The Braille Monitor

             Vol. 39, No. 5                                                                                                            May 1996

Barbara Pierce, Editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President

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ISSN 0006-8829


             Vol. 39, No. 5                                                                                  May 1996

by Sharon Gold

by Jacobus tenBroek

by Marc Maurer


by Sue Bennett

by Carole Conrad



by Kenneth Jernigan

by David Walker


by Suzanne Vega

by Jim Willows

by William D. Meeker

by Barbara Pierce



Copyright 1996 National Federation of the Blind


[LEAD PHOTOS: GENERAL CAPTION: "Come, and trip it as ye go//On the light fantastic toe." Convention is coming, where the evenings are filled with laughter and fun. These Federationists show you what to do. Join us in Anaheim! #1 CAPTION: Niki White and Jeremy Lincicome of Maryland show their elders how it's done. #2: An adult man is pictured dancing with a little girl about six who is wearing a frilly dress. CAPTION: Across the generation lines couples enjoy dancing. This picture was taken at the 1993 convention. #3 CAPTION: Tony and Marie Cobb of Maryland stop dancing long enough for this picture to be taken at the 1993 convention in Dallas. #4: Five children have joined hands and are dancing in a circle. CAPTION: Federation children are an irresistible part of convention dances. #5: A couple is shown in the foreground with the man swinging his partner around while other couples square dance in the background. CAPTION: Square dancing was part of the fun at the 1993 convention in Dallas.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Gold]


by Sharon Gold

From the Editor: On February 23, 1996, three Federationists (Hazel tenBroek, Sheryl Pickering, and Sharon Gold) joined a group of distinguished and devoted former students of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek to honor his memory through the exploration of some of his ideas. Dr. tenBroek's profound impact on the lives of blind Americans is so central to Federationists' understanding of the man that it is sometimes easy for us to overlook the significance of his effect on the larger world of rigorous legal thought. Here is Sharon Gold's report of this latest gathering of Jacobus tenBroek's colleagues, friends, and students:

To the blind of the country, Jacobus tenBroek is remembered as the founder of the National Federation of the Blind and the first leader of the organized blind movement in the United States and around the world. The establishment and leadership of an organization that has had a profound impact on the lives of a group of people is a major accomplishment in any man's life; however, this man's life and leadership have extended to and continue to reach far beyond the blind community to include people from all walks of life.

Blinded by a bow and arrow accident at the age of seven, Jacobus tenBroek graduated from the University of California and earned advanced degrees from the University of California School of Law and Harvard University School of Law and received honorary degrees from Findley College and Parsons College. He served as a professor of speech and jurisprudence at the University of California at Berkeley from 1942 until 1967. He was renowned for his use of the Socratic method of teaching. His students remember him for his genius in teaching them the discipline of analytical thinking and his desire to eliminate prejudice among all persons. Today his former students can be found working as lawyers; judges at most levels of the judicial system; sociologists; professors of law; legislators; and local, state, and federal government officials.

Dr. tenBroek was a prolific writer. His articles appeared almost monthly in the publications of the National Federation of the Blind. But he also wrote numerous articles for the University of California Law Review and other legal journals. "The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the Law of Torts," which first appeared in the California Law Review in 1966, was the foundation for the statutes known as the White Cane Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Dr. tenBroek's book Prejudice, War, and the Constitution, which addresses First Amendment rights, altered forever the way the legal world viewed the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. This book was the basis for the legal arguments presented to the United States Supreme Court and was the direct cause of the reversal in the Court's decision in Korematsu v. the United States.

Other articles and books by Dr. tenBroek were published on the subjects of Constitutional law, family and adoption law, welfare law, and public assistance and social law. Many of Dr. tenBroek's writings are still studied in law school courses today and continue to affect society profoundly. In October, 1992, twenty-four years after Jacobus tenBroek's death, his students held a dinner in his honor and memory. (See "Jacobus tenBroek: The Man Beyond the Movement," Braille Monitor, February, 1993.) The participants left the dinner that evening saying enthusiastically that more should be done to advance the standards and ideals for which Dr. tenBroek had stood. Accordingly, the tenBroek Society was formed to promote goals and activities in the memory and spirit of Dr. tenBroek.

The "tenBroekians," as the members of the Society call themselves, held their first dinner in June, 1994. The program featured a thirty-year retrospective on the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, a movement in which Dr. tenBroek had been active at the University.

On February 23, 1996, the tenBroek Society held its Second Awards Dinner at the St. Francis Hotel, one of San Francisco's most elegant landmark hotels. The topic of discussion for the evening was "Affirmative Action: A tenBroekian Analysis." The basis for the discussion was Dr. tenBroek's speech "The Pros and Cons of Preferential Treatment." Participating in the debate were former tenBroek students including Leland Selna, Jr., of Feldman, Walman and Kline, moderator; Ralph Abascal, General Counsel, California Rural Legal Assistance; Ward Connerly, Regent, University of California and Chair, California Civil Rights Initiative; and Robert Daggett of Brobeck, Phlegar and Harrison. Mr. Daggett, who also serves as a commentator on San Francisco television station KQED, was Dr. tenBroek's surrogate during the discussion and presented the tenBroekian analysis.

During the evening Hazel tenBroek and tenBroekian Robert Leslie presented two awards. The Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Laura E. Nathan, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Mills College. The Outstanding Student Award was presented to Elizabeth MacDowell, a student at the University of California Boalt Hall School of Law. Ms. MacDowell was nominated for the award by her undergraduate school, California State University of Hayward.

As a part of the dinner, a moment of silence was called by tenBroek Society President Frank Winston in memory of two of Dr. tenBroek's closest colleagues and neighbors, the Honorable Frank Newman and Bernard Witkin. Frank Newman had been a California Supreme Court Justice and Dean of Boalt Hall. Bernie Witkin had been a professor at Boalt Hall and was highly acclaimed for his Summary of California Law.

When Dr. tenBroek died in 1968, Dr. Jernigan assumed the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind and led the organization to develop in the spirit and with the ideals and concepts formulated by Dr. tenBroek. Dr. Jernigan has spoken of the change in leadership as the passing of the torch to a new generation. First through Dr. Jernigan's leadership and in recent years through that of President Maurer, the Federation has put into practice the teachings of Dr. tenBroek.

But Jacobus tenBroek's leadership is recognized not only by the blind of the nation but in the academic arena. The purpose of the tenBroek Society is to "foster and promote the teaching and advocacy of rigorous, critical, and analytical thought and debate pertaining to matters of conscience, personal liberty, and civil liberties. The Society shall strive to acquaint the public with the ideals and methods of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek as a teacher, scholar, and leader and to motivate us all as teachers, students, and citizens to challenge conventional thinking and, with rational thought and forthright debate, seek truth and honesty in ideas and action for all of the people." Thus, the influence of this giant among men continues to be disseminated among all people, and the leadership of Jacobus tenBroek continues to be felt beyond the National Federation of the Blind.

Editor's postscript: In recognition of the seminal nature of "The Pros and Cons of Preferential Treatment of Blind Persons," the speech the tenBroekians took as their point of departure at their February dinner meeting, we are reprinting the speech in this issue.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jacobus tenBroek]


by Jacobus tenBroek

An address delivered at the American Association of Workers for the Blind Convention, Quebec, June 1955. First printed in the July 1976, issue of the Braille Monitor.

The topic of this discussion immediately suggests the ambivalence, if not the outright hostility, aroused in most of us by the idea of preferential treatment. If it implies unwarranted favors and advantages, as it sometimes seems to, how is such treatment to be justified with reference to the blind or, for that matter, with reference to any group? If the blind are normal, as they claim, why do they need to be treated differently? If their objective is really social equality and integration, is it not true that preferential treatment serves to perpetuate special status, with all its connotations of inequality and inferiority? Is there anything about the problems of the blind or of blindness which makes necessary or desirable some form of preferential treatment?

"Any class," wrote one blind man, "which demands special privileges soon finds itself a dependent class," and "the blind of America have developed a progressive disease--that of dependency."

We espouse the principle, wrote another blind man, "that the blind are normal and competent people, capable of making their own way, on a basis of equality." At the same time we ask "special concessions and privileges on the basis that we are helpless and unequal." "We cannot have our cake and eat it too, and such measures and propaganda stressing the inequality of the blind are bound to have a most damaging effect upon our primary goal of equality."

Let us begin our analysis of the pros and cons of preferential treatment of the blind at the beginning: that is, by defining the terms used.

Preferential treatment of the blind is treatment which singles out the blind for special favors, advantages, or benefits. In short, it is any special treatment. Preferential treatment may be based on an irrational whim, prejudice, or taste--as when one prefers strawberries instead of blueberries, or when it is said "gentlemen prefer blondes." On the other hand, preferential or special treatment may be based on the possession by the group receiving it of some distinctive talents or unique qualities or peculiar needs having a relationship to a proper public policy or socially desirable objective.

There are no pros, there are only cons, with regard to the preferential treatment of the blind which is founded in irrational whim, prejudice, or taste; and the blind cannot rightly claim, nor do they generally want, mere favoritism, public or private, any more than they claim or want the opposite: discriminatory disadvantage, guilt- or shame-motivated rejection, kindness-inspired overprotection, or unthinking exclusion. The pros and cons of preferential treatment founded in special qualities or needs of the group depend in each individual instance upon three factors: (1) upon a faithful determination and accurate evaluation of the special qualities or needs of the blind; (2) upon a correct appraisal of the public policy or social objective sought to be achieved by the particular preferential treatment; and (3) upon the adaption of means to ends, that is, upon whether the means are proper and there is a close and substantial relationship between the special qualities and needs of the blind, on the one hand, and the policy or objective, on the other.

The other term that must be defined is "the blind." Who are the blind? What is blindness?

The term blindness in its literal denotative sense means loss of eyesight; the absence of visual acuity. It refers to a strictly physical condition. The blind, then, are simply those who cannot see. Nothing more, nothing less! The term blindness, however, also has a wider connotative sense. In this sense it refers to restricted social and economic contact, opportunity, and activity. To be stripped of eyesight is to be shorn of full-fledged membership in society.

The difference between the denotative and connotative meanings of blindness is exactly that between disability and handicap. Disability refers to a physical deprivation; handicap to the social consequences of that deprivation. The distinction may be seen in the fact that there are many disabilities which carry little or no handicap, such as the chronic laryngitis of Andy Devine, the undersize of jockeys, or the oversize of basketball players. Likewise, there are handicaps with no disability, such as the black skin of American Negroes or the religion of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Disability is properly the concern of medical science. We can do little about the physical fact of blindness except to cure it or live with it. But it is not blindness alone that we live with. We live with other people, which is to say we live in society. It is society which creates and imposes the handicap of blindness, for it consists of the misconceptions of the sighted about the nature of the physical disability. The principal misconception, the one that embodies and epitomizes all the rest, is that blindness means helplessness--social and economic incapacity; the destruction of the productive powers; the obliteration of the ability to contribute to or benefit from normal community participation; in short, the lingering image of the helpless blind man.

Three comments about the social handicap of blindness are particularly in order: (1) To place responsibility for it upon the sighted is not to speak in terms of blame or recrimination. Far from it! The misconceptions are sanctioned by a society motivated mainly by benevolence, wishing above all else to be kind and helpful. (2) Wherever, as happens with increasing frequency, an individual blind person breaks through the social barriers, his success is likely to be attributed to his possession of special genius or compensatory powers (either superhuman or supernatural) which leave the overall image of blindness intact. (3) Public attitudes about the blind inevitably become the attitudes of the blind. The blind see themselves as others see them. They accept the public view of their limitations and thus do much to make them a reality.

Most people exaggerate the physical and underemphasize the social aspect of blindness. Our distinguished and able chairman, Father Carroll, has defined blindness in terms of twenty lacks and losses. I am one of Father Carroll's numerous admirers. But I admire him more for his willingness to prepare a list than for the list he has prepared. It seems to me that he falls prey to the common fallacy. Note what a large percentage of the items on the list refers to the physical fact of blindness and its immediate physical and personal consequences; what a small percentage refers to the broadly social. What may be known hereafter as Father Carroll's Lacks and Losses reads as follows: (1) loss of physical integrity; (2) loss of confidence in the remaining senses; (3) loss of reality contact; (4) loss of visual background; (5) loss of "light"; (6) loss of mobility; (7) loss of visual perception: beautiful; (8) loss of visual perception: pleasurable; (9) loss of ease of written communication; (10) loss of ease of spoken communication; (11) loss of means for informational progress; (12) loss of recreation; (13) loss of technique, daily living; (14) loss of career: vocation, goal, job opportunity; (15) loss of financial security; (16) loss of personal independence; (17) loss of social adequacy; (18) loss of obscurity, anonymity; (19) loss of self-esteem; (20) loss of total personality organization.

I would not have you believe that I underassess the importance of the physical disability. Without sight the range of perception is narrowed. Objects which can be seen from afar must be near at hand to be discernible by other senses. And the blind person who has not scuffed his shins on low-lying implements and toys carelessly left on the sidewalk or stumbled over a curb, or bumped his head on an overhanging awning or branch has never left his armchair. These are undeniably embarrassing or uncomfortable experiences; but they are properly to be classified as minor annoyances or distractive nuisances, like shaving in the morning or removing your glass eyes at night. In my experience, blind people who are willing to move and put one foot out in front of the other always somehow get where they want to go.

In any event, the main point is that the real affliction of blindness is not the physical disability or its immediate consequences but the social handicap. It therefore becomes most important to analyze the precise nature of the handicap. Of what does it consist? What are the elements which compose it? What does it mean to be excluded from society? What are the rights of membership of which the blind are thus deprived?

To answer these questions, one must identify the main features of American society, for it is denial of participation in these which constitutes the handicap of blindness. The process of answering the questions therefore is one of resurveying American social and political thought and constitutional ideals, one of restating the principles, doctrines, and concepts that are contained therein.

The task of restating American social and political assumptions and goals is complicated by a number of facts and factors. Major American social and political principles, such as the dignity of the individual, liberty, equality, and private property, are so intermingled and overlapping that it is difficult to separate any one of them for single treatment.

Emphasis on the various elements has shifted at different periods in our history, in the documents which have embodied and expressed different movements, forces, and times, and among the prominent political writers and speakers. Equality was the dominant note in the Declaration of Independence. Property assumed relatively a stronger position in the Constitution. During the nineteenth century, when fortune and geography gave the nation military safety and free land and the open frontier gave individuals a sense of economic safety, security was assumed and liberty was elevated into a primary position. Today, as Ralph Henry Gabriel writes, "When the traditional foundations of culture crumble,...when government by law gives way to government by irresponsible force, the preoccupation with liberty as an end in itself is replaced by a new search for security, mental, social, economic, and even physical."1

Sometimes, indeed, going far beyond mere shifts in emphasis, the elements are presented as irreconcilably contradictory. Read for example this passage from William Graham Sumner: "Let it be understood that we cannot go outside this alternative: liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest; non-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society upwards and favors all of its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members."2

Finally, the task of stating American social and political principles is made difficult by the fact that they are not fixed and immutable, as the laws of the Medes and the Persians were reputed to be. To the extent that they are a living reality in a developing democracy, they are constantly growing, maturing, and changing. Every generation, every decade is a formative period in the constitutional life of the nation. In our generation the creative interpretation and application of American social and political principles in the sphere of international organization and in the social and economic sphere are in process.

Yet, despite these difficulties in stating them, the major elements in the set of widely accepted and persistently enduring political principles and social ethics are identifiable and subject to description and characterization. The "easily remembered" formulations can be found in the landmark documents of our history. These documents not only express and embody movements and periods of the past but are as well basic forces of government in the present and for the future. They include the Declaration of Independence, the Northwest Ordinance, the Preamble to the United States Constitution, the state constitutions, the Civil War amendments to the United States Constitution, and the more famous pronouncements of the United States Supreme Court.

(1) Liberty. In American political thought, liberty has many aspects and sources. It is both positive and negative. It is political, economic, personal, and, in a broad sense, social. It is founded by some in positivism; by others in natural law; by still others in moral law. It sets in equilibrium constitutionalism and democracy. In part liberty consists in protection against the will of the majority, no matter how regularly manifested and how lacking in oppressiveness or arbitrariness. In this aspect it is embodied in an array of restraints on governmental action and the organized power of society. The existence of a constitutionally arranged governmental structure and distribution of powers, in fact the existence of a constitution at all, implies a system of limited government.

The Constitution, too, contains many explicit prohibitions on government. Though some exist elsewhere in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the other amendments are, of course, a catalogue of these. Among them are the protection given life, liberty, and property, the requirement of established and regular procedures by government, and the guarantee of immunity from unreasonable intrusions into the privacy of one's person, house, papers, and effects. The many safeguards against improper conviction for crime refer not only to the technical aspects of criminal justice, but bespeak the basic right of personal freedom: i.e., freedom to move about as one pleases and to be not subject to surveillance and custodialization by the agents of the state. Likewise, freedom from slavery and peonage is decreed, implying not only self-ownership but free labor and the right to the rewards of labor.

A dominant part of American social and political thought has always been a notion that these rights, thus fixed in the Constitution, are the indivestible possessions of individuals even when not so guaranteed. Whether derived from natural law, moral law, higher law, or various other concepts about the fundamental nature of man and society, this notion has found constant expression throughout our history. Its standard formulation is in the Declaration of Independence: "[T]hat [men] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These rights governments were instituted to secure and protect, not to create and confer.3

The concept that rights which are regarded as very important are somehow natural rights or derive from a higher law results from a philosophic view which has lost much of its persuasion and support in recent decades. The Founding Fathers, however, and most American statesmen down through the Civil War period, made it their starting point. Natural rights thus became inextricably woven into the fabric of American social and political thought and popular belief. They lurk just below the surface of many of our state papers, judicial pronouncements, and political orations of today. Of those Americans who do not accept this particular philosophical concept, most still insist upon the great importance and basic character of the rights proclaimed.

