National Federation of the Blind

July 3, 1999

by Marc Maurer

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Maurer delivers the 1999 Presidential Report]

The National Federation of the Blind is today what the founders of our movement hoped and dreamed it could become at the time of our beginning in 1940—the most vital force in promoting opportunity for the blind that has ever existed. As we come to this convention, our brilliant long-time leader, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, is no longer with us. He and I talked about the health of the Federation before he died, and we recognized that the organized blind movement has never been stronger or more active or more unified.

Dr. Jernigan's life has come to a close, but his spirit lives, and we dedicate this convention to him. The past and the future converge in this present moment. At this convention we will record the things we have done, and we will dream of the things we plan to accomplish. Our longtime leader is gone, but our direction and purpose are as firm as they have ever been. We promised him that we would carry on, and we have kept that promise. The heart of the Federation is determined, and our strength lies in the people of the movement—in our hopes and dreams, in our courage and determination, in our innate capacity and willingness to work, in the bond and commitment we share with each other.

One of the most successful initiatives we have ever undertaken is the creation of the Kernel Books—a body of literature that explains blindness in simple, straightforward terms. To those without experience and understanding, blindness can be mysterious and fearful. However, our books are eliminating the mystery and dread. The first of these books, What Color Is the Sun?, was published in 1991. Two volumes have appeared each year thereafter, and 1999 will be no exception. The sixteenth book, Remember to Feed the Kittens, is available at this convention; and the seventeenth, Reflecting the Flame, will be released later this year. As in the past these books contain an editor's introduction and a number of first-person accounts of the experiences of blind people.

Dr. Jernigan edited the first fifteen, and I have tried my hand at volumes sixteen and seventeen. The title of number sixteen, Remember to Feed the Kittens, comes from reflections of my own about the life and spirit of Dr. Jernigan. Readers of the Kernel Books have come to know Dr. Jernigan through his writings, and I thought they might like to learn about the relationship that I, as an individual, and that we, as an organization, have had with him.

The seventeenth Kernel Book, Reflecting the Flame, takes its title from experiences that span the decades. Dr. Jernigan taught me to barbecue over an open fire in 1969, and I shared the same experience with a number of Federation leaders in 1999, using, incidentally, a barbecue grill Dr. Jernigan had designed himself. Kindling and maintaining a flame—whether it is in a barbecue pit or the mind of a student—demands certain elements. We in the Federation possess them all, and this Kernel Book describes the method for getting results from the hottest fire or the brightest idea. The responses we continue to receive from the Kernel Books indicate a growing recognition of our work in the Federation and an increased acceptance of blind people as normal, contributing members of society. Although Dr. Jernigan will no longer be editing the Kernel Books, they will continue to be published, and they will continue to contain the spirit which caused them to be written in the first place.

Dr. Jernigan wrote thoughtful and inspiring prose throughout all of his long career. Many of his earlier writings are contained in a volume by Dr. Floyd Matson entitled Walking Alone and Marching Together: A History of the Organized Blind Movement in the United States 1940-1990. However, the body of Dr. Jernigan's thought which was committed to paper after the publication of Dr. Matson's book is now being presented. Much of this body of material has been incorporated in a volume entitled Kenneth Jernigan: the Master, the Mission, the Movement, which will be released later during this convention. Dr. Jernigan is the most profound scholar and the most stimulating author in the field of work with the blind of the latter part of the twentieth century. His beliefs and patterns of thought changed forever the perspectives of administrators of programs for the blind and the expectations and activities of blind people themselves. The teachings in this book deal largely with blindness, but the lessons are equally applicable to the sighted.

The spirit of the man is reflected in his writing, but it is also recorded in the public presentations he made—so very many of which occurred at conventions of the National Federation of the Blind. We have created a videotape of segments of those presentations entitled The Future Is Ours/ Kenneth Jernigan: Builder of the Organized Blind Movement. This video shows him in action, and it portrays one aspect in the life of the Federation which is difficult to comprehend in any other way. The video will also be released later during this convention.

