The Braille Monitor

Vol. 38, No. 10                                                                             November 1995

Barbara Pierce, Editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, on cassette and
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The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President

National Office
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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ISSN 0006-8829


Vol. 38, No. 10                                                                              November 1995


by James Gashel

by Alan Gartner and Dorothy Kerzner Lipsky

by James H. Omvig

by Steve Shelton, Debbie Kent Stein, and Noel Nightengale

by Susan Roth

by Kenneth Jernigan

by Maureen Pranghofer

by Madeline Drexler

by Adrienne Asch

by Bennett Prows


by John Dashney

by Sharon Gold



Copyright 1995 National Federation of the Blind



It should be noted that the beginning of the millennium is just a few years away. It should also be noted that the word afford can have many meanings--moral, reputational, political, financial, or otherwise. It should further be noted that succinctness is a virtue, highly prized and rarely achieved. We thought Monitor readers might find the following letter of interest:

Nashville, Tennessee
September 5, 1995

Ms. Ruth Westman,
Executive Director National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped

Dear Ms. Westman: Please be advised that the Tennessee School for the Blind can no longer afford to be accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped.

Sincerely, Ralph A. Brewer,
Superintendent Tennessee School for the Blind



by James Gashel

From the Editor: On Thursday morning, July 6, 1995, the first topic on the convention agenda was the education of blind children. The first speaker was James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs. This is what he had to say:

The Foundation of Independence: Education of Blind Children--more than one person at this convention has approached me to indicate that that was a rather unusual topic for the Director of Governmental Affairs. I guess you are used to hearing from me about things like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (all these boring regulations), rehabilitation, the Randolph-Sheppard Act, or civil rights. But "The Foundation of Independence: Education for Blind Children," I think, indicates a change in focus, a new direction, and a growing consciousness in our movement that education (indeed that the foundation for independence for blind children) is our future. So the Director of Governmental Affairs is called upon to respond. When Mr. Maurer asked me to address this topic, I was pleased to do so, because it causes me to think back on my own life and my own situation, not only in the work that I do today, but as a youngster growing up, and my own foundation of independence.

I was a blind person who first came face to face with the foundation of independence (or the fact that I didn't have the foundation of independence) when I was seventeen years old and a high school graduate. Think of that!--when I was seventeen years old and a high school graduate. It happened on a Friday afternoon, and I can remember the particulars of the incident, when I came face to face with the foundation of independence, just as vividly as I can remember virtually every other significant event in my life. You know there are those moments in our lives that we all think of as destiny-defining moments for us. We can picture the scene around us and what happened even years later. Well, that's the case with me.

The date was June 11, and the year was 1964. I had been a high school graduate of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School for exactly two weeks, and I was trying to make arrangements so that I could get on in the world and plan out the rest of my life. I thought I was a pretty good guy; after all I got decent grades--first or second in the class. (It wasn't a very big class at the school for the blind, but still I did all right.) I had an idea of where I was going in the future, but I had no idea of what was in store for me. At about 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday, June 11, 1964, I walked into the administrative offices of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, and for the first time I met Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. I remember giving my name to the secretary (Mrs. Maher was her name), and the next thing I knew, here was Dr. Jernigan confidently coming to greet me from his office. Now remember I had been a student at the School for the Blind, and I was seventeen years old. (By the way, they didn't really call it the School for the Blind; they called it the Braille and Sight Saving School. You know, as I think about it, I don't know whether they saved anybody's sight. If they did, at least at that point I would have been glad to sign up. I don't recall that they did save anybody's sight, though.)

I attended that school from grades K through twelve--thirteen years. In all of the thirteen years that I was at that school, I think I may have met and had--let's say--substantial involvement with four, but definitely not more than five, blind adults. I would have to say that only one of those was what you might call just a regular classroom teacher. The others were all teaching something that was clearly blindness-related. (I even thought of music as clearly blindness-related, so I include that teacher on the list.) There was a music teacher who was blind; then there was a Braille teacher who was blind. There was also a fifth-grade teacher who was blind. (That was the one that handled the regular classroom work.) And there may have been others. But none of those people, not one of them, could have walked toward me with his hand outstretched in the way that Dr. Jernigan did on Friday, June 11, 1964. Not one of them had the confidence that Dr. Jernigan showed me on June 11, 1964, when he came to me from his office at the Iowa Commission for the Blind.

Well, that was an awakening. There was something going on here, but I didn't really understand what it was. I knew that Dr. Jernigan was awfully proud of himself. That was pretty clear to me in the confidence of his manner, the way he approached me, hand outstretched, greeting me just like anyone else. I also knew something else; in a few minutes he probably wouldn't be very proud of me.

We sat down in the office for a talk. Dr. Jernigan probably remembers it. (I hope he does; I certainly do.) We got a few of the usual obligatory questions out of the way. What are you going to do with yourself now that you are out of high school? That was what you probably ought to ask a seventeen-year-old. Then he started to quiz me on grammar a little bit. (I didn't add up too well on that.) They seemed like good questions, but not too relevant to me at the time. Then came the big question of that day, and the question that I remember most. It was this: "So you want to be a teacher. Now if you are going to be a teacher, sometime you are going to apply for a job. Tell me this: What are you going to say to the hiring official, the principal or the superintendent, who sits across the desk from you someday four or five years from now and says: `Jim, there are fifty or a hundred other applicants for the job that you are seeking. All of them are sighted. You are blind. Tell me why I should hire you.'"

Well, that question stopped me dead cold in my tracks. The only thing that came to my mind was that, if anyone else had really wanted to compete for the job that I was applying for, I would almost always--if not always--come out second best. I couldn't really imagine how, seeing me as a blind person and having fifty or a hundred sighted applicants for that job, an employer could choose me over any one of the others. That was my unspoken thought. I didn't want to say that in that meeting, but Dr. Jernigan just wouldn't give it up. He knew exactly what I was thinking, and worse yet, I knew that he knew, and he knew that I knew. By the time that I verbalized my uncertainty, there was no real need to explain the situation. I had been taught throughout my life that sight was definitely something to be valued over blindness. Among the blind I had been taught that the person who has some sight is bound to be better off than the person who has no sight. I learned that every day as a child. I learned it at the school for the blind, or rather the Sight Saving School. It seems to me that the name fits with what I learned there.

Here I was, seventeen years old, and my foundation of independence--my restricted philosophy of blindness that I've just described--was crumbling right in front of me in Dr. Jernigan's office. In fact, I didn't have a foundation of independence at all. What I did have was a prescription for failure, for dependence--not for independence. And that's what I got from the School for the Blind. It didn't have to be a school for the blind; it could have been any other school. But that's what I got.

So what is the foundation for independence of which we speak? At the time I graduated from high school, two weeks before that fateful day when I met with Dr. Jernigan, I had acquired at least an average education. Dr. Jernigan might not have thought it was totally average after he got done with the grammar questions, but nonetheless I thought it was pretty much an average education. Since the School for the Blind was smaller than most of the public schools around at that time, there were probably some things in a larger and more diverse curriculum that I missed, but even so, I could read. I could write. I could speak. I could compute. I knew a little about American history and a dab of world history. I thought I was ready for more academically challenging pursuits like going on to college, but when it came to the question, "Whom would you hire first, a blind person or a sighted person in competition with each other?" I knew it wouldn't be me. Therefore, I had the skills, but I didn't have the foundation of independence. I didn't have the confidence and belief that I was as good as anyone else and that I could ultimately compete on terms of equality.

The foundation of independence--that's exactly what I was lacking. Now the concept of a foundation is of something which is needed and available to serve as the base. Everything rests on the foundation: so it is with the superstructure of a building. But it is also the same when we speak of human qualities such as independence. The foundation of independence for the blind must provide the rock of stability for each and every one of us. For the education of blind children, I say that the foundation of independence can only be built with three critical building blocks or elements. (I am assuming here that the basis of reading, writing, and arithmetic is a given.) Now, knowing the status of American education today and with all due respect to the educators who will follow, I'm not always sure that my assumption is warranted, but we're going to assume that reading, writing, and arithmetic are already there. Here are my three critical elements or building blocks for the foundation of independence for blind children: equality, opportunity, and the right to achieve excellence.

Equality. The right to an equal education is stated as a matter of law but is not, in all too many instances, a reality as a matter of fact for blind students. Let me offer you just one example of what I am saying. This came to me recently in a letter I saw to a member of Congress. We're working to enact Braille literacy provisions in the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. One of the letters that we got was particularly on the mark when we talk about equality. It comes from South Dakota: "My daughter is nine years old. She has not been taught to read or write."

Nine years old! She has not been taught to read or write. Why? Because she is blind, and the school district wants to teach her the concepts of reading before they actually begin to teach her to read--whatever that means. I don't think I know the concepts of reading without reading, but anyway, education has changed. She goes on to say: "I am very angry that they won't teach her despite the fact that our state has a Braille bill. It has not helped our daughter. I have had to fight every step of the way to get them to teach a nine-year-old child just to read and write. By having a strong Braille literacy provision in the Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, I hope that other parents will not have to fight for their kids such as I have had to fight for mine."

I would say that tells us the real story about the inequities and inequality that exist in American education today for blind students. Equality in education does not mean merely going to school. It does not just mean being placed in the same classroom along with others and sitting there. Equality of education means the right to have the tools to compete and the tools to succeed. We believe in the goal of equal education for all blind children, and together in the National Federation of the Blind we will make that happen for all blind children.[applause]

Opportunity. When we speak of opportunity, we are talking about the right of each blind child in the United States to have a chance to learn to the fullest extent of that individual's capabilities, without suffering the imposition of arbitrary and artificial restrictions relating to blindness.[applause] The chance to learn is the chance to succeed, and no one--I mean no one--has been given the right or authority to take the chance to learn or the chance to succeed away from us. When they seek to take those chances away from us, we will put a stop to it! That's why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind.[applause] We believe in the opportunity to learn, including the opportunity to learn Braille if the child is blind, and we intend to see that that opportunity happens. [applause]

The right to achieve excellence. This is the third of the critical elements in our building blocks. Now when I think of excellence, I think of high expectations. Unfortunately, I think that we have all become too well aware of the fact that teachers and other professionals in the education field have come to think less of the blind than they do students who can see. This must stop. Excellence means that we can achieve. We can achieve, and we will achieve if we are expected to achieve. High expectations, striving for excellence--that is the standard that we have set in the National Federation of the Blind, and we intend to make excellence the standard for blind children to aspire to in every single classroom in this country.

Equality, opportunity, and the right to achieve excellence--these are the critical elements, the building blocks in the foundation of independence for the blind. They are the standard that we must insist upon in educational programming for each and every blind child. This is the message of the National Federation of the Blind. A foundation of independence means equality, opportunity, and the right of each child to achieve excellence.[applause] It also means the belief in ourselves and a commitment to each other. If we, and I mean if each and every one of us, will build our lives on this foundation, there is absolutely no force on earth that can turn us back or stop our progress.

Equality, opportunity, and the right to achieve excellence: not only is this the foundation of independence for blind children--it is the foundation of independence for us all. It is the bedrock of Federationism, and on this rock we will stand together, and together we will be free. [applause]



by Alan Gartner and Dorothy Kerzner Lipsky

From the Editor: The presentation which followed Jim Gashel's address at the July 6 session of the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind was a collaborative effort by Dr. Alan Gartner, Dean for Research, and Dorothy Kerzner Lipsky, Director, both at the National Center on Educational Restructuring and Inclusion of the Graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York.

Dr. Gartner and Ms. Lipsky are two of the architects of the full-inclusion movement and distinguished leaders and thinkers in their field. They are deeply committed to the concept that full inclusion is a process and not a place. In these days of increasing attacks on residential schools for the blind and resource rooms for blind children in public schools--on the ground that they are segregated settings--Gartner and Lipsky's recognition of the importance for success of good blindness skills and their common sense about how to measure the effectiveness of full inclusion are much needed and greatly to be commended. Here is Dr. Gartner and Ms. Lipsky's summary of their remarks to the NFB convention:

We welcome this opportunity to speak before NFB's 1995 convention. First of all, we want to acknowledge the benefit we have gained from participating with NFB's Task Force on Inclusion, and working with Adrienne Asch, Fred Schroeder, and Barbara Pierce. We have learned much from them. And, second, we want to endorse Jim Gashel's three points concerning education for blind students: equality, opportunity, and the right to achieve excellence.

While the focus of our presentation this morning is inclusion as it concerns education, we want to begin by noting that for us inclusion is centrally a characteristic of a democratic society. The full inclusion of all--without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, disability--is not a matter of tolerance or acceptance; it is a root characteristic of a democratic society. Indeed it brings strength and richness to the society.

We champion inclusion in education for three reasons. First of all, it is an expression in schools of that essential democratic characteristic. Second, it is a recognition of the capacity and strength of blind people, their ability to contribute to the life of the society. And, finally, it works: that is, it educates students--all students--in a setting most appropriate for preparing people--all people--for a productive and contributing life in a democratic society.

Inclusion is not a matter of a mindless focus on location. Yes, of course, inclusive education educates all students together. It recognizes both the commonality of students--they are more alike than different--and the uniqueness of each student. Thus an inclusive education program has at its base students attending their neighborhood school in age-appropriate classes with their peers. And at the same time it provides to students the individual attention necessary for their success.

In the language of IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), it is not only a matter of adhering to the "Least Restrictive Environment" requirement, but more fundamentally to a student's right to an "appropriate education," one which benefits the student. It means providing the necessary supplemental aids and support services to enable the student, every student, to succeed in the regular classroom. For blind students this means equipping them with the tools of blindness (specifically with Braille and mobility training), doing this early on in the student's education, by a person skilled and trained to do so, and with the general education teacher trained to reinforce and enhance these skills. Those who, in the name of inclusion, deny to blind students effective training in such tools are not only false prophets; they are engaging in educational malpractice; and we are prepared, in President Jernigan's words, to join with you to bring "discomfort" to them.

The National Center on Education Restructuring and Inclusion (NCERI) is just concluding its second annual study of inclusion programs across the country. The key findings of the study are:

* The number of school districts reporting inclusion programs has increased significantly since 1994.

* Students with a wider range of disabilities are being included in general education programs.

* School restructuring efforts are having significant impact on inclusion programs, and vice-versa.

* Outcomes for students in inclusion programs, both general and special education, are positive, when necessary supports are provided.

* Teachers participating in inclusion programs report positive professional outcomes for themselves, when necessary supports are provided.

School districts effectively conducting inclusive education programs report the following factors as key for success:

* visionary leadership;
* collaboration between general and special educators;
* refocussed use of assessment;
* supports for staff and students;
* parental involvement; and
* adequate funding that follows the child into the general education classroom.

While in many ways IDEA is a success, an area requiring attention is the inclusion in its implementation of adults with disabilities. NFB's program in which blind adults share their expertise with the sighted parents of blind children is a model to be emulated. It recognizes the expertise of blind people; it offers training to those who need this expertise; and it benefits the children. Indeed, as the Congress addresses the renewal of IDEA, support for such programs should be a high priority.



by James H. Omvig

From the Editor: Jim Omvig is one of the longtime leaders of the National Federation of the Blind. He is an attorney who retired to Arizona several years ago, much to the gratification of the state affiliate there. Jim recently sent me the following story. I trust that you will find it as touching and inspiring as I did. Here it is:

Those of us who have been seriously involved in work with the blind for very long, and particularly those who have also been actively involved in and committed to the organized blind movement, know certain truths to be self-evident. We know that blind people are normal people who, given proper training and real opportunity, can compete successfully with our sighted peers. We know that we are justified in our unshakable faith that our philosophy about blindness and our principles are correct, that our cause is just, and that our objectives (lofty as they may be) are within our grasp. They are, that is, if we are willing to work hard enough to achieve them!

We also know with both our minds and our hearts that we are absolutely correct in our attitude of love for and loyalty to many of our colleagues--our blind brothers and sisters who have made their mark and who have made a difference. In other words, when we say that a particular well-trained blind person really can do a job as well as his or her sighted neighbor, our knowledge that this is absolutely true and our faith in that person as a role model are both justified and gratifying. We know our positive philosophy about blindness works, and we are justified in our pardonable pride in a successful friend.

Even though all of this is true, it can still create some pretty warm and wonderful feelings when someone else--someone completely unconnected with our movement--confirms and validates what we already know to be true. Recently I had such a validating experience, which I would like to share with you.

During the first week of June I traveled from Tucson to Minneapolis and St. Paul to provide some intensive training for rehabilitation counselors and job placement specialists from Minnesota's State Services for the Blind (SSB). In itself this project was fruitful. In addition to the SSB staff members present, I was there representing the National Federation of the Blind. Gil Johnson from the American Foundation for the Blind's San Francisco office presented after I did on Thursday morning, and members of the American Council of the Blind were there as well.

In his presentation Gil Johnson quoted from one of my papers (an article on empowerment) which had been distributed at the conference. Similarly, during his presentation Gil described a Foundation study from which I told him I intended to quote favorably that afternoon when I met with the students of the NFB adult rehabilitation center, BLIND, Inc.

The entire experience moved me to comment to this effect: "We all know that at the national level the major organizations of and for the blind meet and work together on a variety of topics in peace and harmony. However, at the local level this is often still not the case."

I went on to say, "If anybody had told me before this meeting began that a Foundation executive would quote from one of my papers to make a point with SSB staff members, that I would be quoting from that Foundation executive's report to make a point in teaching blind students, that the American Council would be part of it all too, and that we would all be learning and laughing together, I simply would never have believed it. In many places, just because Mr. Johnson is a Foundation executive, certain people would not have listened and given credence to him, no matter how qualified he might be, and the same goes for me, just because I am connected and identified with the Federation."

I concluded by suggesting that "Perhaps we truly are making progress, at least in Minnesota!"