So far I have spoken of the constitutional side of constitutional democracy. The democracy side is a positive aspect of liberty. It has to do with the individual's right to participate in government, in the determination of social direction and policy. Its foundation is the doctrine of popular sovereignty and the consent of the governed. Its implementations are the right of suffrage, the right to seek and hold office, and the right of the majority to rule. Its indispensable conditions are freedom of speech, press, and assembly.4

Liberty is positive in another phase besides that of the co-sovereignty of citizens of a republic. Government is responsible for the protection of the rights of the individual. This cannot be wholly achieved by the government itself refraining from invading them. It must prevent others from invading them. It must eliminate and control the conditions which nullify them or make their exercise impossible. It must foster, promote, establish, and maintain the conditions which nullify them or make their exercise impossible. It must foster, promote, establish, and maintain the conditions which make their exercise possible and significant. This is especially true if the right is active rather than passive; if it involves doing and not just being; acquiring and not just having; speaking and not just listening. Congress, as Webster declared in his famous debate with Hayne, is under an obligation to exercise the powers delegated to it in the Constitution for the purpose of achieving the objectives set forth in the Preamble of the Constitution--to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. . . ."5

Men have a right to life, personal freedom, and personal security. They have the right to marry, have and rear children, and maintain a home.6 They have a right, so far as government can assure it, to that fair opportunity to earn a livelihood which will make these other rights possible and significant.7 Men may not be bound to the place of their poverty and misfortune; they may move freely about the country in search of new opportunity.8 They have a right freely to choose their fields of endeavor, unhindered by arbitrary, artificial, and man-made impediments.9 They have a right to enter the common trades, callings, and occupations of the community. They have the right, if they are free, to manage their own affairs as they see fit, unless and until there is interference with the equal rights of others to manage their affairs or there is injury to the welfare of the community.

"It is not enough," wrote the President's Committee on Civil Rights in 1947, "that full and equal membership in society entitles the individual to an equal voice in the control of his government; it must also give him the right to enjoy the benefits of society and to contribute to its progress. . . . Without this equality of opportunity, the individual is deprived of the chance to develop his potentialities and to share the fruits of society. The group also suffers through the loss of the contributions which might have been made by persons excluded from the main channels of social and economic activity."

(2) The Dignity of Man. Deeply imbedded in this concept of liberty is a democratic view of the individual, of his role in society, relation to the state, essential dignity and worth. It is the individual who possesses rights which are fundamental and inalienable. He is at the beginning and the end of the state. He organizes it and gives it authority. Its powers are conferred to protect his rights and to assure the conditions necessary for their maximum expression. The state exists for his benefit, not he for its. "In democratic society," wrote Charles Merriam, "regard for the dignity of man stands behind the throne of public order, a constant reminder of the need for liberty and justice as well as order, a constant plea that the human personality shall not be forgotten in the multiplications of laws, in the ramifications of administration, or in the antiquarianism of formal justice."10

Democracy breathes respect for all men and seeks to preserve their individuality and autonomy. This spirit is violated wherever men are alienated or sheltered from the mainstream, not only in the overt gestures of rejection but in the sentimental embrace of patronage and protection. Humanity is degraded and individuality disparaged by treatment of the person as a unit in a category determined by irrelevant traits, defined and measured not in unique terms of personal character and achievement but in the stereotype terms of physical or national or racial difference.

(3) The Rights of Property and to Contract. The rights to property and to contract have likewise been regarded as fundamental in the American system. The right to property along with life and liberty is listed as one of the three great rights of all free men in Chapter 39 of the Magna Carta. It appears thus also in the American state constitutions, early and late, in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, in the United States Constitution, Amendments V and XIV, and elsewhere.11

The rights to liberty, property, and contract are interlocking if not interchangeable concepts. The right to contract is sometimes stated as an incident to the right to property; sometimes as an independent aspect of liberty. Property is described by some as sufficiently broad to incorporate all other rights of individuals, including liberty; and liberty is often regarded by others as broad enough to encompass the right to acquire, use, and enjoy property. The three rights of liberty, property, and contract are thus intimately associated in American thinking.12

Property and contract rights are not unlimited but, on the contrary, are subject to public control in the public interest. They may be abridged and, in some cases, destroyed altogether, if that is necessary to protect the community against injury or danger in any form, against fraud or vice or economic oppression or serious public inconvenience or depression or other disasters. The power to control is coextensive with the social and economic activities of men. It finds its limit in the nature of the acts forbidden or required and its justification in the direct relation of these acts to the public welfare or to the equal property rights of others.

The power of the state over property and contract rights, however, is not merely negative or incidental to the power to legislate for the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the community. The basic character of the right and the purpose of government regarding it cannot be minimized or ignored. That purpose, as in the case of liberty, is to protect and preserve, maintain, and nurture the right. The power to regulate the use of property and contract, consequently, may not, save in very rare and special circumstances, be converted into the power directly to take property and contract rights. And in discharging its primary and affirmative duty with respect to these rights, the state must keep constantly in view the essential values of private property in our system. It is a central factor in the organization of society. It is an impelling source of motivation. It is a principal incentive for productive activity. It is a reward for labor and contribution. It is at once the object of individual enterprise and success and the means of achieving success. And contract is the form of expression and governing instrument, not only of most business activity, but as well of most of the transactions of daily life.

(4) Equality. Only second to liberty itself in our history has been the ideal of equality. In fact, equality has always conditioned liberty and determined its character just as liberty has always conditioned equality and determined its character. In the Declaration of Independence, the first of the "self-evident truths" is that all men are created equal; and all men are equally "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," "among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Alexis de Tocqueville, in 1835, described equality in America as "the fundamental fact from which all others seem to be derived and the central point at which all my observations constantly terminated." In his view it gave "a peculiar direction to public opinion and peculiar tenor to the laws; it imparts new maxims to the governing authorities and peculiar habits to the governed." It "extends far beyond the political character and the laws of the country, and...has no less effect on civil society than on the government; it creates opinions, gives birth to new sentiments, founds novel customs, and modifies whatever it does not produce."13

Equality, even more than liberty, stood in the forefront of the historic struggle in the nation to abolish property in man and the institution of slavery; and, along with liberty, emerged in the Civil War amendments to the Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment, freeing men from slavery and nationalizing the right of freedom, nationally guaranteed what slavery denied: the equal right of all to enjoy protection in those natural rights which constitute freedom. The Fourteenth Amendment, in the three redundant clauses of Section 1, re-embodied these same objectives and added an explicit guarantee of the equal protection of the laws, thereby adding another confirmatory reference to the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and are equally entitled to the protection of government in the enjoyment of their natural and inalienable rights.14

Like liberty, equality has many phases. One of them relates to the doctrine of proper classification. The laws must be aimed at the achievement of a public and constitutional purpose. They may not be motivated by hatred, vengeance, favoritism, or private gain. Legislation framed with a discriminatory purpose, manifesting "an evil eye and an unequal hand," contains an elementary antagonism to the idea of the equality of men. Once legislation is endowed with a public and constitutional purpose, it still must meet other tests. Because there are real differences among men, regulation would be altogether ineffective if it had to apply to all or none. The law must therefore be selective. But to be equal, it must treat all those similarly situated alike. The differences between men that underlie selection must be real differences and must bear an intimate relationship to the purpose of the law and valid social goals. All other differences are irrelevant and must be ignored. "Class Legislation," said Justice Field in summing up this doctrine, "discriminating against some and favoring others, is prohibited, but legislation which, in carrying out a public purpose, is limited in its application, if within the sphere of its operation it affects alike all persons similarly situated, is not within the amendment."15

Another phase of the idea of equality is the rule of law. If all men are created equal and equally possess certain rights, and if governments are instituted to secure and maintain those rights, and men therefore are equally entitled to such protection, the protection can only be afforded by uniform rule, that is, by law. One way of putting this is the expression: "Equality before the Law." Another way is in the celebrated words of the Massachusetts Bill of Rights: "That the government of the Commonwealth may be a government of laws and not of men." Thus, in this aspect, the doctrine of equality is in effect a command that the government act by established and regular procedures and by uniform rules. It is a command that the purely personal, arbitrary, capricious, and whimsical be reduced and eliminated from the exercise of power. It is a command that the rules be fixed and announced in advance in a way which will make them freely and publicly available. It is a requirement of a degree of certainty and predictability in government action and of a system of rights growing out of uniform rules. It is finally an order that administrators as well as legislators act within these confines.

In still another phase, equality is not negative and procedural but positive and substantial. Anatole France referred to "the majestic equality of the laws which forbid rich and poor alike to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread." But the demands of equality are not met by the equal treatment which results from the absence of the laws or from the indiscriminate application of the laws to those who are dissimilarly situated. Moreover, the demands of equality are not exhausted by the doctrine of classification and the rule of law. The equal protection of the laws refers to the quality of the laws as well as to the mechanics of their operation. The reign of equal laws involves as well the reign of just laws, and the maintenance of equality in the enjoyment of rights is at the heart of the system of justice. Equality thus must be the very purpose of governmental action and policy as well as a test and measure of its means. It must "give direction to public opinions," determine the "tenor of the laws," impart "maxims to the governing authorities," and modify "whatever it does not produce."

Particularly is the government under a duty to guarantee equality of opportunity. Without that, freedom itself cannot last and becomes an illusion. The only aristocracy that a system founded upon equality can tolerate is an aristocracy of personal merit and achievement. Uniformity and regimentation, on the one hand, and status, influence, and power based on birth, social position, or inheritance, on the other hand, are equally incompatible with equality. Equality of all men presupposes respect for the rights of others. In a society of equals, therefore, men are free to be different. All limitations on opportunity, all restrictions on the individual based on irrelevant differences of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and the like, are in conflict with equality and must be removed and forbidden. Access to the mainstreams of community life, the aspirations and achievements of each member of society, are to be limited only by the skills, energy, talents, and ability he brings to the opportunities equally open to all Americans.

From what I have said so far, a number of propositions emerge:

(1) Preferential treatment of the blind based on favoritism, privilege, whim, prejudice, patronage, pity, charity, self-interest of others, or feelings of like or dislike cannot be justified and indeed does a great deal of harm. On the other hand, preferential treatment which takes account of the special qualities or needs of the blind or aspects of their situation not shared by others, which is aimed at a desirable social objective and which employs proper means properly adapted to this purpose, is not only justifiable preferential treatment but is treatment which should be at the foundation of all public and private policy toward the blind.

(2) Blindness has a dual aspect: the physical and the social. The first is the disability; the second is the handicap. Treatment of the disability is a medical task. Overcoming the handicap is the function of rehabilitation.

(3) The handicap consists mainly of the misconceptions of the sighted about the physical disability which result in social exclusion. In all but the physical sense, and even to some extent in that, it consists of a loss of full membership in society; a denial to the blind of the rights and goals which others share--liberty, equality, property, dignity.

4) Overcoming the handicap of blindness, therefore, means removing the bars, exclusion, and denials of which the handicap consists: conferring on the blind the title deeds of social freedom and membership; the rights of liberty, equality, property, and dignity; in short, their reintegration into society.

(5) Programs which address themselves to this purpose or which move in this direction, while they necessarily involve preferential treatment, meet all the tests and standards set up for good policy. Such special arrangements might better go by the name of equal treatment. Indeed, to lift from the backs of the blind the special, heavy, and unnecessary burdens which society has caused them to bear and to call this preferential treatment can hardly be regarded as anything but the bitterest irony. Programs which move in the opposite direction, which accept and build upon the public misconceptions about the nature of the physical disability, which presuppose the incapacity and abnormality of the blind, and which institutionalize that presupposition in segregation and custodialization--all programs, in other words, which continue or intensify social exclusion or which are motivated by patronage, charity, whim, prejudice, or self-interest--involve preferential or special treatment which increases the handicap. They perpetuate the very attitudes and conditions which they should be designed to prevent.

(6) Preferential treatment is also justified which: (a) tends to ameliorate the immediate physical consequences of the physical disability of blindness; or (b) pending the day when integration has been achieved, mitigates the financial and other consequences of social exclusion or offsets the disadvantage resulting therefrom by means which do not further entrench the public misconception or which do so as little as possible.

(7) To be consistent with the standards dictated by the basic principles of our social, political, and constitutional system, programs for the blind must:

(a) Allow the blind to manage their own personal affairs and proceed on the assumption that they are capable of doing so.

(b) Not only permit the blind, but stimulate and encourage them to develop their potentialities, share in the fruits of society, and contribute to its work and progress.

(c) And to do this, not only permit, but stimulate and encourage the blind to work, to engage in individual enterprise, to exercise free judgment and free movement in the search for opportunity, freely to choose their fields of endeavor and to enter the common callings, trades, occupations, and professions of the community.

(d) To stimulate and encourage the blind to do these things by relying on the normal incentives, principal among which are financial remuneration and the improvement of one's economic lot and social status.

(e) Permit, stimulate, and encourage the blind to acquire, enjoy, and use property (real and personal), not just for immediate consumption purposes, but as a motivational source of endeavor and a means of economic improvement.

(f) Protect the essential dignity of the individual: by recognizing the worth of the human personality and treating it as a community asset rather than a community liability; by supplying aids and services without humiliation, without undue intrusion into the privacy of the recipient, without imposing upon him the badges and indicia of a needy and special status, without subjecting him to the personal judgments of social workers influenced by humanity, charity, approval, or other emotions; by making possible a standard and circumstance of living not conspicuously different from that enjoyed by the rest of the community; by leaving recipients free to make their own decisions as to spending, living arrangements, and personal matters.

(g) If the demands of equality are to be met, public financial aid must be granted as a matter of right, the element of personal discretion exercised by administrators and welfare workers must be eliminated, the amount and conditions of the aid must be specified in uniform rules made accessible to recipients and prospective recipients and sufficiently exact so that recipients may determine to what they are entitled and what their responsibilities are. Legislative and administrative standards must be established which are uniformly applied, which treat all welfare recipients alike who are similarly situated with respect to a valid purpose of the welfare law, and which vary the amount and the condition of the grant when there are real differences among recipients in terms of their relationship to the welfare program. Finally, equality requires--as does liberty, the dignity of the individual, and the essential notion of property--that the purpose of the welfare law be opportunity as well as security. Relief rolls should provide relief; but they must also provide the means of escape from them. Reintegration into society through open and equal access to the mainstream of community productive activity must be an object of welfare law and a measure of its adaptation if the fundamental political and constitutional principles of our system are to be honored in the fact as well as held out in the promise.

Measured by these standards, evaluated in the light of these considerations, how do our programs and provisions for the blind prove out? The answer must be mixed. Some programs are well adapted to these principles; others poorly; and still others are in flat contradiction of them. Unfortunately, some of the most important programs fall into the latter two categories.

The rapidly growing and recently created system of orientation and adjustment centers--focusing on mobility training, personal care, prevocational manual skills, and the development of attitudes which make these other activities possible and fruitful--are properly oriented and adjusted to reduce the immediate physical consequences of the disability of blindness, to uproot the conviction of incompetence, and to impart self-confidence, hope, and a zest for living.

The home teacher system, though hampered by the need to deal with the blind person in his home and then only in occasional short visits, substantially moves in the same direction as the orientation center. It is most effective when used as a case-finder for the center and otherwise works in close collaboration with it. It is least effective when it emphasizes handicraft as mere busy work or when it teaches Braille to clients who will never have any use for it.

White cane laws, now enacted in almost all the states, by giving the blind a legal position in traffic and moderating the discriminatory harshness of the contributory negligence rule, make meaningful for the blind the human and constitutional right of free movement, just as the cane itself makes more meaningful the physical capacity of free movement.

What about good vision requirements established in many laws and regulations dealing with jobs, licenses, and the like? Some of these are, of course, perfectly in order. Where sight is indispensable to the performance of the task- -as in hunting with a gun, driving a truck, or working as a photographer of wildlife for the National Park Service--the blind are legitimately excluded. Where sight is not indispensable, as is the case in thousands of jobs public and private from which the blind are now barred--the continued exclusion of the blind can have no special justification. In many of these cases the bars remain up because those who tend them have only their misconceptions to guide them.

Laws and regulations giving preference to blind persons with respect to jobs are not mere favoritism if they are based on the special qualifications of the blind to perform the tasks assigned. This is clearly so when the blind are called upon to work in or administer programs affecting the blind. In that circumstance blindness is an enabling asset endowing the worker with special knowledge, experience, and the confidence of his clients which probably cannot be secured in any other way than by being blind. Of course this enabling asset should be given determinative weight only when other things are equal. For the blind to be given preference in other situations in which blindness does not contribute to the ability to do the work would be as unjustifiable as to discriminate against the blind in jobs in which blindness does not detract from the ability to do the work.

What about vending stands for which the blind are given rent-free locations on public property, in connection with the establishment of which they are given a preference and protection against vending machine competition, and with respect to the operation of which blindness is not an enabling asset? These special arrangements will not withstand merited criticism once the blind have achieved a footing of complete economic equality. Until that time arrives, however, the vending stand program is preferential treatment which is justified as a small offset to almost universal economic discrimination against the blind; and one in which bona fide jobs are provided for qualified blind workers at comparatively negligible cost to the public; and one in which the blind are presented to the public in an aspect of competence and normality.

If the management of the vending stand programs is to be consistent with the standards above discussed, it must keep supervision and control at an absolute minimum; allow the operator to purchase his stand and equipment with only an option to repurchase by the public; give the operator complete independence in the management of his business affairs, retaining only the power to revoke the license if the operator proves incompetent or becomes publicly obnoxious; protect the operator's profits against confiscation for the support of supervisory personnel or submarginal stands which the administrators have mistakenly established in unprofitable locations. The control system, on the contrary, reflects the custodial attitude toward the role and the abilities of the blind, a conviction that the blind are incapable of running their own business and incompetent to lead their own lives.

