Vol. 36, No. 11 December
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 36, No. 11 December 1993
BRINGING HOME THE CHRISTMAS TREE
by Marc Maurer
1994: MAKE PLANS FOR THE BIGGEST AND BEST
by Kenneth Jernigan
MICHIGAN CALLS IN '94
STANDARDS: FACT OR FICTION FOR BLIND WORKERS IN THE
by James Gashel
BLIND WORKERS, AND SUCCESS IN THE WORKSHOP
by Joe Cordova
ORGANIZING SHELTERED WORKSHOPS
by Richard Edlund
MINIMUM WAGE FOR MORE THAN FIFTEEN YEARS, AND
PRODUCTIVITY REMAINS HIGH
by Fred Puente
STANDARDS: ARE BLIND PEOPLE BENEFICIARIES OR VICTIMS?
QUESTIONS OF PHILOSOPHY
by Donald Ellisburg
STANDARDS: A CONCEPT FOR ALL, INCLUDING THE BLIND
by Austin Murphy
THE DETECTABLE WARNINGS DEBATE CONTINUES
THE WASHINGTONIAN MAGAZINE GETS IT RIGHT
by Larry Streeter
by Kathy Kannenberg
PBS GETS LOW MARKS FOR ACCURACY
BRAILLE CODE: SOME MYTHS AND REALITIES
by John Jackson, Darleen Bogart, and Hilda Caton
UP, UP, AND
by David Hyde
by Kenneth Jernigan
Copyright National Federation
of the Blind, Inc., 1993
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: The most recent addition to the National Federation of the Blind's Kernel Series of paperback books is titled Making Hay. The following Christmas recollection, written by President Maurer, appears as one of the selections in the book. It seemed particularly fitting to include it as part of the month's Monitor. It comes with our sincere wishes that every reader may have a joyous holiday season and that together we can work for equality and justice for all blind people in the year to come. Here is the excerpt from Making Hay, beginning with Dr. Jernigan's introductory note:
Marc Maurer is a husband and a father. He is an attorney. He is also blind. He is a man of determination, sensitivity, integrity, and hope. I am glad he is all of these things, for he is also President of the National Federation of the Blind. To a great extent the well-being of future generations of blind people depends upon the National Federation of the Blind and the personal qualities of its leadership. With Marc Maurer leading the organization I am content to have it so. Read "Bringing Home the Christmas Tree," and I think you'll agree with me.
Christmas was for me the most wonderful holiday of the year when I was a boy. There were many small surprises and much happiness.
Thanksgiving was memorable because I was able to come home from the school for the blind which I attended for the first five years of grade school, to be with my family. There was always an enormous basket of fresh fruit as well as a huge bowl of nuts to be cracked and eaten. But the best part about Thanksgiving was that it signified the beginning of the Christmas season. Before Thanksgiving, it was simply autumn. After Thanksgiving, Christmas was on its way.
My Christmas problem was to find a way to obtain suitable gifts for my family and friends. My allowance--the weekly grant from my father--just was not large enough to meet all of the demands. When I was small, it was a nickel. By the time I had reached high school, it had grown to the grand sum of a dollar.
When I was in the ninth grade (or maybe it was the tenth), I persuaded the newspaper to put me on as the only blind paper boy in town. Every morning--all three hundred sixty-five days of the year--I rose at five o'clock to collect my papers, deliver them, and walk home. The distance covered in the round trip was a little over two miles.
I liked the walk--especially in the midst of a snow storm. When the wind was blowing, and the snow was falling, I felt humble. It seemed to me that God was reminding us that He had created the world and everything in it.
The paper route brought in a little extra money--as I remember it, between four and five dollars a week. The increase in my financial well-being seemed dramatic.
During the summers I could mow lawns or do other odd jobs. One time I was hired at a dollar an hour to roof a garage. The work was completed in twenty-nine hours. But these summertime activities didn't help at Christmas.
It was all right to begin thinking about Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. However, planning for the most important holiday of the year before the season arrived was out of the question. In my hometown Christmas decorations were hung in the streets before Thanksgiving, but our family ignored them until the proper time.
The Christmas season was special and had to be saved until using it was appropriate. This meant that I could not purchase Christmas presents before Thanksgiving. Therefore, I had available only those resources which could be mustered between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes the money ran out. Nevertheless, gifts must be procured. But buying them was not essential. They could be manufactured, and sometimes they were.
One year I fashioned a wooden rifle for one of my brothers. Another time I baked homemade Christmas rolls for a friend around the corner. Bread making was a skill I acquired early. And I was not the only one in my family who turned lovingly to handicrafts for the Christmas season. One of my most treasured Christmas presents was a handmade wooden desk designed and built by my father. I used it for almost ten years.
Part of the delight of the Christmas season was that many unusual things occurred. Visiting neighbors, friends, and relatives came unexpectedly; mysterious packages arrived with contents that must remain secret until the great day; plates of goodies were presented that had been made in a kitchen whose customs were not the same as our own. The cookies and cakes were not the same as the familiar standbys I had come to know so well, and some of them were extraordinarily good.
I was the second of six children and the only member of the family who was blind. My sister and my four brothers attended school in our hometown. From the time I was six years old until I was eleven, I attended the school for the blind. At Christmas for two weeks--or a little more--we who were students would say goodbye to the routine at this residential school.
The wake-up bell rang at 6:30 in the morning. By 6:55 we were expected to be dressed, our faces washed and teeth brushed. At that time we lined up to march from the dormitory to the dining hall for breakfast. Breakfast began at 7:00 and lasted half an hour. Between 7:30 and 8:00 we were expected to clean our rooms and make our beds. My roommate and I divided up the cleaning chores. I dusted the furniture while he dusted the floor. Classes began at 8:00 and continued until noon. We marched in line to lunch, which also lasted half an hour.
After lunch we were free to play on the playground for a few minutes. Classes in the afternoon started at 1:00 and finished at 4:00. One period each day was devoted to gym class. After the 4:00 adjournment of classes we were free to play until we marched to the dining hall at 5:25. After supper there was an hour of mandatory study hall. Then for an hour we could read or play or do as we pleased. By 8:30 all students were supposed to be in their rooms, and at 8:45 the bell rang for lights out.
Two nights a week at the school for the blind there were special events. On Wednesdays and Saturdays we were expected to bathe, and (before bath time) we were permitted to go to the basement of the dormitory for "snack bar." This was the name for the student-run store. At the snack bar we could buy candy bars, ice cream bars, and a limited selection of penny candy. A prepackaged ice cream cone that had been dipped in chocolate and nuts (we called it a drumstick) cost fifteen cents. I didn't have fifteen cents very often, so my visits to the snack bar were infrequent.
On Saturday the schedule for meals was the same as it was for the rest of the week, but after our rooms had been cleaned and our shoes polished, the remainder of the day was free. On Sunday we were expected to dress in our Sunday clothes, and we were then sent to church.
When the Christmas holidays came, all of this changed. At home there was no scheduled time to wake up, no pre-set moment for breakfast, no routine for dusting the furniture and making the bed. Furthermore, there were family members to play with, and there were the exciting and mysterious Christmas activities. In the kitchen there were homemade cookies and candies. The aroma of varnish and wood shavings emanated from my Dad's shop in the basement. There were usually sewing and knitting projects that had to be worked on late at night in order to be ready for Christmas.
The days are short in December, and in the Midwest, where I grew up, they are often snowy and cold. When school was out, we would tramp the fields and woods around our town and find places to use the toboggan that our parents gave us one Christmas. The cold felt good, especially at the end of the day when we got home to sit by the fire. And the pungent aromas of clove and cinnamon that came drifting from the kitchen were a mouth-watering promise of the cakes, pies, or cinnamon rolls that could be found there.
One Christmas I read a story about the Yule Log--the large chunk of timber which in England is traditionally set ablaze on Christmas Eve to initiate the celebration of the holiday. I decided to cut such a log. With an old handsaw we found, I set out to bring home the largest piece of a tree that would fit in the fireplace. I measured the opening with a piece of stick and marked the length by cutting a nick with the edge of my knife. The saw was old and dull; the log was heavy, thick, and damp. It seemed to me that the job of cutting it would take forever. When the cut was finally complete, I hefted my prize and dragged it home. I rolled it into the fireplace and stuffed as much kindling around it as I could cram into the opening. Our Yule Log burned for many hours and brought warmth and cheeriness to the hearth.
Then there was the Christmas tree. In our family we all went together to get the tree. We would pile into the old 1954 Plymouth to go hunting in the Christmas tree lots for just the right one. The various members of the family had different objectives. Dad wanted the tree to be cheap--affordable, if you want the polite word. Mom wanted it to be full and pretty. We kids wanted it to be big.
When we arrived at the Christmas tree lot, the kids would spread out in all directions, hunting through the trees. Every few seconds somebody would yell that the perfect specimen had been located. The whole family would come to admire it, and I would be asked to examine it with my hands to see what I thought. The spruce trees were my favorite, the ones with the little short needles and the teeny little pine cones.
When the best of the trees had been discovered, the price negotiations began. This was my father's responsibility. A good tree was one that had plenty of branches, no holes, a height of at least nine feet, no bare spots, and a nice Christmas tree shape. Such a tree was acceptable, but it could be made much better if my father got a "deal." If the asking price for the tree could be reduced by a third or a half, our Christmas tree was one of the best.
We would climb back into the old Plymouth and lean out the windows so Dad could hand us the prized possession. We would drive home slowly, freezing our hands and ears, clutching tightly to the tree, which we held pressed to the side of the car. With four or five of us grasping the trunk, the branches of the tree filled the windows on the driver's side of the car. It wasn't easy to see on our side, so we honked the horn a lot at intersections on the way home.
When we arrived home, it was my father's job to set up the tree. Because of a number of disasters (I remember a particularly unfortunate Christmas morning when the tree fell over in the middle of a number of packages), it became the custom in our house to anchor the tree with a cord to at least two separate brackets on the wall.
Then it was time to decorate. This was Mom's special area of interest and talent. She directed all of us in the process and added the finishing touches herself. When the balls were hung, the tinsel meticulously arranged, and the lights lit, the tree changed the living room from a nice place to be to the center of enchantment.
As I remember the Christmases of my growing up years, it is clear to me that my blindness was not a major ingredient. Christmas memories remind me of home and of family members who care for one another. Gentleness, admiration, hope, and faith--of such as these are memorable Christmases made.
I did not know, when I was a student at the school for the blind, what my own life could bring. However, as I prepare for Christmas this year, I am reminded of those joyful experiences of long ago. I now have a family of my own. One of the important ceremonies in our household is the procurement of the Christmas tree.
My son David (a third-grader) asked me to help him build a Christmas present for his mom. Together we are cutting the wood and fitting the pieces. The staining and finishing must be accomplished before the festive day. The aroma of varnish will mingle this year with the smells of cinnamon and chocolate as we prepare for the giving of gifts.
Perhaps my joy in the season is even greater because there were many times when I wondered if it would be available to me. Can blind people have good jobs and raise families? These are questions which come inevitably to the mind of a blind student growing up. They demand answers, but information is scarce, and sometimes the messages are discouraging.
When I came to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind in 1969, I met caring people who were willing to give me the benefit of their knowledge and experience. I met those who had hope and faith. I came to be a part of an organization of individuals who cared for one another.
The responsiveness, the support, the warmth, and the caring I found in the National Federation of the Blind are reminiscent of the gentleness, the faith, and the hope I had come to associate with the Christmas season. I have known the commitment of the National Federation of the Blind for almost a quarter of a century. In that time many thousands of blind people have been given encouragement and support. Many Yule Logs have been cut, and many trees decorated. A number of blind children have come to be blind adults with children of their own. The blindness, which might have prevented a full life, was not permitted to interfere. The Christmases for those blind people have been warm, hearty, hopeful celebrations. We are planning for many more. [PHOTO: Skyline of downtown Detroit, Michigan (Detroit River in foreground, city skyline in background). CAPTION: This city skyline, viewed from the Detroit River, includes the Renaissance Center at the right. The Westin Hotel, site of the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, is located in this sprawling tower complex.]
by Kenneth Jernigan
The time has come to plan for the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. As Federationists know, our recent national conventions in New Orleans, Charlotte, and Dallas have been record-breaking in every sense of the word--excellent programs, good facilities, and wonderful hospitality. However, Detroit in '94 promises to be the best we have ever had.
We are going to the Westin Hotel at the Renaissance Center in Detroit. You have to be there to believe it. The hotel is over seventy stories high with a revolving restaurant at the top, giving a view of Canada and adjacent areas in Michigan. Mrs. Jernigan and I were there in late October to meet with Michigan leaders and make plans; and as we walked through the extensive facilities, I was repeatedly impressed and pleased. As one example, at the third-floor level there are two huge outdoor grassy lawns, totally almost 40,000 square feet. What a wonderful spot for a Fourth of July evening outdoor picnic and barbecue--high above the traffic and noise and immediately adjoining our meeting rooms!
As usual, our hotel rates are the envy of all who hear about them. For the 1994 convention they are: singles, $38; doubles and twins, $43; triples, $45; and quads, $48. In addition to the room rates, there will be a tax, which at present is twelve percent. There will be no charge for children in a room with parents as long as no extra bed is required.
In recent years we have sometimes taken hotel reservations through the National Office, but for the 1994 convention you should write directly to Westin Hotel, Renaissance Center, Detroit, Michigan 48243, Attention: Reservations; or call (313) 568-8000. Westin has a national toll-free number, but do not (we emphasize NOT) use it. Reservations made through this national number will not be valid. They must be made directly with the Westin in Detroit. The hotel will want a deposit of $45 or a credit card number. If a credit card is used, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $45 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 20, 1994, the entire amount of your deposit will be returned to you by the hotel. Requests for refunds after June 20, 1994, will not be honored.
Here are the convention dates and schedule: Friday, July 1--seminars for parents of blind children, blind job seekers, vendors and merchants, and several other workshops and meetings. Saturday, July 2--convention registration, first meeting of the Resolutions Committee, some other committees, and some divisions. Sunday, July 3--meeting of the Board of Directors (open to all), division meetings, committee meetings, continuing registration. Monday, July 4--opening general session, evening picnic and gala. Tuesday, July 5--general sessions, tours. Wednesday, July 6--general sessions, banquet. Thursday, July 7--general sessions, adjournment.
Remember that we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Prizes should be relatively small in size and large in value. Cash is always popular. In any case, we ask that no prize have a value of less than $25. Drawings will be made steadily throughout the convention sessions. As usual, the grand prize at the banquet will be spectacular--worthy of the occasion and the host affiliate. The 1993 grand prize was a thousand dollars in cash. The 1994 grand prize will be at least as good. Don't miss the fun! You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time to: Donald Drapinski, 111 West Woodward Heights, Hazel Park, Michigan 48030; phone: (313) 546-6910.
The displays of new technology; the meetings of special interest groups, committees, and divisions; the exciting tours (more about them in this and later issues of the Monitor); the hospitality and renewed friendships; the solid program items; and the general exhilaration of being where the action is and where the decisions are being made--all of these join together to call the blind of the nation to the Westin Hotel at the Renaissance Center in Detroit in July of 1994. Come and be part of it--and for further information read the following article from the Michigan affiliate for color and details.
Welcome to Detroit, birthplace of the Motown music era and host site of the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind of Michigan is proud and excited to have the convention returning to Detroit after more than thirty years.
Some of the outstanding events surrounding convention week include the largest fireworks display in the country, held on the Detroit river, which you can view from the comfort of your room in the beautiful Westin Hotel, or from the riverfront with one million other spectators. You will also be able to enjoy the International Freedom Festival, as well as other weekend ethnic festivals.
The Westin Hotel is located in the spectacular Renaissance Center, which includes ninety stores and eating establishments. Cuisine includes everything from McDonald's to the Summit, an extraordinary revolving restaurant on the 71st floor of the hotel. The people mover station, within the Renaissance Center complex, connects you to the famous Greektown, Harbortown, Grand Circus Park, Cobo Hall, Joe Louis Arena, and other attractions of the downtown area. Easily accessible by bus is Tiger Stadium, as well as Fairlane Town Center, home of 220 stores and shops and definitely the place to visit for those who like to "shop till you drop."
Detroit boasts the busiest international border crossing between Canada and the United States. It is the only place in North America that you travel south from the U.S. to get to Canada. You can drive to Canada from Detroit via the one-mile tunnel under the Detroit River, by the tunnel bus, or via the Ambassador Bridge.
Benefitting from the ethnic diversity in the Detroit Metro area, you will find a wide variety of restaurants specializing in Greek, Lebanese, German, Polish, Arabic, African-American, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisines.
The Detroit area also boasts corporate headquarters for such corporations as Chrysler, General Motors, Ford, K-Mart, and Unisys. Tours will include an auto plant, trips to Greenfield Village, a Tiger baseball game, overnight trips to Toronto, a trip to Cedar Point, and a cultural tour including the Motown Museum, Museum of African American Affairs, Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Science Center. Also featured will be dinner cruises on the Detroit River and casino gambling just across the river in beautiful Windsor, Canada. Frankenmuth, home of Bronner's (the world's largest and most famous Christmas store), Zehnder's, and Bavarian Inn restaurants famous for family style chicken dinners will be on the tour agenda as well as the Marketplace Mall, featuring over 200 outlet stores.
For those looking for more entertainment, Detroit's theater district includes the Fox Theater (recently renovated to its original state), the GEM theater, Orchestra Hall, and the brand new Second City Comedy Club.
Make plans to attend the 1994 convention. We look forward to being the host affiliate and promise you a wonderful time.
by James Gashel
From the Editor: The latter half of the Wednesday, July 7, general session of the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind was devoted to a discussion of the need to extend minimum wage protection to blind workers despite the protests of some sheltered shop managers that they cannot afford to pay it. James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, moderated the discussion and introduced the speakers. The following articles are the presentations of several of those who took part in this presentation. Here is what Jim Gashel began the discussion by saying:
The exemption from the minimum wage that is permitted in the case of blind people is a policy that has long since crossed the line from opportunity to exploitation. That policy is wrong.[applause] We must begin this morning by saying that and remembering it. The policy is wrong. It was premised on the notion that employment opportunities would be decreased for disabled people, including blind people, if employers were required to pay them at least the federal minimum wage. So sub- minimum wages have been authorized. However, there has never been even the slightest bit of proof or research or information to show that, in fact, employment opportunities would be curtailed if the sub-minimum wage authority for blind people were to be withdrawn tomorrow. At best, it is only a guess that employment opportunities would, in fact, be curtailed--no proof, nothing more, just a guess. That is what the whole sub-minimum wage premise is based on, just a guess.