Then I did indeed wrap up my afternoon with a several-hour visit to BLIND, Inc., and what an experience that was too. Most Monitor readers know that the center is now located in St. Paul in the old Pillsbury mansion. It is stately and gracious, and the building would be the pride and joy of anyone fortunate enough to own it. For example, Director Joyce Scanlan's office boasts a grand, ornately hand-carved stone fireplace, which survived the great fire of London and was brought to America by Mr. Pillsbury when the house was built in 1912.

The most gratifying aspect of my visit to BLIND, Inc., however, was that it was clear to me that Joyce and the other center staff members have not permitted the stateliness and grandeur of the mansion to overshadow the vitality and spirit of the program which dwells within and which is giving hope, confidence, and meaning to the lives of the blind students who choose to participate in it. The spirit of the program dwarfs the imposing structure of bricks and mortar, hand-carved stone, and wood, grand as it may be.

At 6:30 that evening I boarded my plane for Phoenix with the ultimate destination of Tucson. I was happy, pumped up by the activities of the past three days, gratified as a former orientation center director by the knowledge that the work goes on, and utterly spent and exhausted. My intention was to sleep the entire trip.

Before nodding off, I chatted a little with my seatmates--a young couple from Minneapolis named Mark and Kim Hewitson. They were traveling to California for a vacation. Both are working professionals in the Twin Cities area. We began with the usual: "Where are you going?" "What have you been doing here," et cetera. Naturally I told them of the SSB staff training program and of BLIND, Inc.

At some point Mark casually said, "I had a blind teacher once as a young kid in public school. Gosh, she was great!" I then explained to Mark and Kim about the difficulties we have had in getting colleges and universities to accept blind people into their elementary education programs. The argument has been that the blind elementary school teacher working with sighted kids wouldn't be able to see the work which the young kids were doing and wouldn't be able to maintain discipline over them. I told them that this was all a fiction but that this was a great part of the fight we had faced.

Mark said, "Well, my teacher was great! By the way, her husband was blind too. He was a chiropractor." I was shocked, for I knew who this competent blind teacher was.

I exclaimed, "Do you mean to tell me that you had Judy Saunders as a teacher! I knew Judy and her husband Curtis for years!"

Sleep was now out of the question, but it didn't matter since the adrenalin was pumping, and we talked and reminisced about Judy and Curtis for most of the three hours from Minneapolis to Phoenix. Mark had had Judy Saunders as his fourth grade teacher at Prairie View Elementary School in Devils Lake, North Dakota.

I told them of how Judy (she was Judy Young then) was one of the lucky ones. She had been born at the right time and in the right place (Iowa). She had had the opportunity to be one of the orientation students in the early 1960's in the program operated in Des Moines by then Commission for the Blind Director Kenneth Jernigan. And Judy's parents, Leroy and Kathryn, had joined the cause too, through their work in Lionism.

I told them of Judy's dream of being an elementary school teacher of sighted children in the public schools and of how the University of Iowa refused to admit her into its elementary education program because of her blindness. I told them of a meeting which Dr. Jernigan attended in Iowa City on a Sunday evening (just imagine a state agency Director at a Sunday evening meeting 120 miles from home advocating for the rights of an agency client) with University officials to persuade them to admit Judy and of how these officials remained steadfast in their discriminatory determination to keep her out.

I told them of the conclusion to the meeting when, faced with this stubborn resistance, Dr. Jernigan said, "Fine! If that's the way you want it. You should know, though, that I'm going to hold a press conference tomorrow morning in Des Moines to announce to the public that the State University of Iowa discriminates against its blind students! Frankly, I don't think you'll like that, and I can guarantee you that the public won't like it at all, but if that's the way you want to have it, then so be it!"

I told Mark and Kim about the University officials' reaction to Dr. Jernigan's suggestion and of how, miraculously, they realized then and there that a blind person, particularly the bright and competent young Judy, really ought to have a chance and probably could actually make it as a teacher.

I told them of Judy's proud graduation from the University of Iowa and then of her employment by the Urbandale School District as the first blind teacher in Iowa ever to be hired to teach sighted children in the public elementary schools. I told them of some irrational Urbandale parents who were so outraged about the hiring of a blind person to teach their kids that they actually pulled those children out of school. But I went on to tell them that, when reason prevailed, the kids came back and that by the end of that first year there was almost unanimous agreement among the parents of her students that Judy Young was the best teacher their children had ever had.

I told them of Judy's fateful trip to Los Angeles in July of 1967 to attend the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind and of how it was at that NFB Los Angeles convention that she met a young blind North Dakota chiropractor named Curtis Saunders. I told them of Judy's subsequent marriage and move to Devils Lake, North Dakota, and of how Judy blazed another trail by becoming North Dakota's first blind public elementary school teacher, too.

We talked at length about the inspiration which Judy provided to the many blind public school teachers who were to come after her. And then I told them of the profound sorrow which had spread throughout the blind community all across this land when we learned that Judy Saunders--young trailblazer and pioneer among the blind, successful public school teacher, wife, and mother of three--had been diagnosed with incurable cancer. It was shocking and devastating!

Even though it has been twenty-five years since Judy taught Mark Hewitson and even though he had been gone from Devils Lake since he was a child, he was aware that Judy had passed away in 1981 and that, unbelievable as it is, Curtis, too, is gone as a result of cancer.

Mark told me: "I don't know exactly what it was. I just felt that I always needed to do my absolute best the year that Judy was my teacher, so I really worked hard. Everybody loved her and felt the same way I did about her ability! I can even remember when her first baby was born. We all went to her house to see the baby and to take presents. I still remember what a wonderful and well-kept home it was."

As we talked about the myth that blind teachers wouldn't be able to maintain discipline, Mark said, "I can tell you for a fact that Judy didn't have a problem with that. We had a lot of fun with her, but if anybody began to act up, she immediately took control and maintained firm discipline." He summed it all up by saying, "I am glad to have had Mrs. Saunders as one of my teachers. Without a doubt she was the best teacher I ever had! I just loved her!"

What more can I say after that? Except this: Judy, wherever you are, those of us who knew you were always secure in the knowledge that your blindness made no difference and that you were an outstanding teacher who just happened to be blind! It was moving and heartwarming, though, to hear what a fine teacher you were from one of your former students--one who believed in you, who had truly learned from you, who respected you, and who loved you!



From the Editor: At this year's convention three Federationists spoke on Thursday afternoon, July 6, about their jobs and the way they approach them. The three were Steve Shelton, a senior systems engineer with ALLTEL Information Services of Oklahoma City and Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma; Deborah Kent Stein of Chicago, a distinguished writer and respected author of books for young people; and Noel Nightengale, an attorney with the Environmental Practice Group of Heller, Ehrman, White, and McAuliffe in Seattle. Here are the presentations they made:

Steve Shelton

Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer, thank you for giving me the honor of speaking to this convention. It was over eighteen years ago when I began my career as a computer programmer. That first job was a turning point in my life. It gave me an opportunity to prove to others as well as myself that I could be an independent, self-sufficient individual. When I took that first job, I was considered legally blind. Unfortunately, like many of us with some vision that's beginning to fail, I tried to hide my blindness. In reflecting on that time now, I realize that I was fooling nobody; I was simply making excuses for my blindness and avoiding situations that would expose it.

However, in spite of my attitude, I got that first job and was very successful. I should have been satisfied with where I was and glad to have that job, but something was bothering me. I recognized that my retinitis pigmentosa was causing my eyes to continue to deteriorate. As I reflected on that, I wondered how I would do my job when I could no longer read print and no longer see the computer screen. At that time I had not even heard of the National Federation of the Blind. I had no one to turn to. I had no answers for my questions.

Several years later, though, I learned of the NFB and in 1985 attended my first state convention in Oklahoma. At that time I began to get answers to my questions. Over the next few years the NFB helped me to overcome my fears and to develop a positive outlook for the future. That gets us to today.

As Dr. Jernigan said, I work for ALLTEL Information Services. ALLTEL is an information technology company that provides services and software for companies worldwide. One of our clients is Liberty Bank of Oklahoma City. At that center I am a technical support for check-processing computer applications. I'm excited about the opportunities that I have in my job to make a difference for the blind, to change what it means to be blind.

Currently I am in the midst of one of the most challenging opportunities of my entire career. Recently our company designated the Oklahoma City office, where I work, to be a development site for the next generation of their computer software products. These products are banking-related and operate in the Microsoft Windows environment. Although I am not on the development team, I was able to participate in the training to learn how to do programming in Windows. Furthermore, our company encouraged the entire programming staff to think of ways to integrate this new technology into their existing systems. I was happy to take advantage of this opportunity, and soon I will be implementing a Windows application for Liberty Bank, a program that I wrote.

I think it was important for me to do this. It wasn't a requirement. I took the initiative and asked to be allowed to do it. It was important for two reasons. First, I demonstrated to my management that as a blind person I could make the transition from traditional mainframe programming to programming in the Windows environment. Second, the knowledge that I gained has allowed me, not only to point out problems for the blind in the new products that were developed, but to offer solutions to them.

Another aspect of my job is that I get the opportunity to evaluate new technology. I'd like to tell you about some technology that I've become aware of recently that I think may become a beneficial tool for the blind in the future. Before I do that, I need to give you a little background about this technology and how it's used in banking. Then you will see how it can be applied to the blind. The check processing department of a bank is where all the checks that you and I write go. These checks are then sorted and sent to the originating banks in the most efficient manner. It's very important that this get done in a timely manner, because the banks pay float on those checks if they hold them.

One of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive parts of the job is the process by which the amount is encoded on the bottom of the check. Every check that you and I write has to go through a machine where a human has to read the amount off the check and type it on the bottom--every check that's written! Liberty Bank, for example, processes five hundred thousand checks a day. Some banks are beginning to use new technology that scans the check and reads the handwriting on the check to determine what the amount is. At present this technology reads about fifty percent of the checks that are processed. What we have here is a technology where handwriting is read and interpreted. In a matter of years this technology will be improved and will be available for applications to help blind people--software that could read handwriting and interpret it.

I'm excited about the things that I do on my job, and I'm excited at making a difference in the blindness field.

In closing I would like to say on behalf of all the people of Oklahoma we thank you for your thoughts and prayers in the aftermath of the April 19 bombing. It was very close to all of us, and I'm proud of how Oklahoma responded in the crisis. We thank you very much for your concern. [applause]

Debbie Kent Stein

It's an honor to be here. I have to say that I didn't start out as a writer. I began my post-college career as a social worker. Once upon a time, about twenty years ago, I worked in a place called the University Settlement House in New York City, mostly doing counseling with parents and kids, people from the neighborhood which was on New York's lower East Side. It was really a wonderful place to work in a lot of ways. It was very comfortable. It was like a big family. It was a great community-oriented sort of place, and all the kids who came in knew all of the social workers, and all the social workers knew all the kids. Well, I had been there for a few years, and one of the other social workers was getting ready to leave to go take a bigger and better job. She had been working with a boy named George who was about twelve. When she was telling him that she was going to be leaving, she asked him, if he could have a choice, who would he like to have as his next social worker when she was gone. He thought about that for a while, and then he finally said, "I want to work with Debbie." Helen asked him why. He said, "Because she's blind, so she's not going to be able to find another job that easily, so she's not going to leave."

This kid really had things pretty well worked out. A lot of people had left in his life, and he'd been doing a lot of thinking about this problem. He had figured out that there are people who are going places, and there are people who settle in for the duration. He had me pretty much pegged as the kind who settle in. Apart from being amazed at George and really admiring his perceptiveness, I found the concept was troubling. I had always seen myself as somebody that liked challenges and went out after new experiences. Here I was, this kid from the suburbs, working on the lower East Side. People thought that was pretty adventurous, and I had allowed myself to think that I had come as far as I could go.

I didn't like the idea of being the sort of person who just finds a nice comfy niche and stays there. But I had to admit I had run into a lot of roadblocks when I was looking for a social work job, the kind of roadblocks that all of us who are blind run into when we're job hunting. Job hunting was not my favorite thing. Now I had a job that I liked, and I did not care for the thought of ever leaving this nice little nest that I had at the University Settlement House. But at the same time I didn't want to work there forever on the basis that there was nowhere else to go and I was afraid to go any place else.

This kid George really got me thinking. The more I thought, the more I started to realize that I really was ready to make a change. I knew that I wanted to do something creative. I wanted to write. I had been writing stories since I was old enough to hold a slate and stylus. I had kept journals since I was fifteen. I have been collecting my share of rejection slips since I was in college, sending stories out to the Atlantic and to the New Yorker and getting them back. Now that I was working full time as a social worker, I really wasn't doing much writing anymore. My whole life had gone in a very different direction.

Well, even if you decide that you want to make a very serious commitment to writing, how do you go about doing that? I didn't have a clue until I spent a summer vacation in the town of San Miguel de Allende in the mountains of central Mexico. In San Miguel there was a small, American-run fine arts college, which offered a lot of courses in creative writing, and there was also a thriving colony of foreign writers living in this town. During my vacation I took some writing classes, and I wrote the first couple of chapters of a novel.

As my departure time got closer and closer, I realized that I really wanted to stay where I was in San Miguel. I knew that there was a way that I could actually do it. I had saved enough money to live in Mexico for a year or two. (This was back in the mid-seventies when it was actually possible to live in New York and still save some money.) I figured that, if my writing venture didn't quite come through and I wasn't successful, I still had my social work degree, and I could go back and look for a social work job again based on my education and my experience. So I wasn't burning all my bridges. If I wanted to, I could go back and look for another job.

So finally I went back to New York, and I handed in my resignation. I gave up my apartment. I packed all my worldly goods into my parents' attic and moved to Mexico. I remember oneof my colleagues at the Settlement House saying that he was so jealous that he almost hoped that I wouldn't have a good time.

I spent the next few years living in San Miguel, writing and hanging out with other writers, and learning everything that I could about writing: the day-to-day, nitty-gritty aspects of making yourself stick to a schedule and get work done, the world of publishing, how to find an agent, and a whole host of things about which people were very willing and generous in sharing their experience.

I completed my first book, which was a novel for teenagers about a blind girl who goes into a public high school program for the first time. I called it A Different Drummer after the line from Thoreau's Walden about some people's marching to the beat of a different drummer. I sent it off to the Houghton Mifflin Company, and I waited for a few months, and back it came with a very nice rejection letter. All of a sudden I thought, you know, I'm at a crossroads here. My money is running out, my confidence is running out, and I haven't sold a book. I have been here for two years. How long can I drop out of the real world? Maybe I need to go back. I might never sell a book, and even if I do, I might not be able to live on what I make. I started making plans to leave San Miguel and go back to New York.

Ever since I had come to Mexico, I had been hearing about a woman named Marguerita, who was supposed to be a bruja, which is a witch. She was supposed to be a white witch. People said that Marguerita cured illnesses and told fortunes. She did all sorts of neat things that people were very impressed by. I thought, I have to meet this lady because this would be a terrific article that I could write for some publication.

One afternoon a friend who knew her took me to meet Marguerita. We trekked out into the hills and found her in this little two-room hut out in the countryside with no electricity and no telephone or any kind of modern conveniences. There was this great big long line of people standing outside her door, waiting to get in and talk to her one at a time. They were all very serious and very intent. As I stood there in line, I thought this really isn't a joke; she may not like the idea of this American coming in and trying to interview her for a Sunday supplement somewhere up in the States. I really better have a good reason to talk to her. So I started thinking I've got to have a question to ask this lady. When I got in, she asked me why I had come. I said, "Well, I'm trying to make a decision in my life. I'm trying to decide whether I should stick with writing as a career or whether I should go back to New York and do social work again."

She listened and said, "Well, what is this social work? What are you talking about?" I said that I worked in an office. Then it occurred to me that she hadn't a clue about what an office was, so I said, "It's sort of a room, and people come and talk to me about their problems, and they ask me questions, and I try to help. I try to give them some answers." The more I talked about this, the more it started to sound a lot like what Marguerita was doing. The trouble was I had never had a line of people standing outside the door, waiting to talk to me the way she did. Then she asked me a couple of leading questions. She said, "When you are doing this social work, do you ever feel a great heat inside your head?"

I said, "No, I didn't remember that ever happening to me."

She said, "Have you ever felt a great flash of lightning in front of your eyes?"

I said, "No, I don't think so. I don't think that ever happened to me."

Then she reached out and patted my hand very kindly and she said, "I think you should continue with your writing."

I definitely got the feeling that she didn't think I was cut out for social work. Actually, my feelings were not at all hurt at that point because in her unique way she had confirmed something for me which I knew was right. She had pointed me onward in the direction that I already had chosen. I didn't want to go back to social work. I wanted to continue with my writing, and, sure enough, as the next couple of weeks went by, a job opened up for me in Mexico so that I was able to stay. I got my first book published, and I also got together with a fellow writer Dick Stein, who is now my husband.

Things sort of fell into place. In this age of layoffs and cutbacks, nobody's job is secure. Any kind of career change involves a substantial risk, and taking risks is not always a desirable thing to do in a world that seems more and more precarious every day. But risk-taking is part of growth, and growth is part of the life process that doesn't stop with physical maturity.

As humans we have a great need to meet new challenges, to learn, and that's something that lasts all our lives. As we go on, we need to face the possibility that we might indeed fail, and the consequences of failure can range from minor embarrassment to a loss of our livelihood. As blind people I think we receive a lot of subtle and not so subtle warnings about taking risks. We are told all our lives, "Be careful; this might be dangerous. You might get hurt." How many times have we all heard this? It is not limited to crossing streets and handling sharp knives in the kitchen. It applies to taking emotional risks too. It's the blind teenager who is in the throes of her first crush, and people around her are saying, "You know I hate to see her go through this. I hate to see her get hurt."

