Presidential Report - 2003

National Federation of the Blind
July 1, 2003

by Marc Maurer

During the past year the National Federation of the Blind has increased in strength, in size, and in the diversity of its activities. We have also gained recognition for the vital importance of our programs. However, our fundamental character is the same as it has always been since the time of our beginning in 1940--we are the blind of the United States from every sector of society.

Our combined experience gives purpose and focus to the programs we establish and the activities we pursue. Blind students, blind teachers, blind children and the parents of blind children, blind factory workers, blind professionals, newly blinded people, blind people with training in the specialized techniques used by the blind and those without it, blind people who have not yet found employment and those who have retired, those blind people who have been members for fifty years, and those who are new to the ranks--we are the blind who believe that a positive future can be built through a spirit of adventure, the willingness to work, and the shared commitment that we can achieve independence if we will support one another in creating greater opportunity for us all.

On October 29, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Help America Vote Act into law. The provisions of this law demonstrate the dedicated work of the National Federation of the Blind. Voting systems installed in the states with the support of federal dollars must be usable independently by blind people by 2006. Our director of governmental affairs, Jim Gashel, and I were invited to join with others at the signing ceremony with the president. President Bush indicated that all Americans should have the right to cast an independent secret ballot and should exercise that right. Without the dedicated work of the National Federation of the Blind, the provisions of law that guarantee this right to the blind would not exist.

In 2001, as Federation members know, we sponsored the National Federation of the Blind Everest Expedition. In May of that year the first and only blind person ever to stand on the top of Mt. Everest, Erik Weihenmayer, reached its summit. This feat of endurance and determination was recognized by President Bush in July of 2001. Members of the Everest Expedition Climbing Team, my wife Patricia, and I were invited to the Oval Office to meet with the president. I recorded impressions of the visit in our twenty-second Kernel Book, entitled Summit. A picture of me and the president taken in the Oval Office appears on the cover of the book.

At the signing ceremony for the Help America Vote Act, I shook the president's hand and gave him a copy of Summit, saying as I did so, "Here, Mr. President, is a picture of you."

On December 11, 2002, the president sent me a letter which says:

Dear Dr. Maurer:

Thank you for the copy of your book I received during your visit to the signing of Help America Vote Act of 2002. I appreciate your kind gesture and thoughtfulness.

Laura joins me in sending our best wishes. May God bless you and may God continue to bless America.

George W. Bush

One result of our sponsorship of the Everest Expedition is that the Federation is mentioned prominently in the film produced by Erik Weihenmayer to document the expedition. This film, entitled Farther Than the Eye Can See, depicts the development of Weihenmayer as a blind climber and speaks of the unquenchable spirit of the National Federation of the Blind. The documentary was presented on the Outdoor Life Network in May of 2003.

Each year the Volunteers for Medical Engineering, a group of scientists from technology companies who seek to use their talents to enhance opportunities for the disabled, presents the Dole Award to an individual who has contributed to the advancement of people with disabilities. On August 21, 2002, on the baseball field at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, before a crowd of more than 30,000 people, Volunteers for Medical Engineering presented the 2002 Dole Award to the president of the National Federation of the Blind. A broadcast picture of the awards ceremony appeared on the electronic scoreboard at the stadium, and the name of the National Federation of the Blind was flashed across the board several times during the game.

On September 12, 2002, the Daily Record, one of the newspapers in Baltimore, presented its Innovator of the Year Award to the National Federation of the Blind in recognition of vision, creativity, and innovative spirit. We in the Federation are creating opportunities for the blind that have not previously existed, and the Daily Record recognized our work.

On October 24, 2002, the deputy secretary of the Department of Commerce, Samuel W. Bodman, came to the National Center for the Blind to unveil a new device for presenting tactile images to the blind, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology with the encouragement and cooperation of the National Federation of the Blind. Tactile image printers for the blind ordinarily cost a great deal, sometimes as much as $40,000. The machine developed by the Department of Commerce, which can likely be produced for under $2,000, uses an array of pins that are raised and locked into place. Although this device is currently in the prototype stage, the Department of Commerce is encouraging companies to produce it.

