Vol. 37, No. 11 December
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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Vol. 37, No. 11 December 1994
WAS IT SWISS
OR HONG KONG: THE STORY OF MAXI-AIDS
by Kenneth Jernigan and Barbara Pierce
A CANE: Parents Prevail in Due Process Hearing
by Barbara A. Cheadle and Douglas C. Boone
THERE IS A SEASON
by Barbara Pierce
by Kenneth Jernigan
WHEN THE BLIZZARD
by Marc Maurer
FOR EDUCATING EMPLOYERS
by Christine Flory
EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD FOR 1995
by Sharon Maneki
THE 1995 BLIND
EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
by Stephen O. Benson
FOR ALL OF US
by Homer Page
by Bill Meeker
MAKE PLANS FOR CHICAGO
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Stephen O. Benson
by Stephen O. Benson
Copyright 1994 National Federation of the Blind
by Kenneth Jernigan and Barbara Pierce
Among those who buy products for the blind in bulk and then provide them to the public, Maxi-Aids has generally had a reputation for competitive prices and on-time delivery--characteristics that have resulted in much business for Maxi- Aids. It sounds like the American dream in action, but alas, there appears to be an underside, one that raises disturbing questions about ethics in general and the willingness of some volume purchasers to look the other way when it is cost-effective or convenient.
Admittedly competitors have everything to gain if one of the most successful of them can be put out of action. But the accusations that continue to circulate about Maxi-Aids will not go away. In fact, they surface with increasing rapidity and seriousness as the months and years go by. The allegations are far-ranging. They include but are not limited to selling Hong Kong-made watches as Swiss and one-jewel mechanisms as seventeen- jewel; offering payoffs to employees of competitors to steal product designs for Maxi-Aids; and masquerading as a woman-owned business to get the competitive edge for a contract and as a minority-owned company a few months later when that seemed helpful. In fact, there seems to be no end to the charges and complaints.
Disturbed by the rumors circulating in the blindness field, the Braille Monitor began to try to sort out facts from suspicions and specifics from generalities. There was no dearth of people willing to make statements about their experience with Maxi-Aids and its founder, Elliot Zaretsky, as well as his two sons, Mitchell and Harold. One of these statements was submitted by Marvin Sandler, President and CEO of Independent Living Aids (ILA). Here it is:
Statement by Marvin Sandler, January 17, 1994:
Our problems with the Zaretskys, father and son, go back to the inception of Maxi-Aids and involve the wholesale copying of our catalogs and our product descriptions, even the use of our photos, which they simply cut out of our own catalogs and had photocopied. As an example I am enclosing a copy of a page from a Maxi-Aids catalog of the late 1980's, showing Braille watches. It contains photos of our own Braille watches, photocopied from our catalog, and on which a typewritten "MA" has been pasted over our own "ILA" logo. We eventually were able to identify 105 different products on which Maxi-Aids had copied our photos, our product descriptions, and even our catalog numbers--thus stealing our intellectual property and cheating us of the fruits of our labors.
We retained legal counsel, and I have a file about an inch thick containing letters written by our attorney, demanding that Maxi-Aids cease and desist from the wholesale copying of our catalog. In response, we have several evasive letters from the Zaretskys, promising to take remedial action (which, I might add, was never taken).
In response to the oft-heard complaint, "I can't find a good looking watch that I can see," my wife and I went to Hong Kong in early 1991 and designed a line of low vision watches which proved to be extremely popular. They proved to be so good that we won the 1991 Texas Commission for the Blind bid for low vision watches, and our watches became the standard for the following year.
When the 1992 bid was tendered with our watches listed as the standard, Maxi-Aids was the winning bidder, having beaten us by 6 cents per watch, under circumstances that I can only regard as suspicious since he [Elliot Zaretsky] has beaten us by the same 6 cents figure on several bids before and after the 1992 watch incident.
Shortly after Maxi-Aids won the Texas bid, one of my Hong Kong suppliers sent me copies of faxes that had been received from Maxi-Aids, and which were signed by Mitchell Zaretsky, containing photocopies of our watches and asking that the suppliers manufacture the same watches and put the Maxi-Aids logo on them. The Texas bid required that a sample be sent if the watch to be supplied was not the standard (which was our own watch). Armed with the knowledge imparted by the faxes sent by my own supplier that Maxi-Aids did not even have a sample, much less quantities of merchandise to fill the Texas order, I called the Texas Commission to find out the status of the order. I was advised that Maxi-Aids had submitted one of my watches, with my logo on it, as his sample and promised to deliver the identical watch with his own logo if he got the order. Although I protested that it was unethical to submit one of my watches as his own sample and equally improper for the Texas Commission to accept such a submission, the bid was awarded to Maxi-Aids. This reinforced my belief that the playing field was not level.
The watches that the Zaretskys copied from us appeared in the 1992-93 Maxi-Aids catalog, as per the enclosed photocopy of page 19 of that year's edition. They listed the watches as Swiss-made and even stated that "All Maxi-Aids watches are made in Switzerland. All have seventeen-jewel movements." Although his business tactics can almost always be described in joking terms as beneath reproach, he sank below his lowest standards and engaged in outright fraud, by describing a 1-jewel Hong Kong watch as being seventeen-jewel, Swiss-made. As usual, he used our own photo, taken right from our catalog, and blotted out our logo and used it for his catalog.
I can't begin to describe how upset I was to see the product that I had worked so hard to develop simply stolen and then fraudulently advertised as Swiss made--thus unfairly making his watch seem superior and diverting sales to him that we should have made.
In an effort to make sure that I had all the facts before taking further action, I had one of my employees purchase two of his watches and have them shipped to her home address. The watches arrived and were in NFB boxes. Each had a warranty certificate that stated, "Maxi-Aids watches are made in Switzerland...." However, if you examine the watch, at the very bottom, straddling the "6," you will see the words "Japan Mov't." We also took the back off the watch, and it states, "Maxi-Aids Watch Company, Hong Kong." It is a clear case of fraud, and we turned it over to the New York State Attorney General.
The New York State Attorney General took no interest whatsoever and advised that they do not take action on complaints submitted from competitors. I called Albany and acknowledged that my motives were not pure but pointed out that fraud was fraud and that our interests coincided. I was stonewalled, and nothing was done to follow up.
Perhaps encouraged by the fact that no one in an official capacity will do anything, the Zaretskys have continued with the fraud, and in their latest catalog, pages of which are enclosed, they have even put asterisks next to the watch to call the reader's attention to it.
The asterisks next to the fraudulent listing may also be a way for them to rub my nose. For many years we have used the slogan "CAN-DO Products" to advertise our items. I notice that the latest Maxi-Aids catalog has a listing on the cover of "DO- MORE Products."
That is Marvin Sandler's statement--and it is, to say the least, disturbing. Distressed to learn that Maxi-Aids might without our permission be using NFB watch boxes to package its allegedly fraudulent products, we arranged to have one of the watches ordered, and indeed it arrived in an NFB box. Needless to say, the National Federation of the Blind has taken no part in the production of watches that pretend to Swiss quality and seventeen-jewel construction when that is not the case.
In short, the use of our logo on a Maxi-Aids watch box was not only unauthorized but implied a relationship and an endorsement which did not exist and had never existed. Quite a number of years ago we did buy a number of watches from Maxi- Aids, and our logos were on the boxes. We can only speculate that (using our logo, which we had provided to Maxi-Aids for the manufacture of our own boxes) Maxi-Aids caused additional boxes to be manufactured, used those boxes for their own watches, and thereby sought to trade on our good name and reputation and create the impression of an alliance and endorsement which did not exist and had never existed. We repeat that this is speculation, but one thing we can say for certain: we long since stopped buying anything at all from Maxi-Aids, even if their price was the lowest to be had. We did this because we did not like their behavior or dealings. All of this was before we learned of the unauthorized use of our logo or of the experiences of others.
The alleged bid in Texas caused us to contact Pat Westbrook, Executive Director of the Texas Commission for the Blind, with questions about the agency's 1992 bids for low-vision watches and other matters. Mr. Westbrook expressed complete surprise at the information we gave him and said that he would need to talk to his auditing department before making any statement. Mr. Westbrook later told us that the letter accompanying the Independent Living Aids (ILA) bid was dated August 1, 1991. He said that the price quoted for men's watches was $21.23. He said that the Commission's "date received" which was stamped on the ILA bid was illegible. He said that the "date received" which was stamped on the Maxi-Aids bid was readable and showed August 2. If one assumes that the ILA bid was dated as reported and that the Maxi-Aids bid was correctly stamped as to time of receipt by the Commission--neither of which assumption we can substantiate at this time--Commission staff are unlikely to have had an opportunity to give information about the ILA bid to Maxi-Aids.
Be that as it may, Mr. Westbrook reports that the Maxi-Aids bid is characterized by unexplained, one might almost say extraordinary, peculiarities. He says that it shows a price for the low-vision men's watch of $23.98, two dollars and seventy- five cents higher than the ILA bid. A line is drawn through this figure, Westbrook says, and it has been changed to $21.94, still seventy-one cents higher than the ILA bid. But that is not all! This figure too is lined out, Westbrook says, and the final Maxi- Aids bid is $19.95, one dollar and twenty-eight cents lower than the ILA bid. So Maxi-Aids was given the order.
Westbrook says that he and other Commission personnel find these alterations suspicious. So do we. But apparently the Texas Commission personnel did not find the alterations suspicious until the Braille Monitor began to investigate--some three years after the fact. When pressed for a possible explanation, Mr. Westbrook postulated that perhaps a disgruntled ILA employee or somebody in another state agency with an earlier bid deadline might have passed the ILA figure on to Maxi-Aids. And, of course, this might be the case--or it might not be the case. We simply don't know.
Mr. Westbrook reports a similar circumstance in a Maxi-Aids bid in recent times. Here is how he tells it: On July 5, 1993, the Texas Commission for the Blind received bids from both ILA and Maxi-Aids. The ILA price quoted for the women's low-vision watch was $16.82 and the Maxi-Aids price was $16.95, which would have been thirteen cents higher than the ILA bid. But wait! Just as before, the Maxi-Aids price was crossed out and adjusted to $15.94, making it the low bid by eighty-eight cents.
Assuming that the Commission date-stamping is reliable, there is no way, Mr. Westbrook says, that the Maxi-Aids changes for the 1992 contract could have been made after the ILA bid reached Texas. Commission procedure, Westbrook says, is to leave all bids sealed until the deadline has passed. Then they are all opened and recorded by a group of employees working together. All bids that are compliant with Texas regulations are then considered, and the lowest is chosen. There is a clear understanding, Westbrook says, that the Commission is not bound by the agreement if during the contract period the Commission finds the same product at a better price.
The Westbrook explanation not only sounds plausible but also implies ultra care and circumspection. However, the very steps in the procedure that are designed to keep it pure make possible another scenario. It is easy to open and reclose sealed bids; it is undoubtedly difficult to maintain constant surveillance, if indeed anybody thinks it necessary to do so when trusted employees are involved and when no suspicion exists; and the repeated crossing out of lines and substituting of figures lends credence to suspicion.
On the other side of the argument is the statement by Sandler that he was beaten by 6 cents for the 1992 contract when, if the Westbrook statement is true, he was finally beaten by more than that. However, this may be more than offset by the curious coincidence that the "date received" which was stamped on the ILA bid is apparently conveniently illegible while the stamp on the Maxi-Aids bid is reported to be readable. When this is added to the repeated crossing out of lines and changing of prices, the argument of mere happenstance becomes harder and harder to believe.
Independent Living Aids is not the only producer to express outrage at the Maxi-Aids methods. Here is what E.L. Bryenton, President of Brytec, Inc., says:
Statement by E.L. Bryenton, February 16, 1994:
In March, 1992, we entered into a contractual agreement with Maxi-Aids, Inc. for the distribution of NOTE TELLER in the New England states only. This agreement was negotiated with and signed by Mr. Elliot Zaretsky after promising to comply with all clauses of agreement.
In June and July, 1992, we were advised by some of our small regional distributors that Maxi-Aids was promoting NOTE TELLER in their regions and causing other problems. Because of these problems that were confirmed by us and denials by Mr. Elliot Zaretsky, we requested that our agreement be terminated within sixty days in compliance with our contractual agreement.
Maxi-Aids has refused to pay for products that had been shipped to them during the term of our agreement. Maxi-Aids has also included NOTE TAKER in their 1993-94 catalog that states there is a one-year warranty. This is misleading to customers, who assume that Maxi-Aids, Inc., is an approved distributor, and are very disappointed when they are advised that there is only a six-month warranty by our company and no warranty by Maxi-Aids, Inc.
As discussed, we have had numerous complaints from visually impaired and blind customers as well as other distributors about Maxi-Aids, Inc.
There you have the experience of Brytec. Here is what Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc., has to say:
Statement by Ann Morris, President, February 16, 1994: Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc., designed a money organizer wallet and had them manufactured in India. We had been selling many to Maxi-Aids until they decided to take our wallet and copy it and wholesale it for less than we could. When approached, their response was that it is part of doing business. We sell nothing to Maxi-Aids and do not conform to their unethical business practices.
If the foregoing statements are true, the word that comes to mind is "unethical," but such dealings are not the only arrows alleged to be in the Maxi-Aids quiver. Until recently Elliot Schreier was the Director of the National Technology Center/Consumer Products Department of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). With the consent of Carl Augusto, President of the American Foundation for the Blind, Mr. Schreier made the following statement:
Statement of Elliot M. Schreier, March 1, 1994:
I was contacted by one of the principals of Maxi-Aids, who asked me to meet with him at their offices to discuss various "business opportunities." I went to the meeting, and after a short time an opportunity was presented to me, and it was not what I had expected. Maxi-Aids proposed that I manufacture AFB- designed products for them to sell without telling the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Maxi-Aids would then pay me for my services on the side. Maxi-Aids had been buying these products from AFB but could obviously make more of a profit through this approach. The intent was clear--I should steal from AFB in order for Maxi-Aids to sell products at a greater profit (and make money for myself, too). I was quite surprised and bothered by their offer. I immediately informed my supervisor at AFB of the business opportunity that was offered, and it was decided that nothing be done at that time, and we let the matter drop.
Recently we have heard of two other similar circumstances that show how diligent Maxi-Aids is in pursuing business dealings such as the one proposed to me. Maxi-Aids approached both our electronics manufacturer and one of our former engineers with a similar proposal to the one offered me. Essentially, the offer was for them to duplicate AFB products for Maxi-Aids without AFB's knowledge. Fortunately, both our manufacturer and former engineer are ethical and told us what had occurred. It was again decided not to pursue the matter.
In this field we have very few developers willing to risk money on research and development for a low-incidence population. Those who do hope to make a reasonable profit on their investment. Situations such as those I described hurt everyone, including the consumer and the developer. This can result in fewer products at higher costs.
I hope that it would help to avoid these types of situations if they were openly discussed in a public forum.
That's what Mr. Schreier has to say. Paying people to steal competitors' designs, misrepresenting the quality of products, and refusing to comply with contractual agreements--all of these alleged practices enable Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys (according to the belief of most of those with whom we talked) to increase their profits and lower their bids. But there are other ways in which Maxi-Aids reportedly manages to get the jump on its competitors.
Sources tell us that in 1993 Maxi-Aids and Vis-Aids submitted identical bids for a contract being let by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Maxi-Aids was awarded the contract because, according to the VA, it had identified itself on the bid form as a woman-owned company. This was news to everyone in the field. Even a brochure produced by Maxi-Aids itself describes the company and its subsidiaries as owned by two brothers, Mitchell and Harold Zaretsky.
To constitute a woman-owned business, the VA says that at least fifty-one percent of a company's stock must be owned by a woman or women who are U.S. citizens and who control and operate the company. Elliot Zaretsky's daughter Pam (who, we are told, is a young mother of twins) was apparently the woman in question, though it is hard to credit the idea that in 1993 she owned a controlling share of the company and was the working, salaried leader of the management team.
In any case, by June of 1994 Maxi-Aids was bidding again on VA contracts, this time as a small, disadvantaged company--with Harold, who is deaf, listed as the principal stockholder. Again the bids were close, and again Maxi-Aids won--according to the VA because of its disadvantaged status. Protests were lodged with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and an investigator was assigned to the case, although it seems clear that, even if the judgment is made that Maxi-Aids made untrue claims about its ownership, nothing will be done about awarding the bid to the company's competitor. Next time is apparently soon enough for the VA to insist upon accuracy and honesty, never mind justice and the taxpayers' dollars.
The status of the investigation is unclear at this writing. When contacted by the Braille Monitor for comment, the investigator refused even to confirm that he had been assigned the case, but he referred us to an Assistant Investigator General, who also refused to make any comment since he said the investigation was still in progress.
We are told by a source close to the situation that, after the VA's investigator visited the Zaretskys, Elliot apparently happened to find a letter which he passed on to the investigator which explains all the confusion about the ownership of Maxi- Aids. As far as we know, the letter has not actually been read by any of those in the blindness field who are disturbed about the contract awards. But the investigator described the letter to one person, who reports that Elliot Zaretsky explained that Pam was the majority stockholder in 1993 but that she relinquished her stock to Harold early in 1994. Why it should have been Harold, the younger son, and not Mitchell, who is the President of Maxi- Aids, is not clear. And no one can figure out how Maxi-Aids can qualify as socially or economically disadvantaged.
When asked how long this investigation might be expected to last, Jack Kroll, Assistant Investigator General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said he had no idea but that complicated cases could easily take a year or more. One might be tempted to question how complicated this case actually is, but anything can become clouded when the bureaucracy gets hold of it or especially, it seems, when it involves the Zaretskys. In any case, those who lodged the protest in the first place will be (or should be) notified when the investigation has been completed, according to Mr. Kroll. They can then attempt to obtain the documents in the case under the Freedom of Information Act. Until then one supposes it will be business as usual at Maxi-Aids and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
There are still other facets to the Maxi-Aids story. Mohymen Saddeek has been in the blindness field for a considerable number of years. He is now the president of Technology for Independence (TFI) and was formerly the head of Boston Information and Technology Corporation (BIT). He tells of a number of interesting contacts with Elliot Zaretsky and Maxi-Aids.
He says that his first memory of Zaretsky was a telephone call from him in which Zaretsky said that since he was one of Saddeek's distributors, he would like to order certain products at a reduced price. Saddeek, who says he had never until that time heard of Zaretsky, states that he later learned that Zaretsky had taken the BIT catalogue, cut pages and pictures from it, added his own text, and circulated it as a Maxi-Aids catalogue, claiming to be a distributor.
Mr. Saddeek tells of later incidents. Here is a summary of what he says:
Elliot Zaretsky tried a particular maneuver with him on three separate occasions--once with talking scales, once with a talking money identifier, and once with talking watches. Since the pattern was always the same, the incident concerning the watches will suffice to make the point.
Zaretsky, according to Saddeek, called him and asked how many Seiko watches he had to sell. Saddeek told him that he had several hundred. The Seiko is a comparatively expensive watch.