Crossing a street, dicing vegetables, falling in love--almost any human activity could carry a warning label. I sense that people think somehow that as blind people we're in greater peril than others, that somehow we are less able to survive the hurts and disappointments that are part of life for everybody. We're all very aware that there is an appalling rate of unemployment among blind people. Seventy percent is the figure that we hear all the time, and it's appalling and shocking.

Those of us who do have jobs are among the lucky ones, the people who have had quality training and who have had opportunities that have allowed us to get to where we are. So it's no wonder a blind person who is fortunate enough to land a job is likely to cringe at the thought of letting go of that job to try to strive for a promotion, to try to tackle a career change. But not to do so, not to allow ourselves that possibility can actually be a betrayal of our inborn capacity for growth.

If we cling to what we know and to what seems safe and certain, we give up on our need for challenge. There is a terrible price for that security, and that price is the possibility that we can become stagnant. We lose that spark that keeps the mind and the spirit alive and enables us to continue growing and learning throughout our lives. I'm not saying that everybody should just go hand in their resignations on Monday morning and cut out for Mexico. There are foolish risks, and there are calculated risks. It pays to calculate with a lot of thought and care. But I think we owe it to ourselves to develop to our fullest potential. We owe it to the world to try to make the greatest contribution that we can.

As a writer I've written fiction and non-fiction for children. I've written romances for teenagers. I've written books about kids who have more serious problems. I've written biographies. I've written books about states and books about countries and the history of the Vietnam War. Everything that I've written requires research and requires learning about new topics and presents me with a whole set of brand new challenges, so whatever I'm working on remains interesting and exciting. I didn't get to be successful writing in a vacuum. I owe an enormous debt to loving and supportive family, to the many friends who have believed in me, to the National Federation of the Blind for helping to create a climate in which blind people can hope to live full and rewarding lives. And I owe something to a kid named George who lived on the lower East Side, who helped me balance the need for security against the need to move on toward new horizons. Thank you very much. [applause]

Noel J. Nightengale

I am a lawyer with the large West Coast law firm of Heller, Ehrman, White, and McAuliffe. I work in the Seattle office in the Environmental Practice Group. I got the job the ordinary way that new attorneys get jobs with law firms, which is that I worked with Heller, Ehrman during the summer, and they liked my work and offered me a permanent position.

After the bar examination last summer I attended an NFB training center, where I learned Braille and better cane travel and engaged in other activities that helped build my confidence as a blind person. I recommend to anyone in this room contemplating such a move, do it.

My job is probably not very interesting to those who observe it from the outside. I research specific legal issues and then write memoranda to more senior attorneys about those issues. I then discuss my research with them and do follow-up research as needed. As a new attorney I don't get much contact with the clients; I'm pretty much stuck off in my office doing research and writing. But I also attend a lot of meetings, primarily at lunch, where we sit around and talk about issues that affect the law firm--how to develop clients, how to hire environmental consultants--a broad spectrum of issues. I also attend a lot of social events that the firm holds or that are sponsored by other organiztions that the law firm would like to establish or develop business relations with.

The job accommodations I use aren't unique. I use Braille, a white cane, a reader, and adaptive computer equipment. I find that the most challenging aspect of my job as an attorney has nothing to do with the job accommodations I make. Rather, it's dealing with my colleagues and persuading them to see me as just another new attorney, rather than focusing on my blindness.

My colleagues' attitudes and reactions toward me are typified by a retreat I went to with them in May. It was in a town a little way from where I live. For the first time my law firm hired an organization which provides business with challenging activities for executives to engage in that are designed to facilitate personal and team growth. You may have heard of organizations like Outward Bound and Ropes. Well, our organization was called Sportsmind. It's the same idea. We weren't told what these activities would be, and, as the time for the retreat drew nearer, all of the attorneys' anxiety levels about it grew stronger and stronger.

About a week before the retreat one of my colleagues, a friend in the firm who was on the retreat committee, came to me and asked if I was planning on participating in the retreat. I told her that I was, and she asked if I had any concerns. I said that I didn't know what was going to happen and that I was planning to give everything the old college try. Then I addressed her real question, which was, because I am blind, could I do it? She assured me that that hadn't been her question, but that unnamed people had come to her with concerns about my ability to participate. I said again that I planned to participate in all the events.

But as the retreat drew nearer and nearer, I started hearing rumors about what these events were, and one of them was that there was going to be a very high balance beam that we were going to walk on. I did become a little nervous at hearing that, and I began calling my NFB colleagues to get some tips on alternative techniques. But nobody I called had ever done anything like that, so all they could do was assure me that I would do fine. but they had no specific recommendations.

The morning of the retreat came, and at the breakfast that all the attorneys attended the Sportsmind leader came up to me and got down on his knees so that his face was very close to mine as I sat in my chair, and he spoke to me in the kind of voice that one speaks to a child with. He asked me if I was really going to participate. I think he was hoping I was going to say no. But I assured him that I was, and he walked away disappointed.

We walked down to the area where we were going to do warm-up exercises, and that went fine until a little way into the exercises. Then they told us to stand on one foot with the other foot touching our behinds. I started wobbling the minute I did it. I had to keep touching the ground with my raised foot. That shook my confidence. I thought, "If I can't stand on one foot, how am I going to walk on a balance beam?" Then I remembered Dr. Jernigan's talking about a sighted person's asking him about a blind person's ability to balance. He tried standing on one foot and found that he couldn't do it very well. But when he practiced a little, he could do it fine, and that steadied me. I told myself that I wasn't balancing well because I was nervous.

We then split up into teams of three and went to the event area. As the sight was described to me, there was indeed a balance beam about seventy feet in the air, stretched between two trees, with a rough ladder against one tree, leading up to the beam. The leader told us that we would be wearing harnesses with ropes attached to them and that the event would be perfectly safe if we chose to participate. One brave attorney decided to go first. She climbed up and walked out to the middle, where we were supposed to trust those ropes and jump off. She did just fine, and several more attorneys went, and soon there were only a few of us left who hadn't done it. And some of them were so scared they were talking about not doing it. I decided that, before these people psyched me out, I had better get going and do it.So I started up the ladder, which was easy. I just found each rung with one hand and then pulled myself up another step. But, when I got to the beam, which took forever, I got myself onto it and put my back to the tree with my hands behind me, hugging the tree. That's when I noticed that the beam was round and narrow--three and a half inches across. I was very scared! So I shouted down to the Sportsmind leader, "Now what?"

He shouted back, "Walk to the middle and jump off."

I said, "How?" I guess it is becoming clear to you that I am a chicken. Eventually I made myself take that first tentative step, but it was so scary that I quickly jumped back and hugged the tree. I could not figure out how I was going to do this. I stood there for a while slowly realizing that I either had to go or come back down. I was afraid that I would take one step, fall off, and bang into the tree.

But eventually I decided that the best thing was just to get it over with. So I started walking, and eventually I got to the middle. But when they started shouting that I was in the middle, I didn't believe them. I thought they were just saying that to make me feel good. So I kept going. Then I noticed that their shouts were sounding very insistent. It was definitely time to jump. I stopped and gathered myself for a minute, and then I jumped, and the rope stopped me the way it was supposed to. When I eventually got to the ground, my colleagues rushed up to me and hugged me and cheered. They told me how great I had done, better than anybody else. But I hadn't done better than anybody else. I probably did worse than anybody else, except for the ones who didn't attempt it.

The next two events went fine. I performed at about the same level as my colleagues, or maybe a little worse, I don't know. But by the end of the day I was getting an incredible amount of praise and adulation. People from other groups were walking up to me and telling me that they had heard that I was the star of the show. I began to feel very uneasy and uncomfortable. Why were these people so impressed by my mediocre achievements? I concluded it was because they had started out with such low expectations of what I was going to do that day. And that very much disturbed me. If they had such profound doubts about my ability to walk on a balance beam, how could they possibly believe that I was able to be as competent at the law as they were?

This brings me to telling you about the one other job accommodation I make on the job that I think every blind person must make. It makes all the other accommodations work. I work to maintain a high level of confidence in myself. The only way my colleagues can learn to have confidence in me is for me to have confidence in myself. But this confidence must be grounded in substance--confidence in my strong blindness skills and in my lawyering skills.

When Mr. Maurer spoke to the Student Division Sunday night, he alluded to the fact that, when he faces something challenging, he remembers his brothers and sisters in the Federation and their love and support for him.

That's exactly what I did on that balance beam. After I took that first failed step, I stood up there on that beam and thought about all of you in this room and how you would be cheering for me and supporting me. That's what gave me the courage to go for it and prove that I could do it. That's the only way I know of to maintain a steady level of self-confidence in a world filled with doubts about the ability of blind people--be an active member of the NFB and work side by side with great blind people. Thank you very much.



by Susan Roth

From the Editor: For the past year we have reported periodically on events at the Arkansas School for the Blind. (See the November, 1994, and July, 1995, issues of the Braille Monitor.) In January of this year Leonard Ogburn, the school's erstwhile superintendent, who had first been suspended and then fired for harassing a teacher by spanking her, pled no contest to the charges facing him. This spring Dr. Ivan Terzieff was hired as superintendent and took up his duties on June 1. Throughout the evolution of this story, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette followed it closely and faithfully reported on the continuing morale problems at the School and the legislature's growing dissatisfaction. On Sunday, July 2, 1995, Susan Roth, the reporter who had stayed with the story, wrote a follow-up piece reporting on Dr. Terzieff's first month on the job. If Susan Roth is to be believed, the Arkansas School for the Blind may actually have landed on its feet. Only time, the integrity and toughness of Dr. Terzieff, and the maturity and good will of the staff and public will tell for sure. But here is the story:

The life-size stuffed lion sitting watch in a window of the Arkansas School for the Blind is the school's mascot and its symbol as well. Once an image of strength and grace beloved by hundreds of children at the school, the lion is old and faded, faintly rancid, falling apart.

There may not be much hope for the old lion, but there is hope for the school, says new Superintendent Ivan Terzieff. Terzieff, who took the position June 1, is resolutely optimistic about the school's future. He knows his job will be hard. By all accounts he has walked into a lion's den.

In the past two years Leonard Ogburn, the former superintendent, faced accusations of sexual misconduct, nepotism, favoritism, and financial improprieties. Ogburn left the school last September, but the controversy tore the school into two fiercely warring factions: Ogburn supporters and detractors.

The selection process that chose Terzieff as the new superintendent was tainted. One of the other three finalists for the position had been fired from his last job for failing to report sexual abuse by students at an Illinois school.

And now, because of alleged mismanagement, the Legislature has ordered a reorganization of the Arkansas School for the Blind, starting with the transfer of several departments to management by the neighboring School for the Deaf.

But Terzieff, fifty-seven, says he is up to the challenge of restoring the School for the Blind. A gentle man of quiet determination, he is friendly but with an air of respectful formality and a slight accent that betrays his European roots.

The story of the School for the Blind pales in comparison to Terzieff's own personal story. He is reluctant to tell it, but friends like to tell of his daring escape from his native Bulgaria at age eighteen. He and two friends slipped through the barbed-wire border of the Communist country and hiked through the Strange Mountains into Turkey, where they were held in refugee camps.

Four years later Terzieff came to the United States with the help of an American who befriended him in Turkey. The experience gave Terzieff great personal strength, according to a former supervisor.

"Ivan has a certain calmness, a sense of being able to really identify a crisis and not get carried away by any crisis that happens every minute of the day," said Dennis Thurman, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, where Terzieff was principal for eight years before coming to Arkansas.

"He accepts people as they are; he likes people," Thurman said. "His strength is relating to kids. He really loves kids." Terzieff earned a bachelor's degree in Russian from the University of Massachusetts in 1964, a master's in education from the University of Pittsburgh in 1972, and a doctorate in special education administration from Ohio State University in 1980.

He said he discovered his interest in vision by accident. He was teaching in an inner-city school in Pittsburgh before attending graduate school when he noticed that many students who had trouble reading had visual problems. Later he enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh's program in teaching the visually handicapped.

After earning his master's degree, Terzieff took a job coordinating the orientation and mobility program here at the Arkansas School for the Blind. The school has changed since 1973, he said.

"Everything was in place; everything was working. There are still as many good people here now as there were then. But the atmosphere was different," he recalled.

"In this past year a lot of energies were directed outside the school, and that may have contributed to problems here," Terzieff said. "I'm hoping those energies will turn in now. I'm hoping to put them to work here."

His primary focus is the students--the fifty-two arriving this weekend for summer school and then the 120 expected in August for the fall term. Terzieff is concerned that the recent furor has resulted in neglect of the children. Neglect is visible in a tour of the buildings themselves.

The peeling paint on the entry to Girls' Cottage, a dormitory for young girls, is just an introduction to the crumbling walls inside. The elementary classrooms and the connected dorm for the youngest students smell of mold and mildew.

In apartments for seniors in the Smith Vocational Building next door, bathrooms are moldy and crumbling, and the floor has sunk a couple of inches into the hillside, leaving a gap between the wall and the floor and cracks in the walls. Roof leaks have led to gaping holes in the ceilings.

Piles of junk littered the campus when Terzieff arrived. Most of the broken furniture, old mattresses, pipes, pieces of wood, and rolls of fencing are now gone.

"It was all just laying around outside," Terzieff said. "It was all around the school. Nobody ever moved it. I'm sure somebody cared, but . . . ," he shrugged his shoulders. "It appears that nobody did."

Somebody definitely cared about Shults House, the dorm for the oldest girls. There is no peeling paint, outside or inside. The carpeting is new and plush; the walls are clean and hung with framed artwork; and there are antiques, soft sofas, and a piano in the living room. Upstairs the spacious bedrooms are full of attractive furniture in good condition.

"It's inviting," Terzieff said. "Students ought to feel this is their home to live in." The building, he said, is not newer than the others--it's just been better maintained.

In the other dorms Terzieff has already commissioned fresh paint and new furniture. Along with the general renovations, Terzieff plans to tackle the school's lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That means labeling every doorway in Braille, increasing the access to buildings for students who use wheelchairs, and creating some wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.

Part of the reason for this push is Terzieff's intention to integrate the exceptional unit--the school's version of special education for students with multiple handicaps--into the rest of the school. This reflects a national trend towards including special education students in regular classes whenever possible.

In the past these students, who numbered about twenty last year, lived and attended classes in their own building and never mixed with others.

Terzieff acknowledged that teachers are already apprehensive about these changes, but he said the changes will come gradually so the whole school can adjust. Eventually he'd like to see more team teaching between regular teachers and those for students with multiple handicaps.

There will also be more teamwork between the dormitory and teaching staffs. House parents used to live in apartments in the dorms, but they won't any more. Dorm staff will now work in three shifts starting about 6:00 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. to cover twenty-four hours. The staff will check on the children throughout the night, Terzieff said.

The day shift house parents will attend school with the students and act as teacher's aides. This will build a connection between academic and home skills into the curriculum as recommended by the school's accreditors.

Terzieff also wants to place computers in the dorms and classrooms, replace old textbooks, enroll more students in regular public school classes, and initiate a work-study program to give pupils work experience.

He acknowledged that there is some truth to the accusation of pay inequity among teachers at the school. He said he is working with state officials to equalize salaries in the next couple of years.

Terzieff declined to comment on whether some uncertified teachers had held improper positions at the school. But he did say some staff members will be working toward certification.

All this will take time, he knows. But the first thing he wants to do is overcome all that's happened in the past two years.

"Most of those who are here are willing to put all that behind them," he said. "I am relying on them to turn it around. Those that don't want to come along eventually will either have to come along or go. It's their choice. But they won't disrupt the rest of the school. I don't even want to know what happened before," he said. "I really don't need to know. I am interested in what is happening right now and where are we going from here."

Thurman, the Iowa superintendent, said it's up to the school staff and Arkansas citizens to turn the school around. "The question is not whether he can do it. The question is: Are y'all up to deciding you want to do something different--citizens and staff and legislators? If you want to be different, Ivan can help you, but if you don't want to change, he can't make you."

Terzieff said he found comfort in the support of alumni and the Arkansas blind community. He's not sorry he took the job at the School for the Blind.

"In spite of everything that has happened, there are excellent people in the school," he said. "The potential is here, the community in general supports the school, and with that behind it, anything is possible. It's a challenge, but it's a nice challenge."


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 the 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 Kenneth Jernigan

From the Editor: The latest in the Federation's Kernel Book series of paperbacks is titled Toothpaste and Railroad Tracks. The following story provides part of the explanation for the title. Here it is:

Almost everybody who thinks about blindness begins with the assumption that, if you are blind, you are at a tremendous disadvantage in dealing with the everyday tasks of getting along and managing your life. To some extent, of course, that is true.

Regardless of other things, the world is structured for the sighted. Most books are in print, not Braille; an increasing number of electrical appliances have lights that flash and flicker instead of knobs that turn and click; and pictures are replacing words on everything from the cash register at McDonald's to the sign on the bathroom door.

Most of these items and appliances could be marked and produced in nonvisual ways, but the fact that they aren't (and that they won't be) is not an overwhelming problem. There are techniques for dealing with the reading, the flickering lights under transparent plates, and the pictures that tell you where to go and what to do.

Functioning as a blind person in a world designed for the sighted keeps you on your toes, but with a little thought and ingenuity you can manage. In fact, you can manage quite well.

But that isn't the way most people look at it. They figure that, if you are blind, your days are miserably bleak and limited. I've been blind all of my life, and I think I am about as happy and successful as most of the sighted people I know. It is true that I haven't made a million dollars or been elected President of the United States--but I get along, pay my bills, and look forward to a good dinner and a Sunday afternoon. So do the majority of blind people I know. And I know a lot of them--some successful, some just managing to get by, and most somewhere between.

And let me hasten to add that I am not just talking about people who have been blind from birth but about all of the other variations--those who became blind as children, those who became blind as young adults, and those who became blind in middle age or later.