Let us turn next to public assistance. Liberty in the direction of one's affairs, the whole basic principle of self-management, is violated by the means test. Under it, the individual recipient soon loses control of his daily activities and the whole course and direction of his life. The capacity for self-direction presently atrophies and drops away. With each new item budgeted or eliminated, with each new resource tracked down and evaluated, the social worker's influence increases. This is an inevitable concomitant of the means test. It results from the nature and extent of the system. It is bred and nourished by the provisions of the statutes and the rules issued under them. It is in the flexible joints of the cumbersome machinery. It is in the detail and intimacy of the investigation. It is in the inescapable confinements of the budget. It is in the idleness, defeatism, and waning spirit of the recipient. Whatever the social worker's wishes and intentions, her hand becomes the agency of direction in his affairs. The "concern of assistance with the whole range of income," wrote Karl DeSchweinitz, "always contains a threat to the freedom of the individual. Even when there is no conscious intent to dictate behavior to the beneficiary, the pervasive power of money dispensed under the means test may cause the slightest suggestion to have the effects of compulsion. `Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.'"16

Not only is liberty violated by the means test, but so also are dignity and equality--and for many of the same reasons. Dignity is jeopardized by the initial financial investigation; by the searching inquiry into every intimate detail of need, living habits, family relations; by the setting up of a detailed budget of expenditures subject to repeated examination and review; by the continuously implied and often explicit threat that if behavior is uncooperative or unapproved, aid will be reduced or stopped, by the wholesale substitution of agency and social worker controls for the personal direction of personal affairs; by the unwarrantable intrusions into privacy involved in each of the foregoing and the galling humiliation of the whole process; and, finally, by the constant tendency of the whole system to push living standards down below a minimum of decency and health.

The excessive individualization of the whole design and process of means test aid is fundamentally antithetical to the idea of equality. A system which makes so much depend upon a minute examination of every aspect of the individual's situation necessarily involves personalized judgments by officials and invites arbitrary and whimsical exercises of power, prevents the enforcement of a uniform rule even when the legislative provisions and administrative regulations are detailed and exact, renders it impossible for the recipient himself to determine to what he is entitled, constitutes the very thing intended to be prevented by the idea of "a government of laws and not of men," and flies in the face of basic requirements of proper classification. Since with respect to the purposes of public assistance law most individuals are parts of groups standing in the same relationship, those who are similarly situated are not treated alike and real differences are frequently disregarded.

Means test aid also violates the notion of individual opportunity, access to the mainstream of community productive activity, and normal incentives. Since means test aid requires that all income and resources of the recipient be applied to meet his current needs and since the public assistance grant is reduced by the amount of any such available income or resources, the usual financial motive for effort and endeavor is removed from the recipient unless the recipient can gain enough and with sufficient certainty to be independent of the relief rolls.

Granting aid as a matter of right contradicts practically all of the tendencies inherent in the means test and produces a system more consonant with the political and constitutional assumptions and goals of American democracy.

Aid as a matter of right requires the establishment of fixed and uniform rules specifying the terms and conditions of the grant. Thus the principal features of the system must be laid down by the legislature. This contrasts with the means test variable grant, based on individual need individually determined by the administrative agency under discretionary authority conferred by the legislature. Those who are similarly situated are therefore necessarily treated alike and under standards comparable with those governing assistance to other groups in the community.

Granting aid as a matter of right protects the liberty of the individual to manage his own affairs and conduct his daily life free of authoritarian controls and caseworker supervision. It protects the dignity of the individual. He is treated as a member of a class entitled to be dealt with in a manner determined by law, not by individualized administrative discretion. The occasion is eliminated for invasion of the individual's privacy, supervision of his personal behavior, and humiliating probing into the intimacies of his life; and a seminal principle is established which stands as a barrier to all such actions.

Finally, rehabilitation. The primary task of vocational rehabilitation, as I have said, is the overcoming of the social handicap--not the physical condition. It consists in the creation of an environment within society, within public programs, and within the blind themselves, which will be in the fullest sense conducive to normal livelihood and normal life. It involves opening up the channels of social participation, that is, enabling the blind to enjoy the benefits of socially determined standards of liberty, equality, property, and dignity. Its time-tested tools are vocational orientation, vocational training, counseling, and guidance which stimulates and opens up horizons--and finally, of course, placement in remunerative employment in the common callings, trades, pursuits, and professions of the community.

In the proper conceptions of its function as well as in the use of these time-tested tools, the vocational rehabilitation program of the United States must in large measure be pronounced a failure. The hope and opportunity are to be measured in miles; the actual accomplishment must be measured in inches.

Rehabilitation so far as the individual rehabilitant is concerned is a complex process in which mental and emotional elements are predominant. It involves myriad adaptations not merely physical in nature but social and psychological. In effect, the entire personality must undergo reconstruction; the blind person's conviction of his own incompetence, accepted from the public misconception, must be uprooted; a rebirth, a new act of creation must be wrought. In this process ambition, hope, and self-reliance are essential ingredients. Consequently, rehabilitation by the command of the counselor or submission to his attitudes and preferences or by the coercion which results from conditioning public assistance upon it is a contradiction. It is therefore futile. It is as futile as ordering a person to restore his emotional balance while adding to the very factors which cause the unbalance.

Since the objective of rehabilitation is restoration to a normal useful role in society, the standards of success are in large measure culturally determined. The rehabilitated person, thus, is one for whom the assumptions and goals of the community have become as significant as for others, who has in fact achieved equal opportunity to enter the calling of his choice, to acquire, use, and dispose of property, to exercise the right of personal independence, and to operate on the other assumptions and principles before listed. Just as the habits of freedom are not learned by experiencing slavery, so ambition is not learned by destitution, self-management by authoritarian controls, incentive by denying the hope of gain, or self-respect by second-class citizenship. Rehabilitation by command or coercion cultivates the very traits which frustrate and prevent rehabilitation. A rehabilitation program which continually impresses upon the client a sense of his helplessness and dependency; which enshrouds him in an atmosphere of disbelief, doubt, and defeatism; and which exhibits attitudes of guardianship and custodialism must inevitably sap the fibre of self-reliance, undermine hope, deter self-improvement, and destroy the very initiative which is indispensable to rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation by stimulation, by opening up new horizons, by assisting the client in the achievement of goals of his own choice, by incentives carefully planned to encourage productive activity by the expectation of normal rewards--retention of earnings, improvement of standards of living, accumulation of real and personal property--places rehabilitative effort in conformity with the political assumptions, economic impulses, and behavioral standards imposed by democratic thought and current social knowledge.

Optimistic and skillful counseling, built on personal experience with the handicap and its problems, is required to accomplish this delicate work. Under the present program such counseling has not been supplied. On the contrary, too often rehabilitation officers have themselves subscribed to the conviction of the incompetence of the blind. Little has been done under the present program to halt the tendency of shunting the disabled into a limited series of stereotyped occupations, to provide a staff which will have and exhibit full confidence in the blind, and which will aid the blind to enter fields of their own choosing. Little has been done under the present program to strengthen placement as an inescapable function of the rehabilitation agency. For the blind this is the arduous culmination of a long and arduous process. It cannot be accomplished by automatic referral to employers. It can only be accomplished by the application of highly specialized and individualized techniques of affirmative contact with employers, aggressive seeking of employment opportunities, personal demonstration, and follow-up.

Little is done under the present program to remove the obstructions to employment of the physically handicapped which exist in the public mind, in the statutes, ordinances, administrative rulings, judicial decisions, and institutional practices. Above all, the true nature of the handicap and the elements which compose it, particularly the social and the psychological as distinguished from the physical and medical elements; the proper functions and goals of rehabilitation; the relationship of disability to dependency, especially economic dependency; the part presently played and properly to be played by public financial aid under social insurance and public assistance in the process of rehabilitation; the determinative character of the reintegrative objective and the bearing upon it of liberty, equality, property, and dignity--these basic and urgently pressing questions have never been sufficiently analyzed by the responsible officials in vocational rehabilitation.

Until this whole pattern is changed, until a great deal is done to reorient the training and functions of rehabilitation workers; to strengthen guidance and counseling services; to improve techniques and focus rehabilitation attention on the placement of rehabilitants in competitive employment; and to remove legal, administrative, and other obstacles to the employment of the blind in the public service, the trades, professions, and common callings of the community--until that happy day, rehabilitation of the blind is likely to continue to be measured in inches and not in miles.

Americans are familiar with the unhappy divergence between creed and conduct in many phases of our national life. Myrdal's observation of the disparity between social equality as a cherished political norm and our unequal treatment of the Negro is but one instance of a pattern that is all too pervasive. The field of blind welfare provides another, one which has been less noticed but is not less conspicuous or significant.


1. Gabriel, The Course of American Democratic Thought 22 (1940).

2. Sumner, The Challenge of Facts and Other Essays 25 (Keller ed., 1914).

3. For illustrative statements of this doctrine see Johnson and Graham's Lessee v. McIntosh, 8 Wheat 543,572 (U.S. 1823); Story, Misc. Writings 74 (1835); Justice Matthews in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886); Justice Cordozo in Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319,325,328 (1937); see also Justice Murphy dissenting in Yamashita v. Styer 327 U.S. 1, 26 (1946).

4. Winston Churchill speaking at Fulton, Missouri, March 1946.

5. Under the general power of the states, often called the "police power," wrote Justice Barbour in City of New York v. Miln, 11 Pet. 102, 139 (U.S. 1837), "[I]t is not only the right, but the bounden and solemn duty of a state to advance the safety, happiness, and prosperity of its people, and to provide for its general welfare. . . ." Said Justice Field in Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27, 31 (1884), "[N]either the [Fourteenth] amendment--broad and comprehensive as it is--nor any other amendment, was designed to interfere with the power of that prescribe regulations to promote the health, peace, morals, education, and good order of the people, and to legislate so as to increase the industries of the state, develop its resources, and add to its wealth and prosperity."

6. See Meyer v. Nebraska, 263 U.S. 399 (1923).

7. Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33, 41 (1915). Justice Hughes there said, "It requires no argument to show that the right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community is of the very essence of the personal freedom and opportunity that it was the purpose of the amendment [Fourteenth] to secure."

8. Edwards v. California, 314 U.S. 160 (1941).

9. Truax v. Raich, supra note 7; Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578 (1897).

10. Merriam, The New Democracy and the New Despotism 84-85 (1939).

11. Justice Chase in Calder v. Bull 3 Dall. 386 (1798); Chancellor Kent, 2 Kent Comm. 1 (1827).

12. Braceville Coal Co. v. People, 147 Ill. 66 (1893).

13. DeTocqueville, Democracy in America 3 (1945 ed.).

14. tenBroek, Antislavery Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment (1951).

15. Barbier v. Connolly, 113 U.S. 27 (1885).

16. DeSchweinitz, People and Process in Social Security 56-57 (1948).

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]


by Marc Maurer

When I first heard of "Dialogue in the Dark," I suspected that it was the common variety effort to blindfold sighted people for the purpose of gaining recognition and raising funds. Such experiences often convince the sighted public that blindness is the terrible tragedy they had always imagined it to be. However, I was told by individuals who had been through the exhibit that the result was not negative but positive. Consequently I traveled to Montreal to try the exhibit myself.

"Dialogue in the Dark" is housed at Rozon Museum in downtown Montreal. It is based upon similar exhibits that had been created in several cities in Europe. The creator of the exhibit is Andreas Heinecke. The exhibit is precisely what it says--a dialogue in a completely darkened space. The guides for the exhibit are blind, and all of the experiences inside the exhibit occur with no light or assistance.

Participants proceed through four different areas. The first is intended to represent a garden with a gravel path, a wooden bridge, and a fountain. The second contains items to be identified by touch, including Braille, items of wearing apparel, ordinary household products, the mounted heads of animals, and a replica of Michelangelo's David. The third area is a street corner with cars parked along the street and parking meters. The sound of traffic in this area is pronounced. The guide directs that you wait until the traffic has diminished before crossing the street. There is of course no traffic, only a tape recording of traffic. The fourth and final stop on the tour is a cafe. Here a totally blind bartender sells soft drinks and other libations. Customers step to the bar, buy their drinks, and seat themselves for the dialogue in the dark. The conversation flows from questions of the participants, but the guide encourages discussion of the feelings of those who have examined without sight the artifacts in the exhibit. The emphasis in this discussion is on the ability of the blind and the alternative techniques used by blind people rather than the deprivation and tragedy that blindness is sometimes thought to represent.

It is clear from the responses to this "Dialogue in the Dark" that the public has considerable curiosity about the techniques used by blind people and about the perceptions that blind people have of the world around them. If this curiosity is to be satisfied, it is far better that the guides conducting the tour be knowledgeable about the techniques used by the blind and be well grounded in a positive philosophy of blindness. In fact, it is worth pondering whether the National Federation of the Blind should establish such a "Dialogue in the Dark." It is probably not possible to establish such an exhibit without some negative feedback. On the other hand, the questions about how blind people perform and what blind people perceive will remain unanswered unless we try to provide this information.

A number of the experiences of the dialogue are primarily positive. Here is an example from the Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1996. It is written by David Andrews, but not the Dave Andrews who until recently directed the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Here is what Mr. Andrews has to say:


"Dialogue in the Dark"
Journeying into the World of the Blind in Montreal

by David Andrews

For nearly two weeks I had been attending the Montreal World Film Festival, drinking in visual images from cultures as diverse as contemporary Iran, medieval Norway, and a community of Italian immigrants in early twentieth-century Brazil. Saturated with celluloid and in need of a respite, I headed off to the Just for Laughs Museum. I had no idea that what I'd find would not be humorous but rather profoundly moving, or that it would offer an opportunity to empathize, as film does--but without the use of one's eyes.

Housed in the Just for Laughs Museum at 2111 Saint-Laurent Boulevard is "Dialogue in the Dark," an exhibit imported from Europe and designed to give sighted people a glimpse into the world of the blind. I was fortunate there was space available, because the tours are limited to eight people and reservations are usually required. Somewhat reluctantly, I exchanged my attache case for a slender white cane with a red tip and a handle that curved into a hook. It would become my eyes for the next forty-five minutes. After being shown how to hold the cane and swing it in a sweeping arc in front of my feet, I was ushered into a room so dark that I couldn't see anything, not even the proverbial hand in front of my face. The last time I had been in such darkness was years earlier, deep in the heart of a cave. My eyes expanded until they felt as big as an owl's, seeking unsuccessfully for a glimmer of light. A voice spoke out of the black, first in French and then, for my benefit, in English, introducing himself as our guide. He, like all who guide visitors through the exhibit, was unsighted. We were meeting without having a chance to see him first, just as he was meeting us.

His voice would become a beacon to me, repeating over and over in thickly accented English, "No steps, no danger," encouraging me to be less tentative. Farther on where there actually were several shallow steps, he carefully pointed them out.

The special coordinator of the exhibit, Michael Kelley, explained later: "Every guide knows that they have to inform the visitors about those steps. We don't want to make it dangerous, but at the same time we don't want to make it too easy, because it would be less realistic."

It was startling to be stripped of sight, suddenly to have to learn a whole new way of orienting oneself to the world. It's an experience that most of us really don't have much basis for imagining. Our travels often take us to lands that are different from our familiar surroundings, but it's the same us doing the touring. Very rarely do we have an opportunity to explore what it's like to be changed ourselves, to have our means of perception radically altered, forcing our hearing and sense of touch to take over the work of our eyes.

As we explored an area patterned on a park, the darkness seemed to have swallowed up all points of reference. So when I reached into a pool of water that I didn't know was there, I found myself laughing out loud with delight. Here in the midst of what seemed like a vast emptiness was something familiar, even comforting. Feeling the water against my hand was a moment of recognition every bit as satisfying as seeing a beautiful fountain on a hot summer day.

This was an entirely new world. A wall was a friend that we could put our hand on and follow as it twisted and turned. We called out the names of objects with the delight of children, as we discovered them with our fingers, and our guide would tell us if we were right or wrong. I bumped into fellow visitors, people I didn't know, in a way that would have been awkward or embarrassing in the sighted world. Other people's canes knocked into my feet, as my cane knocked into theirs. But it was easy to be forgiving of each other.

After the park environment with its pool and bridge and the chirping sound of birds, we explored a tactual gallery with various objects hung on the wall for us to identify. (When I had a chance to see the room in light after the tour, the objects looked fairly ordinary, but to my fingers in the dark they had tremendous meaning.) From there we explored an area modeled on a city street corner. Behind these three environments was an overriding purpose: to prepare us for a fifteen- to twenty-minute conversation with our guide about his life as an "unsighted person." We would talk in a cafe-bar after ordering and paying for a cold drink--all still very much in the dark.

Because our guide's English was limited, one of the unsighted waiters came to talk with me. With so many barriers dissolved by the tour, the conversation flowed as it might only if one had known a blind person for years. I was able to ask questions that I wouldn't have dared to raise under other circumstances, but here it was possible because I had entered into an environment in which he, not I, was clearly the expert.

The special coordinator, Kelley, who lost his sight in a hunting accident at the age of fourteen, later said: "Often it's the first time any of us have talked to people on an equal footing, where we're not talked down to, patronized, or mollycoddled. And the people talk directly to us like human beings. It's wonderful. It's good for us. The guides' confidence has been boosted by this type of contact we have with our visitors. It's a great, great human journey. It's not just a handicap-awareness thing. It's almost like a piece of theater where the visitors and the guide are the actors. We're all participating. We're all living this experience."

