37, No. 5
Barbara Pierce, Editor
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 37, No. 5 May 1994
THE FUTURE OF SPECIALIZED SERVICES FOR THE BLIND
by Kenneth Jernigan
RIDE WITH VALLEYFAIR FINALLY ENDS
by Scott LaBarre
OF OHIO WIN THE RIGHT TO RIDE
by Eric Duffy
by Marc Maurer
FOR BRAILLE DOCUMENTATION
by David Andrews
BILLS BECOME LAW
by Barbara Pierce
WHERE AM I?
by Peggy Pinder
TO DIG I AM
NOT ABLE; TO BEG I AM ASHAMED
by Elizabeth Browne
CAMPBELL: BILINGUAL REPORTER FOR A MAJOR DAILY
by Lorraine Rovig
COMMUNICATION PROFESSOR URGES BLIND PEOPLE TO BREAK
TRADITIONAL JOB BARRIERS
by Lea Levavi
by Barbara Walker
NOT SO FAST!
by Noel Nightingale
THE NFB SPEAKS OUT
by James Gashel
CONVENTION REMINDERS: THE ROAR OF '94
by Sue and Don Drapinski
Copyright 1994 National
Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Each year the American Foundation for the Blind holds the Josephine Taylor Seminar in Washington, D.C. Shown here at the 1994 meeting from left to right are Carl Augusto, President and Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind; Kenneth Jernigan; LeRoy Saunders, President of the American Council of the Blind; and Michael Bina, President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.]
[Photo: Dr. Jernigan stands with raised gavel at podium at National Convention. CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan]
THE FUTURE OF SPECIALIZED SERVICES FOR THE BLIND
An Address Delivered by
At the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute
March 3, 1994
When Mr. Augusto asked me to appear on this panel, he told me that almost all of the people in the audience would be professionals, rehabilitators and educators; so my remarks are principally aimed at those of you who are professionals. Today we are talking about how to save specialized services for the blind and what kind of partnership can or should exist between the blind and service providers. The fact that we are considering this topic and that the discussion is being led by the consumer organizations and the agencies in the field implies that we think specialized services are in danger, that they are worth saving, and that the organizations of the blind and the professionals can work in partnership, and that the partnership can make a difference. There is no question that programs for the blind are in danger, but whether the professionals and the consumers can effectively cooperate to save the situation is still being determined.
Partners must be equals. You who are professionals need, in the modern lingo, to internalize that. You need to internalize something else, too. If an organization of the blind is not strong enough and independent enough to cause you trouble and do you damage (that is, jeopardize your budget, create political problems for you, and hurt your public image), it is probably not strong enough and independent enough to do you any good either. Likewise, if you as a professional don't have enough authority to damage the lives of the blind you are hired to help, you almost certainly don't have enough authority to give them much assistance.
Fifteen or twenty years ago you heard very little talk in our field about consumerism. Today that has all changed. The organized blind movement has now developed enough strength and presence that it must be taken into account in every decision of any consequence. How you as professionals react to that new reality may very well determine whether specialized services for the blind will survive.
Some time ago I was asked to speak to a group of agency professionals on the topic "Blind Consumers: Chattels or Choosers." It is not only a catchy title but a real issue, for we can't meaningfully consider the relationship between the blind and the agencies established to give them service without taking into account current public attitudes about blindness--and even more to the point, the truth or falsity of those attitudes. With all of our efforts to educate the public, the average citizen's notions about blindness are still predominantly negative; and since all of us (whether blind individual or agency professional) are part of the general public, we cannot help being influenced by public opinion.
Even so, we in this room (or at least most of us) profess to know that the blind (given equal training and opportunity) can compete on terms of equality with others--that the average blind child can hold his or her own with the average sighted child; that the average blind adult can do the average job in the average place of business, and do it as well as a sighted person similarly situated; and that the average blind grandmother of eighty-four can do what the average sighted grandmother of that age can do. Of course, the above average can compete with the above average, and the below average will compete at that level. Blindness does not mean lack of ability, nor does it mean lack of capacity to perceive beauty or communicate with the world.
The techniques may be different, but the overall performance and the ability to experience pleasure are comparable. There are blind mathematicians, blind factory workers, blind dishwashers, and tens of thousands of just ordinary blind citizens to prove it. This is what I as a blind person, representing the largest organization of blind persons in the world, know--and it is what you, knowledgeable professionals in the field, also know. Or, at least, this is probably what we would say we know if asked. But do we know it? Down at the gut level, where we live and feel, do we really believe it? As the poet Tennyson said, "I am part of all that I have met"--and he was right. Whether we are blind person or agency professional, it is very hard for us to contradict what our culture has taught us and what it reinforces every day. As the German scientist Max Planck said, "A new truth usually does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."
On this critical issue we cannot afford to engage in sophistry or deceive ourselves. If blindness is as limiting as most people think it is, and as many professionals have traditionally said it is, then we should not deny it but face it. On the other hand, if the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight but the misunderstandings and misconceptions which exist, we should face that, too, and deal with it accordingly. In either case the need for the professional in the field will be equally great, but the services and the objectives will be different.
Let me give you an example from my own personal experience. When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, I was interviewed by a rehabilitation counselor. He asked me what I wanted to do, and I told him I wanted to be a lawyer. After changing the subject and talking about other things, he returned to the question and asked me to tell him three or four careers I might like to consider. With the brashness of youth I told him I didn't need to do that, that I knew what I wanted to be--I wanted to be a lawyer.
He trotted out rehab jargon and told me that, while he wouldn't say it was impossible for a blind person to be a lawyer, he would say it wasn't feasible. A blind man, he said, couldn't see the faces of the jury, couldn't handle the paperwork, couldn't do the traveling. I argued--but I was a teenager; and he was the counselor, who controlled the funds. He finally said (gently and with big words, but very clearly) that I could either go to college and be a lawyer, and pay for it myself--or I could go and be something else, and the agency would help with the bills. I didn't have any money, and I was only a teenager--so I went and was something else.
I know now that he was wrong. I am personally acquainted with at least a hundred successfully practicing blind lawyers, and many of them are no better suited for the profession than I was. But I would not want you to misunderstand my point. That rehabilitation counselor was not being vicious or deliberately arbitrary. He was acting in what he believed to be my best interest. He was well disposed toward me and generously inclined. He simply believed (as his culture had taught him to believe) that a blind person couldn't be a lawyer.
What, then, should be the relationship between the blind and the agencies, the consumers and the professionals? As I see it, the answer must be given at two levels--the individual, and the institutional. The issue is easier to deal with at the individual level; for the choices are more personal, the alternatives more clear-cut, and the short-term consequences more obvious. If, for instance, a blind youngster should come to one of you today and say that he or she wanted to be a lawyer, I seriously doubt that you would resist or discourage. Law is now generally accepted as a suitable profession for the blind.
This does not mean that each of you in this room who is an educator or an agency employee will always make the right decision concerning careers and other life situations involving the blind persons with whom you deal. But make no mistake: You will and must make decisions. Money is not unlimited, and by funding one project you necessarily choose not to fund another. You have the responsibility for making decisions and for being knowledgeable enough to give correct information and advice to the blind persons who need your help. I have no doubt that, in most instances, your motives will be good, but your decisions will be wise only to the extent that you have a correct understanding of what blind people can reasonably hope to do and be, and what blindness is really like--what the limitations of blindness are and, perhaps even more important, what they are not.
Obviously this kind of decision making concerning individuals is not easy, but as I have said, it is far less difficult than the other sort, the institutional. Moreover, despite the fact that the decision making concerning individuals leads to successful lives or blighted dreams, it is not as important (even to those personally involved) as your institutional decisions. In the long run every blind person in this country will be far more affected (more helped or hurt) by your institutional than your individual decisions. For purposes of today's discussion I want to talk about your institutional decision making concerning the kinds of consumer organizations you will encourage or inhibit. And I urge you to resist the temptations of sophistry, for you cannot avoid making decisions in this area. You will make them whether you want to or not--and, for that matter, whether you know it or not. If in no other way, you will make such decisions by your daily attitudes and your subconscious behavior. Therefore, it is better to make them consciously and deliberately.
Of course, you cannot create an independent organization of blind consumers, for if the organization depends upon your permission and financing, it is by definition not independent. Freedom cannot be given by one group to another. It must either be affirmatively taken by the individual or group alleging to want it, or it cannot be had. It must be self-achieved, and the process must be ongoing and constant. But if you cannot create an independent organization of the blind, you can and will establish the climate that will encourage or inhibit it. And the stake you have is not solely altruistic or professional. It is also a matter of self-interest, and possibly survival.
In today's climate of changing values and hard-fought issues, the best possible insurance policy for an agency for the blind is a strong, independent organization of blind consumers. Regardless of how much blind individuals may like the agency and support its policies, they cannot achieve and sustain the momentum to nurture and defend it in time of crisis. That is the negative way of saying this: If there is a powerful, independent organization of the blind and if the members of that organization feel that the agency is responsive to their needs and sympathetic to their wants, they will go to the government and the public for funding and support. They will be vigilant in the advancement of the agency's interests. Its friends will be their friends. Its enemies will be their enemies. If it is threatened, they will feel that they have something to lose, and they will fight with ingenuity and determination to protect it.
Chattels, on the other hand, have very little to lose. They are at best indifferent and at worst resentful, always waiting for a chance to rebel in periods of crisis. In good times they rarely criticize, but they also do not imaginatively and effectively give support. In bad times they not only fail to defend--they cannot defend. They have neither the strength nor the know-how. Moreover, they lack the incentive. Having been taught that agency policy is none of their business, they cannot in time of danger suddenly become tough and resourceful. As many an agency has learned (the same is true of nations), chattels do not make good soldiers.
The agencies cannot have it both ways. Those that encourage independence, and help the blind achieve it, will prosper--and those that defensively cling to yesterday's power base will perish. If a sufficient number of agencies fail to recognize the new realities, then the whole blindness system may well be destroyed.
And what are these new realities, these vital issues of which I speak? There are at least three, interrelated and inseparable: funding, generic as opposed to specialized programs, and empowerment of clients.
There was a time (and not long ago at that) when agencies for the blind pretty much got all of the money they reasonably wanted, and sometimes more than they reasonably needed. Today, budgets are tightening; the environment is deteriorating; population is rising; and resources are dwindling. In addition, other disability groups (once disorganized and invisible) are finding their voice and reaching for power. Some say they took their lessons from the blind. Be that as it may, they are now a growing force to be reckoned with, and there is no turning back. The argument they make is deceptively alluring. Give us, they say, a unified program for people with disabilities--no special treatment for any segment of the group. We are one population. Despite superficial differences, our needs are essentially the same. Save money. Eliminate duplication.
You and I know that the logic is shallow and the promise false, but it will take more than rhetoric to save our programs. In the general melting pot of the generic disability agency the blind will have no useful training, no meaningful opportunity, no real chance. If the special training and rehabilitation needs of the blind are to continue to be met and if our programs are to survive, there is only one way it can be done. The agencies for the blind and strong, independent grassroots organizations of the blind must work together to make it happen. And the partnership cannot be a sham. It must be real. It must be a true partnership of equals--each giving, each supporting, and each respecting the other.
This brings me to the empowerment of clients. By this I do not mean that the clients should administer the agencies. This would not work, and it is not desirable. Rather, I mean that clients should be respected, that they should be given meaningful choices, that they should have access to information, and that they should be encouraged (not pressured but encouraged) to join independent organizations of the blind--organizations which are not company unions but which have both the power and the inclination to serve as a check and balance to the agency, to act in concert with it, to pursue reasonable complaints against it, to refuse to pursue unreasonable complaints against it, and to work in every way as a supporter and partner. Let these things be done, and both the blind and the agencies will prosper. Let them not be done, and I think the blindness system will perish.
There is something else: Workers in the blindness system must resist the growing tendency to hide behind the term "professionalism" and must stop treating "professionalism" as if it were a sacred mystery. There is a teachable body of knowledge which can be learned about giving service to the blind; but much of that knowledge is a matter of common sense, good judgment, and experience. Most thinking blind persons (certainly those who have been blind for any length of time and have had any degree of success) know at least as much about what they and other blind people want and need from the system as the professionals do, and it must also be kept in mind that not every act of a "professional" is necessarily a "professional" act or based on "professionalism." Just as in other fields in America today, the professionals in the blindness system must be judged on their behavior and not merely their credentials.
Whether you believe that the type of partnership and cooperative effort I have outlined will work depends on whether you believe in the basic tenets of democracy. It also depends on whether you believe the blind are capable of real equality. I do believe these things, and I hope you do, too. Otherwise, programs for the blind are probably doomed.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Scott Labarre]
ROLLER COASTER RIDE WITH VALLEYFAIR FINALLY ENDS
by Scott LaBarre
From the Editor: During the past year Scott LaBarre has been the Assistant Director for Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. Before that he attended college and law school in Minnesota, where he took an active part in the affiliate's effort to persuade the Valleyfair Amusement Park that blind patrons have as much right as anybody else to enjoy park facilities without being harassed by officials with silly and demeaning restrictions. The blind have finally been victorious in this struggle. Here is Scott LaBarre's description of how it happened:
In the March, 1991, issue of the Braille Monitor we reported on the discrimination blind people were encountering at Valleyfair, an amusement park in Shakopee, Minnesota. At that time Valleyfair had several policies which discriminated against the blind, the most noteworthy of which required blind people to be accompanied by "responsible adults" at all times. According to Valleyfair a "responsible adult" meant anyone who stood over four feet tall and could see. As a result nine blind Minnesotans filed charges of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR), and a few months after those charges were filed, this is how Curtis Chong, Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, summarized the situation in the Braille Monitor:
It is reasonable to ask where things stand today. The charges of discrimination against Valleyfair have been formally filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. We are taking every opportunity to publicize Valleyfair's deplorable and demeaning treatment of persons who are blind. The tremendous support and understanding that this issue has received from the general public are immensely encouraging. Yes, when blind people go to Valleyfair today, they will be required to be accompanied by a "responsible adult," who will likely be a small child. Yes, if blind people visit Valleyfair today, they will not be given the right to ride together. And yes, when blind people visit Valleyfair, they can be assured that park employees will address sighted people who happen to be visiting with them.
But things will certainly not remain at a standstill. Blind people, through their own organization, the National Federation of the Blind, are waging the struggle for equality. Like it or not, Valleyfair will modernize its thinking toward the blind; and like it or not, Valleyfair will learn to treat blind guests as the first-class citizens and responsible adults they truly are!
Curtis Chong was right. Valleyfair has now learned how to treat blind people as first-class citizens. On March 24, 1994, Valleyfair, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and the charging parties signed a settlement agreement. The agreement states that Valleyfair will treat blind guests on the same terms and conditions as it treats all other guests. The agreement further prohibits Valleyfair from adopting any new policies pertaining to the blind without proving in a formal legal proceeding that such a policy does not violate the Minnesota Human Rights Act. This settlement agreement is a tremendous victory for the blind of Minnesota and the entire United States.
The road to the settlement has been long and arduous. Here is the story of how it was achieved. The trouble with Valleyfair began almost five years ago when Janet Lee, Board Member and long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, visited the park in July of 1989. A friend took Janet to Valleyfair to celebrate her birthday, but the present she received was discriminatory treatment from park officials. When they entered the park, Janet's friend told her that large signs boldly proclaimed that the handicapped must stop by guest relations to be informed of the special policies which applied to them. A Valleyfair official soon stopped Janet and informed her that she must go to the guest relations booth to be briefed on which attractions she could not ride because of her blindness. Janet explained that she had visited the park several times before and was familiar with all the rides. The official continued to insist that she stop at the booth. Finally she simply walked past the official and proceeded directly to one of her favorite attractions, the bumper cars.
When she arrived, she met another hurdle. Janet had ridden bumper cars dozens of times, several of them at Valleyfair itself. It had never occurred to her that there was a problem with a blind person's driving the cars. Certainly the average blind person has the ability to steer a car around the track. Never mind if a few other cars get bumped; that's the whole purpose of the attraction.
The park official told Janet that she could not ride the bumper cars alone and that she would have to have a "responsible adult" drive the car while she rode. As they would for the next several years, Valleyfair claimed that such a policy was necessary for the safety of its blind patrons. Janet did not give in, and eventually the official permitted her to ride the bumper cars. As she expected, she encountered no difficulty or danger during the ride, and in fact she had a good time.
But looking back the events at the park troubled Janet deeply, and as a result she decided to file a charge of discrimination with the MDHR claiming that the sign demanding that disabled guests report to guest relations, the actions of the park official who tried to force her to visit guest relations, and the conduct of the operator at the bumper cars were all discriminatory. The MDHR agreed with Janet on two of the three issues. It ruled that the sign and the mandate that Janet report to guest relations were violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. As for the Bumper Cars, the MDHR unfortunately bought Valleyfair's argument that the park had legitimate safety concerns.
Then in July of 1990 Curtis Chong and Judy Sanders took members of their families to Valleyfair. Even though there were four youngsters in the party, Judy, her blind sister, and Curtis were the ones treated like children. At the High Roller, a standard roller coaster, Curtis attempted to ride the attraction with his then twelve-year-old daughter, Tina, and Judy's thirteen-year-old nephew, Jason. Tina and Jason wanted to sit in the same car, so Curtis volunteered to sit in a separate car. The ride operator then informed Tina that Curtis would have to ride with one of the kids.
Speaking directly to the operator, Curtis informed him that he should speak directly to Curtis and not to his daughter. The operator then explained the park's responsible-adult policy to Curtis, who then went to the guest relations booth. There officials outlined the policy, and Curtis pointed out that neither youngster was an adult. He was told that a responsible adult was anyone who could see and stood above four feet tall. Through the rest of that visit both Curtis and Judy met the same obstacle again and again. Like Janet a year before, Curtis and Judy filed charges of discrimination with the MDHR.