But if blindness is how I say it is--if you can have as much fun, make as much money, and be as successful as anybody else--why do people think blindness is so tragic and limiting? I have given a lot of thought to that question, and I believe the answer is less involved with the major activities of life than with the insignificant details.

It is true that over seventy percent of working-age blind people are unemployed--not because they can't do the job but because people think they can't do it and because they haven't had opportunity. But most people don't know that. More to the point, they don't think about it, and even if they did, they would simply take it for granted that the majority of blind people are not unemployed but unemployable, and then they would pass on to something else.

No, it is not the big things that cause the average member of the public to think of blindness as tragic and limiting. It is the routine activities, the details.

More specifically, it is the fact that, when there is more than one way to do a thing and when one of those ways involves using sight, the sighted person will almost inevitably use the visual technique. It will be done without a second thought, with the automatic assumption that the visual technique is superior. Some visual techniques are superior, of course; some are approximately equal; and some are inferior.

Let me give you an example. A few mornings ago, my wife (who, incidently, is sighted) expressed some annoyance that her toothpaste had fallen off the brush. I was quite surprised, for I realized that something I had always taken for granted wasn't so.

"Do you squeeze your toothpaste on to your toothbrush, looking at it as you do it, and then put the toothbrush loaded with toothpaste into your mouth?" I asked.

"Why, yes," she said. "Doesn't everybody do it that way?"

"I don't," I said. "I put the tube up to my mouth, bite off what I want, and then put the brush on my teeth and go at it."

My wife was as surprised by my technique as I was by hers. "It makes sense," she said. "I'll try it."

She did, and she said how much more efficient my technique was than the visual method she had been using. About a week later I asked her if she was still using my toothpaste technique, and she rather sheepishly said that she wasn't. When I asked her why, she thought about it a minute and then said, "I guess I'm so used to looking at it that it's just too hard to change."

Here's a case where the nonvisual technique is clearly superior but where the visual method is automatically used even though it is not as good. My wife (along with most of the other sighted people I have asked) has always, without even thinking about it, taken it for granted that the sighted technique is superior.

If she had considered it at all before our conversation, she would probably have felt that my method of putting toothpaste on the brush would be the same as hers except that I would need to feel for the brush, which would be a little harder than just looking at it.

Certainly the world doesn't turn on whether you bite your toothpaste or squeeze it onto a brush, but life is a matter of daily routine, not dramatic events. So let me move from toothbrushes to razors.

I shave every day (or almost every day), and I do it with an ordinary razor with a blade. Many of the sighted men I know tell me that they shave in front of a mirror. Yet I have known a great many sighted men who have worked at schools or training centers for the blind and who, after seeing blind boys and men shaving in the shower, have tried the technique and adopted it. I have never known one of them to return to the visual technique. In fact, even those who shave in front of a mirror almost always rub their hand across their face to feel if it is clean shaven. Even so, the average person tends to think that shaving without sight is difficult. It isn't. The nonvisual method is easier and offers more flexibility.

Like most men who shave with a blade, I use shaving cream, the kind that comes from a can under pressure and makes a big pile of foam. Since I have to wash my face anyway, I combine the operation with shaving. I get my face (including my forehead) wet, and I then spread shaving cream all over it. When I am finished, I rinse and am done.

A few years ago, when I was making television announcements for the National Federation of the Blind, I thought it might be interesting to demonstrate different techniques used by the blind. I had shots made of me walking down the street, carrying wood to a fireplace, tying my tie, and shaving.

As the TV editors looked at the pictures, everything was all right until they came to the shaving sequence. One of them said, "We can't show that. It would look like a vaudeville act, like somebody throwing a pie at your face."

I gathered from my questions to them that they were accustomed to seeing TV commercials about shaving and that in those commercials a small amount of shaving cream is put on a part of the face. Those commercials, it would seem, had formed their image of what was normal and acceptable. As with some of the other things I have been discussing, I had always assumed that other men used shaving cream the way I did. Apparently such is not the case.

I said to one of the TV editors: "Don't you wash your face in the morning?"

"Yes," he said, "but I don't do it with shaving cream. I wash my face and forehead with soap. I rinse my face; and then I put shaving cream on and shave." It seemed to me that this was a time-wasting, inefficient way to do it, but I thought I would keep my opinion to myself.

When I was Director of Programs for the Blind in the state of Iowa, we bought an old YMCA building for a headquarters and training center. It had seven floors, and the only way to get from the basement to the top was either by climbing the stairs or by using the elevator.

It was, to say the least, not a modern elevator. In fact, it was one of the old-fashioned kind using direct current. It had a grille-work at the front of the cab and a lever that you pushed one way to go up and the other way to go down. There was no way to tell when you got to a given floor except by looking--or, at least, that's what we thought when we moved in.

But those of us who were blind had the strongest possible incentive to devise a nonvisual technique, for we couldn't afford to hire an elevator operator--and we didn't want to walk up and down the stairs between the seven floors all day.

My first thought was that, if we couldn't see the floors, perhaps we could string a cable from the top to the bottom of the elevator shaft with some kind of tabs on it that would brush the elevator car and make a noise at each floor. That would have beenexpensive and complicated, and we never got around to it. In the meantime we walked--at least, those of us who were blind did.

Then, one of the blind trainees found that he could stick a knife or comb through the grille-work and touch the bar on the elevator door at each floor, thus allowing a blind person to operate the elevator easily and efficiently. A little later we learned that we had been going about the whole thing wrong. If we paid attention, we could feel the air currents coming off the floors as we passed them and could level the elevator without any mechanical devices at all.

Why did it take us so long to discover this technique? I believe it was because it never occurred to us to think in any other way except in visual terms. We thought that, if we couldn't see the floors, we needed to devise a substitute to do the same thing, to touch them in one way or another. Only when we opened our minds and let our imaginations run free did we get the solution.

The elevator technique we developed was not superior to the visual technique used by the sighted occupants of the building, but it was just as good. The fact that it was different didn't make it inferior. It just meant that it was different.

There is more opportunity for blind people today than there has ever been in the history of the world, and we are only beginning to realize our possibilities. We are truly changing what it means to be blind, and one of the ways we are doing it is by coming to understand that visual techniques are not necessarily superior to nonvisual techniques. And it isn't just blind people who are learning this. It is also an increasing number of the sighted public. We who are blind must lead the way and do for ourselves, but we must do it in partnership with the sighted. And we must do it with imagination and new ways of thinking.



by Maureen Pranghofer

From the Editor: If you read the preceding article, you know where the toothpaste comes from in the title of the newest Federation Kernel Book, Toothpaste and Railroad Tracks. Now discover the railroad tracks, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:

An unnamed terror, needless and debilitating, accompanied Maureen Pranghofer from early childhood to middle age. In the story that follows, Maureen tells of her struggle to get on the right track. Here is what she has to say:

My fascination with trains began on the north side of the living room and gradually spread south. For it was on the north side that the television was located just a little to the right of the front door. And it was just south of this where I played "train" with my great aunt Nora.

As it did with other young children in the early 1960's, television was playing an increasingly important role in my daily life. There were certain TV programs which were rallying points for the entire family. Paramount among these were the famous ones which grabbed the rest of the U.S.--"The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," and the "Mickey Mouse Club."

But the most central fixture on the tube which came blasting into the north side of the living room was the program featuring the train of Casey Jones. At noon channel 11, an independent station, delighted area children by presenting "Lunch with Casey."

As the sound of a chugging train was heard in the distance, a booming voice would announce "Now arriving on track 11...." Casey Jones would get off the train, which had come to a tooting, screeching halt, and run into the club house. He would sit down at his lunch table, remove the napkin from atop his meal, and say something like "Well, well, what do we have here? It looks like a peach and cottage cheese and, oh yes, a chicken sandwich and a big glass of milk. I'm ready for my lunch. How about you?" Then the cartoon-filled half hour would progress along as quickly as an Amtrak train speeding to its destination. I liked hearing the sound of that train. I liked watching Casey hop off. And I was always interested in what he had for lunch.

My concept of tracks, trains, and railroads would probably have remained in the realm of television had it not been for my younger brother's birthday gift. In a large square box came a present meant for my two-year-old brother which I immediately claimed. It was a train set, complete with plastic tracks, switching mechanism, and little cars which hooked together. Truthfully I can never remember playing with the cars much, but the tracks and switching device were major highlights in my seven-year-old life.

At least three times a week I built and then tore down my railroad empire, which was situated just south of the TV and which usually ran in an east-west direction. Building was accomplished by arranging the tracks in whatever way fit my fancy at the moment.

There were countless possibilities. One had only to use imagination and hook the tracks together. Hooking the track together meant simply that you would take each piece of plastic track and fit the end with the round notch sticking out into an accompanying piece of track which had the round notch indented. These track pieces were of various lengths, shapes, and sizes. When fit together they formed one continuous track.

This in and of itself was not all that wonderful, but the switching mechanism was the hallmark and centerpiece of the entire toy.

This mechanism was plastic like the tracks and was shaped like a capital "T." There was a small crank which when rotated turned the track until it cut across the opposite track and thus made the train turn around.

Now, if you have been around trains you already know how all this works. But for me, a seven-year-old who had only seen two minutes of an engineer disembarking from a television locomotive, it was a big deal.

In addition to my younger sisters and brother I had an occasional lunch-time buddy who was equally fascinated with trains. That was my great aunt Nora. Now Nora was the dream fairy godmother of any child. When she came to visit, her purse was stocked full of surprises like gum and Life Savers.

If you wanted to read, color, play a game, or watch television, your wish was her command. She would read as long as you were willing to listen, talk about important childhood things which were seen as silly to any other adult, and enter into a child's world of play as though she, too, were a kid.

Whether or not she was in actuality as personally interested in Casey's train as I was is something I'll never know. But if I was interested in trains, then she, too, could be captivated by them as well in order to please me.

So I was not surprised when, one noon hour while we were jointly watching the tube, she said, "Maybe we'll take the train somewhere. How would you like that?" I was beside myself with delight. Awaiting the day when we would actually be real live passengers aboard a for real train ride was almost more than I could stand. But finally the day arrived.

Nora, my mother, two younger sisters, and my younger brother drove into Minneapolis, where we would catch the train which would take us across the river to St. Paul. There we would eat dinner at the depot and meet my father, who would drive us home. The entire time on the train was less than a half hour, but that didn't matter to me.

With a stomach full of butterflies I walked into the depot. Tickets were purchased, and then a voice over the loudspeaker boomed, "Now arriving on track 29, train bound for St. Paul."

"Just like TV," I thought as I stepped out of the main area of the depot and turned toward the waiting train.

The moment I stepped through the glass doors out into the boarding area my excitement turned to fear. It was an intangible, eery feeling, but one I was sadly familiar with and was to experience for years to come.

The first time I'd experienced this unnamed fear was after visiting a friend. My mother was carrying me out to the car. It was night, and, though I was in her arms, I felt totally panicked. Later I again recognized this nightmarish feeling when my aunt Carla took me to a theater to see West Side Story. And again this envelope of fright would surround me while riding in the car at night, alone in the back seat, while my mother and grandmother talked in the front seat.

It was a feeling I couldn't put into words--a terror which would leave me crying at times and unable to explain to questioning adults what was happening. It was a fear which left my palms sweaty and my heart pounding. And, as I grew older, it did not diminish as do childish fears of the monster under the bed or the boogieman in the corner.

As a nine- or ten-year-old I was followed by it when I walked across the busy street by my grandmother's home. It accompanied me to restaurants and to new places. It accompanied me as I was walking at night.

Finally as a forty-year-old woman I now understand what caused my joyful fascination with trains to turn to fear. I now know why going out to eat in a fancy restaurant was nerve-racking and why an evening walk in our quiet neighborhood was not enjoyable.

It all had to do with blindness. As an individual born with partial sight I did not live in the world of blind people. I used my vision and was not considered to be blind as far as my family was concerned. Yes they knew I had "problems seeing," but these were never talked about openly.

Like a train on the right track I did fine as long as I could use my vision. But put me into a situation where this wasn't possible, and I immediately became derailed.

It took an accident in the summer of 1993 which left me totally blind to get me truly on the right track. Not having any sight was at first terrifying, confusing, and depressing. But with the help of the National Federation of the Blind I have learned at long last that blindness does not have to be a scary thing. I have learned that independence is possible and that travel, in even in unfamiliar environments, does not have to be equated with terror.

I think of all the times when I couldn't enjoy evening walks, couldn't enjoy dimly lit restaurants, and of the special time with Nora and the "real live train" that I could not enjoy because I couldn't see where I was going in the unfamiliar, poorly lit boarding area. How many others are uneasy about doing these same things and too ashamed to talk about it?

Today I travel confidently thanks to the National Federation of the Blind. I know where I'm going, and I'm glad I'm on the right track.



by Madeline Drexler

From the Editor: The following article appeared in the June 25, 1995, edition of the Boston Globe. It is cheering to discover that a writer for one of the nation's major newspapers can produce a story about Braille that is accurate and sensible. It is also encouraging to note that all of the sources she consulted were in agreement about the importance of Braille. Here is what Madeline Drexler wrote:

Long before the computer age spawned new language codes, a fifteen-year-old French boy, the blind son of a harness maker, invented a code that opened an information highway to millions of people. His name was Louis Braille, and in 1824 he developed a tactile system of raised dots, based on the domino, that dramatically boosted the literacy of people who suffered vision loss. Though initially spurned, the Braille code came to be universally accepted. But with technology now pushing us toward a "paperless society," what will become of this vital language that is the ultimate in low-tech: fingertips to embossed pages?

That question worries many people who work in the blind community. Surveys suggest that Braille literacy has declined in the last forty years. Blind children, most of whom attend public schools, may not be acquiring the Braille skills they need to function in the sighted world. Such a trend is alarming because, among people with little or no usable vision, mastery of Braille greatly enhances prospects for higher education and for jobs.

Braille has many advantages over other forms of communication for the blind. It is more easily scanned and retraced than an audio tape and therefore better for reviewing information-dense materials such as a history book or a manual. Someone giving a speech can hold Braille notes instead of relying on memory. Braille is handy for phone numbers, addresses, and lists. And it is an excellent way to organize things, from office files to groceries. "There are blind people who may not pick up a copy of War and Peace in Braille, but they can label their canned goods," says Frances Mary D'Andrea, manager of the National Initiative on Literacy, in the Atlanta office of the American Foundation for the Blind.

Unfortunately, not everyone who might benefit from Braille knows the code. Surveys conducted by the American Printing House for the Blind, in Louisville, Kentucky, show falling rates of Braille literacy. In 1963, among legally blind children and adults in rehabilitation, fifty-two percent knew Braille. In 1994, the figure was ten percent.

According to Mary Nell McLennan, director of educational and advisory services for the printing house, that ten percent, while a decline, "is not quite as alarming as the numbers would have you believe." This is because the surveyed community of blind people is larger and more varied than it used to be. Of the 1.1 million legally blind people in the United States, only twenty percent are blind; the rest have some small amount of central or peripheral vision that can be enhanced with optical aids such as magnifiers and contrast-enhancing TV screens. Moreover, a growing proportion of blind people became sightless with age. And the blind community now includes infants and young children with multiple handicaps, youngsters who often would not have survived several decades ago. In other words, a bigger fraction of blind people today either can't learn Braille or are not inclined to do so.

On the other hand, Braille is not taught as widely as it used to be. Unlike the 1950's and 1960's, when vision-impaired children attended special residential schools, they now are likely to go to public schools, where they are encouraged to use audio materials and whatever sight they have. Braille may not be offered or may be taught by an unqualified instructor. And because fewer university special-education programs teach Braille, there is a shortage of instructors.

All of which worries Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, in Baltimore. His mother taught him Braille the summer after he was in first grade. Soon Maurer, who is now forty-three, grew to love books, sneaking Braille texts under the blankets at night. He went on to the University of Notre Dame and law school. From his perspective the drop in Braille literacy amounts to class discrimination. "The obvious implication is that you have blind people who cannot read Braille and cannot do what you need to do in your business life," he says.

A more subtle effect, he adds, is that society doesn't expect much from blind people. However accurate, the oft-quoted ten percent Braille-literacy figure "is terribly important and terribly revealing," Maurer says. "The schools think that blind people don't have any future. If teachers begin with the proposition that you're not going to do something complex, then they won't teach the skills to handle complex matters."

Employment statistics add weight to Maurer's contention. About seventy percent of working-age people who are blind are unemployed or underemployed, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. Those who have jobs are twenty percent more likely to use Braille than are those who are unemployed but want to work, the foundation says.

Ironically, as Braille literacy sags, high-tech devices have emerged that can render printed text and other materials into Braille--and vice versa. Optical character-recognition machines translate print into Braille. Small "refreshable" electronic displays can produce in Braille whatever text is splashed across a computer screen. Special printers churn out embossed copy from standard computer disks. Portable electronic Braille note takers can be hooked up to speech synthesizers or Braille displays. And hundreds of new books are printed each year in Braille (though new audio books are more plentiful, partly because they'recheaper to produce).

Braille instruction isn't the answer for every vision-impaired child. But advocates for the blind want to retain the option. "If the student, parent, or teacher thinks it's important for the child to learn Braille, that's what should be done," says Maurer. Such a provision is under consideration in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law from the mid-'70's that Congress is redrafting.