Last summer Dr. Jernigan planned for the construction of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, which will stand on the southwest corner of the city block that presently holds the National Center for the Blind. The new building will be connected with, and will become a part of, the National Center. There is currently a comparatively small one-story building on that corner, which has never been remodeled and which must be removed to make way for the facilities that are needed in the years to come. We will erect a five-story building. The first and second floors will comprise a parking garage. The third floor will be devoted to offices and classroom space. The fourth floor will contain the Jacobus tenBroek Library, which will collect all material on blindness from anywhere in the world and make it available to scholars for research, teaching, and experimentation. The fifth floor of the building will be meeting space, substantial enough to accommodate classes, symposia, technical gatherings, and other meetings—perhaps as large as the convention of the National Federation of the Blind.

During the past decade we in the Federation have talked about the need for additional research and training facilities for teachers, researchers, and others in the field of work with the blind. We have felt that such a new facility would be essential in the development and expansion of our movement—that we would gain the capacity to conduct research from the point of view of the blind consumer, and that this would give altered perspective to the study of blindness. The question has been not whether we should build the facility but when the time would be right and the urgency sufficient to make it necessary. Dr. Jernigan felt late last summer that the time had come, and I concurred with his assessment.

We have established the National Center for the Blind to serve as a focal point in matters dealing with blindness. Programs we operate there belong to us and are conducted from the point of view of the blind consumer. What makes these programs different from others is that we control them and that they contain the spirit of the blind—our spirit. We are the people who dream of a day which has never before been imagined—the people who take the risks to give that day form and shape. We are the people who believe that whatever we imagine we can build—that whatever we want which is right and fair can become our own. We are the people who will never quit until we have found a way to give every blind person a chance for freedom with the power to make it stick.

The techniques and systems used to train the blind in the United States need massive overhaul, and we must find a way to establish training programs that will teach the professors who will teach the teachers who will teach the blind, and we must do it so that the blind themselves are a vital part of the teaching process. We must find a way to address the needs of older blind Americans. We must also insist that innovative solutions to the unsolved problems be sought. Much research has been done about the blind, but rarely have the blind themselves formulated the programs, established the research parameters, and directed the study. Who is better positioned to examine the realities of blindness than the organized blind movement? Who is better positioned to take the risks? Who has more to gain (and, for that matter, more to lose) than we? There are those who would tell us that the problems are solved and that we enjoy today all that the blind can ever hope to expect. But we know better, and we are not prepared to accept the status quo. We will conduct our own research, and we will set the standard of excellence. We will do it in the best research and training center ever created to serve the blind.

We have continued to exercise leadership in programs for the blind. Late last summer Dr. Jernigan conducted a seminar for officers of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, the organization consisting of administrators of state agencies for the blind. In December I addressed the executive committee of this organization on the topic of leadership at its meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. This spring I spoke to the entire organization on the subject of the relationship which should exist between the organized blind movement and state agencies established to serve the blind.

There have been attacks on agencies for the blind in a number of states. Last summer, after the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, a bill was introduced in the North Carolina legislature to abolish separate programs for the blind. The legislator who introduced the bill said she was not interested in hearing from a few obnoxious blind people, and she shut off her telephone answering machine. We wrote press releases, organized a march on the Capitol, and invited members of the press to a rally. When the votes were counted, the proposal to abolish separate programs for the blind lost by two votes. But there is talk about raising the question again in the North Carolina legislature.

In Texas the results are not as satisfactory. The legislature decided to eliminate the Texas Commission for the Blind and to amalgamate services for the blind within a super-department. Services for the blind will inevitably suffer because of this change. However, we are not prepared for blindness programs in Texas to be buried so deeply in the bureaucracy that they lose all effectiveness, and we will be back to insist that they be re-established. As we have so often said, we sometimes lose skirmishes, and we occasionally lose battles. But we never lose wars because the war is never over until we win.