The Metro Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota resolved that the time had come to do something about the situation. On September 23, 1990, Russell Anderson, Curtis Chong, Ronda Delboccio, Nadine and Steve Jacobson, Janet Lee, Judy Sanders, Heidi Sherman, and I decided to visit Valleyfair and assess the extent of its discriminatory policy.
As soon as we arrived, park personnel informed us that we must report to guest relations before entering any of the rides. We patiently but firmly informed park officials that we had no need to stop by the booth because we were all familiar with the park and its rides.
At the first ride, the High Roller, we encountered some resistance, but the operator let us ride after checking with management. The real trouble began when we attempted to board the Cork Screw, a fast roller coaster which does several upside-down loops and twisting turns. Like the rest of the crowd, we waited our turn in line and finally arrived at the boarding area. There a park official, identifying himself as a manager, told us that we could not ride together. "Each blind person must be accompanied by a responsible adult," said the manager. We informed him that we were responsible and there was no doubt that we had all reached the age of majority. But of course, according to him, "responsible adult" meant anyone who could see and stood over four feet tall.
Despite the manager's commands, we did not relinquish our places in line. By this time several managers had come on the scene, and when they went off to huddle, we decided to board the ride and wait for it to start. When they returned, they loudly informed us that we must leave the cars immediately. We refused to do so. By this time the people in line became involved in the stand-off. The vast majority sided with our position, beginning to chant, "Let them go, let them go."
After a forty-minute delay the managers capitulated and permitted us to ride. They insisted, however, on describing the ride to us in excruciating and technical detail to prepare us for the experience. The description was absolutely meaningless, filled as it was with references to an eighty-foot-long chain link drive, double-helix loops, etc.
After we left the Cork Screw, our group divided up and went to a number of different rides, but no matter where we went, a small herd of Valleyfair managers followed. At each ride we were told that we could not ride with each other and that we must be accompanied by a responsible adult. At each such occasion we refused to follow the policy, and at each ride the managers finally caved in and allowed us to enjoy the attraction. At some rides Valleyfair officials inveigled strangers into riding with us so that "those blind people wouldn't ride alone." Because of Valleyfair's constant harassment, we were able to go on only four rides during the entire evening.
After such an experience we were all determined to stand up for our rights. Within several days we filed charges of discrimination with the MDHR against Valleyfair. That is when the legal nightmare began in earnest.
To its credit, the MDHR conducted its initial investigation rather quickly. Valleyfair immediately responded to our charges by again trotting out the safety argument. Mr. Roy A. Ginsburg of the prominent Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey and Whitney represented Valleyfair, demonstrating thorough mastery of Valleyfair's condescending and negative attitudes about blind people. He claimed that we needed a responsible adult to tell us about the environment at the park. For example, this adult could tell us about each ride and its twists and turns. Through this description we could then understand its dynamics and thereby maintain our postural control. The responsible adult could also assist us to "board and deboard" each ride. Without these precautions Valleyfair believed that our safety was in jeopardy, or so Mr. Ginsburg told the world.
Here is an excerpt from Mr. Ginsburg's written response to our charges:
In regards to Mr. Chong's objection to the fact that he was not allowed to ride the High Roller without another person, Valleyfair firmly denies Mr. Chong's claim that this requirement was discriminatory. In order to ensure the safety of its guests, Valleyfair has compiled an analysis on the characteristics of each ride at the Park as well as the nature of various disabilities. . . . As indicated on the High Roller criteria list, experts evaluating that ride have advised Valleyfair that a blind individual should not ride the High Roller alone. This recommendation was made based on safety considerations. Given this recommendation, Valleyfair had two options: to not allow blind individuals to use the ride or to require that blind persons be accompanied by another individual. Valleyfair believes the latter alternative to be the more preferable.
In this charge Mr. Chong points out that the Valleyfair policy indicates that on certain rides blind guests are to "be accompanied by a responsible adult." ....Apparently Mr. Chong did not understand how his twelve-year-old daughter qualified. The Valleyfair policy, however, clarifies this issue:
"For the purpose of our Ride Admission Policy, a responsible adult is defined as someone taller than the post requirement (four feet) who can assist the accompanied person in boarding or deboarding and maintaining his postural control under the dynamic conditions of the ride.
....Again, the purpose of Valleyfair's ride policy is evident--ensuring the safety of its patrons. This is not a discriminatory policy...."
There you have it. That was the way Valleyfair answered every charge of discrimination brought against it. To this day Valleyfair claims that its policies were always meant to ensure the safety of its blind guests.
But the truth is that Valleyfair's claims of safety did not hold water. Every time we challenged their policy, park officials eventually allowed us to ride. If it had truly been a matter of safety, why did they eventually permit us to enjoy the rides in violation of their policy? Did Valleyfair consider our lives less valuable because we had the gall to challenge their policy? Valleyfair's safety claim is further undermined when one considers the following incident: after our forty-minute delay at the Cork Screw, one of the managers asked whether it should be tested before allowing us to ride. Apparently it is the park's policy to test run the ride after it has been down for any length of time. Curtis Chong overheard the manager in charge say, "Let 'em go" in derisive imitation of the crowd's chant in support of our position.
I do not mean to imply that Valleyfair is an unsafe amusement park. It has always had a reputation for safety and quality. Overall, I am certain that Valleyfair does indeed care about the safety of its guests, but its management unfortunately has bought into the tired old stereotype that the blind are in fact a greater safety risk. Valleyfair's misconceptions about blindness ran so deep that it would take years of litigation to resolve the matter.
During the winter the MDHR conducted its investigation, and in June of 1991 it found that there was probable cause that Valleyfair had discriminated against the charging parties. After making that determination, it attempted to settle the matter between the parties. Initially Valleyfair refused to alter its policy, and as a result the MDHR referred the matter to the Minnesota Attorney General's office for further legal action.
At this stage our case became lost in the bureaucratic maze. But we continued to pressure the Attorney General, and finally the case landed in the hands of Erica Jacobson, Assistant Attorney General for the State of Minnesota. Often, when we bring cases before bodies like the MDHR, we have to educate those who are charged with protecting our rights about blindness. Sometimes these officials never come to understand blindness and consequently do a poor job of representing our position. I am happy to say that this was not the case with Ms. Jacobson. She came to understand blindness and recognize that Valleyfair's safety arguments were a sham. She competently and zealously advocated for our rights.
Throughout the Summer of 1992 Ms. Jacobson and Mr. Ginsburg exchanged correspondence, and Valleyfair clung to its discriminatory policy. In the fall of 1992 Mr. Ginsburg wrote a fifteen-page letter to Ms. Jacobson explaining the reasons why the Valleyfair policy was merely a safety precaution. He described almost every ride in detail and explained how difficult it would be for a blind person to negotiate the park independently. Mr. Ginsburg put forward the astonishingly ill- informed notion that blind people would not be aware of their surroundings unless a responsible adult was on hand to shepherd them around the park. He clearly subscribed to the misconception that blind people are completely oblivious to their surroundings. Mr. Ginsburg also apparently believed that our blindness prevented us from understanding the nature of the rides at Valleyfair. Therefore he felt compelled to explain to us the exact nature of each ride. Here are his actual words: "Many of the rides at Valleyfair, like all amusement parks, put the rider into very unusual positions. Some rides spin and spin and spin, some turn the rider completely upside down, some move with great speed and require the rider to brace him or herself, and some get the rider completely wet." My response to this startling revelation is, "Ho-hum." I can't speak for the rest of humanity; but when I go to an amusement park, I fully expect "to spin and spin and spin," "turn completely upside down," "move at great speed," and even sometimes "get completely wet."
As you can see, in the fall of 1992 we still had a long way to go. In November we had a settlement conference with Valleyfair. Phyllis Reha, an administrative law judge specializing in mediation, conducted the settlement talks. At this conference Valleyfair reiterated its safety concerns. They also acknowledged that a Curtis Chong or a Scott LaBarre might not have any difficulty negotiating the park, but that the average blind person would face great difficulties. Valleyfair also claimed that the NFB was a small and elite group of blind people which did not truly represent the views of the blind. Despite these initial difficulties Valleyfair agreed to drop its special ride-admission policy for blind people, and we agreed that, if they actually did so, we would help park officials develop a method for effectively and non-intrusively informing blind guests about park attractions. Valleyfair further promised to resolve the matter during the winter, before the park opened again in the spring of 1993.
The snow fell; Christmas came and went; the lakes froze; and, before we knew it, it was spring time in Minnesota, and Valleyfair had still not changed its policy. As a result the Minnesota Attorney General's Office filed a formal complaint against Valleyfair in May of 1993 on behalf of the State of Minnesota, charging the park with discrimination based on disability. Valleyfair responded predictably by denying all the charges, and the matter seemed headed for a full legal showdown.
In August Valleyfair filed a motion with Administrative Law Judge Peter C. Erickson requesting that the case be dismissed on the grounds that it had changed its policy and that the new policy was no longer discriminatory. True, Valleyfair did in fact offer a new policy, but it was as discriminatory as the old one.
Although the new policy said that blind people could ride alone, it mandated that a sighted adult must assist them on and off each ride. Valleyfair also said that its personnel did not have the time and could not assume the liability for helping blind people on and off the rides. In effect, Valleyfair's new policy would have required any blind person visiting the park to have a sighted adult along to help him or her on and off each attraction. We filed a counter motion stating that Valleyfair's policy was in fact still discriminatory. In early October Judge Erickson held a hearing and denied Valleyfair's motion. He also ordered the parties to go back to the bargaining table, so we did.
When we started negotiating again, Valleyfair said that it would drop any special ride restriction policies pertaining to the blind. A few days after the negotiating session, however, we received settlement language which greatly disturbed us. Even though Valleyfair had agreed to drop its ride restriction policy, it reserved the right to adopt a new policy if there were a material change in circumstance. They still had not gotten the message. Valleyfair still believed that blind people were a greater safety risk than its other guests. Here is what their proposed settlement language said: "In the event that the ride admission policy changes set forth above lead directly or indirectly to a serious accident involving a blind or sighted patron, Valleyfair reserves the right to modify further the ride admission policy to reduce potential risk of injury to other patrons and or to preserve its insurance coverage." Based on this language, we had no desire to sign a settlement agreement which boldly proclaimed that the blind were indeed a greater safety risk.
While these negotiations were going on, I flew back to Minnesota for my deposition in preparation for the coming hearing. Valleyfair's attorney deposed me for well over five hours, and its strategy became clear. Over and over Mr. Ginsburg tried to demonstrate that I was exceptional and not an ordinary blind person. He also asked me several dozen questions about the NFB and the organization's structure. He tried to paint us as a radical and militant organization which did not reflect the views of the blind. Mr. Ginsburg also asked me whether I had ever been injured because of my blindness.
I assured Mr. Ginsburg that blindness was not a tragedy and that it certainly did not affect our ability to enjoy amusement parks. I told him that blind people have visited amusement parks for decades without difficulty or harassment. For example, two other blind staff members and I took several blind teenagers to a large amusement park in Denver as part of the Colorado Center for the Blind's summer program for blind high school students. The only problem we faced on that trip was sunburn. Finally Mr. Ginsburg concluded the deposition by asking me if I thought that Valleyfair should be concerned with safety.
Question: "You do acknowledge, Mr. LaBarre, that Valleyfair or any other amusement park has a legitimate interest in the safety of its patrons, sighted and blind alike?
Answer: "If an amusement park does not have a legitimate interest in the safety of its guests, then that amusement park ought not to be in operation. So I guess I agree with you on that."
Winter came again, and we had still not settled the case. Valleyfair still insisted on reserving the right to change its policy if there were material changes in circumstances. So in January we had another meeting with Judge Erickson and actually set a date for a formal hearing. Through the next several weeks negotiations continued. Slowly and painfully we seemed to be inching towards a settlement.
Finally, in March of 1994 the parties struck an agreement. Valleyfair relinquished its insistence that it have the right to change its policy on a whim under any circumstances. To allow Valleyfair to pontificate about safety, we agreed that the park could change its ride admission policies based on safety concerns as long as such modifications were not based on blindness in any form. Here are some of the key provisions of the agreement:
(E) Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to prevent Valleyfair from taking additional safety precautions for all patrons (blind and sighted alike) with respect to any ride at any time, regardless of whether the Office of Administrative Hearings has first evaluated the situation;
Modification of Valleyfair's Ride Admission Policy
(F) During 1989 through 1992, Valleyfair required blind individuals to be accompanied on Valleyfair's rides by a sighted individual (Valleyfair's "1989-1992 Ride Admission Policy");
(G) After its 1992 season Valleyfair voluntarily changed its 1989-1992 Ride Admission Policy;
(H) During its 1993 season Valleyfair did not require blind individuals to be accompanied on Valleyfair's rides by a sighted individual (except with respect to the three rides covered by Valleyfair's "Ride-Along Policy") but did require blind individuals to be accompanied by sighted individuals at the boarding area of a ride to explain ride dynamics and provide boarding and de-boarding assistance
(Valleyfair's "1993 Ride Admission Policy"); (I) Valleyfair agrees to discontinue its "1993 Ride Admission Policy" and to allow blind individuals to ride all rides (except the three rides covered by Valleyfair's "Ride-Along Policy") without being accompanied by a sighted individual, either on the rides or at the boarding area;
(J) Valleyfair agrees not to reinstitute or reestablish its "1989-1992 Ride Admission Policy" or its "1993 Ride Admission Policy";
(K) Valleyfair agrees not to establish any new policy which restricts the opportunity of blind persons to ride Valleyfair's rides or otherwise use the amusement park on the same terms and conditions as sighted persons, and Valleyfair further agrees not to establish any new policy which implies that blind or visually impaired persons are less capable than sighted persons of taking care of themselves and safely using the park;
(L) Valleyfair has suggested that material changes in circumstances may require re-examination and/or modification of some of the provisions in this agreement. To deal with such a possibility, the parties agree to the following dispute resolution procedures:
If Valleyfair believes that material changes in circumstances require re-examination and/or modification of this agreement, Valleyfair will pursue one or more of the following options: a) Valleyfair will contact the MDHR and attempt to reach an informal resolution of the issue; and/or b) Valleyfair will submit the issue to the Office of Administrative Hearings for non-binding mediation; and/or c) Valleyfair will submit the issue to the Office of Administrative Hearings (Judge Erickson or his designee) for resolution as a contested case proceeding. In such a contested case proceeding, Valleyfair would bear the burden of proving (1) that material changes in circumstances occurred, (2) that those changes require modification of the agreement, and (3) that the modification proposed by Valleyfair complies with the Minnesota Human Rights Act;
If Valleyfair pursues one or more of the three options discussed above, each party shall bear its own costs and attorneys' fees. Valleyfair shall pay any costs of the Office of Administrative Hearings, except as follows. If the administrative law judge decides in a contested case proceeding that material changes in circumstances occurred and that those changes require modification of the agreement, any costs of the Office of Administrative Hearings shall be divided equally by Valleyfair and the MDHR;
If Valleyfair believes it is necessary to suspend one or more provisions of this agreement while the provision is being re-examined, Valleyfair shall contact the Office of Administrative Hearings (Judge Erickson or his designee) in writing requesting suspension of one or more specific provisions of the agreement and fax a copy of the request to the attorney for the MDHR. In any request for suspension Valleyfair shall bear the burden of establishing that it is likely to succeed in proving (1) material changes in circumstances occurred, (2) those changes require suspension of the provision(s) Valleyfair has requested be suspended, and (3) the suspension proposed by Valleyfair complies with the Minnesota Human Rights Act. If Valleyfair satisfies this burden of proof, Judge Erickson or his designee may enter an ex parte order, which will remain in effect only until the administrative law judge hears from the MDHR, and/or a temporary order, which will remain in effect while the parties attempt to resolve the dispute through one or more of the three mechanisms described above. Valleyfair will be solely responsible for all its own costs, attorneys' fees, and for the costs of the Office of Administrative Hearings associated with its request for suspension. Judge Erickson's preliminary determination, either suspending or maintaining the provision in dispute, shall not be considered by any mediator, Judge Erickson, or his designee when the agreement is re-examined in either a mediation or contested case context;
The parties agree that they will attempt to resolve any disputed issue expeditiously and in good faith.
There you have the actual language of the agreement, and it is clearly a victory for the blind. Valleyfair has recognized that it must treat blind patrons on the same terms and apply the same conditions as it does with its sighted guests. The only negative part of the agreement is that it did not encompass three rides at Valleyfair: the bumper cars, the antique cars, and the go-carts. Unfortunately, when the complaint was filed by the Attorney General's office, it did not include those rides because they had not been part of the complaints we filed as a result of our visit in September of 1990. The agreement does, however, make clear that, if we choose, we can challenge this minor restriction in the future.
In all other ways the agreement is much more specific and thorough than any order which we would have received from Judge Erickson in a hearing, even if we had won the case.
In an interview with the Braille Monitor, Erica Jacobson, the Assistant Attorney General who was assigned to work with us, said, "I think that it is a wonderful settlement. If the case had been litigated, the judge's order would have focused only on whether present and past policies were discriminatory. The settlement agreement goes far beyond that. Valleyfair cannot develop any future policies which may be discriminatory toward the blind. Furthermore, if Valleyfair does want to modify its policies with regard to the blind in any way, it must prove both that the modification is necessary and that it would not violate the Minnesota Human Rights Act. At every step Valleyfair has the burden of proof."
