National Federation of the Blind


by Marc Maurer

During the past twelve months the National Federation of the Blind has experienced substantial progress. Our extensive programs have expanded, and our activities have diversified. As we gather for this convention, our feelings are harmonious and enthusiastic. This by no means suggests that we are passive. There is a restless, throbbing energy throughout the Federation. That driving force is focused, and we are finding solutions to our problems.

Within our movement (the organized blind movement) there is a place for blind professionals, for blind students, for parents of blind children and the children themselves, for blind merchants, for blind workers in industry and the sheltered shops, for administrators and workers in the field of work with the blind, for sighted family members and friends, for blind people hunting work, and for blind retirees—for everybody. The only requirements are that we possess belief in the founding principles of our movement and that we be willing to put that belief into practice. We have forged an agreement. Our organization is for everybody—everybody, that is, who is prepared to work, to believe, and to dream. As we prepare for the year ahead, and as we review our progress during the past twelve months, that commitment remains the vital connective tissue of our organization.

Increasingly the National Federation of the Blind is recognized by governmental agencies, nonprofit institutions, and commercial companies as the most knowledgeable organization in the nation regarding blindness. The Golden Corral Restaurant chain provides activity books to the children who come to dine. One of these books contains a story about a blind child named April, who travels in time. April is depicted using a cane and reading Braille. We were asked to review the story and offer comments. Included in this Golden Corral Restaurant publication is a message from the Federation, which says: "For more information about blindness, contact the National Federation of the Blind." This booklet is scheduled to appear in September. Our message will be included in each copy distributed—all two million of them.

Our interaction with Golden Corral Restaurants is indicative of a growing phenomenon. Ever more frequently the National Federation of the Blind is consulted when the subject of blindness is being considered. When one of the readers of "Dear Abby" wrote to inquire about blindness and newspapers for the blind, "Dear Abby" called us. When the Washington Post needed background information about the capabilities of blind people, it called the National Federation of the Blind. When editors at the Simon and Schuster publishing company were seeking information about Braille literacy, they called us. When planners at the Senate Printing Office wanted to know the best way to produce Braille, they visited the National Center for the Blind.

The National Federation of the Blind was instrumental in making the 1993 presidential inauguration accessible to the blind. Several of the documents prepared by the inaugural committee were Brailled by the National Federation of the Blind for distribution to blind participants in the inauguration ceremonies. The inauguration was carried on television nationwide. The visual portions of the broadcast were described for blind people in the television audience through the Descriptive Video Service. One of the major sponsors of this descriptive video broadcast, prepared by WGBH television of Boston, was the National Federation of the Blind.

On November 16, 1990, on the fiftieth birthday of our movement, we established the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Because of the scope of activity in this Center, it has been renamed the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. This facility houses the most extensive collection of technological devices for the blind anywhere in the United States—or, for that matter, the world. We are committed to including among the devices in the Center at least one of every piece of useful hardware that can be obtained (along with all of the useful software packages) capable of producing information in speech, in refreshable Braille, or in hard copy Braille. Although this Center is less than three years old, it has already outgrown its original quarters, a spacious demonstration hall twenty-six feet wide and one hundred twenty feet long with accompanying offices and classrooms. Nothing like it exists (or has ever existed) anywhere in the world.

Available to be examined in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind today are twenty-five kinds of speech synthesizers; five kinds of stand-alone reading machines; nine kinds of computer-based reading systems; eight kinds of refreshable Braille displays; two kinds of Braille laptop computers; seven kinds of portable electronic note takers; twenty kinds of Braille embossers; nine kinds of Braille translation software; twenty kinds of screen review programs; five kinds of printers for creating Braille and print on the same page; numerous pieces of miscellaneous software, such as scientific calculators, banking programs, speech-based reference materials, database managing systems, and other computer programs; miscellaneous hardware, such as graphics devices; a talking cash register; and the computers needed to make all of this work.