Even in the digital age, a nineteenth-century tactile code based on raised dots remains relevant. "I think there's always going to be a need for Braille--a personal, portable, literary communication system that doesn't depend on electricity," says the foundation's D'Andrea. Or, as Mary Nell McLennan puts it, "Braille will remain healthy and viable long after we stop kicking."



by Adrienne Asch

From the Editor: Dr. Adrienne Asch is Henry R. Luce Professor in Biology, Ethics, and the Politics of Human Reproduction at Wellesley College. She is also a longtime Federationist. Last year she was asked to prepare the visual impairment entry for the Encyclopedia of Social Work, 9th Edition, a publication of the National Association of Social Workers, Washington, D.C. Adrienne is always deluged with writing and speaking projects beyond the scope of her already demanding professional responsibilities, but she recognized that this invitation was a valuable opportunity to give social workers solid, accurate, sensible information about blindness. Somehow she made the time to write the article. The Encyclopedia is now in print, and useful and constructive information is available to social workers who turn to it for guidance. Her article will also undoubtedly be useful to Federationists engaged in public education about blindness. This is what Adrienne wrote:

A December 26, 1994, story on National Public Radio's (NPR's) "All Things Considered" vividly captured the prevailing images of blindness. The story described a fifty-three-year-old Mexican immigrant to the United States whose work as an accordionist and singer in the New York City subways "amazes and entertains even the most cynical riders." According to the NPR reporter, "What made this so incredible was that the musician was blind. But there he was, moving slowly through the swaying and speeding car, never missing a beat in the music, never losing his balance." She reported that nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollar bills began "to fill the white plastic cup taped to his accordion." The reporter was astonished that he came from Mexico City to New York "all alone" and that "he lives in one of the poorest, highest crime areas of New York City but...has never been robbed or assaulted; on the contrary, strangers help him up and down the subway stairs; his him to run his errands." She closed the program by saying that the man "must have an angel looking over him."

Whereas the reporter was astonished, the musician himself was matter-of-fact. To her queries about coming from Mexico City to New York alone, he said, "Yes, I was scared when I first came to New York, but now that I know my way around, I'm not afraid anymore." As to how he kept his balance in the moving subway when the reporter lost hers, he replied, "That's what you call practice." And in summing up his life, he explained, "I'm happy because I have everything I need, except that I'm blind, but that doesn't count any more. It did at the beginning, but I've been this way thirty-three years." And he countered the reporter's idea of a special angel by saying, "Oh I'm sure of that, not only an angel, but there's also God, who looks over me and everyone else."

This story provides important clues to images and realities about visual impairment and blindness and suggests the sharply contrasting perceptions of a newcomer to blindness and of someone who has learned to live as a person with a visual impairment.

Like most people who rely on their vision, the reporter was astonished that a blind musician could make his way in the world safey and competently without it and concluded that he must have been protected by kind strangers, neighbors, and a special guardian angel. Such beliefs are not idiosyncratic, as studies of people's attitudes toward blindness and other disabilities (Makas, 1988; Siller, Chipman, Ferguson, & Vann, 1967; Siller, Ferguson, Vann, & Holland, 1967) have found and as indicated by the fact that NPR deemed the story newsworthy. Thus, although a 1991 survey by Louis Harris and Associates reported that blindness is a "more accepted" disability than is mental illness and that 47 percent of the survey population considered themselves "very comfortable" when meeting a blind person, many people equate blindness with helplessness. As Asch and Mudrick ("Disability," volume 1) explain about attitudes toward disabilities in general, people assume that life with a long-term condition, such as impaired vision, is as stressful, disorganizing, and difficult as the crisis of traumatic injury or acute illness. They imagine that, if it is difficult for them to manage their lives with all their senses, then surely someone without sight would have even more trouble. Of course, the image of the blind man as a beggar, musician, or both goes back at least to the Old Testament and further enshrines the notion that those who lack vision must depend on and can make little or no positive contribution to others.

Fortunately, the facts and possibilities of life for people who are blind differ markedly from these myths. After training in managing as a blind person, and when not barred by fears of others, blind people study, hold jobs, raise families, go to restaurants, and participate in typical life roles and activities. Because blindness and visual impairment are relatively rare, because some visually impaired people may also have other social and health problems that isolate them, and because blind people have faced past and continuing patterns of discrimination, social workers may have had little contact with people who are blind and may imagine that a person's blindness precludes functioning competently in the world. Many of those with impaired vision are also over the retirement age, are new at dealing with their sight loss, and are experiencing other health problems (Ainlay, 1988). They may indeed appear frail, weak, or in need of help, but their difficulties may stem from lack of training in dealing with blindness or from these other health problems and not from blindness itself. This entry provides information on the visually impaired and blind population of the United States today, describes legislation and services of special relevance to this population, considers the significance of visual impairment at different life stages, and concludes with thoughts on the role of the social work profession in working with clients and colleagues who have visual impairments.

As will be discussed here, many people have some sort or degree of visual impairment, but if they can rely on their vision to perform tasks of daily living, reading, writing, and traveling safely, they do not have visual impairments that cause them or others to regard them as having particular problems or as requiring special services or adaptations. Thus, although some of those who have visual problems may benefit from a more accommodating environment, such as larger print on street signs or brighter lighting in buildings, they are not the focus of this entry because they do not define themselves and are not defined by others as having problems related to their vision that require services or alternative means of functioning. In fact, fewer than one-quarter of the visually impaired population are unable to see at all and would be described as totally blind (Kahn & Moorhead, 1973; personal communication with C. Kirchner, American Foundation for the Blind, 1994); the rest have some vision that may be useful and efficient for certain tasks but not for others. However, this entry uses the terms "visually impaired" and "blind" interchangeably to describe people who must rely on nonvisual methods to function.


The earliest approaches to helping blind and visually impaired people in the United States stressed special, separate education for blind children; sheltered or specialized, noncompetitive employment for blind adults; and a specialized system of service agencies to meet the social and recreational needs of blind clients. Carroll (1961) argued that, in order to adjust to the loss of vision, the newly blind person had to "mourn" the "death" of the sighted self and to work to assume a new identity.

Scott's (1969) classic study revealed that most social service agencies in "the blindness system" adhered to this philosophy and maintained that few blind or visually impaired children or adults could function in ordinary activities in school, at work, and in the community. Thus, social and educational programs for visually impaired people taught Braille; travel with a long cane or a guide dog; and some methods of cooking, sewing, and maintaining daily life. However, they also engendered in their clients a belief that visual impairment prevented them from participating in their former employment or community activities and that they needed to develop new outlets and new lives as blind people. Furthermore, traditional social services agencies in the blindness system did not challenge laws that prohibited blind people from taking civil service examinations or serving as jurors, for example.

The challenge to the notion that blindness and visual impairment entail separation from ordinary activities came from blind people themselves, particularly those who founded the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)--the first major civil rights group of people with disabilities anywhere in the United States (Asch, 1985; Matson, 1990). With its civil rights, minority-group approach to blindness, NFB endorsed the need for high-quality rehabilitation training and training in alternative techniques of living for people who could not always rely on vision, but it also endorsed the right of blind people to speak for themselves and to combat laws and practices that excluded them from ordinary educational, work, civic, and leisure-time activities. This latter approach stresses learning alternative techniques of functioning, contact with other people who have mastered these techniques, involvement in consumer groups to press for public education and social change, and the application of these skills and attitudes to whichever areas of life an individual enjoyed before he or she became visually impaired. This approach wholeheartedly rejects Carroll's (1961) notion of the person's need to adopt a new identity as a blind person in favor of carrying on one's previous life and roles as a person with impaired vision (Jernigan, 1994).

Profile of the Visually Impaired Population Defining Visual Impairment and Legal Blindness

According to the most recent available data, 1.6 million people over age fifteen are unable to see well enough to read the words and letters in ordinary print, even with eyeglasses (McNeil, 1993). This figure is derived from the U.S. Bureau of the Census's 1991-92 data on the noninstitutionalized population and thus excludes about half a million people in nursing homes or other institutions from the count of those with serious visual difficulties (Nelson & Dimitrova, 1993). Furthermore, because only visual limitations with reference to reading are explored, these data do not indicate how many people cannot manage tasks that require intermediate or distance vision, such as seeing a computer screen, spotting a familiar person or building across a street, or watching television (Nelson & Dimitrova). Thus, as Kirchner (1994) pointed out, there are gaps in what is known about the status and needs of everyone in the United States with a serious visual limitation.

Demographic Data

About 1.6 million people reported in 1991-92 that they could not see well enough to read print even with glasses, or about half a million more than the estimated population who were defined as legally blind people (McNeil, 1993). However, because visual impairment is far more prevalent in people over age sixty- five, the omission of residents of nursing homes and other institutions from the data collection drastically understates those who could potentially benefit from vision services. Of the people who are defined as legally blind, 64 percent are over age sixty-five, 5 percent are under age twenty, and the remaining 21 percent are ages twenty to sixty-four (the prime working years).

Legal blindness occurs in males and females in roughly equal numbers until age sixty-five, but because women typically live longer than do men, the elderly blind population is largely female. Blindness and visual impairment are found more often in people of color than in the white population, largely because people of color are disproportionately denied the health services that could diagnose and treat preventable blindness (Tielsch, Sommer, Witt, Katz, & Royall, 1990).

Information on the employment and income of visually impaired people also comes from the 1991-92 census data on those who reported that they were "unable to see to read," a number greater than those who are defined as legally blind. Compared to the overall working-age population, working-age men and women with visual impairments are substantially underrepresented among the employed. In 1991-92, 89 percent of all men, 73 percent of all women, and 80 percent of those ages twenty-one to sixty-four were employed. In contrast, only 31 percent of the men, 21 percent of the women, and 26 percent of the overall population of those who could not see to read were employed. These data reveal an urgent need to determine the reasons for unemployment in this population and to promote this population's entry into the world of work.

In 1991-92 the mean monthly earnings of employed people with visual impairments ($1,238), were well below those of the work force as a whole ($1,962). Perhaps the inability to read channeled some people into lower-paying jobs that did not require reading. However, many of those who were unable to read print used alternative means, such as Braille, recordings, and electronic means of reading to perform their jobs; thus, not all the disparity in earnings can be attributed to the types of employment in which people were engaged.

As a whole, regardless of their employment status, people with visual impairments are far more likely to be poor than are those without visual impairments. In 1991-92, 20 percent of the total U.S. population, but 43 percent of those who reported they could not see to read, were living just above, at, or below the poverty level. Whereas 34 percent of the total population had incomes four times the poverty level or more, only 11 percent of those who could not see to read had such incomes (McNeil, 1993).

Causes of Visual Impairment

Nearly all visual impairment stems from disease; only 3 percent to 4 percent of blindness results from accidents. Although some blindness is traceable to genetic conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa or retinoblastoma, by far the most frequent causes are associated with aging, senile degeneration, macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy, which can occur as the result of juvenile-onset or adult-onset diabetes, is also a significant cause of blindness.

Blindness and Other Health Impairments

Many people with visual problems, especially those over age sixty-five, have other health problems (most commonly arthritis and back problems) in addition to blindness. However, 53 percent of those over age sixty-five and 63 percent of those under age sixty-five considered blindness to be the health condition that limited their activities the most (McNeil, 1993).

Although 60 percent of visually impaired children and young adults also have other impairments of hearing, cerebral palsy, or mental retardation (Kirchner, 1988; U.S. Department of Education, 1992), the vast majority of the reported 43,000 school-age blind students in 1993 were not listed as being served in programs for children with multiple handicaps (American Printing House, 1993). Thus, social workers who serve clients of any age with visual impairments should be aware that some of their clients' problems may be attributable to health conditions and disabilities other than blindness.

Services and Legislation Affecting Blind People

People with visual impairments may obtain vision-related services from low-vision clinics, government and private agencies that serve people with many disabilities, and agencies that specialize in serving blind people. In 1993 the American Foundation for the Blind listed over 1,000 services from government, private, medical, and educational facilities in its directory of services to blind people. Some of these are schools and rehabilitation agencies that work only with the blind and visually impaired population, but many services are also located in general agencies in the medical and social welfare system that serve everyone in the community. Although two-thirds of the visually impaired population is over sixty-five and the 1992 amendments (P.L. 102-569) to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 have mandated increased services to older blind people, the blindness system still gears its services primarily to blind children and working-age adults. Some government and private agencies that specialize in serving blind people restrict their services to those who meet the definition of legal blindness, whereas others provide vision-related services to the broader visually impaired population discussed earlier. However, it is not known how many visually impaired people who do not meet the definition of legal blindness do not receive services that could restore vision or provide rehabilitation.

Blind people benefit from the legislation discussed by Asch and Mudrick ("Disability," volume 1) and Asch and Watson (1992) that is intended for all people with disabilities. Nevertheless, several pieces of legislation are of special relevance to or have different implications for legally blind people than for people with other disabilities.

Access to the Printed Word

In 1852 the American Printing House for the Blind began producing books for blind people. The federal government began its commitment to provide blind people with literature and other educational materials in 1879 when it created legislation that enabled the American Printing House for the Blind to expand the scope of its educational work. The American Printing House continues to provide textbooks and educational materials for legally blind children and youths (from preschool through high school) and adults who require special formats for books, diagrams, and maps.

Access to literature was expanded by a 1904 law that authorized sending Braille materials as "free matter for the blind," to avoid the prohibitive cost of mailing Braille (and later recorded) materials that weigh much more than equivalent printed documents (Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, P.L. 91- 375). In 1931 the Pratt-Smoot Act (P.L. 71-787) established the Books for the Blind program in the Library of Congress, which later became the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (established under P.L. 87-765). This federal program established regional libraries to provide Braille and recorded literary and music materials first to blind people and later to anyone who could not read standard print because of a visual, learning, or physical disability. Of the 765,000 NLS patrons, more than 85 percent are legally blind people who obtain books, magazines, and musical scores through the system of cooperating libraries (National Library Service, 1994).

Education and Rehabilitation

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-142) and its 1983 and 1990 amendments and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its 1992 amendments apply to all people with disabilities, including those with visual impairments. The Rehabilitation Act authorizes payment for services to the visually impaired rendered by separate agencies that serve exclusively this population, and just over half the states have established separate agencies for such clients. Some states with separate agencies for the blind restrict their services to those who meet the definition of legal blindness discussed above, but others serve everyone with significant visual problems. For the purposes of rehabilitation, the act provides that each state may establish its own definition of legal blindness. Social workers who suspect that a client needs vision-related services should first refer clients to specialized agencies; only if a specialized agency declines service because the individual has more vision than the clients they typically work with, should individuals be referred to the state's general rehabilitation agency.

Special Employment Legislation

In the 1930's the federal government passed two laws giving blind people access to sheltered and noncompetitive employment: the Wagner-O'Day Act (P.L. 75-739), which established a system of sheltered workshops, and the Randolph-Sheppard Act (P.L. 74-734), which gives blind people preference in obtaining employment as operators of vending facilities on federal properties. These laws and their subsequent amendments have provided work for thousands of blind people since that time, but because of actions of state and private rehabilitation agencies, the working conditions have not always compared favorably with those for people in the general labor force. Shop employees are considered workers under federal law, but some agencies have attempted to treat them as clients and have denied them the right to organize for improved wages and working conditions. Although the National Labor Relations Board has generally upheld the rights of shop workers to form unions and to bargain collectively to improve their working situation, some agencies continue to pay shop workers less than the minimum wage, which they are legally entitled to do under the provisions of Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Vendors obtain licenses to operate their facilities from the state agency that serves the blind, and the same agency supervises their work and service requirements. Despite this state agency involvement, vendors are considered self-employed entrepreneurs.

Income Support

Adults who are legally blind and have had no connection to the work force may obtain Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The federal SSI benefits for blind people are the same as those for people with other disabilities ($458 per month for individuals and $687 for couples in 1995). However, some states that supplement the federal grants choose to provide greater cash assistance for blind people than for people with other disabilities (Social Security Administration, 1994).

For legally blind people who are eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) because they have worked in the past but are not performing "substantial gainful activity, "the earnings criteria for the receipt of benefits are different from those for people with other disabilities. Blind people may continue to work and receive SSDI benefits until their "substantial gainful activity" or earnings after impairment-related work expenses are deducted exceed $940 per month, or $11,280 annually (Social Security Administration, 1994).

For those with other disabilities, "substantial gainful activity" is defined as no higher than $500 per month. Social workers serving legally blind clients should be alert to this difference in entitlement and be sure that local Social Security offices examine work activity and earnings of their blind clients in light of this provision of the Social Security Act.

Services to Deaf-Blind and Older Blind People

Two segments of the visually impaired and blind population who have been identified as having unique and sometimes unmet needs are people with hearing as well as visual impairments and people who lose vision near the end of or after they have completed their working lives. Title VII, chapter 2 (P.L. 502-569) of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 set up services for people over age fifty-five whose vision is deteriorating and who require assistance to maintain themselves in their homes, families, and communities even if they no longer expect to work in the paid labor force. Until this legislation established rehabilitation services geared to this population, hundreds of thousands of older people, the largest segment of the visually impaired population, could not always receive help because federal law tied rehabilitation services to obtaining a vocation. Similarly, with the establishment of the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults under the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, Congress recognized that a portion of the visually impaired population also incur hearing loss that precludes their use of some alternative techniques and necessitates the development and teaching of new techniques at this center.

All the legislation discussed in this section provides entitlements to services and benefits that can be invaluable for blind people and their families. The distressed man or woman who assumes that loss of sight means loss of reading and independence may regain pleasure and confidence in himself or herself by discovering recorded books and tactile stove markings. Unfortunately, some people who seek vending licenses, rehabilitation services, or SSI benefits are first denied them. The legislation contains crucial appeal rights designed to protect people from the problems of bureaucracy, and social workers should alert individuals to these legislative provisions. A major function of advocacy groups like the National Federation of the Blind is to aid individuals in obtaining their rights under federal and state legislation, and social workers should urge clients to contact these groups for their expertise and assistance.

Lifespan Approach to Blindness and Visual Impairment Information: the critical factor.

When individuals or family members discover that they or their loved ones are likely to have serious visual problems, it is natural for them to react with such emotions as distress, sadness, fear, and confusion. What will the fact of poor vision or total blindness mean for family life, relationships, school, work, recreation, and finances? Blind clients and their families need accurate information about laws, services, and alternative techniques for performing household tasks, reading, writing, traveling, and the like that people customarily imagine cannot be handled without vision. Although the onset of visual impairment sometimes necessitates in-depth counseling and therapy for an individual or a family, social workers should eschew the formerly common notion (Carroll, 1961) that blindness brings about a new psychology or gives rise to completely different personality problems (see Asch & Rousseau, 1985, for a critique of the psychoanalytic and social work literature on blindness).