The agreement also contains language about the way in which Valleyfair can inform its blind guests about the park. We agreed that Valleyfair could pass out to blind guests pamphlets in Braille or large print or cassette with information about the park, as long as it did not use language that singled out the blind for special treatment. In fact, the agreement says:
Acquiring Information about Valleyfair's Rides
(T) Notwithstanding Valleyfair's decision to modify its "1993 Ride Admission Policy," Valleyfair continues to believe strongly that patrons, blind and sighted alike, who are unfamiliar with Valleyfair's rides and who, for whatever reason, may not fully appreciate the ride dynamics and/or the risks attendant with the rides, should seek information from Valleyfair's management, ride operators, and/or other employees, as well as the patrons' companions;
(U) To facilitate the ability of Valleyfair's patrons to obtain information about Valleyfair's rides and to encourage those unfamiliar with Valleyfair to acquire the knowledge to enable patrons to understand both the ride dynamics and the risks associated with the rides, Valleyfair will erect signage at the park's entrance and/or at the ticket booth, notifying those unfamiliar with Valleyfair that they may obtain information, if they wish to do so, by visiting the Guest Relations Booth; in addition, Valleyfair will distribute cards, printed in Braille, to blind patrons of the park when those individuals enter the park; the signage and the cards will contain identical wording and will not single out blind or visually impaired persons for different treatment;
(V) In addition to providing the information to patrons at the front entrance of the park, Valleyfair will have available in its Guest Relations Booth more extensive information regarding the rides, ride dynamics, and ride risks; this information will be available in a pamphlet, prepared both in print and in Braille, and in an audio form; the information contained in the printed and Braille pamphlets and audio will be identical; except when discussing Valleyfair's "Ride-Along Policy," the information available at Valleyfair's Guest Relations Booth will not use the words "blind" or "visually impaired" and will recognize that blind persons may safely ride Valleyfair's rides and enjoy the park on the same basis and terms as sighted persons;
(W) Nothing contained in the subparagraphs above is intended to suggest or imply that virtually all of Valleyfair's patrons, including its blind patrons, are not fully able to appreciate and assume the risks associated with any particular ride. The MDHR and the charging parties represent that blind persons have visited amusement parks in the past without special restrictions and have safely enjoyed rides on the same terms and conditions as sighted persons. The parties recognize that amusement parks have risks for all patrons (both sighted and blind) and that individuals who visit amusement parks must and do recognize and assume certain risks. The parties further agree that blind persons who visit Valleyfair are capable of obtaining necessary information and safely enjoying the park.
That was the exact language. On March 24, 1994, the National Federation of the Blind and the Minnesota Attorney General's Office issued press releases about the settlement. They generated several statewide stories on Radio and TV and in newspapers.
So the roller coaster ride with Valleyfair has finally ended. The park has now publicly acknowledged that blind people are first-class citizens and deserve to be treated as such. Throughout this battle many people have asked me why we have expended so much effort on a case about an amusement park when serious issues like illiteracy among blind children and employment discrimination need to be addressed. My answer is simply this: whenever blind people are treated like children and told that we must have responsible adults accompany us everywhere; whenever we are told that normal, everyday surroundings are too dangerous for us; whenever we are told that we are inherent safety risks, we must respond quickly and firmly. When the Valleyfair case began, we did not imagine that it would take five years to resolve, but we determined to keep on battling until we secured a victory. There is only one reason why the blind are now free to visit Valleyfair on the same terms and conditions as the sighted. That reason is, of course, the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Eric Duffy]
THE BLIND OF OHIO WIN THE RIGHT TO RIDE
by Eric Duffy
From the Editor: Like Federationists in Minnesota, those in Ohio have been struggling to teach management personnel at amusement parks that blind people are no more or less likely than others who frequent their establishments to be hurt or frightened by their rides. Some of us don't like being turned upside-down and thrown around at high speeds, and others love the sensations. Those in the first category (blind and sighted alike) stick to the self-propelled boats, people-movers, and benches. The others delight in excitement and gravitate to the surprise and stimulation of the rides--the wilder, the better.
For years--certainly all the time I was growing up and worrying my stay-on-the-ground mother at amusement parks--blind people were assumed to be the appropriate judges of their own limitations. When snugly fitting lap-bars would not engage because of my white cane, I gave it to the attendant with the understanding that it would be returned as soon as my car pulled into the station again or my gondola landed. Years later, when I led my young children onto spinning rides and swings that sailed through the heavens, no one talked about who was supervising whom. It was all as it should have been, and no one got hurt or was demeaned by the experience.
But no more! Amusement parks like the airlines have discovered the disabled; and, knowing nothing about the field, they have devised safety measures that are compatible with nothing but their own misunderstanding of the situation. Not surprisingly, the result has been a flurry of cases in which blind people have objected to being treated like children or incompetents. We are pleased to report that in two of these (see the preceding article) the blind Federationists involved have successfully argued their position.
Eric Duffy is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. At the time of his clash with the Amusement Corporation of America, he was President of the Capital Chapter of the NFB of Ohio and First Vice President of the affiliate. Here is his story as he told it in the Spring, 1994, edition of the Buckeye Bulletin, the publication of the NFB of Ohio:
It was a hot August night, and Garth Brooks was the main attraction at the 1991 Ohio State Fair. Carol Akers, a new member of our Parents Division, was hoping to see Garth on her birthday, and she brought her daughter Tiffany to share in the excitement. I met them at the fairgrounds after work. Tiffany and I were going to get our fill of amusement rides before the concert began. We knew that the show was sold out; however, we planned to catch it on the giant screen just outside the Celeste Center. We knew without a doubt that we would not get into the building. We were prepared for that, but we were not prepared for what occurred during the rest of that evening.
Tiffany and I enjoyed several rides without incident. We then found Carol and made our way to the giant screen. Much to our surprise, we discovered that the concert would not be broadcast. Making our way toward another ride, Tiffany and I agreed that it was really too bad. What else could we do? We couldn't see the concert, and we didn't want Tiffany to have come all the way from Shelby only to ride a few rides and then go home. So we thought we had better get some more rides in. As it turned out, we should have quit while we were ahead.
We got in line for the Rainbow Ride. Like everyone else in the line, we patiently waited for our turn to board. When we arrived on the platform, I heard a man say: "He can't ride this ride. Miss, he can't ride this ride." Assuming that I was the "he" in question, I said that I could ride and that it would not be a problem. The only response was once again, "Miss, he can't ride this ride." I inquired why and did not receive an answer. The ride operator simply refused to talk to me. At that point I knew that I had two choices. I could stand on the platform at the top of the stairs and perhaps shut the ride down for a time, or I could walk away and pursue other means of resolving the problem. The one thing I could not do was to walk away, ignoring the insult and pretend the injustice had never occurred. I decided to leave the Rainbow Ride without ever boarding it. But the confrontation was only beginning.
Though it was well after midnight when I unlocked the door to my house, I immediately began calling the press. I told them about the disgraceful incident which had just taken place at our State Fair. I said that I thought the fair should be something the citizens of Ohio could take pride in and that most people would be shocked to learn that I had been refused access to a ride solely because I was blind. The story got good coverage in the Columbus area. But as we might have expected, even those who should have known better wondered if I had gone to the fair knowing that this incident might happen. Of course, I did not. Had I been looking for trouble, I would have chosen a night other than Carol Akers's birthday. If I had planned to call attention to the kind of discrimination practiced by this carnival owner, I would have chosen someone a little older than Tiffany to help me wage the fight. Be that as it may, life goes on, and we fight the battles we are handed.
The next day I contacted the Ohio Expositions Commission to determine who was responsible for the rides at the fair. The Commission referred me to Marilyn Link of the Amusement Corporation of America. I talked to Ms. Link by telephone. After hearing my account of what had happened the previous evening, Ms. Link began to defend the action of her employee. She told me that the ride operator was simply enforcing company policy. I asked her to tell me what the policy was. She said that the company could not allow pregnant women, children below a certain height, and disabled persons to ride the spectacular rides. I asked her how this policy applied to me as a blind person, and she said that I would not be permitted to ride certain rides or--believe it or not--to walk through dark places such as the fun house. When questioned about the origin of this policy, Ms. Link said that her insurance company was responsible for the policy.
When asked for a copy of the letter stipulating this policy from her insurance company, Ms. Link very willingly provided it. The letter speaks for itself. Here it is:
August 5, 1991
Ms. Marilyn Link
Amusement Corporation of America
Because your Insurance Carrier, this Insurance Agency, and your good family-owned carnival have safety as our primary concern, we urge you to instruct your staff to prohibit wherever possible: admissions of pregnant women, children below acceptable height standards, and disabled persons whose handicaps would endanger their well being to ride some of the spectacular rides such as the Zyclon, Roundup, Spider, Tilt, and Pirate Ship, and "dark walk-throughs" such as the Castle.
The Ride Admission Policy was developed using industry knowledge and the American Society for Testing and Materials Standards on Amusement Rides and Devices. Patrons having characteristics described above have had an extremely high frequency of mishaps totally out of the norm. Therefore, our mutual concern for their well being motivates this strict adherence. We will appreciate your cooperation and understanding in the event we have to restrict access to particular amusement devices. Safety must come first.
Your show is one of the safest in the country, and that record can only be achieved by your diligence.
Mitchell H. Kaliff
Once it was clear that I was not going to make any progress by talking with Ms. Link or Fair officials, I contacted the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. My initial contact with this agency was rather discouraging. The person doing the intake said that I had to understand that the company did have to be concerned about safety. When it was apparent that I was not about to be dissuaded, the Commission employee then scheduled a time for me to come in to file a charge. Although I was calling in August, my appointment was not scheduled until October. On October 8, 1991, I arrived at the Commission to file a charge of discrimination against the Amusement Corporation of America. It wasn't until January of 1992 that I heard from the Commission again, but the results were worth the delay. The Commission ruled that there was probable cause for discrimination on the part of Amusement Corporation of America.
Later the Commission began conciliation efforts. The company made a written offer to allow me to ride any of its spectacular rides, provided that I was accompanied by a sighted person. I refused that offer because it perpetuated the notion that independent blind adults require the supervision of a sighted person in order to be safe. The Commission then asked me if I would accept an offer that would allow me to ride all rides after signing a waiver saying that the company would not be held liable in the event of an accident. I told them that I would be happy to sign such a waiver provided that everyone else attending the fair was also required to sign one. After these conciliatory efforts failed, a hearing in this matter was ordered and eventually took place on March 5, 1993.
Needless to say, a great deal of time had passed between August of 1991 and March of 1993. Several things kept me strong during this time. The first, of course, was the support of this affiliate and our President, Barbara Pierce. The second thing was the knowledge that Joyce Scanlan, Curtis Chong, and others were dealing with a similar situation in Minnesota. Finally, I knew that what I did would affect the blind of Ohio and perhaps the nation for many years to come. An important precedent could be set with this case. With some persistence on my part, the help of the Federation, and a good dollop of luck it would be one that we could all be proud of.
I was fortunate to have a competent Assistant Attorney General arguing my case. With the assistance of the Federation, Duffy Jamieson wrote a sensible, closely reasoned argument. What follow are portions of his post-hearing brief:
Another safety concern raised by the respondent was that a person who is blind cannot safely ingress and egress the Rainbow Ride, but respondent's concern was not credible. On cross-examination Mr. Link even admitted, "I had far more concern before today than I did after the explanation of how they do that [use a white cane]." Mr. Link, after a little education by Barbara Pierce, President of the Ohio Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, began to realize that he did not know the abilities of blind people. Mr. Link also controverted himself by saying that a person who is blind could not ride the Rainbow Ride but could ride the Pirate ride, a ride manufactured by the same corporation as the Rainbow Ride. Yet the Pirate ride has the same kind of platform and steps as the Rainbow Ride. Mr. Link felt that a blind person would be more likely to trip in a large crowd when negotiating the line and steps going to and from the ride. Naturally, respondent has no evidence to support this allegation. This is merely an ignorant assertion made by him which perpetuates the stereotypes about the abilities of blind people. [Mr. Jamieson, you speak our language.] If this was a genuine concern, why doesn't respondent deny admittance to other individuals similarly situated such as the elderly?
In a footnote Mr. Jamieson says: "The term common sense was used as a justification by respondent for denying blind individuals the opportunity to ride the Rainbow Ride. Lacking the sense of sight is far from common, and the abilities of people who are blind are certainly not within the common understanding of sighted people."
After this small sample of my attorney's written argument to the Commission and knowing that Barbara Pierce appeared as an expert witness testifying about the abilities of the blind, it is easy to see why the hearing examiner recommended that the Commission issue a cease-and-desist order: "Requiring respondent to provide visually impaired persons access to its Rainbow Ride." This hearing examiner's report was signed by Deborah J. Tucker on October 29, 1993.
As might be expected, the respondent objected to Ms. Tucker's report. The respondent alleged that as hearing examiner she had ignored its safety arguments, but the Commission upheld the examiner's report.
At the time of this writing we cannot be certain whether or not the Amusement Corporation of America will pursue this matter further. In any event we have scored a clear victory for the blind of Ohio and of the nation. I could not have prevailed in this case were it not for the National Federation of the Blind. This case is another clear example of why the National Federation of the Blind and why we must always be ready to defend the rights of blind Americans.
[PHOTO: A young Marc Maurer sits between two fenceposts. CAPTION: Marc Maurer as a child]
KEEPING WITHIN THE LINES
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: The following story by President Maurer first appeared in The Journey, the most recent of the NFB's paperback books in the Kernel Book Series. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction. Here it is:
As readers of previous Kernel Books know, Marc Maurer is President of the National Federation of the Blind. He is a graduate of Notre Dame and the University of Indiana Law School and a member of the bar of several states and the United States Supreme Court. He is also the father of two young children. Braille is an important tool for him--in his career and in his home. Here is what he has to say about some of his early experiences with Braille:
The kindergarten in the public school that I attended when I was five left me with a feeling of alienation and frustration-- though I didn't know the words to describe the problem. My teacher was a kind and gentle lady, who tried to help me, but I presented difficulties which she felt unable to solve. Many of the kindergarten activities were done visually. Learning colors, drawing, recognizing letters and numbers, naming the geometric shapes--all of these were presented visually. Some kindergarten tasks could be done quite effectively without sight--counting, reciting the alphabet, remembering your own address and telephone number, listing in order the days of the week or the months of the year. But in the drawing classes I was unable to "keep within the lines," and "keeping within the lines" was important.
I learned the shapes of the print capital letters from the building blocks we had, and I came to know the forms of numbers in the same way. By the time kindergarten had come to an end, I had learned to print my name, M-A-R-C, but I usually got it backwards--C-R-A-M. As I viewed it, the experiment with kindergarten was only marginally successful. Although it was never stated, the lesson of kindergarten was unmistakable--blind people are different from others; they require kindness; they can't do the ordinary things that other people do; they can't keep within the lines.
My parents decided that I would attend the school for the blind even though doing so meant that I would be away from home during most of the school year. Of course, I could return home for holidays and during some weekends, but the rest of the time I would live in a dormitory with my classmates at the school. At the age of six I left home. The school for the blind was over a hundred miles from our house. It was the beginning of a different kind of life.
Because I was at that time almost totally blind, I was expected to learn Braille. We started the learning process with flash cards. There was a straight line of Braille dots across the top of each card and a single word in the center. I still remember the first flash card I ever read; it contained the word "go."
Each of us was given our first reading book--the primer about Dick and Jane and Spot. It was the first Braille book I ever had in my hands. My book seemed to be about a foot square and about a half an inch thick. The teacher told us to open our books to page one. My desk was in the first row, about the sixth or seventh from the front. The first child in the row was asked to read page one. When there were mistakes, the teacher corrected them.
Then the second student was asked to read the same page. Again, when there were mistakes, the teacher corrected them. The lesson continued in the same manner. Each student in the first row was asked to read page one. By the time the teacher got to me, my job was clear, and my performance flawless. With my fingers on the page, I spoke the words of page one with never an error or hesitation. The teacher praised me highly and asked me to come to the front of the room. She produced a gold star from her desk drawer and pasted it to page one of my book. She told me to take my book home and show it to my mother. This is exactly what I did. On Friday night after the journey home I proudly produced my primer, opened it to page one, and recited the words which appeared on the page.
My mother is a properly suspicious woman. She had learned Braille in the years before I attended school because she thought it might be helpful to me. She asked me if she could borrow the book, and of course I gave it to her. Later during the weekend she brought me a page of Braille and asked me to read it. Without much concern I confessed that I could not. My mother told me that it was an exact copy of page one of my book. I had memorized the words, but I was not able to read them.
During the summer between my first and second grade years, my mother took matters in hand. She told me that I must learn to read, and she said that she would teach me. For an hour every morning I was going to study Braille. I complained. The other kids got to go outside to play, but I could not. Nobody else had summer school at home--only me. But none of my griping did any good. My mother had made up her mind; I was going to learn to read.
When I returned to the school for the blind for second grade, I discovered the library of Braille books--that collection of sweet-smelling Braille volumes almost a foot square and about two and a half inches thick. During the next four years I read every book that the librarian would let me have. I developed the habit of reading at night. Blindness has some advantages. I would slide the book under the bed sometime during the evening. Bedtime was 8:00. The house parent made his rounds between 8:30 and 8:45. I could hear his shoes coming down the hall and then receding in the distance. When the footsteps had faded, the book came out. No light is needed for Braille. Sometimes it was cold, but the Braille book would fit under the covers.
I tried the same system at home, and it worked most of the time. When I got caught, which happened occasionally, my mother spanked me. The punishments were fair, but the reading was worth it.
Although I complained bitterly about learning Braille, I am deeply grateful to my mother for insisting that I learn it. How fortunate I am that she understood the necessity for me to read. How fortunate I am that she was persistent and demanding. How fortunate I am that she had learned Braille herself and was able to teach me.