The innovative programs of the National Federation of the Blind continue to receive recognition. On September 14, 1998, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, our long-time leader and President Emeritus, received the Winston Gordon Award from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for his pioneering work developing the Newsline® for the Blind Network and for related technological innovations. Dr. Jernigan traveled to the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C. to accept the award, a solid gold medal and a check for fifteen thousand Canadian dollars.

Last December the governor of Maryland convened a technology showcase to bring together manufacturers of high-tech products in the state. Over six hundred delegates attended the opening breakfast, and I was asked to make a presentation regarding the work of the National Federation of the Blind. Following my remarks, the National Federation of the Blind was named the non-profit organization of the year for innovative development of technology.

Challenges to the priority for the blind granted under the Randolph-Sheppard Act have been coming from the Department of Defense. The United States Army, which operates the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, terminated the contract of a blind vendor named Robert Kelly for food service in the Redstone mess hall. Negotiations had no impact on the Army, so the National Federation of the Blind and the Alabama state licensing agency took the matter to federal court. The Redstone case is one of the shortest in our history. The judge said that the termination of the contract was a violation of the law, and Robert Kelly is still serving food to the troops.

Charles Allen, a blind vendor living in Kentucky, is one of our long-time leaders. The Army notified the state licensing agency in Kentucky that food service provided in the mess hall at Fort Knox would not be a part of the program. We filed a protest, and the decision has been changed. Charles Allen knows the power of the organized blind; he is the manager of food service in the mess hall at Fort Knox.

Our work with the Postal Service is one of the promising developments in the Randolph-Sheppard Program. On a periodic basis we meet with officials of the property-managing arm of the Postal Service to promote understanding and increase opportunities for blind vendors. A number of new vending locations have become a part of the program as a result, and procedures have been established to ensure that every state licensing agency receives early notification of plans to create new postal facilities, with the opportunity to discuss the details for including Randolph-Sheppard vending locations at the planning stage.

While I am discussing relations with the Postal Service, I should mention that our work with the Director of Corporate Personnel, Stephen Leavey, has been cordial and productive. A postal worker, Waverly Evans, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, became blind. Because of his blindness Mr. Evans was forced to quit his job at the Southern Maryland Processing and Distribution Center. He had been working there for nineteen years. At our urging the director of corporate personnel for the Postal Service reconsidered the matter, and Waverly Evans is back at work. It would not have happened without the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.

On July 1, 1998, one of our members living in the Washington, D.C., area started looking for work in the clerical field. She applied for a job at a temporary agency and asked for the opportunity to take the necessary examinations. To assist with these, she brought a screen-enlarging device for the typing test, but she was told that she would not be permitted to use it. Instead, she was sent away and told to come back another day. The weeks became months. She called the agency repeatedly to ask for an appointment, but there was never time for her. Then she learned of the existence of the National Federation of the Blind and asked for our help. The settlement says we may not disclose the details, so the applicant's name and the name of the company are being withheld. However, you will want to know that the lady in question has received a check from the employer who refused to take her application. Furthermore, she has been interviewed for other employment and is expected to begin work within the next few weeks.

Monica Stugelmeyer lives in Spokane, Washington, and works for the Spokesman/Review newspaper. Her job assignment is to stack sections of the newspaper where they can be assembled and packaged for distribution. In the same area where she works, there is a higher paying job, which requires the employee to put sections of the newspaper into inserting machines so that each paper will have all of its component parts. Monica Stugelmeyer applied for the higher paying job. However, the newspaper refused the request for promotion, saying that operating the inserting equipment is too dangerous for a blind person. With our help Monica Stugelmeyer filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Lawyers for the newspaper tried to convince the EEOC that no discrimination had occurred, saying they were keeping Monica Stugelmeyer from operating the equipment for her own safety. However, Monica Stugelmeyer had already operated the equipment without injury to herself, without damage to property, without endangering anybody else, and without slowing the production process. Consequently, the EEOC was unimpressed by the argument.