What we have in the present law is really nothing more than a double standard. For workers who are not blind, we say that there is a floor under all wages. No one who is not blind or disabled in this country will be paid less than the statutory minimum. Employers must accept this as a matter of doing business. They have to build this into their labor costs and ultimately into the cost of goods sold. Consequently employers have come to accept the minimum wage as one cost of doing business. In one sense all American consumers helped to pay for the fact that we have a minimum wage. Employers don't get into extensive measurements to determine each individual worker's productivity in order to decide whether he or she has earned the minimum wage. They just pay it because it's the law. Not so in the case of the blind, because here we have the double standard. Each worker exempt from the minimum wage is supposed to be paid in accordance with the worker's individual productivity, individually determined by the employer. That's what the law says. That's a pretty nice theory; but, if it's really such a great theory, then why isn't everybody paid solely on the basis of his or her productivity? Why don't we try the same theory out on sighted people, not just blind people?
Why should blind people be held to the strict productivity standard just to earn the minimum wage when everybody else who works in this country is entitled to the minimum wage because he or she works, not because of a particular physical condition? That's what this issue is all about. It's really about the double standard.
Here's an example of the effect of the double standard with real people, real figures from a real workshop system in this country, employing sighted as well as blind people. Such figures are not easily obtainable because workshops really don't want to report them, as you will see. The case in point involves workshops operated by the State of Connecticut. Several years ago, the last year for which figures such as these were available, seventy-eight percent of all of the employees (including management, non-labor, and direct-labor employees) were blind. Sighted employees represented twenty-two percent of the work force. If the distribution of jobs and pay were equitable, then you would expect that approximately seventy-eight percent of the pay and fringe benefits would be received by blind employees because they represented seventy-eight percent of the work force. You would expect that they would be randomly dispersed throughout the industry work force. Not so. In this case, only thirty-six percent of the pay and fringe benefits--not seventy-eight percent but thirty-six percent--went to blind employees, even though they represented seventy-eight percent of the total work force. Likewise, sixty-four percent of the pay went to sighted people even though they represented twenty-two percent of the work force.
Now here is something else about the Connecticut workshops to chew on. The average wage for direct labor workers (blind, sighted, and sighted with other disabilities) was $4.09 an hour. The minimum wage at the time of these figures was $3.35 an hour. Surely blind employees on average, you would think, would be earning at least the minimum wage or perhaps a little higher. The average wage for blind employees in the Connecticut workshops, however, was the princely sum of $2.04 an hour. It was less than half of the wage paid to sighted employees. Most of the managers and supervisors were sighted (twenty out of thirty-one, to be exact). The average pay for the twenty sighted supervisors was $8.25 an hour. The average pay for sighted direct-labor workers without disabilities was $4.20 an hour. Need I remind you that this compares to the average wage for blind direct-labor workers of $2.04 an hour?
The figures tell the story. I can't do any better or any worse than that. Congress has been told that the workshops must exist to help blind people who really couldn't be employed were it not for these special work settings. Most members of Congress have probably never really thought about the matter too much, but those who have probably have the impression that blind people take home the lion's share of the pay and fringe benefits from the workshops. That's just assumed. But we know the real story; the figures tell the real story, which is that the economic winners from the workshops are the sighted managers and supervisors, not the blind workers.[applause]
Why are they the real winners? Because of the labor of blind workers and the double pay standard which exists under the law. It is time to put an end to this double standard.[applause] Our brothers and sisters who work in direct labor workshops are victims of the double standard. But really all of us are victims, because the double standard exists for blind workers, not because they're unproductive, but because they are blind. To the extent that one of us is diminished, all of us are diminished. To the extent that one of us is exploited, all of us are exploited every day and every hour.[applause] The exploitation will not end just because we wish it would. Discrimination doesn't die on its own. Those who are the victims of exploitation and discrimination, in this case blind people, must rise up in a social movement and force the issue to the point of change. This morning we are beginning that process once again. In what we do and say here in the next little while we are going to build a record, so let us be clear on the goal--sub-standard jobs and sub-standard pay for blind people, wherever we work, including sheltered workshops, are intolerable! [applause] We call upon lawmakers and the public at large to join us in stating that goal forcefully and taking the actions which will turn it into a reality in our lives.
To our blind brothers and sisters, the direct victims of low pay and sub-standard jobs, we say this: your struggle is our struggle. We will not forget you. Unfortunately, old practices die hard. The decades of exploitation will not be erased in a day, but we assure you they will be erased.[applause]
For those in the workshops who are part of our movement, as well as those who are not, we say: you must help lead the effort. You must do so on behalf of all blind people. You can do this by speaking out. Don't suffer in silence. Become part of us. Challenge the system; remember that the National Federation of the Blind is by your side and in your work place every day and every hour that you work. We will help, but you must also help yourselves by speaking out and by becoming an active part of our movement. We are changing what it means to be blind in all aspects of our society, and we fully intend to change what it means to be blind in sheltered workshops as well as everywhere else in our land. That is our commitment, and that is our pledge to you.[applause]
To the operators of sheltered workshops we say, "It is time for change to come, and that change will come." Some of you have recognized that fact and are here this morning. You have adopted pay policies that are more enlightened than the law. Please share your successful experiences with your colleagues, other managers of workshops. Share them with the unconverted.
To the unconverted we say: "The days of using the law as a shield for exploitation are already numbered. The day will come when sub-minimum wages and the authority to pay them that you have been exercising to the detriment of the blind will absolutely be a thing of the past. We will make it so." That is our commitment, and that is our pledge to you.
To the responsible federal administrators and members of Congress, some of whom are here today, we say this: "You are experts in setting labor standards and in their enforcement. We ask you to accept, as we do, the fact that the work situation for the blind in any sheltered workshop in America is essentially the same as the work situation for any sighted employee in factories across our land. If there is any difference, it is far less sophisticated management and far less automation. Consequently, the wages for blind people are certainly lower. We ask you to accept, as we do, the premise that, when a program holds itself out to the public as being for the blind, it should really be for the blind. That means blind people should take home the lion's share of the pay and fringe benefits resulting from that program."[applause] We are asking you to join with us in standing up for pay equity and real jobs, good jobs for blind people in sheltered workshops and in other sectors of the community.
Most immediately, we are asking you to join us in sending the clear and unambiguous message to the operators of sheltered workshops that the excuses of the past will not be acceptable in the future. Blind people will no longer be second-class workers because it will not be permitted by the law. That is our commitment, and that is what we are asking of you.
by Joe Cordova
From the Editor: Joe Cordova is President of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico. He is also the Manager of the workshop program at the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Mr. Cordova is blind himself, and he knows firsthand how important it is to build confidence in sheltered shop employees. Here is what he had to say:
When the New Mexico Commission for the Blind came into existence in 1986, one of its first tasks was the complete overhauling of the sheltered workshop, the New Mexico Industries for the Blind, which was administered by the agency. In 1987 Fred Schroeder, Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, asked me if I would be interested in coming to the Commission to assist in the development of this newly created agency.
I had been working as a special assistant to the mayor, and I had no formal background in rehabilitation other than having been a former client myself. However, I thought this would certainly be a great challenge and opportunity to make some contribution to the rehab system. But when I learned that one of the programs which Fred had in mind for me to administer was the workshop, I seriously wondered what I could contribute to the agency. I had no background in business, management, manufacturing, or finance, those areas which are typically thought of as important in the operation of a workshop. However, Fred reassured me that, although these elements were certainly involved in operating the workshop, they were not the essential ingredients currently lacking. Leadership and a sense of purpose and direction were missing. What was needed was someone who truly believed in the abilities of blind people and could in turn convince the blind workers to believe in themselves.
We needed to get the workshop workers to raise their own expectations of themselves as blind people to move on to better employment where they could receive higher wages and have greater opportunities for advancement. These were the real challenges. If necessary, we could bring in business and financial experts to assist us in these areas of the operation, and we have done so. But without this basic belief in the abilities of blind people, all else would have been meaningless.
Prior to the Commission for the Blind the workshop functioned as a traditional sheltered facility with a minimum wage exemption and a work activity area often referred to as adult day care for the blind. It operated on the premise that once a blind person entered the shop, he or she was pretty much there for life. There were blind people earning as little as eighty cents an hour, and they were told that this was all they were capable of earning. They, of course, believed this. We were told by previous management that they had been unable to guarantee workers payment of the federal minimum wage because the shop would, in their words, "eventually go broke since, after all, the blind workers were incapable of earning the minimum wage by their productivity." But I'm here to tell you that ever since 1986, when the Commission took over the management of the shop, every single blind worker has been guaranteed the federal minimum wage. Today, seven years later, we are not anywhere near going broke. In fact, we are prospering financially more than ever before.
I would also like to point out that the federal minimum wage has gone up twice since 1986, and each time we have upped our wages right along with this increase. The way we look at it, if minimum wage is good for the rest of the country, it ought to be good enough for the blind. We did away with our work activity area and integrated these workers into the regular shop. We do not believe that having a separate segregated area such as a work activity area, where blind people often become indefinitely trapped in performing only the most menial tasks for a pittance, is a viable way of rehabilitating blind people into employment. If an individual is unable to perform the required job tasks because of lacking the skills of blindness, that person then would be more appropriately referred to our orientation center for further training. If an individual is incapable of performing the required tasks due to an additional disability that we are unable to accommodate, that person will be referred to a more appropriate community service. Otherwise, any blind person who qualifies and is accepted into our industries program is expected to work and produce at a level of performance comparable to the standards which have been determined for that job task.
Our experience has been that, if blind people are treated with equal respect and dignity and are held to the same standards and expectations as other employees, they will behave and perform like other employees.[applause] It is not surprising then that, soon after the wages of the shop workers were increased, their performance likewise increased. The production rate increased significantly. Their attendance improved, and overall morale was much higher.
Another important change we made was in the area of benefits. We thought that, if this was going to resemble real work as much as possible, then the shop workers ought to have what is typically expected in the normal work place. That includes the full range of employee benefits. We learned that previously the shop workers had not been paying into Social Security because the rehab system had considered them clients of the agency; and therefore their wages were considered rehab stipends. We had shop workers that had been receiving rehab stipends for twenty years! We told the state that the shop workers were every bit as much state employees as any other state employee. And we convinced the state personnel department to re-classify the shop workers as regular state employees.[applause] Today all the shop workers pay the Social Security tax. Again we raised their wages to cover the cost of their portion of the Social Security contributions. We later made them eligible for regular state retirement. And again we upped their wages by an amount equal to the cost of their portion of the retirement benefits. We still haven't gone broke, and their production continues to go up.
Finally, we made the shop workers eligible for regular state health insurance. Today every single shop worker receives the same employee benefits as any other state employee. There were critics who said we were making things too comfortable and cozy for the workers in the shop and that they would have no incentive to leave to find better employment. But the facts simply do not support this argument. In the past, when the conditions were much less favorable, very few blind people left the shop. Today, when conditions are much more favorable, there has been a constant increase in the number of blind people leaving for competitive employment. Last year alone four blind people left the shop for better jobs,and two others received promotions within the shop. One was a clerical position, and the other was as a supervisor. Another blind person decided to start his own business making the same products he had been making in the shop. This would not have been possible without the increased expectations of blind people in the shop.
In conclusion let me say that, if shops are to exist at all, they ought not to become permanent dumping grounds for the blind people that the rehab system considers too difficult to place in competitive employment. They ought to be used only as temporary or transitional employment options, in which blind people can gain the necessary confidence to move on to better employment elsewhere. It can be done. We've done it in New Mexico.[applause]
by Richard Edlund
From the Editor: For many years Dick Edlund served as Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind. He also led many battles as we fought for blind sheltered shop employees to win the right to organize for collective bargaining. He is now the Representative of the people in the Thirty-third District in the Kansas Legislature. This is what Richard Edlund had to say:
Jim just called me honorable in his introduction. Someone asked me the other day what it would take to make you honorable, and I said, "an action of the legislature, of course."[applause] It does me a lot of good to hear the success story that Joe Cordova has just described in New Mexico.
In 1974 in the Kansas City, Kansas, shop, a number of the employees knew something had to be done, and they prevailed on me to do it. I didn't much want to take it on. At that time I didn't think much about sheltered shops, but I didn't think they ought to exist. I have since changed my mind on that at least until something better comes along. At that time the employees were making ninety-six cents an hour. I will not bore you with all of the details--strikes, a warrant out for my arrest, and a bunch of other things. By the way, the guy who swore the warrant out for my arrest was Dr. Robert Harder, head of Social and Rehabilitation Services, the Kansas vocational rehabilitation agency. He is now the Secretary of Health and Environment. I happen to sit on the Committee that controls his budget now.
I certainly wouldn't do anything to get even with him or Health and Environment, but he doesn't know that. In any event, when we did go on strike and persuaded enough people to decide that probably it should be resolved, we wound up with ten of us in a meeting: this same Dr. Harder, the Attorney General, two blind guys from the shop, myself, an attorney friend of mine, and several state employees. Before the negotiations commenced, I couldn't help reflecting on the fact that there were only two people sitting at that conference table who produced anything, the two blind guys who worked in the shop, making mattresses. The rest of the people produced absolutely nothing but a bunch of paperwork and perhaps some hot air. Probably there wasn't one non-producing person at that table who didn't make more in a month than those blind production workers made in a year. I somehow didn't think that made much sense. And it doesn't. We still see some of it happening.
In 1977 at the New Orleans convention of the National Federation of the Blind, the delegates from Cincinnati were talking with Dr. Jernigan, and he asked me to take on organizing the Cincinnati shop. I said: "Fine. We'll just go out and do it. Something ought to be done." So we did. It took a number of years to get through all the courts, proving things over and over again, but the most important thing we proved nationwide was probably that blind workers in sheltered shops are actually workers and not clients or inmates or patients or whatever tags the social workers used. We have done that, I think, in our organizing efforts throughout the country, starting with Cincinnati, then Houston, Little Rock, Raleigh, and a variety of other places. One of the things we did cause to happen was that a lot of shops decided to take a look and improve their wage structures--not all, but some.
The reason we decided in 1977 that this had to be done was that we had been urging Congress for forty years to change the law. But for some reason or other, in their infinite wisdom they decided it probably didn't need changing. At that time the law said that you could pay a blind guy as little as twenty-five percent of the federal statutory minimum wage. The law was probably passed that way because no one believed that blind people could be productive. Today people know better. We've gotten that accomplished. I'm proud to say that now in the Little Rock shop, as I understand it, the beginning wage is something over $6.00 an hour, and the Houston shop is the same. I'm more familiar with the Houston shop. We've got a solid Teamster contract with all the fringe benefits, the whole mess that everyone is and should be entitled to.[applause] Trading the sweat of your brow and the strength of your back is certainly worth something. You're investing your life, and I believe that's the nature of free enterprise. I think that's the way we ought to do it. I don't think that the people who are managing the shops should get off scot-free for not being business people, for not knowing a thing about business.
What I see happening is that the National Industries for the Blind negotiates the pricing on these contracts. The contracts are then delivered through the shops. The shops have the opportunity to accept or reject the contract. Some do refuse contracts they can't make money on; some don't know that they have the right or don't take the opportunity to reject them, even though they could if they knew anything about running a business. They could figure what it costs to produce the product, but a lot of them just don't pay any attention to costs at all. They know they are going to be subsidized either by charitable contributions or by state money. Other shops, ones that know what they're doing, turn poor contracts down. You see, NIB is not very tough when it comes to getting government contracts. They are always sure of getting their four percent up front; so, if there is nothing left as profit for the shop, that's how it is. I resent having the labor of blind people subsidize mistakes by National Industries for the Blind and subsidize the federal government.
Probably most of you have heard the other speeches I have made about this subject, so that pretty well wraps it up. I believe we have enough power to persuade Congress, and I think we have the ear of some Congressmen who can do what needs to be done. And, of course, we're willing to help them.
by Fred Puente
From the Editor: During the 1970's, while then NFB of Maryland President John McCraw was chairman of its board of trustees, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) stopped paying sub-minimum wages to its production line employees. Today Fred Puente chairs the BISM Board of Trustees, and the organization continues to provide leadership in the sheltered shop field. Here is the report that Mr. Puente made to convention delegates:
Good morning Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, Federationists, and guests. I want to thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today. My wife Marsha and I thank you for our warm reception here in Dallas. I must admit, though, it is somewhat different from my first exposure to the NFB.
When I was first appointed to the Board of Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM), I received a call in my office the day before the meeting, and I was instructed to enter the building through the warehouse by way of the fenced parking lot because those wild-eyed, radical NFBers would be picketing the front entrance. The first real living, breathing Federationist that I ever met was Connie McCraw. It was a sincere pleasure to serve with Connie on our Board. Connie was truly the conscience of that Board. I want to share a true story with you about Connie McCraw. Each Christmas we share a luncheon with all the BISM associates. We eat, sing carols, and all that. Well Connie was sitting next to me, and I wasn't singing. She said, "Come on Fred, sing."
I told her very confidentially, "Connie, my wife has told me never to sing in public."
She said, "Ah, Fred, never you mind that; just sing." So I did. I sang the next song.
After it was over, Connie leaned over to me, patted my hand, and said, "Fred, listen to your wife."
Today I want to share some reflections with you on our journey from sheltered workshop to Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, an organization employing blind individuals. Our journey has not been an easy one; we have faced significant roadblocks along the way, but our journey has always been a worthwhile one--one that we are proud to share with you today. I'm sure that you are aware of some people who have a real knack for holding back the tide of productivity and stifling opportunity. But the BISM Board and our management team maintain a firm commitment to exploiting opportunity, and not people. We are an independent organization and hold no ties to NAC (The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped).
The past four and a half years are an incredible record of this commitment. Our achievements are tangible evidence of our efforts to listen to and work with the blind community--the NFB and others. Without help from all these sources, we would not be the organization that we are today. In the last fiscal year we took the major step in addressing our goal of fair and equitable compensation for each member of our organization. Our compensation program centers on performance. Employees have the opportunity to capitalize on their earning potential through our system. No one in our organization makes less than $4.30 an hour, five cents above the federal minimum wage. Our highest-paid production worker earns $7.95 an hour. Guess what, that person is blind. Our employees are paid for their performance in their jobs, not for their personalities or physical characteristics. Our commitment to raising the wages of our employees continues to be one of our top priorities. The NFB has been instrumental in helping us realize increased communication with our employees. We recently implemented a new program to foster increased management/employee communication. We actively solicit input from our work force and openly engage in debate over many work-place issues. We are proud to say that we are lowering our absenteeism rates as a result of an ongoing dialogue about our attendance policy. This is true evidence of the benefits of a management/employee partnership. BISM is proud to acknowledge the NFB as a friend and a major resource. There are a few key people deserving of much of the credit for our relationship and the resulting successes. Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer have shared their views and opinions with us on many issues. They have been critical when they thought we were in error, and they have been supportive when they thought we were on the right road. We thank them and ask for their continued support.[applause]
Sharon Maneki, President of the NFB of Maryland, meets regularly with our rehabilitation students and our employees. She attends our board meetings and openly shares her views with us. She is a member of the BISM Pricing Committee, which determines the sales price of products BISM sells to the State of Maryland. Thank you, Sharon, for the time and effort you expend on our organization. We believe we have forged a lasting friendship with the NFB and look forward to nurturing the growth of that relationship. We are confident that you will share our vision of the future. In January our Board charged BISM's management with the responsibility of finding the best, not the second-best or almost best, but the best rehabilitation program director in this hemisphere. The director will take our program to new heights, setting examples for other rehabilitation programs in the country. After an extensive national search we are happy to say we found the best right there in Baltimore, Maryland. We are proud to boast that Rosemary Lerdahl, formerly Assistant Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind at the NFB, is now a member of our team.[applause] Rosemary is developing a rehabilitation program that within five years will be the best in the country, and we thank you for her.