At the end of the exhibit, we stepped out of total darkness to see a bench, dimly lit. It was a gentle transition for the eyes, but a shock to be seeing again. Involuntarily my hands continued to feel everything around them, as if they were not yet ready to surrender their newfound responsibility. To know a bench through one's fingers is very different from knowing it with one's eyes. I left the exhibit with a feeling that apparently is very common among visitors--that I was okay, I was still me, even when I wasn't able to see. It caused me to realize that there was much more to a person with a white cane than the fact that he or she can't see. But forty-five minutes in the dark also made it obvious that those who live without sight face enormous challenges. I was amazed that there was no self-pity in the people with whom I had spoken.

"Pity doesn't sustain itself for a long period of time," Kelley told me. "There may be self-pity in all of us when we first go blind. But I don't think it's a normal emotion just to feel sorry for yourself for a long period of time. I don't think it's a particularly special quality we have. It's just a quality of all human beings: We endure, we survive, we move on, and we become that new person. You find new ways around your obstacles. You overcome. That's the bottom line."

[PHOTO: The picture at the beginning of this article is of a little girl seated on playground equipment in her yard. CAPTION: Rachel Becker]


From the Editor: On December 27, 1995, the Frederick News Post in Frederick, Maryland, ran two stories about blind students in the local school system. The reporter, Karen Gardner, had worked on the project for months. She interviewed Barbara Cheadle, President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, for background and spent hours with the children about whom she was writing. Articles about blind children at the Christmas season will inevitably be tinged with sentimentality, but the underlying tough-mindedness of the youngsters and their parents shines through. Not surprisingly, Dan and Danielle Becker, parents of five-year-old Rachel, are active members of the NFB of Maryland's parents organization, and fifteen-year-old Christina Shorten is also a Federationist. Here are the two articles as they appeared in the Frederick News Post:

A Sense of Normalcy in a Blind World

by Karen Gardner

Rachel Becker doesn't see the green wreaths festooned with bright red ribbons decorating the homes in her Frederick neighborhood. She doesn't see the fat red bows topping sleds that herald the holiday season and winter at the same time.

Rachel didn't see the early snow that fell last month. And she doesn't see the strings of Christmas lights on the houses in her neighborhood, nor does she see the lights on her own family's tree.

But she can hear the bark of a neighbor's dog, the hum of an airplane above the din of the neighborhood children playing. She can hear the chirps of a bird in a tree. She can hear the crunch of snow under her shoes and feel its icy, grainy texture on her hands.

Rachel, five, has been blind since birth. Her parents, Dan and Danielle Becker, who have normal vision, try to make life much the same for their oldest child as it is for their other two children, who also see normally.

Inside her house one recent afternoon, Rachel was listening to Tales of Beatrix Potter on the VCR as she picked up the toys she and her little brother and sister played with. She stopped running around long enough to talk with a visitor.

"I like to play ring-around-the-rosy," she said. Her favorite movies are those that have songs she can sing along with. Cinderella and Snow White top the list. She attends morning and afternoon kindergarten at Waverley Elementary School to allow extra time for Braille and mobility instruction. After a full day she comes home thinking of food. "I always get hungry in school," she said.

"When she comes home from school, she likes to get with other kids," Mrs. Becker said. If she gets too restless, Rachel bounces on the trampoline in the basement. "When I get mad, I throw things on the floor," Rachel said. But in a moment of tenderness she said, "I like touching Mommy's face with my face."

Rachel has bilateral optic nerve hypoplasia, a condition that causes nearsightedness in some and blindness only in its most severe form. She has some light perception. She knows when the light's on, and doesn't like to be in a dark room. At the same time, she won't sleep with the light on, her mother said.

"I'm blind, but I can see my feet," Rachel said proudly. Whether she is imagining or can genuinely see her feet is hard to tell, her mother said. Rachel made another surprising observation not long ago. She knew when she was walking across a sprawling map in the schoolyard.

At other times her eyes itch or hurt. "Ouch, ouch," she said, rubbing her eyes. "My eyes are itching." It was a motion she repeated sporadically over two hours one evening recently.

Rachel takes karate, learning by touch. Her mom's thinking about signing her up for Girl Scouts, if Rachel hasn't started too many other activities when she starts first grade.

"She wrote a thank-you note to a friend the other day," her mother said proudly, as proud as any mother of a kindergartner who's learning to write. "I helped her compose it, but she told me what to write."

Soon Rachel will be writing her own notes on a slate and stylus, a Braille machine. Several years from now, she'll get a computer system that has a Braille keyboard with the capability of printing in Braille and in print. Rachel's dad, Dan Becker, said he and his wife and the school are learning by experience about raising and educating a blind child.

"They don't always know how much they can push her," he said. "We say, `Treat her like every other kid.'"

Knowing what to expect is a challenge for the Beckers. "It's something they don't have a lot of data on," Mr. Becker said. "But overall the teachers are really trying."

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Christina Shorten]

Visually Impaired Students Are Mainstreamed into Regular School

by Karen Gardner

Rachel Becker, like many five-year-olds, takes karate lessons, is learning to read, and loves to play games. She doesn't stand out from her kindergarten class at Waverley Elementary School. But when the class heads out to the playground, the cherubic blond child picks up her white cane.

Rachel is blind. But for Rachel and the forty-five other blind and visually impaired students in the Frederick County school system, life is pretty close to normal. "There's no reason why she can't go to regular school," said Charleen Evans-Thomas, visually impaired teacher for Frederick County schools.

That's the attitude most educators, and most parents, now take toward blind children. While these children were once shipped off to special schools far from home, today's blind children go to public schools, ride the school bus; take karate, dance, or other lessons; participate in Scouts; and watch television.

Yes, watch TV, and movies too. Rachel wears "Pocahontas" shoes, carries a "Lion King" backpack, and has favorite TV shows she listens to.

In school, while the other kids are learning to distinguish letters, Rachel is learning the Braille counterparts. When the other kids learn sign language, the teacher simply makes the sign in Rachel's hand, and Rachel learns it too.

She was talking as she walked into kindergarten class the week before school started. This was the school's meet-the-teacher day, and Rachel was an eager student. This wasn't her first experience at school, however. She spent the previous school year in a pre-kindergarten class. At age three she began taking speech and mobility lessons two days a week.

"I need a place to put my cane," she announced as she walked in. Rachel is a verbal child who is not afraid to express herself. When she was shown where to put it, she placed it in the slot and listened as the teacher aide described what she'd do in the coming school year.

"We get to meet friends, play games, learn songs, and the pledge of allegiance," she said when asked what she was looking forward to.

She went school shopping like any other eager kindergartner. "We went and got her hair cut and went and had lunch and picked out a backpack and a dress," said her mother, Danielle Becker. "It was a pretty exciting day." Blind children experience a much more normal life than they did as recently as twenty years ago, when the majority left home at a young age to attend state schools for the blind.

"I couldn't be separated from her," Mrs. Becker said.

"People suggested that I send her away, but she's my first baby."

"Federal law makes provisions for the visually impaired," said Celia Kirby, one of two vision specialists at the Frederick County Board of Education.

The law, passed nearly twenty years ago, specifies that blind and visually impaired students be included in regular public education wherever possible. Today most blind children are taught in public schools.

"The teacher does a lot of repeating, a lot of descriptions," said Connie Banes, assistant principal at Waverley.

Christina Shorten, fifteen and a sophomore at Brunswick High School, has spent her entire school career in the public schools, and can't imagine ever having gone away to school.

An A student, Christina entertains thoughts of becoming a diplomat or a business owner. For now she has set aside her ambition of becoming a lawyer, although in a real moment she admits that may change.

Her best friends are Melissa and Jocelyn, two students who sometimes interpret for her in class. Not that Christina needs much help. She is taking college-level biology, is a member of the school's debate and its academic teams, and on the student council.

"My favorite thing to do is read," Christina said. She's competent in Braille but prefers books on tape. Tapes of her favorite books, which are usually fantasy and science fiction, arrive via mail from the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and the Library of Congress. Postage is free.

"I'm not a sports person," she said. But she likes to swim, walk, and ride inner tubes.

Her past is checkered with academic awards. There's one for creativity that she's especially proud of. For a middle school project she drew plans for a computerized cookbook with a talking program. It's an invention she would someday like to see manufactured.

Christina cooks and helps with housework. General Electric provides Braille panels for free with any GE appliance, and her mother, Terri Shorten, said those have helped Christina do her share of chores.

She also babysits her brothers and the neighbor's children. And she'd like to get a part-time job proofreading Braille books. "So she can have her own spending money," her mother said.

Christina and Rachel get a few special services, but they spend as much time in regular classrooms as they do getting special education.

This dates back to the 1950's, when a large number of blind children became school age. Many of these children had been born prematurely. While these children would have died had they been born before World War II, technology was such that they could survive, but many were blind. Incubators were blamed, but the exact cause was never found. Schools for the blind couldn't accommodate this swell of children. Most of these children were middle class, because poorer families often couldn't afford the medical treatment that saved these children.

"There was no way these parents were going to let their children go uneducated," said Barbara Cheadle, spokeswoman for the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore and the mother of a blind son.

Most of these children were sent to public schools, making blind and visually impaired children among the first disabled students to be mainstreamed into regular education, she said.

Today, 85 percent of all children with vision problems go to public schools, Mrs. Cheadle said. While some visually impaired children can see with magnifying glasses, the truly blind learn to read by the Braille system. In Frederick five of the county's forty visually impaired students read totally by Braille. Others use a combination of magnifying glass and Braille or a magnifying glass.

"Braille is just a coded English," said Bill Van Buskirk, mobility specialist for vision-impaired students. Christina and Allen Huffman, another blind student, use the Braille 'n Speak, a word processor that has Braille keys but allows the student to print out an essay in either Braille or print.

Christina's $6,000 word processor was purchased through donations made to the school system. Rachel will be getting a Braille 'n Speak several years from now. Large-print and Braille books also come from the school's Vision-Impaired program. Most Braille texts are more than $1,000. For instance, Christina's advanced placement biology text is $1,300. It takes up several volumes.

The Braille American Heritage Dictionary, all thirty volumes of it, is placed in each school with a blind child. Blind students get more than help with reading skills in the schools. They learn how to cross a room, use the bathroom, walk the halls, and run on the playground. Younger children like Rachel will play beep-ball, listening for the beep to locate the ball.

Older children like Christina learn how to negotiate city streets, traveling to downtown Frederick to cross busy streets and to the malls to learn how to shop.

Shopping is nothing new to Christina, however. She shops with friends and is pretty adept at matching outfits, as long as she's told the color.

Eventually Christina will learn train and subway travel. These students learn through public schools, but often spend a week or two in the summer at the Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore.

There girls learn makeup skills; they also learn social skills that teach them how to get along in a sighted world. While many blind people use guide dogs, they are normally limited to adults.

"We try and work with the classroom teacher," Mr. Van Buskirk said. "Occasionally we'll pull a student out for Braille lessons, but they do not spend much time out of the classroom. At most, it's one hour, one period, out of a day."

Celia Kirby, another vision-impaired specialist who works with Mr. Van Buskirk, will attend Christina's biology lab class with her. "If something needs to be described for Christina, I can do it," she said.

Ms. Kirby and Mr. Van Buskirk also make sure teachers are aware of their students' needs. "You don't tell Rachel to line up over here," Ms. Kirby said. "Or you don't say look at the person in the blue dress."

"I had a visually impaired student in auto-body (class)," Mr. Van Buskirk said. "He ended up working on my car."

Allen Huffman, a seventh grader who lives in Frederick and attends Gov. Thomas Johnson Middle School, enjoys science, language arts, and chorus and has a typical adolescent's hunger for sweets.

Over a plate of brownies at his home, he said his goal is to learn Spanish and travel abroad. He also likes history and thinks he may become a history professor, if he doesn't become President.

His ten-year-old sister Emilie reads books to him, and he likes to listen to sports events on TV. He also listens to books on tape. Science fiction is his favorite.

He doesn't get out of doing chores. "I don't want to be a slob," he said.

Allen has been in public schools since kindergarten, in regular classes for every subject but math. This is his first year in a regular math class.

"At school a lot of my teachers will be scared because they don't know how to teach a blind person," he said.

"After I explain it to them, they understand I want to be treated like everybody else."

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Cindy Bennett]


by Sue Bennett

From the Editor: Mothers exhibit a widely recognized instinct for helping their children master new skills. Tying shoes, jumping rope, learning their letters--these are only a few of the important jobs moms take on to help their youngsters develop the skills they will need to succeed socially and scholastically. But what happens when the child is blind and the mother is not? When the letters are in Braille, what is a mom to do? Sue Bennett wrote the following cheerful little story as a report from the front line. Here it is:

It has been five years now since we were told that our daughter was blind. I was determined to learn Braille. I couldn't imagine being asked, "What is this word?" and having to say to my child, "I don't know." So I ordered the course "Just Enough to Know Better" and plunged in. I hung up the alphabet card over my kitchen sink and soon finished the first lesson. Only a short time later I felt discouraged. It seemed like I couldn't remember anything. At the ripe old age of thirty-three, I thought my memory was shot. Cindy was two years old then, and there seemed to be so many other things about her development which occupied my time. Learning Braille seemed impossible. I was frantic!

Fortunately, I mentioned my frustration to her preschool teacher at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, Jayne McDaniel. She wisely told me, "You have some time now...just wait and see how much you'll learn along with Cindy."

This is exactly what has happened since September of 1995. Cindy began kindergarten at Estes Elementary in Buncombe County School District, Asheville, North Carolina. Under the fantastic instruction of the Braille teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Shorkey, we have both been extremely busy. They are using the "Patterns" curriculum and modifying it somewhat to fit into the whole language approach. I can assure you that together we work hard. Cindy began reading words by the second month of kindergarten. I wish you could have seen the huge smiles on both of our faces this January, after spending forty-five minutes reading Green Eggs and Ham and finishing. What fun.

One night I was sitting next to Cindy on the sofa, and I thought of practicing the Braille alphabet on her leg using my fingertips. Letter by letter I gently pressed the Braille shape into her leg. Cindy loves this game. It was especially exciting for me that night, because I realized that I knew all the letters by heart. All this time I had kept my cheat sheet close at hand for reference, but now I didn't need it anymore. At least, not for letters and numbers. (Will I ever learn all those contractions and rules?) Later I practiced over and over on the Perkins Brailler, proud that my memory was still in good working order.

Cindy has been very bold about telling me what I don't know. Recently she corrected me with the reminder that an "f" was "from." I thanked her, of course. In early October she said in an exaggerated tone to Mrs. Shorkey, "My mother doesn't even know Braille." She doesn't say that anymore. She assures me, "I'll keep teaching you some more, Mom." And she has been pleasantly surprised to find out that I know a little more Braille than she does at this point and can actually teach her a thing or two. She's bound to catch up, however, and zoom ahead. But I'll be right on her heels!


by Carole Conrad

From the Editor: This week the President of the Ohio Student Division called to inquire about the resources available in another state for parents of blind children. She explained that friends of a friend had just given birth to a blind infant. I made a recommendation about whom to call for support and information, but since that conversation I have been thinking a good deal about the journey this young couple has just embarked upon.

The first and most difficult stage will be shock, disbelief, anger, and heartbreak. The pain of this period is intense, but it passes, usually fairly quickly for those, at least, who come in contact with the National Federation of the Blind. The next phase is usually a determined intention to do everything humanly possible to make up to the child for what he or she will miss visually throughout life. Then, as parents begin to discover that their blind child really can learn and do and enjoy life, there comes a period when it is easy to believe that this small person is truly remarkable, has extraordinary powers of observation or recollection, or is especially sensitive and understanding. The final step is the recognition that the blind child is by and large a normal youngster, complete with individual abilities and shortcomings.

These stages are not a neat series of plateaus; they are all part of an evolutionary process. In one moment a mother can discover that her blind child has just taken note of something in the audible environment that she herself has never before taken the time to listen to, and in the next she can circle back to attribute extraordinary powers of observation to that child for making sense of the familiar world without benefit of sight. Such moments of discovery can be life-changing in their very simplicity, because they hold out the promise of fulfillment and normality. Never mind that having stretched to catch a glimpse of one's child as a normal person, the parent slips back into wonder at her extraordinary gifts. The breakthrough has been made. The child is free to develop and grow normally.

For parents of blind children as well as for the children themselves, life is filled with such moments of discovery and joy as well as with the frustration and pain of being different. But it is rare for a mother to capture one of these moments and commit it to paper. Carole Conrad of Michigan managed exactly this last fall and sent the result, a letter to her daughter Sara, to Barbara Cheadle, Editor of Future Reflections, the quarterly magazine of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Because the magic of this moment of discovery as Mrs. Conrad described it seemed to have a universal quality, Barbara Cheadle passed the article on to the Braille Monitor for publication. Here it is:

Sara, the most exciting thing happened to me today! I want so much to tell you all about it and share my excitement with you, but at three years of age you wouldn't understand the significance of my discovery. So I'll share it with you in writing now--and perhaps in reading when you are older.

You were right, Sara; I heard the leaves fall today. I was sitting right here on our cement front steps, looking over our large front lawn, when I heard it. The autumn breeze was stiff, and the giant oaks that line our yard let go of their first dry, brown leaves of October. This they have done for hundreds of years--but today was different--at least for me--because I heard it.

Ever since we learned how seriously impaired your beautiful blue eyes were, I have tried to teach you more about our world. I've struggled to explain what clouds look like and why I can see across a pond but not across Lake Michigan. I've tried to tell you about the beauty of trees and the rich green of spring time. And oh, how we've argued. You say the trees are fighting; I say the wind moves them so that their branches bump into each other. You say the summer leaves are brown at the tree tops and green further down. I say all the leaves are green until fall, at which time they all turn to brown. And I've tried to explain that we don't hear leaves fall; we see them.

