You can imagine my surprise when I looked over the Braille agenda for the Seattle conference and came across the very same formatting problems so prominent in the Braille agenda for the Atlanta conference. Here is an excerpt in print of how the Braille agenda appeared:
March 31, 1993
Breakfast Keynote Session
"Using Technology for
7:30 -- 9:00 Carl
In The 21st Century" Session 1 Seahawks
9:00 -- 10:00 "Just The FAX:
A Technology William
Solution For Independence"
As you can see from the foregoing example, titles for individual program items are mixed with the names of presenters in a way that makes the agenda extremely difficult to read. Such errors would simply never have been accepted by anyone producing a printed agenda. I find it more than a little insulting that the producers of the Braille agenda allowed these errors to pass without either comment or apology.
I cannot understand why something as trivial as a properly formatted Braille agenda should be so difficult to produce. There is certainly no technological reason for the problem. Using a computer equipped with Braille translation software, it is a relatively simple matter to key in text by hand along with the proper Braille-formatting commands. I know that there is at least one staff member employed by RRTC who is blind and a Braille reader. This fact makes it doubly surprising that conference organizers would allow poorly formatted Braille agendas to be produced and handed out.
John, I know that I was not a conference participant per se, merely a presenter. However, I am a blind person, a strong believer in Braille, and someone who happens to know more than a little about Braille translation systems. Braille agendas are, in and of themselves, a pretty small thing to get upset about. However, through its various conferences RRTC is sending messages to the field of work with the blind. Most of those messages are about accessibility for persons who are blind, technology that fosters independence, job placement in the community on a basis of equality, and productivity. The Braille agendas distributed at the two RRTC conferences I attended reinforce the notion that it is all right for the blind to receive an inferior product. Personally I find this notion completely unacceptable.
As I understand it, the RRTC acts as a training resource for rehabilitation agencies throughout the country. I am told that agencies for the blind send their technology specialists to your program for training in technology. I would hope that the quality of the Braille agendas produced by RRTC is not an accurate reflection of the quality of the training it provides.
John, as you can see, I am more than a little put out about this business with the Braille agendas. When I first met you last summer in Atlanta, I was heartened to discover that you were a person who believed in the abilities of persons who are blind to function as contributing and productive members of society. Your initiatives to involve consumers in RRTC conferences is a reflection of your belief in blind people. My strong statements deploring the quality of the Braille agendas are not meant as an attack upon you personally. In fact, now that I have brought this matter to your attention, I feel sure that you will do everything in your power to solve the problem. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
cc: Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus
National Federation of the Blind
That was the letter Curtis Chong wrote to John Maxson, and in addition to raising concerns about the low quality of Braille materials at technology conferences, the letter describes the composition and intent of the conferences at which Mr. Chong was asked to speak. Here are the remarks that he delivered at the Spring, 1993, RRTC conference on technology for rehabilitation professionals:
On behalf of the National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to talk about the role played by the rehabilitation system in providing technology to persons who are blind. It has often been said that the age of computers is upon us. This is certainly true in the workplace. Today you can't get a job as a receptionist or a pizza order- taker without knowing how to run a computer. Word processing, accounting, and data base management and electronic mail systems are commonplace in large and small offices. Any new employee coming on board is expected either to be familiar with the software used in the corporation or to master it quickly. The blind job-seeker is subject to this requirement as well. However, given the fact that computers are not originally designed to produce Braille, speech, or magnified output, coupled with the increasing use of the graphical user interface (more on that later), the blind job-seeker is confronted by additional problems which most potential employers are ill-equipped to handle.
The federal/state vocational rehabilitation system is today the primary source of funding and technical assistance for blind job-seekers who need assistive technology for their employment. This is not a trivial task. Literally millions of dollars have already been spent on computers and related technology for blind clients. Rehabilitation professionals who probably entered the field because they wanted to "work with people," have found themselves turned into rehabilitation engineers or technology specialists, simply to keep up with the exponential growth in computer use occasioned by the acceptance of the microcomputer in the workplace.
How has the rehabilitation system responded to the challenge of the computer age? Is there enough technical expertise in the field of work with the blind to deal knowledgeably and effectively with employers about matters involving their computer systems? Has the rehabilitation system provided funding for technology whenever and wherever needed and in a timely manner? Do technology specialists regard technology with unbridled and unqualified enthusiasm or with pragmatism and good old-fashioned common sense? In short, how has the system responded to the technological needs of blind clients?
The other day I came across an announcement for a receptionist opening, posted by my employer, IDS Financial Services. In addition to the usual statements about good telephone skills, ability to get along with people, and so on, the announcement stated that use of word processing and electronic mail software on a Macintosh computer would be required. How would your typical rehabilitation agency deal with this potential opportunity? Here are some questions that immediately come to mind:
1. Is there any screen access technology available that would enable a blind person to use the Macintosh without sighted assistance?
2. If such technology exists, does it provide output in synthesized speech, Braille, or large print?
3. Which form of output is most compatible with the blind job applicant's skills and abilities?
4. Is the technology compatible with the software that will be used on the job?
5. Who will finance the technology?
6. Who is going to train the blind person in the use of the technology, not to mention the word processing and E/MAIL software that must be used on the job?
7. Who will install the screen-access technology on the Macintosh?
8. Who will tailor the speech output, modify the configurations, and write the programs that may be required to meet the needs of the blind computer user?
In this specific situation we are fortunate because there is screen-access technology available for the Macintosh computer: Berkeley Systems' outSPOKEN program. But somebody has to know this before it can even be proposed as a possible solution. If this is the first time that the corporation has ever hired a blind person, it is not likely to know about outSPOKEN. And suppose for a moment that the receptionist is required to use another brand of computer--one for which screen access technology is not available. Or suppose that outSPOKEN is not compatible with any of the software that the receptionist has to use on the job. Who will have the expertise necessary to develop alternatives to solve the problem? Clearly in this regard the technology specialist represents a valuable source of information and technical know-how. Unfortunately there are not enough rehabilitation agencies possessing the necessary technical knowledge and understanding to deal with a problem of this magnitude. Why?
One reason is that rehabilitation agencies have tended to hire technology specialists with a rehabilitation background who have been forced to learn about technology as opposed to having a natural aptitude for it. Another is that some rehabilitation agencies have not recognized the importance of technological know-how and therefore have no technology specialist on board to deal with technological problems. In all fairness, even if a natural technologist could be found, I wonder whether a rehabilitation agency could afford to pay the going rate.
If a successful job placement is to be achieved and if the use of a computer is involved, it is vital to choose the correct screen access technology, and it is critical that this technology be compatible with the software that will be used on the job. This is not an easy task. It requires an in-depth grasp of the technologies that enable the blind to use computers independently plus some knowledge and understanding of the software that will be used on the job--for instance, the E/MAIL system, terminal access system, or word processor. In today's world of local-area networks, wide-area networks, and terminal-emulation systems, you can't just connect two computers and expect them to talk to each other.
The expertise required here has more to do with engineering and software management than it does with specialties of job adaptation and psychological behavior. Unless the rehabilitation system can muster the resources to hire true technologists (i.e., individuals with backgrounds in engineering, computers, or electronics), I am afraid that the field of work with the blind will find itself slipping further and further behind, and agencies for the blind will not be able to deal knowledgeably and effectively with potential employers on matters of technology. Sadly, the only real losers in these situations are the blind clients who need employment.