Eileen Rivera, President of the Baltimore Chapter of the NFB, is a new member of our Board. We look forward to her contribution in leading BISM into the future. We have one other NFB member on our Board, whom I would like to credit with a very large portion of our success. He's been my antagonist; he's been my advisor; he's been my advocate; he's been my coach and teacher. He is also the Secretary of the NFB Blind Vendors division and Treasurer of our Board. Most important, he's my friend--Mr. Don Morris. Don's analytical mind and his keen sense of the numbers, his grasp for the big picture, and his passion for our mission never fails us. I am glad to have the chance publicly to thank him and his wife Shirley for all their help and support and friendship. Thank you very much.
When President Maurer asked us to participate in a panel discussion about sheltered workshops, we hesitated for two reasons. One, we are not a sheltered workshop; and two, we don't believe blind people need sheltering. They need the same opportunities that everyone else has. The term "sheltered workshop" is no longer part of our vocabulary. I find it hard to say, and we all strongly discourage the use of the term. In fact, during the recruitment process, a special effort is made to educate candidates about BISM vocabulary. We are a business, not a sheltered workshop. We have employees, not clients. Perhaps our mission statement captures it best: Blind Industries and Services of Maryland is a business committed to excellence in providing quality products and services to our customers and employees. We accomplish this through employment opportunity, job training, rehabilitation, and services for blind adults.
One more story. Billy Brittingham works in our Salisbury, Maryland, plant. He's blind. The Navy was having a design problem with a backpack that we manufacture for the Navy Seals. All the naval engineers, all the government quality engineers, and all the experts were stumped. The problem was that the Seals couldn't see to operate the mechanism, and the engineers couldn't figure out a way to make it work. One day Billy overheard some technicians discussing the problem and said, "I can fix that. All you have to do is this...." Billy's solution was incorporated into the Navy specs.[applause] At BISM not-for-profit is a tax status, ladies and gentlemen, not an operating philosophy. We are nothing without our employees, and each one of them plays a role in our continued success.
We are not without problems at BISM. Responsibility and challenge come with new opportunities. Some of our associates, both blind and sighted, are experiencing difficulty adjusting to the requirements of regular attendance, performance-based evaluation, and empowerment. We will work through these challenges together. We ourselves are empowered by the knowledge that we have left behind forever the mentality of a sheltered workshop and its custodialism, and we are on the road to excellence.
I leave you with this one final thought. BISM is proud to serve as a model for other organizations seeking change. We will never again be a sheltered workshop. We are a business committed to excellence. Thank you.[applause]
by Donald Ellisburg
From the Editor: In 1979 Donald Ellisburg was serving as the Assistant Secretary for Employment Standards at the U.S. Department of Labor in the Carter Administration. Because he was the Director of the Sub-minimum Wage Program, he spoke to the 1979 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Since that time Mr. Ellisburg has entered private law practice and has now represented blind sheltered shop workers in both Lubbock, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. He worked closely with the NFB in both cases, and both times he won clear-cut victories, though one could have wished for larger settlements for the workers. Because of his experience in attempting to make the procedures established by the Department of Labor function equitably for blind workers, Mr. Ellisburg has formed clear opinions about the current system and what must be done to reform it. Here is what he had to say:
Thank you very much for the kind invitation to participate on this panel today to give my testimonial on the subject.
It's also a pleasure to share a panel with chairman Austin Murphy. He has been and remains a true friend and strong advocate for workers and their rights. Let me say hello to Dr. Jernigan, whom I remember fondly from my appearance at your organization fourteen years ago. He seems to have survived the time much better than I. But since then I have become a dues-paying member of the NFB.[applause]
Thank you President Maurer again, not only for the invitation, but for the closeness with which you were willing to work with me on behalf of all of you on this very difficult subject of fair labor standards. I really appreciate your valuable assistance.
Thank you to Glenn Crosby over there, President of your Texas Chapter. Your dedication, persistence, and first-hand knowledge on behalf of those who worked at the Lubbock Workshop were a tremendous inspiration to me as together we tried to correct a terrible wrong. Thanks also to Vince Tagliarino, who is not here today, who made our Buffalo experience personally pleasant despite the enormous frustration of dealing with the workshop officers.
I'd also like to acknowledge my colleague, Charlie Brown, who labored long and hard at the Department of Labor on good works, and my friend Paul Kay, who is doing his thing and trying to straighten out the D.C. courts. Special greetings to those of you who are in the audience today and were my clients, both in Lubbock and Buffalo. You were willing to stand up, be counted, and declare that things weren't right. I respect your courage against tremendous odds.
And finally, I have to acknowledge my good friend, Jim Gashel, with whom I have worked and sparred these many years. In these areas he has truly shown me the way. I've been asked to give you some of my impressions on the operations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Section 14C provisions, that are supposed to give workers a chance to challenge the wage rates paid to them in a sheltered workshop situation. Under the law, if workers don't believe they are paid the proper wage in a sheltered workshop, they can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Of course, each person has to file a separate claim. The Department of Labor is supposed to have a fast-track system to evaluate the claim and explain how the wage is justified.
I don't need to spend too much time on trying to provide more of an understanding of the mechanics of this problem. I tried twice, and our success has been a brutal reminder of the way in which a system can defeat the little guy, no matter how right or how good the arguments. I will just tell you that there is no such thing as a fast track in government. In Lubbock, Texas, we had a clear-cut case of wrongdoing. We had a clear-cut case of a company totally mismanaged and out of control, and we had a Department of Labor investigation that documented a situation that warranted substantial payment to workers for failing to deal properly with their wage needs. With all of the wrongs, what was the result? The workshop filed for bankruptcy, and we were forced to a settlement that was a fraction of the money due. It seems that the bankruptcy laws don't protect workers' wages beyond ninety days. It seems that the bankruptcy laws only protect bank loans and other debts.
In Buffalo, New York, we had another good case. However, we also had a Department of Labor that was not prepared to stand up for the cause, despite a clear case of violations and a record- keeping approach that was awful. In that case we were able to obtain settlements for a two-year back-wage claim, but we could not get the judge to accept willfulness. Therefore, we were once again faced with a sheltered workshop board of directors that refused to understand its obligations to its workers and decided that its mission was only to make money for the non-profit company.
So what does all of this mean for the program and the law? This issue is not about economics. It is not about productivity. It is not about government procurement regulations. It is not about that hallowed term "competition." It surely is not about the workers' ability. No, the issue is about justice, fairness, equity, and responsibility. The issue is about bureaucratic inertia and indifference, misplaced priorities, and a system that is broken and probably can't be fixed without dramatic change.
Finally, the issue is about exploitation and abuse by seemingly well-meaning people who perpetuate an image of the blind worker as needing to be treated as a child, and not as someone who could ever become a productive member of an adult society. The system is playing let's pretend. Workers with real experience and proven talent are forced into a work environment that is regressive, repressive, and counterproductive to anyone's well-being. It is a scheme that rewards mistreatment.
Let's look at a couple of specifics. This entire scheme is based on a premise that blind workers can't keep up with normal production; therefore, they can be paid something called a commensurate wage that is supposedly proportional to the prevailing wage that non-disabled workers would be earning for the same or similar work. This is simply false. There is no basis for any blind worker's receiving less than the minimum wage or the prevailing wage for government production work. The United States government should never have had people producing materials for Desert Storm at $2.00 an hour, if the only disability was that the worker couldn't see. What we have is a system that says, "You can't get there from here. No matter how good you get, the exploitation will follow you, and you will never earn what you deserve." This is the ultimate disincentive. Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to President Maurer describe the work of the NFB and its many, many programs leading the organization and the movement into the twenty-first century. I sat there and I said, "That's real interesting." Today, we're going to talk about a program that is charged apparently with moving workers back into the nineteenth century. It does not matter how much I vent my frustration at this podium. All I can say is that the disappointment I have felt in having to tell smart, bright, and productive people that the system of protection really could not help them very much was a very depressing experience. Compared to their unhappiness, my own feelings were irrelevant.
The actual experience of trying to make this non-system work has led me to believe that there is a need to reorder the entire sense of sheltered workshops. We need to revisit the problem and ask ourselves, "Who are the constituents?" We need to have much more control in how workers are to be treated, and we need to provide empowerment to the workers in order to establish an honest and equal relationship between them and the organizations for which they work. We can no longer tolerate the master-servant atmosphere that is a reminder of the eighteenth century fading royalty's noblesse oblige. It is more than a technical-process issue for Section 14C. It is true that we need a procedure that enables workers effectively to challenge the economics of the wage determination that has been imposed on them. It is also true that the existing procedure places a totally impossible burden on the worker to examine records and participate in an economic hearing proceeding that is totally impossible to conduct without legal assistance and the participation of professional labor economists and production-methods experts. And the Department of Labor's determination that the workers--even if successful--are not entitled to have their legal and expert costs paid for by the defending workshop makes a mockery of the workers' right to counsel. Imagine asking a worker making $2.00 an hour to pay for legal services and economic consultants.
Process improvement is important and desperately needed, but improvements in the process are useless if the underlying premise is as bankrupt as the Lubbock Lighthouse or as fouled up administratively as the Buffalo situation. The important premise to deal with is to understand just who these blind workers are and how we are to treat this alleged disability. This is not about work therapy; this is not an issue involving opportunities for those individuals who are severely disabled with mental disabilities and limitations that take them out of the regular work force. That's another issue. This is about workers who are educated. They have gone to regular and special schools. Many of them have gone to college. Many have worked in regular employment, and many may have worked in other government defense- production plants. These workers have families. They have raised children and educated them. In short, they are you, and you are American citizens, and you deserve the protection of our society and assistance without the badge of second-class exploitation.[applause]
The real question then is what are we expecting in 1993 from the Section 14C Program. How are we to reconcile this provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act with the imperatives of the Americans With Disabilities Act? This is a profound question for the Administration and the Congress, but is anyone listening? Do they hear the wake-up call, and will they answer the phone? The government has a federal committee for purchases from the blind and handicapped. It works with the National Industries for the Blind to assign federal government procurement contracts to sheltered workshops.
A number of questions need to be asked of this committee about its goals. The questions also need to be addressed to the President and the Secretary of Defense. The questions should be direct: Do workers whose only disability is that they are blind have a patriotic obligation to subsidize the federal defense effort at $2.00 an hour? Do workers whose only disability is that they are blind have to submit to being treated as second-class citizens when federal money funds the production contracts? Why do federal officials continue to allow a system to exist that clearly exploits a segment of our society? Why are they afraid of the future? Is this the way that our government should be helping its citizens? Why won't they work with us to correct the wrong? This is 1993, and we have to solve 1993 problems with 1993 solutions.
We also need to ask the Department of Labor some questions about their understanding of 14C and sheltered workshops: Who is their client, and how do they really look at this program? In addition, we need to ask ourselves what we are expecting from the sheltered workshops. What do they expect from themselves? My two experiences were frustrating in having to deal with organizations that were governed by boards with a very strange commitment and with virtually no willingness to understand their clientele. When pushed, their only answer was to file for bankruptcy or, as in the case of Buffalo, get out of the business. In this situation bankruptcy just becomes another method of exploiting and degrading the workers. And going out of business rather than complying with the law is a cynical response to the agency's mission.
How does all this conclude? We have a new administration in Washington that is looking at government from top to bottom. We have a Secretary of Labor who is committed to finding solutions for helping workers find new ways into the employment stream. We have a recognition by the Congress that individuals with disabilities are to be given a fair shake in the work place. If we take all of these new promises and actually turn attention to this little-known but widely abused provision of the law, then we are at the threshold of a great opportunity for a fundamental change in the way workers whose only disability is that they can't see are given access to and are treated in the work place. We have an opportunity to stress the need to help with real employment, and we have the chance to re-examine the mission and change the focus so that the sheltered workshop can really help people as originally intended.
Now is the time to seize the day, to seize the moment, and to tell everyone who will listen that it is time to correct a wrong. It is time for you to be trained with skills that will give you the opportunity to work outside of the workshop, and it is time that you were paid the minimum wage. Thank you for listening. Good luck.[applause]
by Austin Murphy
From the Editor: Austin Murphy is a Member of Congress from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He serves as Chairman of the Sub-committee on Labor Standards, Occupational Health, & Safety in the House of Representatives. It is his committee that will hear testimony concerning the possibility of abolishing the exemption from paying the minimum wage to blind workers which is currently written into Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This is what he told the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind:
Good afternoon. I regret to say that this is my first meeting of the National Federation of the Blind. But I want to tell you, Dr. Jernigan and Mr. President, what I have learned here today is that, although there may be some limited ability to see, on this rostrum there is certainly no lack of the ability to speak.[applause]
I have been here since ten minutes till nine this morning, and I have heard the able and distinguished speakers. I'm the clean-up batter, so let me quickly wrap up this program by saying that I believe that, in fairness to the Congressional framers back in 1936 when they were writing the Fair Labor Standards Act, they were operating under a nineteenth-century mentality which held that certain segments of our population were not equal to others. They therefore created exemptions to the minimum wage. The minimum wage in that first year, 1938, was established at twenty-five cents per hour. And, as our distinguished previous speaker said, it is now up to $4.25 an hour, hardly in keeping with the rate of inflation since 1938, but we're now at that lofty figure of $4.25 an hour.
I believe that kind of attitude and that kind of exemption back in 1938 were what created the sheltered workshop in the first place. I don't believe that it was a desire to help the disabled or a desire to help the sightless or a desire to help anyone. It was the fact that the exemption was in place that caused the entrepreneur to say we can now (of course they would not have used the term "exploit") but we can now utilize the services of people that we can pay less per hour. And as so many of the speakers before me have pointed out (Fred, Mr. Cordova, the Honorable Mr. Edlund), it was that very type of attitude that has created a syndrome over the years in our country that you could treat some workers differently from others.
We took a giant step when we passed the Americans With Disabilities Act a few years ago. We have now made it quite clear that there is no need to continue with any exemptions in the minimum wage laws of this country. And as we have now entered into a twenty-first century economy, in which we are relying more on the service and technical fields than on the old industrial and mining fields that kept this country afloat for a couple of hundred years, we're into a new era. Unless we correct this problem now in the twentieth century, we will carry into that twenty-first century an anachronism from the 1800's. That is not fair to this country; it is not fair to the people of this country, and I'm not just talking about blind people. I'm talking about every worker in this country. It is not fair to have their labor undermined with being able to hire cheap labor, whether it be in Arizona, Pennsylvania, California, or Taiwan.[applause]
Both Mr. Ellisburg and Mr. Gross talked to you about the application of the ADA, how we hope it's going to take effect. Mr Ellisburg has pointed out to you the success in two cases, and those are only the first two that he is going to be handling. But I hope that, before this session of Congress ends in November of 1994, we will have adopted a new minimum wage law, one without the exemptions, one without the encouragement to exploit laborers in this country.[applause] Let me say to Jim, who pointed out job loss, every time I have a hearing on minimum wage, I have employers come in with figures and charts to tell me there will be loss of jobs. Let me say to the sheltered shop managers that, even if higher payroll costs result in the loss of some jobs, there will not be more job loss in the sightless community than there is in the total employment community. So such stats for blind workers have absolutely no business in the question of how we will treat every American worker. Those who have ability to work should be paid for that ability, the same as every other worker.[applause]
I publicly extend to you an invitation, as I have in conversations last evening and this morning with some of the panelists and your national officers: I want you to compose a panel to testify before my Committee sometime this fall when we open the hearings on a new minimum wage bill. I want you to be my first panelists. I want you to come in, and I want you to give to my colleagues in Congress the facts and statistics to back up the arguments that we are discussing here today. Thank you very much for your time.[applause]
At the conclusion of this presentation, President Maurer said, "As I said to Congressman Murphy, "That is a pledge that we will be only too happy to accept."
From the Editor: At the 1992 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Peggy Pinder, NFB Second Vice President, reported on the decision of the A117 Committee of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to drop from its accessibility standard all specifications for detectable warnings--the so-called path-finder tiles or truncated domes. (See the October, 1992, issue of the Braille Monitor.)
In the months since the ANSI decision, all three federal agencies with principal responsibility for access rules--the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (now commonly known as the Access Board)--have publicly indicated a wish to re-examine the whole issue of truncated domes. All three agencies have published in the Federal Register a series of notices seeking comment on the desirability of suspending the current requirements for the installation of truncated domes while further research on the need for and the specific design of detectable warnings is conducted by the Access Board. The two areas where domes are most widely required are on the edges of subway and train station platforms and on all curb ramps, which for all practical purposes means warning strips across eight separate curb cuts at every intersection in the country. If all the proposed suspensions are put into place, all these requirements would be postponed until January of 1995, except for those involving new train and subway stations, where no suspension has been proposed.
Another way of putting the question is to ask: What should government assume is its responsibility, and what should government assume is the responsibility of the citizens? This is a question that we have dealt with in the Republic since before its founding, and this very question is what brought about the passage of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, and we have always been careful in this country to define clearly what role the government may play in our lives or, to put it another way, to define clearly the image of its citizens that the government is allowed to have in its mind when it makes laws and regulations. It is reasonable to ask the question: what is the province of government, and what is the province of the individual? This is not only a cost question--how much of our hard-earned salaries we as taxpayers want to pay for which services. It goes deeper than that to the very core of the relationship between government and the citizen. Do we as blind people want government to assert and maintain responsibility for our safety? Do we want government to require the rebuilding of the world for blind people as a result of this assertion of its responsibility? Or do we blind people wish to assert and maintain responsibility for ourselves, take the time and make the effort to learn the skills to protect ourselves as we move about our communities? As a part of thinking this through, we must keep in mind that, no matter how many detectable warnings are put down throughout the country, there will always be places where we must be alert to and aware of our surroundings and ready to take responsibility--places where there will be no domes. The same skills that will keep us safe in such places will also allow us to detect the so-called hazards the domes are designed to warn us about. Do we want government-promulgated safety some of the time or personal safety all of the time? Federationists think the answer is clear.
