National Federation of the Blind

California, July 2, 1996

by Marc Maurer

During the past twelve months the National Federation of the Blind has engaged in a broader array of activities than ever before in its history. This has necessarily meant heightened awareness, growing sophistication, and dealing with problems of increasing complexity. Yet, as we gather at this convention, we come with confidence—confidence borne of a sense of harmony and inner belief that we will find the resources, muster the will, and encompass the vision to meet the challenges ahead.

We in the Federation have many assets, but the most important of these is the solid phalanx of our members, the people who make our movement what it is—the students, the parents of blind children, the children themselves, the vendors, the professionals, the officials of programs for the blind, the laborers in the sheltered shops, the workers in industry, the graduates of Federation orientation centers, the successful business people, and the ones who have not yet found employment. And there are others: the families and friends of the blind who are as much a part of our organization as we who are blind. These are the people who neither expect nor get special thanks since they are equal participants in the movement. They are the people who in partnership with the rest of us distribute literature about the Federation, sell candy, organize chapter meetings, encourage the discouraged, and carry on the tens of thousands of daily tasks that make the Federation what it is. We are the blind from every segment of society and from every corner of America—we are the people of the organized blind movement.

One of the most exciting developments in the history of the National Federation of the Blind is NEWSLINE for the Blind®, the nationwide network which offers newspapers to the blind by touch tone telephone. A pilot project to demonstrate the workability of the NEWSLINE Network® was initiated last year. At that time USA Today was on line. Today, not only is there USA Today, but also the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and local newspapers. The revolutionary character of this development was recognized last fall by the Greater Baltimore Committee, a group of a thousand business leaders in Baltimore. This committee conducted an event in October of 1995 called Tech Night. NEWSLINE for the Blind® was demonstrated to thousands of individuals and was featured at a gala banquet. The demonstration was simulcast to individuals all over the world through the Internet. It is estimated that nine million people saw it.

In April of this year, a camera crew and reporter from the Cable News Network came to the National Center for the Blind to examine NEWSLINE and to conduct an interview. The story was broadcast on the news program of CNN at frequent intervals for a full day; it was carried on the CNN Airport Network for a weekend; and it was featured as part of the Cable News Network program describing the most innovative technological products now becoming available. CNN carried our name and the story of our work to over two hundred countries.

This spring we were invited for an interview on the nationally broadcast "CBS This Morning" program. The first item to be considered was NEWSLINE for the Blind. We also demonstrated products from the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind and described the work of the Federation. The message was carried to millions of homes in every part of the nation.

At our convention last year the president of the Polish Association of the Blind, Tadeusz Madzia, presented a summary of activities of the blind in Poland. He spoke eloquently of the inspiration which Dr. Kenneth Jernigan brought to the blind of his country in 1990, and he said that he hoped to see us develop joint activities and an ongoing relationship. For the entire month of March of this year, blind instructors from the Colorado Center for the Blind, the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and the Minnesota center for the blind went to Poland to conduct training courses for professionals in work with the blind in that country and to work alongside teachers and blind students. And this is not the end. Officials at the Polish Association of the Blind have indicated that they would like to have blind people from their country travel to the United States to observe and participate in classes at our centers. Representatives of the Polish Association of the Blind are with us at this convention.

It is interesting to note how the various strands of our work come together to form a consistent pattern. At the end of April of this year, I received a letter from Larry Campbell, one of the most widely traveled and internationally known professionals in work with the blind in this country. His letter said:

I am writing you this note from Warsaw, although it is unlikely to reach you before I get home in another week.

I couldn't resist sharing this little story with you. This morning I woke up quite early, and as is my habit when travelling, I hit the remote control for the television while I was half asleep. I thought I heard your voice. I fumbled for my glasses, and when I found them, my eyes confirmed what my ears already knew. There you were in living color on CNN doing that very nice piece on the newspaper project. I'm sure it reached lots of people here in Eastern Europe.

When I got to the Polish Association of the Blind for a meeting with Tadeusz Madzia and Ludwik Rosiennik, NFB was once again a topic of conversation. The workshop that NFB recently conducted here has had very positive results—lots of thinking about revising the rehabilitation process. I was quite pleased to learn of this work, since I am working on a new project that involves Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The work that NFB has done will, I think, have a very positive impact.