Social workers should assume that clients need realistic information about services and possibilities for maintaining their work, school, family, and leisure roles and actively aid clients by steering them to such information as the practical guidance available from the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, the American Foundation for the Blind (1993) directory of services, and such useful books as If Blindness Comes (Jernigan, 1994).

Blind Children in the Family, at School, and in the Community

How can a blind child receive a high-quality education, participate in family life, and not jeopardize the plans and goals of other family members? Social workers who deal with families of infants and toddlers who are blind can get some interesting suggestions from Fraiberg (1971), but they and the families of blind children of various ages should be referred to journals such as Future Reflections and to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Along with state and private service agencies, this group can guide parents to toys and games that offer stimulation and can advise them on whether their children should learn Braille and whether the children will need assistance in learning to get around safely using the long cane.

Because many childhood eye conditions are progressive and the demands of school and social life will expand as a child grows, the blind youngster who can manage with large print and without a cane during the elementary years may be hindered later on without exposure to alternative means of reading, writing, and traveling. Social workers in school settings should aid parents to participate in meetings about their children's educational future and should help them become experts in appropriate technological devices and alternative methods that allow blind or visually impaired children to participate in sports and recreation, industrial arts, home economics, crafts, music, and extracurricular as well as academic activities in school (Willoughby & Duffy, 1989).

Blindness and Visual Impairment During the Working Years

Thirty-one percent of the legally blind population are in the prime working years, and most are unemployed. Many people who develop vision problems during these years fail to learn about available rehabilitation services from ophthalmologists or hospitals and often languish at home for months or years without obtaining information that could give them access to their valued activities. Social workers can be advocates for their clients with rehabilitation agencies, can tell clients about guide dog schools, and can convince apprehensive families that work and independent travel and family life are still feasible. They must combat the myth that the roles of spouses and parents are inevitably changed for the worse by blindness by reminding everyone of all the talents and capacities that remain despite vision loss. Similarly, there is no reason to assume that a visually impaired person cannot return to the field of work in which she or he engaged before becoming blind. Sometimes the person will not be able to do so, but the social worker should refer a client to the tools and skills that will enable her or him to continue in chosen and valued roles when possible.

Blindness in Late Life

The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 provide for increased services for the thousands of people who lose their vision after they leave the labor force. These services are intended to keep visually impaired people active in their homes and communities by providing them with tools for daily living, travel, and communication. Social workers who see clients in senior citizen centers and nursing homes should be especially alert to the clients' deteriorating vision and should link their clients with the specialized services that will enable them to continue their activities. Most people will be able to resume activities with whichever group of senior citizens they were involved before they became blind.

Blindness and Other Health Impairments

Learning the techniques to function without sight may be more difficult if individuals have manual dexterity problems that prevent them from reading Braille or hearing problems that prevent their use of sound in orientation and travel. Some visually impaired people with cognitive impairments from mental disabilities or brain injuries will need services from agencies and organizations that specialize in cognitive rehabilitation. Social workers must know that a visual impairment may not be a client's chief difficulty, but they should also be aware that agencies that serve people with hearing, mobility, or cognitive impairments may fear taking on clients who have visual disabilities as well. In such circumstances social workers can play a crucial case-management and advocacy role to ensure that clients with multiple disabilities receive the services to which they are entitled.

Serving Visually Impaired Clients in General Settings

The foregoing comments were directed to social workers who meet clients or families in which visual impairment appears to be a major concern and need for service. However, visually impaired people will increasingly seek social services for marital or family problems; as part of their employment through employee assistance programs; or on behalf of other relatives, when blindness is incidental or irrelevant to the request for assistance. In the past social workers tended to adopt the mindset that people with visual or other disabilities need services from specialists in blindness or disability in general, but such ideas were often wrong then and are now indicative of subtle prejudice and discrimination by social workers or their agencies. It is essential for a social worker whose blind client and spouse come for marital therapy, for example, to concentrate on the couple's dynamics. However, if blindness comes up repeatedly as a source of friction, the worker may properly examine whether the client and his or her spouse know the means of optimal functioning as a blind person.

Training and Working with Blind Colleagues

People with visual impairments have entered the social work profession for many decades, but schools of social work, fieldwork sites, and employing agencies sometimes still display the stereotypes and fears about blindness discussed earlier. Therefore, they too need to contact knowledgeable experts on blindness to ensure that blind students and practitioners are given the training, resources, and opportunities they need to function at the level of sighted students and practitioners. In addition to sources that may be obtained through the Council on Social Work Education, the National Federation of the Blind's Human Services Division maintains a list of dozens of employed social workers who can assist schools and agencies in solving problems that arise in training and working with colleagues who have visual problems.

Blindness as a Social Problem

Much of the foregoing discussion has stressed serving individuals and families by linking them to people with specialized expertise and knowledge that will enable them to learn the techniques of living with reduced or no vision. Because a key approach to blindness is to recognize that it is a social as well as an individual problem, this entry concludes by commenting on how social workers can instill such notions in their clients and can link clients with consumer groups that uphold such a social-problem view.

Social workers should remember that clients and families are likely to feel overwhelmed by the challenges of managing the logistics of blindness (Ainlay, 1988) and are going to need time before they see that Braille, cane or guide dog, recorded materials, live readers, adapted computers, and new ways of managing a home and work life can be as efficient as the ways that relied on sight. Not only is contact with more experienced blind people often indispensable in convincing newly blind people of these possibilities, it is also invaluable in gaining allies with whom they can battle discrimination and exclusion when it occurs. Of the organized consumer groups of blind people, the National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and largest group committed to fighting discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and education. It has also worked to end agency custodialism and second-class treatment of visually impaired clients, and its members and leaders stand ready to help newly blind people of all ages and their families take an assertive approach to blindness as a social problem.


Ainlay, S.C. (1988). Aging and new vision loss: Disruptions of the here and now. Journal of Social Issues, 48(1), 79-94.

All things considered. (1994, December 26). National Public Radio.

American Foundation for the Blind. (1993). AFB directory of services for blind and visually impaired persons in the United States and Canada (24th ed.). New York: Author.

American Printing House for the Blind. (1993). Distribution of federal quota based on the January 4, 1993 registration of eligible students. Louisville, KY: Author.

Asch, A. (1985). Understanding and working with disability rights groups. In H. McCarthy (Ed.), Complete guide to employing persons with disabilities (pp. 172-184). Albertson, NY: Human Resources Center.

Asch, A. & Mudrick, N. (1995). Disability. In Linda Beebe (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Social Work (pp. 752-761). Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Asch, A., & Rousseau, H. (1985). Therapists with disabilities: Theoretical and clinical issues. Psychiatry, 48(1), 1-12.

Asch, A., & Watson, S. (1992). Legislation affecting disability management practices. In S.H. Akabas, L.B. Gates, & D.E. Galvin (Eds.), Disability management: A complete system to reduce costs, increase productivity, meet employee needs, and ensure legal compliance (pp. 22-64). New York: Amacom.

Carroll, T.J. (1961). Blindness: What it is, what it does, and how to live with it. Boston: Little, Brown.

Chiang, Y., Bassi, L., & Javitt, J. (1992). Federal budgetary costs of blindness. Milbank Quarterly, 70, 319-340.

Fraiberg, S. (1971). Insights from the blind. Baltimore: National Federation of the Blind.

Jernigan, K. (Ed.). (1994). If Blindness Comes. Baltimore: National Federation of the Blind.

Kahn, H., & Moorhead, H.B. (1973). Statistics on blindness in the model reporting area, 1969-1970. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health, Education, & Welfare.

Kirchner, C. (1988). Data on blindness and visual impairment in the U.S. (2nd ed.). New York: American Foundation for the Blind.

Kirchner, C. (1994, May 10). Summary of key sources re blindness and visual impairment in the USA. Unpublished manuscript prepared for the Statistical Data Related to Visual Impairment Working Group, Baltimore.

Louis Harris & Associates. (1991). Public attitudes toward people with disabilities. Washington, DC: National Organization on Disability.

Makas, E. (1988). Positive attitudes toward disabled people: Disabled and non-disabled persons' perspectives. Journal of Social Issues, 44(1), 49-61.

Matson, F. (1990). Walking alone and marching together: A history of the organized blind movement in the United States, 1940- 1990. Baltimore: National Federation of the Blind.

McNeil, J.M. (1993). Americans with disabilities: 1991-1992: Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation. In Current population reports (Series P-70, No. 33, pp. 70-73). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

National Library Service, Library of Congress. (1994, January). Facts: Books for blind and physically handicapped individuals. Washington, DC: Author.

Nelson, K., & Dimitrova, G. (1993). Severe visual impairment in the United States and in each state, 1990. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 87, 80-85.

Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. P.L. 91-375; 84 stat. 719.

Randolph-Sheppard Act. Ch. 638, 49 Stat. 1559 (1936).

Rehabilitation Act of 1973. P.L. 102-569, Title I.

Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992. P.L. 102-569, 106 Stat. 4344.

Scott, R.A. (1969). The making of blind men: A study of adult socialization. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Siller, J., Chipman, A., Ferguson, L., & Vann, D.H. (1967). Studies in reactions to disability, XI: Attitudes of the nondisabled toward the physically disabled. New York: New York University School of Education.

Siller, J., Ferguson, L., Vann, D.H., & Holland, B (1967). Structure of attitudes toward the physically disabled. New York: New York University School of Education.

Social Security Administration. (1994, October 31). 1995 cost-of- living increase and other determinations. Federal Register, 59(209), 54464-54469.

Social Security Disability Amendments of 1980. P.L. 96-265, 94 Stat. 441.

Tielsch, J. Sommer, A. Witt, K., Katz, J., & Royall, R. (1990). Blindness and visual impairment in an American urban population: The Baltimore eye survey. Archives of Ophthalmology, 108-286-290.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. (1992). Fourteenth annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Wagner-O'Day Act. Ch 697, 52 Stat. 1196 (1938).

Willoughby, D.M., & Duffy, S.L.M. (1989). Handbook for itinerant and resource teachers of blind and visually impaired students. Baltimore: National Federation of the Blind.


American Foundation for the Blind, Eleven Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, New York 10001.

National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

National Federation of the Blind Human Services Division, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson St., Baltimore, Maryland.



by Bennett Prows

From the Editor: The following article appeared in the Summer, 1995, issue of the Blind Washingtonian, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington. Ben Prows is one of the leaders of the Washington affiliate. Here is what he has to say:

There are those who say that listening to recordings, speech synthesizers, and live readers obviates the need for Braille. They say Braille is slower, less efficient, and soon will be totally outdated. Of course we know that, if this were the case, print would also be obsolete, and the sighted could listen to synthesizers too. But this would be true only if people didn't have to write down what they said at all. I read an article recently in which the author emphatically argued that technology will soon mean the end of the need for teaching Braille to blind people. A recent personal experience demonstrates why this is not the case. The following account reveals again why Braille is necessary, even today.

My job is to investigate discrimination cases in hospitals, health centers, departments of social and health services, etc. Sometimes I am required to travel great distances to interview witnesses and to review medical records. On one occasion I traveled to a neighboring state for a week of witness interviews. I had lined up about seventy-five people to interview during the course of this investigation. I was planning to take notes on a laptop computer that could operate either on alternating current or by batteries. I also took a Braille 'n Speak, which would allow me to take notes in Braille for later conversion into print text. (Use of the Braille 'n Speak presupposes, of course, a knowledge of Braille.)

The first day of interviews began smoothly. I began the task of questioning the first witness. I had plugged in the laptop since I was able to set up in a conference room for the week.

Soon, however, the laptop started beeping, and the "low battery indicator" came on. I ascertained that the plug I was using, which was permanently connected to the battery charger, had shorted. This meant that I could get neither AC electricity nor charged batteries. The small catastrophe had quickly rendered my laptop computer completely useless. Moreover, I determined that a new charger would cost over $100, so I would have to wait until I got back to the office to get a new one.

Not to worry, though; I had my Braille 'n Speak. I pulled it out, turned it on, and immediately was told "battery low." I looked in my briefcase and discovered that I had left my power supply/battery charger for that device in Seattle. The special auxiliary battery and plug were not in my briefcase either.

Two down. Neither electronic note-taking device was working, and I had seventy-four interviews to go. Luckily for me, I thought, I have my Braille slate and stylus. Wrong. They were not in my briefcase because, with all the technology I had brought, I had decided I didn't need them. What a dilemma! I had no way to complete my interviews. Sure, I had a reader with me, but she was scheduled to take written notes on records I had to review. If I packed up and went back to Seattle, I would have to reschedule the entire review. I would cost my employer a considerable amount of money and time and could have risked losing my job. After all, the mess wasn't my employer's fault; I had been provided with reasonable accommodation. What could I do?

I found a local NFB office in the area and bought a new slate and stylus. I came back to do the rest of the interviews and took notes all week in Braille. In short, I was able to handwrite my notes, just as a sighted person would have done in my situation, and then transposed the notes back at the office. I could do this, of course, because I was taught Braille and used it. If I had subscribed to the theory that Braille was worthless or that the computer would solve my problems, I would have been at a distinct disadvantage.

This is what we mean in the NFB when we say that, given training in the alternative techniques of blindness, e.g., Braille, we can compete on an equal basis with our sighted peers. If I had not been able to buy the equivalent of a pen or pencil at the local NFB office, I would have been unable to perform the job tasks in a timely manner. I would have had to make excuses and sell myself and other blind people short. This is why it is important for blind people to learn and use Braille. It is one more reason why technology is not the answer for the blind. It is also why we need the National Federation of the Blind.



This year's scholarship program will be the thirteenth since the organization determined to expand the number, variety, and value of the scholarships we would present each year at our annual convention in July. Assisting the nation's most talented post-secondary students to fulfill their academic and professional dreams is one of the most effective ways for us to demonstrate our conviction that blind people deserve the chance to enter whatever field they demonstrate themselves equipped to succeed in.

Scholarships will be presented this year to twenty-six college, vocational-school, and graduate students. The awards will range in value from $3,000 to $10,000, and we will bring the winners as our guests to the 1996 convention of the National Federation of the Blind to experience firsthand the excitement and stimulation of a gathering of the largest and most dynamic organization of blind people in the country today.

Again this year we plan to present three of the scholarships to students who won scholarship awards in a previous competition. The purpose of these special awards is to nurture in today's students an ongoing commitment to the philosophy and objectives of the Federation. The students so designated will be recognized and honored as the 1996 tenBroek Fellows. All current students who were scholarship winners in previous years should take particular note of this new program and consider applying for the 1996 National Federation of the Blind scholarships.

Every state affiliate and local chapter can help in spreading the word of this extraordinary opportunity for America's blind students. Scholarship applications have been or soon will be mailed to financial aid offices in educational institutions around the country, but many of these will be filed for reference when students come to ask about financial assistance. It is very helpful to have local representatives deliver or mail forms to the actual college administrator who works with blind students. Being identified with such a valuable national scholarship program gives the local chapter and state affiliate prestige and respect, and the local touch insures that more blind students will actually have an opportunity to apply for these scholarships.

Anyone can order scholarship forms from the Materials Center, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. State Presidents and members of the 1996 Scholarship Committee will also be sent scholarship forms. These may be copied as long as both sides of the form are reproduced.

Here is the text of the 1996 National Federation of the Blind scholarship application form:


Each year at its National Convention in July, the National Federation of the Blind gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars. All applicants for these scholarships must be (1) legally blind and (2) pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time post-secondary course of study. In addition to these restrictions, some scholarships have been further restricted by the donor. Scholarships to be given at the National Convention in 1996 are listed here with any special restrictions noted:


American Action Fund Scholarship - Given by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a nonprofit organization which works to assist blind persons. No additional restrictions.


Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship - Given in memory of Melva T. Owen, who was widely known and loved among the blind. She and her husband Charles Owen became acquainted with increasing numbers of blind people through their work in the "Voicepondence" Club. Charles Owen says, "There shall be no limitation as to field of study, except that it shall be directed towards attaining financial independence and shall exclude religion and those seeking only to further general or cultural education."

Two National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; no additional restrictions.


Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship - Dr. Isabelle Grant endowed this scholarship in memory of her daughter. Winner must be a woman.

Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship - Endowed by the energetic and effective former president of the National Federation of the Blind of California, Sharon Gold, in loving memory of her mother and father, both of whom were dedicated to creating opportunity for their daughter and for all blind persons through Braille literacy and dedication to service. No additional restrictions.

Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship - Given by Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Barnum, the mother and stepfather of Catherine Horn Randall. No additional restrictions, but preference will be given to those studying architecture or engineering.

Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship - Given in loving memory of her parents, Charles Albert Kuchler and Alice Helen Kuchler, by Junerose Killian, dedicated member of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut. No additional restrictions.

Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship - Winner must be studying or planning to study in the fields of law, medicine, engineering,architecture, or the natural sciences.

National Federation of the Blind Computer Science Scholarship - Winner must be studying in the computer science field.

National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award-Winner must be planning a career in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary teaching.

National Federation of the Blind Humanities Scholarship-Winner must be studying in the traditional humanities such as art, English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, or religion.

Fourteen National Federation of the Blind Scholarships; no additional restrictions.

CRITERIA: All scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence, service to the community, and financial need.

MEMBERSHIP: The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind persons. Recipients of Federation scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind.

MAKING APPLICATION: To apply for National Federation of the Blind scholarships, complete and return the application on the reverse side of this sheet, attaching to the application all the additional documents there requested. Multiple applications are unnecessary. Each applicant will be considered for all scholarships for which he or she qualifies. Send completed applications to: Mrs. Peggy Elliott, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 814 - 4th Avenue, Suite 200, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (515) 236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 1996.