Emotions and passions have run high on both sides of this issue, however, particularly since two blind women were killed earlier this year when they fell off transit platforms. Opponents of the decision to postpone requirements to install detectable warnings contend that cost considerations should not stand in the way of saving even one human life. Those who maintain that detectable warning requirements should be abolished altogether point out that the Access Board is in the business of establishing regulations to insure that disabled people have access to public services, businesses, and governmental facilities. Assuring such access, they say, is a far cry from guaranteeing the safety of the disabled, for which the Board is not empowered to establish regulations.
Moreover, they say, the very fact that thousands of blind people every day travel safely on the nation's streets and in its transit systems demonstrates conclusively that an access problem for the blind does not exist. Even if safety were an appropriate issue to be raising with the Access Board, there are strong reasons for resisting the lure of headline-grabbing demands for expensive and degrading transit reform to protect the blind.
There are federal regulations that require that children's sleepware be treated with flame-retardant chemicals. Everyone knows that youngsters have little judgment about the consequences of their actions and that they are often careless and clumsy. Because as a society we recognize our custodial responsibility for young children, we insist that they receive this extra protection from themselves and the consequences of their unwise actions when they are near open flames.
Though adults are sometimes burned or killed when their night clothes catch fire and though sometimes such accidents are due to their own carelessness or inattention, the federal government does not insist on the expense of a requirement to treat their garments with fire-retardant substances. Adults are presumed to be capable of keeping themselves safe even though the evidence is clear that occasionally an adult is hurt by flaming nightware. Blind adults resent, or should resent, the presumption that they are incapable of taking the steps necessary to preserve their safety, even if they do not always take those steps.
No one would argue that all blind and visually impaired people are always and in all places safe and competent travelers. We are not, and most of us who have difficulties recognize them and make appropriate arrangements. These can consist of changing our plans or finding someone to accompany us. But better methods of independent travel are available to all blind persons. We must insure that good travel training is readily available, and we must find ways of eliminating the stigma associated in the public mind with using a white cane or guide dog. These solutions to the problem of safe travel for blind people require us to put forth effort and to take responsibility ourselves. They are the only ones that will work and that will actually result in safety for blind travelers.
Even if society were prepared to expend the funds to install detectable warnings at the edges of all train platforms and at all points where vehicular traffic crosses pedestrian walkways, blind people could never count on having all such possible points equipped with detectable warnings or be assured of having those warnings cleared of snow, ice, and debris in order to protect blind pedestrians. And the very fact that blind travelers could usually expect to have them present to identify points of potential danger would incline them to carelessness and a level of dependence on the warnings that would itself constitute a very real and increasing danger. In addition, to travel independently from detectable warning to detectable warning--from one end of the block to the other or from the street to the subway car--the blind person must use the same skills that allow him or her to find the street or the platform edge without the necessity for the detectable warning. One wonders how the proponents of detectable warnings think blind people are supposed to get from one set of domes to the next without falling down open manholes or wrapping themselves around sign posts.
Moreover, the time has now come in this debate as well as in other areas of the social contract to ask the painful but increasingly necessary question: how much is society willing to pay to save one or a very few lives? Presumably there would be fewer accidents at intersections, for example, if traffic engineers were to employ railroad-crossing-style barriers instead of redlights. But the cost would be staggering, and drivers would resent both the implication that they were likely to behave irresponsibly and the inconvenience of losing precious seconds as the light turned green. Likewise, blind people must look at the larger social picture any time we decide to demand a change in public policy toward us. It is always easy for the living to use a tragic death to generate publicity about the sanctity of life and the waste of a wonderful, contributing human being, whose momentary carelessness or pure bad luck resulted in death in a traffic or train accident, regardless of whether the person is blind or sighted. We must all mourn such losses, but we must also place them in the perspective of the entire struggle of blind people for full inclusion and real participation in society as equal and responsible partners.
The following article appeared in the July 15, 1993, issue of New York Newsday. Karen Luxton Gourgey is a blind woman employed at Baruch University in New York. Here it is:
When Danger is Invisible
by Karen Luxton Gourgey
New York Newsday, Thursday, July 15, 1993. A competent and busy executive wakes up, helps the kids prepare breakfast, harnesses her guide dog, and sets out for work. She boards the Long Island Rail Road and arrives at Penn Station without incident. She and her dog head for the 7th Avenue subway. She's walking down the platform, as she has done every day. It's mobbed, as it is every day. It's an island platform with tracks on both sides, and, as usual, the dog walks on her left. She's in a hurry and probably doesn't check to see just how close she is to the edge. She doesn't feel anything under her foot to alert her. Yes, there's a painted strip with sand to provide texture, but she can't feel it through her shoes--especially now that most of the sand has worn away.
The dog thinks everything is fine, too: "She's walking straight, not veering, so it's okay to walk here."
But it's easy for someone to veer just a little, or to stumble, or to get hot and dizzy. Before anyone can react, the woman puts her foot down too close to the edge. Maybe she gets surprised and lurches. The rest of the story is horrible and unforgettable.
Pam Schneider, the social service director who fell to her death on the subway tracks at Penn Station on July 7, was very much a teacher, always looking for ways to help all kinds of people learn. I believe her tragedy can teach us one last lesson.
No one would ever question the absolute need for stop signs along roads or at intersections. Their function is obvious. They are built into the vehicular environment to warn drivers and pedestrians of danger.
To ensure safe travel, pedestrians who are blind also require stop signs. They can't be auditory, since environmental noise could easily drown them out. They must be underfoot, and they must be detectable.
On some subway platforms, the New York City Transit Authority has installed textured warning strips. An alert traveler might detect them through his or her shoes, if the sand strips are well maintained. But in most cases these strips are worn, and one does not dare use them as any kind of guide.
New warning strips are now being tested at stations like 34th Street and 6th Avenue. They are tiles that come up approximately .2 inches from the surface. They haven't caused problems to people in wheelchairs, or caused others to trip, but they feel just different enough to send a signal. A friend, who is a cane user, recently traveled to that station and said, "For the first time in my life I was able to walk parallel to the platform edge, slowly, but very independently, and not feel afraid."
I truly believe that if such a strip had been installed at the 34th Street and 7th Avenue Station, Pam Schneider would be alive today.
When the original Department of Transportation regulations were written to implement Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), detectable warnings were mandated for all transit facilities and all "hazardous vehicular areas," such as intersections. However, Transportation Secretary Federico Pena may suspend the mandate until 1995. And just two days after Pam Schneider's fatal accident, the Justice Department proposed suspending warning strips for curb cuts as well. Ironically, something designed to assist people with one kind of disability can endanger people with another: Since many of the new curb cuts for people who use wheelchairs are completely flush with the pavement, they are particularly dangerous for people who are blind, who often cannot tell where the sidewalk ends and the street begins. I have traveled with a guide dog for more than twenty years; nevertheless, these curb cuts blend so perfectly with the sidewalk that I have often found myself suddenly in the middle of a street with no warning whatsoever.
In the face of such obvious dangers, who would oppose detectable warning strips? Transit authorities across the country claim they need more time for research. Municipalities, plus commercial establishments that must also install such strips, are complaining about the expense and the need for maintenance.
Tragically, the National Federation of the Blind, headquartered in Baltimore, claims to be so concerned with "sending the wrong message to society" about the competence of blind and visually impaired people that it opposes any such environmental supports. It is dismaying that this group has become so concerned about the attitudes of what it calls "sighted society" that it could risk the lives of brothers and sisters.
It's time for everybody to realize that warning strips are a life-and-death issue. Only by implementing these regulations now will we do fitting honor to Pam Schneider's memory.
That's what Karen Luxton Gourgey wrote, and it certainly attempts to play on the pathos of Ms. Schneider's accident to make her point--a competent, productive mother died; and despite this tragedy, money-grubbing transit officials, unfeeling governmental bureaucrats, and blind people eager to sell their souls for a mess of social-acceptability pottage are uniting to insure that more blind people will needlessly die. But Dr. Paul Gabias, President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, read the column and took exception to Ms. Gourgey's complete rejection of Ms. Schneider's personal responsibility for the tragedy that so sadly occurred. Dr. Gabias and Ms. Schneider were good friends, and he has been a friend of Ms. Gourgey's husband for some years, so his response was carefully considered and arose from his own personal sense of loss. Here is his letter:
British Columbia, Canada
August 25, 1993
I just read the article written by Karen Luxton. The disturbing implication is that if the National Federation of the Blind had not fought against truncated domes, they might have been installed and Pamela Schneider would be alive today. I know Karen Luxton, and I knew Pam Schneider. Pamela's travel skills were excellent; I can attest to that from personal experience. As far as I know, Karen is also a very good traveler.
The implication in this article is that Pamela fell because she didn't know where the edge of the platform was. The article assumes that Pamela might have been in a hurry and therefore didn't check to see just how close she was to the edge. My own observation is that, when I walk along an island platform with a guide dog, I ordinarily don't check for the edge either. I know that I have inculcated sufficient knowledge about the danger of platform edges in the dog's training so that I don't have to worry about it anymore. My dogs have always been taught to stay at least two feet from platform edges unless the train is in the station. They behave in a similar manner with respect to other edges as well, be they cliffs, edges of docks, edges of pools, or any other major sudden drop-off.
Of course, the proper use of the long white cane will keep a person at a safe distance from any sudden drop-off as well.
The world is full of sudden drop-offs. Blind people, in order to be safe, must be able to keep away from these precipices in all circumstances and at any time. It is wishful thinking to expect that the earth, with its natural brinks and cliffs, will redesign itself to accommodate blind people. In order to feel completely confident and secure, we must be able to travel independently and safely despite the natural brinks and cliffs on the earth. Subway platforms mimic these natural drops. In order to feel completely secure, it seems to me that one must provide some preemptive solutions which one believes to be foolproof. I trust my dog's training; I trust my cane skills. And I believe that I can get around anywhere on earth using my mobility tools, without any special architectural adaptations designed specifically for the blind. I wouldn't have it any other way. I wouldn't travel if I couldn't feel safe everywhere and anywhere I went. My philosophy is "Do what you will to the earth or the ground or the sound around me; I refuse to have my feeling of safety and security determined by architectural changes in the external environment."
Apparently, given our resolutions against audible traffic signals and tactile warnings, other people in the NFB feel the same way. What we do hope is that blind people will be given sufficient training so that they will not feel at the mercy of this or that architectural change which is supposed to be designed to keep the blind safe. With proper training and opportunity, we can manage our own affairs and keep ourselves safe, regardless of the architectural trends in vogue at the time. We don't have to worry about the installation of special adaptations for the blind. We have confidence that we are safe with or without such adaptations and whether or not they are carefully maintained. Our desire is that all blind people will achieve this level of confidence. Judging by the number of us who have this confidence, we believe that it is possible for everyone who needs such training to benefit from it if the funding and good training are available.
But, getting back to Pamela, she did have good training, as far as I know; yet she was killed. Why? The article would have us suppose that Pamela was in a hurry and probably didn't check to see just how close she was to the edge. The dog thought everything was fine, too. But was everything fine? And whose responsibility was it to ensure that everything was fine? Was it the dog's or Pamela's? It seems to me that in the end it was Pamela's because she was the handler, and it was her job to make sure that the dog was performing as it should.
The article goes on to say, "But it's easy for someone to veer just a little or to stumble or to get hot and dizzy." My own feeling about all of this is that, even if I veered a little or stumbled or got hot or dizzy, even if I fell, maintaining a two- foot distance from the edge should be far enough to keep me from falling off the platform. If a two-foot margin is not sufficient distance to prevent someone from falling onto the tracks, regardless of the circumstance that caused the fall, then truncated domes would have been of no use in Ms. Schneider's accident. If the dog did not keep a two-foot margin of safety, the problem lies in the handler and not the platform. If this is the case, we cannot blame the transit authority for the result. The problem lies in the guide dog's training, the transfer training with the student, the blind traveler, or the blind person's handling of the dog. If a two-foot clearance is not enough, then we still cannot blame the transit authority. People sometimes fall for peculiar reasons in peculiar positions, and there is nothing to prevent such tragic accidents from occasionally happening. I am deeply sorry that Pamela died, and in such a horrible way, too. We will never know why.
The notion that truncated domes should be located at street corners is not terribly useful either. In snow-covered conditions, which can last up to six months in northern climates, truncated domes are useless. Nevertheless, blind people travel in these conditions and keep themselves from walking into the street in heavy traffic. Blind people and their guide dogs learn to deal with these conditions safely and efficiently. I know lots of blind people who travel around Montreal in the winter; and, although they complain bitterly about the snow like everyone else, they go where they need to and get on with the business of living. Obviously people have developed techniques to deal with the absence of curbs. They use the traffic noise and the architecture and landscaping around them. I'm not saying that I like the absence of curbs at corners, but I do believe that there are better ways to spend federal, state, and local tax money than on truncated domes, and many other blind people agree with me. We are glad that the Department of Transportation agreed with the position of the National Federation of the Blind to oppose truncated domes.
There you have the comments of one knowledgeable blind man who is an experienced guide dog trainer and user. Here is the comment submitted by the National Federation of the Blind in early September to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board:
September 3, 1993
Mr. James G. Raggio, General
Office of the General Counsel
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
Washington D. C.
Dear Mr. Raggio:
This is the official comment of the National Federation of the Blind, responding to the notice published at 58 FR 37052 on July 9, 1993, concerning the proposed suspension of the guidelines for detectable warnings. As explained in the detailed comments below, we support the proposed suspension but request more decisive action. We also feel that the action being taken by the Board, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Transportation does not go nearly far enough. In light of the information which now exists and the information which is likely to be assembled through further study, we favor the eventual elimination of detectable warnings from the guidelines.
Statement of Organizational Interest and Expertise
The National Federation of the Blind is a membership organization of blind people. As such, virtually all of our members will be affected directly by the decisions made on this matter. The Federation has a total national membership exceeding 50,000, and the vast majority of the members are blind. State affiliates of the NFB exist in each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Local chapters of the Federation can be found in most sizable population areas. Because of its widespread and large membership the Federation is often referred to as "the voice of the nation's blind."
It is an organizational requirement in the NFB that a majority of the active members must be blind. This is true at all levels. Only blind persons may hold elective office at the national level. Therefore, the NFB is not an organization speaking for the blind; it is the blind speaking for themselves. In the present instance the views expressed in this comment reflect the Federation's officially adopted position concerning detectable warnings. NFB policies on matters such as this are determined by national convention vote, and the convention is the organization's supreme authority.
The presence or absence of detectable warnings in all of the areas specified in the guidelines has a direct impact on blind people. Therefore, of those affected by the proposed rule, those whom we represent are the most directly affected. Also our experiences in traveling about both with and without detectable warnings provide the most relevant testimony concerning the need or lack thereof for the warnings. As both the notice and logic indicate, detectable warnings have been intended for blind and visually impaired people. Therefore, in making its decision on the proposed rule, the Board should rely most heavily on the expressed views of persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Statement of Position
The NFB supports suspension of the detectable warnings guidelines. However, we oppose a time-limited suspension. In point of fact, a suspension with an announced reinstatement date is not really a suspension. Building and facility operators must assume that the detectable warnings guidelines are actually still in effect although not currently being enforced. Therefore, there is not really a suspension at all. The Federation supports eventual elimination of the guidelines. With respect to transportation facilities, the Federation opposes continued application of the guidelines to newly constructed or altered platforms. We also oppose reinstatement of the guidelines on existing platform edges at key rail stations on January 26, 1995, or at any later date.
Detectable warnings should not be included in Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) or any other standards or guidelines for the following reasons: (1) in assessing the need for a detectable warnings guideline, it is sound public policy to apply an "individual responsibility test" to determine whether it is reasonable to expect blind persons to travel without detectable warnings; (2) a safety need for the warnings is not supported by factual evidence; (3) the warnings communicate no information about the environment that is not already available to blind persons and routinely used by them; and (4) detectable warnings actually create a threat to safe mobility for blind persons and others.
(1) In assessing the need for a detectable warnings guideline, it is sound public policy to apply an "individual responsibility" standard. Traveling about in a safe and efficient manner is and must remain a matter of individual responsibility. Access guidelines must acknowledge this fact. The guidelines should also acknowledge the methods--use of cane or dog--which are effective and safe for blind people. The guidelines should not disregard these methods or in any way encourage blind people to reject them. Use of effective travel methods is an individual responsibility. If a blind person elects not to use effective methods, the guidelines should not condone such behavior. Furthermore, it is not a responsibility for the government under the ADA to insure access for individuals who do not use the methods available to live independently.
As a matter of public policy it is the responsibility of society as a whole to provide a safe environment, but a rule of reason must also apply. Not all people--sighted as well as blind--will travel entirely safely at all times. The physical environment cannot possibly be built in such a way that no one is ever injured. Quite apart from that, the aim of access guidelines issued under the ADA is to insure access. Safety is a broader social responsibility, and safe movement within facilities that are safe is an individual responsibility. The goals of the ADA have been met as long as individuals with disabilities have equal access. The absence of detectable warnings probably does not limit the mobility of blind persons who are employing responsible methods of independent travel.
(2) A safety need for the warnings is not supported by factual evidence. Buildings and facilities that are covered by the ADA are now as safe for use by blind people as they are for use by sighted people. This is the critical consideration. As stated above, personal safety is largely a matter of individual responsibility. Access guidelines and their enforcement cannot assure safety for each person in all places at all times. The guidelines can assure that facilities are designed to be safe for society as a whole, including for blind individuals. It is demonstrably the case that without detectable warnings buildings and facilities covered by the ADA are on the whole no less safe for blind people than they are for sighted people.
Safety is certainly an appropriate concern, but in the making of public policy, concerns about unwarranted actions and expenditures are also appropriate. Therefore, the safety concern cannot be based on fear; it must be based on fact. Fear of being unsafe because of blindness is an understandable feeling for sighted people, but it leads to conclusions based on emotional responses, not factual information. Emotionally it is hard to accept the fact that sight is not an essential sense to protect against most hazards in the physical environment. But blind people already move about safely. Daily this provides empirical evidence that fears of falling or being injured are groundless since hazards can be identified in advance.
(3) The warnings communicate no information about the environment that is not already available to blind persons and routinely used by them. Detectable warnings do not add to the information now available about the location of building hazards or environmental characteristics. The hazards or characteristics can be located, with or without the warning, by means of the cane or guide dog. In addition, the warning does not indicate the nature of the hazard ahead. Therefore, further exploration by the blind individual is always needed. The warning on its own is confusing. It does not provide any form of assurance that vital information is communicated to the blind person.
The legal premise for including detectable warnings in ADAAG is that such warnings allegedly assure blind persons of accessible communication about environmental characteristics. However, characteristics of the physical environment already provide essential information and the warnings themselves add nothing. Consequently, the legal premise for requiring detectable warnings must fall. The warnings do not insure an environment that is discrimination-free for blind people and are therefore not justified under the ADA.