So said Larry Campbell.

In the summer of 1995 we learned of allegations of abuse and neglect of children at the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped. However, they were reported to us by anonymous letters. Such letters are easy to write, hard to verify, and almost always useless. But these letters contained so much specificity that we felt an obligation to investigate. Working through both our National Office and our state affiliate in New Mexico, we began the search for the truth.

We found current and former students who said that the pregnancy rate for girls at the school was high, that sexual activity between boys and girls at the school was not uncommon, that sexual attack by staff members against students was a repeated pattern, that drugs were frequently used on campus by students, that alcoholic beverages were obtained by students, that sometimes staff members supplied drugs and alcohol in exchange for sex, that physical abuse of students occurred at the school, and that the superintendent knew about it and did little to stop it.

We collected documentation and turned it over to the Attorney General of New Mexico and other officials. Although we were told that an investigation was being conducted, months passed with no result. We asked the students and former students if they would be prepared to make affidavits setting forth the details of the abuse. State officials in New Mexico seemed to take the attitude that, if the administrators at the School said that it didn't happen, the blind students and the parents of blind children could not be believed. Those who had been victims of the alleged abuse asked what could be done. They had come to us for help. We had promised to bring the matter to public attention. We had informed the officials who were supposed to act. But nothing had changed. If government officials are unable or unwilling to protect the rights of blind children, then we must look to our own resources. That is one of the reasons why we have a National Federation of the Blind.

We started looking for a lawyer. On May 14, 1996, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Mexico on behalf of students and former students at the school for the blind. That evening the filing of the lawsuit was reported on the NBC Nightly News, and the next evening a follow-up, during which I spoke, was carried. The details of the lawsuit and the allegations that led to its filing will soon appear in the Braille Monitor.

Meanwhile, I have this to say. If we were only dealing with New Mexico, it would be bad enough. But we are not just dealing with New Mexico. We are dealing with a pattern! During the past year we have reported abuses at the schools for the blind in Arkansas and Illinois. And our information is that such abuses are also alleged to exist in other schools as well. I want to be clear about what I am saying. It is not that all schools for the blind are bad. They aren't. There are some that are doing an excellent job, and we will support and work closely with them.

But there are others! And we have a message for those others, one that they would do well to heed. To such schools we say, when you permit or, by your neglect, condone abuse and mistreatment of blind children, we will expose your behavior to the public; we will confront you with whatever force may be required; and we will put a stop to what you are doing. Be assured that we mean what we say and that we can make it happen!

As Federation members know, we established the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind on November 16, 1990, our fiftieth birthday. It houses the most extensive collection of technology for the blind in the world, including at least one of every device of which we are aware that produces information from computers in either speech or Braille. The commitment we made at the opening of the Center was to maintain this collection of equipment and to acquire all additional useful machines for the blind that become available. During the past year we have added four new Braille embossers and obtained or upgraded four Braille translation software packages, three DOS-based screen reading programs, eight screen review programs for Windows, two stand-alone reading machines, four PC-based reading systems, and four note-takers. In order to keep current and to operate all the computer programs, we have upgraded our machines and purchased a number of computers in the pentium class. In addition, we have added Atlas Speaks, a talking atlas of the United States.

Much of the information provided by computer is gathered through the Information Superhighway, sometimes called the Internet. We have created in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind an Internet work station, which can be used to demonstrate methods for obtaining information in speech, in Braille, or in refreshable Braille.

One of the services available through the Internet is electronic mail. We are beginning distribution of information by this system. Our monthly publication, the Braille Monitor, is now being distributed automatically by e-mail to those who want it. If the experiment works, and we feel certain that it will, other publications will soon be offered for distribution electronically.

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is a technology laboratory for examining, testing, and comparing different information access systems for the blind. It is a resource for employers, for agencies for the blind, for governmental entities, for developers of technology, and for blind users. Each year we receive thousands of calls requesting information about technology from throughout the United States and a number of other countries.

Late in 1995 we added an additional training program to those that we have been conducting. The Information Access Technology Training Program seeks to give personnel from state vocational rehabilitation agencies background and knowledge about access technology. A major focus of this program is week-long seminars conducted at the National Center for the Blind. Four of these have occurred since late 1995, and eight more will take place during the next two years. This program, conducted by the National Federation of the Blind, is sponsored by the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Nowhere else in the world is there gathered in one place the array of equipment to make such classes possible. Nowhere else in the world is there the depth of understanding of technological devices or the commitment to gathering information for the blind that is needed to conduct such classes. Such training classes could not occur without the National Federation of the Blind.