Today, as I sat alone on the step, I shut my eyes and listened. It was one of those rare moments when I didn't need to be anywhere or do anything. I just listened. And then I heard them. I heard the leaves rustle in the air as they fell--bumping into each other. When they reached their destination, they tumbled across each other as the breeze stirred them. They skidded stiffly across the paved driveway--scraping their thin yet rigid points. And acorns dropped from the sky to land on the grass with a soft but audible thud. I can hear without straining now. I just needed to tune down my own thoughts so that I could hear. My closed eyes filled with tears as I listened.

I have tried, oh so hard, to see as you do so that I can help you understand things as they really are. I have shut one eye and squinted the other nearly closed to try to experience what you see. But I can't. And I realized today that my objective was to teach you the difference between the incorrect perceptions you acquire and the reality that the rest of us observe. But today, when I heard the leaves fall (much as you probably hear them), I understood something. You have a lot to teach me, little girl. You hear things, feel things, and experience things in ways different--yet not always less correct--than I do.

I will never experience what you do. You always hear trains coming before anyone else. You continually amaze me when you identify the voices of individual children as they play together in our backyard. And only you can tell those neighborhood identical twins apart. You have something special, little Sara. You don't see much anymore, but God has given you perceptions that I can't understand. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your gift with me. Thank you for insisting that I the leaves.


From the Editor: Warren Figueriedo of Louisiana drew Barbara Cheadle's attention to the following story, which had appeared on the Internet October 30, 1995. Mrs. Cheadle, who edits Future Reflections, the quarterly magazine of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, was intrigued and contacted Bonnie Nyce, the teacher who had just won EconomicsAmerica's National Award for Teaching Economics and whose second-grade class made such a difference in one blind child's life.

According to Ms. Nyce's letter to Mrs. Cheadle, "Operation Care was an economics unit designed for a heterogeneous class of second graders. It evolved from the children's desire to raise money to purchase Brailled books for the Plains Elementary School Library.

"During the semester the students learned firsthand about many economic concepts: scarcity, opportunity, cost, resources, production, revenue, profit, interdependence, and specialization. They also became familiar with the concepts of earning, spending, and saving money. In addition, the students learned a good deal about sharing, individual differences, and community. Throughout the unit they had many opportunities to practice their math skills and become stronger readers and writers.

"Operation Care began when one student expressed concern for a fellow classmate. In the end it touched the whole community. None of us involved in this project will ever be the same as we were at the beginning, including the teacher," Ms. Nyce concluded.

"Knowing that twenty students now feel good about economics is very satisfying. My hope is that the children who participated in Operation Care will pursue further experiences in economics, assured that it is not a frightening topic but an interesting, relevant one that deserves attention at every level of learning." Here is the story that appeared on Business Wire, October 30, 1995: [Internet story]


A school library that couldn't afford books for a visually impaired second-grader sparked a remarkably effective economics lesson for his class and led to a prestigious award for the teacher.

Bonnie Nyce, whose project was one of five top winners of EconomicsAmerica's National Awards for Teaching Economics, teaches second grade at the Plains Elementary School in Timberville, Virginia. When one student pointed out that classmate Zach Shifflett, blind since birth, could only stand around during the class's weekly visit to the library, she saw an opportunity. Through her Operation CARE program (children learning about Braille reading and economics) the class raised more than $2,000 for the purchase of Braille books.

Operation CARE received one of five first-place awards in the thirty-third annual competition, sponsored by the International Paper Company Foundation and administered by the National Council on Economic Education. A total of seventy-five teachers from eight states won recognition for programs in primary, intermediate, junior high, senior high, and an open (multi-grade) grouping.

Zach and his classmate Ryan Long accompanied their teacher to the EconomicsAmerica awards luncheon here today. The awards were presented by Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz, chairman, President's Council of Economic Advisers, who also explained why economic education should play a crucial role in the educational process.

Through Ms. Nyce's Operation CARE economics curriculum, her students learned--among other things--to distinguish goods from services and needs from wants. The proceeds of the school calendars they ultimately created and sold went toward the purchase of more than 200 books with both Braille and print text for their school and local libraries.

In addition to recognizing outstanding teachers, the awards program enables educators to share their creative and effective practices with others and encourages a growing number of teachers to include economic concepts in their classes.

Teachers who would like more information on the awards program can call the National Council on Economic Education at 800-338-1192, extension 388.

First Place Awards: Primary, Bonnie L. Nyce, Plains Elementary School, Timberville, Virginia

Operation CARE

When the second-grade students at Plains School discovered a problem affecting a classmate, they used economics to solve it. Every week, nineteen of the twenty pupils checked out books from the school library to take home--but one student could not do so. Blind from birth, he could only "read" Brailled books, which the library did not have. The class produced and sold a school calendar, netting a profit of more than $2,000. They then purchased 200 double vision books that combine print and Braille, so that both sighted and blind children may use them.

Nyce integrated the project into every area of teaching: math, art, reading, writing and spelling skills improved, and the opportunity to use Braillers and fax machines provided technological experience. Teams of seven-year-olds gave scripted talks to the PTA, the school board, and even a class from a nearby college. They learned about goods and services, how to handle a bank account and pay bills and even the value of taxes in providing for citizens' needs. Most important, though, was the concern they demonstrated in assisting another student to become a full participant. "Children learning About Braille Reading and Economics (CARE) was a success from start to finish," said Nyce. "They learned to appreciate differences"--a perspective that will be of value for the rest of their lives.


From the Editor: In the blindness field the notion that sighted employers frequently discriminate against blind job applicants is a widely recognized reality. But few things in human interactions are simple, and distressingly often the blind job-seeker compounds the problem without meaning to do so. The following story demonstrates this point with painful clarity. It also illustrates what a determined rehabilitation counselor with strong ties to the National Federation of the Blind can do to rescue the situation. The author's name has been withheld in order to disguise the identity of the young woman whose job was at risk. Here is the story:

This is the story of what eventually happened to a little girl whose family denied her blindness and, by so doing, taught her to deny it. Anne is not her real name.

"When I was a child, my father always told me I was clumsy," Anne recalled. It had never occurred to her that there might be a connection between her supposed clumsiness and her limited vision and that her family could have obtained assistance for her in learning the techniques to help her move more gracefully. "Now, I wonder how long my eyes were this bad," she concluded her brief, painful reminiscence.

When she first entered college, she did not know that she was blind. Therefore, she had no reason to know anything about services which might have helped her. She knew no blind college students or mature blind adults who could have given her the benefit of their experience. Not surprisingly, before long she was suspended for academic insufficiency. When Anne tried again, "My family did not support me," she admitted. "They couldn't see why I would do any better the second time around."

"It took me eight years to graduate," she continued, because reading small print was virtually impossible for her and she knew no alternative techniques. Her student teaching was an extremely negative experience.

Toward the end of her college education, her campus minister suggested that she might be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services and insisted that she apply. Her first counselor retired shortly after opening her case. Contact with her second counselor, who was blind, was equally brief. He was promoted to a managerial position in another office, and after graduation Anne too moved to another part of the state.

Armed with her bachelor's degree in early childhood education, she began interviewing for teaching positions in day care centers, which was the work she wanted. She liked children and enjoyed working with them.

She did not consider herself blind. Consequently she saw no reason to think through issues such as whether to disclose her disability, how to do so, and what reasonable accommodations she might request. "I don't have a vision problem," she told school administrators; "I just have glaucoma."

In May of 1995 she accepted a teaching position at a day care center. She did so with some reservations--reservations she did not share with her new employer. "I wasn't sure about working with two-year-olds," she told me. "I would have been more comfortable with children a little older."

Shortly after she began working, I established telephone contact with my customer, as the governor mandates that rehabilitation counselors call those we serve. "This will be a very easy case," my supervisor assured me. "Anne has already had a low-vision examination, and the specialist recommended a binocular bioptic system. The decision was to order it locally so that she wouldn't have to go back and forth for appointments. All you have to do is authorize the follow-up examination and the bioptics. Once you do that, you can close the case in sixty days, if all goes well." Although at that time I had had my job with the state agency for less than eight months, I had been a vocational rehabilitation counselor for more than six years.

Determinedly I pushed to the back of my mind a well and often learned lesson: beware when anyone tells you the case will be easy!

My new customer was anything but eager to meet me. Under no circumstances would she take work time for our meeting, and she absolutely did not want me on her work premises. I thought I understood. I had never been willing to give my vocational rehabilitation counselor an instant of my work time, and he had certainly been unwelcome on my work premises.

Although I thought I understood how Anne felt, I was unwilling to authorize any services without meeting her at least once in person. The length of her work day made it impossible to schedule either an early morning or late afternoon appointment at work. Reluctantly she agreed to meet with me during her lunch hour but insisted that she would leave the building for the meeting. She said she was afraid that the children would be either afraid of or allergic to my guide dog. It never occurred to me that she was actually afraid of her employer's learning about the meeting. She did not want anyone to see me and ask questions about my presence. She did not want her colleagues to know that she was receiving blindness-related services.

Anne did not refuse to go for her follow-up examination. However, she did remind me that she was a brand new employee and really could not afford to take time off from work, even when she had enough leave to do so. She added that she would be limited to times when enough other staff were available to assume her duties. She would let me know when it was convenient. She asked me not to call her at work. I respected her wishes, and as a result I waited too long.

Once she began work, problems started occurring. The staff turned to a behavioral consultant to assist Anne because discipline problems were occurring with alarming regularity in her classroom. She paid no attention to the consultant's suggestions, however, and the situation deteriorated. Despite numerous warnings, she repeatedly left dangerous objects--sharp scissors and toxic substances such as bleach and other cleaning solutions--within easy reach of curious two-year-olds. She tripped over and stepped on little children as she moved around her work space.

Sometimes, when she put down cots so the children could take naps, she bumped them or even hit them on the head. Also she made no attempt to familiarize herself with her employee handbook. As a result, without recognizing that she was doing so, she frequently failed to adhere to the center's rules, policies, and procedures. Most of the administrative staff viewed this behavior as a combination of total incompetence, immaturity, and complete disregard for the safety and welfare of the children.

Five months after she began work, a crisis occurred. One eventful day, when Anne was unable to wear her contact lenses, three children escaped from her supervision and proceeded, each in his own way, to seek his fortune. The first one's idea of fun was to lock himself in the classroom and make all his buddies wait outside until the teacher located a key. The second fugitive chose an unauthorized elevator ride for his adventure. Another staff member caught him and thwarted his bid for freedom. The third decided this was an opportune time to play with the telephone. He succeeded only in interrupting an important telephone call the director was making.

The administrative staff was outraged. These incidents were merely the last in a long line of concerns parents had been expressing. The director, who appears to be a genuinely caring woman, did not want to believe this crisis stemmed from deliberate carelessness or neglect. She asked the teacher if these things were happening because she could not see the children. Anne denied the allegation.

Still unwilling to believe that she had deliberately neglected the children in her care, the director requested a letter from Anne's ophthalmologist. The director wanted to know if, in the ophthalmologist's opinion, Anne had any visual limitations which would negatively affect her ability to work safely with children. Anne urged her ophthalmologist to write a letter assuring the director that no such limitations existed. He complied.

The combination of Anne's denial and this letter convinced the entire administrative staff that Anne had deliberately violated safety policies. They placed her on probation for three months. She was demoted to the rank of assistant teacher, and her salary was decreased by 20 percent. The administrative staff then reminded her orally of the center's specific prohibition against communicating salary information to any of her coworkers.

Initially Anne confided in no one. However, when she returned for a visit to her former college, she confided in her campus minister, who encouraged her to investigate her legal rights.

Anne had still not learned whom she could trust. Consequently, after her visit with her campus minister, she told several coworkers of her intention to investigate her legal rights. She also told them about her salary decrease and how she felt about it. Four of them reported to the administrative staff that Anne intended to sue. That was how her coworkers interpreted her remarks.

The administrative staff then questioned Anne about this intention, and she chose not to be forthcoming. As a result, the administrative staff disbelieved everything she said, including her truthful assurance that she had no intention of suing anyone. In December the administrative staff put Anne on probation for the second time. This time her offense was "negative, non-supportive behavior." Anne finally called me in mid-December to request a meeting. "I want to tell you some things that have been happening on my job" was all she would say.

We met shortly after Christmas, but she did not tell me everything because she did not know all the facts, let alone how to put them together. Since she did not consider blindness an issue, I still do not know why she decided to tell me as much as she did. I, however, was convinced that her blindness was the key issue. The facts she could tell me posed too many questions that I could not answer. Was she a competent teacher? I did not know. Observing her in her classroom and talking with her supervisors would reveal the answer.

Was this an employment-discrimination case? I would have to consult a competent attorney. Fortunately, I knew several lawyers who could advise me, at least in general terms. The most helpful of these was Charlie Brown, Assistant General Counsel at the National Science Foundation. He defined the possible issues in terms I could easily understand and communicate to Anne.

Was this situation blindness-related? I was inclined to believe that much of Anne's problem stemmed from her ignorance of alternative techniques. I knew they existed, but I did not personally have specific suggestions for working with small children. I recognized that I would have to consult an expert, and fortunately I knew of one. I had not actually met Carla McQuillan, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon; but I knew that she directed a day care center and had been involved in the day care profession for many years. I also knew she had had to fight to achieve a place for herself in the field. I consulted several people I knew, and they all assured me that she would do what she could to help.

When I contacted Mrs. McQuillan, her generosity overwhelmed me. She took time to talk on the phone with Anne and me. She offered to build extra time into an upcoming business trip to meet Anne in person. I considered it extremely important for Mrs. McQuillan to meet Anne's supervisor and hear from her what she perceived the problems to be. Mrs. McQuillan felt strongly that the best way she could help Anne was to observe her teaching. Anne's initial response was totally negative. Eventually, however, Mrs. McQuillan and I persuaded her to allow me to contact the director. I promised to make the visit appear to be a routine agency requirement. I knew my supervisor would back me up when I explained to the director our requirement to check with the employer before closing a case.

But Hell hath no fury like an employer scorned. In accord with Anne's request, I called the day care center and asked to speak with the director. Although she picked up the phone, so did her ultimate supervisor, the owner of the day care center. He introduced himself and participated in most of the ninety-minute discussion that followed. He was not merely furious; he was livid. As far as he was concerned, Anne had been lying to everyone for eight months. She had never told anyone that she was blind; and, as far as he was concerned, she had been hired under false pretenses. "The day care field is no place for a blind person," the owner insisted. "There is too much liability. I'm too old to be sued. If something happens to one of the children because Anne can't see, no matter how understandable it is, no jury would see it that way."

At one time that attitude would have confounded me. I might have put day care workers into the same category as drivers and pilots. In other words, I might have accepted the owner's contention that day care was an impossible profession for a blind person. More recently I might have questioned his assertion, but would have had no answers for him. I still had no answers for him, but I now refused to be outmaneuvered. I told him that Anne and I had been in contact with a blind person who taught in and directed a day care center. "I do not have the specific answers you require because I am not a day-care professional," I admitted. "However, Mrs. McQuillan will have concrete solutions for specific situations, and she is the expert."

We then spent a considerable amount of time discussing the distinction between lying and denial. Finally I succeeded in planting the possibility in the owner's mind that Anne had not been lying, that she had told him the truth as she saw it. Grudgingly he began to entertain the possibility that it might have been a case of denial rather than lying, but that did little to diminish his hostility. Work was not a place to waste time struggling with denial and other emotional problems, he pointed out. "We're just about out of time," he continued. "If you cannot propose an immediate solution, Anne is going to have to start over somewhere else."

He made it clear that he wanted no meetings. He was unwilling to negotiate at all because, he maintained, Anne planned to sue him. "She's not negotiating in good faith," he insisted. "She's saying, `I want to negotiate, but if I don't get everything I want, I'll sue.'"

I decided to pursue the notion of good faith. "It works both ways," I suggested. "My honest impression, based on what I know so far, is that she would rather take any other action than sue. However, if she decides to sue, your willingness to meet with us will inevitably be regarded by the court as a good faith effort." I elaborated on that theme and, I admit, had a good time being convincing on that point. I was on safe ground because this was an issue I had already discussed with Mrs. McQuillan.

Never had I played for such high stakes. I love advocacy. It is exciting, even thrilling, to help a customer get the right training, money for transportation, or the right equipment to do a job. But this was different. I had never helped a customer fight to keep her job. Anne had a lot to lose, and I was afraid emotionally. Intellectually, however, I had strong reason to think we would win. I believed in Carla McQuillan. I believed in Anne. And I believed that the entire situation was salvageable if all of us could agree that there was reason to work together. Mrs. McQuillan and I met with Anne, the director, and the administrator (the owner's wife). Initially the hostility was so intense even Mrs. McQuillan, a seasoned negotiator, had to struggle to penetrate it. My plan was to listen and let Mrs. McQuillan work her magic. But what actually happened was that I brought up each issue, which she then addressed in detail.

By the end of the meeting Anne had agreed to use check lists to make certain she had completed all daily required routine procedures. She agreed to put away cleaning solutions immediately after using them, even if the children were not in the room. She agreed to check her classroom surfaces much more carefully, even if that meant walking through the entire work area and tactilely examining each surface. She agreed to receive mobility training so that she could use her cane to move through her work area more safely. She agreed to be honest about her blindness and ask for help with tasks requiring vision. She agreed to read her handbook and adhere to the center's policies, rules, and procedures. Finally, she agreed to complain about her job only to people not associated with the day-care center.

The director and administrator agreed to give her important reading material either by enlarging the print or reading it onto tape. They also agreed to give her medical leave to get her visual aids and allow mobility instruction to occur on the work premises. In addition, they agreed not to make any further issue of the cot problem. It did not occur frequently, and sighted staff also occasionally bump the children when putting the cots down. They agreed to give my customer more frequent information about her performance. Finally, and most important, the director and administrator agreed not to require instant miracles.