(4) Detectable warnings actually create a threat to safe mobility for blind persons and others. If detectable warnings are ever accepted as an appropriate travel aid for the blind, there is no rational argument for limiting their application. Yet, if their use is not limited, the initial cost and continuing maintenance costs would be prohibitively expensive. If as a matter of policy one accepts the need for detectable warnings, why should any obstacle in the path of travel not be bounded by such a warning? If only some hazards are marked by warnings, inconsistency is likely to be a serious (even dangerous) concern. How can the average blind traveler have any confidence that a warning will be provided against apparent dangers, if only some warnings are required at only some locations?
If detectable warnings are as effective as their proponents believe them to be, it is reasonable to expect that blind people will come to rely upon them. That would be a dangerous outcome. The guidelines do not require warnings to protect against every hazard, but the average blind individual cannot be expected to be an expert in the guidelines. For example, if warnings are only on the platforms of key rail stations, what will happen to the blind person who uses or travels to a station that is not key? How is the individual to know whether to expect or not to expect the warnings? The assumption that a warning must be present could be deadly either in a subway station or on a street.
For people who are not blind, detectable warnings themselves pose new obstacles and dangers. For example, persons with mobility impairments (including people who use wheelchairs, walking canes, crutches, walkers, or other mobility aids) find that these warnings obstruct their smooth, level path of travel. Injuries can be caused when the integrity of the surface is disrupted. So, rather than creating greater access for individuals with disabilities, detectable warnings are additional barriers. In that sense they defeat the purpose of the ADA.
Special Considerations Relevant to Transportation Facilities
The current suspension of the detectable warnings requirements on platforms of key rail stations until January 26, 1995, is patently absurd. If one accepts the need for the warnings on platform edges, then the need exists now. If one does not accept the need, then the need will not exist to any greater degree in 1995 than it does at present. Since the Board has decided to submit the matter of detectable warnings to further study, it would make far more sense for the Department of Transportation to join in that study. Meanwhile, the guidelines applicable to platforms at key rail stations should be postponed indefinitely.
Training methods are definitely available for blind people to use raised transit platforms safely and confidently. Unlike a slight slope at a ramped street crossing, the platform edge is a sharp drop-off. It is a natural, detectable warning which can be found by cane or dog. Blind travelers locate the platform edge (using either cane or guide dog) and orient themselves to it. The traveler knows with confidence that the train will arrive at a platform edge and therefore wishes to be safe by deliberately locating the edge immediately upon arrival on the platform.
For the blind person a detectable warning along the edge presents nonspecific information about a change in the floor surface. It also interferes with effective use of the cane at a critical point, causing the cane to jump and lose contact with the floor surface. It does not establish that the edge has been reached and in fact can cause a blind person to miss the edge with the touch of a cane. With or without the warning the blind person must find the edge of the platform and do so at a safe distance with cane or guide dog. The only way that the traveler knows for certain that the edge has been found is positively to identify the edge, not the warning. The procedure just described is safe and efficient.
Concern has been raised about two tragic deaths in major urban transit stations (Boston and New York) which occurred in June and July, 1993. The women killed in each instance were blind and using guide dogs. They both stepped off the raised platform after their dogs had already stopped. Proponents of detectable warnings have used these deaths as evidence for the need. They say that detectable warnings on the platforms of each station in question could have prevented the tragedies.
As to whether the deaths could have been prevented by the warnings, that is a question of fact. Although the deaths cause feelings of sadness for all of us, the facts which led to the deaths must be examined in making public policy. Since she lived for several days after her fall, Peggy McCarthy, who was killed in Boston, reportedly told her friends that she realized her mistake in proceeding after her dog had stopped. Thus the dog provided Ms. McCarthy with an appropriate warning, which she apparently misinterpreted, at least to some extent. Unfortunately, tragedies of human error such as this cannot be prevented. Ms. McCarthy could misinterpret a detectable warning just as she misinterpreted her dog's warning.
Pamela Schneider, who was killed in New York, had found the edge of the platform, her dog had stopped to inform her of the edge, and witnesses reported that she continued to walk, weaving along the edge with the dog. Finally she lost her balance and fell as a train was arriving in the station. The temperature in that station at the time was said to be 110 degrees, and Ms. Schneider was diabetic. The observers' reports suggest that physical instability was the likely cause of the fall from the platform. The platform itself had a detectable warning.
In one sense, decisions to require or not to require detectable warnings come down to matters of genuine human concern. Therefore, there is an almost inescapable draw toward accepting the emotional response to tragedies such as these. But the successful experiences of blind people using transit systems every day can help to balance the perspective and cannot be ignored. In point of fact, finding the edges of raised platforms is something that any blind traveler who uses a train must do as a routine matter of daily life.
The best way to travel with safety and confidence is to employ deliberate measures to find the platform edge and not to shy away from doing so. Unlike some other characteristics of the built environment, the edges of raised train platforms cannot be hidden or obscured by other surroundings. They can be found with certainty by cane or dog. Transit operators and government regulators alike can be assured that these techniques work safely. This statement represents the informed view of blind people who for reasons of self-interest have absolutely no desire to be unsafe.
For the reasons set forth in this comment, the National Federation of the Blind requests the indefinite suspension of all detectable warnings guidelines. The partial and time-limited suspensions contemplated will simply add to the confusion and send a signal of government uncertainty. If the agencies responsible are in fact now in doubt about the efficacy of continuing to enforce guidelines for detectable warnings, they should say so in a straightforward manner. This policy would be far more responsible than taking the partial and indefinite action proposed. This is not to say that the matter should not receive further study if the agencies decide to do so.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Federation of the Blind
From the Editor: Jerry and Nancy Yeager are leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. Like thousands of other couples living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., they both work for the federal government, and together they share the joys and challenges of raising their two-year-old daughter Tracy. There is nothing unusual about the Yeagers' life, except that their neighbors and acquaintances are still learning that two competent blind adults can and do live a perfectly ordinary life, contributing to their community and enjoying their child.
In the October, 1993, issue of The Washingtonian magazine, a story appeared about the Yeager family. The reporter, Randy Rieland, resisted the temptation to resort to piled-up adjectives and maudlin sentimentality. Instead he reported on a happy, normal family, the sensible modifications they have made to keep their daughter safe and happy, and the problems they sometimes have with those who distrust their ability to rear their daughter successfully. Here is the story:
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Nancy and Jerry Yeager
Their Daughter is Not.
Together, They Learn to Live in Two Worlds.
Early on, Tracy knew that her parents' eyes didn't work.
Even at a few months of age, she realized that pointing at things brought no response. So Tracy, an infant testing life, found another way. She began grabbing her parents' hands and putting them on whatever she wanted. If she was hungry, she would touch her fingers to her mother's mouth. Together, Tracy and her parents, both blind since birth, began to shape their world.
Nancy and Jerry Yeager know all about pity. How to the sighted theirs seems a poignant world, rife with limitations. They know they will never see their daughter's smile, or watch her run across the room to them. But these images, they point out, are memories of the sighted. "If you don't see, what you aren't able to see of her is a non-issue," says Nancy.
It seems odd, then, to find a video camera on a tripod in the Yeagers' living room. To them, the camera makes perfect sense, even if, like most parents, they don't use it as much as they thought they would. "If we think she's doing something cute," says Jerry, "we aim the camera in the direction of the sound. It gives us an audio record."
Tracy's sounds are their baby snapshots, collected on tape or stored away in their memories, keepsakes of these times. "I love to hear her talking to herself in her bed," says her father.
Jerry, who's thirty-eight, had always worried about what kind of father he would be, because he didn't have much patience with babies. Nancy, forty-one, was nervous about how having a child would affect her career--she works for the Farm Credit Administration. "It was never an issue of `Do we not want children because we can't see?' We knew we had both overcome enough obstacles. We knew we would deal with whatever came up." They also had heard the stories from other blind parents of sighted children. Some people, the Yeagers were told, would think they had created a child to give them eyes. Others would feel sorry for Tracy, imagining a life dimmed by her parents' blindness.
Not long ago the Yeagers heard a woman tell Tracy, who had just turned two, "Now, honey, don't let your mom and dad get hurt." And neighbors have volunteered to take Tracy to the pool or to the neighborhood Halloween parade. "That suggests we're not capable of doing it," says her mother. "These are things we want to share with her."
Nancy is particularly sensitive to the "poor blind person" treatment, no matter how well-intentioned, in front of her daughter. "We can teach her that blindness is okay. But when people act like we're helpless, what kind of message does that send to her about us?" Jerry is more philosophical. "Let's face it. Some days you're able to say, `It's better if we do this with Tracy.' Other days you're more tart with people."
The Yeagers describe themselves as being like any other couple with a child. Little in their Alexandria high-rise apartment suggests otherwise. Toys lie scattered around the living room, flotsam from a toddler wave. "You learn to shuffle like this," says Jerry, sliding his feet along the carpet, "and kick them to the side."
A Barney tape sits ready next to the black-and-white TV. Nearby is a Sesame Street book--its Braille notations not only translate the words but also describe the images. At one end of the room is a red plastic table, crayons strewn across the top. It's the only place in the apartment where Tracy is allowed to color. Nancy and Jerry always know where she is, but they don't always know what she's doing, and they don't want her wandering around the apartment with a crayon in her hand. Not that most parents wouldn't feel the same way, but the Yeagers, more than most, must set boundaries they can't guard.
So they make rules, rules as ironclad as they are practical. Tracy knows, for instance, that she must answer when she's called. "Hide-and-seek is not a game we ever play," says Nancy.
Tracy also has learned to give her parents any strange object she finds. Once she handed them a wet caterpillar. "Our first thought was, `Did she have this in her mouth?'" Jerry remembers thinking. "I figured, `Well, she's gotten her caterpillar protein for the day.'"
"Daddy, can I run?" Tracy asks. She is standing outside the apartment door, looking down the long, narrow hallway that leads to the elevators. Jerry says okay and she's off, scrambling stiff-legged across the carpet. This is the one place where Tracy is allowed to run free, but even here there's a rule. Once the elevator bell rings, she has to grab one of her parents' hands and wait to get on with them. "She is a good little hand-holder," says her father.
The family tries to go out for a restaurant meal once a week. Just as often they go to the neighborhood playground, a trek that takes them through a parking lot and the sounds of moving cars.
Nancy and Jerry are used to maneuvering around traffic, but doing it with a two-year-old brings new risks. So before they go out, they fit Tracy into a little harness. When it's secure around her waist, Tracy grabs the loose end of the tether and presses it into her mother's hand.
To see them walking together, Nancy and Jerry with their canes and Tracy connected to them by the tether, the notion of Tracy as a tiny guide is not completely unfair. From a distance, it is hard to tell that they, not she, are leading.
The Yeagers appreciate that, but not so much that they can forgive the security guard who followed them around their apartment complex one afternoon. "Beyond a certain point," says Nancy, "there's nothing we can do about that attitude. When you go into a new place, you take it all in with your eyes. For us, taking a place in means taking our canes and walking all around it. But people see that and think we're lost.
"When we go out," she says, "we like to explore things together. I'll ask Tracy if she sees the birds that I hear. Or I'll ask her what color the flowers are that I smell. And if she asks me what something is and I don't know, I just tell her that I don't know. Sometimes we have to learn together."
What they have learned, above all, is that their lives are not about the disparity of blindness and sight, but rather how the two can merge. Sometimes Tracy will grab a cane and tap it in front of her. Sometimes Nancy will join in a game of mother- daughter peekaboo.
Tracy, across the room, crouches behind a playpen. Suddenly she pops up, giggling, "I see you, Mama."
"I see you, too," answers Nancy.
Nor does Jerry miss a beat a moment later when he is complimented on Tracy's grin.
"She has a beautiful smile," he says. "I just know."
by Larry Streeter
From the Editor: Larry Streeter is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska. Several weeks ago he wrote an article describing recent activities of the Omaha Chapter. The story reminds us once again that we must always be ready to defend the rights of blind people and to educate the public while we are about it. Here is what Larry had to say:
It seems only yesterday that I resided in Dallas and served as the President of the Progressive Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. On occasion something very unusual would occur, and Mark Noble, who now resides in Seattle, would mutter, "That's bizarre."
I was working July 29 when the phone rang. I picked it up to hear the pleasant voice of hard-working Omaha Federationist Vicki Hodges. She said, "Are you sitting down?" When I responded in the affirmative, she said, "On July 16 they opted for a jury trial." Suddenly I recalled Mr. Noble's expression, "That's bizarre." I found myself thinking: "But this is 1993! This situation is ludicrous; these people are every bit as arrogant as I suspected!" However, I can't really say that I was shocked by the news of their decision.
In my years as a member of the NFB, I have noticed that some people escape the indignity of discrimination almost entirely, while others fight it on a regular basis. Those who are lucky enough to escape or avoid it are something of an endangered species. However, eventually lightning is bound to strike. When discrimination finally hits, it can do so with terrific force.
Several years ago Vicki and I met on a bus one bright sunny morning and struck up a conversation. I learned that she had lived in Iowa, had been trained at the Iowa Commission for the Blind under Dr. Jernigan, had attended NFB national conventions, and was a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Vicki agreed to come to our chapter meetings. Until May 15, 1993, Vicki was a member of that endangered species--those who had experienced little discrimination.
But on May 17 Vicki called me to relate her experience. She was angry and humiliated. Discrimination was new to her. But her battle was soon to become the battle of the Omaha Chapter, and it would ultimately include Federationists from throughout the area.
On Friday, May 14, 1993, Vicki had called the Applewood Tanning Center (ATC) to get information about their tanning rates and to reserve a time to tan. She also inquired about the cost of the accelerator products sold there. Before the call ended, Vicki asked the owner, with whom she was talking, if ATC required new customers to fill out a general medical-information card. Vicki has been going to tanning salons for about two years and has filled out information cards for other facilities. She wanted to allow herself enough time before her appointment to comply with their procedures and to provide ATC the necessary information. Her appointment was set for Saturday, May 15 at 10:30 a.m.
She called a cab at approximately 9:45 a.m. This gave the cab driver plenty of time to pick her up and arrive at ATC's front door far in advance of her appointment. After minor route difficulties she arrived at the salon at approximately 10:10 a.m. and paid the driver $4.80 plus a tip.
A woman and man were behind the counter three or four steps inside the door. They greeted her; she identified herself and informed them of her 10:30 appointment. The woman asked Vicki if she had tanned before, to which she replied, "Yes." The man asked her for a list of businesses where she had tanned. Vicki obliged by providing him the names of four locations. The woman then asked her if it was all right with her doctor if she tanned. Vicki said she had been doing this for more than two years and that her doctor did not disapprove.
The woman then asked Vicki if she was able to fill out and sign the card. Vicki explained that she would be happy to provide the necessary information for the woman to fill in and that she could then sign it herself. The woman told her that she had to be able to read the card to fill it out and sign it or she could not tan. Vicki asked why someone could not read the card to her and fill it out at her dictation. The man explained that it was their policy. She asked what they meant by "their policy." The man explained that ATC was a family-owned business and that they were the owners. Vicki told them that she thought such a policy was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They said that they didn't care because it was their business. Vicki responded by saying that she thought "their policy" was discriminatory. They shrugged off her statement and continued to refuse to let her tan. In exasperation Vicki said they had just wasted her time and money.
Following this humiliating interchange, Vicki needed to use their phone to call for a ride home and asked where it was located. The man said, "It's over here."
She asked, "What does, `It's over here,' mean?"
He told her to follow the counter around to her right. Once she had made her way around the counter, he asked her if she had the number, because he "needed to dial it for her." She gave him the number, which he dialed. She identified herself to the cab operator and said she needed to be picked up because the salon owners were not going to let her tan. She handed the receiver back to the man and told him that she was going to look into the legalities of their policy. Vicki then walked outside to wait for her cab.
She checked the time to see how long this entire encounter had taken and to calculate how long it would take a cab to reach her. It was 10:14 a.m. Vicki decided that she should get the names of the owners, so she went back inside, walked up to the counter, and said, "Did you say that you two are the owners?"
They said, "Yes." She asked them their names. There was a short, but noticeable pause. The woman identified herself as Sharon Hurt.
Vicki asked, "Is that spelled H-e-r-t?"
The man said, "H-u-r-t." Then Sharon said, "And this is David."
Vicki said, "David and Sharon Hurt. Thank you." Then she walked back outside.
The cab driver picked her up at 10:24 a.m. and dropped her back home. Vicki spent $9.60 of her money in cab fare plus tips and forty-five to fifty minutes of her time to seek out a service, presumably available to the public, which in good faith she had pre-arranged and was then refused.
But this is only the beginning of the story. Vicki attended the May meeting of the Omaha Chapter and gave a report of the salon incident. Chapter members listened attentively. First Vice President Craig Groff expressed the opinion that maybe we should have a tanning party and pay ATC a friendly visit. Gary Thompson decided that he needed a tan and later set up an appointment.
Gary, a long-time Federationist, is a telephone operator for Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha and a dog guide user. He made an appointment for 2:30 Saturday afternoon, June 5. He arrived at the center at approximately 2:20. Gary entered the salon with his dog guide, announced his name, and said that he was there for his scheduled appointment. He was immediately informed that he could not enter the salon with his dog, for it was a violation of state Health Department standards. Gary attempted to explain that his animal was a guide dog and could go anywhere he went in public. The man, and a woman in the background, kept telling him that, according to Health Department laws, he could not enter the salon with his dog.
Gary presented his dog guide identification card to the man, who simply ignored it. Gary was advised that the dog could not go back into the tanning area; he immediately suggested that he tie the dog to a chair while he was being tanned, but this was not acceptable to the proprietor. Gary explained that, according to the law, a guide dog could go anywhere he went; he then asked if there was any way that the entire issue could be negotiated. The man said no. Gary asked for his name and was told Dave Hurt. Mr. Hurt provided Gary with a business card. Gary left the salon and returned home.
Following this second blatant act of discrimination, we made three important decisions: (1) As President of the Omaha Chapter, I was asked by Vicki and Gary to serve as their representative for the purpose of filing a Title III Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint against ATC in Omaha with the Department of Justice (DOJ). The complaint has been accepted for investigation by DOJ. (2) Vicki and Gary filed affidavits with the city prosecutor's office on June 22, 1993, for violation of the Nebraska White Cane Law. (3) I sent press releases to all three television stations in Omaha advising them of the NFB chapter's plan to picket ATC on June 26.
When we checked with KETV-7 assignment editor Joe Kashmir on Wednesday, June 23, about possible Saturday coverage, Kashmir immediately asked if KETV could do a story that very afternoon for airing that night at 10:00. As the hour struck two, reporter Julie Cornell interviewed Vicki and Larry, and the report was the lead story that night. Ms. Cornell's report was excellent. The story also aired during the early morning area news and during two local breaks of Good Morning America. Her report left only one impression--blind people have been denied equal access to a public facility. The pictures in the report showed two confident and independent blind people.