REAPPLICATION: Those who have previously applied are encouraged to apply again. If previous winners present credible applications, it is our policy to award not fewer than three scholarships to those who have received them in the past.

WINNERS: The Scholarship Committee reviews all applications and selects the scholarship winners. These winners, the same number as there are scholarships to award, will be notified of their selection by June 1 and will be brought to the National Federation of the Blind convention in July at Federation expense. This is in addition to the scholarship grant. The National Federation of the Blind convention is the largest gathering of blind persons (more than 2,000) to occur anywhere in the nation each year. You will be able to meet other blind students and exchange information and ideas. You will also be able to meet and talk with blind people who are successfully functioning in your chosen profession or occupation. Federal officials, members of Congress, and the makers and distributors of new technology attend Federation conventions. Above all, a broad cross section of the most active segment of the blind population of the United States will be present to discuss common problems and plan for concerted action. It is an interesting and exciting week.

AWARDS: The day before the convention banquet the Scholarship Committee will meet to determine which winners will receive which scholarships. The scholarship awards will be made during the banquet.


Read reverse side of form for instructions and explanation. Form may be photocopied but only if reverse side is also included.

To apply for a scholarship, complete this application form and mail completed application and attachments to: Mrs. Peggy Elliott, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 814 - 4th Avenue, Suite 200, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (515)236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 1996.

Name (please include any maiden or other names by which you have been known):

Date of birth:

School address:

School phone number:

Home address:

Home phone number:

Institution being attended in spring semester, 1996, with class standing (freshman, senior, etc.):

Cumulative grade point at this institution:

Institution to be attended in fall of 1996, with class standing.

Send by separate letter if admitted to school after

submitting completed application:

List all post-secondary institutions attended with highest class standing attained and cumulative grade point average:

High school attended and cumulative grade point:

Vocational goal:

State your major:

Awards and honors (attach list if necessary):

Community service (attach list if necessary):

Attach the following documents to completed application:

1. Send us a letter: What schools have you attended? What school do you plan to attend during the coming year? What honors have you achieved? What have you done to deal with situations involving your blindness? What are you like as a person? What are your goals and aspirations? How will the scholarship help you?

2. Send two letters of recommendation.

3. Provide current transcript from institution now attending and transcripts from all other post-secondary institutions attended. If you have not yet attended such an institution or have not completed one year of study, send high school transcript.

4. Send a letter from a state officer of the National Federation of the Blind evidencing the fact that you have discussed your scholarship application with that officer. We prefer that you discuss your application with the Federation state president, but a letter from any Federation state officer will suffice. President's address provided upon request.



by John Dashney

From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Braille Monitor in June of 1984. Most recently it was included in Toothpaste and Railroad Tracks, the latest in our Kernel Book series of paperbacks. We thought that it would be appropriate to reprint this profile of one of England's most distinguished blind citizens, so here it is, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:

Can a blind man be a policeman? This one was--and he lived more than 200 years ago. Here is his story as it appeared in Lifeprints.

One of England's first and greatest policemen was blind. Sir John Fielding, the younger half-brother of the great English novelist Henry Fielding, was born in 1721. He joined the navy as a youth, but an accident cost him his sight at the age of nineteen. This was in 1740, nearly seventy years before Louis Braille would be born. There were no radios, no tapes--no known way for a blind person to be able to read. So what did John Fielding do?

He opened a business which he called the Universal Register Office. This was a combination labor exchange, travel agency, information office, real estate agency, and insurance company. John ran it single-handed. In his spare time his brother Henry taught him law.

Henry Fielding, when not writing novels such as Tom Jones, had become a magistrate. This was an office something like that of a justice of the peace. Henry had the power to investigate crimes, question suspects, and then either release them or order them held for trial. He was successful enough to be given the title of Chief Magistrate. He was, in fact, what we today would call a chief of police--except that London of the 1750's had no organized police at all!

Imagine a city of over half a million people, terrible slums, a high crime rate, and no real police. The few parish constables were chosen by lot, much as we choose juries today, to serve for one year. Most paid substitutes to take their place, and many of the substitutes were as dishonest as the criminals they were supposed to control. Most of the rest, along with the night watchmen, were too disorganized, too feeble, or too frightened of the powerful street gangs to be of any use.

Henry Fielding tried to change all this. He drew up plans for controlling crime, turned his house in Bow Street into a kind of police station, and hired a few of the best constables to serve as more or less permanent police officers--"Bow Street Runners" was the name by which they would soon be known.

But Henry's health was failing, and in 1754 he had to retire. The position, which would become known as Chief of the Metropolitan Police, was offered to his blind half-brother. John Fielding accepted it and held it until his death in 1780.

John immediately set out to put Henry's plans to work. Within two years his runners had broken up most of the gangs of street robbers. John then organized a horse patrol to combat the mounted highwaymen who prowled the roads leading to and from London. He set up systems of rapid communication and published descriptions of wanted criminals and stolen goods. We take these things for granted now, but the Fieldings were the first to think of them.

John's main skills were in questioning witnesses and suspects. Usually he left the legwork to his runners. But sometimes he investigated cases personally. When, in 1763, Lord Harrington's house was robbed of more than three thousand pounds worth of silver, gold, and jewels (nearly one hundred thousand dollars in today's money), John investigated the theft personally.

Using one of his helpers for his eyes, he spent the whole day and most of the night examining and questioning. He determined that what was made to look like a burglary was really an inside job. His suspicions fell on a servant, who later confessed. Elementary? Perhaps. But this was more than one hundred years before the first Sherlock Holmes story was written.

About this time John was knighted for his services and became Sir John Fielding. The common people, though, gave him another title--"The Blind Beak of Bow Street." ("Beak" was the eighteenth century slang for anyone in a position of authority.)

A contemporary described Sir John as wearing a black bandage over his eyes and carrying a switch, which he flicked in front of him as he entered or left his courtroom. He was strict with hardened criminals and was responsible for sending many men (and some women) to the gallows. But he was lenient with young people, especially first-time offenders.

There was no welfare or aid for dependent children in the 1700's. Most of London's slum children died before they grew up. Most of the boys who survived became thieves, and most of the girls who survived became prostitutes. Sir John tried to save as many as he could. He helped organize charities to feed and clothe abandoned children and institutions to teach them reading, writing, and some kind of a trade. As a police official he saw that the best way to stop criminals was to get to them before they became criminals. In this he was almost two hundred years ahead of his time.

In his role of keeper of the peace, Sir John Fielding often had to intervene in labor disputes and sometimes even control rioting, angry mobs. As a negotiator he became known for his fairness toward the workers and apprentices, the poor and underprivileged. Curiously enough, the one group that Sir John Fielding did not make any special efforts to help was the blind. This was because he considered his own blindness as no great handicap and assumed that other blind people felt the same way.

London would not have a regular police force until nearly fifty years after Sir John Fielding's death, but many of the rules and guidelines he set down for his Bow Street Runners are still used in police training manuals today.

People often feel that law enforcement is no field for a blind person even to consider. They don't realize that one of the first and greatest police officials ran the London Metropolitan Police for twenty-six years without the aid of any sight.



by Sharon Gold

From the Editor: Sharon Gold is a long-time leader in the Federation. This is what she has to say about a new and promising business opportunity available to members of the National Federation of the Blind:

Perhaps the most talked-about subject in the country today is the economy. One need only turn on the radio or television, attend a community meeting, or speak with friends and family members to know that every conversation eventually flows to or from the economy. The truth is that we are living in a changing world, and the challenge is to maintain personal dignity for ourselves and our families. For those of us who are members of the National Federation of the Blind, a part of maintaining our personal dignity is helping to provide support to our organization.

Last spring a new business opportunity opened up to blind people, their families, and friends when Dr. Norman Gardner learned about QUORUM International and facilitated the creation of a business relationship between QUORUM and the National Federation of the Blind. QUORUM is a young network marketing company headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Its product lines include personal safety; home security; vehicle security and maintenance; health and life sciences, including biological and dermatological products; and personal productivity, including pagers and paging service. In addition to these items, the company offers two catalog lines--one of electronic, home and office, telecommunication, and personal care products and one of personal development and motivational audio and video cassettes.

In June Dr. Gardner and I met in Phoenix with Martin Matthews, Executive Vice President of QUORUM, and began to work out details for the company's sales materials to be prepared in Braille and recorded formats for blind distributors. Mr. Matthews attended our National Convention and during the meeting of the Board of Directors spoke about the QUORUM opportunity. At that time he announced that the QUORUM sales materials would be made available in accessible formats.

The QUORUM opportunity is available to any person who wishes to become an independent QUORUM distributor. Those who sign up in the National Federation of the Blind group can earn commissions from their own sales as well as from the sales of their downline while at the same time supporting the Federation through commissions which go directly to the organization. The NFB group is open to Federationists, who may recruit family members, friends, and other Federationists in order to develop their downline.

Today many Americans are looking for employment opportunities. Home-based business is widely recognized as a highly successful means of developing either primary or secondary income. QUORUM is one of the most progressive and fastest-growing companies, and many financial advantages are available to QUORUM distributors.

For the whole QUORUM story contact Norman Gardner at (801) 224-6969 or Sharon Gold at (916) 424-2151.


This month's recipes were submitted by the NFB of Oklahoma, who call their state the land of the native Americans, cowboys, great football and basketball teams, and fabulous Federation cooks. The following is a variety of tasty contributions.


by Nanette Murrin

Nanette Murrin is a long-time member and officer in the Tulsa Chapter and also serves as state Vice President. She was in Baltimore last year for the Braille mentoring seminar. She and her husband Arthur live in Tulsa and have one son, who attends college. Those who have tasted these cookies have unofficially renamed them "unforgettable." They get their name because you put them in the oven, turn the oven off, and forget them till the next morning.

2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
6 ounces chocolate chips

Method: Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Beat egg whites with vanilla until foamy. Gradually add sugar, one teaspoon at a time, then continue beating until very stiff peaks form. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls on foil-covered cookie sheets. Place cookie sheets in the oven. Turn the oven off. Leave in the oven for six hours or overnight.


by Joe Triplett

Joe is President of the Oklahoma affiliate. He is also a student at Tulsa Junior College and runs the sound board for the television ministry of his church. Joe serves on several consumer committees at the state and local level. This soup is low in fat. It takes little time to prepare and tastes wonderful when it is football weather.

1 pound ground turkey or lean ground beef
1/2 medium onion
1 can cream style corn
1 can Spanish rice
1 can tomatoes
1 10-ounce box (or 1 1/2 cups) frozen mixed vegetables
1 can chili beans

Method: Cook meat and onion together until brown. Drain and place in a 4-quart pot. Add all other ingredients. If you like, you may thin the soup with either water or V-8. Cover and simmer on low for about a half hour or until vegetables are done. Tastes great with oyster crackers or small cheese crackers. Note: you can vary the flavor. Use stewed tomatoes or any of the flavored canned tomatoes. If you don't like chili beans, use plain kidney beans instead.


by Janet Triplett

Janet Triplett is Secretary of the state affiliate, chapter secretary in Tulsa, and Job Opportunities for the Blind Field Representative for Oklahoma. She has been working for five years as a medical transcriptionist in a Tulsa hospital. Janet is currently on a weight-loss program. This recipe is her own invention for people who like the taste of good old-fashioned home-fried potatoes with onions.

1 pound raw potatoes
1/2 medium onion
cooking spray
1/3 cup bread crumbs
dehydrated vegetables (chopped chives, parsley, peppers)
Seasonings as desired

Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a non-stick pan with cooking spray or line a pan with foil and lightly grease with canola oil. Rinse potatoes and cut out eyes and other undesirable parts. Dice into small cubes. Do not drain. Peel and dice onion and set aside. Place wet potatoes in ziplock bag (one-gallon size is best). Add crumbs and dried vegetables. Shake until potatoes are thoroughly mixed. Pour potatoes into prepared pan, spreading evenly. If it is more than covering the bottom of the pan, don't worry as long as the layer is even. Sprinkle onion over the top and season as desired. Spray thoroughly with cooking spray. Place in hot oven and let cook about forty-five minutes, stirring once. Test to see if potatoes are tender. When done, carefully remove from the pan and serve while warm.


by Brooke Williams Cook

Brooke Williams Cook is a new Federationist, having joined earlier this year. She is excellent at working with computers. She is also a very recent bride. This is an oven-baked dish similar to beef stew, but it has an interesting combination of soy sauce and wine.

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons flour
2 pounds beef stew meat, cut in �-inch cubes
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
2 large onions, sliced
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 clove minced garlic
4 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Cooked rice, noodles, or potatoes

Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blend soy sauce with flour in 3-quart Dutch oven. Add beef and toss to coat the meat. Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic, pepper, marjoram, thyme, and wine to meat mixture. Stir together. Cover tightly and bake at 325 degrees for one hour. Add mushrooms, stir gently, and bake another one and a half to two hours until the meat and vegetables are done. Serve over rice, noodles, or potatoes.


by Barbara Shelton

Barbara Shelton is the wife of Steve Shelton, Treasurer of the Oklahoma affiliate. Steve works as a computer programmer with a bank in Oklahoma City. His convention presentation about his job appears elsewhere in this issue. Additionally, Steve and Barbara are very active with their sons in their church's youth group.

1 pound broken spaghetti (linguine is best)
1 cup grated green bell pepper
1 cup diced tomatoes
5 green onions, diced
1 small can black olives, diced
1 12-ounce bottle Viva Italia dressing
1/2 jar salad seasoning spices

Method: Cook spaghetti according to package directions and drain. Add salad seasonings and salad dressing while pasta is hot. When it has cooled, add remaining ingredients. Refrigerate at least twenty-four hours before serving.


by Cordelia Sanders

Cordelia Sanders describes herself as a country girl who has been blind practically all of her life. She has been a Federationist for many years. She has served the Oklahoma City Chapter as Vice President and Treasurer. Currently she is on the state board. Her hobbies include singing and reading, especially biographies, detective stories, and "good spiritual reading." This is one of her favorite recipes.

3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup Seven-Up
5 eggs

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each egg. Alternately add flour and Seven-Up, stirring slowly after each addition. Pour into a prepared bundt pan. Bake for approximately one hour, depending on the oven. Let cake cool a little in the pan, gently loosening the sides of the cake when cool. Place cake plate over pan and invert. Tap gently to loosen pan.




In the August-September issue we incorrectly announced that the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois had presented a gift to the national organization in the amount of $35,000. The amount of the gift presented at the July 3 meeting of the Board of Directors was actually $75,000. Such generosity deserves accuracy at the very least, as well as much gratitude. We apologize for the error.

Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Forms Available:

The 1996 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest for Braille-reading students from kindergarten through high school began on November 1. It ends February 1, 1996. But it isn't too late to enter the contest. Entry forms are available from the Materials Center, National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland, phone (12:30 to 5 p.m., Eastern Time) (410) 659-9314.

In Memoriam:

Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois, recently wrote to President Maurer as follows:

It is with great sorrow that I must inform you of the death of Pete Grunwald. He died Saturday night, August 26, just short of his forty-third birthday after a three-year battle with cancer. For twenty years Pete was a very effective leader in Illinois. He served in several elected positions, including Chicago Chapter President, state First Vice President, and state Treasurer; but for most of the time since 1977 Pete presented our legislative effort in Springfield. He wrote the language for our jury law, for our insurance law, and for our Braille law. His sound logic and matter-of-fact testimony before legislative committees earned him and us respect and admiration from legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Pete never sought the limelight. He didn't crave recognition for what he did. He did what was necessary with maturity, confidence, dignity, and discipline.

In 1985 the Illinois affiliate paid tribute to his outstanding work in the Federation when it presented him with the Gwendolyn Williams Award, our highest honor. Pete knew Gwendolyn Williams, so he fully comprehended the award's significance. He redoubled his efforts, assuming entirely the responsibilities that accompany such a singular honor.

On Saturday, September 9, 1995, a memorial service was held in tribute to Pete. More than 150 people attended, including State Senator John Cullerton, former Illinois House Appropriations Committee Chairman Woods Bowman, and former State Senator and State Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch. Mrs. Netsch, who is now a professor of law at Northwestern University, and John Cullerton spoke eloquently and movingly about their experience working with Peter Grunwald on legislative issues affecting blind people. The memorial service was a fitting tribute to a Federationist.

New Seedlings Catalog Available:

We recently received the following announcement:

Seedlings Braille Books for Children announces the availability of its new 1996 Catalog. This catalog contains over 230 low-cost Braille books for children, ages one to fourteen.

Thirty-two new books have been added this year, including print-and-Braille books with sound buttons to push for preschoolers; print-and-Braille easy-readers like Daisy-Head Mayzie by Dr. Seuss for beginning readers; award-winning fiction in Braille like Missing May by Cynthia Rylant for older children; and selections from popular series such as The Baby-Sitter's Club, The Boxcar Children, and Goosebumps.

Seedlings is a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing high-quality, low-cost Braille books for children. To receive a free catalog or for more information, call (800) 777-8552 or write to Seedlings, P.O. Box 2395, Livonia, Michigan 48151-0395.

Help Needed:

We have been asked to carry the following request:

Patricia Schnepf recently sent us the following letter from a man she had briefly met in the Czech Republic with the request that we pass it along in the hope that someone might be in a position to help:

I am sending you my best regards from Koprivnice. I am writing you because of my male friend who is blind. He is a musician/teacher; he plays a double bass and a trumpet, and he is intensively learning English. His greatest wish is to visit the United States. I should like to ask you if you could help us to find any contacts with people who would be able to receive us for an exchange. He wants to have experiences about the lifestyle of blind people in your country. He wants to improve his English as well.

Yours faithfully,

Zde�ka Treucheuov .