Today we in the National Federation of the Blind do much to help make Braille available to blind students and to encourage the teaching of Braille both to children and adults who are blind. But this is not how it has always been. There was a time when Braille was regarded as inferior, and all too often today it does not get the attention it deserves. Much of my work as a lawyer could not have been done without Braille. I now read to my children most evenings. They enjoy the stories, and I enjoy the reading as much as they do. How different my life would have been without the ability to read Braille. How different it can be for the children of this generation if we give them the chance to learn. The message should not be that blind people are different and unable to take part. Even though I might not be able to draw, my mother felt certain that I could keep within the lines. We in the National Federation of the Blind are doing what we can to make it come true.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: David Andrews]
RESPONSIBILITY FOR BRAILLE DOCUMENTATION
by David Andrews
As Monitor readers know, David Andrews is the Director of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. He has definite ideas about the responsibility of vendors of technology to provide Braille documentation with the products they sell. Here is what he has to say:
At the second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind I gave a speech in which, among other things, I talked about some of the problems in the access technology field. My main objection concerned the unavailability of Braille documentation. For a variety of reasons a number of expensive Braille-oriented products had been marketed without instruction manuals in Braille. Over six months have passed since I wrote those remarks, and an update seems in order.
In January of 1994 the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind ordered two refreshable Braille displays from HumanWare of Loomis, California. They were portable and desktop models of the Alva Braille Terminal, which is manufactured in the Netherlands and imported by HumanWare. The value of this purchase was over $15,000.00. The two displays arrived in February without Braille manuals. Documentation was provided on disk and in print. The Braille manuals finally did arrive in late March, at least six months after the products were introduced by HumanWare.
The seriousness of this problem was brought home to me by a telephone conversation I have just concluded. It was a 45-minute relay call from a deaf-blind person. For this group of users Braille documentation is the only alternative. The woman with whom I spoke has an Alva product, but it is an older model, for which there was a manual. However, if she had purchased one of the new models last October, what would she have done--wait six months until the Braille manual was ready?
I do understand that offering a new product is a complex undertaking, particularly when importing something from overseas, and that things don't always happen in an ideal way. However, it also seems to me that a company should not offer a product for sale until all the manuals are ready and available.
I expressed my dissatisfaction to my local HumanWare representative and to one of the company's technical support personnel. I was assured that I would get one of the Braille manuals as soon as they were available, which I did. Someone also conveyed my unhappiness to Jim Halliday, the president of HumanWare, because I received a letter from him. I also heard from a third party that Halliday said this situation was inexcusable. He is right; it is. It wouldn't be so bad except that I was told independently by two people who attended the second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind that Halliday complained bitterly about my remarks concerning Braille documentation, saying that they were unfair. I did not think they were unfair then, and I still do not. In my speech I came down hard on Baum U.S.A. for taking a year to get out Braille manuals for their products. They are currently delaying the introduction of a new Braille display, the INKA, until the Braille manual is ready. They were also very gracious about my remarks and said at the time that they were fair.
Here is the text of the letter which I received from Jim Halliday.
March 22, 1994
Dear Mr. Andrews:
Mr. Ed Smith, HumanWare's representative on the East Coast, conveyed to me today your concerns about not receiving braille documentation with your recent shipment of two 40-cell ALVA Braille Terminals. I apologize for this oversight and have directed our shipping department to send the documentation to you via Federal Express overnight delivery. Furthermore, I have requested that our warehouse be especially cognizant of future shipments to ensure all supporting documentation is enclosed in the packaging.
Please be assured that each of us at HumanWare is committed to providing the best possible service to the people who use the equipment we provide. Your feedback is always welcome, whether positive or negative, for we can learn and grow from our mistakes as well as our successes. Again, please accept my apologies.
Jim Halliday, President
This letter implies that we did not receive the manuals due to a shipping oversight. As I understand it, this in fact was not the case. We did not receive the manuals because they were not ready. HumanWare sold expensive, Braille-only devices for at least six months without Braille manuals.
HumanWare is not alone in the Braille arena--or more accurately, the missing Braille arena. Over a year ago the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind purchased a Braillex 2D, a $16,500.00 refreshable Braille display, from ATR Computer Technology. ATR is the importer of this product, which is made by the Papenmeier company of Germany. At the time we received a few loose Braille pages which contained a list of commands. The manual was on disk, but there was no Braille version present. Jack Wood, the President of ATR, kept telling me, "We are working on it. It will be available soon." We did finally receive a Braille manual in March, some ten and a half months after we had purchased the display. However, it was unreadable. It was printed using an interpoint printer--that is, one that prints Braille on both sides of a page. The Braille on the back of each page wasn't lined up properly, so the first three or four cells of each line were missing. I like the Braillex 2D display, and Wood has been willing to help with set- up and training, but the Braille documentation is still not forthcoming. In fact, the company that distributed the Papenmeier products prior to ATR Technology, Adhoc Reading Systems, never provided us with proper Braille documentation either.
We also purchased the Notex486, a $10,500.00 computer with a 40-cell refreshable Braille display at the same time we ordered the Braillex 2D, and it did not come with a Braille manual. Tommy Craig, who works with Jack Wood, told me in early April that the Notex486 manual is now completed.
Braille is important for a number of reasons. It is a primary medium for deaf-blind persons. Much of the documentation and many of the tutorials available to us are speech-oriented. Deaf-blind persons, like the caller mentioned earlier, often find it difficult to learn to use computer software with the available materials. Vendors should remember when writing manuals that not everyone is going to be speech-oriented. There are those of us who learn best from Braille. While I realize that it would be prohibitively expensive to put some manuals into Braille, I also think that other alternatives are available. One such manual that comes to mind is that for Vocal-Eyes, a screen review program from GW Micro. The manual is written in a chatty tutorial style and is quite long. It would be unduly costly to Braille this manual. GW Micro recently started offering its newsletter in Braille, which is commendable. However, I would rather see the company put limited resources into producing a Braille reference card for Vocal-Eyes. The newsletter is a throw-away, while the reference card would be used again and again.
I believe that blind people will never get everything in Braille that we would like. However, I also believe that it is reasonable to expect to get high-quality and timely Braille documentation with expensive Braille-oriented computer products. The price of providing these materials is a cost of doing business with blind people. The access technology companies should have enough respect for us to give the details, including proper documentation, the attention they deserve. To do otherwise is to treat us as if making money from us is the only thing that counts. There are many good products on the market today, and the level of competition continues to escalate. Those companies that operate in a sloppy, seat-of-the-pants manner will soon find themselves left in the dust. The same high technology that these companies are trying to sell has made Braille relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, and we have the right to expect more of it.
[PHOTO: Karl Smith and Representative Darrell Jorgensen stand behind Governor Michael Leavitt, who is seated. CAPTION: Pictured here from left to right are Karl Smith, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah; Governor Michael Leavitt signing the Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act; and Representative Darrell Jorgensen, sponsor of the bill]
MORE BRAILLE BILLS BECOME LAW
by Barbara Pierce
This past winter and early spring have witnessed a good deal of activity on the Braille bill front. Four new pieces of state legislation have been signed into law: in Ohio, Utah, Colorado, and Georgia. This brings the number of states with some form of Braille legislation to twenty-five. We will report in more detail about Colorado and Georgia in future months, but the following are accounts of the Ohio and Utah experiences. The Ohio report is taken from an article that appeared in the Spring, 1994, issue of the Buckeye Bulletin, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. Karl Smith, President of the NFB of Utah, describes the events in his state. Here is the Ohio story:
On Thursday, March 10, 1994, Substitute House Bill 164 passed the Ohio House of Representatives on a vote of eighty-two to twelve. With that action our five-year struggle to protect the right of the state's blind children to learn Braille came quietly to a close in a victory that will forever change the lives of blind youngsters in Ohio.
H.B. 164, sponsored by Representative Ronald Gerberry, first passed the House last June and went on to the Senate, where it ran into trouble when members of the Senate Education Committee began insisting that we address the concerns of various groups with an interest in the education of blind children. The Committee had received materials from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Ohio (AERO) which raised questions and concerns about the advisability of our proposed legislation. In the fall Eric Duffy began working to gather a group together to hammer out the problems. Dennis Holmes, Superintendent of the Ohio State School for the Blind, was a valuable ally in this effort. He offered to facilitate the group's work and did so with fairness, skill, and good temper.
During December and January, representatives from the NFB, ACB, AERO, the Bureau of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the state Division for Special Education, Ohio Resource Center for Low Incidence and Severely Handicapped, the Ohio State University teacher education program for the visually impaired, and the Ohio State School for the Blind met repeatedly to debate and tinker with several sections of the Braille bill. The group made a few changes, but the bill's intent was never compromised. The original protections of the NFB's model Braille bill remain in the finished Ohio legislation: the presumption is that legally blind students and those who will clearly not be able to use print effectively in the future will have the right to learn Braille. In fact, if Braille is not to be taught to them, the reasons for not doing so must be included in the IEP. There will be an annual assessment of Braille for each youngster learning it, and the expectation will be that he or she shall demonstrate the same facility with Braille that his or her sighted peers would show with print. Special education teachers of the blind must demonstrate their competency to read and write Braille by passing a test which is consistent with the Literary Braille Competency Test developed for this purpose by the National Library Service. And finally, textbook producers who wish to sell books to the school districts of Ohio must agree to provide machine-readable versions of these books for preparation as a Braille text if there is a student who needs the text in that medium.
As soon as the negotiated changes could be incorporated into the actual language of the Braille bill, a document known as Substitute House Bill 164 was brought before the Senate Education Committee. The first hearing was on the evening of February 23. Several Federationists testified, and written materials were circulated to the members of the committee. But the hit of the evening was clearly Jennica Ferguson, age eleven, who read her remarks in Braille. Committee Chairman Cooper Snyder insisted on passing her text to each of the Senators so that they could see what Braille looked like.
The following week the Education committee voted six to one to send the bill on to the Senate floor for passage. On Tuesday, March 8, it sailed through the Senate with only one Senator voting against it.
Once it had passed the Senate, the revised version of the bill had to be taken back to the House for final passage, which came on March 10. A word should be said here about the invaluable contribution to this success made by both Representative Ron Gerberry and his aide, Susan Dean. From beginning to end they have been steadfast supporters of this legislation and wise guides through the maze of the legislative process. Mr. Gerberry gave us the benefit of his skill in shepherding the bill through the House, and Susan kept us informed and kept the process moving despite the pressure of all her other responsibilities. Without Representative Gerberry and his staff, this law would never have seen the light of day. The blind of Ohio owe a great debt of gratitude to the two of them.
H.B. 164 was signed into law by Governor George Voinovich on March 21, 1994. Now the job of educating parents and teachers of blind children about the ramifications of the law begins. Unless parents understand how important Braille is to their children's future, little will have been gained. It is vital for us all to understand that in the most important ways this battle is just beginning.
That's the way it happened in Ohio. Now here is the Utah story:
On Tuesday, April 5, 1994, Michael Leavitt, Governor of Utah, signed into law the Blind Persons' Literacy Rights and Education Act, making Utah the twenty-third state to pass such legislation. The event marked the culmination of two years of hard work by the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah to get a Braille literacy bill passed.
In late 1992 Kristen Jocums, President of our Salt Lake City Chapter, submitted the NFB model Braille bill to Senator Scott Howell for consideration during the 1993 legislative session. The measure passed the Senate unanimously early in the session but languished in the House because of opposition from the education community and a large fiscal impact projection. Even with these drawbacks the bill cleared everything but the final House vote but died during the press of last-minute business at the end of the session.
Over the next several months Karl Smith met with teachers, administrators, and others to work out a measure which could be supported by all parties involved. This was completed in late November, 1993. The final version contained the following provisions:
1. Braille training will be offered to all blind and visually impaired students who request it and is presumed to be the reading and writing mode for the blind.
2. As a provision of the contract for providing instructional materials to Utah schools, all textbook publishers are required to provide computer-readable versions of their materials for use in producing Braille versions for blind and visually-impaired students.
3. Teachers of the blind and visually impaired are required to demonstrate competency in Braille reading and writing.
Because the bill was tied up in the House last year, we asked Representative Darrell Jorgensen to introduce our revised legislation in the House this year. The measure passed the House unanimously on January 24, the day before our legislative breakfast. Ironically, in retaliation for alleged delaying tactics by the 1993 House, the Senate held House bills until all their Senate work was completed this year. After many long days of work the bill finally passed the Senate unanimously at 3:32 p.m. on March 2, just hours before the end of the 1994 session.
Approximately forty people, a cross section of the blind community (including Federationists, teachers, administrators, legislators, and others), attended the signing ceremony. Because of the large crowd the ceremony had to be moved from the Governor's office to an adjoining board room.
After the signing we presented the Governor with a walnut plaque expressing our appreciation for his support. Featured on the plaque was his name in print and Braille. We also presented him with a copy of the legislation in Braille. Finally, in the rotunda of the Capitol we hosted a reception featuring a cake decorated with the Braille alphabet. All those in attendance felt good about the future prospects for literacy for Utah's blind children. It was a time of good will and cooperation for all the groups involved.
[PHOTO: Peggy Elliott stands at microphone. CAPTION: Peggy Elliott]
WHERE AM I?
by Peggy Pinder
From the Editor: The most recent of the little paperbacks in the Kernel Books series of publications produced by the National Federation of the Blind is titled The Journey. The following article is taken from the book. It was written shortly before Peggy Pinder became Peggy Elliott. In both guises she is Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Iowa. This is what she has to say. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction:
Peggy Pinder is no stranger to readers of previous Kernel Books. Here she tells of experiences she had as a teenager-- experiences which laid the foundation for her career as a successful blind lawyer:
I am a lawyer, living in Iowa with a Yale Law School degree, five years of prosecutorial experience behind me, and a private practice. I am also blind.
In the course of my practice I have appeared in courts in states other than my own. When this is done, the out-of-town lawyer needs to have a local lawyer to help with local procedures. I was representing a blind woman several years ago in a case in a different state. As we had worked things out between us, I was serving as lead counsel, and he was second chair. As the terms imply, the lead counsel sits in the first chair, nearest to the judge.
When we walked into the courtroom, I happened to be in front of Allan, the local person, when we reached the bar. I walked through the gate first, around the table to the plaintiff's side, and up to the first chair. Allan followed and stood behind the second chair. I could tell he was bemused by something as he made the introductions, but I didn't learn until later just what had happened.
As I came around the table and stopped behind the first chair, the judge nearly fell off the bench, motioning to Allan to enforce usual courtroom procedure. It never occurred to the judge that I might be a lawyer. He knew the plaintiff was a blind woman, and he assumed I was she. He presumed I did not know where I was or where I was going and that I was inadvertently breaking courtroom etiquette which dictates that the plaintiff sit in the seat farthest from the judge. He hoped to remedy the situation by silent hand and facial motions between himself and my lawyer so that court could proceed with everyone in their proper places.
Without ever indicating to the judge that he understood the signals, Allan as a good local lawyer quickly and efficiently made introductions, identifying me as lead counsel. He also mentioned that the plaintiff (as is permissible) was not there for argument on the motion. The judge subsided.
I only wish the judge had spoken directly to me and straightened out the misunderstanding with me instead of attempting to do it silently and without my knowledge. I think I would have felt better about it if he had. But I also would have understood very well how he reached the conclusion that I did not know where I was, because for years I thought the same thing.
When I first lost my sight, I was suddenly the only blind person I knew. There were no role models of successful, capable blind persons in my life. I only knew what I thought blind people could do: not much. I thought that college would be impossible for me now, that a job was out of the question, that these considerations were far too abstract to worry about because I now had a much bigger problem on my hands: how would I know where I was if I was blind?
I had always known where I was with visual cues--street signs, the appearance of buildings, store names above the doors, tables and chairs in a room. Now, as a blind person, none of this was available to me. How would I know where I was? The best way to handle this problem was never to go anywhere. So I mostly didn't.
My family urged me to get out and do things like everybody else. I did every now and then, just to please them. But I didn't like it, and I did as little as I could. I didn't have any skills in getting information as a blind person, and I didn't have any way of finding any. I didn't know any other blind people who could get around on their own. I figured it couldn't be done.
And, when my family insisted that a blind person could do things, I would say to myself: "Yeah, sure. That's easy for you to say. But you don't have to do it and feel stupid and clumsy and not know where you are. You have your sight. That makes all the difference." I knew they meant well, but they couldn't teach me the skills. They didn't know them, and they didn't use them.
All this occurred during high school, a hard time anyway for people to live through. My adolescence completely disappeared behind a wall of lack of confidence and certainty of failure. You put up a brave front and say words like independence and employment, but you just don't believe it.
Then I found other blind people. It was quite by accident, and I am still grateful for that turn of fate. I encountered a blind person walking normally, setting his own course, deciding where he was going, and knowing where he was. We didn't speak. I just observed him as he passed by. And from that observation I was sure that he knew where he was, not only in the building we were in, but in his life as well. I wanted to be able to do that.
I found out where he had learned to move about so confidently. There was a training program, run by blind people with blind people as teachers. But that wasn't all. They were self-confident, successful, good at getting around. They knew where they were, and they were willing to teach me the skills. I was initially hesitant. Then I jumped in with both feet.
My sister has recently told me a story from that era. I don't remember this at all, but it is a very clear childhood memory of hers. She is my baby sister, the one born eight years after me, for whom I was the attentive big sister. When I lost my sight, it didn't matter to her. I was still her big sister, the one who had always taken care of her.