On Saturday, June 26, as Omaha Chapter President I gave final instructions and reminded the membership of our history, the need for self-discipline, and the absolute necessity to avoid getting carried away. At 10:00 in the morning, over thirty NFB members came with picket signs in hand to demonstrate against ATC. Signs reading, "Blind people can tan too," "Equal access is the law," "Tanning doesn't require sight," "NFB tans Applewood Tanning Center," "NFB = equal rights for the blind," "NFB removes myths about blindness," and "Blind people always first class," were held high, and enthusiasm was great. As usual, the picket was peaceful and disciplined. For three hours thousands of cars passed by, drivers slowed down, some honked their horns, while others verbally expressed their approval.
Many first-time picketers were on hand, including NFB members Joe and Gail Larson and their thirteen-year-old blind daughter Angie. Associate member Darwin Fager took great photos of this main event. With a video camera Darwin caught the owners of ATC getting out of their Jeep and sneaking into the salon to avoid the press. People in the area, shopping at other stores, came by and questioned our actions; in all cases they left exclaiming that we should keep up the pressure. KETV reporter Cornell was back and did another superb job of reporting the facts; our story was aired at 6:00 and 10:00. The CBS affiliate, KMTV-3, sent reporter Tom Elser to capture the action; his report, like Cornell's, was excellent. Channel 3 gave our picket major-story status on the 10 o'clock news. A shorter version was seen at 6:00 p.m. In all dealings with the press, ATC personnel refused to comment.
The good time we had picketing against ATC has passed. The owners have made the decision to take their case to a jury. We are aware of the public's attitudes about blindness, and we know that anything can happen, especially in the courts. Federation leader Richard Edlund once said to me, "We do not look for lawsuits; they tend to find us." Those words ring true to me now. Fortunately the public in Omaha is more aware than ever before, for the press listened carefully to our philosophy, observed our actions, and reported the story in a fair and accurate fashion.
No victory is ever guaranteed. We must be prepared for the best or the worst; either way, we will handle our affairs with integrity. This absurd tale has served a meaningful purpose by teaching our chapter members firsthand the merits of concerted action. Yes, Mr. Noble, you are indeed correct in noting that life has its bizarre moments.
by Kathy Kannenberg
From the Editor: Kathy Kannenberg is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina. Four years ago she had never heard of the National Federation of the Blind; she didn't even realize that she was blind. She did know that she wanted to be a math teacher, and she was beginning to recognize that she might have some difficulty handling her students because of her poor vision. Today she is demonstrably one of the finest young secondary school math teachers in the country. What follows is the story of how she got from the perplexities and problems of her undergraduate life to where she is today. It's a story that she told the convention audience on Thursday afternoon, July 8, 1993. Here it is:
I have to tell you, this is the largest class I've ever taught. But we'll start off with a good lesson. I want to try something here that I used in one of my classes earlier this year. I would like to hear all the ladies in the room call out "N." [N!] Very good! How about everyone here who was at national convention for the first time in 1990, I want to hear you call out "F." [F!]Very, very good! (You need to encourage the children, you know.) Now, if you've won a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind, I want to hear you call out "B." [B!] And finally, if you were here in Dallas for the Golden Anniversary Convention three years ago, just shout as loud as you can. [roar from the audience] Wonderful!
Our lesson today--Venn diagrams! We have just illustrated what a Venn diagram can be. If you called out for any of those four categories, you belong to the union of the four categories. If you called out for all four categories, you're very special; you belong to the same category as I. You belong to the intersection of those categories. And I'll tell you why that's special, or at least why it's special to me. In 1990, when I was at National Convention for the first time, when I had won a scholarship at our fiftieth anniversary convention here in Dallas, on Independence Day I picked up my first long white cane, and I made a commitment to this organization to change what it means to be blind. That's what I've been doing in the three years since.
Let me give you a little background on myself. In elementary school I got in trouble and had to write sentences because the teacher said I was mocking her. She wanted me to read from the board, and I couldn't. After some time the school saw fit to send me to the counselor, sent me to the eye doctor, sent me here, sent me there. Finally, in my files I was labeled as having "sensitive vision." Thereafter I was ignored.
I continued in public school. When I was in junior high, I had a fantastic math teacher. It was in his class that I decided what I wanted to do: I wanted to teach math. So I went about making myself into prime math teacher material. I took every math course I could. I went to the North Carolina School of Science and Math. I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then to North Carolina State University.
And boom! It was my second year at State, and I started thinking, "These people are treating me kind of weird. I'm not exactly sure why." (Keep in mind that once I was labeled in elementary school, I was thereafter forgotten. I assumed that nobody knew about me and nobody understood why I used magnifying glasses or walked up to the board in the middle of class.) It was also about this time that I began wondering, "How am I going to keep Billy in the back of the room from throwing spit balls all the time?" Gradually I began to understand why people were treating me weird; they were wondering things like that too.
It was also about this time that I got a letter from Hazel Staley, who was President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina at that time. It was as if she had been reading my mind. The letter said, "You are invited to the organization of the North Carolina Association of Blind Students. Please come and join." I thought, "Well, I don't know; I'm not blind." But I went because I thought that maybe someone over there used to have "sensitive vision" before they went blind, and maybe that person could tell me what it was like trying to get a job so I could be prepared.
I decided to go. I walked into the hotel, and I was shocked. I had never before encountered a blind person. All of a sudden I was surrounded by hundreds of people walking around with these long white sticks. I was a little scared at first. I didn't know what was going on, but I got caught. I was dragged upstairs, where I met Scott LaBarre from Minnesota, who was First Vice President of the student division at the time. I struck out for myself and met some of the other blind students there. I found that they weren't so weird for being blind.
I went into the business meeting and got to listen to President Maurer, who was the national representative to the North Carolina convention that year. Slowly, I began to realize that these people knew what they were doing. They had ideas. So I stuck around to find out more. Then I heard the thing that really caught my interest. These blind guys were offering scholarships. I thought, "Hey, I'm smart; I could pass for blind. I could win one of these scholarships." So I tried real hard to act the way I thought blind people acted. I had to convince these people that I was one of them. I walked into doors and other people. I tripped over things. I figured I could make it look real good.
I applied for an NFB scholarship, and, in spite of how arrogant I realize now that I was, I won a scholarship. And I came to national convention here in Dallas. So now you know why I love Dallas so much. Coming back to Dallas is like coming home because this is where I bonded with every one of you. This is where my heart is. Coming back to Dallas is like coming home to the Federation for me.
I spent lots of time with lots of different people that week, as all scholarship winners do. I ended up going to the National Association of Blind Educators meeting, where I thought I would surely find people who were in my situation. I was looking for blind people who successfully went through teacher training and were teaching in spit ball-free environments. I needed to find them because I was realizing that I didn't have to pretend to be blind. I was beginning to understand that I was a blind woman pretending to be sighted.
Boy, did I find teachers! Some had been blind all their lives. Some had lost their vision slowly, others quickly. Some had residual vision, and some of these blind teachers could see better than I could. People like Tom Ley, Pat Munson, and Fred Schroeder--they put me in my place. Here they were--real live blind guys--doing what I wanted to do, and doing it well.
I began hearing a word at that division meeting and throughout the week: "network." I wondered what this network thing was; then suddenly it clicked. I really needed to hook up with these guys. They knew what they were talking about. I needed to keep in touch with them so I could pick their brains for ideas when I started wondering about things like how to stop Billy's spit balls. I also needed to deal with the stupid things I was doing to try to look more sighted. Walking around with a piece of paper held so close to my face that it brushed my nose in order to take roll just wasn't going to cut it with high school kids.
I really knuckled down. I got names, phone numbers, and addresses. I talked with anybody and everybody who would hold still long enough. I collected as many ideas about teaching as I possibly could. I was able to say that five-letter word. I was blind, and I had to find ways of dealing with it. I had to become a competent blind person before I could ever hope to become a competent teacher. I picked up my cane, and I became a Federationist in every sense of the word.
I went back to school that fall, and like every good little undergrad at State, I met with my advisor to plan the year which lay ahead. And just as in the previous fall meetings, my advisor asked, "Now Kathy, are you sure you want to teach math? Those children can be awfully cruel at times, you know."
But unlike our previous meetings, I replied, "Sir, I've not felt comfortable with that question ever since you started asking it two years ago. Let me tell you this. I am going to be a math teacher, and I am going to be the best math teacher this department has ever graduated."
"Well then, we need to set up a good student teaching arrangement for you. Go ahead and start scouting for schools because we want to make sure that you're in the best possible situation."
"Ok, what does that mean?"
"We want you to be in a class where the students will be a little easier on you, maybe kids that know something about blindness. We want to make sure the teacher isn't going to be hostile or give you too much work...."
"Um, just cut it off right there. That's not going to work. If I start getting special treatment now, when I actually get out there and start applying for teaching jobs, people will look back and say, `Oh, I see you had a cushy assignment for your student teaching.' I don't want that to happen. No one in the real world is going to make it easy for me."
After a lot of discussion about the things I had learned from my Federation family, I told him just to put my name in the hat with everybody else's, and I would be fine. Unfortunately, that discussion and decision didn't stop the question, "Are you sure you want to teach math?" I decided that, if this professor was so doubtful despite his education, I had better get out there and start showing everybody what I could do.
I went to local high schools and volunteered to be a teacher's aide, to tutor, or to babysit detention hall. I volunteered for anything that let me teach math or that would expose me to real classroom situations. I ended up tutoring everything from remedial math to second-quarter calculus. And I accomplished my goal. It was something that the National Association of Blind Educators taught me--make inroads into the community. Principals knew me. Teachers knew me. Parents knew me. I got calls from people who said they had heard from so-and-so that I was a good tutor.
When my student teaching semester came and we drew lots for our assignments, only one person in my class did not pity me. That was because she was going to be across the hall from me at the school with the roughest reputation in town. I knew I wasn't getting any special treatment. She and I began our work at the inner city magnet school known for Thursday night football, three of the city's largest street gangs, and our best calculus students. What a combination!
I ended up teaching remedial math classes (populated by kids who were at school for the air conditioning) and advanced calculus. I told my supervising teacher that I was really pleased to be working with her and that I enjoyed teaching the two extremes, but that I wanted some experience teaching other topics as well. She was amenable to the idea and helped me contract my services out. By the time I left, everyone recognized that I knew my stuff--not just the books but how to manage the kids and how to manage myself.
Each time I entered a class for the first time, I stood up and said, "Describe this object." I would hold up my cane, and they would say it was a white stick or a plastic thing. In the more creative classes I got other descriptions, but in the end, I would ask, "All right, what do I use it for?" Now, these children weren't ignorant; they had seen blind people before. So I said, "Yes, you're absolutely right. I use this to help me travel. Neither this nor a dog tells me what to do. I decide, and I use it appropriately. I will also teach you to decide when to use your calculators and how to use them appropriately. I will teach you to decide when to use reference manuals and how to use them appropriately. Let's get to work."
I finished my student teaching and my degree in December of '91. Not only did I have glowing recommendations from the principals and teachers with whom I had worked, but I had the math education department's recommendation saying that I was their top graduate. I owe a great deal to the Federation for the support and advice that got me through it all.
With credentials like that to back me, I put my application out across the state and planned to substitute teach until something came my way. In a couple of months I was invited to teach fourth quarter at a backwoods high school. Some of you experienced teachers might say I was suckered into the job, but I prefer to think of it as baptism by fire. I was teaching those two fun groups--seniors who just knew that I, an interim teacher, would never flunk those who were about to graduate and others who were, again, in school for the air conditioning. I am proud to report that every one of my students passed and deserved to.
That summer I got a call to interview from a middle school. Even though I was trained for high school, I figured that it wouldn't hurt to practice my interviewing skills, so I went. I sat down and answered the man's questions, and after a bit he began to hem and haw. That's when I remembered something else I had learned from other Federationists--you've got to go into an interview and talk about your blindness because they'll be scared to. If you don't bring it up, they're going to think you're trying to hide it. So I did. "Mr. King, now that I've answered your questions, I wonder if I could say something myself? I'm sure you've seen that I use a white cane. Well, I'd like to let you know that I am an active member of the National Federation of the Blind; and, yes, I am blind. I want you to understand that this fact does not mean I am unable to teach or to handle myself in the classroom. You can tell from my recommendations that I am quite capable. It simply means that I do some things differently."
As it turned out, he was very anxious to talk to me about my blindness. He asked me some very pointed questions like, "How are you going to tell if someone is in the classroom or if they are skipping?" I answered his questions in great detail. I told him about many of the alternative techniques that I use in the classroom. We spent a long time talking about how I function in the classroom; and, as it turned out, many of the things I did were exactly the same as other teachers--sighted teachers--in his school were already doing.
The job was offered a day or so later, and I said I needed to think about it. The position was teaching science and math to academically gifted sixth graders. I did a little asking around and found that this position is not usually offered to teachers with less than five years' experience and tenure. It was one of those offers you just can't refuse. So I took it, and I got a ten percent bonus on my paycheck!
At the introductory faculty meeting I interrupted the principal as she was introducing me to tell them that I was blind and that I would appreciate it if thereafter they would forget about it. If I couldn't do something, then I would ask for help. I made sure that everyone knew that I was going to pull my own weight. I spent the year making myself indispensable. And at the end of the year, when other teachers were being let go because of budget circumstances, my principal called me aside.
"Kathy," she said, "I'm going to keep you around, and I'm going to tell you why. Frankly, you bring a lot of good press to the school, and we need it. Second, you really saved us with the parents this year by taking on the extra math classes in place of your electives when the other teacher left. And third, I've got an announcement to give you. Wake County has chosen you to be First-Year Teacher of the Year, and you're going on to national competition."
All this long tale is to say that the Federation is the place to be, whether you know what you're doing or not. You can come here and get in touch with people who are doing the same thing or a similar thing to what you're doing or want to do. You can get good ideas from them. You can start generating your own ideas and sharing them with others. Once you've done that, you can make yourself into a wonderful success.
I also said at the beginning of all this that I was changing what it means to be blind. I dealt with lots of parents last year and had a lot of sixth graders in my class, and I've gone through several canes, mostly because so many kids ran off with them, tapping down the hall, trying them out. I taught the Braille alphabet as part of math class when we talked about permutations. I showed some of them how to use a slate and stylus. Those kids know the capabilities of blind people because they've worked with me in the classroom, in the dreaded cafeteria, and on field trips. The visually impaired kids at my school know who I am. They've stopped and talked with me. We've stayed after school to work and talk about what it's like being different. And as for the blind kids mainstreamed into public schools, I want you to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Some of us blind guys are out there, and some of those kids are getting role models in the schools. Like you, I take every chance I get to share the Federation philosophy because together we will change what it means to be blind.
From the Editor: All not-for-profit organizations engaged in what they believe to be good works find it pleasant to paint themselves as noble benefactors, doing good to some group or for some purpose that is in profound need of assistance or rescue. When the objects of such descriptions are coastal wetlands or orphaned lion cubs or even the general public, the damage done is probably non-existent; but, when a single group of people are diminished and made objects of pity, the effect can be extremely harmful. The problem is, of course, that the more pitiful the descriptions are, the more money the helping organization is likely to raise from such appeals.
Blind people know firsthand about the phenomenon because the agencies created to assist us have all too often through the years fallen into the temptation of conducting their fund raising at our expense, while comforting themselves with the questionable justification that their virtuous ends and real needs justify the means to which they resort. We know how wrong such logic is, and to their credit some groups in the field of work with the blind have begun to recognize the damage their public pity parties have had on the people they are supposed to be serving and, as a result, have modified their advertising and fund raising. They have recognized that depicting blind people as having empty, colorless lives makes it harder for us to demonstrate our fundamental normality and take our places as fully participating members of the community. But some organizations still yield to the temptation to exploit blind people in order to benefit themselves.
In late July Doris Willoughby, co-author of the most practical and complete handbook for teachers and parents of blind children and an active member of the National Federation of the Blind, opened Newsweek Magazine and saw an ad for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) which talked about the Descriptive Video Service (DVS), an outgrowth of PBS that dubs descriptions of the nonverbal action and other visual information into films, television programs, and the like. DVS began at PBS station WGBH in Boston. The Newsweek ad depicted a blind man supposedly watching television in bleak surroundings meant to convey to the suggestible how important a service would be that could make the wonders of television programming comprehensible to this poor soul. The unconscious message was clear: Blind people lead empty, meaningless lives. They need all the help they can get. Please enable us to bring a little cheer into their desolate lives.
Immediately Mrs. Willoughby recognized the damage that such advertising would do to all blind people. Her response was decisive, but not what the ad campaign personnel could have hoped. Here is the letter she wrote:
Des Moines, Iowa
August 6, 1993
Public Relations Department
Dear Public Broadcasting Service: I am writing to express great concern about an advertisement placed by PBS.
As a teacher of blind children and the wife of a blind electrical engineer, I am very enthusiastic about Descriptive Video Service (DVS). I have taken part in a workshop about narration for children. DVS helps to integrate blind children and adults into regular, normal life.
In the July 26 Newsweek, I was extremely disappointed to see a large advertisement which has the opposite effect: it brings out old and inaccurate stereotypes of blindness and counteracts the integration of blind persons into normal life.
I note these stereotypes:
1. The blind man does not, or cannot, face the screen in a normal position.
2. He is alone, with a cat as his companion.
3. The walls and floor are drab--no pictures on the walls, no color scheme, no decorations. There is no furniture except the TV stand and his chair.
4. The room is dark and dismal, physically and emotionally. In actual, normal life, a blind person with proper education and equal opportunity is quite a contrast:
1. He places the TV in a normal position and faces the screen.
2. He has a wife and children who also watch TV. Or, if he happens to be single, he has friends and relatives.
3. He takes care that the room's decor is normal and attractive.
4. Even if he has no vision at all, he turns on the lights for others' benefit. If he invited PBS to take his picture as a supporter of DVS, he would expect the photographer to use normal or special lighting as he would for any other picture.
As a teacher I help my students learn normal posture and positioning. In the classroom they face the teacher, the flag, the movie screen, the TV monitor, etc.
Perhaps the person who composed this advertisement was unsure how to indicate that the man is blind. After all, since he is not walking, he would not be using a cane or a guide dog. When watching TV, he would probably not be reading Braille at the same time. However, there are better solutions to this problem than using outdated stereotypes. For example, a three-picture panel might show the person (a) at work, typing on his computer; (b) walking home, using his white cane or guide dog; (c) at home, watching The New Explorers with his children.
I urge you, in planning presentations in which a blind person is shown, to consult representatives of a group experienced in promoting a positive, normal image of blind people. The best source of this advice, in my opinion, is the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). (Ironically, the NFB was the sponsor of the Presidential Inauguration broadcast, which was highlighted in this advertisement.) You can obtain advice on detecting stereotypes and on finding appropriate ways to create a better presentation. The address of the NFB is National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314.