According to Saddeek, Zaretsky then told him that he could sell him these expensive watches at an unbelievably low price, in the neighborhood of twenty-five dollars. Saddeek says he told Zaretsky that he would be glad to buy all that Zaretsky could let him have, beginning with a thousand. Zaretsky said that it was a deal and that he was glad to be able to do it. According to Saddeek, he then said that he didn't have the watches in his warehouse at the moment but that they would be coming shortly. In the meantime he needed watches to sell so as not to interrupt his flow of business. Therefore, he would like Saddeek to ship him several hundred Seikos at the low price he intended to give Saddeek.
Since this was a pattern, Saddeek says he felt certain that Zaretsky had no watches at the price he had offered and had no way of getting any. Saddeek says that he felt this was simply a ruse to try to get his watches at a below-cost price. Saddeek says he simply laughed at Zaretsky, who went into a rage and was abusive. This is how Saddeek tells the story, and although we cannot verify it one way or another, it blends into the picture that others have painted.
Sources tell us that on more than one occasion Zaretsky has called a competitor in the field and asked how many of a given product the competitor had that he could sell to him. Then, according to these sources, Zaretsky would call the sales department of the competitor and say that he had just talked with the owner, who had sold him a given number of the item at a specified price (always exceedingly low), and that he needed them shipped immediately. The shipments, according to what we are told, were sometimes sent before the owner caught on.
With these statements and charges before us, we called Maxi- Aids on Tuesday afternoon, November 29, 1994, and talked with Mitchell Zaretsky, who acknowledged that he was president of the company. He said that Elliot Zaretsky is now only a consultant.
As to the specific charges, Mitchell Zaretsky categorically denied them. He said that the investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs has "been taken care of," but that even if it hadn't, he didn't think it mattered--that it was unimportant, and that his bid was also the lowest. With respect to Mr. Schreier's charge concerning the offer to pay him on the side for American Foundation for the Blind products and designs, Zaretsky said, "That's hogwash." In fact, he said all of the charges were hogwash and that he couldn't see what difference it made whether most of them were true or false. He said that his sister Pam had the majority stock in Maxi-Aids one year and that his deaf brother Harold had the majority the next year, and that Harold still has the majority but that he (Mitchell) is president. He avoided the question whether Pam and/or Harold had ever actually operated and controlled the company.
He said that the truth was that when Maxi-Aids entered the blindness field, prices of appliances and materials for the blind were high and that Maxi-Aids had brought them down. He further said that if people wanted to talk about appropriating the labor of others, he could cite the incident of the money identifier, which he said Maxi-Aids had spent time and money to develop. He said that another company had then somehow got hold of the product and had claimed that it was theirs. When we asked him to identify the company, he declined, saying that he was not hunting trouble with anybody but wanted to talk about positive things.
In this connection he wondered why the Braille Monitor was interested in this sort of thing at all. He said he couldn't see what benefit it was to the customers--that we should be printing positive things about new products that Maxi-Aids had developed.
Concerning the situation in Texas, Zaretsky said that there was nothing wrong with crossing out lines on bids since a company had the right to change its mind anytime before the bid proposals were actually opened. We asked him whether the crossed-out lines and price changings had occurred after the bid was submitted but before it was opened (in other words, at the offices of the Texas Commission) or whether the alterations had been made in his office before the bid was mailed. He said he wasn't sure, that he didn't know, and that he didn't see what difference it made.
He said that all of his Braille watches were made in Switzerland. He said he understood the term "Swiss-made" to mean that a watch was both made and assembled in Switzerland and that none of his Swiss-made watches were assembled in Asia. He said that his low-vision watches were quartz and, therefore, had no jewels at all. He said that jewels were only applicable to manually wound watches. He acknowledged that some of his low- vision watches were made in Hong Kong.
Zaretsky was most emphatic in denying that Maxi-Aids now copies or has ever copied other people's catalogues or now covers or has ever covered other people's logos with its own. He took a different tack concerning the selling of Maxi-Aids watches in boxes with NFB logos. He first said that it might have happened on one or two occasions several years ago when NFB was buying watches from Maxi-Aids. When we told him that the occurrence was recent, he said that somebody might mistakenly have grabbed a box that had been used by a customer in returning merchandise and sent out a Maxi-Aids watch in it or that some boxes with NFB logos might have been left over from former times and used unintentionally. As with the other charges, he shrugged the whole thing off as if it made no difference. He said that there was certainly no intent to imply NFB affiliation or endorsement.
On another matter, we talked to Zaretsky about a company called See-More, which sells magnifiers. Zaretsky at first said it was affiliated with Maxi-Aids. On further questioning he changed his statement to say that See-More was a separate company and that it was simply located in the same building as Maxi-Aids but not affiliated with it. After more discussion he said that Maxi-Aids might own some stock in See-More. He finally said that Maxi-Aids did not own stock in See-More but that some of the Maxi-Aids principals might. At that point it didn't seem worthwhile to pursue the matter further.
Later the same afternoon (November 29) Mitchell Zaretsky called us. He seemed concerned about our earlier call to him and said, "We are pretty open and pretty honest." He went on to say that he had two children (one of them a boy named Daniel, who was born about a month ago) and that his family was his life. He said that there had been no "charges" and that he didn't see why we were interested in these vague allegations.
We talked with Elliot Zaretsky on December 6, 1994. He said that he was now in semi-retirement, but his responses and demeanor indicate that he is still very much in charge at Maxi- Aids. He said that his daughter Pam was the majority stockholder because, as he put it, when you have two sons, they can feel some rivalry toward each other. He later said that Harold owns the company--and still later that Harold does not yet own it but is about to own it.
We read to Mr. Zaretsky the various statements we have printed in this article, and his responses were fairly uniform. He said that Marvin Sandler is a liar. He denied that Maxi-Aids had submitted ILA's watch to the Texas Commission for the Blind and also denied that a bid with crossed-out prices had been entered. He said that Texas would not have accepted such a bid. He later said that if such a bid was submitted, the alterations would have been made in the Maxi-Aids office and that Mitchell's initials would have been put by the parts that were crossed-out. Zaretsky said that Maxi-Aids has never copied anybody else's catalogue or anybody else's photos.
We read Zaretsky the statement of Elliot Schreier. He responded by saying that Schreier is a liar. Then he asked if we knew why "the American Foundation for the Blind went down the tubes"--presumably referring to AFB's liquidation of its aids and appliances department. He wanted to know whether we knew that Elliot Schreier had "tried to buy the American Foundation for the Blind"--again presumably referring to the Foundation's aids and appliances department.
He said that Schreier had, indeed, come to his office but that what Schreier wanted was quite different from Schreier's statement to us. He hinted that Schreier had made shady proposals, but when we tried to pursue the matter, he said that he didn't want to say anything bad about anybody--that everybody should just get along and work with each other.
We asked Mr. Zaretsky about the shipping of Maxi-Aids watches in boxes containing National Federation of the Blind logos. He said that such shipments had been made. He said that a number of boxes containing NFB logos had been left over from the time the Federation had bought watches from Maxi-Aids and that twelve or fourteen watches were sent out in these boxes. When we pointed out that this was an illegal and unauthorized use of the NFB's logo, he said that he had stopped the use of the boxes as soon as he learned about it.
Zaretsky said that Maxi-Aids was started about ten years ago in order to provide a business for his deaf son, Harold. As already noted, he first said that Harold now owns the company and then that Harold is only in the process of owning the company. He said that Harold is married and that he and his wife are expecting a child.
With respect to the bid that was made to the Department of Veterans Affairs, Zaretsky said that the claim of being a minority owned company was a mistake made by Mitchell. He said that Mitchell had made the error of believing that Maxi-Aids was a minority-company because it is owned by Jews. Zaretsky said that Jews are, after all, a minority. He said that the investigator from the Department of Veterans Affairs was, as he put it, a "nice man," who said, "Forget the whole thing."
When we read him the statement from E. L. Bryenton, Zaretsky said that Bryenton was a liar. He said that it was true that he was holding more than $6,000 of Bryenton's money and that he intended to continue to hold it until Bryenton apologized to him for the way Bryenton had behaved. He said that Bryenton was supposed to give him six months' notice before canceling the contract and that he hadn't done so. When we read him Bryenton's statement that the contract called for a cancellation notice of sixty days, Zaretsky said that maybe it did but that Bryenton had given him no notice at all.
Immediately after our conversation with Zaretsky we called Bryenton, who began his response with the comment, "So many untruths." Bryenton said Zaretsky and Maxi-Aids repeatedly violated the provisions of the Brytec contract and that he gave Maxi-Aids two verbal notices, followed by a written notice. He said that Zaretsky called him to say that he was willing to have the contract canceled if Bryenton would sell him twenty-one more NOTE TELLERS to satisfy outstanding orders. Bryenton says that he agreed to this and was about to ship the NOTE TELLERS when he learned that Maxi-Aids had canceled its check for the previous shipment. Apparently this is the money Zaretsky says he is now holding. Bryenton said he is still having trouble in trying to repair the damage done by the misrepresentations made by Maxi- Aids.
When we mentioned the name of Ann Morris, Mr. Zaretsky said that she is a nice person, one who does business with him on a continuing basis. When we read him the statement by Morris, he said that she was not telling the truth. He said that the wallet in question was not hers at all but that even if it was, there would have been nothing wrong with what was claimed. He said that you could take a product (a game of Scrabble, for instance), modify it a little, and sell it as your own without any problem.
Shortly after our conversation with Zaretsky, we contacted Ann Morris, who repeated her statement that she had provided the money to develop the wallet. She said that she would never sell anything to Maxi-Aids that was not generally available on the market since she felt that the Zaretskys would copy it and sell it as their own, and that she never buys anything from Maxi-Aids if she can possibly get it anywhere else. She said that she feels the Zaretskys are completely unethical.
When we told Zaretsky of the charges by Mohymen Saddeek, Zaretsky said that Saddeek is a liar. Zaretsky said it would be foolish to suppose that anybody would sell a Seiko watch for twenty-five or thirty dollars; and when we told him that this was exactly the point, he simply repeated that this was foolishness.
Zaretsky said that he had worked at Vis-Aids until about ten years ago and that he had left on good terms. When we told him that Vis-Aids said that he had not left on good terms, he said that he had had no problems with Henry Eisen, the owner of Vis- Aids, but that his wife had had a problem. He declined to say what the problem was.
Toward the end of the interview, Zaretsky hinted at all kinds of wrongdoing on the part of others in the blindness field, but he declined to be specific. He said such things as, "It wasn't my son who was indicted for fraud," and "I could say things about the bankruptcy." He ended by saying that all of those that we had discussed are, as he put it, "nice people." He said that he didn't want to say anything bad about anybody.
There you have the litany of charges and denials. What are we to make of it? We carefully examined a Maxi-Aids low-vision watch, and it clearly says on its face that it is a Japan movement. When we removed the back, we found stamped on the movement the words "one 1 jewel." We examined documents from both Maxi-Aids and Independent Living Aids, and we believe there is no doubt that copying of photographs and text occurred, as well as cutting and pasting. We have examined the 1992 Maxi-Aids catalogue, and page nineteen is headed "Men's Low Vision Watches: Swiss made." Page nineteen contains listings for both manual and quartz watches. The heading clearly indicates that all are covered by the Swiss-made claim. Page twenty is much the same, with the added fact that the claim is made that all Maxi-Aids watches have a seventeen-jewel movement.
This is the evidence we found, and the charges are serious. This is why we have presented these lengthy statements and reports in such exhaustive and tiresome detail. The implications are too important to permit any other kind of treatment. These matters affect every blind person in the United States and every sighted person who is engaged in work with the blind or who has a blind family member.
All of us in the blindness field (consumer organizations, service providers, and manufacturers and vendors of appliances) have a trust and an obligation. In the struggle of the blind to move from second-class status to first-class membership in society, there are roadblocks enough without having to deal with questionable behavior from within. We who are blind seek not only the rights and privileges but also the responsibilities of citizenship. An important part of those responsibilities is self- policing and scrupulous conduct.
by Barbara A. Cheadle and Douglas C. Boone
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Spring/Summer, 1994, issue of Future Reflections, the quarterly magazine of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Barbara Cheadle is the President of the NOPBC and the editor of the magazine. Doug Boone is an experienced teacher and consultant in the blindness field. Parents are very often pressured by school districts to agree to things they believe to be wrong for their blind children. This is the story of one family's fight to do what was right and their ultimate victory. Their experience may well help others facing such struggles; it should certainly encourage all of us. The article begins with Mrs. Cheadle's words. Here it is:
Three years ago I wrote an article for Future Reflections about the canes-for-preschoolers revolution. I concluded that, except for individual skirmishes and disagreements about the length of the cane, type of tip, and other such details, the revolution was pretty much over. After all, the American Foundation for the Blind--that bastion of sacred and time-honored traditions in the field of blindness--was selling kid-size canes. I couldn't think of a surer sign that giving canes to small children was no longer considered a radical act by the O&M profession. However, victory was perhaps announced too soon. For, even as I wrote that article, I was well aware of another trend developing in the O & M field: the use of pre-cane devices.
This idea has actually been around for some time. It began, perhaps, when professionals noticed that little kids would use certain push toys as a bumper. Now, there is nothing profound about this discovery. Any blind kid who is curious and has been encouraged to move about and explore will discover that holding a stick-like object out in front of him or her will eliminate some bumps and falls. But simultaneous to the acceptance of the notion that even preschoolers can use a regular cane came more experimentation with these so-called pre-cane devices. Initially the devices were unadapted toys, such as the hula hoop, push-carts, and toy push-poppers. Then adaptations were made: the hula hoop was weighted with sand, the push-popper reduced to a stick with a wheel on the end. Then whole new devices were created: walker-like pre-canes were created out of light-weight plastic tubing.
These devices are often touted as beneficial for multiply-handicapped children--youngsters with cerebral palsy who had an uneven gait or a weak grasp or other motor problems. As such, these contraptions have come to be called alternative mobility devices (AMD's). However, the same apparatuses are also called pre-canes and are used with blind children who have no other disabilities as a preliminary step or stage before going on to instruction with a regular long white cane.
The obvious questions this practice elicits are these: What does an alternative mobility aid or pre-cane device do that a cane doesn't? Does it develop the muscles, motor skills, and movement patterns necessary for regular cane use? Is it just as effective as a cane in a variety of settings--hallways, stairs, curbs, playgrounds, pavement, gravel, and so forth? Is it easier to use? Can the child more easily transfer from a pre-cane to a cane as opposed to beginning with the cane? Does the pre-cane give the user the same kind of sound cues and feedback that the tap of a cane gives? Does it allow the user to walk at a normal pace and gait? If the answer to even one of these questions is "No," the next question I pose is: what's the point? If regular cane use is the desired goal and if young kids--including many with multiple disabilities--can use the regular cane effectively right from the get-go, why take a detour?
That was the question Dale and Arlene Delker of South Dakota found themselves asking their school district in the fall of 1992. It was a simple situation. The Delkers wanted their seven-year-old, totally blind foster daughter, Linda Perez, to switch from the pre-cane device she was using in school to a regular long white cane and to get instruction in its use. (Linda had used a toy push-cart in the fall of 1991 and was later given a Connecticut pre-cane--a rectangular device made out of hollow tubing. However, the Delkers lived in a rural setting with lots of dirt; gravel; and uneven weedy, grassy areas around the home. The Connecticut pre-cane was not usable in this environment.) The Delkers had attended several seminars and events sponsored by the NFB of South Dakota and were regular readers of Future Reflections. Through this contact with blind persons they had become convinced that Linda, despite her other developmental delays, was ready to use a cane.
The school district responded by contracting with the South Dakota School for the Visually Handicapped for a mobility evaluation. Based upon the results of this one-and-one-half-hour evaluation--an evaluation in which the child never touched a white cane--the school district refused the request. Furthermore, even though Linda used a long white cane at home (she had had some private instruction from a blind teacher--also a member of the NFB), she was not even allowed to bring the cane to school.
The Delkers were not going to give up so easily. They knew what their daughter needed; they knew their rights; and they were not going to be deterred. They then requested an independent evaluation. When the school district refused the request, they proceeded, with the help of Karen Mayry, President of the NFB of South Dakota, to arrange an independent evaluation for their daughter with mobility instructor and evaluator Douglas C. Boone of Nebraska. In an attempt to outmaneuver the Delkers, the school district filed for a due process hearing with the South Dakota Board of Education on April 23, 1994--about two weeks before the Boone evaluation was to take place. The school district asked the board to uphold its evaluation and to deny reimbursement to the Delkers for the independent evaluation conducted by Doug Boone. The Delkers, of course, not only asked for reimbursement but also requested the South Dakota Board of Education to rule on the question of Linda's readiness to use a long white cane.
In the course of preparing their case and again with the assistance of the NFB of South Dakota, the Delkers gathered some information about pre-cane devices from Joe Cutter, a mobility instructor from New Jersey. Mr. Cutter's credentials included extensive experience in working with blind and blind, multiply handicapped children from infancy through the early school years. Mr. Cutter began giving canes and cane instruction to young blind children in the very early years of the canes-for-pre-schoolers revolution. He also experimented with pre-cane devices and alternative mobility aids with his young blind students. Mr. Cutter was not available as a witness for the Linda Perez case, but he wrote a letter for the Delkers about his experiences. The Delkers' attorney used quotations from this letter (along with quotations from other letters and articles by progressive O&M instructors) in the brief submitted to the board for the due process hearing. Because of the valuable information and insight Mr. Cutter's letter sheds on the use of pre-cane devices, it is reprinted in full following this introduction.
The Perez case depended most heavily, of course, upon the independent mobility evaluation conducted by Douglas C. Boone. The heart of this article, therefore, is Mr. Boone's description of his involvement with the case, the complete text of the evaluation he conducted, and the results of that evaluation.
Parents of blind children often find themselves in a dilemma about evaluations. How do they know if a mobility evaluation is thorough and really covers what it should? What should be observed? How long should it take? Mr. Boone's evaluation is an excellent model of a well-planned and conducted cane-readiness and mobility evaluation. The decision of the board in this case was clearly influenced by the completeness of this evaluation. There was simply no comparison between the earlier, and clearly inadequate, mobility evaluation and the one conducted by Mr. Boone.
Finally, we conclude this article with the findings of law and decision reached by the South Dakota Board of Education in the Douglas School District v. Delker/Perez case. In brief, the board concluded that the school district had not provided the Delkers with an appropriate mobility evaluation and awarded them reimbursement for the independent evaluation conducted by Douglas Boone. This was, for all practical purposes, a victory for the Delkers. The board declined to rule, for technical reasons, on the Delkers' question about Linda's readiness to use the cane. It seems that the school district refused to recommend any IEP mobility goals until after the due process hearing. Therefore, there were no IEP goals regarding mobility upon which the board could base a decision. The board did state that "The school's action in delaying a decision on Linda's IEP until completion of the due process hearing was not appropriate under regulations."
The school district correctly interpreted the board's decision as a mandate to use the Boone evaluation as the foundation for developing Linda's IEP mobility goals. Today Linda uses her cane in school and has regular mobility lessons with her long white cane.