Let us now consider the question of who should pay for the rather expensive technology that a blind person may need to do a particular job. Today what seems to happen is that both parties, the rehabilitation agency and the employer, dicker with each other to try to get the other party to pay. The rehabilitation agency is typically interested in getting the employer to contribute to the cost of the technology and probably feels morally obligated to do so in light of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The employer, on the other hand, having never employed a blind person before and perceiving a financial risk, tries to get the agency to pay for the technology. In the middle is the blind person, who is interested only in getting the job. If both parties, agency and employer, are sufficiently intractable, nobody pays for any equipment, and the blind person loses. Arguably the rehabilitation agency should be prepared to purchase any required technology, particularly if (1) this is the first job ever obtained by the blind client or (2) this is the first time the prospective employer has ever considered hiring someone who is blind. Once the blind person has proven his or her ability to do the job, the employer is likely to be more willing to purchase any technology that might be needed in the future. In fact, the employer should be expected to purchase any required technology after the blind person has proven his or her ability to do the job. This is certainly in accord with the reasonable accommodation requirements of the ADA.
I want to talk with you now about the procurement process and similar benefits. Together they have been used to delay the purchase of badly needed technology. In Minnesota, for example, I was involved in a case in which a blind law student required a Braille embosser. There was no question that the embosser was necessary. Yet his rehabilitation counselor had the temerity to suggest that he go begging to the Lions Club for money because, after all, the client was required to search for similar benefits. After the counselor was persuaded by agency management to go ahead with the purchase, the procurement process kicked in. All we wanted to do was purchase a VersaPoint Braille embosser. But the state purchasing system required that the embosser be put out for bid. All in all, it has been four-and-a-half months since the client first requested the embosser. You can be sure that he still doesn't have it. The only positive thing that can be said about this experience is that a job wasn't on the line.
As chairman of the Committee on Assistive Technology of the National Federation of the Blind, I receive a lot of calls and letters from blind people who need technology to help them with education or employment. A blind student needed a computer to get a job as a programmer. A blind clerk-typist needed a portable computer to help her advance on the job. A blind medical transcriber needed a word processor to operate her transcribing business at home. These people had a legitimate need for technology but were denied funding assistance from their state rehabilitation agencies. They felt it was better to incur a debt of several thousand dollars than to go without the equipment. Surely the rehabilitation system could and should have helped these people.
Blind students have a unique problem when it comes to funding for technology. When I went to college some twenty or so years ago, the only students who used computers were the computer science or management information systems majors. If you could use a manual typewriter, you could turn in a decent-looking paper and receive a good grade on it. Today the word processor and the microcomputer have come of age on the college campus. In many instances, students are required to prepare their written assignments on the computer. How is the blind student to compete?
To their credit a growing number of colleges and universities are installing speech output systems in their computer centers so that blind students, like their sighted peers, can write their papers using a word processor. This is fine for many students. However, there are individual cases in which purchasing a computer may be the best option for the blind college student. Yet agencies for the blind in some states are totally inflexible about the matter. In states such as California and Michigan the agency simply will not, under any circumstances, purchase computers for blind college students. By contrast, in my home state of Minnesota, the agency for the blind has purchased computers for some of its clients who are college students. In one case the computer was an invaluable resource when it came time for the student to work as a law clerk during the summer. Using the PC that the state agency had obtained for him, the student was able to link into the law firm's mid-range computer system and work on documents prepared by others in the office.
I promised earlier to talk about the graphical user interface (GUI, as it has come to be known). There was a time when you could count on most new PC-based software to run under the Disk Operating System (DOS), and you could count on most commercial software to display information using ASCII text. Today that is no longer the case. More and more new PC applications are being written to run under the Windows platform, which utilizes the graphical user interface. The Apple Macintosh, which came along well before Windows, already uses the GUI. So does IBM's OS/2 Presentation Manager. All of these platforms are enjoying growing popularity in the workplace. Everybody wants applications that utilize client/server architecture and present information using the graphical user interface. Fortunately each one of these systems (Windows, the Macintosh, and OS/2) has some means for independent access. I know for a fact that by the middle of this coming summer there will be at least three screen access programs for the Windows platform. However, the Macintosh and OS/2 will each continue to have only one vendor for screen access. And to add complexity to an already complex mess, there is talk in the industry of having GUI applications running under the Unix operating system, for which today there is no screen- access technology. Those of you who keep up with such things have no doubt heard about Sun workstations and the IBM RS-6000 computer.
No access system for the GUI runs perfectly and without problems today, and none of the access technologies available will provide access to all GUI applications. How will the rehabilitation establishment step up to the GUI challenge? Will it wring its hands in frustration and yearn for a return to the good old days? Or will it meet the challenge head on, hire technically competent specialists, and learn about and influence the development of access technology for the GUI? I hope that the latter will come to pass.
Whenever I talk to groups on the subject of technology, I always try to put in a plug for basic blindness skills. It is unreasonable, I think, to expect a blind person to operate a computer with ease and proficiency without these skills. The blind job-seeker needs to be able to travel independently, take notes with ease, read and write efficiently, and handle printed material with minimal difficulty. For many blind people this means competence in the use of the white cane, proficiency in the reading and writing of Braille, and the ability to acquire and manage sighted readers. Without basic skills the blind computer user will have great difficulty reading printed documentation, taking notes about new software, and learning a keyboard layout. Rehabilitation agencies must ensure that their clients receive proper training in these areas so that, when a job opportunity presents itself, blindness will not be a significant factor. My experience indicates that a lot of work still needs to be done here.
As I hope I've made plain throughout this talk, this business of technology for the blind is an extremely complex and fast-changing affair, requiring new strategies and approaches from the rehabilitation establishment. Computers and technology are here to stay. Whether we like it or not, our society has entered the computer age, and the blind are being swept along in the tide. As consumers we want rehabilitation agencies to provide the positive philosophy, the technical assistance, and the funding required to enable us to maintain parity with our sighted peers. We also want rehabilitation personnel to view technology in its proper perspective. Technology, in and of itself, cannot provide blind people with equal treatment and acceptance in the community. Technology alone will not persuade reluctant employers to open the door and take a chance on a blind employee. On the other hand, technology has helped the blind to perform jobs that twenty years ago didn't even exist. Technology has enabled the blind to receive more Braille than ever before, and it has opened the door to a vast array of electronic networks and bulletin boards. The rehabilitation system, working in concert with blind consumers, can meet the challenge.
[PHOTO: Jerry Whittle and student seated at table reading Braille documents. CAPTION: Jerry Whittle works with student Roy Morris, who is learning Braille.]
BRAILLE READING SPEED:
SOME HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS
by Jerry Whittle
From the Editor: For those of us who were not taught to read Braille efficiently as children or who did not become blind until adulthood, there are three Braille-reading options. We can sit around lamenting our bad luck and wishing that we could read Braille the way President Maurer does during his banquet addresses. We can learn a little Braille and use it gratefully but with some difficulty--complaining all the while about the frustration of not having Braille as a really first-rate tool of literacy. Or we can set to and work on increasing our reading speed on the theory that any increase will improve the usefulness of Braille and our competitiveness in the job market and in life.
Speaking personally, I have chosen the last alternative and have been working to increase my reading speed for several years now. Perhaps that is why I found the following article both interesting and challenging. Finding the time to read 10,000 pages or more of Braille a year, as Jerry Whittle recommends, sounds like a tall order to me, but I have discovered that the more one reads, the faster the words slide past under one's fingers, and I am already reading between ten and fifteen pages a day.