Then the lawyers tried to backdoor the process by bringing political pressure on the EEOC. They wrote to United States Senator Slade Gorton to ask that he intervene and give them what they wanted. But this transparent effort also failed. However, the lawyers for the newspaper have not been able to recognize the facts and treat Monica Stugelmeyer with decency. The president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, Scott LaBarre, is representing her, and the matter is headed for the federal court. The evidence of discrimination is clear, and we intend to win.

Priscilla Jones is a blind woman who lives in Aurora, Colorado. For the last fifteen years she has been involved in the childcare business. In 1997 the Aurora Public Schools hired her to be a paraprofessional four in charge of a room of toddlers. At the end of the 1997-98 school year she received a very good performance review. In particular the review noted that Priscilla Jones was very conscientious about safety.

For the 1998-99 school year Priscilla Jones had a new supervisor, and the school district's attitude about her work changed. In October of 1998 the Aurora Public Schools forced Priscilla Jones to take involuntary administrative leave. The school district said that Priscilla Jones could not safely observe and monitor the children in her care because of her blindness. When she pressed them for any specific incidents in which she had fallen short of her responsibilities, district officials were unable to identify any.

Priscilla Jones got in touch with the National Federation of the Blind. We introduced the district to vocational experts from the Colorado Center for the Blind who visited the job site and reviewed the responsibilities of a paraprofessional four. The experts found that blindness does not prevent a person from competently performing the job. However, officials of the school district wouldn't believe it. They said they would be happy to find another job in the district for Priscilla Jones, such as baking assistant. We are helping her fight the discrimination. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Denver, and we will ensure that Priscilla Jones gets a chance to use the training and talent she has.

Several years ago the administrators of the Rehabilitation Services for the Blind in Missouri decided to take punitive action against the National Federation of the Blind. They said that (with rare exceptions) literature about the Federation could not be distributed to clients of the rehabilitation system, that any discussion about membership or the value of reading Federation literature was prohibited, and that no blind client could be referred to programs in the Federation (no matter what their content or usefulness) without first receiving permission in writing from the client. Joint programs with other organizations were permitted, but not with the Federation. They went so far (if you can believe it) as to ask us if we would rewrite our literature to remove all references to the National Federation of the Blind. If we took our name out of our literature, they said they would be pleased to distribute it to the clients.

Of course, such actions challenge the right of blind people (both clients and employees of the agency) to participate in organizations of their own choosing, inhibiting freedom of association and violating the Constitution of the United States. So we brought suit in the United States Federal Court, but the decision of the trial judge found in favor of the agency. Prejudice against the blind is no less a part of the mindset of the federal judiciary than it is of the public at large. One of the prejudices that we often face is the one which declares that the agency administrators appointed to take charge of programs for the blind are also appointed to take charge of us—to speak for us and interpret our needs. If (according to this thinking) the agency has decided a matter, it is settled. The blind should be content.

But we decided long ago that we would speak for ourselves in our own voice and in our own way, and we are not prepared to accept the opinion of a federal judge who decides that we do not have the power, the right, or the need to represent the blind. We have filed an appeal with the Federal Court in the Eighth Circuit, and hearings have taken place earlier this spring. The blind have a right, indeed a responsibility, to observe and comment on the actions of programs for the blind, and we will not let officials of those programs intimidate us or seek to diminish voluntary membership in the Federation because of the power they wield. We expect to win this case, but if we don't, we will carry it to the Supreme Court. And make no mistake, if the judiciary of the United States tells us that the blind have no protection against the power of the agencies—if they say the laws permit intimidation of the blind by state government officials—we will change the laws. We will call upon elected officials to ensure that the blind have the same freedoms in this nation possessed by everybody else, and we will not rest until we get it done.

Beulah and Joe Hulsey, two blind people who live in Klamath Falls, Oregon, were married a year ago. Joe had been a construction worker and manager of construction projects until he contracted meningitis and became totally blind. When he became blind, his previous wife departed without ceremony, leaving him with three small children. Being newly blinded, without a job and without a spouse, Joe Hulsey began trying to build a new life. Within a few months he met Beulah. They were married just two years after Joe had become blind.