My sister and my mom came to visit me, she says, when I had been at the training program only a few weeks. While Mom talked with the teachers, I grandly announced that Martha and I were going for a walk. We come from a town of 8,000, and the program was in a town of 250,000. Lots of noise, lots of traffic, lots of ways to get hurt if you don't know what you are doing or where you are. My sister says that she remembers very clearly that my mom didn't hesitate. If I said I could take Martha for a walk, then Mom believed that I could. Martha, of course, never questioned whether I could. I was the big sister who had always taken care of her.
As I say, I remember none of this. Martha says now that the idea of our going for a walk must have been more than a simple matter to Mom. Here was her blind daughter, barely into the training program, planning to take the eight-year-old baby of the family out into the streets of a big city. But Martha says that Mom didn't hesitate. We left.
I promptly got lost. Martha says that, as we walked (always safely on the sidewalk and crossing with the lights, of course), it slowly dawned on her that I didn't know where we were. But she says that this didn't bother her since she knew her big sister would figure out what needed to be done. Martha says that I started asking her what she saw and, when I got vague answers, would insist on her being precise about the location and angle from us that the objects were. As I got some more information, I figured out where we were and how to return to Mom. Martha says that, looking back, she does not remember any sense of worry or panic. She knew I would take care of her.
As I practiced under the guidance of fellow blind people to learn new ways of gathering information and using it to travel about safely and efficiently, the incidents of my not knowing where I was grew fewer and fewer. This was because my skill and my confidence were both being increased under practice and with the guidance of experienced blind persons. I was learning to know where I was.
The other thing that happened was that, when I did lose track of where I was, I learned how to find my way again. Using information as I was being taught by other blind people, I was learning what my little sister already knew--that I could find my way even when I had temporarily lost it. In fact, the final test in my training was for the teacher to get me disoriented deliberately and then to drop me off several miles from the training center. Using my own common sense and my developing skills, I had to find my way back. I did. That was the final proof to me that, even when I didn't know where I was, I could find out.
My family believed in me and encouraged me. But they didn't know the skills, and they couldn't be role models. I could always dismiss them as "not really understanding." But other blind people, doing what I thought I couldn't, had taught me by their example, by their explicit instruction, by their generosity, that I could know where I am, both geographically and in the shaping of my own life. The lesson of learning to travel safely and efficiently, while it was vital in itself, spilled over into the rest of my view of myself. I found the self-confidence that I had once so envied in that other self-confident blind person as he walked by.
My blind teachers, my blind friends, my blind colleagues: all learned their self-confidence through the National Federation of the Blind, and I have learned also that the Federation is vital to my life. Not only did the Federation through its thousands of members around the country teach me how to believe in myself, the Federation also taught me something more.
It doesn't have to be the way it was for me. If blind children can be reached, if their parents can be reached, if persons who lose their sight can be reached at an early point with the same message and the same examples and the same opportunities to learn where they are, then these blind men and women, boys and girls can learn right away what it took me so very long to learn: that as a blind person you can know where you are and you can know where you are going and you can make those decisions for yourself.
That is my hope for the Federation, that we can reach blind people and sighted citizens as well with our message. My little sister had it right all along. It took me a little longer to get there. The judge hasn't quite figured it out yet. But, if we in the Federation keep spreading the message, he will.
Where am I? In the National Federation of the Blind and grateful to be there, grateful for the chance I received from Federation members and grateful for the chance to pass it on to others.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Elizabeth Browne]
TO DIG I AM NOT ABLE; TO BEG I AM ASHAMED
by Elizabeth Browne
From the Editor: The following article was adapted by the author from a presentation she made at the 1993 convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. It was part of a panel discussion on jobs and job hunting. Dr. Elizabeth Browne holds a Ph.D. in English and has taught for many years at the college and graduate levels. Here is what she has to say:
Someone asked me, as we began getting ready for our state convention, what contributions I could make about the art of getting a job? What advice or what suggestions might be of worth to those eagerly hoping to ply their trade in the fields of profitable labor? Voluntarism is good, is needed, but there comes a time in the life of every individual when pecuniary reward is essential to maintain one's dignity and contribute to society.
As one who has primarily frequented the halls of academe in my work endeavors and since digging and begging are not my forte, I turned for direction to some of the writers I admire. I recalled that once a would-be author, an ambitious novice seeking to enter the writing game, wisely approached E. B. White, one of the greatest essayists of our century, and asked for his advice. White's words to that novice might well have been directed to me: "Write (or in the case of this talk today, "Speak") about what you know. Write about what you are familiar with, and it will be good, will reach the souls of those for whom you write." He goes on to tell the young man, "The rewards of such endeavor are not that I have acquired an audience or a following, as you suggest (fame of any kind being a Pyrrhic victory), but that, sometimes, writing of myself--which is the only subject anyone knows intimately--I have occasionally had the exquisite thrill of putting my finger on a little capsule of truth and heard it give the faint squeak of mortality under my pressure, an antic sound."
Well, let me share some of my own experiences as a professional, but also some of my own personal experiences which may be of help, which may touch that common chord of which White speaks. I do hope so. Let me begin.
At present I am a professor in the Department of English of Loyola University, Chicago, on the Lake Shore campus. I have been working in colleges and universities since receiving my Ph.D. in 1973. I've taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels-- sometimes full-time, sometimes part-time: once, oddly enough, three-quarters time.
I received the doctoral degree amidst thunderous applause at the Chicago Stadium, where the huge bulletin board outside trumpeted for all to read: Loyola Graduation, 1973! Coming tonight, Sonny and Cher!
Senator Charles Percy read my achievement into the Congressional Record, for such an accomplishment was most unusual at that time. Not so today, for many blind individuals are receiving graduate degrees in many professions, but discrimination and stereotyping still exist.
My first teaching position was at Governors State University in Park Forest South, which is one of five senior universities in Illinois. After GSU, I taught at St. Xavier's College, not far from my home in Chicago.
Then, thinking I would change my direction, I joined the Federal Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, as an investigator on the post-secondary level. But that was not where my heart lay, and I was very happy to return to teaching at the first opportunity. This found me at the seminary of the Arch- diocese of Chicago, Niles College, where I taught in both the English and Philosophy Departments.
When I left Niles and joined the faculty of Mundelein College, the last college exclusively for women in the state of Illinois until its merger with Loyola University in 1991, the all-female student body, a number of them Muslim women, represented quite a different type of student from the all-male, all-Catholic student population of Niles College seminary. At present I am working exclusively in the Department of English at Loyola University.
On another track, however, during the last few years I have yielded to a long-time desire to do graduate study in theology and have had the exciting experience of attending Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, receiving a master's degree there as the institution's first blind graduate. I have a thing about obtaining degrees. I love to learn more and more about things I don't know, so obtaining this degree in theology simply added to my insatiable seeking after more and more knowledge. I think I will be doing that until they start shoveling in the dirt.
Since then I have been invited to become a support person for a group of lay missioners, all college graduates. It is my modest contribution to the feminine presence in the Catholic Church. These missioners are comparable to Vista or the Peace Corps, working in the less desirable parts of our cities, far from their homes, to help outcasts, street people, abused women, and children. During their year of commitment they dedicate themselves to live a simple life in very poor neighborhoods and to focus on community, spirituality, social justice, and environmental safety. It is good to find such dedicated young people at such troubled times.
I joined the ranks of the blind or, as we say in polite society these days, the visually impaired, when I was ten years old. I had a roller-skating accident. I'm still not sure I ever told my poor parents about it, because I had no business in the skating rink when they had not given permission.
Nevertheless, always an independent-minded creature, I went and ended up on the bottom of a pileup with someone's roller skate kicking me in the head. Soon after that eventful fall, in August, I began to see double and get colors mixed up, which made working on a citywide art contest rather difficult. I was one of two students chosen from my elementary school to participate in this American history contest.
My assignment was to draw Daniel Boone with his rifle, riding along in a covered wagon. Colors were becoming increasingly perplexing, and Daniel Boone was emerging from the art paper with rich, red eyes. The art teacher mentioned that they ought to be brown. (Perhaps red was closer to reality since he was putatively quite a lush.) I was also dealing then with hideous headaches which made the fractions on the blackboard dance about oddly. I still have trouble with fractions and like to round all my numbers.
By November I was blind. Not too long after, a truant officer came to visit my mother, and when my mother told her what had happened to me, she advised doing nothing because, as she said, "What's the good of education in her condition?" Young as I then was, this comment troubled me and festered inside me, driving me to look for a way to express my reaction to this belief or lack of belief in my abilities. I was no Jane Eyre, no Oliver Twist, seeking to go up against the uninformed structures of society, but I sensed that the truant officer's dismissal was wrong.
When I joined the ranks of the blind, it never crossed my mind that in the future I would not be doing whatever I had been doing before my fall. I don't remember thinking that anything would be different for me except that I would have to learn different ways of doing what I had done before. For example, I wanted to be back out with my friends and playmates, jumping rope--yes, roller-skating too--going to school and doing all the things I had to look forward to: dating, dancing, marrying, and so on.
One day, hearing the kids outside playing something--hop scotch, double dutch, something--I found a trophy my brother had won at a local carnival, a little cane with a large die for a handle. With this I took off, casting the dice for freedom as it were--my first mobility adventure. I used the cane to keep me on the sidewalk as I walked along the edge and touched the grass or dirt with it. It worked fine, but my father happened to look out of the window, came quickly after me, and put an end to my mobility training.
My parents realized that I was restless and needed to get back into school. We discovered the Board of Education's answer to the question of what to do with little blind kids. It was that medieval institution they called the Braille room. There were three or four, I think, and I was sent thither to be kept again apart from so-called normal kids, and confined to a room with other blind kids and a few Braille writers. (We were even locked in at lunch time when the teacher went out for a bite.) That wasn't my style either.
To remain imprisoned in a loving, caring home with concerned parents or to remain imprisoned in an educational structure that told me I was not normal: I was on the horns of a true dilemma. In the Braille room we learned Braille reading and writing, but we learned something else, too: that we were to be kept apart because we were not normal. This early educational indoctrination leaves a frightful, in some cases an indelible mark that stains our self-perception, our self-confidence, for a lifetime.
The first thing these educators did was to administer an IQ test to place me properly. The test was in Braille, and I had only been in the Braille room a few days and did not yet know Braille, so I failed miserably. They placed me, at the age of twelve, in the first grade, reinforcing the belief that I was not normal.
The cane episode and now this new experience taught me one thing, though I didn't know the word: for me mainstreaming, and through it the world, was the only way to go. I wanted back into the world I had so recently occupied--skating, going to school with neighborhood kids, playing with my friends outdoors. I wanted the life toward which I had been headed. Instead, we were being given the old lie that "dulce et decorum est," loosely translated, "O how good and noble it is" for little blind children to accept this concept of separate but not equal education.
This was not what I wanted. I wanted all that I had had before I became blind. I wanted everything I had and hoped to have from the life I had just left. In fact, segregated living was simply not for me. Basically, separate but equal anything is separate but never equal.
As yet I didn't know what to do, but I kept my secret to myself and waited for the chance to change what I did not like. Some might call this intuitive networking; others might call it opportunism; others would say it was waiting for the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Whatever it was or is, it is like keeping your antennae up, alert and aware for what you might not be able to name but what you know will come.
In the movie Field of Dreams we find the same universal theme which runs through our poetry, our faith, and our inner convictions. Browning had the same idea in his poem, "Andrea del Sarto": "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" On the contrary, Langston Hughes vividly describes what happens when our dream is deferred. "Does it wither like a raisin in the sun? / Or fester like a sore and then run? / Perhaps it sags like a heavy load, / Or, does it explode!" Too many of these suppressed dreams have festered; sagged; and, too often, exploded. I could feel the rage building inside of me as we were kept apart from other kids.
Luckily, a forward-thinking substitute arrived one year and began to allow us out of the Braille room to be with normal kids in certain classes like history and English. Incidentally, she re-evaluated me and placed me in the seventh grade, where I belonged.
In one of these forays into regular classes--the real world- -for that is how we thought of these times, I heard the teacher giving an assignment to the class to create a poster for safety week. Turning to us refugees from the Braille room, she said, "You won't have to do the assignment."
I didn't like that at all, so I returned to the Braille room and did my safety poster on the typewriter, describing in detail what it should look like, the colors, the figures, and the motto written in large letters. Then I turned it in. The teacher seemed surprised when I handed in my assignment with the rest of the class, then she asked the other two blind students for theirs. "You told us we didn't have to do it," they said.
That was my juvenile manifestation of mainstreaming, for ultimately mainstreaming is the only way of existing if you want to live in the real world. I knew it as a child and have never changed my belief. I still know it is the only way to go. That doesn't mean that you won't often come close to drowning; your lungs will ache; you may gasp for air a little; but oh how sweet it will taste for having struggled to enjoy its delicious flavor.
Mainstreaming has been my philosophy, so it is in all truth that I say I think I belonged to the Federation even before I knew it existed. Life is to live, and the wealth of good things to do and to enjoy is in the world, in the main stream of life. You don't get to enjoy all these things by resigning yourself to the tender, loving blandishments of concerned parents or by resigning yourself to the back of the bus or the safe spot on the bench of a sheltered workshop. It's out in the mainstream, where the waters get rough at times and the current tries to pull you under, but the struggle will increase your strength and from struggle comes character.
But what did I want when I joined the throng of blind individuals living in the world? One thing and one thing only: to get on with my life without any pity or extra gimmicks, just to live and do all the things others were doing and I wanted to do. The first thing was to seize the day, learn what I had to learn and begin living. In other words, no self-pity, no sentimentality, but simply get busy learning what must be learned and deciding what plans were necessary to achieve my goal. Of course, education was the path that would lead to freedom and self-fulfillment.
After graduation from elementary school I joined other blind students in the high school equivalent of separate and unequal education. There, continuing the pattern that we were different and less capable, I was told that I could not take algebra and geometry because those were for students preparing to enter college. The assumption was obvious, and I objected to no avail.
The required science courses, exciting and challenging, were beyond the blind students' capability, the teacher told me as he remarked my efforts to achieve high grades: "Blind students simply can't compete with sighted students, so you will never get an A in this course." I persevered and at the end of the first year was given the A I worked hard for.
But kind fates were drawing near, and one day I had the good fortune of meeting a socially minded, forward-looking bishop, who came to observe us in our segregated Braille room. Pausing by my desk, my clerical fairy godmother asked me, "What can I do for you, Cinderella?" (He really didn't call me Cinderella, but you get the idea.) I was ready. Since that first day I had ventured forth with my brother's cane from the local carnival, since that IQ test consigned me to the ignominy of the first grade at the age of twelve, inwardly I had been waiting for this chance; and I replied, "I want to go to a Catholic high school in my own neighborhood." Such an unexpected request caught him a little off guard, but not for long. The stars, the fates, my guardian angel- -someone was watching over me and had sent me the right person, a truly socially conscious man with lots of power. With this opportunity I went to a private school in my own neighborhood as the protege of the bishop.
The front page of the paper trumpeted: "She's first!" The bishop made news. I made news. The fated school, chosen for its proximity to my home, made news. Now that I was enrolled in a private neighborhood school, I began mainstreaming my life in earnest. I avoided the tender trap of rehabilitation counselors and competed academically for scholarships which would allow me to go to college and graduate school and to achieve my dream of becoming a professor.
Meanwhile the fates stepped in in the person of a handsome prince who swept me off course and into another exciting and challenging new sort of mainstreaming as his wife and the mother of five children. Both of us have been active in neighborhood, church, and community affairs throughout these years. Once I was almost arrested with my guide dog and three-year-old son, while successfully protecting some young students who had integrated our local school. This was mainstreaming in deep waters, and with perseverance and determination we were instrumental in these brave children's completing their elementary school education and going on to a good high school and college.
So it was after some of these dreams had been achieved-- dating, marriage, and five children--that I determined that I could get nowhere without further academic degrees. I returned for post-graduate studies in preparation for achieving a doctoral degree. In 1973, known as the dark ages for those of you under twenty-nine, I received the Ph.D. degree from Loyola University.
Was it easy? Academically speaking there were challenges, but the biggest hurdle was the intensity of low-level discrimination which awaited me at every crucial point. I never backed off or gave up, so after a great deal of innuendo and covert incredulity, I made it. But how can my experiences and my struggles be of assistance to some of you who are at the brink of your own lives, at the edge of realizing your own epiphanies? Some Suggestions:
Remember my reference to E. B. White at the outset of this presentation? Well I have some suggestions that may, like "a little capsule of truth," give the faint squeak of mortality under my pressure and may prove useful to you in your own journey. I offer these suggestions in the hope that they will be of help:
Whatever area you select, prepare yourself well without any waivers, qualifications, bypasses. Be sure not to omit any essential element. For instance, beware of the friendly advisor who wants to make things easy for you or the patronizing professor who whispers that you can skip this or that. "After all, you will still get your grade." Certainly you will: an A for acceptance of your lot, or a B for blindness. Avoid that tender trap. It's the gentle slope that leads to despair. For example, on the academic road certain courses are required, and you must not try to avoid them.
In my own academic journey several courses in Old English literature were essential, and the only one who taught several of them was a professor who did not like blind people, who did not want me in this required course, who did not want me in the class. He simply decided not to include me in the roster and would not call on me. I think he thought I would quietly go away. But I did not.
I knew that, if he skipped me for the entire semester and did not allow me to translate the Old English texts as everyone else was doing, I would be in trouble when it came time to grade my work. So I wrote him a note, placed it on his podium, and sat down. The note said, "My name is Browne. I sit in the front row, right in front of your desk. I am alive and well, ready and eager to translate." I was told that he read the note; paused; looked over his spectacles at me; and, after a long look and a long pause, called on me. I lumbered along through the text in Braille and received the proper corrections. Then he called on the next victim. From that night on he never neglected me again.