In 1991 the National Federation of the Blind convened the first U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind. It was an outstanding success. For the first time consumers of products for the blind, manufacturers of such products, and organizations associated with blind people came together to exchange ideas and to plan for the months and years ahead. In 1993 the Second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind was convened. This coming fall we will bring together at the National Center for the Blind the Third U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind, and this time we will expand the participation to a broader base from other nations.

Last year I reported to you that the National Federation of the Blind had created an Internet site on the World Wide Web. This is one more mechanism for distributing literature about the reality of blindness. Already we have filled almost fifty web pages with information about blindness and the Federation. Among the documents we have placed there are Walking Alone and Marching Together, the Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, publications of Job Opportunities for the Blind, the Voice of the Diabetic, Kernel books, order forms for literature and aids and appliances, laws concerning the blind, and hundreds of other documents. It is our intention to create the best computer- searchable library of information on blindness in existence, and we are well on the way to doing it.

My wife Patricia serves as a full-time volunteer. She coordinates the distribution of material through the Internet. Within the last year there have been more than 13,000 requests for information and more than 40,000 electronic pages distributed to people in the United States and other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

Increasingly we of the National Federation of the Blind are taking direct action to provide orientation and adjustment services. In Minnesota our center, Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions, acquired new classrooms and office space at a facility which had been built early in the century by the Pillsbury family. Although this facility has required substantial remodeling, the basic structure is sound, and it will be both aesthetically pleasing and functional. I was most pleased to join Joyce Scanlan, the director of our Minnesota Center, and a number of public officials for the dedication of this newly-opened facility Last fall.

In Colorado our orientation center, the Colorado Center for the Blind, outgrew its quarters. Additional space was acquired, and remodeling to provide the offices and classrooms for a training center for the blind has now been completed. An open house to dedicate the Center occurred last fall. In the presence of the news media, the president of our Colorado affiliate, Diane McGeorge; the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind, Homer Page; and I cut the ribbon to initiate the opening of the new facility.

Our Louisiana Center for the Blind has also undertaken expansion. An additional building has been purchased across the street from the original Center, and a wing has been added to the original building. This much-expanded space has meant that programs of training could be broadened with additional classes and a more varied curriculum. Last fall I was present when our Louisiana Center for the Blind celebrated its tenth anniversary and dedicated its new facilities in a public ceremony, which included several hundred graduates, many political leaders, and senior officials of rehabilitation and other state agencies.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who serves as President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, has continued to represent us in international meetings. He traveled earlier this year to a meeting of the officers of the World Blind Union in Italy. This coming August he and some of the rest of us from the Federation will participate in the fourth General Assembly of the World Blind Union in Canada. It is important that we work with the blind from throughout the world to expand the understanding of blindness. Our participation in the World Blind Union has helped bring information to us that we would otherwise not have had, and it has also enabled us to share information with others.

The upbeat, imaginative work of the National Federation of the Blind is becoming known throughout the world. The officers of the World Blind Union met at the National Center for the Blind this spring. For several days we hosted visitors from six continents.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who has been a leader of the National Federation of the Blind for almost half a century, is unexcelled in his ability to negotiate and explain. Last January former ambassador Nicholas Veliotes, the president of the Association of American Publishers, came to the National Center for the Blind for a meeting with Dr. Jernigan and other representatives of the Federation. We discussed cooperation between the Federation and the publishers and considered possible amendments to the U.S. Copyright Act. One of the problems in the process of producing Braille is receiving permission for published material to be put into a format that can be used by the blind. After a long day of discussion, it was agreed that the blind and the publishers would jointly support amendments to the copyright law which would eliminate this problem by making copyright permission automatically available to nonprofit groups and governmental entities producing material in a format that can be used by the blind. This language is currently before Congress, and prospects for its passage are extremely good.