Mr. Whittle teaches Braille at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. He certainly knows what he is talking about when he gives advice about increasing Braille reading speed. This article first appeared in the Winter, 1993, edition of The Pathfinder, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana. Here is what Mr. Whittle has to say:
Over the past seven years I have had the opportunity to teach over two hundred blind persons to read Braille. During that period I have timed twelve students at rates of greater than three hundred words per minute. Of course, all of these rapid readers had been reading Braille since early childhood, and none of them needed to improve speed; however, there were some interesting similarities among many of them that are worthy of noting. First of all, eleven of the twelve read with two hands, starting the line with the left hand and finishing it with the right. Meanwhile, the left dropped down to the next line to find the beginning and start reading as soon as the right hand had finished. Only one of the twelve read more than three hundred words per minute using only the right hand. In fact, he read over five hundred words per minute. One of these twelve read one hundred sixty-nine words a minute when he entered the center. At the beginning of his training he read with his left hand only, but he moved both hands across the entire line and brought both all the way back to the beginning of the next line, losing approximately one second per line because of the inefficiency of this method. We encouraged him to read the first half of each line with his left hand, then track down to the beginning of the next line while finishing the line with his right. Once he started practicing this more efficient method, he no longer lost that second on each line since he could pick up the next one with his left hand as soon as his right had finished the last. As a consequence he increased his reading speed from one hundred sixty-nine to three hundred two words a minute before graduating.
After years of teaching, it is absolutely clear to me that the two-handed technique is by far the superior method. I remember another student who read only sixty words per minute when she entered the center. She read with only her right hand. She also took the advice to begin using both hands, and she increased her reading speed from sixty to one hundred twenty words per minute in six months; however, I should point out that she also read over three thousand Braille pages while she was a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
The number of pages read is an extremely important factor in building speed. A large proportion of Braille readers read at a rate of fifty to seventy words per minute. In order to increase speed, once someone is reading at sixty words a minute or more, he or she should read a minimum of ten thousand Braille pages a year, two hundred fifty pages a week, thirty-five pages a day-- give or take a few pages.
Setting goals is another important factor in attaining good or excellent reading speeds. I would suggest that one set page goals per day. For example, I currently have a student who has just finished Grade II Braille, and she is working diligently to build speed. When she first completed the code, she began to read a short novel, setting a goal of ten pages per day. She set aside a certain time in the evening to accomplish this rather ambitious task. During her first time test she read twenty-four words per minute. During the next month she faithfully maintained her page goal and even increased it to about fifteen pages per day. In her last timing she read forty-five words per minute. Of course, some of this speed resulted from her being able to pick up words more rapidly from context, and this ability accelerated her reading rate. Some of the improvement also resulted from her growing ability to pick up the signs more easily through constant practice and in general from her consistent hard work.
I have noticed that most of the students who really work hard attain a level of about sixty words per minute rather quickly after completing the code, usually in two to three months. Then the rate of speed levels off. This observation is not based on a controlled study but merely on my observation. What usually happens is that students are able to increase speed rapidly because the faster they read, the more it makes sense to them, and the more they pick up by context. For example, "Jack and Jill went up the ...": it does not take a mental giant to guess that the final word of this sentence will be "hill." However, once the student has reached a speed that takes account of contextual prediction, the rate levels off, and it then takes reading a tremendous number of pages to continue to increase steadily--at least ten thousand pages per year.
The best readers at the Louisiana Center for the Blind who knew no Braille before entering the Center have learned to read at a rate of fifty to seventy-five words per minute in six to nine months. The student in this category who attained the greatest speed before graduation read at a rate of seventy-five words per minute. That person read over eight thousand pages during that six-month period. She actually stayed in her apartment on many weekends and read Braille diligently. In other words she approached her Braille reading as if it were a job.
I would also suggest that those working to increase their reading speed work on their Braille before becoming too fatigued. If you are an early morning person, read early in the day. I know a former student who arises at five o'clock in the morning to read Braille before he begins to prepare for school at seven. Others are able to read late at night and set aside the time to do so. I also think it is important to read aloud during part of this reading time so that one does not develop sloppy reading habits. For example, when one reads aloud, it is hard to mumble through words; one must be exact. Also, by reading aloud periodically, one can begin to develop good reading techniques for delivering speeches or for reading in public places, such as church or before civic organizations. Additionally, reading aloud enables one to hear how fast he or she is picking up a line or to identify where any problems lie. I once had a student who was timed at three hundred fifteen words per minute. When she read aloud in public, she tried to read at that speed. She sounded like she was on fast forward. While she attended the center, she worked on improving her speech-making techniques. She tried to slow down to a reading rate of about one hundred twenty words per minute, and her speaking style improved tremendously. Incidentally, President Clinton's Inaugural Address was read at a rate of one hundred twenty words per minute, about the proper rate for communication of ideas without losing one's audience.
Another suggestion is to set a timer for five minutes and read aloud during this interval. If you can finish a Braille page in five minutes, you are reading at a rate of forty words per minute. If you read two pages, your rate is eighty words per minute. If you complete three, you are reading at a rate of one hundred twenty words per minute. By setting a timer periodically, one can see how much progress is being made, and the timer acts as a very good motivator to read faster.
In conclusion I would say that building reading speed requires hard work and consistency. It does little good to read thirty pages in one day and wait a week to read another thirty pages. The reading must be done on a consistent, day-by-day basis until a certain level of efficiency has been established. One must approach the challenge of increasing reading speed in the same way one approaches a job. Many students carry Dr. Jernigan's and President Maurer's banquet speeches around with them on trips in order to get in some reading in airplanes or in doctor's offices. These Braille speeches are lightweight and quite portable. It is amazing how much time one spends waiting, and this time can be used to increase reading speed. Most important, it is essential that one set high page goals, not necessarily time goals. Ten pages per day is a better goal than one hour. The two-handed technique is by far the best for optimum reading speed. Find something that holds your interest. If you are just beginning to read for speed, choose a book or magazine article that is not too complicated and work your way into more sophisticated reading material. Finally, read! read! read! Always read with both hands, and set ambitious page goals for yourself. If I can be of any further assistance in your quest to build reading speed, please call me at (318) 251-2891.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Ramona Walhof.]
REFLECTIONS ON REHABILITATION
by Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: One of the more disturbing habits of mind for all of us in the blindness field is the tendency to fall into the them-and-us pattern. We behave as though a chasm stretched between service-delivery people and consumers or potential consumers of those services. Our perspectives are necessarily and appropriately different, but all of us are in the same rehabilitation boat. If we fail to find ways of successfully rehabilitating blind people, we will all sink together; on the other hand, if dedication, innovation, and commitment to quality service forge the cooperation that alone can create success, we will all share in the victory.
Maintaining a balanced relationship in which honest feedback, encouragement, and challenge are mingled in the correct proportions is far from simple and requires good will and openness on both sides. Every local chapter with a service- delivery agency in its area, each state affiliate with its designated rehabilitation agency, and all of us in the Federation as a nationwide consumer organization dealing with national governmental and private agencies must be intelligently engaged in the struggle to make these relationships healthy and constructive.
In the Summer, 1992, issue of The Gem State Milestones, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, Ramona Walhof reflected on this relationship and the role of the organized blind movement in improving it. Here is what she had to say:
The National Federation of the Blind has often been charged with being negative where rehabilitation services are concerned. Some people have said that our members have been overcritical and unreasonable on the subject. I have heard rehab officials in some agencies complain that NFB banquet speakers from time to time have been too hard on the rehabilitation establishment.
All of this came to mind at our 1992 state convention as I listened to Joyce Scanlan's banquet address. She reviewed the life story of a blind man whom she had known as a child and who now lives in Minneapolis. He makes his living selling pencils in a shopping center. He is regarded by most people as a blind beggar. Joyce described this man as both intelligent and a failure. She reviewed the things he has attempted to do throughout his life. While she recognized the difficulties for other blind individuals resulting from the daily presence of a blind beggar in a busy shopping mall, she also described the difficulties faced by a blind person during the last sixty years. When presented in personal terms as Joyce did, the history of some blind people can be tragic and moving. The speech was well delivered and thoughtful.