Quit blowing your trumpet. Stop beating a drum so everyone will feel sorry for you. Do whatever you have to do without all that noise, those attention-getting sidesteps. In other words, skip playing the poor-me game. Terry Waite, British envoy of the Anglican Church who spent four of his years in captivity in solitary confinement, had three phrases which kept him going through his ordeal and which are clearly applicable to our situation: "no regrets, no self-pity, no sentimentality."
If you cannot do the preparation without unreasonable amounts of extra help, get out and into something you can manage. Better to make a good broom than to be a poor teacher or lazy mechanic.
Another useful example that comes to mind occurred in the requirements for the doctoral degree: a class in Beowulf was essential. For me Braille is vital for reading foreign languages and in teaching poetry. I sought for a Braille copy of this ancient text. There was one in the world, and it was in the British Museum, London, England. After learning of its existence, I followed through and, much to my chagrin, learned that some other eager graduate student was using it. Not to be discouraged or plead for pity, I hunted down a willing transcriber and obtained my own copy of the rare text. In other words, age quod agis: Do what you have to do!
The question of what to do about your resum or filling out an application is rather difficult. I never put down that I am blind or even visually impaired. I am applying for something for which I am highly qualified, accomplished, certified, and trained. They are not hiring me because I am or am not blind.
A good friend of mine, someone I greatly respect, disagrees with my strategy. Rami Rabbi wrote a book, Take Charge, and I had just finished reading it when I received a phone call from the chair of the English Department at Mundelein College, who had my resum in hand. She offered me a job sight unseen, and I had to stop and reflect on that book which I had just read. I began to doubt myself. Several phone calls to the chair of the department did not resolve my concern. She simply was too busy to see me and insisted that I sign the contract and leave it in her mailbox and she would meet me after the first class.
That is what actually happened. I was hired, sight unseen, on the basis of my qualifications. It was truly a rewarding experience. Teaching under those conditions was like living in Camelot, and that doesn't often happen in this world. But, when it does, it is sweet. It provides nourishment when the times are rough and the going is difficult, but don't pause too long reflecting.
If you are compelled to take legal measures, do it with all firmness of purpose. Don't be lukewarm in your efforts. If you are interviewed for a job and you do not get it, check out the reasons why thoroughly. If indeed discrimination has occurred, pursue legal measures with all deliberate speed.
However, attempt with all your skill to maintain a dignified and open presence and to keep an open door. Often the cause for your denial may only be someone who may be replaced. In other words, networking is vital, and you can never tell precisely where a connection may take place. I have made mistakes before and with thunderous indignation neatly burned all my bridges. Be circumspect, dignified, but thorough. It will pay off.
Finally, I would like to leave you with some kernels of wisdom, some aphorisms which may lift up your spirits as you trudge along the journey, seeking rewarding employment. I use epigrams when I teach and when I write, and often they hit the mark sharply, right to the point. I hope you find these helpful, such as the words Pete Seeger uses in a song, "From here on up the hills don't get any higher, but the valleys get deeper and deeper." Or, from Shakespeare's Macbeth, "Screw your courage to the sticking point, and you'll not fail!" or, from Browning, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
My favorite one, though, is affixed to my office door. It runs, "Illegitimi non carborundum!" Quite loosely this might be translated, refuse to be discouraged by those of questionable parentage. You can no doubt render your own more colloquial version.
[PHOTO: Elizabeth Campbell speaks at microphone. CAPTION: Elizabeth Campbell]
ELIZABETH CAMPBELL: BILINGUAL REPORTER FOR A MAJOR DAILY NEWSPAPER
by Lorraine Rovig
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the January, 1994, JOB Recorded Bulletin, a bimonthly publication of the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) Program, which is jointly conducted by the National Federation of the Blind and the United States Department of Labor. Lorraine Rovig directs that program. Elizabeth Campbell is a hard-working and energetic Federationist who currently serves as President of the Ft. Worth Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas. Congratulations to Liz Campbell on her new assignment and to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram for its good sense in promoting her. Here is the story:
Elizabeth Campbell has worked for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram for ten years--first in the Metro section, then for four and a half years as a features department writer. She has handled all kinds of articles: hard-hitting research, opinion pieces, travelogues on landmarks to visit in Texas, society news, and assessments of current culture. As fulfilling as her jobs have been, Miss Campbell has long had a wish to combine her love of reporting with her knowledge of Spanish and of the Hispanic community in Texas. Now her chance has come.
On February 4 the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram published the first edition of La Estrella (Es-stray-ya). This new bilingual section of the daily paper appears every Friday. A whole new department has been created to handle the work, with Miss Campbell and one other reporter working full-time. They will be assisted by a city editor and several part-time copy editors and translators. Miss Campbell said that the Ft. Worth paper is among the first in the United States to try this idea.
Some of the stories in La Estrella will be in Spanish and some in English, depending on the subject and source. For example, articles such as soccer scores from South America might be published in Spanish while articles on Texas politicians might run in English.
Miss Campbell is enthusiastic about this new venture. She said she believes she was chosen for the project because of the many story ideas she developed and wrote on issues of interest or concern to Texans in the Texas Hispanic community. Miss Campbell had this recommendation for other blind persons who have a long- time dream assignment--she said it's a good idea to take every opportunity within the scope of your present job to show your ability to do the dream position. Find ways to let management know of your other talents.
Now Miss Campbell is on a search for computer equipment with both Spanish and English voice-output devices. As a part of its reasonable accommodation to the fact that she is totally blind, the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has offered to purchase such programs if they exist. Miss Campbell would also be interested in networking with other individuals who use both Spanish and English on their computers. The Job Opportunities for the Blind Program would be happy to pass along names and phone numbers of any readers who could give her information. To contact the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program call (800) 638-7518.
TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION PROFESSOR URGES BLIND PEOPLE TO BREAK TRADITIONAL JOB BARRIERS
by Lea Levavi
From the Editor: Lea Levavi is an experienced journalist who is now seeking to change careers and is using the resources of the NFB's Job Opportunities for the Blind Program, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor. She wrote the following article for the March, 1994, Recorded JOB Bulletin, the bimonthly publication of the JOB Program. Here it is:
Dr. Sushil Oswal, Assistant Professor of Technical Communication at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), found out about this new and growing field in a chance meeting with a practitioner while awaiting eye surgery in Cincinnati, Ohio. When it turned out his sight, lost in a car accident, could not be restored, he decided to pursue graduate study in technical communication because, aside from being interested in it, he thought he would have a better chance of finding a job in a new field which needed qualified people. His undergraduate training had included a good deal of science and engineering, and he had worked in industry before losing his sight. He wanted a solution which would offer him a way to pursue his technological interests and to return to industry.
Most people think technical communication is technical writing, he explained, but it's really much broader than that. Technical writing is part of it, but technical communication also includes the methods by which computers talk to each other and the way new technology is introduced to workers or consumers. "Some people call technical communication specialists boundary spanners," he said, "because we span the boundaries between new technology, existing technologies, and the people who are going to use technology. I think technical communication would be ideal training for technical sales and support personnel, for example, and it helps engineers do a better job both as engineers and as managers."
Blind people, on the other hand, have to be not only boundary spanners but also boundary breakers, he believes. "I have heard encouraging things through Job Opportunities for the Blind about blind people going into fields like geology or chemistry," he said, "but we should be hearing about this more often. Unfortunately, many blind people still think they're limited by what rehabilitation counselors say they can do or are limited because they or their parents or teachers don't think they can learn math or science. Sometimes people tell me I could get into a field like this only because I was previously sighted, but that just isn't true. One of the people who was very inspiring to me while I was adjusting to blindness was a man blind from birth who was doing graduate work in chemistry."
Dr. Oswal faced some resistance in graduate school, first from faculty who thought any kind of graduate work would be too demanding for a blind person, particularly someone newly blinded, and later in connection with his doctoral project, which involved field work in industry. "I solved the problems blindness might have created in the field work by choosing a cultural anthropology research method instead of statistical number crunching, but even if I had decided to do statistical work, there are several statistical computer programs today which work well with speech or Braille. You have to insist on doing what you want to do and then make the effort to find innovative ways to do it. Don't settle for someone else's decision that you can't."
Oswal insisted on teaching throughout graduate school, despite the advice of those who told him teaching plus graduate- level research would be too hard. He succeeded academically despite those predictions, and the teaching experience he gained as a graduate student was important work experience when he went looking for a faculty position. (He abandoned his idea of working in industry because large companies were laying off employees while universities were having difficulty attracting qualified professors.)
Three universities offered him jobs, but he chose MTSU because he felt the attitude during the interview process was the most positive. "They asked me questions, such as how I would keep track of my students, because they were curious. But they assured me they knew I could do it; they just wondered exactly how. I told them I would take attendance, and if I ever found out that a student had walked out during class after roll call, I would recommend that such a student be suspended from school. I knew from my teaching experience as a graduate student that, once my students got to know me, they would respect me and have no interest in sneaking out of class."
Dr. Oswal uses Braille for personal notes such as class attendance records, speech for his computer work, and a scanner to deal with print. "I think teaching is by no means the only area of technical communication in which a blind person could work. For example, someone interested in computers who doesn't want to be a programmer could learn to manage a computer lab or could become an entrepreneur who sets up computer systems for small companies or government agencies. Someone interested in writing who gets the necessary science and technology courses in college could be a technical writer. I think a blind person might even be a better technical writer than someone with sight, because technical writers prepare user manuals for products, and a blind person really has to study a product carefully to learn how it works and how to use it. Since the eye is usually faster than the hand, a sighted person may examine the product superficially and miss things."
For students who want to study science in college, he recommends contacting East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, which has adapted the chemistry lab for students who are blind and which is willing to share information with students or with other universities. "Students should also remember that you don't necessarily have to see something with your own eyes or do it with your own hands to learn about it. You can have a classmate in biology explain to you what he sees and what he is doing while he dissects the frog, and there are some things you can touch. It will take extra effort, but it's worth it."
[PHOTO: Barbara Walker walks with cane. CAPTION: Barbara Walker]
by Barbara Walker
From the Editor: Barbara Walker is a dedicated Federationist and a thoughtful, loving mother of two. She frequently writes of her experience as a blind person for the NFB's Kernel Series of paperbacks. The following story appeared in the latest of these books, The Journey. It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction. Here it is:
For all of us, life is full of choices. A frequent choice those of us who are blind face is whether to accept more help than we really need (thus furthering misconceptions which exist about us) or to refuse such help and risk creating a scene or causing embarrassment to a valued colleague. Here Barbara Walker describes just such a situation:
It is often hard to know where to draw the line between acceptance of what is and the necessity to take a stand for change. And for me, mostly this struggle has been played out in little things. One such instance involved my singing a solo in church.
For quite some time, the choir director at my church had been asking me to sing a solo. She said people had approached her wanting me to do that, and wanting her to encourage me, since they knew I wouldn't be likely to request the privilege when opportunities were given to do so. I had finally agreed to invite my sister to come and sing a duet with me, but it became obvious that our church schedules were such that it might be a long time before that would be workable. The director's next request was that I choose something to sing and perhaps a member of the choir to sing with, and ask an accompanist to play if I preferred not to play my guitar.
All of those seemed like piece-of-cake kinds of things to her, I'm sure. But for me, a person whose ministry through music is not an assertive one, those suggestions sounded unthinkable. Assuming I had the nerve to approach another choir member to sing with me (which I didn't), how would the person respond?
Also I learn music by hearing and memorizing it. I don't do solos and don't have a storehouse of options to present to a potential accompanist. As I stood before the director in the presence of a friend with whom I ride to choir, I felt the familiar longing to be assertive struggling with the urge to run to some place where I could be inconspicuous.
The visible result of that struggle was a period of silence followed by an explanation to her of the situation as I saw it. I wanted very much to be able to thank her for her suggestions and follow them through. But the mere thought of doing that constricted my throat, weakened my knees, and sent my tongue between my teeth to stifle their chattering. Ultimately I reminded her that I was not a soloist requesting an opportunity to perform, but a servant shyly preparing to answer a call to minister. The potential duet discussed that night also fell through due to scheduling difficulties.
Shortly after that I received a call from the director asking if I would sing a short portion of an upcoming anthem as a solo. Knowing that, although it was a familiar hymn tune, the lyrics were different, I said I would be glad to do it but would need someone to read the words to me before we practiced it. I said I would bring my Braille `n Speak for that purpose.
During practice, when it came time to work on that anthem, she announced that I would be singing the first verse. She had all of the women sing it through one time, and I entered the words into my Braille 'n Speak as they sang. There was one part I didn't understand, so I asked for clarification before singing it myself as she had requested. Her response both surprised and humiliated me. "Oh, just sing the words you know, or sing la la la. They'll love whatever you do, and no one will know if you're singing what's written or not."
There it was again--the old "anything you do will be wonderful, Honey" routine. Suddenly the most surprising thing to me was why I still, after all these years, found it catching me off guard. I sat for a moment in the silence of belittlement, thinking thoughts of the obvious: "She would know. The choir would know. God would know." And as the silence seemed to be melting into the rustling of papers and shifting of weight on chairs, I heard my voice from somewhere saying, "I would know."
With the barely audible prompting of a fellow choir member who has often responded to my real requests for her assistance rather than her imaginings of what I might need, I rather feebly sang my renewed commitment to love and serve Jesus. Before leaving that night, the director, the accompanist, and I agreed to meet in the sanctuary on Sunday morning prior to the service to practice with the microphone.
When I arrived in the sanctuary on Sunday, the director was talking to the sound control person. She announced to me that he would place a microphone on a stand and someone would assist me to it and stand by me while I sang. I felt again the grip of incredulity. For years I had been processing and recessing with the choir, not to mention coming in and out of the choir loft and chancel area for various other purposes.
Struggling to keep my composure, I found myself asking the kind, bubbly, victim of society's insistence that I be cared for- -this choir director whose spirit and freedom to be uninhibited I receive as gifts to cherish--questions which sounded harsh and unrelenting.
"Do you think of me as an adult? Why is it necessary that I use the microphone differently from the way others have used it? What is it that causes people to cast reality and experience to the wind and insist that everything be different when working with a blind person?" At once, her breezy confidence turned into wind-swept confusion. We were swirling toward a trap of absurdity--she wanting to protect me, I wanting to educate her, both wanting to serve Jesus.
As each of us shared her concerns with the other, we came to terms with the situation. Since only the women were singing that day, I agreed to sit in the front rather than in my usual place in the second row. The standing microphone would be in front of me. Pride wanted me to insist that I sit in my usual row and walk down to the microphone. Knowledge said others who prefer not to be conspicuous have sat by the microphone or had it passed to them where they were seated. Reason suggested I accept the plan. Wisdom concurred, reminding me I was there to minister, not to win a contest of wills.
At home after the service, I discussed the situation with my children. They were both glad I hadn't allowed the original scenario to prevail. John, my eight-year-old, said it wouldn't have been right. Marsha, my ten-year-old, elaborated. "I would have been embarrassed," she said, "not because anyone should be ashamed to get help if it's needed, but because you wouldn't need that help and you and we would know it." She felt that for me to accept that option would have been to deny progress.
I recalled the fierce independence of their deceased father, who had treated his blindness as a characteristic which, although causing some inconvenience, would not have its existence used as a basis for buying into society's notion that it should debilitate him. I also thought of the tens of thousands of us in the National Federation of the Blind who daily deal with struggles such as this one. I hoped we had all taken a small step forward.
Since that day I have sung two additional short solos. One was at a Sunday evening service, at which I walked to the microphone from a place in the congregation and returned to my seat during the remainder of the song. The other occasion was during a regular service, and the choir director previously mentioned was again in charge. This time I stayed in my usual place and was handed the mike just prior to my solo. There was no discussion, no confusion, no trouble at all.
The message I sang that day was: "God of many names, gathered into one, in your glory come and meet us, moving, endlessly becoming." And as it happened within me and within the Trinity Church choir director, it happens for all of us. We are all "moving, endlessly becoming," and that is a marvelous source of hope.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Noel Nightingale]
by Noel Nightingale
From the Editor: The last time my family lived in London, all three children were enrolled in school, which meant that, by planning carefully and watching the time, I could actually dash into central London by tube to do an errand or two or have lunch with my husband and return home again before school ended for the day. Time was of the essence because, if I missed a train and stood for twenty minutes waiting for the next one, my schedule could be hopelessly thrown off.
One day, as I was striding along the high street on my way to the station, I heard a male voice behind me, repeatedly shouting "Madam, please!" Gradually it was born in upon me that I was the object of this plea. I looked back, though I did not stop walking. As he drew level with me, he demanded in an aggrieved and somewhat out-of-breath voice, "Why do you think you must walk so fast? You don't have to prove anything."
I explained as patiently as I could that I was on a tight schedule. If I walked to the station as rapidly as I could and then found when I arrived that I had just missed a train, I would be comforted during my wait for the next one by knowing that nothing I could have done would have enabled me to catch the one that had gotten away, whereas, if I strolled along the street and missed the train, I would be forced to admit that I could have made it if I had just exerted a little more effort.