Again, I am enthusiastic about DVS itself. I am sure you will take steps to avoid this kind of problem in the future.
Doris M. Willoughby
cc: Descriptive Video Service
Iowa Public Television
National Federation of the Blind
by John Jackson, Darleen Bogart, and Hilda Caton
From the Editor: The authors of the following article recently sent it to us with the request that it be published in the Braille Monitor in an attempt to correct a number of misconceptions concerning the proposed Unified Braille Code. Many of us in the National Federation of the Blind believe that, if it is possible to construct a code that will meld the four current English codes without doing damage to the readability of literary Braille, it would be a very good idea. Therefore, in the hope of encouraging more complete understanding of the effort to explain the plans and reassuring the uncertain among us, here is the article that was submitted:
(Note: The opinions expressed by the authors are their own and should not be construed as official positions taken by the National Library Service, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, or the American Printing House for the Blind.)
Since the report of an attempt to formulate a Unified Braille Code (UBC) was first issued in early 1992, it has been widely discussed and debated throughout the Braille-oriented community in the United States and Canada. In this short time much confusion and much misunderstanding have arisen regarding its status, design, purpose, and potential impact upon Braille readers, educators, and transcribers. In this article ten common myths about this thing called the UBC are debunked in an effort to shed some sober light on a serious subject.
The Unified Braille Code has already been adopted and is now the official Braille code of the United States and Canada.
REALITY. No Unified Braille Code has been adopted. In fact a UBC has not even been fully formulated. To date the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), the rule-making body for English Braille codes in North America, has only authorized a group of committees to investigate the feasibility of a single Braille code capable of conveying the information that now requires the use of as many as four codes: literary, Nemeth, textbook, and computer. The UBC project will take at least five years to complete.
The proposed UBC will change literary Braille (the most commonly read code) so radically that for most readers Braille will be slower and more difficult to read.
REALITY. Most current Braille readers will notice relatively few changes, because BANA has directed the committees of the UBC project to construct the new code so that no major changes will be made to the literary code. Any substantial changes will occur in material that is heavily math-, science-, or computer- oriented. Those who primarily read novels, cookbooks, religious materials, etc., will have relatively few new signs and rules to learn and are likely to need only a short adjustment time.
The UBC is an exclusively American project. Therefore, if it is adopted, Braille in America will be radically different from Braille in other English-speaking countries.
REALITY. Although the UBC project began in 1989 solely as a North American undertaking, in June, 1993, the project was adopted by the International Council on English Braille (ICEB), the council that promotes Braille conformity throughout all English-speaking countries. Therefore, if the UBC is adopted, a single Braille code will be used for literature throughout the English-speaking world. (The code for Braille music is already international.)
The proposed UBC is being designed by a small group of intellectuals; and readers, educators, and transcribers will have no real consequential input in determining its final form.
REALITY. The initial designers of the proposed code have extensive backgrounds in code design and related areas that are necessary for logical code construction. However, the code eventually proposed will have design input from all sectors of the Braille community--particularly from readers, educators, and transcribers. By BANA requirement any eventual code must be thoroughly readable by current Braille users. Therefore, the new Braille Research Center at the American Printing House for the Blind has been designated to conduct ongoing reader evaluations as the proposed code is being developed. Readers interested in participating in the evaluations should contact Hilda Caton, Braille Research Center, American Printing House for the Blind, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, Kentucky 40206.
Also open forums are being conducted regularly at major conventions of blind consumers and at meetings of Braille transcribers and educators throughout the country. Additionally, these groups will have serious input through representatives on the committees of the project.
The UBC is being developed primarily to meet the needs of readers who are technical types, heavily math- or computer- oriented.
REALITY. The impetus for developing a unified Braille code has not come from those who are math- and computer-oriented. Codes already exist for these areas. As a matter of fact, the Braille experienced by those who read technical literature will be changed much more by the UBC than the Braille experienced by those who read nontechnical literature. The momentum for a UBC grows out of the increasing need for one simple, readable, computable, and flexible code that can represent the growing complexity of print information that must regularly be put into Braille to meet the needs of the general reader. Currently, as many as four Braille codes must be learned to access much of this information. In today's world, where Braille users regularly work in print-oriented environments (the school, the workplace, the social scene), the purposes for which Braille is used are more numerous and varied than they were many years ago, when blind and sighted persons lived in relatively separate worlds. As a consequence, the reading matter that is put into Braille today is quite different from the reading matter that was put into Braille in 1932, when Grade II Braille was adopted. In this modern, high- tech society, most of us must perform some activities that were once reserved for so-called technical types. Blind persons deserve timely access to the written information they need to participate equally in this society. The proposed UBC is being designed to meet the needs of today's general reader and to represent the ever-expanding language in which information is expressed today.
The UBC is being developed primarily to accommodate computer Braille translation to the detriment of readability.
REALITY. The charge from BANA to the UBC project specifically states that the code should "Be computable to the greatest degree possible, without detriment to readability...," but that readability must not be sacrificed in the interest of computability. Therefore, the code eventually proposed will be carefully scrutinized--particularly by readers in the ongoing evaluations--to assure that it meets this criterion.
If the UBC is adopted, materials in the current code will no longer be available, and no future materials will be transcribed in the current codes.
REALITY. It is anticipated that, if the change to a UBC ever occurs, it will be a gradual one, over a period of several years. It is only reasonable to assume that materials transcribed in current codes will continue to be circulated in the interim. Even if the UBC is adopted, it may be possible to produce computer Braille translations of the same book in both the UBC code and another code(s).
Use of the UBC will substantially increase the size of Braille volumes.
REALITY. Because the proposed UBC has not been fully formulated, a truly accurate measurement of this issue cannot be made. However, current statistics from the Braille Research Center suggest that the size of Braille volumes may be increased by as little as three percent.
UBC committee members are monetarily reimbursed for their work on the project.
REALITY. Most UBC committee members serve without monetary reward. Some meeting-related expenses are reimbursed. Consultants are occasionally employed, and some agencies permit paid staff to use work time for the project, where appropriate.
Because the powers that be want it, the Unified Braille Code is an inevitable eventual reality.
REALITY. There is no certainty that a Unified Braille Code will ever be adopted. In the final analysis, the adoption or rejection of the UBC will depend upon its ability to win the approval of Braille readers. Those who will vote on the code--the representatives of the member countries of the ICEB--will base their decisions for or against the UBC on their sense of the Braille community.
by David Hyde
From the Editor: People are forever making pronouncements about things that blind people could not possibly be interested in doing because, in their opinion, the entire pleasure or interest of the activity is visual or accomplishing the task is totally dependent on vision. Sky diving, bungy jumping, sightseeing, playing an instrument in a marching band: the list is almost endless. Let the activity be ever so slightly out of the ordinary, and somebody undoubtedly believes that a blind person has no business taking part in it. And almost as certainly there is at least one blind person who has already enjoyed the pastime.
Traveling in the gondola of a hot-air balloon is an experience that falls into this category. I for one confess that I am tired of listening to people tell me that there is no reason why a blind person would enjoy such an adventure. Regardless of such views, I still look forward to taking such a trip someday.
David Hyde, First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, shares my enthusiasm for this project. The difference between us is that he has accomplished it. Reading his description of the adventure makes me more insistent than ever on having the experience for myself. Here is what he has to say:
"I wonder how much a ride in one of those would cost?" I had just heard a commercial on a local radio station for a hot air balloon flying service.
"What do you mean?" my wife Nancy asked, sounding, I thought, just a bit testy. "You'll never go up in one of those."
"You're probably right," I sighed, thinking of many other things that needed to be done, and the fact that she'd already said, and I had agreed, that we would not spend much money on each other this Christmas.
A couple of weeks later, as I was marching in a Christmas parade, a float went by which exuded warmth--a fine thing since the temperature was in the mid-teens. "What was that?" I asked my wife. "It sounds like the burner on one of those balloons." "I think it was the gas company float," she said. I shivered a little more and wished I were riding on that float, rather than carrying a sign for the Willamette Valley Jazz Society.
Christmas Eve came, and we opened presents. This represents a compromise between us since I am perfectly willing to wait until January or perhaps March to open them, while Nancy would like to start some time in mid-September (or earlier), assuming that someone was foolish enough to leave a wrapped parcel in her vicinity. Among the shirts and socks and after-shave was a small envelope containing a gift certificate for one hot-air balloon ride and champagne brunch from Balloon Flying Service of Salem, Oregon. These were the people whose float had warmed our hearts-- and briefly the rest of us--during the parade. "When I bought this," reported my spouse, "I asked Shirley, the woman who took my call, if her pilot was good at describing things." Shirley said that he was and that he did it constantly for passengers. "He'd better be," quipped my better half; "my husband is blind."
"We've never taken up a blind person," responded the ebullient Shirley; "It should be an interesting experience." So, at 5:30 on a lovely Willamette Valley morning, I was at Cooley's Iris Gardens, together with my wife (who remained firmly affixed to terra firma) and several friends who came to see me off. We met Jim, the pilot, and his wife Shirley as well as my fellow passengers, Dan and Karen from British Columbia. Jim took a few minutes to explain the process of inflating the balloon and, after a tarpaulin had been spread, handed me a rope. The balloon felt like a living thing as it filled with air, tugged this way and that by morning breezes. As the volume of air in the balloon increased, the tugs became less playful and more serious. Finally Jim shut down the fan and climbed into the basket. "This is going to be a little loud," he said; "be ready to put your weight on the basket." It felt like hanging on to a very large dog, like trying to keep a St. Bernard from chasing a cat. "Weight on the basket," said Jim, and we all transferred weight to the wicker and leather construction. "Climb in," ordered Jim, and we all put a foot in the stirrup, grabbed the overhead bar, and landed on the basket floor.
"I am required to give you a safety briefing," Jim said between roars from the propane. "Do not leave the basket at any time." I wondered if anyone had ever tried that at a thousand feet and decided not to ask. "If there is a problem during the flight, let me deal with it. If I need help, I'll ask for it. The controls belong to me. You can hold on to anything that's brown." End of safety briefing. No safety information card, no emergency exits, no waiting for the runway to clear. "Let go," said Jim to his crew of three, which was augmented by my wife and friends. Whoosh went the propane. Roar went the flames, and up gently, gently went the balloon.
At about four hundred feet Jim said, "That's some of the iris garden to your left. The blooms are pretty much gone, but it was lovely earlier in the month. Below is a field of alfalfa, and that (pointing off to our right) is a field of barley, or oats, or wheat, I can't tell them apart."
We drifted southwest toward Salem. Below was a field of strawberries being picked. "Are the berries getting soft?" called Jim from our floating basket.
"Yes, very soft now," responded a voice from below. The picker sounded as if he were no more than ten feet away.
My fellow passengers also provided good information. "The people look like ants," said Karen, "and look at the size of the cars!" While she looked, I listened to their explanations of what we were passing over and, more fascinating, the sounds drifting up from below. A rooster announced his feelings about life in general in the time-honored manner of roosters. He did so frequently and enthusiastically. He slowly drifted astern at our speed of six knots or so. Dogs let us know that they were not pleased with our brief visit to their private domains. It was easy to follow our flight path by listening to the canine population of the countryside.
As our altitude increased, the sound of traffic gradually attenuated, although it was easy to tell when we crossed a road. At one point the chase car called to ask where we were. "We're drifting southwest," said Jim. "We'll probably land somewhere near the airport."
"I'm out on Fruitland Road," responded Shirley. "Guess I'd better start heading south."
We weren't alone in the sky. Other balloons, at the extreme range of vision, could be seen as little dots on the haze line some ten or twelve miles away. Aircraft flew their noisy path well above us, making me wonder why, if someone had a choice on such a morning, they would choose to fly in something that noisy. Perhaps they had a definite destination. I felt sorry for them as we floated there at the whim of the morning breeze. Memories came back of early mornings on lakes when my best friend and I would tow an old boat down to the lake by hand (neither of us had a car) and float out to a quiet cove for a day of fishing. The fishing was an excuse, of course, for the solitude of the lake, and this lake of air in which I was suspended carried the same restful peace as those mornings near the Oregon coast.
Alas, one cannot drift forever. "Salem tower," said Jim into his radio, "hot air balloon 360. We are probably going to land near the end of runway 31. What are your surface winds?"
"Surface winds are 360 degrees at five," replied the tower. And, with the propane making its now familiar sound, we began our descent.
I had expected some feeling of going down, perhaps the way you feel in an elevator or at least a sense of slowly falling. There was nothing. Floating is, after all, floating. "Hold on," said Jim; "we'll bounce a few times." And bounce we did, although no harder than most of the commercial aircraft landings I have experienced and much softer than a few. And again, bounce, and again, as our speed damped out over an empty field.
"You overshot the airport," Shirley informed us needlessly. "We'll be there in a couple of minutes." And, sure enough, they were grabbing ropes as Jim let off the air in the balloon. Eventually we left the basket, still lending our weight to keep it on the ground. The balloon gradually lost its air and caused the whole structure to subside gently to earth. We began packing the balloon away and then the basket, both of which we returned to the van for transport back to the launch site.
"You came back," said my wife, sounding, I thought, just a bit disappointed. "How was it?"
"You would have loved it," I assured her. "You couldn't even tell you were in the air. Kind of like being in a tall building, except everyone is moving the scenery around you."
"Too high for me," my faithful spouse declared. "But you know, maybe in the snow. I might just do it. Think about it! Moonlight, white snow...."
"Minus fifteen degrees," I thought, "warm coats, gloves, brr! Still that propane does keep you nice and warm. Hmmm, maybe in January. After all, she did tell me once that it would be a cold day somewhere before she'd go up in one of those balloons."
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."
by Kenneth Jernigan
On October 5, 1993, Carl Augusto, President and Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind; Barbara McCarthy, President-Elect of AER (the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired) and Director of the Instructional Materials and Resource Center of the Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped; LeRoy Saunders, President of the American Council of the Blind; and I met with Judy Heumann, the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the federal Department of Education. We met to discuss programs providing services for the blind. This meeting had been in the making for quite some time. When it was first discussed, I told both Carl Augusto and LeRoy Saunders in separate conversations that I wanted to think about the implications of the meeting before agreeing to participate in it. There was and is no question that the blindness field is in trouble and that cooperative action is desirable when it has any chance of success, but I wanted to feel reasonably certain that the meeting was likely to be positive and not counterproductive.
Prior to going to see Ms. Heumann, we met at the Washington offices of the American Foundation for the Blind. The atmosphere was friendly. No one tried to dominate or take control, and we reached unanimous agreement concerning the topics to be discussed.
When we went to Ms. Heumann's office, Carl Augusto began with some brief comments about the purpose of the visit. We then discussed the statement on "full inclusion" adopted by the members of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort. (That statement is printed as part of this article.) Next we talked about the need to continue specialized services for the blind as opposed to generic programs, which lump all types of disability groups together in a general mulligan stew. A document entitled "Specialized Rehabilitation Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons: A Position Statement" has been prepared by a committee chaired by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs of the National Federation of the Blind. That document, which has been approved by all of the organizations that participate in the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort, was discussed in substance and is also printed as part of this article.
One of the things I repeatedly emphasized during the meeting was the problem which all agencies and organizations of and for the blind are having when they apply for grants from the various agencies of the Department of Education. The applications are often rejected on the grounds that they deal with only one disability group. This is not a requirement of the law, and Ms. Heumann said she would look into it.
Various other points were made, but the real significance of the meeting is probably the fact that it occurred. There are issues on which the various participants undoubtedly disagree, and we should not assume that all problems have been solved. However, Carl Augusto, Barbara McCarthy, and LeRoy Saunders were friendly and positive in their dealings with me and indicated a wish for future cooperation. Actions, of course, mean more than words; and the meeting with Judy Heumann was an important milestone on the road to unity in the blindness field. If the individuals and organizations comprising the constituencies represented are willing to put the past behind them and truly behave in the best interest of the blind, the future holds promise. Otherwise, some very expensive lessons must be taught and learned again.
Full Inclusion of Students
Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
A Position Statement
"Full inclusion," a philosophical concept currently advanced by a number of educators, is not a federal requirement of special education law. Proponents of "full inclusion" nevertheless take the position that all students with disabilities must receive their total instruction in the regular public school classroom regardless of individual needs. Unfortunately, "full inclusion" would eliminate all special placements, including "pull out" services, resource rooms and specialized schools. Such an arrangement would be seriously detrimental to the educational development of many students with disabilities.
We, the national organizations of and for the blind listed below, are firmly committed to appropriate educational opportunities designed to provide students with the competencies necessary to ensure full participation in society. It is significant to recognize that our field was the first to develop a broad range of special education options beginning with specialized schools as early as 1829, and extending to public school programs since 1900. These options have provided critically important educational preparation for several generations of highly successful and independent blind people. Based on this long and impressive record of success in making optimal use of both special and public school programs to meet the diverse needs of blind students, we strongly agree upon the following:
If provided with timely and adequate specialized services by appropriately certified teachers, students who are blind or visually impaired can develop skills that will enable them to achieve success and independence as responsible citizens in a fully integrated society. If these students do not receive appropriate instruction designed to develop competencies that meet the sensory deficits of blindness and low vision, critical learning opportunities will be lost, thus diminishing the potential for future accomplishments. In this context, ample opportunities for instruction in such areas as Braille, abacus, orientation and mobility, and use of prescribed optical devices must be made available to students, as needed.
Educational decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which guarantees a Free Appropriate Public Education in the "Least Restrictive Environment" (LRE) from among a "Full Continuum of Alternative Placements," based on the Individual Education Plan for each student. Educational decisions should not be made simply on the basis of philosophy, limited school budgets, administrative convenience, or concerns about socialization.
Full inclusion in regular education classrooms for all students with disabilities irrespective of individual needs is in sharp conflict with procedural guarantees of IDEA.
Least Restrictive Environment and Full Continuum of Alternative Placements are critically important IDEA provisions. LRE is not one sole physical location. It is, rather, a principle, which if properly applied, matches the need of the student with an appropriate school setting which provides meaningful challenges, realistic expectations, and maximum opportunities for achievement and development of healthy self-esteem.
The regular education classroom may be considered the LRE if the student possesses sufficient readiness and survival skills and can be provided adequate supports, specialized services (from personnel trained in education of the visually impaired), and opportunities to develop skills commensurate with his or her potential. Extreme caution must be exercised so that full inclusion does not result in "full submersion," social isolation, "lowered" self-esteem, poor performance, or a setting in which services are unavailable.
In cases where the needs of the student cannot be met in the regular classrooms, an alternative education placement must be provided and be recognized as the LRE for that particular student. Such alternative placements should not be negatively viewed as discriminatory or as "segregated" settings when legitimately warranted to develop the needed skills for future integration in school and society.