All of this caused me to consider the question: who failed? It was not just the blind man, although he certainly has done so. But he is not the only failure. There have been many opportunities throughout his life for someone to help him. He received a poor education as a child and developed some peculiar mannerisms. When he became an adult, no one helped him develop a successful career. The blind man cannot avoid primary responsibility for himself. But programs established to serve him are implicated as well. And what about other blind people and organizations of the blind? We all failed this man. Most blind individuals who have succeeded did so because someone helped.
When I first joined the National Federation of the Blind back in the 1960's, what impressed me most was finding capable, intelligent blind people helping others. I wanted to be able to do as they did. I never dreamed the organization or anyone else could make as much progress as has occurred in the past twenty- five years. Consider some of the changes.
1. Far more blind individuals are employed by most rehabilitation agencies throughout the country today, and the number continues to increase.
2. The average blind person has a much better chance to learn to become a good independent traveler, although we still have much work to do in this area.
3. On the average, blind individuals get better support today for vocational training and higher education, including reader service.
4. Far more blind individuals are finding good jobs.
5. Families of blind children have more alternatives and support than ever before.
6. Major pieces of legislation affecting rehabilitation, education, employment, and general rights for blind people have been passed.
It is not possible to describe briefly the extent of change for blind persons over the past thirty or fifty years. The revolution touches every aspect of our lives. Neither is it possible to consider the progress without becoming painfully aware of the work left to be done. In every area blind people still fall short of equality, acceptance, and understanding.
The catalyst for change has been and will continue to be the National Federation of the Blind. Our efforts affect every other group doing work with the blind in the country and beyond. Most rehabilitation agencies do not think about or understand how different they are today from the way they were thirty or fifty years ago and why. But there are some of us who have been here long enough and who have watched the progress closely enough to observe and recognize causes and effects.
The history of the Idaho Commission for the Blind demonstrates this development dramatically. The Commission was created in 1967, and nobody doubts the reason why. Members of the NFB, who had had few opportunities and little training, persuaded the legislature to create the agency. Presidents of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho served on the Commission Board from 1967 until 1984. Directors of the Commission for the Blind have attended national and state conventions of the National Federation of the Blind most years ever since. Commission staff have sought advice from the Federation, and many have been members. Commission board members have also relied on the Federation's advice. The Federation has not run the Commission nor tried to. Commission staff members have sometimes been innovative and generally competent. Through the years there have been changes in the relationship between the Commission and the NFB of Idaho, but today there is generally a good working give- and-take relationship. Neither thinks the other is perfect, but there is certainly cooperation.
It is important for us to remember that when any blind person succeeds, it reflects on other blind individuals. When a blind person fails, this is also true, to a greater degree than we would like. Rehabilitation programs can provide much help and often do. Sometimes they could and should do more, and sometimes they do the wrong thing, because they underestimate the capacities of blind people.
The National Federation of the Blind will continue to negotiate with rehab when we can, fight with rehab when we must, advise rehab when asked, and influence rehab in every way we can. Criticism--both positive and negative--is an important part of the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
We must continue to analyze what is happening to be sure that the entire rehabilitation field continues to make progress. Joyce Scanlan's banquet address helped me to do this, and that's one of the things banquet speakers like to accomplish. As I work with blind people as friends and colleagues and as I listen to their problems and accomplishments, I cannot help reflecting on the changes that have occurred and dream of the progress yet to come.
I have a lot of respect for some people who work in rehab. For others I have none. It is impossible to lump all rehabilitation personnel into one group. Still we the blind must continue to work for better services. Collective action and policy statements and comments from consumers do have an effect. We must not simply engage in rehab-bashing, but doing nothing would be equally harmful.
The blind have learned to speak and act for themselves through the National Federation of the Blind. I am proud to be a part of this movement. It appeared that scores of people present at our recent state convention felt the same way. I hope to live to see the day when there will be no more blind beggars. Alternatives to begging and the training to pursue those alternatives must become more plentiful for all blind people, and our job in the Federation is to help bring all this to pass as quickly as possible.
[PHOTO: Rocky Spicer seated at his desk (pipe in hand) with a manual typewriter. CAPTION: Rocky Spicer sits at the typewriter. (Picture by John Malmin/LOS ANGELES TIMES.)]
NEWSPAPER FOR THE DEAF-BLIND
Note: In recent years we have heard a great deal about newspapers for the blind. Mostly these are talking newspapers--at first the radio reading services, and more recently the ones that are accessed by telephone and computer. Almost always, these enterprises are billed (and often with some justice) as pioneering efforts, but the pioneering is usually limited to a given city or state.
However, there is one newspaper for the blind (or, more properly, the deaf-blind) which is absolutely unique. Titled Hot- Line to Deaf-Blind, it goes throughout the world on a weekly basis, bringing news in Braille to the deaf-blind. Its editor, Rocky Spicer, is a retired public relations director of U.S. Steel. He has edited Hot-Line since its beginning in 1964, and has done so without financial compensation or very much recognition. Monitor readers should be aware of this publication, and any of our deaf-blind readers who want it should know how to get it. It can be had by writing to: Mrs. Jean Dyon Norris, Director of Operations, American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, 18440 Oxnard Street, Tarzana, California 91356.
Hot-Line is one of the programs of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. It is sent without charge to those who request it. In order to introduce Monitor readers to this worthwhile newspaper for the deaf-blind, we thought we might print most of the January 3, 1993, issue, which was a special edition. Here is what editor Spicer had to say:
It is customary of news organizations--newspapers, radio, TV, magazines--to do a year-end roundup of stories they have covered during the previous twelve months.
With the exception of Labor Day weekend, Hot-Line was published each week in 1992. That's 51 issues covering the major stories in the news.
The length of the stories and issues is dictated by production facilities. But, in no way, can Hot-Line be called a "news summary."
As Hot-Line's only editor since it was started in November, 1964, as the original and only Brailled source of hard news to the deaf-blind, it has been my policy to do the lead story of the week in depth. Sometimes this takes the entire issue of three, four, five, and sometimes six pages of double-spaced typewriting, which Brailles out about two for one.
The lead story in 1992's first issue, January 4, was on the resignation of Mikhail S. Gorbachev as the last president of the Soviet Union. It ran thirteen graphs. Other stories covered the forming of the government of Georgia Commonwealth Republic; the defection of Cubans to the U.S.; U.N. envoy Cyrus R. Vance's declared breakthrough in the six-month-old Yugoslav war as Serbian and Croatian leaders endorsed his plan for ending the conflict; progress of a plan for a cease-fire in the twelve years of fighting in El Salvador; and floods, which claimed 15 lives and caused heavy damage in Texas. President Bush, as told in an eight-graph story, began the longest foreign trip of his presidency, with twenty-one U.S. business executives invited along.