Shortly before Thanksgiving a press conference occurred at the National Center for the Blind to announce the release of a new dual-medium book, Touch the Universe, which contains raised images and photographs of celestial objects gathered through the Hubble telescope, along with Braille and print descriptions of them. This new book, published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is directed toward blind children. Blind children have traditionally been discouraged from participation in science. Nevertheless, we are as interested in this form of knowledge as anybody else, and we applaud officials at NASA who supported the publication of this space science book.

One of the people attending the press conference at the National Center for the Blind was the director of the Goddard Space Flight Center, Mr. A.V. Diaz. In the months following the release of Touch the Universe, several people from the National Federation of the Blind have toured the Goddard Space Flight Center and discussed with officials there joint programs to teach blind children and to encourage blind scientists. Mr. Diaz will be appearing later during this convention for a presentation about the nature of science. Some of us who are blind are passionate about science, and we are looking forward to working with scientists and officials at the Goddard Space Flight Center. We are planning to develop a science camp for the blind as one of the elements of our newly developing Research and Training Institute for the Blind. The projected time for the first activities in the science camp is the summer of 2004.

In 1975 the National Federation of the Blind responded to a request by Dr. Raymond Kurzweil that we assist with the development of a reading machine. We secured several hundred thousand dollars to fund this effort. The Kurzweil Reading Machine brought into being a kind of access technology for the blind which has dramatically expanded the capacity for blind people to read the written word.

This year we have embarked on a new joint project with Dr. Kurzweil to build a Kurzweil/National Federation of the Blind Reader that will be small enough to carry--a handheld reading machine. The reading machine of the 1970's was four feet tall and quite heavy. We expect to be able to build the Kurzweil/National Federation of the Blind Reader in a container small enough eventually to fit in a coat pocket. The reading machine of the 1970's sold for $50,000. We believe it will be possible to distribute the Kurzweil/National Federation of the Blind Reader for under $4,000. Development work has already been underway for several months, and the first experimental machines are being constructed. The prototype should be completed within two years, and manufacturing and distribution will take some time after that. This is an ambitious and expensive project, but the potential benefits are commensurate with the risks.

In 1999 we talked about building the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute, a five-story building on the property at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. Expanding our horizons is essential if we are to change the future for the blind. One way to do this is to incorporate the experiences of blind people in the planning of innovative research and training programs for the blind. The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of blind people in the United States, and collectively we have more in-depth knowledge of blindness than anybody else. This depth of knowledge will give our research and training programs a robust character.

In 1999 the cost of construction for our new building seemed extraordinary--eighteen million dollars. By 2002 circumstances forced me to raise this estimate to nineteen and a half million. As we come to this convention, we have gifts and pledges that total $19,388,629.35. This leaves less than $112,000 to reach our capital campaign construction goal. We must finish this capital campaign, and we must do it at this convention. I have no doubt that we will.

On October 23, 2003, we will be hosting the grand opening for the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute. The honorary chairman for the event is the governor of the state of Maryland, the Honorable Robert L. Ehrlich. Governor Ehrlich joined us for a luncheon meeting of the planning board for the grand opening on April 15, 2003. Governor Ehrlich pledged his continued support of the valuable work of the National Federation of the Blind, and he urged others who were present to make their contributions to the capital campaign. The grand opening for our Research and Training Institute will be an event to remember, and I invite all of you to come.

The building is not yet complete, but I have assurances that it will be finished in time for the grand opening. At that time we begin developing the programs to alter the future for the blind that were contemplated when we began the campaign. The Honor Roll Call of Donors, a complete listing of the individuals and other entities that have made gifts and pledges for the construction of the institute, will be on display. In the neighborhood of 18,000 donors will be enrolled--every person who made a gift. We will be able to place the names of those who have given $5,000 or more on a Wall of Honor. This institute, which is costing us almost twenty million dollars, could not have been constructed without the individual support of the thousands who gave what they could. It will stand as a monument to our belief in ourselves and each other. It will also serve as the nerve center for newly created programs and technology to bring productivity and self-sufficiency to the blind. And it belongs to us, the members of the National Federation of the Blind.

NFB-NEWSLINE®, our service to provide newspapers by touch-tone telephone to blind Americans, expanded dramatically during the past year. Currently ninety-four newspapers are available on NFB-NEWSLINE. Between March 1, 2002, and the end of February 2003, blind individuals read more information from the newspaper than during any previous year, with the total number of reading sessions amounting to 704,740. An appropriation of almost one million dollars has been made to cover long-distance charges in the NFB-NEWSLINE service. We continue to explore enhancements for NFB-NEWSLINE. We hope to be able to offer this service by computer or through handheld portable devices within the near future.