A year ago, at the time of the National Federation of the Blind convention in Chicago, the very existence of the vocational rehabilitation program in this country was in doubt. A proposal, known as the "CAREERS Bill," had been introduced in Congress and was scheduled for consideration on the House floor. This bill would have eliminated all categorical programs of rehabilitation for the blind. It would have replaced them with a program purporting to assist all people seeking employment. Of course, general programs to assist the unemployed are already theoretically available to the blind, and the result is zero. We get nothing from such programs—no training, no understanding of our problems or needs, no jobs, no nothing. We were facing a crisis.

Of course, we were not the only organization to feel concern. But many of the others expressed frustration and a feeling of inability to do much about the matter. This was further exacerbated by statements from some of the largest operators of sheltered shops in the country—Goodwill Industries, the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC), the United Cerebral Palsy Association, and others. These organizations apparently believed that the handicapped would automatically be referred to their sheltered shop programs by the employment agency created under the CAREERS Bill, and so they were for it. They and many members of Congress told us that the CAREERS Bill was a certainty to pass. They urged us to support it so that we would have an opportunity for input. In effect, they said: "If you don't support it, you'll be cut out of all of the negotiations."

However, we resisted the seduction, as I hope we always will. We fought the bill regardless of the threats. It is this sort of thing that makes some people call us militant and others call us radical. Let them! What good is an organization if it only fights for what everybody else favors and nobody opposes? We know full well that the vocational rehabilitation program is not perfect, but we also know that having no program at all is worse. We are determined to reform and improve rehabilitation, but we are also determined to preserve the program.

We urged members of Congress to take the rehabilitation program out of the CAREERS Bill, and we urged agencies for the blind and others not to compromise. We were informed that the CAREERS Bill could not be defeated or amended, but we kept fighting. At our urging an amendment to preserve the rehabilitation program was presented on the floor of the House on September 19, 1995. When the votes were counted, we prevailed 231 to 192. It was a major victory, and although many groups and individuals helped make it happen, almost everybody agrees that we did the coordinating and took the lead. May it ever be so!

On another legislative front, maintaining the linkage between the blind and senior citizens in Social Security earnings, we have not been as successful. There is little to say except that during the past year we made a strong effort; we gave it everything we had; we didn't get the job done; and we will keep at it until we do. As we have often observed, we frequently lose skirmishes; we sometimes lose battles; but we never lose wars—for the war is not over until we win. So it will be with Social Security.

With respect to another aspect of Social Security, we have just completed a series of training workshops in the area of Social Security work incentives. These seminars were conducted in South Carolina, New Mexico, and Iowa. Rehabilitation personnel and consumers often do not know about the work incentive provisions of the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs. This lack of knowledge keeps blind people out of the work force and out of productive jobs. However, our training programs offer new perspective and new hope. Furthermore, with three years of experience in providing this information, we are now in a position to offer classes to rehabilitation personnel whenever satisfactory arrangements can be made to meet the costs. This too is a way in which we are changing what it means to be blind.

We continue to provide assistance to blind vendors in the Randolph-Sheppard program. Jim Gashel, our Director of Governmental Affairs, is serving on a federal arbitration panel which has been convened by the Secretary of Education to resolve a dispute between the Mississippi Division of Rehabilitation and the United States Air Force. Will blind vendors be permitted to operate vending facilities at Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi, Mississippi? The full food service contract for the base is worth several million dollars a year. A hearing on this matter was held in June in Washington. The language of the Randolph-Sheppard Act is clear. Blind vendors have a priority. We should have the opportunity to provide the food service. In this case we are representing the agency for the blind. When agencies for the blind want expert assistance, an increasing number are coming to the National Federation of the Blind. A decision is expected later this summer, and we expect to win.

In another case we are helping to challenge a court decision which threatens to place severe limits on the powers of an arbitration panel convened under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The decision by the United States District Court in Maryland says that the arbitration panel does not have the power to tell an agency violating the Act that it must take corrective action. Instead, the court decision states, the arbitration panel can only determine that the Act was violated. The agency may take whatever steps it wishes to correct or not correct the violation. If this decision remains unchanged, much of the value of an appeal under the Randolph-Sheppard program is gone. We are assisting the Attorney General of Maryland with the case. The lower court decision ignores the plain language of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and almost twenty years of legal precedents and cases. It ignores the entire history of arbitration decisions. And we will work until the decision has been reversed.