But none of this would have been possible without the National Federation of the Blind. Because of the NFB the Delkers had a steady stream of information and inspiration coming regularly through their mail box in the form of Future Reflections and other publications. Karen Mayry, President of the NFB of South Dakota, gave freely of her time to advocate for Linda in IEP meetings and to locate information and resources for the Delkers. It was through the NFB that the Delkers met competent, confident blind adults who gave them a vision of what Linda's future could be, if she had the right training. Here is the letter from Joe Cutter regarding pre-cane devices, followed by the Boone evaluation and the final due process decision:
Wharton, New Jersey
May 23, 1993
Mrs. Karen Mayry
President, National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota
Rapid City, South Dakota
As an orientation and mobility instructor with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I became concerned regarding our recent conversation about a seven-year-old blind child. There is apparently a disagreement between home and school over which travel tool promotes independent ambulation and thereby increases safety, effectiveness, and confidence. The child was evaluated by an Orientation and Mobility Instructor. The long cane was determined to facilitate her independent movement. She took to it, as you said, "like a duck to water." On the other hand, the school is promoting the use of some other tool that they refer to as a pre-cane. I am moved to share with you my thoughts on differences in points of view over this concept of a pre-cane.
The term "pre-cane" implies that the structure and function of the device fits into some continuum of progression for using travel tools and that the cane would be the next step along this assumed progression, once the blind child has mastered its predecessor. After twenty-three years of experience as an O&M instructor (I am also a certified teacher of the blind and visually impaired and possess a Masters of Arts in Teaching the developmentally handicapped), I believe that this notion of a pre-cane is more fancy than fact. What we know about children in general is far less than what we think we know. Blind children are particularly vulnerable to adult assessments that do not develop from observations of children, but rather are imposed upon them by an adult-centered model.
There is no research of which I am aware that validates or substantiates this pre-cane concept that some other tool must be used prior to the use of a cane. In addition, my personal experience does not support this notion. I have used a variety of tools to experiment with the facilitation of movement in blind children, such as a hula hoop, a Connecticut Pre-Cane, a t-shaped cane with roller tip, and so forth. The components of movement needed to use many of these devices are actually more complex and may demand more sophisticated motor schemes and planning than those required by the simple design and function of the cane. Certainly a blind child's gait is negatively affected by an inappropriate travel tool.
The essential question is: Does the cane facilitate movement when the child is exploring the world and safely moving about in it? The best way to know is to follow the child's lead. A child who takes to a travel tool like a duck to water is telling the adult what is best. When a child's travel tool promotes a sense of security and autonomy in free movement, much more brain power is available for orientation and for enjoying the feeling of the movement itself. Over the years I have introduced the cane to many children--some were as young as twenty months of age--without a pre-cane device. As they matured, these children engaged in higher levels of prehension and technical skill and in time learned appropriate adult techniques. My experience tells me that introducing a cane much later in a child's life presents a barrier to independent movement and to the development of the grace and poise that is within them.
I hope these thoughts assist the school in re-evaluating their present position towards independence in travel for this seven-year-old child. In my years of teaching orientation and mobility, my thinking has changed about the readiness of blind children to travel with a cane. What changed over time were not the children, but my perception of their abilities and readiness. It is this area of what we think we know that shifts over time. If I had known to follow and observe the child more carefully twenty-three years ago, many more blind children would have had the opportunity to develop independent travel concepts and skills much earlier in life. I know now that, more than any other tool, the cane facilitates the movement of the walking blind child. This seven-year-old child is at a crossroad. The school can either facilitate or interfere with her development. How exciting it would be for home and school to be offering the same travel tool with similar enthusiasm and commitment.
Orientation and Mobility Instructor
New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
There you have Joe Cutter's letter about pre-cane devices. Next is Doug Boone's description of the independent mobility evaluation he conducted for the Delkers:
Erring on the Side of Positive Expectations
by Douglas C. Boone
In the middle of April, 1993, I received a phone call from Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. She informed me that a seven-year-old blind person, Linda Perez, was not receiving instruction in the use of her long white cane. Furthermore, she was not being encouraged or allowed to use her cane in the school. The wishes of Linda and her parents, as presented in IEP meetings to the Douglas School District, near Rapid City, were being discounted in favor of the recommendation by the regional orientation and mobility (O&M) consultant, who had prescribed a pre-cane device for Linda.
Karen explained that the child was developmentally delayed as a result of a number of problems associated with premature birth and low birth weight. She also told me that Linda had worked a few times with Konnie Hoffman, a blind member of the Rapid City chapter of the Federation and a teacher with special education background. Konnie's work with Linda revealed a high degree of motivation for using the long white cane and an appreciation for the fact that blind adults use canes. (Miss Hoffman is a cane user.) As a result of this initial success, Linda's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Dale Delker, had requested that the regional O&M consultant evaluate her ability to use the cane. The instructor performed the evaluation without giving Linda the opportunity to use a cane and concluded that Linda was not yet ready for the cane.
As a private consultant in the field of blindness and visual impairment, I have established a policy of not relying on others' perceptions of a situation. Instead, I like to evaluate each situation or human need personally and then pursue a course of action based on fact. I also proceed on the assumption that it is best to err on the side of positive expectation--I always first assume that a given task or challenge can be accomplished by the person with whom I am working.
The experiential and philosophic foundation I bring to this process has been shaped in part by my employment in three state blind rehabilitation agencies. In those jobs I was often called upon to consult with educational facilities regarding the needs of blind and visually impaired adults and children for cane travel and industrial technology classes. Also vital to my foundation of knowledge is the extensive sleepshade training I received when I first entered the field and my continued philosophical growth by reading the literature and knowing the members of the National Federation of the Blind. With this background I set about designing an appropriate evaluation of Linda Perez's ability to function with the long white cane. Here is the text of that evaluation:
Proposal for O&M Assessment
The following is a proposal for contract services to assess the feasibility of the introduction to and subsequent instruction in the use of the long white cane as an aid to mobility for Linda Perez, beginning on Sunday, May 9, 1993, and concluding on Monday, May 10, 1993.
The assessment will be conducted in a two-phase process: at the student's residence on the first day and at the student's school on the second day. The assessment schedule will help to minimize the Hawthorne effect by allowing for the development of rapport with the consultant in the secure environment of the home on the first day. This arrangement will also allow for parent observation of the process. The second day of the assessment will provide for an expansion of the assessment in a more structured environment with observation by interested instructional staff. The second day will seek to provide a review of those areas (listed below) which were assessed on the first day. The provision of two days of assessment will seek to minimize the chance that the student might have an off day and thus skew the results of the assessment. Both days of the student's assessment will cover, to the extent possible, the following:
1. Establish rapport between the evaluator and parents and student.
2. Begin evaluation of student's:
a. expressive and receptive language skills,
b. level of community/environmental awareness,
c. level of social awareness.
3. Evaluate student's ability to collect; correctly assess; and/or use auditory, tactile, and other available environmental information.
4. Provide for the evaluation of the student's balance under a variety of situations and conditions.
5. Evaluate the student's ability to grip the cane and begin manipulating it.
6. Instruct and evaluate the ability of the student to slide or tap cane so as to provide a clear path for movement.
7. Confirm the ability of the student to incorporate, at a level consistent with that of beginning students, the following elements in the use of the cane: a. grip, b. slide or tap, and c. acceptable width of arc.
8. Make a basic assessment of the student's psychomotor skills in general.
9. Assess student's maturity level and ability to maintain concentration necessary for beginning use of the cane.
10. Evaluate the student's ability to stow the cane in an appropriate location and retrieve the stored cane.
All of the above will serve to determine the readiness of the student to begin a course of instruction in the use of the long white cane.
Of necessity the assessment will be conducted at a pace commensurate with the student's attention and tolerance levels. To provide for these considerations, the assessment will be interspersed throughout both days of evaluation.
A written report will be sent by FAX to the school no later than the morning of May 14, 1993, and a FAX will be sent to the parents to a location of their choosing. This will be done in order to acquaint all interested parties with the findings of the assessment.
The summarized results of the evaluation are provided below:
O & M Evaluation Report
Locations for the Assessment: Student's residence; Rapid City Mall; and the Douglas School Badger Clark building, Carousel building, and surrounding school environment as related to Linda's instructional needs.
The evaluation began on the morning of May 9, 1993, at the residence of Linda Perez. My first efforts were directed toward establishing rapport with Linda and her parents. I asked Linda to get her cane. She independently found the cane with only a verbal prompt from her parents to tell her that the cane was on the porch. Linda was receptive to becoming acquainted, and I soon asked her to show me her favorite toy. She took her cane, without prompting, and returned with a busy box. Approximately fifteen minutes later I asked Linda to put her toy back, which she did without any difficulty. I then asked her to get another toy. This time she chose a puzzle. She came back to the table and began working on the puzzle. After a short time she asked about the location of her cane. It was at this point that I demonstrated to Linda how she could store the cane under her chair. Linda exhibited a good attention span while working on her puzzle.
Mr. and Mrs. Delker next provided me with information regarding various self-help skills which Linda is able to accomplish. While this is not directly related to the assessment of Linda's ability to use a cane, a cursory review of her level of functioning is desirable in order to understand her behavior when using the cane. The discussion revealed an overall development in the range of a three- to four-year-old. Her parents stated that Linda has specific tasks to do in the home. A recommendation was made to encourage Linda to become involved in the selection of her own clothing since activities of this nature contribute to independent thinking and concept development. It should be noted that this portion of the assessment was for the benefit of the consultant and was/is not intended as an official finding regarding age-appropriate development.
Evaluation of Outside Use of the Cane: As we prepared to leave the house for the outside evaluation, Linda prompted her parents by asking for her cane. I believe this was a significant act, demonstrating an awareness of the cane as a tool for independent mobility.
As we came down the ramp from the house, Linda found a section of plywood with the cane, then stomped on it to confirm the feedback she had received from the cane--an act not inconsistent with beginning cane-users of any age. This demonstration of awareness of the auditory feedback available from the cane is significant in view of the limited experience Linda has had with the cane.
Once in the yard, Linda followed her father's voice toward the place where the bus stops. Linda continued to use her cane in a somewhat sporadic arc, mostly keeping it near to the ground but occasionally raising it. Linda displayed ease in using the cane in either the right or left hand. This ambidextrous approach to the cane is a skill well worth fostering, as it provides for independent mobility when carrying heavier objects which can be shifted between hands to minimize fatigue. While I generally introduce this skill later in a student's instruction, I do not view early alternation of hands for cane use negatively.
From the bus stop we proceeded to the lamb pen. Again Linda followed her father's voice. She used the cane surprisingly well over uneven surfaces, including tire ruts, unmown grass, mud, and loose gravel. When she arrived at the lamb pen, she was not facing the pen but was parallel to it. Her father made note of this fact and prompted her to put the cane in front of her. She extended the cane and swung it to her left, found the fence with the cane, then turned and appropriately faced the lambs. This action represents an understanding of the value of the cane as a tool to collect information from the environment.
Next I asked her to find the chicken house. (I had heard a chicken as Mrs. Delker was gathering the eggs.) Linda needed one additional auditory cue, then proceeded in the direction of the building. After locating the chicken house, she turned and approached the feed shed, which Mr. Delker had entered. After arriving at the feed shed, I showed Linda how to determine the height of a step by using her cane. The step was inordinately high, approximately fourteen inches off the ground. After several exploratory tries, Linda crawled into the shed. At all times she maintained contact with the cane or remembered where she had placed it. This behavior demonstrated Linda's awareness of the value of the cane in enabling her to move effectively in her environment. As we returned to the house, Linda continued to use her cane while following sound cue information from her parents' voices.
Evaluation at the Mall: At my request, Mrs. Delker drove Linda and me to the mall for an evaluation of cane use in an unfamiliar location. Upon arrival at the mall, Linda unbuckled her seat belt. This was the first time she had self-initiated and independently accomplished this task.
As we entered the mall, Linda immediately noticed the sound feedback available from the cane and swung it with additional vigor. Initially Linda seemed a little intimidated at the prospect of walking about using only her cane and not hanging on to her mother's hand. This behavior was not surprising given her limited instruction in the use of the cane to date. Most people experience some fear and apprehension when encountering new environments.
As we walked in the mall, Mrs. Delker asked Linda to find a bench. Without further information Linda reached out and found the bench using her cane. During this portion of the evaluation I observed multiple incidents of Linda's swinging the cane vertically and horizontally at waist height or above. After a number of interventions by Linda's mother failed to produce a controlled arc, I suggested to Mrs. Delker that she briefly take the cane from Linda the next time she failed to heed an oral warning to use the cane properly. Linda once again inappropriately swung the cane, and Mrs. Delker took the cane and said that, if she were to swing the cane improperly again, she would have to walk the mall holding her mom's hand instead of using the cane.
At this point I suggested that perhaps Linda was tired and that we should conclude the evaluation. It is significant to note that no additional misuse of the cane occurred as we returned to the car! In my opinion, the modification of Linda's negative behavior, which coincided with the prospect of losing the cane because of misuse, demonstrated the value she places on it. As we left the mall, Linda found a two-foot drop-off with the cane. She knelt down to feel it, sat down so that her feet were on the lower surface, then stood up again. We returned to the car and concluded the day's activities.
Evaluation in the School Environment: The evaluation on the morning of May 10, 1993, was conducted at Linda's school and included the Badger Clark building, Carousel building, and other areas used in the provision of Linda's education plan.
I began the school portion of the evaluation by observing Linda exiting from her main school bus and moving to the small bus in which she waits until a school staff member comes to escort her to the building. In going from the large to the small bus, Linda exhibited excessive vertical raising of the cane similar to that I had observed in the mall on Sunday, May 9, 1993. When leaving the bus and encountering the bus steps, Linda did not seem to know how the cane could provide information regarding the step height. Neither of these observed deficits represents inability. They reflect lack of instruction and consistency of cane use. It is worth noting that when Linda went up the steps to the second bus, she seemed instinctively to use the cane to locate the next step. Once again she showed her appreciation of the cane by maintaining constant contact with it at all times.
After a short wait two school staff members came to the bus to get Linda. I introduced myself and let them know I was present for the day to observe Linda using the cane at her school. Linda then began to follow the staff to the building, located a metal grate on the sidewalk, crossed it, and proceeded into the building. She followed the adults down the hall, located the door to her classroom with her cane, and entered. Without asking Linda's permission, a staff person took the cane from her and hung it up. At that point I offered to put on a pair of sleepshades and demonstrate how the cane can act as an effective tool in mobility. None of the school staff indicated a desire for me to do so.
Linda's first class was physical education, and it was necessary to walk approximately one and one half blocks outside to the track area. The staff person who was taking her to the track referred to the cane as a stick. I explained that the proper term was cane, and she apologized. I informed her that no apology was necessary since no one could expect her to know all of the terms related to blindness and visual impairment.
As we continued, I again observed the ease with which Linda switched the cane from one hand to the other. At one point Linda walked off the sidewalk and onto playground gravel. When asked by the staff person to get back on the sidewalk, Linda located the sidewalk with her cane and, after some independent re-orientation, continued in the proper direction. At another point Linda stepped off the sidewalk onto a grass edge and seemed to be exploring and experimenting with her cane. This action of using her cane as a tool to collect information and to satisfy her curiosity is yet another indicator of her readiness to use the cane.
At one point the staff person grabbed the cane and was teasing Linda by pulling on the cane and saying they were going to get her with it. I asked the staff person not to engage in this kind of activity because Linda, like most students, will benefit from positive reinforcement in the proper treatment of equipment--be it baseball bat, eyeglasses, or a cane. These examples of the staff's lack of knowledge regarding blindness are not a negative comment on the personnel but rather reflect the need to empower staff through a specialized in-service training conducted by professionals and blind role models.
As we came back from physical education and were approaching the building, the staff person asked me if I wanted Linda to trail along the wall. I told her that I preferred that Linda not do this since the cane could find things for her which she would miss if she were just trailing the wall. Furthermore, by using the cane, Linda would be developing transferable skills. When asked for additional information, I explained that, if a maintenance worker or teacher left a tool box or some other item in the hall, trailing the wall would result in a collision. On the other hand, when Linda is using the cane correctly, she can easily detect and walk around items hurriedly left in the hall. To her credit, this explanation made sense to the staff person.
Just before we entered the building, Linda began to tap more heavily, again indicating her ability to use echo location information produced by the cane. She stomped a few times to confirm the cane information and proceeded into the building. Once inside, her speed increased as she walked down the hall without trailing. Soon she asked the staff person if she could stop by the office and was allowed to do so. When she was in the proximity of the office, she heard sound cues coming from within. She extended her cane to her left and entered the office without contacting the door. Even the staff person commented on how well Linda was doing with the cane.
As Linda left the office, again smoothly passing through the door, she turned left to proceed to her home room. The staff person and I arrived at the door and paused; Linda continued approximately thirty feet. She stopped, without comment from either the staff person or me, turned around, and walked back to the door. When she reached it, she swung the cane into the opening and then she entered. The staff person acted very appropriately, allowing Linda to discover and resolve her error on her own.
Once again I extended an offer to demonstrate under sleepshades the full cane technique used by blind persons. I told the staff they had only to ask. No one did.
While waiting for Linda in her home room, I heard an instructor outside the classroom repeat twice to sighted students: "Please keep your hands off the wall; we have art work on the walls!" Encouraging trailing walls in place of using the cane does not facilitate efforts to mainstream Linda. Instead it serves to enhance the differences between her and her peers. This subtle and unnecessary double standard can have negative implications for both Linda's self-concept and the expectations which peers have for her.
The next significant event related to this assessment occurred when it was time to go from Linda's home room to her mainstream class. A staff person informed Linda that it was time to go to Carousel (her mainstream classroom). Another student in the class was looking at Linda's cane. While retrieving the cane from the lad, the staff person informed Linda that they were running late and would have to hurry. As she finished her statement, she hung up the cane, took Linda's hand, and proceeded down the hall. Approximately one quarter of the way to the mainstream classroom I heard Linda ask for her cane. The staff person told her that they were late and didn't have time for the cane. Linda's question reflects the value she places on her cane. The response to the question indicates the need for staff training regarding the importance of cane use in the development of Linda's self-confidence and independence.
That failure to permit Linda to have her cane with her was a lost opportunity to reinforce her independence. Indeed, after arriving at the mainstream classroom, Linda needed to go from one location in the room to another. The staff person told her to go on over. Then almost immediately she said, "Take my hand; there are kids on the floor." Again, this was another example of a lost opportunity to teach Linda and her peers that blind people can do things by themselves.
Next the class members, including Linda, were asked to go outside and get an egg carton which had been filled with dirt and planted. Linda's assigned staff person accompanied her, helped her find a carton, and lined up with her to come back into the building. They had stopped just before the sidewalk to wait for other children to move inside. When the staff person indicated to Linda that the line was moving, she moved forward, caught her toe on the edge of the sidewalk, and almost fell. With the cane Linda could have been in control of her own mobility and collected the information relevant to her needs. She might still have stumbled, but maybe not. Because she was not allowed to take her cane to the mainstream class, she did not have it available for recess or for the walk back to her home room.
A different staff person led Linda back to home room by a different route. This inconsistency in going to and from various locations occurred several times and appeared to be the norm. It would be helpful for the staff to learn the value of Linda's using the same routes during this early period of Linda's learning how to maintain her orientation.
It is salient to the evaluation that when Linda used the cane at school, she exhibited none of the negative behaviors she had displayed while at the mall on Sunday, May 9. Whatever the cause for this improved respect for using the cane, the absence of negative behavior simply means one less thing the staff at the school would need to modify.