Since it has been clearly demonstrated that blind children benefit from interacting with disabled and non-disabled children, both interaction opportunities should be fully encouraged in whatever setting that is considered appropriate. We believe that the mandate in IDEA which states that, "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities [should be] educated with children who are non-disabled," does not intend that blind children avoid interaction with each other.
We strongly urge that decision makers carefully consider and be sensitive to the impact of reform initiatives on the education of students with visual disabilities. Caution must be exercised to insure that educational philosophy and trends such as full inclusion do not seriously endanger appropriate and specialized services for students who are blind or visually impaired. If properly implemented, IDEA can provide legal safeguards to insure that all individual children can realize their full potential for independence and success.
American Council of the
American Foundation for the Blind
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Blinded Veterans Association
Canadian Council of the Blind
Canadian National Institute for the Blind
National Federation of the Blind
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Blind and Visually Impaired Persons
A Position Statement
The Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws enacted in recent years in the United States and Canada represent enlightened disability policy. However, the noticeable trend to define "disability" as an overarching generic condition for purposes of program design, administration, and funding is pernicious in its effect upon rehabilitation services for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired.
It is the common experience of the agencies and organizations that have joined in this statement that specialized, comprehensive rehabilitation services and essential changes in social attitudes about blindness do not occur when rehabilitation services for the blind are provided through a single program which serves both blind and disabled persons. This is so in large part because the characteristics and distinctive needs of the blind become lost amid much larger issues and populations and because specialized services are overshadowed by diverse, unrelated goals.
The accomplishment of individualized rehabilitation goals can be achieved in an efficient, consumer-responsive manner when blind people have access to an agency dedicated to providing blindness-specific services. Such an agency must be administratively identifiable and have qualified personnel especially trained to serve the blind. Accountability for program results is strengthened by this organizational structure and staffing since accomplishment of specific objectives for a defined target population of manageable size can readily be measured. When program results fail to merit support, blind consumers and their advocates or the professionals who serve them can make focused efforts to insist upon improvements.
Promoting more enlightened social attitudes about blindness is an indispensable goal of specialized services for the blind. To achieve this unique goal competent personnel, including blind persons serving as role models in both staff and volunteer capacities, must be assigned to teach blindness-related alternative techniques. Blind individuals require comprehensive and often complex rehabilitation services in areas such as adjustment training, independent mobility, Braille, and the use of assistive technology to meet their particular information needs resulting from vision loss. Most importantly, they must develop confidence, which is a prerequisite to effective use of these skills in daily life.
Laws pertaining to "people with disabilities" as a class may appropriately be general if the purpose is to prohibit discrimination or to identify individual rights. However, rehabilitation programs and the laws which authorize them have a far more precise mission. When services for the blind are submerged into broad disability programs precision is sacrificed for generality, and comprehensive, consumer-responsive services for blind individuals are lost.
This position statement has been unanimously adopted by national agencies and organizations in the United States and Canada which represent those who provide services for persons who are blind or visually impaired and those who are the elected representatives of the blind. We are firmly committed to the provision of specialized rehabilitation services for blind persons by identifiable agencies especially established to serve them. We urge program administrators, lawmakers, and other public officials to follow the principles expressed in this statement.
The recipes this month are from the National Federation of the Blind of Maine.
by Connie Leblond
Connie Leblond is the President of the NFB of Maine.
9-inch unbaked pie crust
12 slices bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
red pepper (optional)
Method: Sprinkle bacon, cheese, and onion on bottom of unbaked pie crust. In bowl beat eggs slightly. Beat in remaining ingredients. Pour liquid over mixture in pie plate. Cook uncovered in 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 and continue baking for 30 minutes. Quiche is done when knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let dish stand a few minutes before serving.
MORNING GLORY MUFFINS
by Connie Leblond Ingredients:
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes (drained
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded carrots
1 large apple, grated
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
Method: Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir in raisins, carrots, apple, nuts, and coconut. In separate bowl beat eggs, oil, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture. Blend just enough to moisten dry ingredients. Pour into 12 large muffin cups and bake in 350-degree oven for 20 to 22 minutes.
REAL SEAFOOD CHOWDER
by Robert Leblond
Bob Leblond is Connie's husband and an active member of the NFB of Maine in his own right.
8 ounces sea scallops
8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 ounces white fish (haddock is best)
8 ounces crabmeat
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes
1/2 stick butter
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Method: In large saucepan melt butter and fry onions 5 to 7 minutes, or until light brown on edges. Slice potatoes into 1- inch cubes. Do not peel. Add water, potatoes, salt, pepper, and all seafood to onions and butter. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Slowly stir in milk and cream. Heat through, but do not boil. Serve with freshly baked bread. Truly a meal fit for a king! Serves 4 to 6 royal siblings.
HOW TO EAT LOBSTER LIKE
by Robert Leblond
In Maine one of our biggest laughs comes from watching people "from away" as they attempt to eat a steamed lobster (exciting, eh?). As a service to Federationists who might some day come to visit our state, I propose to explain to you the official way to eat this most wondrous food.
1. The cooked lobster
must be placed on its back.
2. Remove small legs (there are eight), and suck out their juice and meat.
3. Remove claws one at a time by twisting. Drink the juice from the claws, and crack claws with a nutcracker to get to the meat.
4. Remove tail from body by twisting, and remove the central tail fin.
5. Using your thumb or index finger, push the tail meat out of the shell.
6. Split the tail lengthwise by hand, and remove the sand vein (bowel). The sand vein runs the entire length of the tail.
7. Pull inner body out of shell.
8. The liver of the lobster is sometimes discarded and sometimes refrigerated for later use on crackers, much the same as caviar.
9. Separate the cartilage in the body to find many small and tasty pieces of meat. At 5 or 6 bucks a pound, the most important rule is "waste nothing." Now, when you are next in Maine, you will be able to eat a lobster, passing for a native, and we'll never tell!
Editor's note: Don't believe him! Even Maine residents wear bibs when they enter a battle with a lobster, and restaurants arm diners with weapons designed, one presumes, to equalize the odds. But my experience is that, unless one arranges for a coach to provide advice and moral support, the lobster usually wins. Mr. Leblond makes it sound easy, but my advice is that you make a date to take him or Connie to dinner with you when you go to Maine.
FUDGE NUT BROWNIE COOKIES
by Connie Leblond
1 21 1/2 ounce package brownie mix
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts or peanuts, chopped
Method: Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheet. Combine mix, flour, water, oil, and egg. Stir with spoon to form dough. Stir in chips and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, two inches apart. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes. Cool for one minute, then remove from cookie sheet, and cool before serving. Makes 3 dozen.
by Seth Leblond
Seth is a member of the NFB of Maine and the son of Connie and Bob Leblond. This is one of Seth's favorite recipes to make. He believes that in the Leblond household he makes it best.
4 slices of white bread
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups milk, scalded
Method: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Toast bread slices lightly. Spread with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut each slice into quarters. Arrange pieces, sugar-side up, in buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle with raisins. Mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Slowly stir in milk, making sure not to cook the eggs. Pour over bread and raisins. Place casserole dish in square pan on oven rack. Pour about one inch very hot water into square pan. Bake 65 to 70 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
SLOPPY JOE CASSEROLE
by Hope Leblond
Hope is Bob's and Connie's daughter and a member of the NFB of Maine.
1 8-ounce package shell macaroni
1 envelope Sloppy Joe seasoning mix
1 pound ground chuck
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups water
2 8-ounce cartons creamed cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Method: Cook macaroni according to package directions and drain. Meanwhile prepare seasoning mix with ground chuck, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water, as seasoning package label directs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 2 1/2-quart casserole dish, layer half the macaroni, half the cottage cheese, and half the meat sauce. Then repeat with the remaining macaroni, cottage cheese, and meat sauce. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered for 40 to 50 minutes. Serves 6.
We were recently notified that Christopher William Meeker was born to Cheryl Orgas and Bill Meeker on October 8, 1993, weighing seven pounds, thirteen ounces; and was twenty-one inches long. Both Cheryl and Bill are leaders in the Wisconsin affiliate. Congratulations to the entire Meeker family.
**Assistance from Mature Blind People Needed:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement by a psychologist doing research:
For an anthology of letters, "What I Did For Love," I would appreciate hearing from men and women, age fifty and older, describing the balance they have achieved between reward and sacrifice in the interest of another person (a partner, a parent, a child, a sibling) or a group of people (volunteer activity) or in the interest of a career. Letters will be treated with absolute confidentiality. Please include your age and sex. Send information to Miriam Harris, Ph.D., "...For Love" Research, P.O. Box 16660, Beverly Hills, California 90209.
**Tapes For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am a blind singer and guitarist. I have just produced my first album on tape. It contains songs in both English and Spanish. I wrote six of the songs myself, and my father wrote two others. The rest were written by other Cuban composers. I do the singing and guitar work, and two other blind people back me up with music on the tape. I sell these tapes for $5 each. I can receive correspondence in any format, and checks should be made payable to me. Send to Hazel Trujillo, 6760 S.W. 78 Terrace, Miami, Florida 33143.
**Handbook of Braille Contractions Still Available:
Have you ever wished that you had a sensibly organized, easy-to-use list of all the Grade II Braille contractions? The American Action Fund has exactly what you need, and, best of all, it's free. A Handbook of Braille Contractions, compiled by Harry Schuchman, is available in Twin Vision format from the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, 18440 Oxnard Street, Tarzana, California 91356.
**MetLife Offers Large-Print Policies:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The MetLife Insurance Company has created a new large-print insurance policy. These policies will now be available on special request for new policies and on an individual basis for existing policies to customers who are in need of this service. For more information about this new program or to have current policies considered for enlargement, please contact your MetLife sales representative or call 1-800-MET LIFE.
Large-print life insurance policies are currently available in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
**Trading Card With a Twist:
Those who frequently visit the National Center for the Blind have probably met Mike Kelly, a contractor who works on our paging system. Mike is a hot-air balloon enthusiast--in fact, when he got married, the ceremony was performed in the gondola of a balloon high in the air. His wife Rosemarie shares Mike's passion for hot-air balloons; in fact she is a licensed pilot. Recently a series of hot-air balloon trading cards, like the old baseball cards that came in packages of bubble gum, has been created to honor pilots and their balloons. One of the cards is particularly interesting. It reads:
Balloon: Crack the Sky
Pilot: Rosemarie Kelly
Type: Raven S-55A
Rose was one of four pilots chosen for filming at AIBF in 1992 for "Year of the Pilot" by Patrick Murphy. Her balloon flies the flag and banner of the National Federation of the Blind. Rose finished third in the first race she ever flew in! Crew chief for Crack the Sky is Mike Kelly.
Produced by Hot Aire Trading Cards, Inc., Albuquerque, New Mexico; (505) 296-3086.
It's good to know that the National Federation of the Blind can be found everywhere, even in the sky.
**Social Security Administration Issues New Publication for the Blind:
A new large-print publication, If You Are Blind...How Social Security and SSI Can Help, makes it easier for people who are blind to learn about their rights and responsibilities under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. The publication explains the differences between the two programs, how to qualify for help under each, and various provisions that may apply once an individual is a beneficiary.
To be considered blind under Social Security's medical definition, an individual must have vision that cannot be corrected beyond 20/200 in the better eye even with a corrective lens or have a visual field of 20 degrees or less. Many individuals whose vision meets this legal definition of blindness still have some sight and may be able to read large print.
For visually impaired beneficiaries who want to work, the new publication describes work incentive provisions under the SSDI and SSI programs. These provisions allow beneficiaries to work and continue to collect benefits while they attempt to become self-sufficient. The publication highlights Social Security rules that provide for continued cash payments and continuing help with medical bills, work expenses, and rehabilitation and planning for a new career.
The new publication is also available in recorded form and in Braille. In addition to information about Social Security work incentives, it lists other Social Security publications available in Braille and recorded on cassette tape. Copies may be ordered from any Social Security office or by calling the toll-free telephone number, 1-800-772-1213, any business day between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
**1993 Convention Tapes Now Available:
Two-track and four-track editions of the 1993 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind are now available at a cost of $25 each from the Materials Center, National Center for the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Checks should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For sale one Optacon, in good condition, for the price of $500. Please contact Robert Weber, Jr., 28 W. Main Street, Lonaconing, Maryland 21539; or call (301) 463-2707.
**Tax Options & Strategies for People with Disabilities:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Many provisions of the tax law are affected significantly by disability. In the important new volume, Tax Options & Strategies for People with Disabilities, a leading expert on the impact of U.S. tax law on disabled individuals provides a straightforward and practical guide that will assist people with disabilities to take maximum advantage of the current tax law for a range of services and purchases, including assistive technology, attendant services, work-related expenses, and much more.
Every reader will come away with information and insights that will be of practical financial benefit next April 15th and on many April 15ths to come. All statements are referenced for research by tax professionals. Practical issues dealing with all aspects of the tax code as it relates to disability are considered. The book logically progresses from a discussion of the overall tax system, its underlying logic, and basic terminology and tax planning considerations, through detailed discussions of specific aspects of the tax law as they apply to individuals with disabilities and their families. You will refer to Tax Options and Strategies often--both when preparing your tax forms and in all aspects of financial planning. The book is available in softcover, $19.95; hardcover, $34.95; 3.5" disk (specify Mac or DOS), $19.95; or cassette, $19.95. Send to Demos Publications, 386 Park Avenue South, Suite 201, New York, New York 10016; or call (212) 683-0072 or (800) 532-8663. You may enclose a check or money order, choose to be billed, or charge to VISA, MasterCard, or American Express.
Anne Thompson MacDonald, the founder of Recording for the Blind, a nonprofit organization that has put more than 80,000 books on tapes for blind and learning-disabled students since 1948, died on October 9 at a nursing home in Huntington, Long Island. She was ninety-six and had lived in Manhattan.
She died in her sleep, said her daughter, Anne Thomas.
Mrs. MacDonald started the recording service while working for the Women's Auxiliary of the New York Public Library. She was inspired by a program that provided recordings for blind veterans attending college on the G.I. Bill of Rights.
She established a recording studio in a two-room office on West 44th Street in 1951 and became president of Recording for the Blind in 1952. That year she persuaded friends to establish other studios in Los Angeles; Phoenix; Denver; Chicago; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Athens, Georgia.
The organization, now based in Princeton, New Jersey, has grown to thirty-two studios in sixteen states, with about 4,000 volunteers making recordings of fiction and non-fiction books for students from the fifth grade to graduate school. Last year about 33,000 people requested copies of the recordings.
In May 1988, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yale University for her volunteer work. She was the wife of Ranald H. MacDonald, a governor of the New York Stock Exchange, who died in 1988.
**Named to Serve:
We recently received the following press release:
Catherine Horn Randall has been elected to the MacMurray College Board of Trustees. She is a graduate of the college, and assumed her duties when the board met Friday, October 1.
"The future success of any college depends upon its ability to attract outstanding women and men to volunteer to serve on its board," MacMurray President Edward J. Mitchell said in announcing the new board member. "MacMurray has been very fortunate to obtain the services of Cathy Randall."
Mrs. Randall received her bachelor of arts degree in English from MacMurray in 1969. She has taught in the North Greene and Jacksonville School Districts. She was employed in the MacMurray public relations office in the mid-1970's and has served two three-year terms on the MacMurray Alumni Board, 1987-93.
The new MacMurray trustee served as Jacksonville alderwoman, 1987-91, and currently serves as first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. She is a member of the State Library Advisory Council; the Blind Services Planning Council for the Department of Rehabilitation Services; and the History Class, a community women's literary society. In the fall of 1989 Mrs. Randall was presented MacMurray's Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award. She and her husband, Bob, live in Jacksonville. Mrs. Randall is an Alumni Association representative on the board.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
A national newsletter is now available for blind people who currently raise goats or who are interested in doing so. It is being offered in Braille and on cassette tape. There are plans for a large-print version soon. Blind people in New York are already receiving it, and a number of 4-H leaders have expressed interest in subscribing. Subscriptions are free, but those wishing to receive the newsletter on cassette tape should consider sending a cassette on which it can be recorded. For more information contact Stephanie Pieck, Garden Apartment 27-3-6, 953 Danby Road, Ithaca, New York 14850-7227; or call (607) 275-2517.
The National Federation of the Blind of Maine recently held its annual election, and the results are Connie Leblond, President; Mike Jacobus, Vice President; Patricia Estes, Secretary; and Bob Leblond, Treasurer. Robbie McIninch, Mickey Swift, and Bruce Westfall were elected to serve on the board.
Stephanie Pieck, a new member of the National Federation of the Blind of New York, writes to report that in July, she competed at the American Dairy Goat Association's national show held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She entered ten animals and did very well. One of her does, Dayspring Hope's Promise, was chosen National Junior Champion Nubian. To the best of her knowledge, this is the first time a blind person has had a national champion doe. Next year the national show will be held in Nebraska, and Stephanie hopes to compete. Congratulations and good luck to Stephanie.
Billie Weaver, a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, recently wrote to notify us of the death on June 7, 1993, of Joan Davis, one of the leaders of the NFB of Missouri. She was instrumental in founding the St. Joseph Chapter and in building the Springfield Chapter. In the mid- sixties she attended the Iowa Commission for the Blind's Adult Rehabilitation program. Dr. Jernigan was the director of the Commission at the time, and Joan was Mrs. Jernigan's first student. Joan will be deeply missed.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I would like to offer the following two items for sale: a copy of American Standard Hymns in New York Point, good condition; and a Banks Pocket Brailler in fair condition with extra paper tape. I will entertain offers on both items. Contact David C. Allen, Route 8, Box 26, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801, in Grade I or II Braille, cassette, or IBM disk, E-mail at D.ALLEN38@GENIE.GEIS.COM; or by telephone between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Eastern time at (703) 433-1715.
**Braille Printers Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
For a limited time only, Access Systems International Ltd. (ASI) is offering the Everest-D Braille printer, including Megadots Braille translation software at a special introductory price of $4,500. We are also offering Index Basic Braille printer (with Megadots) for $2,950. For more information please contact ASI at 415 English Avenue, Monterey, California 93940; or call or fax (408) 375-5313.
**North Carolina Convention and Awards:
The National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina held its annual convention in Fayetteville September 10-12, 1993. At the banquet on Saturday evening, November 11, Clarence Collins Awards were presented to Hazel Staley, Mabel Conder, and George Best for their long, dedicated service in building the affiliate to be one of the strongest in the nation. All three recipients joined the affiliate in 1969 when it was reorganized. Since that time until their retirement in 1992 all three have held various offices at the local and state level. In 1992 Staley retired as state President, Conder as state Secretary, and Best as state Treasurer. They maintain emphatically that they have not retired from the Federation. All three are still very active in the Charlotte chapter.
Clarence Collins was the affiliate's first President. He retired in 1972. The Collins Award, established in 1989, is presented only when the state board of directors determines that a member has earned it. It is similar to the national organization's tenBroek Award.