I agreed to schedule the low-vision follow-up as quickly as possible and did so before leaving the day-care center that day. I also agreed to send in the orientation and mobility specialist on an emergency priority basis and to monitor the situation closely. Mrs. McQuillan agreed to devote an extra day entirely to working with Anne in her classroom and making recommendations to improve her performance. She also agreed to send the administrative staff some literature and to be available in the future by telephone for consultation.

"I think this is an excellent move," the administrator said to the director at the end of the meeting. "Carla is an exceptional person." I do not know if I was intended to hear that comment. I was on the telephone arranging the low-vision appointment, but I certainly agreed with the sentiment.

Mrs. McQuillan spent the promised day with Anne and her supervisors. Originally she and I had mixed feelings about the outcome. Anne's behavior disappointed us in several ways. She was unwilling to accept an assignment from her supervising teacher to lead a group activity so that Mrs. McQuillan could observe her. This proved to be a case of genuine nervousness. It also appeared at first that she was unwilling to sit down at the end of the day and listen to Mrs. McQuillan's criticisms. However, once she settled down, her attentiveness and genuine interest were apparent.

After Mrs. McQuillan's visit Anne surprised us by following through with her agreement to accept mobility training. We feared she would back out because her former mobility training experience had been so embarrassing. "I've been working my butt off the last two weeks," she told me the day we went to her low-vision appointment. "I think the best thing that happened because Carla came is that I can now say `I'm blind,' just say it," she said. "I used to say that I had a visual impairment."

Anne continues to receive no support from her family. Her father, who lives in her area, does not want her to use a cane or any conspicuous visual aids such as bioptics, which according to him would make her look blind. I do not think she looked forward to her low-vision follow-up examination because her first visit to such a specialist had not been a particularly pleasant experience. However, I requested and received support from her employer to take a little more work time so that we could visit a specialist who might make her feel more comfortable. He was genuinely interested in her situation, and her response to him was extremely positive. I think she is looking forward to receiving her bioptic system. We hope it will allow her to keep better track of the children and what they are doing as they move around their classroom. She really wants to read normal print, and the close-work lens being put in her bioptic system appears to make that possible.

"Have you talked to Charlie since our meeting," she asked on the way back from the low-vision exam. When I answered affirmatively, she wanted to know what he thought. I suggested she might want to meet him herself and find out. "I'll keep in touch with you at least once a week now," she said as she got out of the car. "Now I don't have to be afraid to call you, even when I'm at work."

I understand that the director is pleased with Anne's efforts since our meeting. When Mrs. McQuillan last spoke with the administrator, they discussed the staff meeting in which Anne disclosed her blindness. The administrator described it to Mrs. McQuillan as an incredible bonding experience for everyone involved.

Will Anne retain her job? I don't know, but thanks to Carla McQuillan she has a fighting chance. Have we changed any attitudes about blindness? That, too, is impossible to answer with certainty, but my inclination is to say that we have given Anne's employer cause for reflection. At least the situation is clearer and more honest than it was, and that is a big step in the right direction.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan]


by Kenneth Jernigan

From the Editor: The following article is the title story in the NFB's newest book in the Kernel Book series of paperbacks. Here it is:

When you come right down to it, most people give more attention to food and things related to eating than to almost anything else. At least that's the way it is with me. My wife Mary Ellen and I live in a big house, and the biggest room in it is the dining room. We like to entertain, and I like to cook on the charcoal grill.

My wife is sighted, and I am blind; but that hasn't changed the fact that our roles in the food department are what once would have been called "traditional." She generally takes responsibility for organizing the kitchen and doing most of the cooking, and I handle the barbecuing and related outside chores. I also have a number of specialty dishes that I like to prepare--a mean kettle of butter beans, a unique homemade salad dressing, and an occasional stew or soup.

As to setting the table, she probably does more of it than I do, but either of us will take care of it as needed. The point is that we do a lot of cooking and have a great many guests and that blindness (except for a few specialized techniques we have devised) makes relatively little difference in how we function.

But you might think otherwise if you heard some of the conversations that occur. Not long ago, for instance, a sighted friend of mine was at our home for dinner; and, before we went to the table, I was putting batteries into a talking clock. I use the clock (which will tell me how many seconds have gone by) to time the burgers on the charcoal, and its batteries were dead. As will sometimes happen in such cases, the plate that covers the batteries was acting as if it didn't want to slide back into place. My friend said:

"Here, I'll do that." Saying this, he reached for the clock.

"That's okay," I said. "I'll take care of it."

Up to that point, my friend's behavior was, at the very worst, maybe a little pushy. But his next comment was more than that.

"All right," he said, "I'll let you do it. I know how independent you like to be."

What kind of response should I have made? Certainly I shouldn't have become upset or angry, and I didn't. In fact, I passed off what he said with a smile and a general flow of conversation. But I wonder how he would have felt if the circumstances had been reversed. Suppose I had gone to his home and behaved exactly as he did in mine.

He was a guest in my house, a house I had demonstrated the competence to buy and pay for. We were dealing with my clock and my batteries, a clock and batteries I had bought and paid for. The task was not difficult. The cover went on almost immediately, but even if that hadn't been the case, my friend's conduct was inappropriate.

Even though he knows me quite well and often almost embarrasses me with his praise of my ability when we are talking with mutual acquaintances, he still thought that my blindness meant that I couldn't put a simple cover-plate on a clock. Moreover, I am sure he felt that there was no impropriety in his statement about my "liking to be independent." But if I had been in his home and had reached for his clock as he did for mine, and had then said to him, "All right--you do it; I know how independent you like to be," he would have thought I was losing not only my manners but also my mind.

On another occasion that same friend (and he is a friend) was having dinner at my home, and when I started to pour the coffee, he reached for it, saying: "Here, let me pour that."

Suppose I had been in his home and he had started to pour the coffee, and further suppose that I had reached for it without so much as a by your leave. He would have felt that I was overstepping the bounds of the relationship between guest and host, and he would have thought it doubly inappropriate since I am blind.

His tone and words were those you might use in dealing with a small child, but he was in no sense trying to put me down. He is fond of me, and we're the best of friends. Incidentally, if you wonder how I pour coffee, how I know when the cup is full enough, I do it by listening and by long experience in knowing how heavy the cup feels as the liquid goes into it. It's a simple matter, just one more technique that has become automatic with time and use.

My friend's behavior (not just what he said but also the attitude behind it) illustrates to perfection the dilemma we as blind people face. Very often our friends and associates treat us as if we were children, and not very competent children at that. If we object, we appear to be proving the point of our immaturity. And if we do nothing, we permit the misconception to remain unchanged. But the situation is not static.

We are making steady progress. Day by day and step by step we are changing what it means to be blind.

The public misunderstandings with which we deal are often not grim. In fact, they can be downright funny. I think of the time when I went to a cafeteria where you carried your tray through the line but a waitress then took it to your table. I was with a sighted associate, and both of us had put iced tea on our trays. When we got to the table and the waitress had put our trays down and was turning away, I reached out toward my plate and turned my tea glass over. It made a mess.

The waitress was very gracious about it and said she would bring me another. She did--but just as she turned around and was leaving, my sighted friend reached across my tray (probably to get salt or pepper) and hit my tea glass and turned it over. The waitress heard the splash and turned around.

In a very solicitous voice she said: "I'm sorry. I'll get you another glass."

Do you think I told her that I hadn't spilled that second glass of tea, that it was my sighted friend who had done it? Certainly not. She wouldn't have believed me and would probably have thought that I was just embarrassed.

"No," I told her, "I think I'll just drink this glass of water. I think I wasn't meant to have tea today." Still insisting that she would bring me more tea, the waitress left--but I am sure that she was puzzled by our prolonged laughter. Explanations wouldn't have helped. The incident brightened our day.

I remember an evening almost twenty years ago when a sighted professor of journalism and his six-year-old son were my dinner guests. We were cooking on the charcoal, and I was explaining to the professor that you can tell when your hamburgers are done by timing them and by how hot your fire is.

I was showing him how the burgers are put into a wire rack with a handle on it, which makes them easy to turn. When they are done on one side, you simply lift the rack and turn it over.

He wanted to know how I could keep the rack straight on the grill, and I explained that I do it by touch. You can even touch a hot stove without burning yourself if you do it quickly. I illustrated by touching the top of the hot grill, hitting it lightly and then quickly taking my fingers away. The professor seemed thoroughly convinced that the technique would work. After all, he was watching me do it. But when his six-year-old son decided to try it, he wasn't so sure.

"That grill's hot!" he said. "Be careful! Don't do that! You'll burn yourself!"

The boy (such are the ways of children) was ecstatic.

"Chicken!" he cried to his dad. "Chicken!" He danced to the other side of the grill and kept tapping the top of it with his fingers. I was laughing and doing the same thing, and by and by, the professor was trying it too. I then said to him, "Now, let's tap the glowing charcoal."

The boy was all for it and skipped out of his father's reach. I hoped he was mature enough not to burn himself, and he was. It wasn't long before he, his dad, and I were playing the game of quickly and lightly tapping the glowing coals.

There is no great virtue, of course, in tapping a hot grill with your fingers, but it does make the point that visual techniques are not the only ones that can be used in the activities of daily living. There are many others that work just as well. And, by the way, I doubt that my friends (the professor and his son) will ever forget the experience. Most alternative techniques are not as dramatic as tapping the charcoal, but they can be just as effective.

The real problem of blindness is not the blindness itself--not the acquisition of skills or techniques or competence. The real problem is the lack of understanding and the misconceptions which exist. It is no accident that the word "blind" carries with it connotations of inferiority and helplessness.

The concept undoubtedly goes back to primitive times when existence was at an extremely elemental level. Eyesight and the power to see were equated with light, and light (whether daylight or firelight) meant security and safety. Blindness was equated with darkness, and darkness meant danger and evil. The blind person could not hunt effectively or dodge a club. In our day society and social values have changed.

In civilized countries there is now (except perhaps in certain American cities) no great premium on dodging a club, and hunting has dwindled to the status of an occasional pastime. The blind are able to compete on terms of equality in the full current of active life. The primitive conditions of jungle and cave are gone, but the primitive attitudes still linger.

Even so, we who are blind have come farther in the last thirty or forty years than ever before in all of recorded history. This is so largely because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind, which has done more than any other single thing to help make life better for blind people. And we are only at the threshold.

For the blind of this country tomorrow is bright with promise. We believe in the future; we believe in ourselves; and we believe in the goodwill of our sighted friends and associates. We will put the batteries in our clocks; we will pour coffee for ourselves and others; and we will tap the charcoal--but we will do it quickly and with a light touch.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Walker]


by David Walker

From the Editor: The following article is taken from the Winter, 1996, edition of The Blind Missourian, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. David Walker, who lives in Jefferson City, is an active member of the Missouri affiliate and a deeply committed Braille user. Like many others of us who were not given an opportunity to learn the code as small children, he knows from painful experience the advantages of Braille and the problems caused by having poor or nonexistent Braille skills. This is what he says:

When listening to Patricia Morrow's speech at our 1995 convention and reading it again in The Blind Missourian, I felt compelled to write about my own experiences with developing skills for use in college and in adult life. As I listened to her comments on the disadvantages of recording classes, I wondered if Patricia had been sitting behind me in class at Michigan State University.

I grew up as a legally blind child with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in Michigan, and my brother and I did not attend a residential school for the blind. Jim and I would not have been taught Braille at that time, anyway, because we had too much usable vision. We went through school as sighted kids with a more difficult task in reading. We tracked many miles of ink print on the ends of our noses and faced much ridicule when walking up to the board to read what was written on it. Nevertheless, we stuck it out, probably because our ophthalmologist gave my parents good advice regarding our development and growth. He told my parents, "Don't take them by the hand and lead them, because you'll never let go." That was fairly advanced thinking about blindness in the late forties. I'm glad my parents took that advice to heart and mind and launched us on a positive path in life. I hope parents of blind children today will read that statement and nurture in their children a sense of personal responsibility and not give them a hand to depend on.

In high school I did most of my reading as I have described, but when the lessons got too long and my eyes became fatigued, reliable classmates appointed by teachers took over. Large print texts were rare, and Braille was not offered, so standard print was what I dealt with. At home reading was always encouraged, and I enjoyed reading books and playing educational games. When my eyes got tired, my parents or sister would help by reading the rest of the assignments or reading a while to allow my eyes to rest so I could continue. The basic approach was to encourage me to read until I needed visual back-up: independence first, then intervention when absolutely necessary. This was the case whether it was school or leisure reading.

I also wrote out assignments independently with soft lead pencils or dark pen and ink. In school this was sometimes a help to a nearby classmate who was looking for the right answer and could easily read my large and dark writing. I was not a spectacular student, but I did get the right answers now and then. Once in a math class I got the highest score on a test (ninety-four), and the guy sitting at the table to my right got the second highest score of eighty-six, although he was not a good math student. He grinned and said, "Thanks" when he got his test back. At home I did my own writing, but for long reports when my eyes tired, I would have to dictate to my sister or mother and they would write on the faint blue lines of the paper.

Mom did not cut any slack on neatness or spelling. This was very good discipline for me. In sixth grade I was in the top six spellers in the school. I also loved to play Scrabble with my mom and sister, but Mom and I usually faced off since we usually powdered my sister. I usually looked up words on my own with a magnifying glass, but if my eyes couldn't handle the strain, I would ask my sister, Dad, or Mom to do it, but I had to spell the word out: no free words.

In school I had to give book reports, read from the textbook, and do chalkboard work like everyone else. Teachers and students had to tolerate my slow reading, but we did it. Sometimes I got teased or downright abused verbally for being nearsighted, but not too often.

Because of my great difficulty with reading large amounts of material in high school, I never aspired to attend college. I liked biology and entertained the idea of studying biochemistry, but the thought of all that reading and writing discouraged me. My first semester of ninth grade I wanted to take a wood shop class, but my parents and counselor prearranged a typing class for me without my agreement. I resented that plan then but now appreciate the skill I learned. That was my first protest against custodial treatment. True, it was done with my interests and future in mind, but I was not included in the decision. However, the skills I learned in the class came in handy when I finally went to college, needed typing for doing NFB work and for jobs, and eventually took up computer training.

My high school courses focused on industrial arts, but when I learned about recorded books, I decided I would go on to college. At this point I was told that I would never need Braille, but my first year at a community college I learned how wrong the experts had been.

I was on my own that first year. Through the use of the local reading service for the blind, special glasses, and legal pads with dark markers, I managed to earn a position on the dean's list. It was during that year, as my vision started decreasing more rapidly, that I realized I was facing a change in my future which could not be avoided. I would need to learn Braille. Although I could still read visually, albeit with great limitations, the progressive nature of RP would inevitably bring me to the day when I would have to use a different method of reading and writing. I did not want to get caught in a void in which I could no longer read visually and did not know Braille. I decided it was best to learn Braille before I got caught in that void.

I applied for Braille lessons through the Michigan rehabilitation agency and learned Braille in three months. Then, right after that, I got my typing skills tuned up again while continuing to take classes. It was fun. I would take my Braille books with me to class. I would practice reading on the bus and between classes. As soon as I had Grade II Braille in place in my mind, I began using it for more and more things. I wanted to learn it as quickly and thoroughly as possible so I would be as proficient in Braille as I could be when I got to Michigan State University, where academic demands would be greater.

I actually enjoyed learning Braille. It was a challenge, and students at college were interested in what it was and what could be done with it. I started out labeling tapes, then writing short notes for classes, then complete texts of speeches. I remember feeling incredibly slick when I gave a speech using brief notes on index cards and not putting my nose on large print notes. That speech earned me high marks on eye contact.

By the time I reached the campus of Michigan State, I had my Braille skills well in place. I was not a rapid reader of Braille, probably because of my late start in learning it and perhaps some loss of sensitivity due to industrial work, but I used it as much as I could. Despite my slow reading speed, I could really bang Braille out on a Perkins. All of my drafts for reports, term papers, and letters to my brother and fiancee were done in Braille. But despite my determined effort to use Braille, my reading and note-taking skills were below survival level. Just as in community college, I recorded all my classes, then listened to them again in my room. I did devise a method of reducing re-listening time by patching cassettes to open-reel while doing something else, then playing them back at a faster, variable speed. But that took up three tape recorders and set-up time.

My only justification for doing all this was that I read and wrote too slowly to handle the course work efficiently. I had to survive with what I had. If I had learned Braille at an early age, I could have been a rapid reader, but I didn't have those skills back then. Nevertheless, I used Braille to the maximum wherever I could, and that helped me survive in college. I remember turning in a final term paper by handing my twenty-three pages of Braille to the professor and telling him he would have to get a blind person to read it to him just as I got a sighted person to read his handouts to me. It was a great kick to see him stammer and say, "I guess I can empathize with you now." He grinned and sighed when I handed him the eight-page print version he had requested of all students.

I remember doing an oral report on the Civil Rights Act for a labor economics course. When I showed up at the professor's office with 120 pages of Braille notes from research, he gasped an expletive and said that, if I had put that much time into the research, he would give me an automatic "A." I respectfully declined and said I would rather be graded on my presentation than on a thick notebook. I received a 3.5 on the oral report. Those notes were taken in Braille from tape recordings I made with a reader at the library. Again, had I learned Braille earlier and developed better speed, I could have eliminated the double listening time and enjoyed a more active social life. Many projects did evolve to straight Braille note taking without recording which in turn developed into Braille skills on the job after college.

Today Braille is a primary part of my life. Even though I read most of my magazines and books in recorded form, I get many of my reference manuals and catalogs in Braille. I keep records of equipment and addresses in Braille and keep a slate and stylus at each phone in our house. I label all important papers with Braille to indicate topic and date and maintain our checking account records in Braille.