The second floor of the Johnson Street wing in the main building at the National Center for the Blind is presently being remodeled to house the ever-expanding International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. In addition to extensive demonstration space there will be eleven new offices, meeting facilities, a museum, and a kitchen. The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind will, in these new quarters, be more than two and a half times as large as it is today.

One aspect of the Technology Center is our computer bulletin board, NFB NET. This service makes available by telephone, to people with a computer and computer modem, information about blindness, services for the blind, the organized blind movement, computer technology of interest to the blind, computer programs, and suggestions that will improve information availability to the blind. In addition, this service provides a communications system where topics of interest to the blind can be researched and discussed. There have been 9,215 calls to the bulletin board within the past twelve months. There have been 1,924 files sent to the board by phone, and over 6,000 transmissions of information from our service.

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is valuable because it brings opportunities to blind people who would not otherwise have them. But this is only part of the reason for its existence. The cooperation among agencies doing work with the blind, organizations involved in the blindness system, and blind consumers is stimulated and enhanced through meetings that are planned to discuss technological applications and related matters. In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind sponsored and hosted the first U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind. This conference brought together for the first time the decision-makers of all of the major manufacturers and distributors of technology, organizations working with the blind, and organizations of the blind in the United States and Canada. We are now planning to sponsor and host the second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind. Again, it will be convened at the National Center for the Blind. The specific results coming from these conferences are far more than the improvement and dissemination of technology. They also encompass a new spirit of harmony and cooperation among all of those involved in blindness and work with the blind on the North American continent.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, serves as President of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. His leadership has created greater unity of purpose and a clearer focus regarding the common problems of those involved in work with the blind than there has ever been in the past. Last fall Dr. Jernigan led the North America/Caribbean delegation to the third quadrennial convention of the World Blind Union, held in Cairo, Egypt. In addition to Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan, Federationists who attended included Don and Betty Capps; Patricia Miller; my wife, Patricia Maurer; and me.

Before reaching Cairo, Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan visited programs for the blind in Athens, Greece; Amman, Jordan; and Istanbul, Turkey. While in Istanbul, Dr. Jernigan was invited to an audience with the then Turkish President Turgut Ozal. For almost an hour, Dr. Jernigan and the members of the Turkish Federation of the Blind discussed with President Ozal matters dealing with blindness in Turkey and throughout the world.

The participation of the National Federation of the Blind in the World Blind Union has not only given those of us in the United States perspective about what we are doing in this country, but it has also produced a spirit of cooperation in the blindness field throughout this region of the world which would have been unimaginable even as recently as a decade ago. The Committee on Joint Organizational Effort (JOE) has grown out of the international meetings which were initiated through the World Blind Union. In the spring of 1993, the members of the JOE committee met at the National Center for the Blind, in Baltimore. For the first time in affairs dealing with blindness there was general agreement among the agencies and organizations present to cooperate to seek major changes in programs for the blind. These changes are expanded availability of Social Security Disability Insurance for the blind and a much broader scope of education for blind children in the reading and writing of Braille.

To the extent that we can, we are providing encouragement and assistance to the blind not only of this country but also throughout the world. Literature and materials about blindness are being distributed to: Angola, Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, England, Ethiopia, France, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Holland, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Liberia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Guinea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Tobago, Trinidad, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, and Zambia.

Early last fall two members of the Turkish Federation of the Blind, Lokman Ayva and Selahattin Aydin, visited the National Center for the Blind for several weeks of intensive training in the techniques of blindness and the use of computer technology. When blind people from other nations are seeking to expand opportunities for the blind and to encourage independence by blind people within their borders, we feel a natural kinship with them. When working together, the friendships we form are lasting and deep. Dr. Jernigan's visit with the President of Turkey, accompanied by members of the Turkish Federation of the Blind, is one instance of our continuing relationship, but this is not all. Mr. Lokman Ayva graduated with a bachelor's degree in management this spring. He applied immediately to take the Turkish national scholarship examination for study in other nations and paid the required fee. Scholarships are awarded based upon performance in this examination. One of the questions on the application asked if he was disabled. Lokman Ayva replied that he is blind. Eight days before the examination was to occur, the Turkish department of education denied him the opportunity to take it on the grounds of blindness. But Mr. Ayva did not give up. He protested to the department of education and the newspapers. He also contacted his friends in the National Federation of the Blind of the United States. At Mr. Ayva's request, we sent letters of protest about the denial to the department of education in Turkey and to the principal newspaper. Three days before the examination was to be given, the Turkish department of education changed its mind. The administrator of the department complained to the press that the denial of opportunity for Mr. Ayva to take the examination had received more attention in the papers than the news about the presidency of Turkey. Lokman Ayva competed with the others who are seeking scholarships to study management outside the borders of Turkey. Blindness has not prevented him from further education even though the attitudes of administrators in the department of education might have. Such is the measure of international cooperation between the National Federation of the Blind and like-minded individuals throughout the world.