The biggest story of the year was the U.S. presidential election, beginning with the primaries and concluding with the election of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. Other big stories were Hurricane Andrew; the rioting, burning, and looting in Los Angeles after the trial of four L.A. police officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney G. King; Irangate; Iraqgate; the bogus check scandal in the U.S. House of Representatives; the progress of the political fortunes of Ross Perot, eccentric Texas billionaire, who ran, dropped out, and re-entered the presidential race with enthusiastic grass-roots backing; the marital difficulties of the British royal family; air crashes; murders; space flights; the S and L scandals; AIDS; governmental electoral changes; and coups throughout the world; the Haiti boat people; the continuing fighting in Bosnia-Hercegovina and the Balkans; the reductions in nuclear warheads pacts signed by Presidents Bush and Yeltsin of Russia; the so-called tailhook scandal, in which Navy and Marine Corps pilots allegedly assaulted twenty-six women at a 1991 convention, leading to resignations and firings of several military and civilian top brass; the naming of a new black police chief in Los Angeles; California earthquakes; rioting in India; President Bush's sending 2,500 troops to Kuwait to counter Iraq's Saddam Hussein's sabre rattling; President Bush committing some 28,000 American troops to Somalia to spearhead U.N. forces; and the Christmas Eve Bush pardons of former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and five others of criminal prosecutions in the Iran-Contra case.
Hot-Line to the Deaf-Blind, a Braille newspaper published by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, was started in November, 1964. Until the first week of August, 1990, it was published twice monthly.
With the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Hot-Line began appearing as a weekly. It is distributed free to readers throughout the United States and upwards of forty-six foreign countries....
In addition to individual subscribers, Hot-Line is sent free to various libraries for the blind and government agencies for the blind in the states and countries receiving it.
When Hot-Line began in 1964, it was the original and only Brailled source of hard news to the deaf-blind.
Hot-Line treats news fairly, with no taboos as to subject. Deaf-blind readers are interested in everything.
Hot-Line was the idea of the late A. G. (Tony) Mannino, executive Director of the American Brotherhood for the Blind. Himself blind, Mannino recognized the need for news by the deaf- blind, a need attested to by the hundreds of letters received from readers.
Each edition of Hot-Line carries news source credits. News items are edited from newspapers, news magazines, wire associations, and radio and TV. A one-time Los Angeles newspaper man and retired public relations director of U.S. Steel corporation, I have been Hot-Line's sole editor since the first issue in November, 1964.
I fell into editing Hot-Line when Mannino asked my late wife, Jay, if she thought I would take the job. (Jay had since 1962 been a volunteer at what was then called the American Brotherhood for the Blind and had originated the Braille Lending Library and Braille pocket calendar.) Mannino first asked if I would try to find a working newspaper man to edit Hot-Line, but after asking several, I found that none would handle the job unless it paid equal to newspaper wage scale. I agreed to take the editing job at no pay on a temporary basis until Mannino could find someone permanently.
The top stories of the past quarter century-plus have been covered. Among stories in back files of Hot-Line are: Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Watergate, Nixon's resignation and pardon, national elections and changes in government through the electoral process..., the Iran hostages and attempts to rescue them, the assassination of Robert Kennedy and his funeral train, campus unrest, civil rights, ERA, natural disasters, floods, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, plane and train crashes, murders, corruption in high (and low) places, politics, mores, fads, fashions, narcotics and drug wars, the downing of Flight 007 and the subsequent investigation, Exxon Valdez, the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, Panama, and many others.
On the twentieth anniversary of man's first landing on the moon a collection of stories from Hot-Line on flights of Apollo 11, 12, and 13 was reissued in Braille book form and can be borrowed from the American Action Fund's Braille Lending Library in Tarzana, California. A print and Braille copy of the book, titled Man Against Space, was sent to the Manned Spacecraft Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The reply we received said in part:
"Have just finished reading The Man on the Moon special edition of Hot-Line to Deaf-Blind. The content is both concise and accurate, and the writing is particularly outstanding. The copies have been forwarded to the astronauts, and you will be hearing from them. We here at the Manned Spacecraft Center appreciate the wonderful job you are doing for the deaf-blind."
Hot-Line is sent to readers in Australia, Bangladesh, British Honduras, Canada, Central Africa, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Kerala, Korea, Malasia, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of China, Republic of South Africa, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and to the fifty U.S. States and Puerto Rico.
I have been a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi) since 1937 and was president of the Los Angeles chapter in 1966 when I conceived and established the chapter scholarship for college journalists.
I am a charter-honorary life member of the Greater Los Angeles Press Club and a director (1961-83) and treasurer (1972- 73. As a current freelance writer, I am a contributor to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Westways and The Journalist and Horizons magazines.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Hilda Caton.]
BRAILLE RESEARCH CENTER OPENS AT APH
by Paula Penrod
Readers of the Braille Monitor will recognize the name of Dr. Hilda Caton of Louisville, Kentucky. As a professional in the blindness field, she has for years been a staunch supporter of Braille and an advocate for its instruction and broad use. Representing the American Printing House for the Blind, she is working closely with the National Federation of the Blind on a project to develop a new textbook for teaching Braille to adults, which will be used in the Braille classes at the NFB training centers. Center graduates will then be assigned Braille-reading mentors to work with them to increase their Braille skills during the first six months after graduation. Periodically during the process the students' Braille skills will be evaluated. The intent is to develop improved ways of teaching adults to read and write Braille effectively.
Dr. Caton was elected to chair the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) at its annual meeting, November 8 to 10, 1992, in Louisville, Kentucky. On the BANA Board Dr. Caton represents the Association for the Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired. She has been outspoken in her support for the Braille bill that became law in Kentucky last year. Everyone who knows and respects her is delighted at her election to leadership on the BANA Board at this critical time.
Dr. Caton has also been appointed Director of the newly established Braille Research Center at the American Printing House for the Blind. The Center is now doing important research about Braille. The following article about the Center was written by Paula Penrod, Consumer Information Assistant at the American Printing House for the Blind. Here it is:
Walking into the newly founded Braille Research Center (BRC) at APH, one readily feels the excitement generated by Director Hilda Caton and her staff. "It is an exciting time for Braille," commented Caton.
"It is exciting because the BRC will now be able to do the kinds of research that the Research and Development Department at APH could not do. Not that they were incapable of doing so, but much of the research needed falls into categories which federal agencies have been reluctant to fund in the past. We will be able to conduct research on such things as methods for teaching Braille and the physical characteristics of the Braille codes," continued Caton.
The BRC, in operation for only a few months (it opened September 1, 1992), is already engaged in some detailed studies. Perhaps the most extensive project is the work they are doing in collaboration with the Braille Authority of North America (BANA). This entails conducting most of the research related to the development of a unified Braille code. [See the article by Fred Schroeder elsewhere in this issue.]
Some of the information Caton and her staff will compile for BANA includes a code comparison study of all English Braille codes. For example, they will examine the British code and compare it with the American code and then present their findings and recommendations to BANA. Other areas for which they will assume responsibility are the design of the unified code, the evaluation plans, and the field testing of the code.
Another project involving the BRC is the Linguistic Analysis of Grade II Literary Braille. This study deals with the frequency with which contractions occur in literary Braille, how frequently contractions in the lower part of the cell are written in that form and how frequently they are spelled out, and a word-length comparison of words in Braille to those in print.
"Huge linguistic studies have been done in regard to the British literary Braille code, but relatively little has been done regarding the American literary code. This study will also help in developing the unified code because we will be able to look at Braille contractions in relationship to their linguistic function," said Caton.
Delving into the plans of the BRC, Caton was asked about future work the Center would like to tackle. "Some of the things we're looking to do are:
* Developing a computer program for vision teachers that will upgrade their Braille skills
* Conducting a comprehensive nationwide study to evaluate the Braille reading and writing skills of blind students and adults
* Investigating how Braille is being taught and acquiring information about the training of instructors."
"We are willing to consider conducting research for other organizations and individuals, if the work falls within the guidelines of the center," said Emerson Foulke, Professor Emeritus, University of Louisville, and BRC Advisory Board member.
The BRC will operate as a subsidiary of APH. While the initial funding has been provided by the APH Board of Directors, the Center will be funded primarily from gifts and grants from private individuals and organizations. "Ultimately, we will be a separate unit, but will operate under the auspices of APH," said Caton.