Because Beulah had never raised children, she thought it would be useful to ask if the Oregon Department of Services to Children and Families had any suggestions, and she requested help. The result of this request was devastating. The Oregon Department of Services to Children and Families came to the house and took the children. Why was this drastic action taken? Because the Hulseys are blind. What was the evidence that the home was unsafe? Department officials were unable to produce any. When pressed for an explanation, they said that the Hulseys had knickknacks on the table within the reach of the children, that there was a pen and pencil set that the toddlers could get, that one of the children had used a stool instead of the steps to climb onto a kiddy slide, and that Joe played with his two-and a-half-year-old daughter by having her slide down his back while he held her hands. That is all; there is nothing else. The judgment of the Department of Services for Children and Families is that blind parents cannot manage their own children. On such flimsy so-called evidence they broke up the family.

However, we of the National Federation of the Blind learned of the tragedy, and we combined our forces to take action. Carla McQuillan, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, herself a blind mother and the owner and administrator of a school to instruct small children, working with me in the National Office, demanded a hearing to determine whether the Department of Services to Children and Families should be held to account for violating the most sacred of human relationships.

The department began to dodge and weave. As a justification for its actions department officials argued that the children had experienced problems while they were in the home of a foster family. This (according to them) demonstrated that the Hulseys (who are blind after all and obviously less capable than the foster parents) could not manage the children. When the fallacy of this argument was made clear, department officials changed their story. They said that Mr. and Mrs. Hulsey had not received training in the alternative techniques used by the blind and that seizing their children had occurred only for their safety. But we know better. Blind parents are as capable, as caring, and as safe as anybody else, and we presented our evidence in the court.

Today the custody battle is at an end. Joe and Beulah Hulsey have been reunited with their children, and they will soon be receiving orientation training from the Colorado Center for the Blind. The behavior of the Oregon Department of Services to Children and Families is intolerable. However, we the great family of the Federation have taken action. The Hulseys did not know where to turn, but they have met the Federation, and they are with us at this convention today, and so are their children. This too is the power of the National Federation of the Blind.

We also continue to assist people with Social Security cases. In 1995 Marion Feustel, a person who lives in Florida, experienced a sudden and significant loss of vision, but nobody could tell her why. She applied for Social Security disability benefits, but her application was denied. Marion Feustel knew little about her rights, but she had heard of the National Federation of the Blind, and we helped her with an appeal. In February, 1999, an administrative law judge ordered Social Security to pay disability benefits retroactive to November, 1995.

Verna Kerley, a blind vendor living in Tennessee, was notified in 1996 by the Social Security Administration that she would be required to repay $35,923 because she had been working in her vending facility. However, our analysis indicated that no overpayment had occurred. When the appeal was concluded, the facts disclosed that Verna Kerley does not owe Social Security $35,923. Instead, she will be receiving back benefits wrongfully withheld from her in the amount of $21,548.30.

The America's Jobline® service, which we have developed through our work in technology, is currently operating in five states: Maryland, Minnesota, California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. This system provides convenient touch-tone telephone access to the largest, most comprehensive compilation of job announcements anywhere in the world. Each Jobline® site can handle up to 70,000 calls per month or 840,000 calls per year. The number of job listings available exceeds 400,000. Each day we transmit more than 30,000 new job announcements to each Jobline site. Last year at our convention the United States Secretary of Labor announced a partnership with us to assure that America's Jobline® is established in at least forty locations. This system provides access to employment listings not only to blind individuals but to the sighted as well. No computer is needed to retrieve this information. All that is required is a touch-tone telephone and the desire to look for work. This technological advancement has occurred because of the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.