We have also been involved during the past year with a number of legal cases. Jillian Brooks is a blind X-ray technician living in California. She was hired by Redding Radiology late in 1990. Although she had discussed the alternative techniques she would use to perform the daily functions of a radiologist, officials at Redding Radiology had not regarded her as a blind person until they saw her adaptive aids being used on the job. One week after she was employed, Jillian Brooks was fired on the grounds that she is blind and that no blind person can do the work of a radiologist.

Jillian Brooks was not only fired; she was told that if she complained, Redding Radiology would have her blacklisted—banned from the profession altogether. It is not a coincidence that Jillian Brooks turned for assistance to the National Federation of the Blind. She is president of her local chapter, and she is one of our leaders in California. A lawsuit was filed charging discrimination on the grounds of blindness. That case has now been settled. There is a price to be paid by those who discriminate against the blind. The payment to Jillian Brooks came to one hundred eighty thousand dollars. And there are those who wonder what value there is in becoming a member of the National Federation of the Blind.

In Alabama, we are facing a situation which is complex, unconscionable, and ugly. There is extensive systematic discrimination in the Alabama vending program. An investigation conducted by the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education discovered that the average income in the vending program for white vendors is $6,000 greater than the income for black vendors. During the past three years, ninety-five percent of the new locations in the state have been awarded to white vendors. The locations received by black vendors produce the smallest amounts of money, and they are in high-risk areas. It was noted in the report that two of the vendors had been killed while they were operating their vending facilities. Both were black.

Although these findings are, to say the least, shocking, the agency for the blind in Alabama has shown virtually no interest in taking action to correct this pattern of discrimination. We have proposed to officials of the state agency that affirmative action programs be implemented to accelerate the advancement of the black vendors who have been systematically deprived of promotions in the program, that facilities in high-risk areas be closed and the operators transferred to safer and more lucrative locations, and that additional training be offered to black blind vendors to compensate for the past refusal to teach the basic skills required for business. When the Randolph-Sheppard Act was adopted, it created a vending program for blind vendors—all blind vendors, not just those of a particular class. Those who believe that it is all right to discriminate against one or another segment of the blind must learn that they will have to face the united force of the National Federation of the Blind. We are the blind, and we stand together. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind.

Two years ago I reported to you that we were helping with a lawsuit on behalf of Larry Reynolds. The case involved his right as a blind father to have his daughter visit him without sighted supervision. Now, the case has come to an end. The blatantly discriminatory requirement that a sighted supervisor be with him twenty-four hours a day is no more. A father and his daughter have been reunited without artificial barriers and discriminatory conditions. It happened because of the National Federation of the Blind.

Maureen Symes is a student who has earned an A-average at Linfield College in Oregon. Last year she applied to travel to Mexico for an extended period to study art. Students were accepted for the trip based upon academic standing and their responses to questions in a personal interview. Although Maureen Symes received high scores in the interview (and she does have that "A" average), she was denied the opportunity to take the trip because of her blindness. Then, she learned of the National Federation of the Blind, and she asked for help. When we informed the president of the college that there had been violations of both state and federal law, the college changed its ruling. It is worthwhile to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Maureen Symes can tell you the reason why.