The America's Jobline® service, in which approximately a million job postings are available by touch-tone telephone, is also being improved. It is now possible for a job seeker to fill out a résumé and submit an application to an employer using nothing more than a touch-tone telephone. We built this service because the unemployment rate for blind people is extraordinarily high, and finding a job is of the utmost importance. However, after it had been created, the benefit of Jobline for the sighted became apparent. By helping the blind, we have assisted the sighted as well.

In 1990 the National Federation of the Blind established the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, in which we collect, develop, and maintain access technology. At that time we said that we would obtain at least one of every device manufactured anywhere in the world that makes information accessible to the blind, along with the peripherals, programs, and accessories necessary to operate them.

During the past year we have gathered for the International Braille and Technology Center six Pentium IV computers; four scanners; a device called the Freedom Box, which is an automated hardware Web browser for the blind; two different reading machines, VERA and ScannaR; a talking keyboard teaching program called Talking Typing Tutor Pro; a Braille TTY telephone for communicating with the deaf-blind; three separate low-vision software packages, Magic, Super Nova, and Zoom Text; a music scanning software program called SharpEye; three different digital book readers, Victor Reader Pro, Deluxe Plextalk PTR-1, and Victor Reader Software; two separate tactile teaching devices, SAL (Speech Assisted Learning) and Talking Tactile Tablet; a science software program entitled Scientific Notebook; one Macintosh iMac computer with OutSpoken screen access software; two Web accessibility evaluation software applications, RAMP and InFocus; the Populex accessible voting machine; two new refreshable Braille displays, Satellite Braille Display and Braille Star 80; three different Braille embossers, Tiger Cub, Tiger Pro, and Tiger Max; four handheld speech-output notetakers called Pac Mates; a number of three-dimensional models from several rapid prototyping systems; and more than two dozen software and hardware upgrades to existing products. We are also gathering other devices such as talking color identifiers, talking cash registers, and talking thermostats.

This past year we established the NFB Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification program. The Internet is an increasingly important source of information for the general public, and equal access to this information for the blind is imperative. Consequently the National Federation of the Blind checks Web sites to determine whether blind people can use them. If they are accessible in nonvisual ways, the Federation is prepared to certify this to the owner of the Web site and to publish the certification.

Last fall the Maryland Department of General Services became the first recipient of the National Federation of the Blind accessibility certification. Organizations receiving certification or in the process of applying for it are Hewlett Packard, Wells Fargo, the Social Security Administration, and GE.

For several years the National Federation of the Blind has attempted to ensure that blind children have the schoolbooks they need at the same time that sighted students get theirs. To accomplish this, we developed, in conjunction with others, the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA). Recently the House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Included in this legislation are key provisions of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act. Just before this convention the Senate bill to reauthorize IDEA was introduced, which also includes provisions from the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act. Therefore we are confident that blind children will soon receive the books they need at the same time that their sighted classmates get them. It would not have happened without the work of the National Federation of the Blind.

Although we have had many legislative successes this year, we also face challenges. NISH, formerly National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, wants to prevent capable blind people from managing military troop dining facilities because NISH wants them for itself. NISH tells the world that, when it receives a contract for a military mess hall, it hires many disabled people, whereas, according to NISH, when a blind vendor receives a contract to operate a military mess hall, only one blind person gets a job. Consequently, to increase employment for the disabled, says NISH, go with NISH.

This kind of argument is typical of the sleight-of-hand deception, the insidious legerdemain, often employed by NISH administrators. If blind vendors operate military dining facilities in accordance with the priority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act, they can and do hire other disabled people and promote them. If NISH operates such facilities, it may hire the same disabled people (ordinarily in jobs paying the minimum wage or less), but NISH will not hire a blind vendor to direct the operation, and it will take 4 percent off the top to pay the administrators of NISH, who get very good salaries indeed. Profit or loss, NISH gets 4 percent, and the blind get nothing. If blind vendors operate military facilities, NISH cannot take its 4 percent off the top.

When NISH challenged the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority in court, we fought back, and NISH lost. Now NISH is trying to use the power of Congress to stop blind people from having the right to earn money at military dining facilities. We have fought to preserve the opportunities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act for blind vendors in the past, and we will continue to do so. The Randolph-Sheppard program has given many of us a chance to work, a chance to be productive, a chance to be independent; and it must be strengthened and preserved.