During the past year we have expanded our NEWSLINE® for the Blind Network from forty-three to fifty-nine sites. Five new local service centers have been established in Michigan, five have been installed in Tennessee, and additional sites have been put into operation in Ohio, Delaware, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Nebraska. NEWSLINE® currently exists in twenty-six of the fifty states. In addition to the seven national newspapers on NEWSLINE®, there are more than twenty local papers. Some of those added this year are the Boston Globe, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Detroit Free Press, the Huntington Herald Dispatch, the Idaho Statesman, and the Naperville Daily Herald. NEWSLINE® provides a greater volume of information to the blind than has ever before been available. We who are blind have been information-deprived, but with NEWSLINE® we are closing the gap. Indeed, in a very real sense those of us who have NEWSLINE® in our hometowns have an advantage over the sighted—we have several newspapers—sighted people usually have only one.

We have been represented this year on the Microsoft Accessibility Advisory Council, which encourages the improvement of accessibility to Microsoft products. And we have participated in the Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, which we helped to draft and which are modeled after the state technology bills we have written, require the board to issue guidelines to ensure that electronic products purchased by the federal government are accessible to disabled people. This committee submitted a report setting forth the standards we recommend to assure nonvisual access to technology. There will be public hearings before these standards are adopted as part of the federal procurement procedures, and there may be arguments against accepting these recommendations. However, we will insist that the policy be implemented to give full scope to the equal-access provisions of the law.

We have continued to maintain the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind as the only comprehensive center which contains at least one of every access device manufactured anywhere in the world to provide information to the blind. During the past twelve months we have acquired two new Pentium II 450 megahertz computers with scanners, two CD-ROM tutorials for the Windows operating system, one single-sided Braille embosser, four refreshable Braille displays, one screen reader for Windows NT, one Roadrunner hand-held electronic text reading device, one stand-alone reading machine, one software speech synthesizer, twenty computer games for the blind, one optical Braille recognition software program which converts Braille into electronic text, one IBM homepage reader for use with the World Wide Web, two different barcode reading and identification systems, and numerous software upgrades for the latest technology-access systems.

The number of training programs conducted in conjunction with the International Braille and Technology Center has increased. We have taught eight information access technology training classes for the Job Opportunities for the Blind program, two comprehensive technology training classes, one Johns Hopkins University course for teachers of the blind, and two In-Touch workshops on technology for parents and teachers of blind children. In addition to these, hundreds of other blind people have visited the National Center for the Blind to learn about technology, and we have accepted questions by telephone from thousands of others.

At our convention last year in Dallas the United States Secretary of Labor announced a grant for an experimental training and placement initiative which extended and expanded the Job Opportunities for the Blind program. This experimental effort began immediately with plans for training classes. Fifty-three blind people have received this training, and twenty-five percent of these have entered the workforce. A number of others are proceeding through the interview process. From our interaction with applicants in the Job Opportunities for the Blind program this year, it is evident that many blind people seeking employment need additional training. Consequently the Job Opportunities for the Blind program is being modified to combine the best training features of rehabilitation programs operated within the Federation with training efforts conducted at the National Center for the Blind. Not only will we be training individual blind people in the Job Opportunities for the Blind program, but we will also be offering consultation to employers in the proper technology to give equal access to blind employees.

One component of our effort to improve Braille literacy instruction is the publication of our new book, Braille: A Code for Success. This is a self-study tutorial to prepare teachers and others to take the National Literary Braille Competency Test. This book is available at this convention.

To continue the vital work of the Federation in promoting Braille literacy, we have, shortly before this convention, been awarded a new five-year grant by the Rehabilitation Services Administration to offer assistance to counselors and teachers of the blind in matters dealing with Braille and classes in the technology to produce Braille.

We have continued to maintain the National Center for the Blind, replacing an air conditioning system that had been in operation for twenty years and taking other steps to ensure that the center is in tiptop shape. In preparation for constructing the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, plans have been made to move the maintenance shop from the central courtyard building to the Barney Street wing of the main building. In the process electrical service must be shifted and an upgraded ventilation system installed. A very large overhead door will be needed to permit access to the shop. In addition we will add a paint room, a tool room, and office space.