Also noteworthy is the fact that during the morning I observed Linda at school, with the exception of one staff person, no one else prompted her to use either the pre-cane device or the long white cane. Instead the staff consistently took Linda's hand to accompany her to various class activities.
It is significant to note that, while staff were reluctant to expand their knowledge of the cane, I did observe a high level of commitment and concern for Linda and a good deal of coordinated effort in expanding her knowledge of geometric shapes and enhancing various concepts in general. These efforts should contribute significantly to Linda's development of spatial awareness and her ability to generalize information when moving about with her cane.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
1. a willingness and motivation to use the cane;
2. awareness of the value of the cane as a tool to assist her in her mobility;
3. awareness of sound feedback available from the metal cane tip and ability to use the information;
4. awareness of texture variables, as they relate to orientation and mobility;
5. good use of echo/sound cues;
6. recognition that the cane can locate objects and openings through its purposeful extension in the desired direction;
7. a willingness to explore her environment with the cane;
8. a firm grip on the cane for extended periods of time;
9. excellent balance in a variety of evaluation environments;
10. an increased pace when using the cane as opposed to trailing the walls; and
11. good travel orientation.
As a result of the evaluation, I make the following recommendations:
1. Conduct future instruction in orientation and mobility using the long white cane.
2. Encourage use of the cane for all independent mobility as often as possible in the school and in home life.
3. See that staff, parents, and peers receive in-service training in basic use of the cane by blind role model(s) and professional staff so that they will be better able to reinforce the use of the cane in and out of the school environment.
4. Establish set routes during this early phase of O & M instruction for going to and from classrooms. This will allow Linda to concentrate more on the skills associated with manipulation of the cane and less on keeping oriented.
5. Give some emphasis and priority to cane use until Linda develops more skills. For example, perhaps on Mondays and Wednesdays Linda might use all of her allotted time just going to and coming back from, say, physical education (or some other class). Learning independent mobility is a priority on those days. On Tuesdays and Thursdays Linda takes her cane but may also take a staff person's hand to get to P.E. quickly so she can participate. On these days the emphasis is on class participation. This approach is suggested as an interim solution, pending Linda's development of speed and self-confidence in using the cane. Careful consideration should be given in a plan of this nature to assure minimum disruption of her academic curriculum.
Those were my findings, but the school continued to resist the Delkers' request for Linda to receive instruction in the use of the long white cane. Indeed, the Douglas School District chose to contest payment for my services even though it is the right of parents to seek outside evaluation in cases where the school and parents disagree.
A Fair Hearing date was set for June 23, 1993, to be held in Rapid City. The school district, represented by their legal counsel, called upon a number of professional staff and the regional O&M consultant to testify. Thanks to the help and support of Karen Mayry, Mr. and Mrs. Delker, represented by South Dakota Advocacy Services, called witnesses who defended the need for the independent evaluation. Among those testifying at the hearing in support of meeting Linda's actual training needs were Konnie Hoffman and me.
Since this was to be the first time that I had to provide testimony in a hearing, I alleviated some of my apprehension by staying outside the courtroom. Soon it was my turn to testify. The counsel for the school district began with rather low-key questions, asking about my background and seeking weak links in my professional experience which would discredit me. Then came a question which caught me completely off guard! The school's counsel asked: "Isn't it true that you first learned of this job from Karen Mayry, the NFB's Rapid City representative?" I answered that I had learned of the Delkers' need from Karen and that she was the President of the Federation in South Dakota. He next said: "And isn't it also true that the NFB has referred jobs to you on numerous other occasions?" To which I answered: "No, it is not true. This is the first such referral!" There was complete silence in the courtroom. The counsel then asked, "No other jobs at all?" To which I also answered, "No!" (When Karen contacted me in April of 1993, I was in the first full month of self-employment as a consultant. And if it had been the 100th consulting job referred to me by the NFB, what does that have to do with the appropriateness of the evaluation? My Federation membership was not a surprise to the school; it was listed on my resume.)
In July of 1993 the Hearing Officer handed down his ruling and found in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Delker and ordered the Douglas School District to reimburse the Delkers for the cost of the independent evaluation. The school district has since obtained the regular services of an O&M instructor for Linda Perez, and she is reported to be making fine progress in the use of the cane, using it not only at home, but also in school.
It was a long road for Linda Perez and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Delker, a road they should not have had to travel. But since they did experience the objections of the school, it was nice to have the help of Karen Mayry and the many other Federationists who subsequently provided advice, moral support, information about resources, and perspective regarding blindness through articles published in the Braille Monitor and Future Reflections. There are times when we simply cannot go it alone.
There you have the story from Doug Boone's point of view. What follows is the complete, unedited text of the hearing officer's decision in the Linda Perez case. It includes references to pertinent segments of the law, history of the intent of the law, and relevant court cases, as well as references to arguments and evidence submitted by both parties in the case.
You may be tempted to skip this segment, but I hope you will not. Parents and advocates can learn much by reading original documents. The IEP and all the rights that parents have in that process would be meaningless without the right to appeal and to have that appeal heard before an impartial, qualified hearing officer. But parents cannot effectively use this right if they do not understand the process or have a practical grasp of what they can reasonably expect to get out of it.
As demonstrated in the Linda Perez case, hearing officers much prefer to deal with procedural questions as opposed to educational instruction issues (e.g., Did the Delkers have the right to reimbursement for an independent evaluation? versus Should Linda Perez receive cane travel instruction?). Even when the parents prevail, seldom will the ruling mandate particular IEP goals. Rather the ruling will focus on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the evaluation(s) in question. The hearing officer will then order both parties to go back to the drawing board and write another IEP or, even more fundamentally, order them to get another evaluation. If parents have not understood and anticipated the limitations of due process rulings, they may end up winning the battle but losing the war.
Here then are the Conclusions of Law and the Decision portion of the July 9, 1993, South Dakota Board of Education due process ruling in the Douglas School District v. Mr. and Mrs. Dale Delker case:
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The parties received due, proper, and legal notice required in contested cases.
2. The Hearing Officer has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter of this action.
3. The Douglas School District has not met its burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the evaluation it provided for Linda Perez was sufficiently appropriate to defeat the Delkers' right to an independent educational evaluation.
4. The Delkers are entitled to reimbursement for the costs of obtaining the independent educational evaluation of Linda Perez by Douglas Boone.
5. The Hearing Officer makes such other and further conclusions of law as are contained in the written Decision, filed herewith.
The Decision of the Hearing Officer is that the independent educational evaluation obtained by the Delkers was consistent with their rights pursuant to the South Dakota Special Education laws, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, and its implementing regulations. Thus the Delkers are entitled to reimbursement for the cost of this independent evaluation.
Additionally the school needs to take the Boone evaluation into account in determining Linda Perez's independent educational program as it relates to cane use. The decision whether Linda is ready for cane use and training should be made in the first instance by the placement committee and parents, taking into account all information about Linda, including, but not limited to, the Mundschenk evaluation, the Boone evaluation, Linda's current use of both the pre-cane device and the cane, the family's support or non-support of either plan, and such other factors that may be relevant in determining an appropriate and beneficial IEP for Linda.
As pointed out by the school, the landmark case in special education was Board of Education, Etc. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982). There is a two-part test to be applied in these cases: (1) whether the procedural requirements of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (the Act) have been followed; and (2) whether the individualized educational program (IEP) developed through the Act's procedures is reasonably calculated to enable the child to receive educational benefits.
The school argues that there is no issue about the procedure used but that the only issue is the substance of Linda's educational program. This argument is incorrect. The case is before the Hearing Officer on a procedural issue raised by the school itself, namely, whether its evaluation of Linda was appropriate so as to defeat the procedural right granted to the Delkers by the Act for an independent educational evaluation pursuant to 20 U.S.C. 1415(b)(1)(A) and 34 C.F.R. 300.503(b).
If the case at bar had been a challenge to the educational program provided by the school for Linda, then Rowley would undoubtedly control and require that the school's plan be found to be appropriate. The school is to be commended for developing an excellent overall educational plan for Linda. It is clear that Linda has benefited from the implementation of the IEPs that were developed for her. As Linda's teachers noted, Linda has progressed remarkably, and she enjoys school a great deal.
The issue, however, is whether the school properly refused the Delkers' request for an independent educational evaluation for Linda regarding her readiness to learn cane skills. Linda had been given an initial comprehensive evaluation in October, 1991. Between October of 1991 and the fall of 1992 Linda changed considerably. She was not functioning at the same level as a year earlier. Linda's teachers stated that her skills had grown and improved beyond all prior expectation. According to the end-of- the-year report from the Student Resource Room, "since the evaluation was completed [October 1991] Linda has made wonderful progress. . . . Linda has amazed us and has gone beyond any expectations." Thus, by the fall of 1992 the conclusions from the October 1991 evaluation about Linda's skill levels and developmental age were no longer accurate.
The October, 1992, re-evaluation was necessary because of the changes in Linda's circumstances. ARSD 24:05:25:06 provides that "Re-evaluations shall be conducted every three years or more frequently if conditions warrant or if the child's parent or teacher requests an evaluation. . ." In this case the changes in Linda's abilities, as identified by Linda's teachers and her parents, warranted the re-evaluation, which was conducted by Jane Mundschenk in October 1992. Additionally, Mrs. Delker had specifically requested this re-evaluation for the purpose of determining Linda's cane readiness, due to Linda's apparently successful experiences with a cane since the 1991 evaluation.
Several important considerations that merited the October, 1992, re-evaluation, then, were as follows: (1) Linda had changed and grown considerably in her performance levels over the last year; (2) Linda had received cane instruction from Konnie Hoffman for several weeks and had gained considerable skills in her ability to use a cane since 1991; (3) Linda was using a cane regularly at home; (4) Linda could not use her pre-cane at home because of environmental considerations; (5) Linda's family had become strong supporters of, and advocates for, cane use and training instead of pre-cane use; and (6) Linda's guardian, Mrs. Delker, specifically requested an evaluation of Linda's ability to use a cane.
The school was not able to prove the appropriateness of its evaluation conducted in October, 1992, because the evaluation did not address these considerations. For example, Ms. Mundschenk stated that she relied on the stale October, 1991, findings regarding Linda's performance-level age for her abilities; there was no re-assessment of whether and how much Linda's performance levels had actually changed over the last twelve months. Ms. Mundschenk denied any knowledge of the training that Linda had received from Konnie Hoffman. Ms. Mundschenk did not consider Linda's use of a cane at home or the environmental limitations for pre-cane use. Ms. Mundschenk did not take into account the attitude and potential supportiveness of Linda's family regarding cane use or pre-cane use.
Although the written criteria used by Ms. Mundschenk for her evaluation appeared to require inquiry and observation of the child's use of a cane, Ms. Mundschenk's October, 1992, report stated that she did not assess Linda's use of a cane. In a letter dated May 22, 1993, Ms. Dunmire offered the school's explanation why Ms. Mundschenk did not test Linda's use of the cane: "A cane was not used at the time of the assessment as the examiner felt it was inappropriate for Linda at the time for various reasons." The report of the examiner, Ms. Mundschenk, stated, however, that Linda's "ability to use a cane would have also been assessed, but it was not available." Ms. Mundschenk also testified that she had not received documentation from the school about Linda's use of a cane.
Thus, on its face, the October, 1992, evaluation did not appear to evaluate the changes in circumstances that Mrs. Delker believed demonstrated Linda's cane readiness. Moreover, Ms. Mundschenk relied upon conclusions regarding Linda's skill levels that were a full year out of date. It is true that in October, 1991, Linda was reported to have skill levels of a two- or three-year-old. By October, 1992, however, these skills appear to have grown considerably, according to the reports of Linda's teachers. Yet there was no new information provided to Ms. Mundschenk on these critical points.
Finally, the methodology used by Ms. Mundschenk appeared to be somewhat summary and rushed. Ms. Mundschenk stated she spent approximately one and a half hours observing Linda in her school environment and without use of a cane. It is true that she stated this methodology was accepted in the field, yet, when contrasted with Mr. Boone's method of spending eight hours over a two-day period studying Linda in a variety of settings (home, school, and public mall), all with Linda actually using a cane, it would seem that Ms. Mundschenk's method may have missed important information about Linda.
The right of a parent to obtain an independent educational evaluation, when the parent disagrees with the evaluation obtained by the school, appears to be a significant and compelling right. 20 U.S.C. 1415(b)(1)(A) identifies certain required procedures, which include "an opportunity for the parents or guardian of a child with a disability . . . to obtain an independent educational evaluation of the child." One important concern of Congress in enacting this protection appears to have been to assure that all relevant information ought to be considered by a school in developing an IEP to avoid erroneous classification of children or their conditions. For example, Senate Report No. 94-168, explains some of the background to the procedural protections under the Act:
. . . [T]he Committee specifically requires . . . that procedural safeguards guaranteed to parents . . . provide adequate protection against erroneous classification. . . .
The Committee is alarmed about the abuses which occur in the testing and evaluation of children and is concerned that expertise in the proper use of testing and evaluation procedures falls far short of the prolific use and development of testing and evaluation tools. . . .
All relevant information with regard to the functional abilities of the child should be utilized in the placement determination. . . .
Senate Report No. 94-168, at p. 29, 2 U.S Code & Cong. News, 94th Cong., 1st Sess 1975 at p. 1452-53. (Emphasis supplied).
Congress intended to assure that, if a mistake was made, it should be made in obtaining too much, not too little, information for placement decisions.
The federal regulations provide:
(b) Parent right to evaluation at public expense. A parent has the right to an independent educational evaluation at public expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency. However, the public agency may initiate a hearing under 300.506 of this subpart to show that its evaluation is appropriate. If the final decision is that the evaluation is appropriate, the parent still has the right to an independent educational evaluation, but not at public expense.
(c) Parent-initiated evaluations. If the parent obtains an independent educational evaluation at private expense, the results of the evaluation:
(1) Must be considered by the public agency in any decision made with respect to the provision of a free appropriate public education to the child, and (2) May be presented as evidence at a hearing under this subpart.
34 C.F.R. 300.503(b) and (c).
These regulations implement the procedural requirement of providing for an independent educational evaluation. It is important to note that the regulations also require that the school take into account the results of any independent evaluation, even if the school's evaluations were fully appropriate. Here, however, the school did not mention or consider the Boone evaluation during the May 17, 1993, IEP meeting. Moreover, the school did not try to establish a goal for Linda at this meeting because of the pending due process hearing.
The school's action in delaying a decision on Linda's IEP until the due process hearing was not appropriate under the regulations. The school should have taken into account the Boone evaluation and its conclusions and, in conjunction with all other relevant information then available, proposed an IEP for Linda. The determination whether the Boone evaluation should have been at public expense had no bearing on Linda's IEP. The purpose of the due process hearing is never to order a school to follow any particular IEP, but is instead to determine whether the school's IEP and procedures used to develop the IEP are consistent with the requirements of federal and state law.
It is premature for the parents to request that the Hearing Officer decide whether Linda is ready to be trained in cane travel. The school and the parents must first together make this decision at an IEP meeting, taking into account all available information and coming to a decision. If the parents challenge the IEP or the procedures used to develop it, then upon hearing, the IEP can be assessed pursuant to the requirements of the Act as construed by Board of Education, Etc. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982), and other relevant cases. At this time, however, the position of the school that: "The goal relative to independent mobility will be developed after the due process hearing and the IEP adjusted accordingly" makes it impossible to determine whether its IEP will be consistent with the Act.
The school suggests that a parent may not be reimbursed for an independent educational evaluation if the evaluation is obtained while the school's request for a due process hearing is pending. This is incorrect, although the parents do take a risk in obtaining the early evaluation. Burlington School Committee of the Town of Burlington v. Department of Education, 471 U.S. 359 (1985). In Hudson v. Wilson, 828 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987), the Court of Appeals addressed a similar contention. The school argued that it should not have to provide reimbursement for an independent educational evaluation because the parents obtained it after the school had requested its due process hearing. The Hudson court rejected this argument.
In granting the Delkers' request for reimbursement, the Hearing Officer has considered the submission by Mr. Boone of his billing. There was no evidence submitted to indicate that this billing was unreasonable or inappropriate. Therefore, the Delkers are entitled to reimbursement of the full cost of the consultation as evidenced by Parents' exhibit P-F.
In their brief the parents have requested that the Hearing Officer award them attorney's fees. In her letter of May 22, 1993, Ms. Dunmire also requested information about attorney's fees. The Hearing Officer has provided both parties with a copy of the "Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986." This should explain the current law regarding the awarding of attorney's fees.
The Hearing Officer is without authority to make an attorney fee award for the instant hearing. This was clarified in the legislative history to the above enactment. According to the committee report, "The Committee intends that 5.415 will allow the Court, but not the Hearing Officer, to award fees in administrative proceedings." PL 99-372, 4 U.S Code & Cong. News, 99th Cong., 2nd Sess 1986 at p. 1804. Therefore, the Hearing Officer is without jurisdiction to rule on the parent's request for attorney's fees.
The Hearing Officer finds that the Douglas School District has done an excellent job in developing Linda's educational program. Testimony and written reports show that Linda's teachers and Douglas personnel demonstrate a great deal of caring and dedication to helping Linda obtain an excellent education. They are to be commended for their efforts and their success. Likewise, Linda's guardians have proved to be diligent and caring parents who offer a great deal to the school. Their involvement and participation in Linda's placement meetings and IEP development has provided very valuable insight and information to school officials. It is truly rewarding to see such actions by both parties.
These actions convince the Hearing Officer that neither the school nor the parents are tied to some philosophy that does not take into account Linda's particular needs. The Hearing Officer specifically finds, and encourages both parties to recognize, that the school and the parents have shown that they are concerned only with Linda's individual well-being and proper development, not with some abstract philosophical goal. Recognition of each other's good faith and legitimate concerns should assist the parties in developing an appropriate and beneficial IEP for Linda that takes into account all relevant information available.
Dated this 9th day of July, 1993
Mark Falk, Hearing Officer
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."
by Barbara Pierce
When I was a child, I had the reputation, largely undeserved, of being organized. While it is absurd to imagine that blind people always know the location of all their belongings or at least the place they were left, it is certainly true that one spends a lot less time hunting for things if one notices where they have been set. The result is that many blind people are motivated to form good habits in organizing their possessions.
In the same way we often find it easier consciously to make a mental note of meetings, phone numbers, errands, short grocery lists, and the like, than to jot them down in Braille or record a note on tape. The calendar notations and post-it notes that confirmed pencil-users depend upon are easier to find and glance at than are Brailled or taped notes. The result is that we practice using short-term memory and develop tricks to help us remember things accurately. Since this skill is even more efficient than calendar notations and post-it notes, we are usually given credit again for great powers of organization.
The capacity to plan is often another element in our reputation for organization. Most of us do have good reason to make careful plans in conducting our lives. I have friends who are willing to drive to the supermarket three or four times in the course of preparing a recipe simply because they will not form the habit of reading through the entire list of ingredients and checking their supplies before beginning or before making the first trip. When getting to the store means taking a bus, calling a cab, or asking someone else to make a special trip, one is more likely to be certain that the list is complete. Without the luxury of wandering around stores or glancing through magazines to find gift ideas, one is more likely to listen carefully for suggestions from friends and family members before heading out on a shopping expedition.