Caton is assisted in the Center by Beth Gordon, Research Associate, and other APH personnel. "We think Braille is fun and exciting. We need someone in the Center who feels the same way. Certainly Gordon fits the description. And she has the background," said Caton.
Gordon has four years of experience teaching blind students. She recently received a master's degree in vision from the University of Louisville.
APH's President Tuck Tinsley and Executive Vice-President June Morris will serve as ex-officio members on the BRC Advisory Board. Emerson Foulke; Philip Hatlen, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind; Dean Tuttle, Professor Emeritus, Northern Colorado University; and Robert Winn, President, Hadley School for the Blind, comprise the Advisory Board.
While the curtain has just been raised on the new Braille Research Center, Caton is satisfied at this stage. She does admit, however, that she is looking forward to the time when her crew increases in number so that they can pursue more endeavors in a timelier manner.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Ronald B. Meyer.]
SCENT OF A WOMAN
A Review by Ronald B. Meyer
Note: As most Americans doubtless know, the movie Scent of a Woman has recently been much discussed. Produced and directed by Martin Brest with script by Bo Goldman and Dino Rissi, it features a blind character, Lt. Col. Frank Slade. Ronald B. Meyer, who records the Braille Monitor and other materials at the National Center for the Blind, has written a review of Scent of a Woman. Here is what he has to say:
"HOOahh!" Al Pacino blurts onto the screen as the oversexed, heavy drinking, crude, and sexist Lt. Col. Frank Slade in a role that recently won him an Oscar. Slade was blinded while juggling hand grenades (pins pulled to make it more interesting), so naturally he is a lonely, depressed bully to his niece and her family--he calls them the "Flintstones"--and, naturally, he is self-destructive--hence his drinking.
It's the week of the Thanksgiving holiday at the venerable Baird School, a New Hampshire prep school specializing in turning boys into men of integrity and character. One of those boys, Charlie Simms (played by Chris O'Donnell) sees a way to make enough money to go home to Gresham, Oregon, over Christmas: a local family needs someone to look after their Uncle Frank while they escape for their own Thanksgiving. Charlie takes the job after Colonel Frank--in an acerbic, angry interview in his dark outbuilding apartment--is satisfied that Charlie has no pimples on his face.
But Charlie has troubles at Baird: He was witness to a prank pulled by other students, a clique he aspires to join, and is called on to name names by Headmaster Trask (played by James Rebhorn), the target of the prank. Trask even attempts to bribe Charlie with admittance to Harvard on graduation from Baird if only he'll tell. Given the Thanksgiving holiday to think on it, Trask tells Charlie that a disciplinary hearing will be held the Monday of his return.
After "the Flintstones" leave, Slade tells Charlie he needs a "seeing eye dog" for a high-rolling adventure in New York. Charlie balks, but the Colonel's overpowering personality prevails. Slade takes Charlie's arm, unfolds his sternum-length black cane, and takes off in first-class style for the Big Apple.
SLADE: "Are you blind?"
SLADE: (shouting) "Are you blind?"
CHARLIE: "Of course not."
SLADE: "Then never grab my arm. I grab your arm."
CHARLIE: "I'm sorry."
SLADE: "Don't be sorry. How would you know?"
But it isn't just an adventure, paid for by saved-up disability checks, that the Colonel has in mind. Slade admits to Charlie that the last of the three things he wants to do in New York is blow his brains out with a .45 pistol.
HOOahh! The Colonel takes Charlie to an expensive restaurant, where they meet the beautiful Donna (played by Gabrielle Anwar). Slade charms her and dances a fine tango. His heightened senses of smell and hearing amaze the bumpkin student. Later, Charlie and the limo driver wait at the curb while Slade has a prostitute entertain him in a high-class brothel. He really would rather have a woman he can wake up next to in the morning, but this is all the Colonel thinks he can get as a blind man.
Still later, the Colonel has Charlie help him crash his brother's Thanksgiving dinner. If we needed any more evidence of what a jerk Col. Slade is, and was before he became blind, his boorish performance at this tense Thanksgiving dinner leaves no doubt. At one point a nephew he has been baiting shoots back at Slade, "Maybe God thinks some people don't deserve to see." Slade leaps on him with a strangle hold, then deposits him, crumpled and gasping, on the floor.
The fun isn't over yet. Slade bribes a Ferrari dealer to let 17-year-old Charlie drive a floor model, but soon the Colonel takes the wheel--just as he did with his own Ferrari in the old, sighted days. With Charlie giving directions, they get up to 70 mph on New York City streets before a police officer stops them. He doesn't notice the driver is blind. The Colonel turns on the charm again. He says he left his license at the dealer's. The officer lets them go with a verbal warning.
We see throughout the movie the extent of the Colonel's blindness skills: he walks no more than from a car to a building unassisted; he reads not at all, not even talking books; he knows how to drink--and he knows how to assemble and break down his .45 pistol in about thirty seconds.
Yes, all vacations must come to an end--and though Charlie has persuaded Slade to give up his ammunition so he can't shoot himself, the Colonel didn't relinquish all his bullets. The boy, having been taught by the older man, must now teach him that he's not unfit to live, or unequal to the sighted. At the crucial scene Slade asks for a reason to live.
CHARLIE: "I'll give you two: You tango better and drive a Ferrari better than anyone I know."
Having learned the meaning of life, Slade has to return the favor on Monday morning when he delivers Charlie to Baird School and the disciplinary hearing. The Colonel appears as student- advocate for Charlie, who refuses to inform on his fellows. This makes Trask angry. But Slade rises and gives the assembled multitude a speech in earthy language on the wealth of integrity Charlie possesses, and how someone here (he won't say who, but Trask shifts uncomfortably) tried to bribe Charlie into repudiating that virtue.
HOOahh! So Slade is a good guy after all? Maybe. But he's not a very good blind guy. I was left wondering how his life might change after he felt Charlie's face goodbye and walked up the driveway to his lonely apartment, and his bottle, once again. Has he lost his anger? Will he try to live a normal life now, taking advantage of all that the blind can do regardless of not having eyesight? He obviously has some spark of charm in him. He does, that is, when he's not being angry at the world. Will he quit bawling and get a life? Or will he stay a noisy, crude, oversexed jerk? There were some small signs of reform: Outside, after the disciplinary hearing, a woman shows some interest in Slade in spite of his blindness and bluntness; and when he walks up the driveway to his apartment, Slade actually speaks kindly to his niece's playing children.
The reaction of the motion picture academy could have been predicted. Al Pacino, though nominated several times, had never won an Oscar. This time he carried it home--though he also carried home all those stereotypes with him. Indeed, I have heard little but praise from the critics about Scent of a Woman. Even Roger Ebert, who seemed so sensitive to the crude depiction of blindness in Jennifer 8--where the detective identified a corpse as a blind man because his fingers were worn down from reading Braille--had nothing bad to say about the corrupted blind role model in Scent. So Pacino was named "best actor," and considering the limitations put on him by the script, perhaps he should have got it. But the damage done to the public understanding of blindness should win the writers "worst characterization of a blind man."
My companion to the cinema couldn't understand why I objected to this story about one blind person. I explained that until blind people are fully integrated into society on a basis of equality with the sighted, this story can't be about one blind person. That's because movies are one of the few schools in which the general public learns about all blind people. The lesson of Scent of a Woman is that all blind people are angry and socially maladjusted while feeling inferior and suicidal.
Some day we may acknowledge that that is occasionally true--though blind people don't have a monopoly on such things--but that will be the graduate course in blindness. The public is still taking freshman classes.