The ongoing activities of the Federation continue to expand. Our Aids, Appliances, and Materials Center has filled almost six thousand orders this year, and we have distributed almost 30,000 copies of our small reference book, If Blindness Comes. The first fifteen of our Kernel Books are available in print, in Braille, and on cassette. The most recent of these to be released is To Touch the Untouchable Dream, which became available last fall. We have published and we are distributing a book by Doris Willoughby and Sharon Monthei entitled Modular Instruction for Independent Travel for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: From Preschool through High School. Learning to travel with a cane is of vital importance to the independence of the blind, and this book is a guide that will answer questions about this skill. Working along with our division for the senior blind, we have produced a new general information brochure for older blind people called "Aging and Vision Loss." We have increased the amount of literature in Spanish available on cassette to eleven titles. And we continue to distribute approximately two million aids, appliances, and pieces of literature each year from the Materials Center.

More people have visited the National Center for the Blind in the past twelve months than ever before in history. Among them were a number of business leaders, many public officials, and several members of Congress. The number of visitors this year is one thousand eight hundred and one.

We are continuing to develop the library of Federation material available on the Internet. More than twenty-five hundred files are now on our Web site, and we have provided information to individuals in seventy-three countries this year. The magazine produced by the Diabetes Action Network, our diabetics division, continues to grow. This publication is now being circulated to just over a quarter of a million people each quarter. We continue to publish the Braille Monitor with a circulation of 35,000 copies per month; the presidential releases; the recorded edition of the American Bar Association Journal; Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children; and a number of other national, state, and local magazines.

The influence of the Federation may be measured in part by the sheer volume of our activity, but this is not the only way to comprehend it. A letter from the President of the Federation of the Blind of Turkey dated February 21, 1999, says in part:

We have found out the death of Dr. Jernigan with deep sorrow. He died in October, but it took more than three months to reach us because we receive the Braille Monitor by surface mail.

Dr. Jernigan was a fighter—a fighter for the rights of the blind on one side—and a fighter for making the blind come to themselves for first-class citizenship in society on the other side. His teachings reached even the blind living in the countries like Turkey, thousands of miles away from his own country. The blind here were very influenced by his teachings and his moral support.

His philosophy and struggle guided us to get out of difficulties we experienced on our way to building a strong organization.

With these feelings and thoughts, we extend warm greetings of the Turkish blind to the brothers and sisters at the National Federation of the Blind of the United States. In your name we wish all our brothers and sisters happiness and success! Yours sincerely,

Turhan Icli, President, National Federation of the Blind of Turkey.

The programs we conduct and the materials we publish offer hope to the blind both in our country and in other lands as well. Sometimes we touch the heart of a blind child, and sometimes we speak to the listening spirit of an adult or a teacher or a parent. The Federation engages in many activities, but the thing we do best is to offer a new way of life.

We in the National Federation of the Blind hold a sacred trust that demands from us faith in ourselves and the willingness to believe in each other. Those who have preceded us in the Federation understood the demands of this trust; they sacrificed to give us opportunity that they never knew. We, in our turn, must build for tomorrow and make the sacrifices for ourselves and those who come after us. Our history as a movement contains many triumphs, and if we keep faith with our heritage, there will be many more. However, there have also been sorrows. We must learn from these and gain from them strength and determination.

If we are satisfied with conditions as they are, if we become complacent, if we are not prepared to put our energy and our resources and our imaginative effort on the line, the vitality of our movement will sink into obscurity and cease to be. But it will never happen because we will not permit it. Whatever the risks, we will take them. Whatever the challenges, we will meet them. Whatever the obstacles, we will surmount them. For our movement there are only two alternatives: build for the future or falter in our progress. But we will not falter; we will find the courage; we will give all that is good within us; and we will prevail! I know this with absolute certainty, for I have met the mind and spirit of the members of the Federation, and there can be no other response. The future belongs to us, and we go to meet it with joy! This is the National Federation of the Blind, and this is my report for 1999.