When I was a child, preparing for Christmas was a lengthy and arduous process for me. I enjoyed it tremendously, but I recognized early on that I had better get started at about the time school began in the fall. For one thing, money was hard to come by. I had a modest allowance but no other income--with the possible exception of birthday money that I could sometimes smuggle into my Christmas hoard without my mother's noticing that I had not spent it on something for myself. She could be counted on to help me select appropriate and inexpensive gifts for my brother and father, but the big problem every year was what to get her for Christmas.
My mother was wonderful, and I would cheerfully have mortgaged the universe to buy her the dining room furniture or stove she wanted, but even I knew these were beyond my means. Dad always took us two kids Christmas shopping a couple of weeks before the big day, and he could usually be talked into an advance on allowance up through Christmas, which added another fifty cents to the cash available for Mother's gift.
The year I turned eight I noticed that Mom was short of mixing bowls. I was forever being given the job of washing out a bowl in the middle of a baking project so that we could reuse it for something else. I decided that a set of mixing bowls just might be within my limited budget and would certainly be something my mother would truly appreciate.
The great day of the annual shopping expedition finally came, and, clutching two dollars in quarters and my dollar of birthday money from Aunt Julie, I set out to find the best mixing bowls in Pittsburgh. And against all odds I succeeded--a nest of four Pyrex bowls in yellow, blue, red, and green was sitting on the shelf waiting for me to find it. It is barely possible that, unbeknownst to me, my father subsidized the purchase, telling me that the cost was $3, but I think my brother would have pointed out the actual price if Dad had tried to deceive me. In any case, I believed that I had achieved the near impossible and succeeded in obtaining the perfect Christmas gift for my mother. And on Christmas morning she behaved as though that was exactly what I had done. The thrill of that victory of planning and discipline taught me my first real lesson in the gratification of organization.
Winter is the season of planning. Certainly the logistics of the holiday season tax our abilities sorely. But the new year is also a time of taking stock and making changes. Strict diets in preparation for spring fashions, New Year's resolutions in the hope of reforming one's character, even poring over seed catalogues in affirmation that spring will come: all these bespeak the human impulse toward planning and reformation.
In the National Federation of the Blind winter is also the season of planning. Our Washington Seminar is our first step of the year in contacting the Congress about our legislative concerns. In local chapters and state affiliates this is the time for setting goals and planning activities. It can also be a time for each of us individually to determine what we intend to do during the coming year to improve our own lives and those of other blind people. Whether it's selling Associates, advocating for parents and their blind children, or talking with public officials about the problems facing blind citizens, we can all do more in 1995 than we have done this year. It is time to make our plans.
by Kenneth Jernigan
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in The Journey, one of the recent books in the Federation's Kernel Series of paperback books. It says much about the character of the author and the nature of the organization he has spent his life shaping and strengthening. Here it is:
Blind children are as different from each other as sighted children, but this may not hold for every characteristic. If, for instance, blind children want to get along and do well, they have to learn to plan. At least I did.
As I have often said, living on a farm in rural Tennessee in the late twenties and early thirties was altogether different from what we know today. Not only did we not have a radio, a telephone, electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, or a newspaper. We didn't have automobiles either. It wasn't that we didn't know what a car was. It was just that one didn't pass our house on an average of more than once a week. When we wanted to go somewhere, we walked, rode a horse, or traveled in a wagon drawn by two mules.
Besides me, there were three others in that four-room house, my father and mother and a brother, who was four years older than I. Visitors were rare, and the other members of the family were usually busy. As to entertainment, it was scarce--and even reading wasn't available until after I went away to school in Nashville when I was six.
In the circumstances I had to make my shots count, both for the short run and the long run. Early on, I knew that an education was essential if I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in isolation on the farm, which I didn't. I also knew that there would be a fairly brief window of time to set things in motion.
After I started school, I spent nine months of every year in Nashville and three months at home on the farm. That meant that I pretty much lost contact with any local children who might have grown up as friends, and it also meant that I would have three months of isolation and boredom if I didn't find something productive to do. And I didn't just want entertainment. Well, that too--but something more, something that would help me get an education, something that would help me get off the farm.
By the time I was in the sixth grade, I had started getting Braille and recorded books from the Library of Congress. I ordered from the main library in Washington, from a library in Cincinnati, and from another in Illinois. I don't know whether I was supposed to use only one, but I didn't think it was safe to ask, believing I had better let well enough alone. I spent my summers reading, sometimes (not always but sometimes) twenty hours a day--and I took notes on every book I read, planning to be able to make top grades when I got to college, with time left over for participation in extracurricular activities. I thought this would help me build a record of not just being a bookworm. By the time I finished high school, I had read hundreds of books and had stacks of bulging folders of Braille notes.
In my senior year of high school (that would have been 1945) I had my first contact with the federal-state rehabilitation program. A counselor came to the School for the Blind, and he and I sat down for a chat in what was called "the parlor." (The school was in an old southern mansion, and the amenities lingered, high-ceilinged parlor and all.) When we got past the niceties, the counselor asked me what I wanted to major in when I went to college. I told him I wanted to be a lawyer. He left the subject, talked for a while about the crops and the weather, and then circled back to it. He asked me to tell him three or four things I might like to do.
I was a late teenager (maybe a brash one), so I told him I didn't need to give him three or four. I wanted to be a lawyer. He was not an unkind man, but when you cut through the verbiage, what he said was clear. I could either be a lawyer and pay for it myself, or I could be something else and the rehabilitation agency would help. Academically I was prepared for college, and I had done what I could as a blind boy growing up on a farm to save money. Also my dad and mother were willing to do what they could to help. But all of it together wasn't enough, in addition to which I didn't feel right about putting strains on the family finances. In short, I went to college and was something else.
As I have said, the rehabilitation counselor was not an unkind man, and he undoubtedly thought he was acting in my best interest; but I now know that he was wrong. There are, to my personal knowledge, hundreds of successfully practicing blind lawyers in this country today. If the National Federation of the Blind had been stronger at the time and if I had known of its existence, maybe things would have been different. Or maybe they turned out all right after all.
In any case I started college in the fall of 1945, but the day before I was to enroll, I became seriously ill with a ruptured appendix. So I was six weeks late.
Tennessee Tech is located in the hills of upper middle Tennessee, and before the Second World War it had only four or five hundred students. Now, in the fall of 1945, it suddenly had a student body of 2,000, most of them combat-hardened veterans. I was the only blind student on the campus, and even though my rigorous planning stood me in good stead, there were touchy moments.
When I went to my first English class, for instance, the teacher said to me publicly: "Young man, you there on the back row, I don't object to your being in my class, but I think it is only fair to tell you that you will fail. A blind person can't do college English." I said I hoped I would get a fair opportunity to try, and he assured me that I would.
Later, the biology teacher was blunter and more terse. I had decided to sit on the front row this time, and the teacher was neither gentle nor kindly disposed. He had obviously had a run-in with the college administration because of me, and he wasn't happy. His speech went to this effect: "You can sit in this class if you want to, but I can tell you right now that you will fail. I didn't want you here, but the dean made me take you."
When I ventured to say that I hoped I would have an equal opportunity, he replied with what I can only call menace, "Don't worry! You will!"
The next day in laboratory I learned what he meant. There were four of us at each lab table, and I was handed a microscope along with the rest. When I asked what he wanted me to do with it, he said, "It's not my problem. You said you wanted an equal opportunity. Here's your microscope."
Let me not be misunderstood. Almost uniformly I was treated with understanding and respect, and even the English and biology teachers eventually came around. The first quarter each of them gave me a B, but after that I got A's. As a matter of fact, the biology teacher became as belligerently my defender as he had been my detractor.
As the college years went by, I made the grades I had hoped and planned to make, but an experience in my senior year is worth noting. I had become so accustomed to being able to make A's that perhaps I had become careless, or maybe just a little too big for my pants. I had all of the credits I needed to graduate, but just for fun I enrolled in a class for advanced athletes. I was reasonably good at standing on my hands and other gymnastics, but I was totally outclassed. When the coach told me he was going to have to give me a B, I was not disappointed but grateful. Inwardly I felt that I probably deserved an F for presumption. I had no business enrolling in the class in the first place. From that experience I learned a valuable lesson, one that has stood me in good stead for the rest of my life.
I not only made the good grades for which I had prepared during the summers of my boyhood on the farm, but I took part in intercollegiate debating, became a member of the editorial staff of the college newspaper, and got elected to a variety of club and class offices. In addition, I helped pay my college expenses by selling candy, tobacco products, and sundries.
When I finished my degree at Tennessee Tech, I went on to graduate school and later into teaching and other activities, but the basis of it all (the underpinning which made it possible) was the early preparation, the habit of planning I developed as a child.
Today's blind youngsters are, by and large, not discouraged from going to college, and Braille and recorded books are more plentiful than they have ever been. But there are still major obstacles to the blind person seeking a career and a full life. The National Federation of the Blind is now strong enough in every part of the land to play a major role, and public attitudes are better than they used to be. Even so, one thing is unchanged. Planning is still the essential foundation of success.
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: the following article first appeared in the latest of our Kernel Books, also titled, When the Blizzard Blows. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note. Here it is:
As Kernel Book readers know, Marc Maurer is President of the National Federation of the Blind. In this story he recounts with painful honesty an incident which helped to shape his character--an incident which helped prepare him to lead the National Federation of the Blind.
If a musician wants to become a virtuoso, it is necessary to practice. If an athlete wants to be a star, practice, practice, and more practice will be required. It seems to me that the simple but important things are often overlooked. When I think back, it seems to me that these simple things are often the most notable. I like the winter months--especially when there is snow. The cold is stimulating, and the bite of the wind offers a challenge that requires preparation. One of the pleasures of the winter is stepping from a windy thoroughfare, after a long trudge through the snow, into a warm and steamy cafe for a cup of coffee. The gloves and hat come off, and the hands are grateful for the warm cup.
In 1976 I was a student attending law school in Indianapolis. I had begun college in 1970 and been married in 1973. Although I had been able to find some employment during the summer months, jobs (as is often the case with blind people) were hard to come by. My wife Patricia and I lived in a one-bedroom basement apartment on the west side of town, four or five miles from the law school.
My wife, who is also blind, had been able to find employment (after a long, long search) as a typist for Blue Cross. Her checks paid the rent and bought some groceries, but there wasn't a lot of money left over at the end of the month. Our outings were infrequent and strictly rationed. Once we went to Wendy's for burgers. I remember eating two triples. I was very full but not the least bit sorry. Another time we went to dinner at Long John Silver's for fish and chips.
Each morning during the week, I would walk about a quarter of a mile from our apartment to the bus stop. After about a twenty-minute ride, the bus would drop me near the law school. Classes began about 9:00 o'clock in the morning. Sometimes they continued (with intermittent breaks) until late afternoon. But I was often finished with my formal work shortly after lunch. Then there would be study in the library or reading and writing back in the apartment.
At about two o'clock one afternoon, my classes had come to an end. I had heard on the radio that morning that there might be snow, and as I walked to the bus stop, I reflected that the weatherman had been right. There was already almost half a foot of it on the ground, and the stinging wet flakes were pouring from the sky�-a veritable blizzard. The wind whipped the snow into my face and down my collar.
When I reached the bus stop, I discovered to my surprise that there were two other people waiting for the same bus. At that particular stop I was almost always alone. Today, however, a woman was waiting with her three-year-old grandson. Oh, but the wind was cold. Nevertheless, we talked about what a pleasant thing it would be to get inside, out of the storm.
After a time the bus arrived. I climbed aboard, put my money in the fare box, and took my seat a couple of places behind the driver. The woman climbed aboard also with her little grandson. She explained to the driver that she was planning to travel the other way (east not west) but that it wasn't very far to the end of the line, so she would ride out with us and come back.
The driver said that this would be all right, but she would have to pay two fares--one for going out, and the other for coming back. The grandmother explained that she didn't have that much money with her. So the driver told her that she must get off the bus, walk one block over to the street on which buses returned toward town, and wait. With great reluctance and a little sadness, the woman and the child left the bus, and we started away from the bus stop.
Within a block I was wondering why I hadn't done anything to help. I wanted the grandmother and the little boy to be warm. I could have made my wish come true. But I sat without moving until the opportunity had passed. I looked in my pocket to see how much money I had with me, and I found two or three dollars. That would have been more than enough to cover the cost. I could have paid the fare myself, but I didn't. I let the driver put the woman and the child off the bus into the storm.
The recollection of that little boy and his grandmother are with me still. For almost twenty years I have been sorry that I did nothing to help. These two people symbolize for me the need to be prepared and to plan ahead to seize opportunities when they come. I could have made a difference to them that day, but I wasn't prepared to think in those terms.
If I want the world to be a generous place in which to live, I must begin with generosity in my own life. If I want (as indeed I do) strength of character, courage, gentleness, and the ability to face adversity, I must plan ahead to find ways to instill these characteristics both in myself and in those I meet. Part of behaving well is the habit of thinking and acting in a certain way. All of this comes to mind when I remember a certain blizzard while I was waiting on a street corner for a bus.
When I was in Indiana, it was very unusual for a blind person to be attending law school. I was able to be there because my friends in the National Federation of the Blind had worked and planned in the years before I joined the organization to make it possible.
I needed books and a way to write that my professors could understand. I needed to know the techniques and skills that can be used by the blind to accomplish those things that would ordinarily be done with sight. I needed a background in traveling with a white cane. I needed the capacity to read and write in Braille.
I needed to know how to manage the ordinary activities of getting along on a daily basis--how to rent an apartment, how to acquire the use of a truck and a driver to move my belongings, how to manage a checking account, how to be sure that my neckties matched my other clothes, and how to locate people who would be willing to serve as readers--both for incidental matters like the mail and for those heavy law books. The National Federation of the Blind had helped me with all of this and had also assisted in finding the money to pay the tuition and other school fees.
But this is only a part of what the National Federation of the Blind provided. Far more important than all the other matters were the encouragement and support I received from my friends and colleagues in the Federation. What they said was, "You can do it; don't give up; keep trying; you'll make it!"
The law degree that is hanging on my wall would not be there if it had not been for the National Federation of the Blind. The planning and preparation which are responsible for that degree continue for thousands of other blind people throughout the nation. Do we want blind people to be independent and live successful lives? Of course we do. What must be done to create a climate of opportunity and to foster the kind of training which is needed? We must plan to build our programs with these objectives in mind. We want blind people to be a part of our society.
We want to help build our country so that we can be proud of what we have in America. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind, and that is why I wish I had helped the woman on the bus.
Today I would certainly do it. Twenty years ago I didn't. Our road to freedom is a long one with many twists.
by Christine Flory
From the Editor: Christine Flory is the Job Placement Coordinator at the Colorado Center for the Blind in Denver. She was one of the speakers at the Job Opportunities for the Blind Seminar at the 1994 National Convention in Detroit. She is energetic and creative, and she understands and believes in Federation philosophy. The result is that she is helping blind graduates of the Colorado Center for the Blind find and keep jobs in larger and larger numbers. This is what she had to say about her work:
I have two roles. The first is to work at the Center with all the students in doing job readiness training. I teach a class every week and work individually with people. We develop vocational objectives. We do marketing plans and all sorts of fun stuff. At least I think it's fun--and the students don't fall asleep in my class--so I'm assuming that so far it's been fun for them too. We work on everything from interviewing to writing resumes, from hygiene to the importance of confidence and competence.
The other part of my job is that I contract for the Colorado vocational rehabilitation agency, which means I spend time with rehabilitation clients who are legally blind. I run a job club for them. I cover job readiness and provide job announcements as well as doing direct job development.
That's really what I want to talk about today--direct job development--the interaction I have with employers. First, I want to say that having confident, competent blind job seekers makes my job easy. My NFB training in being positive has also helped me take action and educate employers.
Today I want to talk about three specific employers. I chose each of them for particular reasons. The first one is the Arapaho County Sheriff's Office. I was working with a gentleman who had been a deputy sheriff for ten years and was hurt on the job. As a result he was now blind. Chris had taken the time to develop his computer, cane travel, and Braille skills. He worked very hard on his "rehab," as he called it--"I got my rehab together." When Chris and I met, I asked him what he wanted to do. But the only thing he wanted was to go back to work at the sheriff's office. Chris recognized that he wasn't going to be out on the street, driving a car and doing what he used to do. So we sat down and brainstormed. I said, "Chris you worked there; what do they need? Where is their weak point? Let's come up with a plan and present it."
That's exactly what Chris did. He called me a couple of days later and said, "I've got it!" People call the jail all the time wondering whether their brother Bob was in jail, what did he get arrested for, how long is he going to be in there, what is the bail, when is he going to be in court, and all that kind of question. Chris explained that the procedure has always been that whoever grabbed the phone tried to answer the questions. It took extra time and annoyed the staff. They needed to have one person who could access the information, handle the calls, and give the callers the information they were legally entitled to.
I asked where the information was. Chris said it was in the computer. That was all we needed. Chris called the sheriff and the under-sheriff, which was very tough for Chris because those guys were extremely intimidating. Chris called me and said that we had an appointment. So we went over there.
Just as we went in, I told Chris that the sheriff was my neighbor and that therefore he wasn't going to intimidate me. That seemed to help Chris a little because he realized that this guy could be a neighbor and not just the sheriff.
We talked to the sheriff and under-sheriff, and they listened and said, "You're right, we do need somebody to handle the calls." We talked about how much time Chris could save other officers so they could be doing other things. But the bottom line was budget. I said, "Well, when do you do the new budget?"
They admitted that they were actually writing it right then. I suggested that we write the position in and see if it got through. Chris and I then did a lot of letter-writing and phone calling, but we didn't hear anything. Chris was getting depressed, and, to tell you the truth, so was I.
Then a phone call came in mid-December. Under-sheriff Allan said, "Chris can you be at work January 7? Do you think you can get your equipment in and set up by that date? Because we got the budget, and that is what our starting date is."
Chris said, "Sure, no problem." Then he called me in a panic. I told him that somehow we would meet the deadline.
We then met with Captain Henn, who was going to be his direct supervisor, and we went through all the details of training. We talked about what would work. We needed a personal computer because the office was running off a mainframe and everybody has dumb terminals, but Chris would need a smart front- end in order to use his screen review program. All you computer gurus out there are saying, "Oh yeah, I know that stuff." But we had to learn it. So we went through step by step figuring out what we needed. The other thing we needed was a programmer to write some macros so Chris could get around the screen quickly and gather information.
We decided what he was going to need and got it together. We had a deadline to meet, so we got the equipment, and I sent the programmer out. I called Captain Henn and told him the programmer would be there that afternoon. Later that day I got a call from Captain Henn, who was just delighted because, as he said, in all the years he had been working at the jail no blind person had ever come there. Now suddenly, in just two weeks two blind people had come. Chris was the first, and the programmer that afternoon had been the second. He couldn't get over how great it was that a blind person was doing this complicated programming. I said, "Captain, I practice what I preach. I wouldn't refuse to hire blind people and then ask you to do it." He just laughed.
Chris started the job. As I often do, about a week later I dropped in to check on how things were going with him and heard Chris answer the phone and give out information. He told the caller that Billie Bob was going to be in jail for quite a while and visiting hours were such and such. He gave out all the information. When he got off the phone, I told him how well he was doing with the computer. But it was clear that something was wrong. I said, "Chris, you don't sound good; what's going on?"