Bobbi Miller is a Federation member in Illinois. One of the first things she learned, after becoming blind just a few years ago, was that her employer, the Illinois Department of Corrections, intended to throw her out because she was blind. They forced her to resign under protest. She asked us for help, and we are giving it. Scott LaBarre, the president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, filed a lawsuit on her behalf about a year ago. But the court was just as discriminatory as the Department of Corrections had been. Without even giving Bobbi Miller a hearing, it issued a decision in favor of the state. The decision says that there is not one single solitary job that a blind person can do in a correctional facility—not one. We can't wash the dishes or scrub the floors or manage the paperwork or interview the prisoners or consider paroles or do purchasing or write manuals or serve in the administration or do anything else. We are helpless, the judge said. The Court's ruling cannot remain unchallenged— and it will not. We are helping with the appeal. If we are unwilling to fight for our own rights, nobody else will do it for us. We must defend ourselves. We are doing it in the Bobbi Miller case, and we expect to win.

Last year I reported to you that we were helping a blind person bring a case against a nursing home in North Carolina. Barbara Kreisberg, one of our members, had been dismissed from her position as director of the facility because of blindness. Senior management of the nursing home company refused to discuss or negotiate regarding the dismissal. We filed a lawsuit. I am pleased to be able to tell you that the matter has been settled. Part of the settlement agreement says that I may not tell you about the specifics. However, I can tell you that we caught them red- handed and that they settled accordingly. Otherwise we would not have discontinued our lawsuit. I suspect that it will be a long time before the nursing home company forgets the name of the National Federation of the Blind.

In most instances I am happy to say that we are able to work in partnership with state rehabilitation agencies for the blind. However, there are other instances in which the behavior of officials in such agencies is reminiscent of a bygone time. This is currently true in Missouri. Some months back, rehabilitation officials in Missouri issued an order to counsellors and others at the agency that they were not to provide any information to blind clients about the National Federation of the Blind. Agency personnel were even forbidden to tell blind persons whether they were members of the Federation. In the past the National Federation of the Blind had conducted joint projects with the agency to give orientation to blind students getting ready to go to college, and both the students and agency officials had uniformly praised the quality of the work. Now there is to be a total blackout, an order that agency personnel may not give any information about the Federation or distribute any of its literature, regardless of how helpful or informative such literature might be.

We have informed the Missouri rehabilitation officials that what they are doing is illegal. To say to blind clients that they may not have information about programs of interest to them because those programs are offered by an organization that state officials may not like is a violation of Constitutional rights and basic human freedom. We who are blind have a right to freedom of association, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought. No government official (whether state or federal) has the right to say otherwise, but when we said this to the agency officials in Missouri, they told us, in effect, to get lost. They would do what they pleased, they said, and part of what they pleased to do was to ban any reference to the National Federation of the Blind by any person at the Missouri agency for the blind.

Well, we can only answer in kind. Let them try to make it stick. We are preparing to file a lawsuit, and we expect to win it. As we have repeatedly said, we prefer peace and cooperative relations, but we will not take peace at any price. If we can have peace only by giving up our freedom and human dignity and crawling on our bellies, then we will fight. I am not speaking lightly. This lawsuit will cost money—maybe a lot of money. But this is a fundamental issue. We will raise the funds; we will fight with every weapon we can get; and we intend to win.

We have continued to assist with Social Security appeals. Terry Hasselbring, who lives in Estill Springs, Tennessee, was told that, because he had begun to work and receive a paycheck, he was getting too much money to receive Social Security benefits. He was also told that he had been paid $6,379.20 more than he deserved. He would no longer receive benefits, said Social Security officials, and he must repay the $6,379.20. We helped with an appeal, and a new determination has been made. Terry Hasselbring will not be required to pay $6,379.20, and his Social Security benefits will continue to be paid. This, too, is what the National Federation of the Blind is about.

That is one case, but there are dozens of others. Marie Hahn in Amarillo, Texas, has been told that she must repay $18,340. The facts show that she does not owe this money. Verna Kerley from Cookeville, Tennessee, has been told that she is no longer eligible for benefits and that she must repay $53,866. Alan Alcorn of Kansas City, Kansas, has been ordered to send the Social Security Administration a check for $60,275. They told him that he had received benefits to which he was not entitled. In each of these cases the National Federation of the Blind is helping, and we believe we can make the difference.