Efforts are currently being made to weaken the Rehabilitation Act and to diminish the significance of the rehabilitation program. Since the 1970's the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration has been a presidential appointee. Some individuals want to make the commissioner's office a directorate appointed, not by the president, but by the secretary of education. This change would help to separate the constituency affected by rehabilitation programs from the appointment process. It would also diminish or eliminate the oversight role of the Senate. Furthermore, this plan would bury rehabilitation under layers of bureaucracy, where it would be out of sight and out of mind. We vehemently oppose these provisions and will fight to prevent their enactment.

When the National Federation of the Blind requested that the Federal Communications Commission issue a ruling that blind people have a right to have a verbal presentation of text that appears on television screens, the FCC refused to grant our petition, telling us instead that it would require television producers to make certain descriptions of entertainment programming audible. We challenged the ruling of the FCC in court, and we were successful. The court's opinion states clearly that the FCC can make a rule requiring spoken versions of text that appears on television. The court did not order the FCC to make the rule, but it did declare that such a ruling is within the power of the agency.

E*TRADE, an online bank, has the second largest ATM fleet in the country, with over 15,000 machines, but none of them are accessible to the blind. When we asked E*TRADE to make them accessible, it balked. Shortly before this convention the Massachusetts Attorney General and the National Federation of the Blind entered into a partial settlement agreement under which E*TRADE will make a portion of its fleet--a few thousand ATMs--accessible within the next thirty months. In the process of coming to this agreement, we informed E*TRADE that we would be filing a complaint against them to make the rest of their machines accessible. The company argues that, although it operates the fleet of machines, it should be required to make only those it actually owns accessible. While we were in the process of signing the settlement agreement and before we had the opportunity to file our complaint, E*TRADE sued us in Virginia in an effort to avoid the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. E*TRADE may think that it has outfoxed the Federation, but not all of the brains came into the lawsuit when E*TRADE showed up. We have decided that accessibility is a standard that must be adopted by business, including the banking business, and we will not quit until it is.

Anita Heath is a blind grandmother living in Greensboro, North Carolina. Even though she has a degree in early childhood education and even though she works in a preschool, the local Department of Social Services refused to allow Anita Heath to have custody of her own granddaughter. The reason for the denial of custody is that Anita Heath is blind. The Department of Social Services put the girl into foster care. We helped with the case in court. On February 21, 2003, over the opposition of officials at the Department of Social Services, the judge found in favor of Anita Heath and her granddaughter. The family has been reunited with the help of the National Federation of the Blind.

Last year I reported to you that the state of Arkansas had purchased a new statewide computer system from SAP to be used by all state employees. The system was not accessible to the blind. Working with our Arkansas affiliate, we sued the state of Arkansas, demanding that the system be made accessible or be removed. The state of Arkansas responded by suing SAP. An official in Arkansas called our lawyer to say that, if we did not drop the lawsuit, members of the legislature would be asked to remove the requirement of accessibility from the Arkansas statute. Of course we did not bow to the threat, and we will not change our course. A court hearing will occur in the next few days, and we will be there to insist that the blind have a right to participate.

In the meantime SAP went to Pennsylvania to sell a statewide system to the government there. The system is not accessible to the blind. Apparently we arrived in the Pennsylvania courts in the nick of time. The SAP system has not yet been implemented, and Pennsylvania officials are presently telling us it will not be implemented--at least not immediately. If it is, we will be there to challenge the act.

Darlene Barker, a blind woman, worked for Amerix Corporation, a debt counseling firm in Columbia, Maryland. According to evaluations of her performance, she was an outstanding employee, and Amerix raised her pay. Within a few days after receiving the commendatory work evaluation and the raise, Amerix informed Darlene Barker that it had installed a new computer program which was not accessible to the blind, and she was fired. In the lawsuit that followed, Amerix demanded that any settlement be confidential, so I am not at liberty to tell you how much Darlene Barker got. However, Darlene Barker's bankroll has been replenished, she has made a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, Amerix Corporation has learned that discrimination against the blind is prohibited by law, and Darlene Barker is with us at this convention.