For a minute he didn't say anything. Then all of a sudden he said, "No one talks to me. I don't even go down to the cafeteria anymore. I just stay here because no one talks to me, and it's really uncomfortable."
We talked it over, and I told him he should talk to Captain Henn about what was going on, and maybe we could do some staff education. I said, "These guys are probably feeling a little uncomfortable. They knew you prior to the accident, and now they don't know what to say. Chris, I'm going to be honest with you. You are their worst fear. They realize that this could happen to them. It happened to you; it could happen to them."
Chris admitted that he was afraid to talk to his boss for fear it would jeopardize his job, but he asked me to do it, and of course I agreed to.
Over the next two months or so I spent many hours training the deputy sheriffs. It was actually a lot of fun. The only trouble was that they wanted me to train all three shifts, so I was out there at midnight, in the early morning, and in the afternoon doing the education. Some of the guys started saying, "I didn't know he knew I was standing there." Chris kept telling me that people would come in the door and stand there, before walking away. I assured him that they just didn't understand. I suggested that he say hi and start talking to them. I took a lot of information with me--pamphlets, alphabet cards, and so on. Not only have they started talking to Chris, but a couple of the guys have purchased slates and styluses and are writing notes to him in Grade I Braille. You can see that things are great with Chris.
But it's really important to recognize that at the beginning we forgot a critical part of this training--the co-workers. We did the supervisor; we did the sheriff; we did everybody but the co-workers. Chris assumed that, because those guys were his buddies, things were going to be fine with them. This is a great success story, but it was also a good learning experience for both Chris and me.
Another company I want to talk about is Citicorp Diners' Club. I worked specifically with the Diners' Card. I don't know if any of you have a Diners' Card, but their Authorization and Cardholder Service is located in Denver. One of the executives strongly urged the human resources people to explore the possibility of hiring blind people to do customer service.
I got a phone call from Diners' Club, which doesn't happen very often. It was clear that they were open to the idea of hiring blind people, or at least they had been told to be, but it was also clear that they were hesitant. I decided very quickly that I needed to make this a positive experience for the human resources people as well as for the blind people we were going to be placing there.
I began with videotape. I had had a videotape done of some individuals working at Pizza Hut. The videotape showed the employee with the caller talking into one side of the headset and the computer plugged into the other. This gave the Diners' Club people something to look at.
Then I suggested that we go visit a blind person on the job and actually do some job shadowing. Bit by bit we educated these people and broke down the barriers. The next step was setting up the computers. That really was the longest part of the whole process--getting their Management Information Services (MIS) hooked up with the computer programmers that we work with and getting all the communication problems worked out. We had to organize personal computers, the programming, split headsets, emulation, and so on. It all took several months.
Then we needed to find the blind people to work there. Citicorp was looking for someone who had customer service skills, a good phone voice, and computer skills. They needed somebody who already had screen-review-program and voice-output experience so that, as soon as they walked in, they could do the job. They also wanted somebody who could type forty-five words per minute. That was actually a pretty easy bill to fill. The first person we placed started in authorizations, which was a pretty simple job. It was two screens. A merchant calls in and says, "This is the cardholder number, this is how much, and this is my merchant number. Can I have an authorization?" Then the employee assigns an authorization number. I had one person at work, and Citicorp called me and suggested that we could get another blind person hired and use the special equipment on another shift since it was just sitting there not being used when the employee was off. So we got another person out to apply.
Now there were two people working at Diners' Club, and within a year they were applying for promotions. Diners called me and said, "Look we have no choice but to promote them; they deserve it. Can we get computer programmers back in here to do programming for other jobs?" That was easy to do. At the same time Diners' opened up more positions in customer service for cardholders, which was the job that the two blind people had been promoted into. So they hired a third blind person. For this job there were sixty-four screens for which macros had to be programmed. It took quite a while, but we got it done. As I said, the three blind people started doing customer service for cardholders only, but they are now doing customer service for merchants as well. And I am proud to tell you that their call time--the number of calls they handle--is exactly the same as their sighted peers. Their paper work was being produced by their PC's. At the end of the day they just printed out a form. Diners' Club is now considering having all their customer service people produce their reports by computer because supervisors often have to go back to the employees to confirm information from hand- written sheets. So maybe we have changed something at Diners' a little.
Another thing that happened was that other positions around the company started opening up, and several blind people applied for those. One gentleman is now working in collections. There are two people working in card origination. Diners' Club did all those hires on their own. They knew the computer programmer, and they bypassed me. Maybe I should have felt hurt, but I didn't. I think it's wonderful that they have begun actively hiring people without me.
The last place I want to talk about is Pizza Hut. I don't know whether it's this way across the country, but in Denver we have a central number to call for pizza. The order goes to a customer service bank, and from there a computer sends your pizza order out to the nearest store. They started this system in about 1991. About that time we began noticing that Pizza Hut was constantly running ads in the paper for employees in customer service. It was ridiculous. I called them and asked if they were having trouble keeping employees. They said they were, and I told them that I had the solution. I went out, and we talked about the problem. They were willing to hire blind people, and we went through all the computer stuff that I talked about earlier and got a job set up. They started by hiring two people to work on one computer to cover different shifts. At the present time Pizza Hut has modified six computers and has hired thirteen blind employees to work on various shifts.
One thing that is neat about both Citicorp and Pizza Hut is that blind people are being promoted. Of the original blind people who started working at Pizza Hut, one is a trainer for customer service. Another is the head of special services, which handles the complaint desk. And another is in special services, which handles the Spanish calls and makes sure that all new Pizza Hut materials are put into Braille for the blind employees.
All three of these employers saw to it that their personnel policies and other important documents were put into Braille for the blind workers. All of the blind employees I've talked about today are Braille users. Chris regularly uses Braille to keep his notes. At Citicorp everything is in Braille except the daily memos. They have set up a process in which one of the secretaries spends an hour a day going to each of the blind employees and reading the memos. Any document not produced on a daily basis is put into Braille, but it's the daily memos in which things change--those are read to the employees.
Pizza Hut has also done a wonderful job of making everything accessible. By the way, Pizza Hut is in a terrible part of Denver. The bus service is awful. But that's changing because Pizza Hut is taking an active role in advocating with the transportation district in Denver to get that changed. The NFB has had a lot to do with that by assisting them to find out how and where to complain and advocate. I really appreciate the fact that Pizza Hut has invested time and energy in doing that.
Before I finish, I want to touch briefly on a couple of tools I use with the employers. I begin the process with a generic letter. Here it is:
Dear Mr. Employer:
Employers have told us that they often do not have time to engage in a search for appropriate job candidates. I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce services of our agency which may be beneficial to your company. The consumers with whom we work include community employers and individuals who are blind. We work to provide employers with trained, pre-screened, qualified applicants with skills that match your employment needs. In addition, we can provide your company with information and education on qualified workers, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the ways in which the ADA may apply to you. These services are provided at no cost. We are a team of professionals with expertise in placement, training, and employment. We also provide a wide variety of other services.
Enclosed you will find information on our program and benefits available to you. We look forward to establishing a working relationship with your company.
With that I send a guide to benefits which was put together by the Colorado vocational rehabilitation agency and the Colorado Center. This is a list of job analysis, employer education, targeted job tax credit, on-the-job training, job coach, and follow-up services. I also send information about the targeted-job tax credit. I then call and make an appointment. When I actually go to see someone, I take two things with me. One is a folder full of information: Job Opportunities for the Blind's "Taking the Mystery Out of the ADA"; "Insurance Coverage for Blind Workers," prepared by JOB; the 1992 JOB Employer Bulletin, which has wonderful information on reasonable accommodations; "Do You Know a Blind Person"; "What Is the National Federation of the Blind"; the Colorado Center brochure; and an NFB Braille card. While we are talking they usually begin feeling the Braille card, and this seems to get them in the right frame of mind for my proposals. As I said, all these things are in an attractive folder with a slot for my business card, and I give them this information to look at and keep.
I also take a presentation notebook with me. Our services and job analyses are laid out and displayed on separate pages, and I explain everything. It's a leave-behind. I tell them that I will be back in a week to pick it up. It gives me a good excuse for my next visit. Videotapes are also good. Audio tapes also work. The idea is to leave something that has to be picked up again. The thing that stimulates more comments than anything else I give out is the section on interviewing a blind person in "Taking the Mystery Out of the ADA." It makes employers think, and they seem to appreciate it. The other thing that catches their eye is the section on firing a blind person. I encourage you to take that hand-out with you, because it works.
The other thing that is really important to know is the don'ts. I mentioned some of the do's earlier: explaining, being competent, having good hygiene, etc. But we haven't really talked about what not to do. Assuming that the employer knows anything at all about blindness or the ADA is very dangerous. A lot of employers don't know the first thing. The human resources people may know about the ADA, but you are talking to a supervisor who probably doesn't know anything. So don't assume a thing. Educate as you go. Explain how you'll do the job. Remember that they aren't allowed to ask. Recognize that, when they say, "Well, you would have to go to three conventions a year; is that a problem?" what they are really asking is, "Can you travel independently, and how do you do it?" Just tell them. Take every opportunity to explain.
The other thing that I have seen create disasters is going in to a job interview with a list of technology that you would have to have in order to do the job. When you rattle off a string of equipment names and capacities and functions, you are very likely to overwhelm employers. All they can see is huge dollar signs, and they will be totally confused. Explain the technology generally but briefly without going into detail, unless you are asked specific questions. Be prepared to go that extra step. Don't leave them guessing about how you can get the job done. Anticipate questions like "Will your technology affect my mainframe? Is it going to crash?" You need to know those things. That's where educating yourself and taking initiative will pay off.
My final reminder is remember that "I can't" should not be in your vocabulary when you are looking for a job. When you go into a job interview, you cannot use phrases like "I can't do that, I can't see how that's going to work; I can't be expected to meet that standard." It won't work. You must have confidence in yourself, and you have to walk in and convince them that you know how you are going to do the job.
That doesn't mean that it's better to make up answers to questions you weren't expecting. You can always say, "What an interesting question. I never thought of it quite that way before. Can I get back to you with the answer? I can call the Job Opportunities for the Blind 800-phone line. JOB has a nationwide network of working blind people organized by the National Federation of the Blind and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. I'm sure I can talk to someone who has the answer we need."
Then be sure to call that 800 number, get the answer, and call the employer back the next day. One mistake people make is not following through. I always encourage people to tell potential employers that they have resources. But you don't have to wait for Miss Rovig to answer the JOB line in Baltimore and tell you where to go for your answer. Begin now to establish your own network of Federationists across the country to encourage you and help answer your job-related questions.
In closing I want to say that every day I thank the NFB for teaching me the positive, active approach to working with employers and also for providing the people I work with--both the employers we have found and the blind people who are competent and confident and ready to go out and get a job. The best thing that happens to me any day of my job is getting a phone call and hearing the voice at the other end say, "I got a job."
by Sharon Maneki
From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 1995.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 1995 convention July 1 to 7, in Chicago, Illinois. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $500, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind children or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND DISTINGUISHED
EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD 1995 APPLICATION
City: State: Zip:
Day phone: Evening phone:
City: State: Zip:
List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
How long and in what programs have you taught blind children?
In what setting do you teach?
residential school classroom
special education classroom
other, please explain.
How many students do you teach regularly this year?
What subjects do you teach?
How many of your students read and write primarily using:
Braille large print closed circuit television
recorded materials small print
Please complete this application and attach a letter of nomination, one additional recommendation written by someone who knows your work and philosophy of teaching, and a personal letter discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to include such topics as the following:
* What are your views on the importance to your students of Braille, large print, and magnification devices; and what issues do you consider when making recommendations about learning media for your students?
* When do you recommend that your students begin the following: reading Braille, writing with a slate and stylus, using a Braille writer, learning to travel independently with a white cane?
* How should one determine which children should learn cane travel and which should not?
* When should typing be introduced, and when should a child be expected to hand in typed assignments?
Send all material by April 15, 1995, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9736 Basket Ring Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045; telephone: (410) 992-9608.
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year. Here is what he has to say:
Several years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Association of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have nurtured the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information, but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual banquet of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present at the National Convention and at the banquet to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $500.
The members of the committee which will select the 1995 Blind Educator of the Year Award are Steve Benson, Chairman, Illinois; Patricia Munson, California; Homer Page, Colorado; Judy Sanders, Minnesota; and Adelmo Vigil, New Mexico. Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current resume and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by April 30, 1995, to be considered for this year's award.
by Homer Page
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in Standing on One Foot, one of the Kernel Books, our paperback series telling the public what blindness is like and how blind people live our lives. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note. Here it is:
Homer Page is totally blind. He is a university professor and an elected official in his community. He attributes much of his success in life to his mother, who also happens to be blind. Here he tells his mother's story:
D'Arline Creech was born on September 12, 1915. She came into this world in a small farm house near Troy, Missouri. She attended school in a one-room schoolhouse, no more than three hundred feet from the place she was born. In many ways her life was uneventful, but in many other ways she represents some of the strongest dimensions of the human experience. It is her story that I want to tell. It is a special story to me because D'Arline Creech Page is my mother.
Blindness is a condition that has existed in my family for many generations. There are at least six generations of us who have learned to live positive, productive lives as blind persons. I am the first in this line to receive an education and make my way in the broader world. Much of this is due to the changing times and to the effect that the National Federation of the Blind has had on the attitudes of our society. Yet one does not make a successful life without being grounded in a strong personal identity drawn from past generations.
I am fifty years old. I have been blind from birth. I have earned a Ph.D., and I have lettered in wrestling at a major university. I have taught in universities, and I currently serve as a County Commissioner in Boulder County, Colorado. My life has been enriched by friends and family from across this nation and the world. I now have a grandson who at this writing is six months of age. As I look back on my life and my blindness, I become more and more aware of the ways in which my mother taught me to have pride and worth as a blind person.
My mother was born on the same farm in Missouri where I was born. She always had very low vision, but as she grew older, her vision decreased. She dropped out of school after the tenth grade and lived a very limited life for the next ten years. Her mother was also blind. They lived together after her father's death on the family farm.
During this time my grandmother and my mother provided a home for a number of foster children. This was during the Depression of the 1930's, and money was very scarce. They scraped by and managed to pay the taxes on the farm and not to lose it. Many of their neighbors were not so successful.
My father and mother had grown up together and attended the same one-room country school. They were married in 1940. My father had grown up as an orphan. He had made his way as a rodeo cowboy and a musician. When my mother and father were married, he moved into the family farm and took on the responsibilities of managing it.
My mother and father raised three children and improved their economic position through hard work and the careful use of the scarce resources that they had available to them. They were married over thirty-five years before they took a vacation. My mother canned fruits and vegetables each year. They grew their own meat and dairy products. We were always well fed, clean, and well loved. We never knew that we were economically deprived. We always thought that we were just fine, and I still think we were.
However, our family had one very difficult winter. In 1947 the crops failed. My father had just returned from the army, and our resources were practically non-existent. My parents went to town to find jobs. My father was hired to work on the railroad, and my mother found employment in a local garment factory. This was hard work for her. She had to cut and sew women's lingerie. She had to follow a pattern. It was stressful work, and it was hard for her to keep up with the production quotas. She got paid by the piece. However, she worked all winter, and with the income that they each earned, they bought cattle and seeds for the next year's crops. It was the only time that she had to work outside the home. She never complained and was glad to make her contribution. However, she was also very glad to be able to quit.
My mother was never a leader at the neighborhood church or in the local school. She was always quiet in meetings. She was not a leader in the family. She never tried to prove herself to anyone. Yet I learned more about living productively from her than anyone else. What was it, then, that this simple woman offered to me that I found so valuable?
My mother looked for ways to be productive around the farm. She didn't have to look very far. She was patient. She defined the jobs that needed to be done and that she could do. She did those jobs well and with consistent discipline for many years. She washed our clothes on a washboard. She cooked and cleaned and canned. When my father got a job as the local town marshal, she washed and ironed his uniforms with great pride. He looked very professional in his well-pressed uniform, and she took great pride in that.
My mother cared for her children. She defended them as well as disciplined them. She made sure that they went to school and did their homework. She also made sure that they did their chores.
Often blind and sighted persons alike will say, "Well, what can I do; what can I do that is worthwhile and meaningful?" All too often we fail to recognize the obvious. There are many valuable things which each of us can do if we choose to do them.
Is my mother a model for this generation of blind persons and especially for blind women? In some ways she is not. She never had an opportunity to learn Braille or to travel independently. She never went to school and developed an occupation outside the home. She was not a leader, nor was she outspoken on the issues of the time. In many ways she was dependent on others: first on her mother and then on my father. Yet in spite of all of these things that she was not, I believe that there is much that is instructive about her life.
Throughout the generations blind persons have not had the opportunity for an education or for full participation in our society. It was easy enough to sit down and allow others to care for them. Many did, but many like my mother patiently waited for the chance to serve. They found that chance in different ways. Some were street musicians--they created the blues. Others worked in sheltered workshops. Still others like my mother raised families. They were proud people. They believed in themselves because they knew that they were contributing. They had a kind of mental toughness that allowed them to endure through all of the self-denying experiences which were their lot in life. Even though they were dependent and even though others may have felt sorry for them, they patiently waited, and, when their time came to give, they took advantage of it.
To these innumerable blind persons who (in spite of everything) found ways to be productive those of us who have found our way in a broader world owe great debts of gratitude. They never quit trying. They were patient, and they waited. When their time came, they produced. Those of my generation and the generations to come have doors opened for us that those before us did not. Yet we too have our barriers to overcome--frustrations and those stubborn, pervasive societal attitudes that would keep us dependent. From those who have gone before us we can learn endurance and patience. We can also learn the joy that one can derive from giving, from being of worth to others, and from being productive.
My mother was a very happy person. She drew joy from her family and from her sense of personal worth. She knew we needed her, and that gave her great pleasure. She knew she counted. She never became cynical or depressed because she was not something other than herself. She knew she belonged. This joy and wholeness are still another gift that the generations who came before us can sometimes offer to us. They suffered. Their dreams were diminished because of their lack of opportunity, but they endured. My generation and those yet to come will have more opportunity. I hope they will also have as much joy and as much of a sense of self-worth.
Often I am asked to discuss what it is like to be blind. There's always a need to try to change the attitudes of sighted and blind persons alike, so I talk about how easy it is to live as a blind person. I talk of the rather simple adaptations that allow me to do all of the things that my job and life demand. I talk of all of my blind friends who are involved in exciting, challenging careers. All of these things are true, and they will be true even to a greater degree for the generations to come because we truly are changing what it means to be blind. Yet I will always remember what happened when I left home to go to college. My mother gave me money that she had saved and said to me, "Do well. You're going for all of us."
by Bill Meeker
From the Editor: Bill Meeker is the President of the Milwaukee Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. He is thoughtful and alert to the subtle and not so subtle messages blind people receive every day. The following article first appeared in the fall, 1994, edition of The Wisconsin Chronicle, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. Here it is:
Cultural exploration can take many forms. We can travel to other countries and experience them firsthand, or we might study them through reading or listening to lectures, music, or shortwave broadcasts. Then again, we might literally taste and smell them. I am speaking, of course, of that most satisfying mode of cultural experience, eating the food of other countries at restaurants.