Henrietta Brewer is a child-care provider in Michigan. Last fall she applied to be director of an after-school day care program operated by the public school. However, the state of Michigan denied her the necessary license. The reason is the same old tired piece of make-believe that is almost always trotted out safety. Knowing that Henrietta Brewer was thoroughly capable, the local school offered to hire her anyway without state approval, but officials from the certifying agency threatened to close the child-care program. Henrietta Brewer called upon the National Federation of the Blind. With our help a complaint has been filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act. There is no reason why Henrietta Brewer cannot perform child-care duties. She knows it; those in the school district know it; the blind know it; and state certifying officials are about to learn it.

Janet Roberts had been an exemplary employee at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, Oregon, for seven years when she became blind. Although the hospital employs 2,500 people in dozens of different work assignments, Janet Roberts was informed that she would be terminated because of her blindness. There was no talk of reasonable accommodation, no discussion of retraining, no consideration of the alternative techniques that Janet Roberts could use to perform the essential functions of the job that she had managed with an outstanding record for seven years. Janet Roberts was blind; that, according to the hospital, was enough.

With the help of the National Federation of the Blind, Janet Roberts commenced legal action. Just before Christmas of 1992, the hospital offered Janet Roberts a new job, and she was paid a sizable cash settlement. Although the settlement agreement prohibits disclosure of the dollar amount, I strongly suspect that Janet Roberts is now able to consider the purchase of a new home. A job, a home, and no more discrimination—this is what comes of being a member of the National Federation of the Blind.

Connie Leblond serves as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine. Several years ago she applied for a job as a telephone answering machine operator at Sentinel Service of Portland, Maine. Sentinel had advertised that the job paid $5 an hour, that no experience was necessary, and that on-the-job training would be provided. Nevertheless, when Connie Leblond appeared for an interview, she was summarily dismissed without being given the chance to demonstrate her ability to do the work. Sentinel personnel said that the operator of the telephone answering machine must be able to read and that blind people are not able to do that. Despite her protests, Connie Leblond was peremptorily rejected. Using the combined know-how of the Federation at the national and state levels, we brought legal action against Sentinel. A trial occurred, and the decision has now been reached. Although the order of the court has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Maine, the decision is clear and unequivocal, and I suspect that it will not be overturned. Sentinel has been ordered to cease and desist its discriminatory policy, to pay $1,000 in civil damages to Connie Leblond, to reimburse us for the attorney fees expended in the case, and to issue a check for back wages to Connie Leblond amounting to $20,700. This is one more reason for the National Federation of the Blind.

The National Federation of the Blind has been active in protecting the rights of blind vendors. In 1987, the Maryland state licensing agency was taking seventeen percent of vendors' net income in set-aside payments. These charges had not been approved by the federal government even though the Randolph-Sheppard Act requires it. Furthermore, the agency had proposed set-aside charges of over twenty percent. These practices are clearly contrary to the federal requirement that such charges be approved by the Department of Education, so with the support and encouragement of the National Federation of the Blind seventeen Maryland vendors decided that they would make no further payments until the Maryland agency came into compliance with federal rules. The state agency responded with an ultimatum to the protesting vendors, saying that they must pay up or be expelled from the program in thirty days. The termination notices served as the basis for a complaint in the federal court.

The Maryland vendors' case lasted five years. In 1992, settlement papers were signed. No vendor was terminated for failing to pay set-aside, and the state agency may not retaliate against blind vendors for participating in the lawsuit. The extraordinary set-aside rates have been dropped to eight and a half percent and will be dropped to three percent by 1995. Every vendor's personal income will increase as a direct result of our efforts, and each vendor will also receive $2,000 per year for fringe benefits. The set-aside rate may not be increased by the state licensing agency before 2009. Vendors in Maryland would still be paying an exorbitant amount to the state agency if it had not been for the work of the National Federation of the Blind.