You may contact Petr Suttner, Na drah ch 276/2, Kop�ivnice, 742 21, Czech Republic.

Caribbean Cruise Brochures Now Available:

Susan Brewer has asked us to carry the following announcement:

The 1996 Holland America Line Caribbean cruise brochures are now available in Braille or print or on cassette. You may contact Custom Cruises, 8036 Congresswood Lane, Cincinnati, Ohio 45224, in Braille or on cassette, or call (513) 931-2234.


The Masonic Square Club of the National Federation of the Blind announces its election of officers: Ben Snow, President; Jerry Cameron, Vice President; Brett Winchester, Secretary; and Robert Page, Treasurer. The Square Club meets annually in conjunction with the NFB National Convention. NFB members and associate members who are members in good standing of any Masonic lodge are eligible to apply for membership in the Square Club. The group meets for social and fraternal purposes and to raise funds for an NFB scholarship award. Persons interested in joining should contact Ben Snow or any other member. You may call Ben Snow at (203) 787-0287, or write to 358 Orange Street, Apartment 409, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Ferguson Enterprises carries Computers; Scanners; CD-ROM Titles (which are accessible with speech in both DOS and Windows); CD-ROM bundles; Screen Readers (such as ASAP, Vocal-Eyes, and JAWS for both DOS and Windows); OutSPOKEN for Windows; and speech synthesizers--off-the-shelf software which works with your favorite screen reader. We have some new games which are accessible with speech. Other new products are Flashback Recorder, Sony modified stereo tape recorder, Sharp Talking Clock/Calculator, and much more.

We are taking orders for the following items which are coming soon: Window-Eyes and ASAP for Windows. When you purchase a Windows screen reader from us, you receive free the Windows Tutorial on cassette and the Windows Manual on disk. When you purchase a modem from us, you receive a DOS-based fax program that is very easy to use and works excellently with speech.

For more information about our monthly specials or for a free catalog on disk, in large print, or on cassette, please call Ferguson Enterprises, RR1 Box 238, Manchester, SD 57353-9722, Voice: (605) 546-2366, Fax: (605) 546-2212. We are open on Saturdays from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M. CST for your convenience.

In Memoriam:

Wayne Davis, President of the NFB of Florida, informed the NFB of the death of Beatrice Love Gladden on September 1. Beatrice had only recently resigned as President of the Greater Miami Chapter of the NFB of Florida because of her illness. She was among the leaders in associate member sales, and a valued member and friend. Beatrice greatly valued the Federation and gave it her very best. She will be long remembered.


Mary Brunoli, Secretary of the Greater New Haven Area Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, reports the following election results: Ben Snow, President; Paula Krauss, Vice President; Mary Brunoli, Secretary; Jeff Dittel, Treasurer; and Jim Camarda, board member.

Another Braille Bill:

We recently received the following brief report from Mississippi:

On Friday morning, April 7, 1995, with Dr. Nell Carney, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, and the Reverend Sam Gleese, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Mississippi, looking on, Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice signed into law the Blind Persons Literacy Rights and Education Act.

This event was made possible by the intense planning and consistent efforts of Mr. E. U. Parker, chairperson of the legislative committee, and his committee members. From the latter part of September, 1994, until the law's passage on March 25, 1995, Mr. Parker tracked every move of the bill from the Mississippi House of Representatives to the Senate. Although this is a giant step for blind children in Mississippi, it is only one step.

This was made clear during our 1995 state convention in Meridian, Mississippi, on March 25, 1995. Following the playing of the NFB video, That the Blind May Read, a representative from the Mississippi Department of Education, Ms. Troy James, addressed the convention on educating the blind in the present and future.

She informed us that the Department had plans to hire sighted teachers and finance their training to qualify them to teach blind children to read Braille. Despite our persistent statements that we now have an over-supply of blind persons with the credentials for the task, she was unmoved.

What happens in the months ahead will determine the extent and quality of the education that the blind will receive in our state. All of us in Mississippi and across America must remain determined to press forward until blind children receive a quality education equal to that of their sighted peers. We must not stop until we have totally changed what it means to be blind.


Sandy Jo Hansen, Secretary/Treasurer of the Black Hills Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, reports the following election results: Noble Mellegard, President; Bonnie Bender, Vice President; Sandy Hansen, Secretary/Treasurer; and Jean Thompson, Ray Thomas, and Julaine Rollman, board members.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

For sale, magnifier reading machine, Telesensory Vantage CCTV, model ER2A. Bought in 1991. Like new, asking $1,500. Call (505) 623-4241, or write to Elmer E. Estey, 608 Mimosa, Roswell, New Mexico 88201-6560.

Education Never Stops:

The following tidbit appeared in the Summer, 1995, edition of Insight, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Ted Lubitz may be one of our oldest members, but that doesn't keep him from doing what he can to educate the public about blindness and the abilities of blind people. He recently sent the Governor of South Dakota a copy of The Journey, one of our Kernel books which includes "The Biography of Theodore Paul Lubitz." Here is the newsletter item in its entirety:

Ted Lubitz, board member from Watertown, is proud to share his recent letter from Governor Janklow with us:

Dear Theodore,

Thank you very much for the book which contains your biography. Your life story was extremely interesting. I especially liked the three percent savings that you imposed on yourself throughout your life. I enjoyed your story so much I shared it with some of my staff, and they have shared it with other people as well. Thanks again for sending it to me.

Sincerely, William J. Janklow

Catalogs Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

International Disabled Marketing Associates (IDMA) is pleased to offer the following catalogs for 1995-96: the Ann Morris Enterprises Catalog of Innovative Products Dedicated to People with Vision Loss, large print, cassette, and IBM-format disc, no charge; Braille edition, $10; Amway Christmas Catalog, two cassettes, $2; and Electronics Catalog for Home and Business, one cassette, $1.

IDMA offers additional catalogs plus an excellent part-time or full-time business opportunity. A free introductory cassette is available upon request. Make your check payable to Jack H. Morgan and send it to IDMA, RD #1, Box 29A, Cheswick, Pennsylvania 15024, or call (412) 265-4821. Please make note of our new address and telephone number.

In Memoriam:

We recently received a letter from Donald Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, which said in part:

Reba Hancock, eighty-one, who served as President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina for two terms between 1974 and 1978, died June 10, 1995, after several years of declining health. Reba had been a member of the Federation for nearly fifty years, having joined the Columbia Chapter of the NFB of South Carolina when it was organized in 1947. She attended many NFB conventions and proudly participated in several Washington seminars. As long as she could possibly do so, Reba faithfully attended monthly meetings of the Columbia Chapter. She was very generous and unswerving in her support of the Federation on the local, state, and national levels. In appreciation of her generosity Hancock Road, the main entrance to Rocky Bottom Camp of the Blind, was named in her honor. Because Reba was one of those Federationists who could always be relied upon for loyalty, faithfulness, and generosity, she will be greatly missed.

Interesting Offerings from National Braille Press:

We recently received notice of the following new publications from National Braille Press:

If you crave chocolate desserts, like German sweet chocolate cake or chocolate pecan pie, check out Baker's Easiest-Ever Chocolate Recipes by Kraft Foods, Inc. What makes these recipes so easy is Baker's new one-bowl method of baking. Discover how to prepare delicious homemade brownies, cookies, and more in the same amount of time it would normally take to prepare a mix. One volume in Braille for $10. Interested in turning your computer into a terminal to access the world? Across the country blind computer users are turning to Commo, a popular, low-cost telecommunications program that works well with speech and Braille.

Written by Fred Brucker, Commo is a shareware program, which means it's inexpensive ($30 for students and $40 for others). Free evaluation copies are available on many bulletin boards. With this shareware program you can gain access to the Internet, bulletin boards, or other electronic sources of information.

National Braille Press has gone one step further with a Commo reference card, written especially for blind users by Dean Martineau. This handy Commo reference card (in Braille only) is available for just $5.00.

Order from National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, or call (617) 266-6160 and charge it. All orders must be prepaid.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have for sale a Prose 4000 speech synthesizer, excellent speech quality, works best with Vert software, asking $600. Pocket-Braille, handy portable note taker works like the Braille 'n Speak, has had light use, $500. DECtalk Express speech synthesizer, brand new, includes one-year warranty, $1050. For information call Jean at (303) 388-4023.


On March 4, 1995, the San Diego County Chapter of the NFB of California, elected the following: John Miller, President; James Lyons, Vice President; Sheila Johnson, Secretary; Ivan Weich, Treasurer; and Joseph Lopez and Wayne Ives, Board members.

In Memoriam:

Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois, has notified us with sadness of the deaths of two Illinois Federationists. He wrote as follows:

Francis Allen was a charter member of the Illinois affiliate; and, though during the last several years poor health prevented her from being as active as she and we would have liked, she remained solid, committed, and outspoken in her loyalty to the Federation. Francis worked as a medical transcriber and as a proofreader of English, Spanish, and French material. Her wisdom and patience will certainly be missed by all of us who knew her well.

Mary Nimis died on July 10, 1995, only days after she worked at the National Convention as a crowd marshal and as one of the Illinoisans who provided assistance wherever it was needed. Mary will also be missed.

New Chapter:

Don Capps, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, reports the formation of the affiliate's fiftieth chapter, the Jasper County Chapter, on June 22, 1995. The new officers are Lois Lowry, President; Hoover Noonan, Vice President; Angela Williams, Secretary; and Iva Payne, Treasurer.

Perkins Brailler Repairs Available:

Joseph Staniewski requests that we carry the following announcement:

The Selective Doctor, Inc., is a repair service for all IBM typewriters and now Perkins Braille writers. Located in Baltimore, the service has done work for the Maryland School for the Blind and a number of other organizations in Maryland. They now accept Perkins Braillers sent to them from around the country. They advertise top quality service at yesterday's prices. They also request a phone call before shipment of Braillers and ask that equipment be insured in the mails. For more information contact the Selective Doctor, Inc., P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, Maryland 21234, or call (410) 668-1143.

Celebration in Denver:

We recently received the following brief article written by Dr. Homer Page, President of the NFB of Colorado. Homer became Executive Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind upon the retirement of Diane McGeorge from that position on September 1, 1995. Here is the announcement:

On August 10, 1995, the NFB of Colorado and the CCB (Colorado Center for the Blind) hosted an open house so that we could celebrate the completion of our new facility at 1830 South Acoma Street. For several weeks before the open house, our staff and students and members worked to shine up our new building and prepare wonderful food for our guests to enjoy. Over 200 persons came to see our new building.

President Maurer came from Baltimore to be with us. He delivered a most inspiring talk, which keynoted our program. Governor Romer sent a very nice letter congratulating us on our role as a resource for the blind of Colorado. Mayor Webb and Congressman Skaggs had representatives at the open house. Many persons in leadership roles with agencies that provide services to blind persons were in attendance. Everyone with whom I spoke appreciated the promise for the future that is contained in our new facility.

We invite anyone who was not able to attend the open house to visit and become familiar with our new facility. It has room for meetings, for conversation, and for planning a better future for the blind of Colorado. A building is only bricks and mortar; however, the future for those of us who are blind depends on our ability to work together with intelligence and dedication. So our open house was not just a time to look at a new building. It was an opportunity for us to get together and to dream for things to come.

Talking Products Available:

Federationist Denise Russell has asked us to carry the following announcement:

Give the gift that says something. Introducing new Speak to Me Catalog specializing in products that have the ability to talk or let you record your own voice. Some of our new products featured are the following: personal recorders, ranging from ten to 120 seconds of recording time; novelty clocks; talking caller I.D. phone; and a talking bread machine. In addition there are many fun novelty items such as talking salt and pepper shakers, spatula, toothbrush, fork and spoon, birthday candle, as well as a singing happy birthday bear, plus many more items for everyone. Visit the Speak to Me Catalog on the Internet and hear sound demos of these talking products. The address is

Voices can remind you of important events or special memories. Call (800) 248-9965 to receive your free Speak to Me catalog. Request print, cassette, or IBM floppy copy.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Accent SA external synthesizer with SV 50B screen reader, including tape instructions. Asking $600. Call (503) 752-2373, weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Pacific Time.

Video on Financial Aid Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

A videotape titled Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Educational Settings is now available. This videotape is designed to help state vocational rehabilitation agencies and other rehabilitation entities provide training for vocational rehabilitation agency staff and other rehabilitation practitioners in securing financial aid for students with disabilities in postsecondary educational settings. To order this 120-minute, VHS videotape, send a $20 check to Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Box Drawer 6189, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762.

New Products:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Introducing Alphatek, a company that specializes in talking products of all kinds: talking watches, clocks, calculators, key chains, and the newest innovations in talking technology. We invite you to check out our low prices and excellent service. For a free print catalog call (310) 393-7780 or write to Alphatek, 1223 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 494, Santa Monica, California 90403.

New Chapters:

The California affiliate is proud to announce the addition of two new chapters to its affiliate family. The River City Chapter was formed in August. The new officers are Eric Clegg, President; Bryan Bashin, First Vice President; Raquel Gomez, Second Vice President; Ellen Paxson, Secretary; and Paul Carver, Treasurer. Diane Domingue and Doug Langley will serve as the two Board Members.

The newly formed San Diego East County Chapter also recently held its first meeting and election of officers. They are Norm Peters, President; Joseph Lopez, Vice President; Sheila Johnson, Secretary; and Maria Deer, Treasurer. Ivan Weich and Lisa Irving were elected to serve as Board Members.

Activities Book About Blindness Available:

Ramona Walhof, Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho, writes as follows:

When you go to meetings and other National Federation of the Blind activities, do your children and young friends ask what it is all about? You now have a new way to help them understand.

Julie and Brandon, Our Blind Friends is an educational activities book produced by and available from the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. Contained in this book are twenty-four pictures to color, seven pages relating Braille to print, several descriptions of tools and techniques used by the blind, a short story by President Maurer, and more.

It is a book about blindness for sighted children from kindergarten to middle-school age. We have found that many adults enjoy these activities as well. This book provides a unique approach to educating the general public about blindness, and those who have seen it have loved it.

Individual books sell for $4 plus $1.50 shipping. Twenty-five books or more may be purchased for $3 each, plus $5 shipping for each group of twenty-five books. Make checks or money orders payable to National Federation of the Blind of Idaho, and send them to 1301 S. Capitol Boulevard, Suite C, Boise, Idaho 83706. Be sure to tell us where to ship your books.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have several Perkins Braillers that are looking for new homes. Costs start at $300. All are in excellent condition. Trade-ins accepted and payment plans are negotiable. In addition, I offer a complete Perkins Brailler service. I purchase and/or repair old Perkins Braillers. If you have a machine that is feeling poorly or if you have an old Perkins that you would like to sell (working or non-working), call me. For more information contact Nino Pacini, evenings and weekends only, at (313) 885-7330.

Pen Friends Wanted:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I would like to correspond with people in Braille Grade I or II or on cassette. I am a born-again Christian with many interests. Bob Riibe, 2116 South Duluth, Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57105.

In Memoriam:

We recently received the following sad news from the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana:

On Monday, July 31, 1995, the Reverend Sandy Smith died at his home in Tallulah at the age of eighty-one. The Reverend Smith served for many years as President of the Northeast Chapter of the NFB of Louisiana and was a member of the Board of Directors for over twelve years. He and his dedicated wife Lyndella worked diligently to serve the blind people of his region, state, and nation. Always dependable and loyal, Sandy held his chapter together when the affiliate was embroiled in strife. He proved himself to be a member who had the best interests of all blind persons at heart.

"Reverend Sandy could always be counted on whenever we needed him. He was a good man with great wisdom and integrity," Joanne Wilson said. "When I needed to hold things together, Sandy was the man. We will really miss him. He was a man of great faith--faith in God and faith in the philosophy of this movement."

He was a good soldier in the cause of freedom for all of the nation's blind, and he will be greatly missed but never forgotten by those of us who knew and loved him.

Software Reviews Available:

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, in conjunction with the NFB in Computer Science and the Committee on the Evaluation of Technology, has prepared a comprehensive 250-page document which provides extensive and detailed reviews of virtually every screen review program on the market today. These reviews, prepared by blind users themselves, cover all the DOS-based screen review programs as well as seven programs for accessing Microsoft Windows. Also reviewed are access programs for IBM's OS/2 and the Apple Macintosh.

If your employer or you are considering a switch to Microsoft Windows, you need this document. No one but the NFB has ever done this many reviews all in one place with this much detail.

Since the reviews will change as existing products are updated and new ones are introduced, they will be available only electronically, on 3.5 inch computer disk. The disk, which will work on IBM and compatible computers, contains both ASCII and WordPerfect 5.1 versions of the file. It is available from NFB's Materials Center at a cost of $5. The order number is LSA57D. You can order by mail, if payment is enclosed, or you can order over the telephone using a major credit card. Contact NFB Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, Telephone: (410) 659-9314. Please call between 12:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

In Memoriam:

Just as this issue was going to press, we learned of the death on Sunday, September 24, 1995, of Eileen Edlund, long-time Federationist and wife of Dick Edlund, member of both the NFB Board of Directors and the Kansas Legislature. Eileen had been ill for sometime; she will be deeply missed by us all. We join Dick in grieving Eileen's loss.

Banquet Address Honored for Excellence:

The semi-monthly periodical, Vital Speeches of the Day included "The Heritage of Conflict," the 1995 banquet address at the National Federation of the Blind's annual convention, in the August 15 issue. President Maurer's address appeared with speeches by Secretary of State Warren Christopher; former Secretary of Agriculture Clayton Yeutter; Chairman, Price Waterhouse World Firm, Dominic A. Tarantino; and Executive Vice President, American Petroleum Institute, William F. O'Keefe. The periodical, which is placed in school libraries across the country, defines itself as "The best thought of the best minds on current national questions." We can all take pride in knowing that the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind is once again available to young researchers, writers, and debaters as well as everyone else who reads Vital Speeches of the Day.