I should qualify this statement by admitting that my own gastronomic travels have been limited to ethnic restaurants inside the United States and Canada and that in the term "ethnic" I include American restaurants in different regions of this country.
In addition to its food, each eating establishment affords a glimpse of dining customs and practices of the land or region whose food it serves. Among the almost infinite variety of these customs and practices is one common to nearly every restaurant, regardless of its location or regional or cultural specialty.
Those who pay close attention to such things are already saying to themselves, "Ah yes, he is speaking of the blind table."
And those who don't notice such things are now saying, "What's the blind table, anyway?"
Usually, it's the first table you come to after entering a restaurant. While it is arguably not the worst table in the place--the table next to the bus pans, kitchen, or bathrooms takes that honor--it is frequently the draftiest and always the most heavily trafficked. And it is a ghetto of sorts because we are placed here solely because we possess the characteristic of blindness. Skeptical? Try this simple experiment. Pick a restaurant; go alone or with a group of blind people at a quiet time when the blind table is less likely to be occupied. The presence of sighted people in the group will skew results. Note where you are seated. Record the results. Repeat the experiment enough times to obtain a meaningful sample. Test for statistical significance. By the way, how was the food? If the food was good, but results inconclusive, write a grant proposal for additional funding in order to continue your research.
You may feel that writing about topics like the blind table is frivolous; so did my Dale Carnegie-esque apologist for the silent majority, Uncle Gladhand Brightside. He said, "But it's closer to the door and easier for you to get out."
"Thou seemest overmuch concerned with my leaving. What's the hurry? Remember, when I leave, so does my money. And besides, it's my eyes that don't work, not my legs."
"But somebody has to sit there."
"Yes, but not a handful of the people most of the time. Look, when you stop hassling me about sitting in the exit rows of your airplanes, I'll stop hassling you about sitting in the exit rows of your restaurants."
"Is this such a serious problem?"
"No, it's an annoyance." But it's also illustrative of the mostly negative assumptions the sighted world, regardless of its ethnicity, often makes about blind people and a reminder of how far we have yet to go. It reminds me, too, that I must always be watchful and assertive wherever I am. For the price of freedom is, indeed, eternal vigilance.
by Kenneth Jernigan
The time has come to plan for the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. As Federationists know, our recent National Conventions in New Orleans, Charlotte, Dallas, and Detroit have been record-breaking in every sense of the word--excellent programs, good food and facilities, and wonderful hospitality. But Chicago in '95 promises to be the best we have ever had. All you have to do is to remember our Chicago convention in 1988, and you will know what a wonderful experience is in store.
We are going to the Hilton and Towers hotel at 720 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. You have to be there to believe it. Read Steve Benson's article elsewhere in this issue, and you will know what I mean. This exquisite hotel, built in the 1920's, originally had over 3,000 rooms. In the 1980's it was remodeled to have only 1,543 rooms, but the elevators (all fourteen of them) and the rest of the infrastructure for a 3,000-room hotel were left intact. Mrs. Jernigan and I have now been to the Hilton and Towers for several planning meetings, and each time I am more impressed than the last.
As usual, our hotel rates are good. For the 1995 convention they are: singles, $47; doubles and twins, $49; triples, $54; and quads, $57. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax, which at present is almost 15 percent. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is required.
In recent years we have sometimes taken hotel reservations through the National Office, but for the 1995 convention you should write directly to Hilton and Towers Hotel, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605, Attention: Reservations; or call (312) 922-4400. Hilton has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Hilton and Towers in Chicago.
Here are the convention dates and schedule; Saturday, July 1--seminars for parents of blind children, blind job seekers, and vendors and merchants; several other workshops and meetings. Sunday, July 2--convention registration, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee, other committees, and some of the divisions. Monday, July 3--meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), division meetings, committee meetings, continuing registration. Tuesday, July 4--opening general session, evening gala. Wednesday, July 5--general sessions, tours. Thursday, July 6--general sessions, banquet. Friday, July 7--general sessions, adjournment.
Remember that we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Prizes should be relatively small in size and large in value. Cash is always popular. In any case, we ask that no prize have a value of less than $25. Drawings will be made steadily throughout the convention sessions. As usual the grand prize at the banquet will be spectacular--worthy of the occasion and the host affiliate. The 1994 grand prize in Detroit was a thousand dollars in cash. The 1995 grand prize will be at least as good. Don't miss the fun! You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time to: Pam and Don Gillmore, 5132 West Fletcher Street, Chicago, Illinois 60641-5049.
The displays of new technology; the meetings of special interest groups, committees, and divisions; the exciting tours; the hospitality and renewed friendships; the solid program items; and the exhilaration of being where the action is and where the decisions are being made--all of these join together to call the blind of the nation to the Hilton and Towers Hotel in Chicago in July of 1995. Come and be part of it--and for further information read the following article from the Illinois affiliate for color and details.
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is not only a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind but also the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. Moreover he is a resident of Chicago, so he knows whereof he speaks when he talks about the host city for the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This is what he has to say about the Hilton and Towers and the city that surrounds our convention hotel:
Chicago was incorporated in 1837. In 1840 little more than 4,000 people called it home. By 1860 it had swelled to more than 112,000. The city's history, political and economic climate, energy, spirit, and character are captured in its nicknames: Mudtown, City on the Lake, City of Big Shoulders, Hogopolis, Hog Butcher for the World, Railroad Hub of the Nation, Gem of the Prairies, City of Churches, Financial Capital of the Midwest, Windy City, and Convention Capital of the World. This latter claim is not made frivolously, for Chicago is equipped to play host to the world--and the people come. Chicago has 25,746 hotel rooms. An additional 41,000 rooms may be found in the surrounding, collar counties. The largest convention Chicago hosts, the International Machine Tool Association, meets every two years and attracts more than 115,000 people. By the end of 1994 more than 3.8 million people will have attended conventions in the Windy City. The anchor for all this activity, McCormick Place, offers 1.3 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
Chicago hosted its first convention of the National Federation of the Blind in 1950. The first political convention to meet here was the Republican National Convention of 1860, at which Abraham Lincoln was selected to carry the party's banner to the White House. Many political conventions have woven strands into the rich and varied fabric of Chicago's history, but none has made more impact on the lives of blind Americans than the five NFB conventions previously held here. So our 1995 national convention in Chicago, the sixth, makes this city our "Sweet Home." Taking nothing at all away from the splendid conventions of recent years, 1995 will be the biggest and best by far. It is fitting, then, that the site of next year's convention should be one of the most spectacular hotels in the world.
The Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60605, (312) 922-4400, is a Chicago landmark and the flagship property of the Hilton chain. To the east of the hotel, across Michigan Avenue, sprawls Grant Park with its beautiful formal gardens, its wildflower garden, Buckingham Fountain, museum campus, the Patrillo Bandshell, Columbia and Chicago Yacht Clubs, Burnham Harbor and athletic fields. This is a magnificent and proper setting for a hotel that received the 1994 Mobil Travel Guide's Four Star Award.
When built in 1927 at a cost of thirty million dollars as the Stevens Hotel, it was the largest in the world with 3,000 guest rooms. It had a rooftop eighteen-hole golf course with real grass; a 25,000-volume private library; an art gallery; a five- lane bowling alley; a swimming pool; and its own hospital, police force, fire department, and three-story industrial laundry still in operation. To say that it was roaring-twenties opulent is an understatement.
In 1945 Conrad Hilton acquired the property, and in 1951 the hotel was renamed after its owner. In 1984 the hotel was renovated with major structural changes, including the reduction of guest rooms to 1,543 at a cost of 185 million dollars. Other changes included converting two private ballrooms to a 5,000- square-foot grand luxury suite, which rents for $4,000 per night and which, I'm sad to say, none of us will occupy. The project not only restored the hotel to its 1927 grandeur, it surpassed it in many ways and placed the Hilton and Towers in a more competitive position for today's business climate.
The Hilton and Towers is a majestic structure that occupies a full city block north to south and more than half a city block east to west. The hotel boasts 120,000 square feet of exhibit space, more than fifty meeting rooms, a 510-car attached garage, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a full-service business center, the Stevens Art Gallery, four excellent restaurants, three lounges, a unisex hair salon, a shopping area, and twenty- four-hour room service--and that doesn't begin to tell the story of this very special facility.
As you step through the Hilton and Towers front doors on Michigan Avenue, you enter the spectacular Great Hall with its restored gold leaf frescoes and elegant, graceful curving staircases leading to the Grand Ballroom and other meeting space on the second floor. Immediately to the right is Lake Side Green, a two-story atrium lounge that features entertainment, billiards, and light refreshment. Immediately to the left is a corridor leading to the shopping area and escalators to the lower level exhibit area. Continuing through the Great Hall, you come to the central (north to south) corridor. Across this corridor, directly in front of you, is the elevator lobby with fourteen elevators on the north, west, and south sides. The east side of the elevator lobby is the open side. If you turn right (north) in the main corridor, you will find on the right side the assistant manager's desk, the hotel's registration desk, and the bell stand. Across the corridor from the hotel's registration desk is the Pavilion Restaurant. At the end of the corridor is the Concierge. If you turn left, there are rest-rooms for men and women on the right side. Straight ahead is the carport.
The Pavilion is a French country cafe surrounded by a spacious veranda dotted with colorful flowering plants. Contemporary and impressionist art adorn the area. The menu features sumptuous breakfasts and lunch and dinner buffets, plus a wide selection of burgers, pasta salads, sandwiches, and many daily specials. The 275-seat restaurant is open from 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
If you turn left from the Great Hall (south) you will find on the right side of the corridor Buckingham's, the hotel's fine dining signature restaurant. This warm, club-like space seats 165 guests. It is decorated in high-lacquered mahogany woods, gray and white marble, beveled mirrors, and upholstered walls with brass accents. Watercolors, line drawings, and paintings of Chicago's Buckingham Fountain by local artists hang throughout the room. Buckingham's features steak, chops, and seafood. It is open from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. and requires reservations. For those interested, Buckinghams claims the largest selection of single malt scotch whiskeys in the city, a total of 106.
Continuing south through the main corridor, on the left side are Ciro's Jewelry; Parnell's Irish Shop; a flower shop; and W.H. Smith's Store, featuring newspapers, magazines, toiletries, and so on. On the right side are men's and women's rest-rooms. Kitty O'Shea's Irish Pub and Restaurant is next on the left side. At the end of the corridor, straight ahead, is Accent Chicago, featuring souvenirs and gifts. Make a right turn, and on the right is Chicago's own world-class Fanny Mae Candy. Here are treats unequaled anywhere. Next on the right are escalators leading up to the International Ballroom. Straight ahead and down several steps is the newly renovated Continental Ballroom.
The southeast corner of the Hilton and Towers is an extraordinary area. If you pause there for a bit of refreshment, you may hear echoes of William Butler Yeats, Brendan Behan, Sean O'Casey, James Joyce; or you may detect just a hint of the little people. You are certain to hear the cadence and lilt of English as spoken on the Emerald Isle. The place is Kitty O'Shea's Irish Pub and Restaurant. The 150-seat pub is an authentic Irish tavern reminiscent of centuries-old establishments in Ireland.
Hilton sent a design team to Dublin and gave them the dirty, thankless job of visiting some forty pubs to study floor plans, decor, menus, and other little touches that could carry the ambiance of those legendary gathering spots to Chicago. The Hilton and Towers has done the job just right.
The oak plank flooring and ceramic floor tiles in green, orange, black, and white; the hand-carved mahogany and marble bar; the glass shelving; and ceramic mugs are imported from Ireland. The antique beer taps were donated by the Guiness Brewery in Dublin. The food is authentic, and the chef, bar men, and wait staff are Irish natives working here on a culinary hotel exchange program.
Tradition and hospitality abound in this warm and merry place. True to Irish custom, according to manager Eamon Brady, "Loyal customers are honored by personalized mugs. You may have a ceramic Guiness mug registered for your use and hung from the ceiling above the bar."
Distinguished Irishmen of Chicago have added a special touch to Kitty O'Shea's. Past presidents and officers of the Irish Fellowship Club have donated shillelaghs that have been carried in the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade. The black thorn staffs hang in Shillelagh Corner.
And then there's the entertainment. Nightly from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., you can hear Irish balladeers sing the songs of the Old Sod. Better than that, there are sing-alongs. You can lift your voices in the singing of "Johnny McAdoo," "Whistling Gypsy," "Jug of Punch," "Jolly Tinker," and many more rowdy and sweet aires. Kitty O'Shea's is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m., with food served until 9:00 p.m. Partake of Irish lamb stew; shepherds pie; potato and leek soup; and, if you like, Blarney Burgers. Don't miss Kitty O'Shea's.
For a moment let us revisit the magnificent Continental Ballroom, which was recently renovated at a cost of two million dollars. From its stunning 3,700-square-foot foyer to the state-of-the-art sound system, to the twenty-three glittering chandeliers and thirty-six wall sconces, this 10,000-square-foot room, decorated in green, mauve, and violet, is well coordinated with the decor of the hotel.
The second floor of the hotel features the Versailles- inspired 16,600-square-foot Grand Ballroom with its twenty-two- karat gold frescoes and crystal chandeliers and the nearly 22,000-square-foot International Ballroom. In addition, the second floor houses the Normandy Lounge, site of the Buckinghams- hosted Sunday brunch with a 120-foot buffet. The elegant Normandy Lounge overlooks Grant Park and is graced by chairs from the ocean-liner, S. S. Normandy. In addition, north of the elevator lobby is the Boulevard Room. It is worth noting that this was once a nightclub that featured a floor show on ice.
The Hilton and Towers has hosted every President since Franklin D. Roosevelt and heads of state from Japan, England, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, and Ireland. In addition, such notables as Charles Lindbergh; Maria Callas; Frank Sinatra; Richard Burton; Walter Payton; Michael Jordan; Babe Ruth; Ray Charles; and many, many more have stayed at this hotel. Next year the Hilton and Towers will welcome us, the National Federation of the Blind. Large and elegant as it is, the hotel definitely has the warmth and feeling of a fine home. Much of the credit for that goes to the outstanding, well-trained staff. The Chicago Hilton and Towers will be our home for a week in 1995. As we add a chapter to our history, so too we will add a chapter to the history of this magnificent hotel and to the history of Chicago. The Illinois affiliate looks forward to being your host and to continuing the positive work of the National Federation of the Blind. Welcome to Chicago!
by Stephen O. Benson
In addition to the article about Chicago, which appears elsewhere in this issue, Steve Benson and the members of the NFB of Illinois have prepared the following information to whet your appetite for the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind:
As everyone who attends Federation conventions knows, each one takes on its own flavor and characteristics. That was certainly true of the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, September 30 through October 2. The convention was billed as a tuneup for the 1995 national convention, and it lived up to its billing and to all our expectations. Nearly 160 Federationists and friends from across Illinois and from six other states gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lisle, Illinois, in a celebration of progress and to make a united commitment to our march to freedom.
Spirits were high when convention activities opened with a JOB seminar on Friday afternoon, September 30, and they rose from there. Our student chapter met on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon with exciting results. Our parents chapter meeting was packed with information and a spirit of sharing and purpose that bodes well for the new slate of officers.
In addition to presentations that focused on access to the news via dial-up services, an outstanding employment panel, comments from the State Department of Rehabilitation Services, and the library, Saturday afternoon's program peaked with the showing of That the Blind May Read, our new film on Braille literacy.
Saturday evening's pre-banquet activities, and indeed the banquet, will be long remembered. At approximately 5:30 p.m., as the scholarship committee met and as Federationists made ready for the evening's activities, the hotel was plunged into darkness by a major power failure. Federationists, including the national representative, Sharon Gold, found themselves wending their way up and down as many as fourteen stories of steps. The banquet was held in a large outdoor pavilion, heated, fortunately, against the autumn chill. As the banquet was called to order by Master of Ceremonies Brian Johnson, the hall was illuminated by candles and emergency lights only, and there was no power for the public address system. Despite the unusual circumstances, the banquet unfolded without a hitch. Enthusiasm continued to swell with cheers and Federation songs. Sharon Gold delivered a masterly banquet speech punctuated by the excited calls of a flock of geese migrating along the Great Lakes flyway.
Enthusiasm continued to mount during the Sunday morning business session's presidential report, treasurer's report, resolutions, election, and discussion of next year's National Convention. We were reminded of Dr. Jernigan's admonition to prepare for tomorrow and today will have been taken care of. The Illinois affiliate hopes you will be prepared for the Federation's biggest and best convention. We know we will be. The 1994 convention of the NFB of Illinois reached crescendo with what we regard as the frontispiece for our 1995 convention in Chicago. It is a tape recording that goes like this:
All roads, railroads, and airways lead to Chicago: transportation hub of America, crossroads of the world, with one of the globe's busiest international airports.
In 1995 more than 3,000 Federationists and friends are expected to pass through O'Hare Field, Midway Airport, Union Station, and the Greyhound terminal, and along Chicago's expressways, to attend the fifty-fifth annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind from July 1 through July 7. Here is some of what this great American city has to offer.
Spreading west from thirty miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, more than twenty of which is devoted to recreation, is Carl Sandburg's "City of Big Shoulders." Within its boundaries or immediately surrounding Chicago are located two of the nation's top ten academic institutions, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. There are six law schools; seven medical schools; eighteen four-year colleges and universities; a world- renowned library; a world-class art museum and school; one of the world's finest symphony orchestras; and five outstanding museums devoted to American history, natural history, astronomy, science and technology (and their application in industry), and the John G. Shedd Aquarium with a collection of more than 8,000 fish and a spectacular oceanarium housing whales and dolphins.
One of Chicago's two major zoos (the Lincoln Park Zoo, open every day of the year) is free. Chicago has two professional baseball teams and scores of nightclubs featuring jazz; blues; and comedy, including Second City. In addition, there are countless fine restaurants that reflect the many cultures and nationalities that comprise Chicago.
Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, which hosts more than four million visitors each year, houses an actual coal mine, the U505, a Nazi submarine captured intact during World War II, an extensive space technology exhibit, and the dramatic Omnimax Theater.
The world's first skyscraper with a steel frame was erected in Chicago. Today three of the five tallest buildings in the world are located within two miles of the Hilton and Towers Hotel. The Sears Tower, 1,454 feet high, and the John Hancock Center, 1,285 feet high, have observation decks that provide a panoramic view of a four-state area and the southern tip of Lake Michigan--second largest body of fresh water in North America, 350 miles long and 100 miles wide. The elevators in the Sears Tower ascend to an observation deck 103 floors above the street at a speed of eighteen miles an hour in seventy seconds. It is a thrilling experience.
Just a short distance from the hotel, one can hire a horse-drawn carriage to tour the Gold Coast and Streeterville, two of the most fashionable areas in the city. What a wonderful and relaxing way to cap off an evening after dining in one of Chicago's finest restaurants.
NFB Convention '95: We know who we are and we know where we're going. See you in Chicago! My kind of town.
This month's recipes come from Nevada.
BROCCOLI AND TURKEY CASSEROLE
by Peggy Christy
Peggy Christy is a member of the NFB of Nevada's Southern Chapter. She also tap-dances at senior citizen centers and other places.