My explanation had the virtue of shutting the man up, but it certainly did not convince him. He went away still believing that I was showing off or flirting with danger or just being one of those crazy Americans who never know how to behave properly. His parting remark was to the effect that blind people had no business pelting along the road like everybody else. The entire incident annoyed me, but I don't know that I had really thought about it again until I read the following article, which was first printed in the Winter 1993, edition of The Washingtonian, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington. Noel Nightingale is an active, thoughtful, and interesting young woman. She is also the Second Vice President of the Greater Seattle Chapter of the NFB of Washington. Here is what she has to say:
On the way from my apartment to the law school at the University of Washington one Thursday afternoon, I was crossing the intersection at Forty-Second and Brooklyn ahead of a man who had something quite revealing to tell me. He came up beside me, demanding that I "Slow down, slow down." I looked around, expecting to see someone else nearby as the intended object of his advice. The case, however, was that I was the only other person occupying that corner. I was confused. Why did he want me to slow down? I had no reason to reduce my pace since the sidewalk was free of obstructions: people, potholes, or construction. Why had he issued his command?
His words settled into a deep part of my mind that I rarely take time to explore. As blind people, day in and day out, we are told in innumerable ways to slow down. Perhaps because we are excelling in careers, engaging in activities thought not to be appropriate for blind people, or merely leading normal lives, we are told in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to stay in our places. Go slowly. Go without confidence.
Because we in the National Federation of the Blind have learned to be vigilant, we know not to let this message become a subconscious road map. To do so would deny us the achievement we all work toward. Long before the aforementioned concerned citizen felt it his duty to prescribe my speed, the same message had been planted in that deep part of my head. His message tells me two things: that blind people are not supposed to excel and that mediocrity is good enough because society expects so little of us.
When I was far away from the corner, nearing the law school, I felt tears coming to my eyes as his words resonated in me. Once again a deep chord had been struck. I knew it wasn't fair, and it wasn't right, but it was painful. It was also a clear reminder of how far we still have to go in teaching the public, including ourselves, about the capabilities of blind people. The work of the National Federation of the Blind is far from finished.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: James Gashel]
SSI MODERNIZATION: THE NFB SPEAKS OUT
by James Gashel
From the Editor: For several years now the Social Security Administration has been trying to modernize the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which has not been significantly overhauled since its inception more than twenty years ago. Sharon Gold, member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of California, served on a high-powered team of experts appointed during the Bush Administration to recommend changes in the program that should be proposed to Congress. Now Congressional committees are beginning to look seriously at the issue. On March 1, 1994, the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives conducted hearings, and the National Federation of the Blind was asked to present testimony. Here it is:
Testimony of the National Federation of the Blind
Before the Subcommittee on Human Resources
Committee on Ways and Means
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D. C.
March 1, 1994
Mr. Chairman, my name is James Gashel. I am the Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. My address is 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; telephone (410) 659-9314. I appreciate very much your invitation to testify in this hearing on modernizing the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Blind people who meet the income and resource limits under SSI are eligible for benefits as a categorical group. Therefore, SSI is a high-priority program for us.
The National Federation of the Blind--the organization which I represent--has often been described as the "voice of the nation's blind." Blind people guide and direct the Federation at all levels. All of our elected officers and the vast majority of our members are blind. In each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico there is a state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. Local chapters can be found in most sizable population areas. The positions we express before the Congress and other public bodies are determined by the blind themselves.
The subject of the hour is modernizing SSI. The key provisions and concepts which form Title XVI were crafted by the Congress in 1972, and the first cash benefits were paid to recipients in 1974. Some amendments have been enacted since that time, but certainly in its broad outline and major components the SSI law is essentially unchanged. This is in large part a tribute to the enlightened policies which Congress incorporated into the original bill. Times change, however, bringing new demographic patterns and evolving economic conditions.
A panel of experts assembled by the Social Security Administration has acknowledged the need to review and update certain legislative provisions in the SSI program. The panel's findings point to a need for program restoration to achieve the goals which Congress envisioned for SSI. Changing demographic and economic conditions have brought with them a gradual deterioration in the capacity of the SSI program to respond adequately to human need. On behalf of both present and future recipients, and indeed on behalf of all Americans, Congress has a responsibility to address this situation before deterioration becomes a full-scale crisis.
Mr. Chairman, you are particularly to be commended for placing SSI modernization on the agenda for this subcommittee and for bringing the present need to the attention of your colleagues in the Congress as a whole. No one should doubt the need for action to address long-standing and growing deficiencies in this program. In my opinion the initiative to bring SSI into the mainstream of current social and economic trends must come from the Congress. The facts are on the table, and there is no real dispute as to the direction which must be taken.
Mr. Chairman, I want to highlight just a few major points of concern to those whom I represent in the SSI, blind, category. In many instances the modernization report speaks quite clearly to our concerns. In other instances we may have some divergence or perhaps give greater emphasis to particular matters. In every respect, however, we are foursquare behind the effort to improve and update SSI. Here are the reasons why.
(1) Payment Standard The federal benefit rate leaves most recipients in poverty. Congress did not intend that this should happen. The federal standard is seventy-five percent of poverty-level income for single individuals. For couples the standard slightly exceeds eighty percent of the poverty level for two-person families. State supplementation, where it occurs, rarely brings the benefit rate above the poverty line. The panel has recommended gradually increasing the individuals' rate to 120 percent of poverty and retaining the couples' standard as 150 percent of the individuals' standard.
We certainly support raising the individuals' benefit rate as proposed. As for couples, we would prefer to eliminate this classification and treat all SSI recipients as individuals. It is generally recognized that SSI benefits are intended to meet the basic subsistence needs of recipients. By definition the recipients are aged, blind, or disabled. Subsistence needs do not take into account the special needs which often arise. For example, blind people must obtain and often must compensate persons to read printed matter to them. Although their medical bills may be covered by Medicaid, special transportation costs for medical appointments must be paid by them from their SSI funds. It is not uncommon to find that recipients must choose between meeting necessary special costs and putting food on their tables. Forcing people to live in such circumstances is not acceptable.
(2) Unearned Income Disregards The experts have recommended increasing the general $20 unearned income disregard to $30. The original level was one- seventh of the federal benefit rate. We favor restoring that ratio and maintaining it as benefits are increased by automatic cost-of-living adjustments. As proposed by the experts, eliminating in-kind support and maintenance from being counted as income would go a long way toward achieving our objective of restoring the value of the unearned income disregard.
Viewed from the recipients' vantage point, the erosion in purchasing power of the original $20 general-income exclusion is actually a cut in the standard of living provided under SSI. Although the benefit rate has increased with automatic annual adjustments, the value of total funds available--SSI and disregarded income, combined--is not increasing as much as inflation. This should be corrected.
When Title XVI was first enacted, the benefits were not indexed to increases in the cost of living. Congress soon discovered, however, that indexing would be necessary. Unfortunately the income and resource limits, which are actually decreased in value by inflation, were not similarly indexed. Until this is done, there will certainly be a need from time to time for Congress to update the values which are stated in the law. Failure to do so in over twenty years shows the need for annual indexing.
(3) Earned Income Disregards We strongly support the recommendation to increase the basic earned income disregard from $65 to $200. Continuing the point about indexing, we favor making automatic annual adjustments in this exclusion just as in the general income exclusion. We also support changing the exemption on earned income above the basic exempt amount to two-thirds rather than one-half. Increasing and indexing the earned income exclusion is in my opinion the best way to help substantial numbers of recipients to become attached to the work force and eventually to achieve self-support.
The experts' report is somewhat confusing in presenting a recommendation which could affect the exclusion of "blind work expenses." We strongly favor retaining the current exemption and applying it after (not before) two-thirds of the remaining earned income has been subtracted in the sequence of deductions. This would be no change from present law. The experts' report is ambiguous in suggesting streamlining of the earned income disregard with the proviso that a work expense deduction would still be used if more favorable to the recipient. This would be confusing and no doubt disadvantageous to most working recipients who are blind.
I have already noted our recommendation that all SSI recipients should be treated as individuals, eliminating the couples classification altogether. The experts rejected this idea with respect to the federal benefit rate but seem to favor it with respect to the treatment of earned income. We support their recommendation that a full set of earned income exclusions should be available to each person in a couple. The earned income disregards are expected to serve as work incentives. The effect of the present law is to give members of a couple a less rewarding work incentive than that provided to individuals. There is no rational basis for this distinction. All recipients should be given equally beneficial incentives to work.
(4) Resource Exclusions The current resource exclusions of $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples are well below an acceptable standard in today's economy. Congress should give high priority to raising the resource limits. We favor the proposal to streamline the exclusions as proposed and to increase the individuals' limit to $7,000. The new higher limit of $7,000 should apply to each SSI recipient, whether single or married. This amount should be indexed and adjusted annually to retain the value of the exclusion.
With the passage of time, accumulating excess resources is more frequently encountered as a reason for overpayments. The circumstances which lead to the receipt of countable resources are often not within the recipient's control. Also the resource exclusion provisions are hard for many people to understand and apply in particular situations. How resources are handled can make the difference between continuing eligibility and loss of benefits and a serious overpayment. Therefore, we support the recommendation to limit the amount of an overpayment, if caused by excess resources, to no greater than the amount by which the resource limit has been exceeded.
(5) Plans for Achieving Self-Support The Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) provisions have become increasingly important, especially to younger recipients. A PASS allows for the receipt of income or resources in excess of the otherwise applicable limits. The income and resources so excluded must be used for costs incurred or anticipated to achieve self-support goals. Payment for training or for job- related equipment is a typical use for the excluded funds.
Many if not most activities relating to self-support efforts must occur within fairly rigid time schedules, such as in the case of vocational training or higher education classes. An applicant or recipient who submits a PASS for approval by the Administration cannot count on timely action. But the PASS cannot be implemented until accepted by Social Security. With the time delays that occur, valuable training opportunities can be lost. Therefore, we strongly favor the recommendation to establish presumptive PASS approval if no action has been taken within thirty days of a plan's submission.
(6) Outreach Issues The modernization report recommends funding for SSI outreach activities. Funds should be available to support ongoing cooperative agreements with agencies and organizations outside of Social Security and to meet internal costs associated with outreach provided by the Social Security Administration itself. Continuing outreach activities are justified in the SSI program by the fact that matters relating to eligibility and payment amounts are enormously complex and may often pose a somewhat daunting challenge to persons who are potentially eligible. Also the conditions for eligibility may easily be misunderstood by potential beneficiaries. Since these circumstances are unlikely to change, outreach is essential.
Unfortunately the current approach to outreach largely excludes significant projects which could have a substantial impact on potentially eligible blind people. This is partly due to the fact that blind people are quite thoroughly dispersed in the population. Our numbers in any particular local area are quite small relative to the disabled or elderly. SSA, however, views outreach as a locally based activity--having local groups designated to work with local Social Security field offices. This approach, while undoubtedly well-suited to finding disabled or elderly persons, will never yield significant, cost-beneficial results in conducting outreach for blind people.
The outreach strategy employed should be flexible enough to respond to our comparatively small and scattered numbers. In the country as a whole, blind people are approximately two percent of the eligible SSI population. Therefore, a project on a statewide or even regional scale is apt to be more effective than a local effort. Several such efforts combined into one national project could yield meaningful results for the blind population. So far that approach has not been compatible with SSA's plans.
Targeted outreach for blind persons would meet an important and recognized need. Buried within title XVI there are numerous provisions which have special application to blind people. Blindness, for example, is defined. The substantial gainful activity criteria do not apply. There is also a unique work expense deduction which must be applied at the correct point in the sequence of deductions to obtain countable income. These are fine points, and the population of blind people is small. Therefore, we experience many errors largely due to lack of correct information. Targeted outreach to address this situation is definitely justified.
Mr. Chairman, there is ample documentation that after twenty years of operation the SSI program is long overdue for reform. Many of the issues which I have presented here are not new or unknown. The modernization report discusses most of them quite thoroughly. This report and the initiatives and modifications related to it should not be allowed to grow dusty on the shelf. The quality of life for several million Americans who have the lowest income in our country is at stake. President Clinton has made a commitment to the public to present a welfare reform plan to the Congress. The plan which emerges from the Congress should, in addition to reforming Aid to Families with Dependent Children and other programs, include SSI modernization provisions as well. This must be on our national agenda, and for that reason I once again applaud you for holding this important hearing today. On behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, I thank you.
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."
LAST CHANCE CONVENTION REMINDERS: THE ROAR OF '94
by Sue and Don Drapinski
From the Editor: The following article provides the last collection of Convention ideas and information from the Michigan affiliate. Before we know it, we will be in Detroit, putting these suggestions into action. If you have not made your personal Convention room reservation, you must not put it off any longer. Convention rates are singles $38, doubles and twins $43, triples $45, and quads $48, plus tax. The telephone number for Westin Hotel reservations is (313) 568-8000. Consult the March and April issues of the Braille Monitor for additional registration information. Here is the final installment of information about where to go and what to do in Detroit:
As we write the last convention article, we hope that you have made your hotel and tour reservations. In this final article we will give you several reminders, provide more detailed data on matters previously discussed, and offer some new information about things to do in the Detroit Metropolitan area. Since we have not covered activities specifically for children and families before, we will do so in this article.
Beginning with the reminders: remember that tour reservations should be made as soon as possible. Refer to the March Monitor for details. If you have any questions regarding the tours, please call Sue Drapinski at (810) 546-6910 after 5:00 p.m. Also, if you are planning a trip to Windsor for shopping, dinner, or casino gambling, remember to bring proof of citizenship.
The Windsor Tunnel bus, which stops just outside the Renaissance Center, will take you to Windsor and will drop you off at one of several stops for shopping or eating. The fare is $1.50 each way. For those interested in casino gambling, we have been advised that the casino will be open beginning May 17, and the hours should accommodate everyone's schedule. It will be open Monday through Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., and from 11:00 a.m. Friday through 4:00 a.m. Monday. The Windsor Chamber of Commerce will have welcome ambassadors near the NFB of Michigan information desk on Saturday, July 2, and Sunday, July 3, to answer any questions you may have about the attractions in and around Windsor.
For those arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, transportation to the hotel is available through Commuter Transportation, Inc. Arrangements can be made at each terminal in the baggage claim area. The cost is $13 one way. Advance reservations can be made by calling (800) 488-7433. The cost is $28 one way per van for up to four people.
Valet parking at the Westin Hotel is $9.50 per day for hotel guests. Parking costs vary from $2.50 to $8.50 per day, depending on the kind of facility and proximity to the hotel.
On Monday evening, July 4, there will be an all-you-can-eat barbecue. The menu will include hamburgers, hot dogs, cole slaw, beans, pie, iced tea, lemonade, and beer. There will be a live band for our listening and dancing pleasure; and for children of all ages there will be carnival midway games and prizes. We encourage everyone to make plans to attend. It will definitely be a family event. We are also working on having a dunk tank, and if we are successful, you will have a chance to dunk your favorite Federation leader!
There are many places of interest that we have not mentioned previously, including some right in the Westin Hotel and Renaissance Center. The Westin Hotel has an indoor pool and health club for the use of its guests. Also, on the 72nd floor of the Westin is the Summit Observation Deck. It is an enclosed, revolving deck which will afford you a 360-degree view of Detroit and Windsor. In the Renaissance Center you will find the Ford Motor Company's "World of Technology" exhibit. The International Freedom Festival will be at Hart Plaza the weekend of July 1 to 4, and the Latino World Festival will be there July 8 to 10. Hart Plaza is on the Detroit River right next to the Renaissance Center.
There are numerous entertainment choices for those who want to enjoy concerts or theater productions. Many schedules have not yet been published, but we do know of the following concerts at the Pine Knob Outdoor Music Theater in Clarkston (about forty- five miles north of Detroit). For ticket information, call (810) 377-0100. In concert on June 29, Meat Loaf; July 1, Steve Miller; July 4, Depeche Mode with Primal Scream; July 5, the B-52's; July 7, Santana; July 8, Peter Frampton; and on July 9, Bonnie Raitt with Bruce Hornsby.
Phil Collins will be at the Palace of Auburn Hills, June 28 to 29. Call (810) 377-8600 for tickets or other show information. For schedule information for the Fox Theater, Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Arena, or Meadowbrook Outdoor Music Theater, call (313) 396- 7600. For information for the Fisher Theater, call (313) 872- 1000; the GEM Theater, (313) 963-9800; the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, (313) 833-3362; and the Pontiac Silverdome, (810) 456- 1600. The Pontiac Silverdome will host the last of the World Soccer Cup games on June 28 between Brazil and Sweden.
The Detroit Tigers have home games July 5 to 10. The Chicago White Sox are in town July 5 and 6, and the Texas Rangers are here July 8, 9, and 10. Ticket prices range from $5 to $20. Tickets can be ordered by calling (810) 258-4437.
Greektown, which is easy to get to on the People Mover, is home to Trappers Alley, a five-level mall featuring seventy-five stores, boutiques, and restaurants. There are many restaurants to choose from in Greektown including the Bouzouki Lounge, Dionysis Taverna, New Hella's Cafe, Old Parthenon, Olympia Shish Kabob, and Pegasus Taverna. You will also find many authentic Greek grocery stores and bakeries.
Rivertown is an historic converted warehouse district located just east of the Renaissance Center. It boasts many rock and jazz clubs and restaurantsşmany with outdoor decks to take advantage of the summer weather. Notable restaurants include Dunleavy's River Place, Rattlesnake Club, Rhinoceros, Rivertown Saloon, Soup Kitchen Saloon, and Woodbridge Tavern.
In Bricktown you will find a little bit of everything in the turn-of-the-century buildings that line the streets. Located just three blocks north of the Renaissance Center, some of the restaurants worthy of a visit are Sweetwater Tavern, Jacoby's, and the Franklin Street Brewing Company.
Mexican crafts and cuisine abound in Mexicantown, just west of downtown Detroit and near Tiger Stadium. Restaurant choices include Armando's Authentic Mexican Cuisine, El Zocalo's, and Xochimilco's.