James Dillon is a blind man who was working at Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington state as an auditor. When he lost his sight, he asked for the accommodation of a reader. The air force responded by asserting that an auditor must be able to see personally items in an audit, and it refused the accommodation. Scott LaBarre represented James Dillon in the lawsuit, and a settlement has now been reached. James Dillon knows the value of the National Federation of the Blind; he has received a settlement payment of $315,000.

Paul Hammel, a blind man living in Wisconsin, commenced employment with Eau Galle Cheese in January of 2000. Although he worked for the company for several weeks without any problems, managers began to worry that his blindness might, in some unspecified way, pose safety problems. They fired him. When we took the matter to court, Eau Galle Cheese asked the judge to rule as a matter of law that they have a right to dismiss Paul Hammel if they believe in their hearts that his presence on the job will pose a safety risk. The judge has rejected this argument, and we are now preparing to take the case to trial.

In Indiana the agency for the blind assigned five licensed blind vendors to the Indianapolis post office. Apparently counselors at the agency thought it would be easier to pack blind vendors into the post office than to seek other vending locations. Agency officials were not too worried that the income resulting from splitting vending revenues would be unconscionably small. Sometimes the amount collected by the vendors was so tiny that a minimum wage job would have paid them better. We assisted the vendors with a complaint, and the agency has changed its direction. Splitting of vending income is ceasing at the post office, and the vendors will be gaining additional revenue.

There have also been a number of Social Security cases. Jack Turner is a blind vendor from Delaware who is eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance. However, the Social Security Administration asserted that he had received an overpayment of $72,018 because, they said, he was not self-employed but an employee of the Agency for the Blind. Because there are special rules governing computation of Social Security benefit amounts for self-employed individuals, we were confident that Social Security had made a mistake, and the National Federation of the Blind offered Jack Turner assistance. After a hearing before an administrative law judge, which occurred last November, Jack Turner received the decision. He is not required to return $72,018; his monthly Social Security benefit will go up--not down; and he will be receiving a check to cover back benefits amounting to more than $55,000.

With the advent of nondiscrimination legislation and with the public information campaign mounted by the National Federation of the Blind about the capabilities of blind people, blindness is rarely used overtly as the reason for refusing a job or engaging in other discrimination. However, in Arkansas the superintendent of schools for Pulaski County has written a letter to Latreese Evans, a blind teacher, which says in part:

Dear Ms. Evans:

In compliance with the terms of the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act, I am notifying you that I will recommend to the Board of Directors that your teaching contract with the Little Rock School District not be renewed for the 2003-04 school year for the following reason:

1) Your blindness renders you unable to perform the essential functions of your job as a classroom teacher. Specifically, you are unable to monitor student behavior and engage them in instruction. Visual supervision of students is essential in managing both the behavioral environment of the classroom and the learning environment. Students need continuous and immediate feedback and the visual monitoring of students is essential to ensure the safety and well being of all students.

T. Kenneth James, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Although this man may lack the ability to punctuate a letter properly or to avoid certain other elementary mistakes in composition, he certainly does have the capacity to express himself with candor. However, no amount of candor can correct the error of ignorance. Blind people are successfully teaching all over the United States today. Blind people have been teaching successfully in the United States for a century. These blind teachers are managing the classroom, keeping discipline, imparting knowledge to their students, and helping to build an atmosphere in which scholarship is fostered. Blindness does not stop them, but the bias and ignorance of a superintendent of schools could if we let it. However, Latreese Evans is a member of the National Federation of the Blind, and we are helping her to challenge the ignorance displayed by the head of the school system. Sometimes we teach each other; sometimes we teach students; and sometimes the lessons we have to give are for the superintendent of the public schools.

A record number of visitors have come to the National Center for the Blind this year, more than 3,100 of them, from the United States and from fourteen other countries including Canada, Columbia, England, Ethiopia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Spain, and Venezuela. These visitors have come for training in technology, for consultation regarding programs of joint effort, and for participation in the many programs of the National Federation of the Blind.

More than two million items were distributed this year from the Materials Center of the National Federation of the Blind to people on each of the inhabited continents of the globe.

Working through our affiliates, we have faced challenges in a number of state legislatures, and we have gained a number of successes. Independent programs for the blind have been retained despite opposition in the state of Nebraska, and a proposal to cut the budget of the agency for the blind was defeated.