The Diabetes Action Network, the diabetics division of the National Federation of the Blind, has been instrumental in persuading officials at the Food and Drug Administration to consider modification of insulin containers so that the different kinds of insulin can be readily identified by touch. Tom Ley, President of the Diabetes Action Network, and Ed Bryant, Editor of the Voice of the Diabetic, pointed out to officials at the Food and Drug Administration that putting insulin of different kinds into bottles of different shapes would simplify identification for the blind and sighted alike and would assist in assuring that incorrect doses of insulin did not occur.

We have continued this year providing information about blindness to many thousands of people. Visitors have come to the National Center for the Blind from all parts of the United States and from over twenty foreign countries. Through our Materials Center we distribute over four hundred different kinds of specialized products for the blind, including Braille watches, canes, Braille slates, and hundreds of others. This year we have served over eighteen thousand people by mail, in person, and by phone. We receive in the Materials Center in excess of two hundred calls per week. There are over a thousand different literature items available for distribution. During the year we have shipped from the Materials Center two million items weighing over seventy-five thousand pounds.

At last year's convention we produced a new video depicting the crisis in Braille literacy. This video, "That the Blind May Read," is a powerful summation of the failure of the educational system to teach blind people Braille. If the blind are to become competent, we must be able to read. This video tells the story of the need for Braille and of the failure of teachers to fill that need. Over seven hundred fifty copies of this video have now been distributed. It has been shown on dozens of television stations and a number of television networks.

Then there is the program of Job Opportunities for the Blind, which we continue to operate in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor. Through this effort we have helped over one hundred blind Americans get full-time jobs at good salaries during the past year. These newly-hired blind people work in diverse occupations from medical transcriptionist to customer assistant for Chevrolet, from accountant to Sheriff's Office emergency dispatcher, from teacher to translator on the Hindi desk for Voice of America, and more.

In addition to the Braille Monitor, which is distributed to tens of thousands of people each month, we record and mail over ten thousand copies of Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children. During the past year we have sent out more than nine thousand Presidential Releases; more than ten thousand recorded JOB Bulletins; and more than eighteen thousand recorded editions of the Voice of the Diabetic.

The Voice of the Diabetic, our publication for those interested in the problems of blind diabetics, is the most widely circulated magazine in the blindness field in America today. We distribute more than 142,000 copies each quarter, and we expect to exceed the one hundred fifty thousand mark this year.

We also produce the recorded edition of The American Bar Association Journal. And, of course, there are the other publications—newsletters from divisions of the Federation, from state affiliates, from local chapters, and from committees.

One of the most positive projects we have ever undertaken, which will be covered in more detail later in the convention, is our publication of the Kernel Books. More than three million of them are now abroad in the land. They describe blindness with a level of understanding and persuasive power unlike anything ever before written.

Remodeling at the National Center for the Blind has been undertaken this year, along with the ongoing maintenance necessary to keep our facilities in first-class condition. Whenever we can, we build for the long term. Our facilities are functional, but they are also solidly built with a touch of class.

So what does all of this recital of facts and statistics mean? What does it say as to where we have been and where we are going? Well, for one thing it says that we are alive and moving, the most dynamic force in the affairs of the blind today. It also bodes well for the future.

Let me conclude by repeating what I have said to you in one way or another year after year at the end of these reports. I think I understand the responsibility you have given me by electing me as President of this organization, and I have done the best I can to live up to it. As long as you keep electing me, I will continue to try to live up to it. But there is something more. There must be a bond of understanding between us, between you as members and me as President—and I think there is. That is the only way that the accomplishments we have made have been possible. That is the only way they can continue. I must be willing to stand in the front line and never duck the hard decisions. When there are risks, I must be prepared to take them—and I must not count the cost. I must work as hard as I can and put the Federation first. I must give and sacrifice and love.

And there are things that you must do, you the members—you who give the Federation its strength and provide its moral right to exist and lead the way in the struggle of the blind to be free. You must stand with me when the battle is hard. You must support me when our efforts on behalf of the blind bring criticism and personal attack. You must reinforce, encourage, and give heart.

These are the promises we must make to each other. These are the commitments we must give and keep—and I know that we will. If we do, we will not be defeated, for we cannot. We will not even be slowed in our progress, for none will have the moral right to stand in our way. These are my pledges—and this is my report.

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Updated: March 14, 2002