I am very disappointed by the attitude among many educators and rehabilitation specialists about Braille these days. So many people think the tape recorder is the answer to all information-gathering problems for blind people. It is a handy medium for reading, but it has many drawbacks such as the inability to find an item quickly as one can with Braille. The computer diskette stores an enormous amount of data in a very small space, but one doesn't always have a computer in one's pocket. I keep all my addresses in Braille instead of in a computer database. Since I refer to these while typing or on the phone, it is easier for me to use Braille instead of jumping in and out of files or booting the computer, especially if it is not turned on. Recorders and computers have their place, but nothing takes the place of good old-fashioned Braille for communication and ease of access.

I also know several illiterate blind persons--that is, they do not have the ability to read and write independently. These people use a tape recorder because they cannot see to read print and cannot read Braille. As a result, they are dependent on sighted people whenever they have anything to be read, so they cannot compete on terms of equality. What lies ahead of them when they begin looking for jobs is all too obvious. How will they maintain records for quick and independent action on the job? How will they find specific documents without a reader if they don't use Braille labels? And how will they maintain a phone directory without Braille if print is not an option? These are the practical and fundamental questions which many parents, rehab counselors, and educators do not consider when working with blind students, but unfortunately employers must address them when they consider employing a blind person.

When I worked as an employment specialist in Detroit, I had a co-worker who knew Braille but who was so dependent on his reader that I once overheard him say to an employer over the phone that he couldn't get the information to answer a question because his reader wasn't there and everything was in print. What impression could that statement have made on the employer, and what impact would it have on his future consideration of blind job candidates? If that had been an employer on my phone, I would have read the information from Braille data I maintained on my clients. I also kept names, addresses, and basic information on clients and employers in Braille, which allowed me to make my contacts independently, even while traveling.

On my job here in Missouri I always used Braille to keep records, label important documents, and maintain equipment specifications. That way I was able to conduct business independently. Layouts of vending facilities were important, and I made Braille layouts so I could configure equipment into the plans.

I was disappointed to discover so many blind persons unable to communicate independently. I had managers who could not use Braille proficiently and could not read print. I worked with clients who could not use print extensively but could not use Braille, and I know too many blind people who cannot use either Braille or print and who use recorders to keep addresses and other basic information but who have no real way to keep important records independently. I know blind people who depend on family to do most of their reading and writing. Unfortunately, these people cannot type letters or make a mail order for themselves.

This communication disability is unfortunate for blind people who must face higher education and employment without the alternative techniques they need. They have been seduced into believing that Braille is bulky and outdated and that they can get by depending on a tape recorder and people to read for them. Blind people and even those who think they are not blind but read at a snail's pace should learn Braille and use it in all facets of their lives. Also, it may seem harsh, but I believe that blind people receiving services through state rehabilitation agencies and unable to use print efficiently should be required to know and use Braille before applying for the Business Enterprise Program so that they can survive independently as business persons. Blind clients should be required to have Braille skills in place when asking the agency to support them through college. Otherwise, putting the client through a vocational or college program without Braille skills may very well be assisting him or her to fail.

[PHOTO: Charles Cheadle in his Scout uniform stands holding a copy of the book he Brailled for his Eagle Scout community service project. CAPTION: Charles Cheadle]


From the Editor: When Charles Cheadle was eleven, he joined Boy Scout Troup 456 in the greater Baltimore area. He has continued to be a member ever since. On February 18, 1996, his family and friends, including his parents Barbara and John, both members of the national NFB staff, and President Maurer, joined 250 others at a ceremony honoring the three troup members who had completed the rigorous requirements for becoming Eagle Scouts. Both the Catonsville Times and The Catholic Review covered the event. We are reprinting the February 21, 1996, story by Tina Vardaro that appeared in the Catholic Review. The tone of the piece is particularly gratifying because, though Charles's blindness is mentioned by the reporter, no particular fuss is made over the fact. Here is the story as it appeared on February 21:

Cardinal Helps Celebrate 50 Years of Scouting

For fifty years Boy Scout Troop 456 at St. Mark's parish, Catonsville, has helped turn boys into men. The troop combined its fiftieth anniversary celebration with its Eagle Scout Court of Honor February 18 in St. Mark's Hall. Three Scouts achieved the rank of Eagle and were honored by dignitaries, including Cardinal William H. Keeler, himself an Eagle Scout.

Two of the Scouts coordinated improvement projects at the Patapsco Valley State Park for their Eagle Scout service projects.

Kevin Dolan, a senior at Mount St. Joseph High School, planned and directed other Scouts of Troop 456 in an erosion control project in the Glen Artney area of the park. Jacob Wilson, a senior at Catonsville High School, led Scouts, Explorers and friends in improving handicapped access to the Avalon area of the park.

Charles Cheadle, also a Catonsville High School senior, based his service project on his experience of being legally blind. Along with his fellow Scouts, Charles transcribed, produced, and bound a Braille version of the children's book, To Annabella Pelican from Thomas Hippopotamus, written by Maryland author Nancy Patz. The book contains both regular text and Braille, so it can be used by sighted and blind persons together.

In honor of Cardinal Keeler's attendance, Troop 456 presented him with a red baseball cap bearing the troop's insignia. Other gifts included a fiftieth anniversary commemorative patch and a denim blue Troop 456 neckerchief specially trimmed in red to signify the cardinal's position. Cardinal Keeler called Scouting "a call to bravery, a call to reverence." He recalled his Scouting experience as an opportunity to live out his faith and to learn about the faith lives of other people.

"It helps bring out the very best in the potential of a young person," he said.

State delegates Donald Murphy and James Malone of Baltimore County presented the new Eagle Scouts with a resolution from the House of Delegates congratulating them on their achievements.

Mr. Murphy commented that, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he hears the "worst of the worst" of what people do to each other. He said he was honored to attend the ceremony and hear about the good things the Scouts had done for their community.

Father Ross LaPorta, pastor of St. Mark's, said the rank of Eagle Scout is a "call to achieve excellence," and that Scouting experiences in the outdoors "attempt to tell almighty God his creation is marvelous."

"There's no greater thing to tell a creator than that you love what he's made," Father LaPorta said.


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."



Keri Ann Ruemmler Doesn't Let Physical Handicaps Get in the Way of Being a Good Student

by Suzanne Vega

From the Editor: The following story appeared in the November 22, 1995, issue of The Hawk's Eye, the monthly newspaper at Olathe East High School. Keri Ann Ruemmler is deaf-blind; she is also a busy, normal teenager carrying a full academic load in high school and an after-school job. Her mother, Sally Ruemmler, chairs Parents in Partnership, an enthusiastic new group in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children working to solve the particular problems that face deaf-blind children and their families. Here is the story:

Thinking about giving up at school? Read this, then think again.

Keri went to the Kansas School for the Deaf for one year when she was very young. Then she attended a blind school for a year.

Her favorite school, however, was the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. It's an oral school for the deaf. There Ruemmler learned to talk better.

Ruemmler enjoys school at OE and hasn't had too many problems adapting to high school.

"The kids talk to me," she said, indicating that friendly students have helped her. "But, it's loud at break," said Keri. It might sound contradictory for a hearing-impaired person to comment about it being too loud during break. However, background noise is a big problem for Ruemmler.

If someone is talking to her when there is a high level of background noise, she can't understand very well.

Ruemmler wears a cochlear implant to help her hear better, and she's taking classes to read Braille because of her vision.

On top of her hearing problem, Ruemmler has tunnel vision. To her, objects appear very small, almost the size of a dime; and she can't see at night very well.

Despite her handicaps Ruemmler appears to be doing well in her classes.

"She really is an exceptional young lady. She comes into a hands-on class and competes with the students. She's getting a B+, and that's the grade she has earned," said Sandra Keating, computer teacher.

Ruemmler is very exceptional. She has a wonderfully optimistic attitude; she doesn't give up at school. If she doesn't understand, she just tries again until she can do it.

"Keri is very outgoing. She tries to communicate with me a lot and with the kids in the class, and that amazes me," said Keating.

Ruemmler even has a job at Treasury Drug. She stocks the merchandise and cleans. Ruemmler is a very normal teenager with normal hobbies and activities. "I like to go to the movies, watch TV, talk on the phone," said Ruemmler.

Luck explained that Keri's telephone is equipped with a TTY device. It's a phone designed for the deaf.

Terry Luck is a great help. She is an interpreter who is assigned to accompany Ruemmler to all of her classes.

After high school Ruemmler plans to become a teacher.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Willows]


by Jim Willows

Our California affiliate is looking forward to seeing you at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers for our 1996 National Convention. But before we can greet you at the Hilton, we have to get you there from the airport.

I have been told that many Federationists will be coming into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), because of cheaper fares or a more convenient flight schedule. We have found good prices for ground transportation to our convention hotel from both LAX and Orange County's John Wayne Airport. Travel time to the Hilton is about twenty-five minutes from John Wayne Airport and fifty minutes from Los Angeles International.

The Anaheim Airport bus runs at half-hour intervals from either airport. We can send you discount coupons for fares of $8 one way or $14 round trip from John Wayne or $11 one way and $19 round trip from LAX. These are per-person fares.

These airport bus coupons may be obtained from the bus driver at LAX or from the company's booth just outside the doors from the baggage area at John Wayne Airport. Tell them you are attending the NFB Convention at the Anaheim Hilton. The LAX buses leave from under the red sign at each terminal. You will find these signs over the shuttle/bus pickup areas located at the center divider island outside each baggage area.

If you need more coupons than the one appearing at the end of this article, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to NFB of California, Bus Coupons, 3934 Kern Court, Pleasanton, California 94588. Be sure to let us know how many coupons you will need and from which airport you will be coming. Do not include payment with your coupon order. You will pay your shuttle driver at the airport.

If several of you will be traveling together, you might do better to reserve a van or car from one of the companies listed below. The prices listed are those at the time of this writing in the middle of March. They could rise by convention time.

Also, I have found that some shuttle companies do not guarantee airport pickups if your plane is late. Check the company's policy when you call to make your reservation.

Here is information about several shuttle services in the Anaheim area.

Advantage (714) 557-2465. One way fare: $30 for John Wayne and $54 for LAX. Up to five passengers for these fares.

Alternative Transportation (714) 630-3367. One way fares: $65 for LAX and $35 for John Wayne. Six-passenger vans or four-passenger cars.

Dani's Shuttle (800) 500-3264. One way fare: from LAX, $30 for first person, $7 for each additional person in your party in eight-passenger vans. No service to John Wayne Airport.

L.A. Xpress Airport Shuttle. (800) 427-7483. One-way fare $10 per person from both LAX and John Wayne (with coupon provided for our convention--as with Airport Bus, send a self-addressed stamped envelope for a coupon).

Orange County Shuttle. (714) 773-0765. One-way fare: from LAX $10 per person or $55 for van holding up to seven persons. From John Wayne $10 per person or $45 for van.

Prime Time Shuttle. (800) 733-8267. One-way fare: From LAX $11 for first person and $10 for each additional person. From John Wayne $9 per person. These prices must include a discount coupon, which I can send to you. Again, include a self-addressed stamped envelope indicating the number of coupons needed.

Super Shuttle. (714) 517-6600. One-way fare: From LAX $13 per person or $65 for seven in van. From John Wayne $10 per person or $47 for van. (We have coupons for a $2 reduction per person from LAX and a $1 reduction per person from John Wayne. Here again, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and indicate the number of coupons needed and the name of the shuttle service.)

Shuttle 2000. (310) 352-3550. One-way fare: $10 per person from both LAX and John Wayne.

We will do our best to have folks at the airports to greet you and help you to locate your ground transportation. If you haven't made your hotel reservation, do it today. the phone number is (714) 750-4321. Convention rates are singles, $45 per night; doubles, $47; triples, $54; and quads, $57 (no charge for children who do not require additional beds). Tax was just under 15 percent at the time these rates were negotiated. See you in Anaheim.

[PHOTO: Bill Meeker bends down to guide his son Christopher, who is using an NFB cane. Christopher is such a tiny child that the 24-inch cane is quite long for him. CAPTION: Christopher Meeker may be only one, but he already knows the value of a long white cane. His father Bill supervises his cane technique closely.]


by William D. Meeker

From the Editor: All parents face the challenge of passing on what they hold most dear to their children. Tangible possessions comprise the simplest part of this universal inheritance. Hopes, dreams, values, convictions: these intangible treasures are infinitely harder to pass on. Will we communicate them clearly? Will our children learn to value them as we do? Will other forces dilute or destroy what is precious to us before our children come to appreciate it?

Blind parents deal with a special and poignant version of this perennial struggle. In the following little article Bill Meeker, one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin and the thoughtful father of a baby son, explores this struggle and its challenge. This is what he says:

The ocean wild like an organ played

The seaweed's woven strands,

The crashing waves like cymbals clashed

Against the rocks and sands.

With a shout of pure joy and exhilaration, the little boy steps out of his house and into the sunshine of a Wisconsin fall day. He walks slowly down the front walk. At the intersection with the sidewalk, he hesitates, then follows his parents to the right. He moves his cane from side to side like Mom and Dad. He stops to touch the grass and examine a fallen leaf in the next-door neighbor's yard. He stops again to plumb a tiny water-filled hole in the concrete, then again to watch a squirrel bounding through the grass of a lawn across the street. Further along he holds his cane still, frozen by the sight and roar of a city truck vacuuming curbside leaves.

At his parents' coaxing he moves forward, swinging his cane until he breaks into a run at the approach of his day-care playmates. Technique is forgotten, but the cane never leaves his hand.

"He carries it with such dignity," says Gail, his day-care mom. "Christopher brought his cane!" shouts Jason to the boy's parents. "It makes sparks on the ground. Does yours make sparks too?"

At this moment, four blocks from Lake Michigan's shore, life flows without question or division. The sighted one-year-old child uses a cane because Mommy and Daddy do, and it makes him feel good to be like them. His playmates like it because the moving tip sparks on the concrete, and it's something not everyone has.

But the moment is bittersweet, for the time of unlearning will come: when the world will insinuate its own symbol and twisted metaphor between the boy and his life experience to break its flow. The child will be told that personal qualities and accomplishments depend on vision. His independent blind parents will then become different from other moms and dads, and he will be told he must treat them differently. He must take care of them because, since he can see, he is the only family member capable of responsibility and accomplishment. The cane he once carried so proudly may become a stigma.

His parents' challenge will be to live in such a way that he does not come to believe these timeworn falsehoods as truth. Their lifelong challenge will be to remind him through their actions of the secret told by Saint Exupery's fox to his little prince: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."

Lay down your weary tune, lay down,

Lay down the songs you sung,

And rest yourselves `neath the strength of strings

No voice can hope to harm.

-- "Weary Tune," by B. Dylan

[PHOTO: Joe Debeer and Julia Bohmbach are in the classic ballroom dancing position with hands clasped and his arm around her waist. CAPTION: Joe Debeer and Julia Bohmbach take full advantage of the dance at the 1995 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]


by Barbara Pierce

Long before Jacobus tenBroek called the National Federation of the Blind into being on November 16, 1940, those interested in the welfare of blind people in Minnesota knew the name of Joe Debeer. Born in the Netherlands in 1902, he traveled alone to the United States to seek his fortune when he was eighteen. He came to work on his uncle's farm in Minnesota, leaving his parents, sisters, and twin brother behind. Several years later he became suddenly and totally blind.

After three months at the School for the Blind in Fairbault and a little rehabilitation training, Joe picked up life again, working to support himself doing whatever he could find to do. He eventually married, and he and his wife Lucille lived happily together for fifty-one years, raising one son, Robert.

Joe instinctively recognized the necessity for blind people to band together if they were ever to win their rights. When, at the age of almost eighty-eight, he addressed the golden anniversary Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in 1990, he told with relish of the time in 1939 when the Governor of Minnesota announced that he intended to cut the pension for blind citizens from $31 to $21 a month and that he had no intention of discussing his decision with representatives of the blind. Joe and his colleagues organized blind people to picket outside the state capitol for three days. They passed out flyers and began contacting the wire services and radio stations to tell their story of deprivation and the governor's refusal to meet with them. During these days Joe had also been talking with organized labor and members of the League of Women Voters who were sympathetic to what the blind picketers were protesting.

Suddenly the governor announced that he was ready to talk with Debeer's committee. Joe rallied a hundred members of the League, twenty representatives of organized labor, and seventy blind people for the meeting. Instead of cutting the pension $10, the governor eventually raised it $12.

Joe Debeer was unable to take part in the Wilkes-Barre meeting when representatives from California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin gathered to establish the Federation, though Joe's wife was present. His first convention was in 1941, but from the very beginning of the tiny organization Joe was a tireless worker--writing letters; organizing protests; and articulating the views of blind citizens who insisted upon their rights to rent apartments, walk the streets in safety, and compete for jobs like everyone else.

Joe Debeer never lost his zest for life or his passion for justice.

He attended the 1995 convention in Chicago and had a wonderful time. He was the oldest Federationist present and among the liveliest. In December he suffered a stroke, and on January 3, 1996, Joe slipped away with his son and two grandchildren at his bedside. Joe's life was long and productive. He knew what he believed and was never afraid to stand forth to be counted. He embodied the founding spirit of the National Federation of the Blind; we will remember him with love and admiration.


This month's recipes are contributed by members of the NFB of South Dakota.


by Lavera Peta

Lavera Peta is a member of the NFB of South Dakota's Members-at-Large Chapter.


1 3/4 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon Sucaryl solution
1 egg
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup raisins
1 cup All-Bran

Method: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, spices, and baking soda. Set aside. Beat butter, sweetener, and egg until light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients alternately with applesauce, raisins, and All-Bran. Drop by level tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet, about one inch apart. Bake twenty minutes or until golden brown.


by Min Quarnberg

Min Quarnberg is a member of the Black Hills Chapter.