1-1/2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1-1/2 cups chopped cooked broccoli
1 can cream of cheddar soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 stick butter or margarine
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheese
seasoned bread crumbs
Method: Mix all ingredients together. Put in pan that has been sprayed with Pam. Top with seasoned bread crumbs. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake 30 minutes at 325 degrees.
by Peggy Christy
7 ounce milk chocolate bar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 stick margarine
7 ounce jar marshmallow cream
Method: Combine all ingredients and heat in microwave. Mix well. Add nuts and pour into greased (cooking spray is fine) 9-by-13-inch pan.
SALSO CON CARNE E FUNGHI
(MEAT AND MUSHROOM SAUCE)
by Rita Abruscato
Rita Abruscato is a member of the Board of Directors of the NFB of Nevada and has been a member of the Southern Chapter for many years. As her name would suggest, she is a fine Italian cook.
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 can tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper seeds
1 cup boiled sliced mushrooms
1 clove garlic
1 large can plum tomatoes
salt to taste
Method: Heat oil in saucepan. Add mushrooms, garlic, pepper seeds, and beef and simmer 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Add tomatoes and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. The longer this cooks, the better the flavor. Keep hot over very low heat until ready to use. This is enough sauce for 1-1/2 pounds of spaghetti or any type of pasta. Serves 6 to 8.
GRANDMA FISHER'S ICE CREAM
by David Buchanon
David Buchanon is Secretary of the NFB of Nevada and a member of the Southern Chapter. He has been an active member for a number of years. David is a veteran of Vietnam and does a lot of volunteer work at the Veterans' Clinic in Las Vegas.
4 to 6 eggs
2-1/2 cups sugar
16 ounces whipping cream
16 ounces half and half
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vanilla
Method: Mix all ingredients until blended. Put mixture into ice cream maker. Add enough milk to reach the line marked on the ice cream maker's can and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Enjoy.
by Margie Baldwin
Margie Baldwin has been a member of the NFB of Nevada for about ten years. In that time she has served as President of the Southern Chapter and Secretary, First Vice President, and now President of the Nevada affiliate.
1/4 tablespoon garlic powder (or 1 clove of garlic)
1 cup chopped onion
1 chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 tablespoons margarine
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
2 small bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
dash cayenne pepper
12 ounces canned shrimp
Method: Combine garlic, onion, green pepper, celery, and margarine. Saut in microwave. Stir in tomato sauce, wine, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, bouillon and pepper. Cook until done, about 5 minutes on high; then cook 15 minutes on medium low heat. Add shrimp and microwave for 10 minutes more on medium low. Serve over rice. If you wish, you can prepare this dish on the stove instead.
DATE NUT BREAD
by Helen Thome
Helen Thome has been a member of the Southern Chapter of the NFB of Nevada for a number of years.
1 cup dates, cut fine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup boiling water
1 egg, well beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Method: Mix dates, sugar, butter, and water in bowl. Stir until the butter melts. Cool. Stir in egg, soda, flour, salt, and nuts. Place in a buttered 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Bake about 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
** New NFB-Produced Video on Braille Available:
For a long time advocates of good Braille instruction have needed an effective, brief way to tell legislators, educators, and members of the general public why it is so important for children who cannot use print as efficiently as their peers to learn Braille early. That the Blind May Read is now here, and it fills the bill exactly! At last summer's convention a number of Federationists gathered together to talk about the impact that being denied Braille has had on their lives. The result is a powerful videotape narrated by Dr. Jernigan and told in the words and voices of the people who know firsthand what a difference Braille literacy can make. The tape is available in two versions: one seventeen minutes long and costing $20 and the other twenty- seven minutes long and costing $35. Tapes can be ordered after 12:30 p.m. EST from the Materials Center, National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; phone, (410) 659-9314. Orders must be accompanied by a check, money order, or credit card number.
** Braille Regulations Adopted in Alabama:
We recently received good news from Mike Jones, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama. Here is the letter he wrote:
November 1, 1994
Dear Mrs. Pierce:
Please find enclosed information related to the Braille literacy success in Alabama.
The Braille literacy movement was a model of cooperation. Led and initiated by the National Federation of the Blind of Alabama, the Braille literacy process began on June 11, 1993, and culminated on September 8, 1994, with the State Board of Education's unanimous adoption of Braille literacy regulations for the state.
Officials from all the blind consumer groups and agencies serving the blind, as well as educators and parents of blind children, all worked together in a spirit of cooperation to form the Braille Literacy Task Force. The single task of improving the education of blind children in Alabama was foremost on everyone's agenda.
The State Department of Education worked as hard as any group on the committee to insure that both our language and plan for implementation would be approved by the Board.
The Alabama Braille regulations were scripted from many NFB Braille bills. Our regulations contained textbook provisions; mandatory reading media assessments; and mandatory performance evaluation based on student age, ability, and grade level. They also strengthen the IEP process to include time lines and specified Braille instructional periods. Alabama already had certification requirements that specified that a teacher must complete a core-curriculum teacher-training program for the visually impaired. This last appears to be the only weak link in the new process.
The teacher-training program in Alabama is located at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), which is a poor training ground for future teachers of our blind children. The Braille Literacy Task Force made several recommendations that would help strengthen the training program. To this point UAB officials have ignored the views of the blind, the professionals, and even their own alumni. The program continues to operate in mediocrity and ignore the needs of the teachers in the field and, most important, the needs of blind children.
The UAB Vision Program notwithstanding, the Braille literacy movement, which was spearheaded by the NFB, is becoming a fertile training ground of its own. Already, because of the movement, we have seen a statewide training program in reading media assessments, more money allocated for Braille textbook production, new job openings for vision teachers, and future plans for more teacher training. This has been a powerful example of what the organized blind can accomplish by taking the lead and working in partnership with others who have the same concerns.
J. Michael Jones
President, Magic City Chapter
NFB of Alabama
** Braille Materials Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Louis Braille Center offers a small selection of quality books at low prices. Books available include: Random Acts of Kindness, by the editors of Conari Press, in Braille, $12; The Reading Fingers, Life of Louis Braille, by Jean Roblin, translated from the French by R. Mandalian, in Braille or print, $10; and Quick Reference List of Braille Signs, compiled by the Louis Braille Center, in Braille, $3, print and Braille, $4. A free catalog is available in Braille or print. Contact Louis Braille Center, 11050 5th Avenue, N.E., Suite 204, Seattle, Washington 98125; or Phone/fax (206) 368-8288.
The Dover Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire installed new officers at its September, 1994, meeting. They are Alain Poulin, President; Dawn Hodge, Vice President; Paul Richards, Treasurer; and Bruce Gillis, Secretary. The chapter will celebrate its eighth anniversary in November.
** More Growth in the NFB Family:
On June 23, 1994, the Abbeville County Chapter became the forty-third local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. The chapter officers are Carolyn Cummings, President; Pearl Murphy, Vice President; Gail Cummings, Secretary; and Lorraine Coy, Treasurer.
Then, on Tuesday, November 1, the Lee County Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina became the forty-fourth. The following officers were elected: Eleanor Farmer, President; Gloria Atkinson, Vice President; Linda Rose, Secretary; Mrs. Harris Cannon, Treasurer; and Carrie Thomas, Social Director. Counting the three statewide chapters in the affiliate, there are now forty-seven chapters in the NFB of South Carolina. Congratulations to the officers and members of these new chapters and to the entire South Carolina affiliate.
On October 22, 1994, the National Federation of the Blind of Cuyahoga County became the newest NFB of Ohio chapter. The officers are Cheryl Fisher, President; Annette Anderson, Vice President/Secretary; and Claudia Hunter, Treasurer. The entire chapter attended the state convention, which took place three weeks after the organizing meeting. Congratulations to these Federationists as well.
** Here I Come, Ready or Not:
Myra Lesser, member of the Board of Directors of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, recently made an excellent thirty-minute video in which school personnel and parents talk about their experiences having Myra's son Alex as a first-grade student in his elementary school. The camera follows Alex walking around the school, using the cafeteria, working with other children and teachers, and generally participating fully in school activities. The purpose of the tape is to reassure teachers and other professionals about the experience of welcoming a blind child into the regular classroom when there is appropriate instructional support.
Those interested in ordering the video Here I Come, Ready or Not should contact Myra Lesser directly. The video sells for $10 to Pennsylvania residents and $25 to out-of-state residents. (Price includes shipping and handling.) Checks should be made payable to Lancaster/Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 and sent to Myra Adler Lesser, 137 Lesser Lane, Chicora, Pennsylvania 16025.
Rita Szantay, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, reports the affiliate's recent election results. The new officers are Gary Mackenstadt, President; Mike Freeman, First Vice President; Kay Kipp, Second Vice President; Rita Szantay, Secretary; and Ben Prows, Treasurer. Elected to serve as board members were Dan Fry, Mark Noble, Albert Sanchez, and Noel Nightingale.
** Reading for Louis Braille:
From the Editor Emeritus: I recently received a letter from Cydna Oman, Vision Specialist for Calaveras County, California, concerning a project by Megan Winfield of Angels Camp, California. The letter said in part:
My Braille reading student, Megan Winfield, has been raising money to contribute to the NFB efforts to help restore the Louis Braille family home and museum in France. I read of this project in one of your magazines.
We enlisted interested sponsors who agreed to donate 2 cents to the NFB pledge for every page of Braille Megan read from the start of school until the end of September.
Megan read 200 pages during the allotted time. She earned a $4.00 contribution from each sponsor for this activity. The total contribution is $36.00.
In a letter to Megan I said:
Megan, it is clear that you are a girl with determination and the right kind of spirit. You know how to get things done. This is what it takes to make the world a better place for all of us. I hope I will have the chance to meet you someday. Meanwhile I want to thank you for what you have done to help restore the place where Louis Braille was born.
** Volunteers Wanted for Research Project:
We have been requested to carry the following announcement:
Dr. Kenneth Ring, professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut and author of Life at Death and Heading Toward Omega, is directing a research project focusing on blind people who have had either a near-death experience or an out-of-body experience. If you have had one of these experiences and would be willing to be interviewed by telephone, please call Dr. Ring's research assistant, Sharon Cooper, at (203) 487-4170 or write to her at 145 Courtyard Lane, Storrs, Connecticut 06268.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a Braille 'n Speak 640, 1992 revision, in excellent condition, includes spell checker. Package includes serial cable, computer accessories kit, and battery charger. Asking $1,000 or best offer. If interested, call Shawn Cox at (804) 487-6692; or contact by Braille or cassette at 50 Burtis Street, Portsmouth, Virginia 23702.
Donald C. Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, writes to say that he was the national representative to the NFB of Wyoming convention from September 30 to October 1, 1994. During the convention plans were undertaken for a vigorous campaign to adopt a Braille literacy law as well as to re-establish the state's vending facility program. The following new officers were elected: Claire Jepson, President; Allan Nichols, Vice President; Ernest Hagen, Treasurer; and Tammy Kearney, Secretary. New Board members are Evelyn Tobin, Wes Weakland, Chuck [Cici] Hale, and Jeanne Dierks.
** 1995 Writers Division Contests:
The National Federation of the Blind Writers Division will sponsor poetry and fiction contests again in 1995. Deadline for submissions in both is May 1, 1995. A $5 entry fee is required for each submission. Cash prizes will be awarded. For complete rules contact Loraine Stayer for poetry at 2704 Beach Drive, Merrick, New York 11566; or Tom Stevens for fiction at 1203 Fairview Road, Columbia, Missouri 65203.
** Wedding Bells:
Michael Smith and Mary Hartle, both members of the Bix Beiderbecke Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, were married on August 20 in Davenport, Iowa, and attended their first state convention as a married couple the first weekend in October. Congratulations to the Smiths.
Tony Burda, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, was recently honored by the Mayor of Chicago's Office for People with Disabilities. He received one of the five 1994 August W. Christmann Awards. The awards recognize individuals and organizations whose service and contributions have improved the lives of people with disabilities. The text of this prestigious award reads as follows:
City of Chicago
Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities
MOPD Advisory Council
August W. Christmann
Monday, October 17, 1994
Auditorium of the
MOPD Field Office
The caption of the picture that appeared in the Chicago Sun Times reads:
Shortly after Anthony Burda graduated near the top of his class at the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy in 1978, he was barred by the State of Illinois from taking the pharmacist's licensing exam because he was blind. Mr. Burda won the right to take the exam following a two-year court battle, the first of several he would wage for himself and other persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Since 1981 Mr. Burda has been a certified specialist at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Poison Control Center, where he handles thousands of calls every year, providing a wide range of emergency assistance. An active member of the Chicago Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind since 1977, Mr. Burda has increased public awareness by championing many disability-related causes, including the passage in 1983 of legislation allowing people who are blind to serve on juries.
An accomplished athlete, Mr. Burda has also participated in numerous events, including the 1990 Chicago Sun-Times triathlon.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have for sale a BrailleMate notetaker that is one-year-old and in excellent condition. It includes a new Braille cell; voice synthesizer; 1 128K ram card; y-connection cable to connect BrailleMate to a Braille or print printer and a computer, and a copy of the manual in print, Braille, 3�-inch computer disk, and cassette. Asking price is $1,000 or best offer.
I also have a 400-channel, programmable scanner which I would like to sell. It includes a rubber duck antenna, print and tape manuals, and AC adapter. Asking price $200 or best offer. The scanner covers a range from 25 Mhz to 1300 Mhz.
If interested in either item, please contact Michael Todd in Braille or tape or by phone at P.O. Box 144, Littlestown, Pennsylvania 17340; (717) 359-8254.
** Job Vacancy:
Those who read the November, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor will be interested to read the following announcement, which we have been asked to carry:
Superintendent. State School for the Blind needs individual with administrative degree, eligible for certification through Arkansas Department of Education. Prefer minimum of four years experience. Vision certification must be obtained within three years of hiring. Salary negotiable (maximum: $57,000), must live on campus, housing compensated by state. Send application and resume to Search Committee, c/o Sandra Hubbard, Personnel Officer, AR School for the Blind, P.O. Box 668, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203. Deadline for applications is January 15, 1995.
Nancy Coffman, Secretary of the NFB of Nebraska, reports that on October 16, 1994, the following new officers were elected: Della Johnston, President; Nancy Oltman, First Vice President; Dorothy Westin, Second Vice President; Nancy Coffman, Secretary; Cheryl Livingston, Treasurer; and Nye Bond and Joe Larson, Board members.
** Two New Books Available from National Braille Press:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement; and, though the Editor knows too little about the second book to make an intelligent comment about it, the first is an excellent book in its own right and a delight to have available in well- formatted Braille. Here is the NBP announcement:
National Braille Press has Brailled 100 cookie recipes for you--just in time for your holiday baking. For the very first time Debbi Fields, the creative force behind those famous Mrs. Fields Cookies, shares 100 of her favorite recipes in Mrs. Fields Cookie Book.
Create classic cookies like Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal Raisin Chews or fancy cookies like Russian Tea Cakes and Chocolate Cream Filled Hearts--just like Debbi and her family bake at home.
Originally produced for the Library of Congress, this two-volume bakers' delight costs you only $10.95--less than the print book price.
Also available from NBP is DOS 6.2 Quick Reference guide, which gives you immediate answers to your most-asked MS-DOS questions.
This handy guide, from Que, clearly explains the most often used commands, options, and features of MS-DOS. You'll find all the information you need to get more out of MS-DOS. This versatile reference guide provides instant access to both the syntax and use of most MS-DOS commands. DOS 6.2 Quick Reference features:
* Alphabetical task-oriented command listings;
* Extensive, easy-to-use index;
* Tips and shortcuts for increased productivity.
Three volumes in Braille for just $9.95--the same price as the print edition. Order both books from National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115; or call (800) 548-7323 and charge it on your MasterCard or Visa.
** Speedy Braille Transcription Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Do you need something put into Braille for your group, business, agency, professional organization, or personal use? Contact NFB of Minnesota member Maureen Pranghofer for quick, high-quality transcription at 4910 Dawnview Terrace, Golden Valley, Minnesota 55422; or call (612) 522-2501.
The Mt. Diablo Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California held its annual elections October 15, 1994. Elected were Corinne Vieville, President; Nick Medina, First Vice President; Margaret Conry, Second Vice President; Jim Powers, Treasurer; and Paul Watson, Secretary. New Board members are Betty Waltrip and Karen (Giggles) Williams.
** In Memoriam:
Steve Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, reports the following sad news:
On Thursday, November 3, 1994, Mike Cramer, a long-time member of the NFB of Illinois, suffered a fatal heart attack at age forty-three. Mike became an active member of the Federation in the early 70's. He served several terms on the NFB-I Board of Directors and for five years as Chicago Chapter President. Equally important, Mike regarded holding office as unnecessary for active involvement in the movement. He was a frequent participant in Washington Seminars and in NAC demonstrations. Mike's people skills and his interest in transportation suited him perfectly for all kinds of organizational activities, especially managing shuttle bus service at national conventions. There is absolutely no doubt that Mike Cramer loved the National Federation of the Blind; he showed it in his generosity and in his willingness to give unselfishly of his time and energy, even in recent years when his health didn't always allow him to do all that he wanted to do. We extend our condolences to his mother and sister. Mike Cramer will be greatly missed by all of us.
His family asked that contributions be made to the National Federation of the Blind in memory of Mike.
** Canes for Kids in Alabama:
The following article appeared in the Birmingham Post-Herald on October 14, 1994. It is a good example of the positive publicity and constructive public education that grow out of NFB cane banks. Here it is:
New Service Lets
Growing Blind Children Swap Canes
by Michaelle Chapman
Cindy Bennett is only four, but she has been using a white cane to help her get around since she was two. Blind since birth, she will outgrow numerous canes by the time she reaches her full adult height. That could be expensive for her parents--canes for children run about $30--but it won't be now. Her mother, Sue Bennett of Hoover, is one of the organizers of the Alabama White Cane Loaner Bank. The new service will allow blind children to exchange their outgrown canes for larger ones free of charge. Affiliated with the National Federation of the Blind, the loaner bank will also sell canes to adults, Mrs. Bennett said. That is being done to allow them to get replacements for broken canes immediately. Ordering them can take weeks. Mrs. Bennett said users of the bank's services do not have to be members of the National Federation of the Blind.
The loaner bank is housed at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Birmingham Regional Center, 220 34th St. South. Mrs. Bennett said the bank has about fifty canes, but plans call for it to have many more than that. Statistics show that about 700 Alabama children are blind, she said, but many of them have multiple handicaps that would prevent them from using canes.
The loaner bank is also intended to encourage parents to allow their blind children to use canes. Mrs. Bennett said many youngsters do not get canes until they are twelve or older, although they can learn as toddlers. She has been told Cindy is one of the youngest Alabamians finding their own way with a cane.
"It's her tool of independence," she said.
Cindy sees light and colors, but she cannot make out even huge letters. Mrs. Bennett said Cindy has tiny eyes and bilateral cataracts.
She said Cindy's cane has made life much easier for the preschooler. "I don't have to run interference for her anymore," she said.
Mrs. Bennett said every blind child should have a cane. "Every child needs to run around," she said. Without canes they have to walk along with someone.
She said parents who balk at the idea of canes need to be educated about their value. That is one of the reasons for next week's celebration of White Cane Safety Day.