One of the ongoing activities of the Federation this year has been assistance to individuals with Social Security problems. Because the specialized rules regarding disability claims for the blind are different from those for other disability groups, mistakes sometimes occur. The Richard Realmuto case is a striking example. He became blind in December of 1989. He took a leave of absence from his industrial arts teaching job with the New York public school system and applied for Social Security Disability Insurance. After the five-month waiting period, he was awarded benefits, but three months later (in September of 1990) with assistance from the National Federation of the Blind, Richard Realmuto returned to his position as an industrial arts teacher. Indeed, the experiences of Richard Realmuto as a blind teacher of the sighted are illustrative. He will be making a presentation later during the convention.

Not long after his return to work, the Social Security Administration notified Richard Realmuto that he would be required to refund the entire amount paid to him from June of 1990. However, our examination of the case indicated that Richard Realmuto was entitled to every penny of the Social Security benefits that he had received—and then some. We proved it in a hearing. Rather than being required to repay almost $10,000 to the Social Security Administration, Richard Realmuto and his dependents received more than $12,000 of additional money. The outcome would undoubtedly have been the reverse if it had not been for our knowledge, our ability to do the research, our determined effort, and our capacity to apply the law to the facts. Richard Realmuto is bright, but he is not accustomed to the intricacies of federal regulation. When it comes to blindness and fighting for his rights, he is a relative newcomer. He needs the National Federation of the Blind, and of course, we need him, too. Working together we can solve the problems we face. This is why we have the National Federation of the Blind.

The National Federation of the Blind is among the most outspoken proponents of Braille. We produce and distribute more Braille each year than any other organization in the United States except the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Through our Parents of Blind Children Division, we conduct the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest to promote the learning of Braille for blind children. We have this year promoted the study of Braille by sighted students in the high school grades, and we have granted scholarships to attend this convention to three who have completed the National Library Service transcribing course. We have established and continue to expand the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. We have been working jointly with the American Printing House for the Blind to create teaching materials for courses of study in Braille. We have joined with the Creative Director of the nationally-syndicated cartoon "Pluggers" to employ the blind character Zackaroo to promote Braille literacy. In this effort we have adopted the slogan "Braille is finger food for the mind." And we promote Braille literacy programs in schools and in libraries throughout the United States. As an example, early in August, I will be reading Braille to five-year-olds who are participating in the story hour program of the Baltimore County Public Library. Within the past year the Blind Person's Literacy Rights and Education Act (more commonly known as the Braille Bill), which we drafted, has been adopted in one form or another by the legislatures of five states. So far, eighteen states have Braille literacy laws on the books. Although there is a great deal of work yet to be done, literacy for the blind is today more of a reality than it has ever been. Reading is essential. We of the National Federation of the Blind know this in our minds and our hearts. We will never quit until every blind child has the chance to learn to read.

At our convention last year, we discussed at length a plan which had been proposed by a small group within the rehabilitation establishment to create a national commission on blindness. The purpose of this commission was ostensibly to conduct research and provide advice on the subject of blindness to Congressional leaders, to officials in the executive branch of government, and to all other interested persons. The real purpose behind the proposal was to take control of the rehabilitation establishment for the blind and to prevent blind consumers from having significant input into the decision-making process. This proposal was included as a part of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992. Although the bill to reauthorize the Rehabilitation Act was signed by the President last October, the national commission on blindness was no longer a part of it. We, the organized blind of this country, had voiced strong opposition to a commission that would interpret for us our needs and wants. Our voice was heard in the halls of Congress. We opposed the commission on blindness, and it was defeated.

I am pleased to report that included in the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992 are provisions that those who are blind are presumed to be eligible for rehabilitation services and that blind clients have a right to choose among those who will provide those services.

During the past year we have initiated (in conjunction with others) three new programs. The Information Access Training Program, funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, is devoted to training blind people in the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act regarding accessible information. The Work Incentive Training Program, funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, is designed to provide information about the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income work incentive provisions to rehabilitation professionals and consumers. The Braille Literacy Training Program is a cooperative venture with the American Printing House for the Blind to develop improved Braille training systems and materials for blind adults. The in-depth experience of blind people throughout the nation is essential to all of these programs. There is no other organization that can provide the kind of experience and background that we can bring to the performance of these endeavors.