4 eggs, beaten until light
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 scant cup flour
1 1/2 cup whole milk

Method: Grease griddle. Combine all ingredients to form a thin batter. Pour batter by quarter-cupfuls onto greased griddle. Turn cakes over when bottom side is set and browned. Remove from griddle when second side is golden brown. Serve rolled or flat. Sprinkle with sugar and spread with jam. Half this recipe will serve two.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Noble Melegard]


by Noble Melegard

Noble Melegard is the President of the Black Hills Chapter and a Board member of the NFB of South Dakota.


1/2 gallon 2% milk
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
24 ounces Ore-Ida frozen hash brown potatoes
chopped onion (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

Method: Heat milk, cream of chicken soup, and cream cheese until cheese is melted. Add rest of ingredients. Cook until potatoes and onion are at desired softness.


by Kathleen Nelson

Kathleen Nelson is a charter member of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. She lives in Brookings.


1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
5 eggs
1 square chocolate
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Method: To make filling, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and one egg, then set aside. To mix batter, microwave unsweetened chocolate and butter for one-and-a-half to two minutes or until melted. Add four eggs, one cup sugar, flour, remaining vanilla, salt, and nuts. Mix and pour three-fourths of the batter into a floured and greased 13-by-9-inch cake pan. Pour filling over top. Spoon remaining batter on top of filling. Swirl the mixtures together by cutting into the batter with knife. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty to thirty-five minutes. Do not over-bake.


by Dorothy Crawford

Dorothy Crawford is a member of the Black Hills Chapter.


3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups Karo syrup
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
walnuts (optional)

Method: Combine all ingredients except nuts in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook until mixture reaches the hard-ball stage, when a little of the syrup forms a firm ball when dropped into a cup of clear, cold water. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon vanilla. Pour into a buttered 9-by-13-inch pan. You may sprinkle chopped walnuts in pan before pouring in candy.


by Dorothy Crawford


2 cups white sugar
1 pint cream
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup nuts

Method: Combine all ingredients, except half of cream, and stir until sugar has completely dissolved in hot liquid. Allow mixture to boil a few minutes. Slowly add the rest of the cream, making sure that candy continues to boil. Cook until candy is brown and forms a hard ball when a little is dropped into cold water. Add nuts and vanilla and pour into buttered pan.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Karen Mayry]


by Karen Mayry

Karen Mayry is the President of the NFB of South Dakota.


8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 pound lean ground lamb, beef, or turkey
1/2 chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons reduced calorie margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups skim milk

Method: Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain and transfer to medium bowl. Stir in egg substitute and nutmeg. Lightly spray bottom of 9-inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread pasta mixture in bottom of baking dish. Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook lamb, onion, and garlic in large non-stick skillet over medium heat until lamb is no longer pink. Stir in tomato sauce, mint, oregano, pepper, and cinnamon. Reduce heat to low and simmer ten minutes, spread over pasta. Melt margarine in small non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring constantly for one minute. Whisk in milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about six minutes. Spread over meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake thirty to forty minutes or until set. Makes six servings.



In the miniature about airfare discounts that appeared in the March issue, the toll-free telephone number for Singer Travel was incorrect. The actual number is (800) 248- 3929. Remember that tour reservations must be made no later than May 3, and orders will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. No tour tickets will be for sale at the convention unless there happen to be unfilled seats still available.


The Austin Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas elected officers at its January meeting to serve a one-year term. Elected were Wanda Hamm, President; Mary Ward, First Vice President; Ron Lucey, Second Vice President; Norma Gonzales Baker, Secretary; Margaret (Cokie) Craig, Treasurer; and Jim Shaffer and Mike Waddles, Board members.

Tips for Tough Times Now Available:

We recently saw the following notice in the Winter, 95- 96, issue of The Braille Spectator, the publication of the NFB of Maryland. Other attorneys general should be encouraged to produce equivalent publications. In the meantime here is the information about this useful publication:

Tips for Tough Times is a monthly newsletter published by the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office. It contains a wide variety of consumer information. Some examples from previous issues include "What consumers should know when stores go out of business" and "Changing your long distance company without your permission." This newsletter is available on the National Federation of the Blind Bulletin Board, NFB Net. It is also available on computer disks, which can be obtained by contacting Patrick Gormely, 3507 Jefferson Street, Hyattsville, Maryland 20781, (301) 864-4694. You must provide your own blank disk. Contact Mr. Gormely for further information.

Diabetics Division Drawing:

The Diabetics Division of the National Federation of the Blind provides support and information to thousands of people. Because operating this valuable network and producing the Voice of the Diabetic cost money, we must generate funds to help cover these expenses. Our Diabetics Division has elected to hold a drawing, which will be coordinated by our treasurer, John Yark.

The Grand Prize will be $500! The name of the winner will be drawn on July 4, 1996, at the annual banquet of the National Federation of the Blind.

Tickets cost $1 each, or a book of six may be purchased for $5. Tickets may be purchased from state representatives of our Diabetics Division or by contacting the Voice Editorial Office, 811 Cherry Street, Suite 309, Columbia, Missouri 65201, telephone (573) 875-8911. Anyone interested in selling tickets should also contact the VoiceEditorial Office. Tickets are available now. The names of those who sell fifty tickets or more will be announced in the Voice.

Please make checks payable to the National Federation of the Blind. Money and ticket stubs must be mailed to the Voice office no later than June 17, 1996, or they can be personally delivered to Drawing Chairman John Yark at this year's NFB convention in Anaheim, California. This drawing is open to anyone, and the holder of the lucky ticket need not be present to win. Each ticket sold is a donation helping to keep our Diabetics Division moving forward.

NBP Children's Book Club:

We recently received the following press release:

Where can you purchase a print-Braille children's book for the same price as the print edition? Where can families enjoy the same children's book regardless of whether they read print or Braille? The National Braille Press Children's Braille Book Club offers a new title each month. Membership is free: just call the 800-number listed below. Literacy begins at home. Send orders to National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, (800) 548- 7323.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

For sale, Braille 'n Speak 640 in excellent condition, asking $1,000. Unit will be sold with AC adapter and carrying case. Contact April Enderton, 711 Gray, Des Moines, Iowa 50315, (515) 282-0049.

Correspondents Wanted:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I would like to correspond with anyone who has congenital cataracts. If you have congenital cataracts yourself or know someone who does, please write (print, Braille, or tapes accepted) to Carmen Linda Conklin, P.O. Box 67, Nashua, Iowa 50658.

National Church Conference for the Blind:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The National Church Conference of the Blind will meet in Oklahoma City. Celebration begins Sunday night, July 21, and ends with the annual banquet on Thursday evening, July 25. Hotel reservations should be made with La Quinta Inn Airport, 800 S. Meridian, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73108, (800) 531-5900. Rates are $48.56 per night for up to four people per room, including tax. For more information contact National Church Conference of the Blind, P.O. Box 163, Denver, Colorado 80201, or call (303) 825-5857.

Perkins Brailler Repairs Available:

Barbara 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.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Blazer Braille printer for sale, asking $1,000 or best offer. Wanting to upgrade to interpoint for Braille business. Call Sharon Bishop at (817) 294-2369, or write in Braille, typed, or on cassette to 7314 Kingswood Circle, Fort Worth, Texas 76133.

BANA Election Results:

We recently received the following information:

Dolores Ferrara-Godzieba was elected as Chair of the Braille Authority of North America at its annual meeting, November 13 and 14, 1995, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dolores Ferrara-Godzieba represents Associated Services for the Blind (ASB), where she is the Director of the Braille Division, as well as of the Radio and Recording departments. Also confirmed were Vice-Chair, Frederick Sinclair, California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped (CTEVH); Treasurer, Charlotte Begley, the Clovernook Center: Opportunities for the Blind (CC); and Secretary, Phyllis Campana, American Printing House for the Blind (APH).

The BANA Board approved the "Clarification and Expansion of Rule VII Section 28 c., d., f." to be included in the English Braille, American Edition, 1994 immediately.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Charles Brown]


We are pleased to report the following federal appointment:

On December 5, 1995, the Director of the National Science Foundation appointed NFB National Board Member Charles S. Brown to serve as the Foundation's "Designated Agency Ethics Official." Each federal agency is required by the Ethics in Government Act to name such an official to coordinate and manage the agency's employee ethics programs, administer the legal requirements for employee financial disclosure, and serve as the agency's liaison with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

Mr. Brown has served as Assistant General Counsel at the National Science Foundation since 1991. Before coming to the Foundation, he was Counsel for Special Legal Services at the U.S. Department of Labor. Mr. Brown is a graduate of Harvard College and the Northwestern University Law School. He is married, has two children, and lives and works in Arlington, Virginia.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival Provides Audio Description Service:

We recently received the following press release:

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has adopted new programs for people with disabilities: audio description for blind patrons and four sign-interpreted performances during the 1996 season.

During audio-described performances--which are available upon request in all three theaters--a trained describer will sit in the control booth and talk to the visually impaired patron through a headset during pauses in the stage dialogue. To request audio description, call Gwen Wright, OSF's director of services for persons with disabilities, at (541) 482-2111, ext. 224. Two weeks' advance notice is necessary.

The four sign-interpreted performances being offered during the 1996 season are The Winter's Tale on April 14 at 2:00 p.m. in the Angus Bowmer Theater, MoliŠre Plays Paris in the Angus Bowmer Theater on March 19 at 1:00 p.m. and on September 7 at 2:00 p.m., and Romeo and Juliet on September 7 at 8:00 p.m. in the Elizabethan Theater.

OSF's other services for people with disabilities include wheelchair-accessible seating; Sennheiser Listening Assistance Devices; audio program notes and tape recorders; and large-print playbills. For tickets call the box office at (541) 482-4331 or TDD (541) 488-1780. Box office hours are Tuesdays through Sundays, 9:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Mondays, 9:30 a.m. till 5:00 p.m.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson]


We regret to report that on Thursday, March 7, Steve Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, slipped on a sheet of ice about a block from his house on his way home from work. In the resulting fall Steve broke his left leg in two places. He underwent surgery the following day to repair the damage and then spent a further week in the hospital developing his skills with a walker and crutches. He will be using these or a wheelchair for three to four months. We all wish Steve a speedy recovery.

Newsletter Available:

Loren and Teresa Wakefield have asked us to carry the following announcement:

TLC Distribution is offering a free three-month subscription to a monthly newsletter about nutrition and environmental concerns. The newsletter is available in Braille or on cassette. Please send inquiries to TLC Distribution, 722 Denver St., Waterloo, Iowa 50702, or call (319) 234-5215.

In Memoriam:

Gene Cavna was a quiet, reliable man. His wife Janet has served as a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania Board of Directors, but Gene was always content to roll up his sleeves and work unobtrusively in the background. He was a vendor who lived and worked in the greater Philadelphia area, and he frequently made sure that Federation activities and programs were supplied with the food and drink required. When the word went out for calls to legislators, Gene not only made the calls he had agreed to but reported the results speedily and accurately. People like Gene are the very backbone of the Federation; they can never be spared.

On Saturday, March 9, 1996, the NFB of Pennsylvania held a special meeting to do important organizational planning for the future. The group broke for lunch and walked to a nearby restaurant. On the way Gene, who wouldn't have missed an important meeting that he could get to, apparently suffered a massive heart attack. Though he received immediate cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and rapid attention from an emergency medical service team, he could not be revived. Gene's death was a shock and grief to everyone who knew him and a deep loss to the entire Federation family.

GW Micro Moves:

We have been asked to carry the following notice:

GW Micro, Inc., manufacturer of Vocal-Eyes, Window-Eyes, Sounding Board, Speak-Out, and other adaptive computer products primarily for those that are blind or visually impaired has moved into a new, larger facility. The building provides much more space for their existing needs and provides additional space for training. Please note the following address and telephone changes: GW Micro, Inc., 725 Airport North Office Park, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825, (219) 489-3671 (voice), (219) 489-2608, or (219) 489-5281. Their Internet address, [email protected], has not changed.

Organ Donation Reminder:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Organ and tissue transplants save thousands of lives every year, but many people do not receive the transplants they desperately need because there simply are not enough donors.

The New Jersey Organ and Tissue Sharing Network (the Sharing Network), a non-profit organ-procurement agency, urges everyone to sign donor cards and discuss their views about donation with family members. If more people sign organ donor cards and discuss their wishes to donate with their families, more life-saving transplants could be performed.

Signing an organ donor card does not mean that, when a person dies, his or her organs are automatically donated. Consent must be given by the person's next-of-kin in order for donation to take place. That's why it is so important to discuss the matter with one's family.

More than 40,000 people nationwide are on waiting lists for transplants. And more than 2,500 of them die each year while waiting for the miracle of life.

"The majority of people in the United States favor organ donation, but many do not sign donor cards or discuss donation with their families," said Marc Smith, executive director of the Sharing Network. "The organ and tissue shortage is a health crisis that we can all help cure, but to do so, each of us must take action."

The Sharing Network is a federally-designated, state-certified procurement organization responsible for recovering organs and tissue for New Jersey residents in need of transplants, as well as those on waiting lists nationwide. For more information on organ and tissue donation or to obtain a donor card, contact the Sharing Network at (800) 742-7365.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Choco-Braille, Braille greeting cards in chocolate: "Happy Birthday," "Thank You," "Have a Nice Day," etc. Cards sell for $2.25 each. To place an order, call Chocolates Unlimited at (718) 359-4466.

Instructional Materials Needed:

We recently received the following letter from Grand Bahama Island:

Two years ago a small group of American and European volunteers started a project under the name of Integration of Visually Impaired Persons in Society. The ultimate goal of our work is to give as many people as possible the opportunity of employment.

When we began, only about ten individuals had been identified who were said to be visually impaired. No records about blind and other handicapped persons existed, so we had to search for them. Today we have found more than forty blind people who desperately need help.

Our intervention to the authorities has been successful with regard to the installation of a teacher for the blind. This teacher, blind herself, arrived without any teaching or learning books or materials. Without outside help, we are not in a position to assist the little school for the blind which we are trying to establish and would very much be obliged if you could help us in our efforts to support the children with sight problems.

I am sure that somewhere in the United States schools for the blind have some materials which might be outdated or obsolete but suitable for our needs. What we need most are the following in Braille: English language series, grade K through 4; reading series, grades K through 4; and specific skills, getting the facts, K through 4. Various large print materials are also needed.

In case there are some individuals or institutions wanting to support our efforts, we would be very glad to receive any information or materials. Send to Unit for the Blind, The Centre for Deaf Children, c/o Mr. Cecil Thompson, P.O. Box F 42595, Freeport, Grand Bahama, BAHAMAS.

New Chapter:

Julie Deming, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, proudly reports the formation of the new Las Vegas chapter. The new officers are Gloria Chaffe, President; Joe Perdon, Vice President; Michelle Wright, Secretary; Carol Floyd, Treasurer; and Evelyn Fleet, Board member.

Braille Books Needed:

We have been asked to carry the following request:

I would like to buy the following books in Braille: Godel's Proof by J. Newman and E. Nagel, and any books on quantum mechanics in Braille. Please contact Amir Rahimi at 425 South Oak, #208, Arlington, Texas, (817) 460-5005.

[PHOTO: Barbara Walker is walking through a convention meeting room using her white cane. CAPTION: Barbara Walker]


We are delighted to report that Barbara Walker, Past President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, is recovering well from a broken right leg and left shoulder after being struck by a car while crossing a street on her way to the Lincoln Chapter meeting on March 16. Barbara was most of the way across the street when she was struck. The driver told the police that "The pedestrian came out of nowhere," at the intersection, with no traffic light. Since Barbara was wearing brightly colored clothing on a sunny day and was using her white cane as she crossed the street, she has retained an attorney to represent her in resolving the insurance question. We all wish Barbara a speedy recovery.

Pen Friends Wanted:

We have been asked to carry the following request:

My name is Arslanhan Islamov. I'm from Daghestan in Russia. I'm totally blind from birth and want to find pen friends from the United States. I am thirty-four years old. I finished my education at the School for Blind Children, and then I got rehabilitation at the Institute of Rehabilitation of the Blind. I have a family. We are four, my wife, two daughters, and I. My older daughter's name is Rabiat. She is six. My younger daughter's name is Raziat. She is one-and-a-half. My wife is a housekeeper. We live in the south of the country in Daghestan. If somebody wishes to be my friend, I'll tell him or her more about me. I will appreciate all letters. Send to 368205 Daghestan, Bujnakskyi raion, selo Nizhnee Kazanische, Vostochnaya 1, Arslanhan, Islamov.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement: Old Apple //e (2e) system with Echo speech card. Boxes of software and documentation. Contact Del Wachter at (301) 916-3992.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have the following computer equipment for sale: 1) The Xerox Kurzweil PCKPR model 35 scanning system. Includes true Book Edge Xerox Fugi SA4 scanner, both PCKPR text reading software and the Discover text and graphics reading software. Will run on IBM compatibles such as models PC, XT, AT, etc. Manuals in print, tape, and Braille. Asking $2,000.

2) Artic Business Vision speech package, includes internal Synphonix speech card, turbo pedal, Business Vision 3.04 program, Sonix TTS program to run other screen readers with Synphonix synthesizer, manuals on disk and tape. Works in PC and higher-class IBM compatibles, $300 for separate package or can be included with the above scanner setup. Contact Doug Rose, 207 Dickenson Ave., Newbury Park, California 91320-4327, (805) 499-8377, Internet e-mail address, [email protected]


Joel Fernandes is the seventeen-year-old son of Joanne Wilson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana and a member of the NFB Board of Directors. This winter Joel contracted encephalitis and became gravely ill. He was life-flighted from Ruston, Louisiana, to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a stay of several weeks. We are pleased to report that Joel is once again at home in Ruston, where he is receiving outpatient rehabilitation therapy. It is not yet clear how much permanent damage may have been done, but everyone who knows Joanne and her family is hoping and praying for Joel's complete recovery.