If I were making a rating scale for a movie dealing with blindness, I might do it with canes and tin cups. The cane and tin cup could be used in combination: four canes = excellent (a must-see); three canes = good (worth a look); two canes = fair (has problems); one cane = poor (not recommended); tin cup = old-fashioned and custodial. On this scale Scent of a Woman, then, would receive one cane and one tin cup.
This month's recipes come from the Hoosier State.
by Pat Howard
Pat Howard is the wife of Paul Howard, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana.
1 pound cooked pork, chicken, or beef, minced
1/2 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
2 tablespoons dried oriental mushrooms, minced and soaked
Dash white pepper
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1/2 to 1 tablespoon curry powder
3/4 pound won ton wrappers
oil for deep frying
Method: Combine meat, celery, onion, mushrooms, white pepper, soy sauce, and curry powder. Mix well. Place 1 teaspoon filling just off center of each won ton wrapper. Fold wrapper over filling, forming rectangle. Pleat open edges and press to seal. Fry in deep oil heated to 375 degrees until golden brown.
CHINESE BARBECUED RIBS
(SHAO PI K'U)
by Pat Howard
1-1/2 to 2 pounds fresh pork spare ribs, cut crosswise into 1-
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Hoisin or chili sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
1 small clove garlic crushed
Method: Place ribs in shallow glass or plastic dish. Mix together remaining ingredients and spoon over ribs. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours. Remove ribs from marinade, reserving marinade. Arrange ribs meaty sides up in single layer on rack in foil-lined broiler pan. Brush with reserved marinade. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Brush ribs with marinade. Cook uncovered, brushing occasionally with marinade, until done, about 45 minutes longer. Makes about 42 appetizers.
by Pat Howard
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, and minced
12 water chestnuts, diced
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon sherry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
oil for deep frying
Method: To make dip, mix vinegar, sugar, and mustard until smooth. Add water to make a thick paste. Gradually stir in soy sauce and mix well. Set aside. To make puffs, mix shrimp, water chestnuts, flour, sherry, salt, and egg together well. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls, drop into deep oil heated to 350 degrees and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve hot with mustard-soy dip.
by Pat Howard
1-1/2 pound fresh or frozen shrimp, shelled and deveined
6 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon MSG (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sesame oil
14 to 16 thin slices white bread
1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 cup oil
Method: Soak shrimp in salted water and drain well. Chop finely and mix with pork, sherry, soy sauce, salt, MSG, pepper, green onions, 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, sesame oil and 1 egg. Mix well. Dredge each slice of bread in cornstarch. Shake off excess. Spread shrimp-pork mixture generously over one side of each bread slice. Beat remaining 2 eggs in bowl. Brush bread and filling with beaten eggs. Sprinkle bread crumbs over filling. Cut bread slices into quarters diagonally to make triangles. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees. Slide bread, filling side down, into hot oil. Fry until golden, then turn to brown other side lightly. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot. Makes 56 to 64 appetizers.
by Pat Tussing
Pat Tussing is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana.
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1-1/2 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans
Method: Sift together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. Cream the butter, egg yolk, and vanilla. Blend in dry ingredients until the mixture becomes a thick, sticky dough. Pat the dough into a 9 x 13-inch pan. Whip the egg white with a fork until frothy and brush across the surface of the dough. Arrange pecans on top. Bake 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool and cut into squares.
EASY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
by John and Linda Stroot
John Stroot is a member of the Board of Directors of the NFB of Indiana.This recipe looks impossible to anyone used to reading cookie recipes, but Linda swears that it not only works but is delicious. She also says that once you try it you will never go back to ordinary peanut butter cookies.
1 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
Method: Mix the three ingredients and drop by teaspoonfuls on cookie sheet. Press down with fork. Bake for 10 minutes. Cookies will seem soft when they first come out of the oven, but after they cool, they tend to be a little crisp, so do not over- bake.
**Recipes and Household Hints:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"The Kanawha Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in Charleston, West Virginia, is selling a 285-recipe cookbook with 800 household hints. The cost is $12 for the print (including shipping and handling) and $8 for the tape (which includes shipping if one does not wish to have it sent Free Matter). The cost is $6 if one chooses to have it shipped free. Make checks payable to: KVCNFBWV and send to: Mr. Ed Greenleaf at 502 Piccadilly Street, Charleston, West Virginia 25302. If there are any questions, his phone number is (304) 345-8998."
**Transcribed from Print to Braille:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"Anyone wanting print materials transcribed from print into Braille should call (717) 652-1175, or write: Cindy Durborow, 6035 Devonshire Road, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17112. Please correspond in Braille or typewritten format."
We recently received the following note from Ronald Greene, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa:
Friday, February 12, 1993, my mother, Marie E. Greene, passed away at the age of ninety-one. She was just twelve days from her next birthday. Since this information was not given at the mini convention held in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, March 20, 1993, and since I do not know whether this news was sent into the Braille Monitor, I wanted to write this note to let you know of this news and to have you put this notice into the "Monitor Miniatures."
**Braille Proofreader Sought:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Are you looking for a new start with a new job in a warm, sunny climate? If you're a proficient Braille reader, Braille International, Inc., may be the answer.
Braille International, Inc., a nonprofit organization located in Stuart, Florida, is looking for two Braille proofreaders to join its growing staff. Applicants must be fluent in Grade 2 Braille, with strong grammar skills and good English speaking abilities. Preference will be given to applicants who are NLS certified, but certification can be completed later. Proofreaders work in teams, so the ability to work closely with others is important.
The application process begins with a test to be completed at home and returned by mail. Then, select applicants go through a three- to five-day trial period at Braille International. Applicants must pay their own airfare, but the organization provides hotel, transportation, and meals. Financial assistance is provided to help offset moving expenses after being hired. Also, all costs incurred in moving for a job are tax-deductible.
Braille International, Inc., is the nation's largest literary publisher of Braille materials and the largest provider of Braille to the Library of Congress. It also operates the William A. Thomas Braille Bookstore, the only all-Braille retail store in the nation.
For more information call Sandi Lindsey, production manager, toll-free at (800) 336-3142 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
Adrienne Asch, who is an active and thoughtful Federationist living in Massachusetts and teaching at Boston University's School of Social Work, was asked in early March to serve for two months on the Health Care Reform Task force headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Miss Asch is part of Workgroup Seventeen, which is charged with developing the Ethical Foundations of the New System. The thirty people in this group have expertise in either theology or bioethics. They gather in Washington at least three days a week and meet in the Old Executive Office Building on the grounds of the White House. Miss Asch reports that, though exhausting--workdays are always at least twelve hours long--the experience is exciting and stimulating. She says that the technological revolution has made her participation in the entire demanding process possible. Each member of the workgroup brings his or her own computer to each meeting so that during part of the day everyone can write, edit, and review the work of other group members. Because of this process people can give Miss Asch disk copies of their material rather than print ones. This procedure enables her to read the work of most of her colleagues- -those, at least, whose computers are compatible with her own. Congratulations and good luck to both Adrienne Asch and the task force.