Hank Dekker is a blind sailor. We will be hearing from him later during the convention. Ten years ago he sailed alone from San Francisco to Hawaii. A second solo trans-Pacific voyage was completed three years later. This summer, on July 26, Hank Dekker plans to pilot a sailing sloop, the "NFB," from Baltimore harbor into the Atlantic. His destination is Plymouth, England. This event, named "To Sea with a Blind Sailor," will demonstrate the capacity of the blind and will focus attention on the fundamental reality that we who are blind have the same hopes, desires, abilities, and dreams possessed by everybody else—including the dream to sail alone on the high seas. As we have so often said, blindness cannot stop us, but misunderstanding may. This summer, we the National Federation of the Blind will be supporting the blind blue water sailor, Hank Dekker, in his voyage. We believe in the blind; we believe in our member Hank Dekker; we believe he will successfully complete the voyage; we believe in the National Federation of the Blind.

With the adoption of the Americans With Disabilities Act, many who hoped to make a bundle by restructuring the world for what they perceive to be the unfortunate blind began to create proposals to install raised warning surfaces for us all over the country. Bumpy handrails; knurled doorknobs; sandpapery strips at the tops and bottoms of staircases; specialized tiles with large rounded bumps on them called Braille tiles, pathfinder tiles, or the like; and even homes with rounded corners and easy-to-follow floor plans specifically designed for the blind. All of these have been promoted as essential architectural alterations mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Such modifications are not required by the Act, and they do more harm than good. Changes to the environment should be welcomed when they help but rejected when they don't. Our focus in the Federation is not on modifying the world but on having the opportunity to live in it as it is.

Last fall Peggy Pinder, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind, was appointed by the President of the United States to serve as a member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, the federal agency responsible for deciding what modifications are required to ensure that handicapped people have full access to newly-constructed or remodeled public buildings and facilities. Her service as a member of this board has already been effective. The Architectural Barriers Board has for the first time reviewed the standard for Braille which should be used in creating signs for the blind. Prior to this review (even as recently as six months ago) much of the Braille produced on signs was completely unreadable. In addition, the Architectural Barriers Board has rejected some of the harmful proposals which have been made such as the one to require the installation of tiles with raised surfaces. We believe that this board should adopt the policy that those architectural changes which clearly do some good will be considered for inclusion in federal regulations—and that those which do not won't. This spirit seems evident in recent decisions of the board.

Fred Schroeder is Executive Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. He is one of the most knowledgeable individuals about Braille in this country. For several years he has served as the representative of the National Federation of the Blind on the board of the Braille Authority of North America. He has been an active proponent of a unified Braille code in the United States, and his influence in promoting Braille has been felt in other nations as well. In 1992, the International Council on English Braille was established to serve as a catalyst to bring uniformity in the printing of Braille to all English-speaking countries. Fred Schroeder was elected as its first President. In June, a few weeks prior to our convention here, Fred Schroeder presided at the conference of the International Council on English Braille in Sydney, Australia. While in that country, he appeared on the program of the National Federation of Blind Citizens of Australia. He also traveled to New Zealand to present the keynote speech at the Braille Conference of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind in Auckland. Although it is essential that we address problems in our own country, it is also beneficial to have interaction with those abroad.

We continue to publish and distribute the most extensive array of information about blindness produced in the United States. Our magazine, the Braille Monitor, provided in Braille, in print, on cassette, and on talking book record, is the most widely-read general information magazine in the field of work with the blind, having a circulation of more than 30,000 a month. Our publication the Voice of the Diabetic, with a circulation of over 60,000, is the most widely-distributed magazine about blindness in the nation. The magazine for parents and educators of blind children, Future Reflections, is being sent to over 10,000 individuals and institutions. And there are also the publications of state affiliates, other national divisions, and local chapters. In our studios at the National Center for the Blind, in addition to recording the Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, and the Voice of the Diabetic, we produce a number of other publications, including Job Opportunities for the Blind Bulletins, the American Bar Association Journal, Presidential Releases, recorded issues of our books, and a number of specialized publications and materials.