In South Carolina editors in the newspaper and certain state legislators attempted to eliminate the Commission for the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina published an editorial challenging statements from certain legislators. The outcome in South Carolina is that the Commission for the Blind remains intact. The blind met the opposition to programming for the blind, and we prevailed.

Challenges to separate identifiable programs for the blind continue to be raised, and sometimes these programs are subsumed in larger agencies. However, concerted efforts by the blind in partnership with administrators of independent programs can be successful if we find a way to generate the cooperation and harmony which so many have told us they advocate.

We continue to publish the most well-known magazine in the field of work with the blind, the Braille Monitor, the most widely distributed general information publication about blindness in the United States. Almost 350,000 issues of our magazine dealing with blindness and diabetes, Voice of the Diabetic, are published each quarter. Future Reflections, our magazine for parents and educators of blind children, is now being sent to more than 10,000 people each quarter. Our Kernel Book Series, those small volumes containing firsthand accounts from individual blind people, continue to be published. The volume being released at this convention, The Car, the Sled, and the Butch Wax, is number twenty-four in the series. More than five and a half million of the Kernel Books have been placed in circulation.

Since the 1980's the National Federation of the Blind has been a member of the World Blind Union and has actively participated in the organization. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan served as president of the North America/Caribbean Region for ten years, and I held the office in the late 1990's.

The National Federation of the Blind delegates to the World Blind Union are Mrs. Mary Ellen Jernigan and I. Through the world organization we learn about programs for the blind in other lands, and we find opportunities for joint action. In addition to the efforts of the delegates, other Federation members have represented us. Barbara Pierce is the Federation member who serves on the WBU Committee on Media, Advocacy, Policy, and Information, which met in Rome last January. Peggy Elliott addressed an international congress on disability which took place in Milan, Italy.

The work we do in the National Federation of the Blind receives recognition in many ways. Joanne Wilson serves as the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. She has been a leader of the National Federation of the Blind and has created innovative programs serving people with disabilities. In May of 2003 she was granted a second honorary doctorate--this one from Louisiana Tech University. Then there is Betsy Zaborowski, who in May of 2003 received the Circle of Excellence Award in recognition of her contributions to the state of Maryland. Only twenty-one women, who are leaders from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors in Maryland, received such awards.

As I have traveled throughout the country in the last year, I have encountered the unquenchable spirit and the unfailing wellspring of hope within our movement. We as blind people are sometimes misunderstood, sometimes confronted with discrimination, sometimes belittled, sometimes ignored. But despite all of the problems we face, we are also encountering greater success, greater recognition, and greater acceptance within society than ever before in our history. What has been the driving force to bring about such change? You know the answer as well as I. It is our work within the organized blind movement; it is the effort of the National Federation of the Blind.

We in the Federation have a joint commitment and a shared bond of love and trust. We must believe in ourselves and in each other. We must believe in our capacity to build an organization which will help us contribute to our own society. We must be prepared to make the sacrifices that are demanded in the process of gaining real independence. And we must never doubt that the ultimate responsibility for the future of the blind belongs to us.

In the struggles that are ahead of us, challenges will come that must be met. Some will be obvious, but others (the more dangerous ones) will be subtle and hidden. Sometimes we will be asked to accept partial participation as a reasonable compromise in the name of gaining greater acceptance, with the argument that half a loaf is better than none. But we must reject halfway measures and partial participation--we want nothing less than the real thing. Half a loaf may be better than none, but what we're after is the whole loaf and nothing less.

As we accelerate our growth in these first years of the twenty-first century, we must gather our resources, stimulate our imaginations, muster our courage, and reaffirm our dedication to full first-class participation with no compromise. I pledge to do my part, to give of my time, my resources, my energy, and my commitment. I will go wherever I must, and I will do whatever is required to lead our movement, and I will not hesitate or waver or equivocate.

You, in turn, must do your part. You must be prepared to work with and to support me and the other members of the Federation to build the future that can and will be ours. The commitment is demanding; it requires energy, dedication, and cost. Even so, I go to meet the future with enthusiastic optimism because I know the hearts of the members of the Federation, and I know the commitment we have made together. I know to the depths of my being that we will never quit until we have reached our objective. With this knowledge I gain strength derived from the members of our movement. Over the long run no force on earth can alter our course or slow our progress. This is what we are in the National Federation of the Blind; this is my pledge to you; and this is my report for 2003.

E-mail: [email protected]
Posted: September 2003