**National Church Conference of the Blind:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The fortieth anniversary National Church Conference of the Blind will take place from July 25 to 29, 1993, at the Ramada Hotel in St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to Bible studies, enjoy talent time, seminars, tours, exhibits, and banquet. Braille and large print hymnbooks are provided. For further information contact the Rev. Frank Finkenbinder, P.O. Box 163, Denver, Colorado 80201; or phone (303) 455-3430.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
One Apple IIGS computer with 1.2 MB circuit board, 128K of memory, two 3 1/2-inch disk drives, two 5 1/4 disk drives, one RGB color monitor, one Slotbuster synthesizer, one Echo synthesizer, numerous computer programs, numerous computer disks (many of which haven't been used), one Epson LQ1050 dot matrix printer, one large anti-static mat that the computer sits on. There is about $8,000 worth of equipment here, but I will sacrifice and sell it for $2,000. Computer is only three years old and has had only moderate use. Reason for selling--I am going into Braille transcribing and will have to use IBM equipment. I do not need two computers, and I'd like to sell my Apple to someone who can get some use out of it rather than let this perfectly good equipment sit here going to waste and gathering dust. If interested, contact Janet Cross, P.O. Box 86, 301 Randolph Street, Vardaman, Mississippi 38878; (601) 682-7748.
**Seedlings Braille Books Offer New Service:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children is pleased to announce that the newest titles added to the catalog are Together Time Books With Music by Kathy Poelker. Each set of Together Time books for pre-readers comes with three print books with Braille added, a musical read-along cassette, and parents' guide in print and on cassette. Two sets are currently available.
Teachers can encourage summer reading by providing students with 1993 catalogs. Braille/print books are available at the same price as the print version, and Braille books at one half the cost of production. Seedlings Braille Books for Children can be contacted at (800) 777-8552, as well as by fax at (313) 427-8552.
**Rarin' to Go:
The National Federation of the Blind of Texas is getting everything in order to host the coming national convention. The affiliate recently conducted its annual convention and held off- year elections, including the replacement of First-Vice President Jeff Pearcy, who has moved to Ruston, Louisiana. The newly elected members of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas are Doris Henderson, First Vice- President; Tommy Craig, Secretary; and Paul Reyes and Lola Pace, members of the Board of Directors.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The newly elected 1993-94 officers and board members of the San Antonio Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas are Martha Laque, president; Sam Jackson, first vice president; James Sofka, second vice president; Mary Donahue, secretary; Belinda (B.J.) Lane, treasurer; and Beverly Wilson, Malachi Troup, Manuel Gonzalez, and Scott Edwards, board members.
Mary Donahue also reports that, in conjunction with the 1993 National Convention to be held in Dallas, the San Antonio Chapter is holding a raffle. Tickets will be $1 apiece or six for $5. The drawing will take place at the chapter's December, 1993, Christmas party, and three names will be drawn. The prizes will consist of $300, $200, and $100 gift certificates from J.C. Penney's. Chapter members will be circulating around the exhibit hall during the National Convention selling these tickets. So buy your raffle tickets and enjoy yourselves in Dallas this summer.
**Standard Personal Bank Loans for Technology Now Available in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Adaptek Systems and Marine Midland Bank of New York State have set up a loan program designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to obtain financial assistance to purchase adaptive technology. Terry Martin, President of Adaptek Systems, developed the concept for this special program. Adaptek Systems is a New York-based company that provides products, services, and support for all people with reading disabilities who reside in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.
Adaptek Systems is the exclusive marketing agent for this very simple program. It consists of the following procedures: 1. The loan applicant, who must live in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, purchases products through Adaptek Systems. 2. The applicant applies for a loan using Marine Midland's telephone banking unit. A special toll-free 800 number will be set up exclusively for this program. 3. Applicants must mention on the loan application that they are purchasing adaptive products from Adaptek Systems. 4. Marine Midland will reply regarding loan approval within two business days. If the application is approved, the applicant must go to the nearest Marine Midland branch to sign the application and pick up the loan check. 5. The applicant must submit invoices from Adaptek Systems before picking up the check or, in the case of Xerox Imaging Systems products, an order form that was filled out by Adaptek Systems. 6. If the applicant lives outside of New York State, he or she must go to a Marine Midland branch in New York State to close on the loan. It is that simple. Loan terms are standard personal loans at competitive interest rates.
People interested in participating in this loan program should call the toll-free Adaptek Systems number, (800) 685-4566, to obtain additional information about this program.
We are grieved to report that on March 1 Musa Yamini, the fourteen-year-old son of Ehab and Sabrina Yamini, died at the family's home. The Yaminis are active members of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, and Ehab addressed the 1991 convention about his beekeeping business. Ehab asks for Federationists' prayers for Musa.
**Recorded Hitchhiking Journals Now Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Six sets of cassette-recorded journals, recounting the author's adventures and reflections during hitchhiking journeys in the U.S. and Canada (The Smokies, The Winter Trip, The North Woods, British Columbia, Across and Back, and The First Key West), are now available at an approximate cost of $5 a tape. Those interested in receiving more information and an order form may contact Rick Keller at P.O. Box 1171, Akron, Ohio 44309; or (800) 854-5071.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Toshiba 1000 portable personal computer with carrying case for sale. Brand new battery. Compatible with most IBM software. MS DOS Version 2.11. Equipped with an Artic Synphonix 235, Version 3.04, Business Vision. Asking $500. If interested, call Christine Hall at (505) 268-3895; or write 3404C Indian School Road, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106.
Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, reported in the March 25 edition of "The Clipboard," the affiliate's weekly publication, that "'Blindness and Health Concerns` was the title of a seminar held at the Burbank Hilton on Saturday, March 13. This seminar was hosted by the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the NFB of California and was funded through a grant from the Burbank Hospital Foundation. Chapter President Donovan Cooper chaired the all-day seminar. As far as Sharon knows, this was the first time in California that medical professionals and consumers have gathered to discuss common concerns of dealing with blindness.
"Diabetes continues to be the leading cause of blindness. For the newly blind diabetic, the usual fears that accompany the loss of sight are often accentuated by the need to manage the disease. Such important life-sustaining duties as monitoring blood sugar, administering insulin, and marking prescriptions require the immediate learning of new skills and some changes in equipment and thinking. Of course the usual challenges of managing life as a blind person occur as well. Therefore, the seminar agenda also included discussions of mobility, Braille, employment, etc." Congratulations to all parties for conducting this important seminar.
**More New Chapters:
We are pleased to learn of further recent expansion in the Federation family. Sharon Gold, President of the National Federation of the Blind of California, reports the creation of the thirty-eighth chapter in the affiliate. The officers of the newly formed Yuba-Sutter Chapter are Jake Johnson, president; Joni Adams, vice president; and Bert Davis, secretary/treasurer.
Don Capps, president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, also reports the birth of yet another new chapter in his affiliate. On March 18, 1993, the Barnwell County Chapter became the thirty-ninth in the ever expanding NFB of South Carolina. The officers are Jeff Collins, president; Guy Edwin Cooley, vice president; Violet Dozier, secretary; and Carol Easterling, treasurer.
Dr. Tim Cranmer, chairman of the National Federation of the Blind's Research and Development Committee, reports that members of the Committee recently participated in the design and construction of a special cable to connect a glucometer to a Braille 'n Speak. The Health Scan One Touch II glucometer is available from your local drugstore, and the cable is available from Blazie Engineering for $25.
When the glucometer is connected to the Braille 'n Speak with the cable and both devices are turned on, every message that appears on the display of the glucometer is spoken and slowly repeated. Although this arrangement enables the blind user to hear what is displayed during the blood test, it does not in any way change the operation of the glucometer.
For more information about the Health Scan One Touch Glucometer, contact your physician or pharmacist. For more information about connecting the glucometer to your Braille 'n Speak, contact Blazie Engineering or come to the R&D Committee meeting on Wednesday evening during the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
The San Diego Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California recently conducted elections with the following results: Norm Peters, president; Joe Lopez, vice president; John Miller, secretary; Jackie Burcher, treasurer; and board members, Ivan Weich and Valerie Miller.