We are releasing at this convention two new books in the Kernel Book series: As the Twig is Bent and Making Hay. These general-interest publications about blindness capture the essence and spirit of our movement. We who are blind yearn for the opportunity to be independent and successful. These volumes bring inspiration and education to the homes of the general public. The response from those who have received our books shows that our approach to the subject of blindness is new, impressive, exciting, and convincing. We have now distributed more than two million of the Kernel Books, and more are coming.

Our public education program continues through our public service announcements. The capabilities of blind people have been broadcast this year on all of the major television and radio networks, and our service message has reached the homes of an estimated two hundred million people.

And then, there is the balloon. The name of the National Federation of the Blind may appear almost anywhere. Our flag and our banner were flown from a hot air balloon that participated in the 1992 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

There are now more than 200 types of aids and appliances being distributed from our Materials Center. We also distribute literature—now over 800 different items. Our reference book, What You Should Know About Blindness, Services for the Blind, and the Organized Blind Movement, has been sent to over 40,000 people this year, and a newly-published critical examination of the social status of the blind, entitled The Struggle of Blind People for Self-Determination by Professor C. Edwin Vaughan, has recently become available. The items that have been distributed this year from our Materials Center number about two million. Among them were 16,806 cane tips. I asked certain members of the Federation how long a cane tip lasts. The information I collected indicates that tips are good for at least thirty miles. At thirty miles a tip this is over half a million miles of cane travel. One thing is certain, Federationists get around.

This has been a year of accelerated growth for the Federation, but not all of our encounters have been positive. In 1992 David Robinson, a Federationist of long standing, was appointed as Administrator of the Ohio Client Assistance Program—the agency funded under the Rehabilitation Act to assist rehabilitation clients in gaining their rights. The Client Assistance Program is supposed to be an independent agency; the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act make this clear. Soon after his appointment, David Robinson learned that the Client Assistance Program in Ohio was being directed by the same administrators who were expected to provide rehabilitation services. This watchdog agency was (in violation of federal law) under the thumb of the people it was intended to watch. David Robinson complained about this condition and tried to get it changed. Within a few months, he had been relieved of his duties. Shortly before he was discharged, David Robinson was ordered to stop talking with Federation members—all Federation members—at least while he was at work.

We in the Federation have a right to be a part of this movement, and working for the state of Ohio cannot strip us of that right. It is guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the United States. In May of this year David Robinson and the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio filed suit. The case is not over; indeed, it is only beginning. But the principle that we will speak and act freely and independently, and work with each other to bring opportunities which have not previously been available to the blind is fundamental to us. We must and we will protect our right to be a part of the movement and to speak our minds. Such action is essential to maintain and achieve our freedom, and freedom of action we will have. In other words we intend to win the David Robinson case. This, too, is the meaning of the National Federation of the Blind.

As President of the National Federation of the Blind this year, I have encountered blind people matriculating in the schools; participating in civic affairs; working in offices, factories, and workshops; engaging in politics; creating art; writing books; planning international travel; sailing the seas; raising families; and enjoying leisure activities—in short, participating in every aspect of daily life. Although I am pleased to work with those outside our organization (public officials, representatives of agencies for the blind, members of the business community, and individuals from the academic world), my inspiration and my faith in the future come from you, the members of the National Federation of the Blind.

As I come to this convention, I know that the problems in the weeks, the months, and the years ahead will be great, but I also know—I am absolutely certain—that we as a people will do what we need to do. We will muster the resources; we will find the strength; we will have the dedication to meet the challenge. We in the Federation have made a commitment and a solemn promise. We will believe in each other and in ourselves; we will care for our blind brothers and sisters; and we will support our organization. Our movement is a sacred trust. We cannot do less than give it the energy, the resilience, and the spirit that is ours. This is the promise of our movement—this is the reality of the National Federation of the Blind. And this is my report for 1993.

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Updated: March 14, 2002