If you are looking for jazz entertainment, you can choose from Bo-Mac's Club, Serengity's, or Bert's Market Place (all within a short distance of the hotel), or Ricardo's Lounge on the east side of Detroit, and the Rhythm Room in Hamtramck.
For those interested in horse racing, Ladbroke DRC is approximately fifteen minutes from downtown Detroit and is the home of thoroughbred racing from March through November. For further information call (313) 525-7300. Hazel Park Racetrack, just ten miles north of Detroit, is home to harness racing Monday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The Hiram Walker Company in Windsor offers one-and-a-half- hour free tours of its Canadian Club Distillery Monday through Friday.
If you are driving or renting a car once you are here, Jack Miner's bird sanctuary in Kingsville, Ontario, is about one and a half hours from Detroit. It is the home of one of Canada's most famous conservationists and the wild bird sanctuary that he created there. Admission is free.
For children, families, or those who just wish to be children again, the Children's Hands-On Museum in Ann Arbor is full of exhibits that children can touch, climb on, or crawl under. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for children over three. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, and 1:00ş5:00 p.m. on Sunday. For an extra adventure, take the Amtrak train from Detroit to Ann Arbor for a round-trip fare of $15, Monday through Thursday and Saturday, and $20 on Friday and Sunday.
Belle Isle Park, just a short distance from the hotel, is home to the Belle Isle Aquarium, conservatory, zoo, petting zoo, and Dossin's Great Lakes Museum.
The Detroit Zoo, ten miles north of Detroit and accessible by bus, is one of the world's largest zoos. It houses many exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, as well as a log cabin learning center and a zoo train. It is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children two to twelve.
The ultimate in indoor children's fun is found at the Discovery Zone in Westland and Leaps and Bounds in Madison Heights. Children can climb, crawl, jump, or slide on a variety of indoor equipment. Admission to the Discovery Zone for an unlimited period of time is $5.99 for children two to twelve; under two, admission is $3.99. Leaps and Bounds admission is $5.99 per child. Adults accompanied by a child are free at both locations.
For pizza and fun, try Chuck E. Cheese on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. Here you will find a pizza parlor, arcade games, and animated singing cartoon characters.
The Detroit Science Center is located a short distance from the hotel and is home to the OmniMax Theater. Admission is $6.50 for adults and $4.50 for children ages four to twelve. It is open Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5:00 p.m.
Your Heritage House is a fine arts museum for children and is open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. weekdays, and Saturday and Sunday by appointment. It is also only a short distance from the hotel. For further information call (313) 871-1667.
For outdoor water fun Red Oaks Water Park in Madison Heights (thirteen miles north of Downtown) features a water slide and wave pool. Four Bears Park in Utica (forty-five minutes north of Downtown) has a triple water slide, bumper boats, paddleboats, miniature golf, and a petting zoo.
We can't make your hotel reservations for you, but you can see from this article that we can certainly give you enough ideas to account for every moment of your free time. We look forward to seeing you in July.
Please remember to send door prizes to Don Drapinski, 111 W. Woodward Heights, Hazel Park, Michigan 48030.
The recipes this month come from Minnesota. They are drawn from the home management classes' recipe collection, which has been compiled by present and former students from Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.), the Federation's orientation center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Joyce Scanlan, Executive Director of BLIND, Inc., invited the students to suggest favorite dishes from this collection of new foods, family favorites, traditional Minnesota fare, ethnic specialties, birthday requests, and a great variety of recipes chosen for the students' special two-course guest meal and the buffet meal for twenty-five to thirty. They invite you to try these recipes.
SUPER BARBECUE SAUCE
1 bottle (14 ounces) catsup
1 medium onion, finely chopped (« cup)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of Liquid Smoke
Method: Combine all ingredients (may be processed in a blender). Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer covered 5 minutes. Baste meat with sauce during last part of cooking time. Makes 2 cups.
Note: This sauce brushes on best when the onions are processed in the blender at the same time the other ingredients are being processed. Sauce may be frozen and used at a later time.
HEARTY CHILI CON CARNE
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (about « cup)
1 small green pepper, chopped (about « cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, undrained and cut up
1 10-3/4-ounce can tomato soup
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, undrained
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 15«-ounce can chili beans or kidney beans
Method: In large sauce pan or Dutch oven brown ground beef and onion; drain. Add remaining ingredients except chili beans. Cover and simmer over low heat « to 1 hour. Add chili beans and liquid. Heat through. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Note: Try this with a can of hot chili beans and sauce. If you like it milder, omit the green chilies and use plain chili beans and sauce.
MINNESOTA WILD RICE CASSEROLE
1 cup uncooked wild rice
3 cups water
1 teaspoon or less salt
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 pound ground beef
2 medium stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (about « cup)
1 10-3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup
1 soup can water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Method: Rinse rice. Heat rice, water, and salt to boiling; simmer 40 minutes. Do not drain. Lightly brown mushrooms in butter or margarine; remove from skillet or Dutch oven. In same pan brown ground beef and drain. Combine all ingredients. Pour into 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. If mixture is not moist enough, bake covered for most of the baking time. If you like a milder wild rice taste, then pre-cook the rice for 20 minutes. Pour off the water. Then combine above ingredients, but add another 10 3/4-ounce can cream of mushroom soup or a 14-ounce can of beef broth. Bake covered for about 1 hour and uncover toward the end of baking. Stir and taste to check for doneness and amount of moisture present.
CREAMY COLESLAW DRESSING
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1« cup half and half
Method: Combine ingredients and beat with a whisk until smooth. Pour over shredded cabbage (and grated carrot if desired) and refrigerate until well chilled. Yields 3« cups. This recipe is from a Minnesota cookbook, indicating it was a specialty of Murray's Restaurant, Minneapolis. Murray's is located downtown in the block in which BLIND, Inc., was formerly housed.
1« cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup dairy sour cream
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 cups flour
Creamy frosting (below)
Method: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs and sour cream; mix. Add bananas and vanilla, then dry ingredients and mix well. Spread dough in greased and floured 15- by-10-by-1-inch pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool; spread with creamy frosting. Cut into bars. Makes 48 bars. Keep refrigerated.
1/4 cup margarine
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons dairy sour cream
Melt margarine in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar and sour cream. Beat with electric mixer until creamy.
1 pound baking potatoes, 4 large pared and quartered (use 3« cups
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup half and half
2-1/4 cups sifted flour
Method: 1) Cook the potatoes with salt until tender. Drain well. Immediately rice potatoes using a potato ricer. Cool slightly. Cover and chill in refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. 2) Firmly pack chilled riced potatoes in measuring cup to make 3« cups. Place in bowl. Add melted butter and half and half. Mix until smooth, using large spoon. Add flour, a little at a time, mixing until dough forms. Shape mixture into 12-inch roll. (Be sure to remove all air from mixture when shaping roll.) Divide roll into 12 pieces. 3) Roll out each piece of dough very thin on well-floured pastry cloth (to a 12-inch circle if using a round griddle, or into narrower ovals, if using an oblong griddle), using a stockinet-covered rolling pin or a lefse rolling pin. The lefse should be very thin, about 1/16-inch thick. Carefully roll lefse around rolling pin or a lefse stick so the lefse can be transferred to the griddle. During rolling, shake off excess flour. 4) Bake lefse one at a time on ungreased, very hot griddle. When small brown spots appear on the underside of the lefse (notice distinctive aroma as a guide, and crusty areas), turn over using a lefse stick or long metal spatula. When lefse are browned on both sides, fold into fourths using lefse stick or spatula. Remove from griddle. Place on a dish towel (not made of terry cloth). Bake another lefse and arrange on top of first, placing the point in the opposite direction. Re-cover with towel. Continue this way until all the lefse are prepared. Cool lefse at room temperature. When cooled, wrap lefse in plastic wrap, placing six in a package. Then place in plastic bag to keep lefse soft. They can be stored up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Makes 12 lefse. 5) To serve, lefse should be served at room temperature. Unfold lefse and cut in half. Spread with softened butter and sprinkle with brown or white sugar. Fold each half in thirds, forming pie-shaped wedges.
Note: An electric griddle works best. Keep it free of excess flour. Brush off the extra so it doesn't burn during the cooking process.
[Photo: Fred Schroeder stands at podium, reading Braille. CAPTION: Dr. Fred Schroeder]
We are delighted to report that on March 23, 1994, Fred Schroeder, member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, defended his dissertation and was awarded a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of New Mexico. His research was in Braille literacy, a subject on which he has become a recognized expert. Graduation will take place on May 14. Dr. Schroeder completed his doctoral work in addition to carrying out a full range of responsibilities as husband, father, director of a state rehabilitation agency, and active participant in numerous professional organizations in which his participation noticeably increased the quotient of humanity and common sense. All of us congratulate Fred warmly on this very special occasion.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Professor Adrienne Asch]
We are pleased to report that Adrienne Asch, a long-time Federationist, has just been named to the Henry R. Luce Chair of Biology, Ethics, and the Politics of Human Reproduction at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. This is a five-year appointment with the possibility of an additional three-year extension. Dr. Asch was chosen from an international field of candidates and will take up her responsibilities this summer in preparation for the coming academic year. The requirements of the position will give Dr. Asch ample time for research and writing in addition to her teaching. This appointment is a signal honor. Congratulations from all of us to Professor Adrienne Asch.
**Braille-output Computer Newsletter Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
VersaNews is a technology magazine which covers developments in Braille equipment and the ways in which people use Braille to access the benefits of the computer age. Topics include product reviews, education, tips from readers, and how-to articles on using Braille displays to access such commercially available tools as dictionaries, check-writing programs, and information services. VersaNews is privately published and covers Braille products from all American manufacturers and several imported devices. Started twelve years ago for VersaBraille users, VersaNews remains one of the few sources of support for teachers and others who may have acquired these machines secondhand. It is read in fourteen countries by educators, writers, lawyers, housewives, and computer programmers who use Braille equipment in their daily lives. In many cases a letter or phone call to the editor can put subscribers with a particular problem in touch with others who have found a solution.
VersaNews is published three times a year on MS-DOS disk, on VersaBraille II disk, and in print. Non-print users must have a computer or VersaBraille to read the magazine, because there is no paper Braille edition. Subscriptions, which must be paid for in U.S. dollars, are $25.00 in the U.S. and Canada and $35 elsewhere. Please be sure to specify the format desired. Address orders and inquiries to VersaNews, c/o David Goldstein, Editor, 87 Sanford Lane, Stamford, Connecticut 06905; Phone (203) 336- 4330.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Tommy Craig]
Lola Pace, member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, reports that at its recent state convention the National Federation of the Blind of Texas held elections with the following results: Tommy Craig, President; Doris Henderson, First Vice President; Lawrence Doiron, Second Vice President; Manuel Gonzales, Treasurer; Elizabeth Campbell, Secretary; Sam Jackson and William Harmon, Board Members.
Glenn Crosby, who has served faithfully and well as President for many years, had decided not to seek another term. He will be missed as President, but both he and his wife Norma will continue to serve as leaders in the Texas affiliate. While everyone will miss Glenn's warmth and wisdom in the presidency, the affiliate welcomed the new President with enthusiasm and energy, and the entire membership has pledged its support. Everyone in Texas is looking toward a bright future.
** New Chapter Welcomed:
One of the highlights at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas was the awarding of a charter to the new Galveston County Chapter. According to Clint Hall, the officers and board members of the new chapter are William Harmon, President; Stephanie Pruitt, Vice President; Clint Hall, Secretary/Treasurer; and Board Member, Shelly Harmon. The newest chapter in the Lone Star State is helping to change what it means to be blind in Texas.
** Information Needed on Implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, together with the Heller School, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, and the World Institute on Disability (WID), Berkeley, California, received a National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) three-year grant to conduct an exploratory evaluation of the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The project is based on participatory involvement of individuals with disabilities and representatives from a variety of advocacy organizations in collecting information on ADA activities.
We would like to get your views on all of the major areas covered by the ADA (employment, public/private accommodation, transportation, and communication) that affect people with disabilities. In particular, we are curious about the following types of situations:
1. Informal negotiations and alternative dispute resolution: We would like to learn about your experiences in negotiating with employers and other agencies for accommodations.
2. Best practices nominations: Do you have business or public accommodations to nominate as outstanding examples of innovative employment policies, physical accessibility, or service accessibility?
Please forward any comments or materials to Martha McGaughey, Ph.D., The Heller School, Brandeis University, P.O. Box 9110, Waltham, Massachusetts 02254-9110; or call (617) 736- 3834; Fax: (617) 736-3864, or TDD: (617) 736-8513; Internet (e- mail): [email protected]
** A Handbook of Braille Contractions:
The original printing of this useful, alphabetically- organized, Twin Vision®-format Braille contraction book, which was offered free of charge for some time, is now out of stock. A second printing is in progress, at a non-profit cost of $4.00 for each book. Contractions handbook requests will be filled as books are available, and in the order requests are received. Send orders with checks for each book, made payable to American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, 18440 Oxnard Street, Tarzana, California 91356.
At the February 20 meeting the Greater San Antonio Chapter of the NFB of Texas elected the following officers and board members for two-year terms: Martha LaQue, President; Sam Jackson, First Vice President; James Sofka, Second Vice President; Mary Donahue, Secretary; Peggy Gonz lez, Treasurer; and Pete Donahue and Geraldine Corbbrey, board members.
The Austin Chapter of the NFB of Texas elected officers at its January meeting. The following were elected: Tommy Craig, President; Mary Ward, First Vice President; Buddy Brannan, Second Vice President; Norma Gonzales Baker, Secretary; Wanda Hamm, Treasurer; and Dale Hamm and Mike Waddles, Board Members.
** Publication Information Available: Ron Burns, President of the Pompano Beach Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, has asked us to carry the following announcement:
I have written, edited, copyrighted, published, and recorded on cassette tape a book entitled A Shade of Freedom. To obtain your copy of this book, make your check in the amount of $12.50 payable to Ronald Burns, and send it to 605 South State Road 7, Apt. 1-B, Margate, Florida 33068.
The name of my publishing company is the Lord's Faithful Publishing Company. We are not necessarily looking for Christian manuscripts (as the name of the company might suggest), but we are looking for good, moral manuscripts that are literary in nature. Please send manuscripts in typewritten form or in Braille, and we will edit them for you and put them into Braille or recorded format. Please include your name, address, and telephone number so that I can give you an update on the progress of your manuscript and the price of our work, which will be determined by the number of copies you want us to produce for you. Contact the Lord's Faithful Publishing Company at the above address.
** Cookbooks Still Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Black Hawk County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa still has a few cookbooks left. The book, Far Flung Favorites From Friends and Family, contains 212 recipes and many useful household hints and is available on cassette tape or in print. To order your copy, send $6.50 (delivered free matter for the blind) or $8.50 (post paid). Make checks payable to Black Hawk County NFBI and send to Loren Wakefield, 722 Davenport Street, Waterloo, Iowa 50702-2944.
[PHOTO: Steve Benson stands at microphone. CAPTION: Steve Benson]
** Illinois Convention Wrap-Up:
Steve Benson, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, reports the following: More than 150 Federationists and guests participated in the NFB of Illinois' twenty-sixth annual convention, November 5 to 7, 1993, in Springfield, Illinois. This year's theme, "Engaging the World Around Us," was echoed in every aspect of the convention, from the Friday afternoon Job Opportunities for the Blind Seminar to the adjourning gavel at noon on Sunday. Bill Isaacs and Bill Reif were elected to two-year terms on the Board of Directors. Dr. Elizabeth Browne was elected to fill the second year of an unexpired seat. And a high-spirited bunch left the convention satisfied with the hard work, learning, inspiration, and fun we had shared. Now it's time to prepare for the 1994 Convention in Detroit. We will move Illinois to Michigan.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement: I have for sale a Braille 'n Speak with carrying case, battery charger, and reference card. Never used, asking $750. For more information contact Tonya McCluskey at P.O. Box 68, Hamilton, Montana 59840; or call (406) 961-4333.
The Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania recently held elections with the following results: Leon Conaway, President; Mary Moses, First Vice President; Florence Green, Second Vice President; Marilyn Klein, Secretary; and Joyce Graves, Treasurer. Joseph Branch, Joseph Hardin, Desiree Peterson, and Edna Wiley were elected to serve as Board Members.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: John Miller, chief organizer of the new Science and Engineering Division]
** Attention, Professionals in Science and Engineering:
Plan to attend the first annual meeting of the Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind at this year's Convention in Detroit. Professionals in science and engineering and those interested in these fields are welcome. Together we will share our experiences and plan how to further opportunities for the blind in our fields. Come join this historic gathering and help launch the new division in Federation style. Consult your convention agenda for time and place.
** For Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
VersaBraille II-C for sale, like new condition, with all accessories, including both Braille and print manuals. Will accept best offer. Contact Joe Shankle at (804) 672-1557 (home) or (804) 644-6720 (work).
** Senior Blind to Meet in Detroit:
Cathy Randall, First Vice President of the NFB of Illinois and Chairperson of the NFB Committee on the Senior Blind, writes as follows:
The Committee will meet Saturday, July 2, 1994, at 8:00 p.m. Check the convention agenda for our meeting location. Steve Hastalis and other Federationists with well-developed travel skills will offer tips to seniors on traveling through the Westin Hotel complex. I will arrange assisted tours of the exhibit hall for seniors. Tour times and other pertinent information will be discussed at the meeting.
Sheri Fernandes and Tina Blatter of the Center for Citizens with Disabilities in Boulder, Colorado, will demonstrate their methods for teaching Braille to blind seniors. John Ford of the NFB of Missouri will discuss macular degeneration, the largest cause of blindness among senior citizens today.
Come make the Senior Blind Committee a driving force in the lives of older blind people. For more information, contact Committee chairperson Cathy Randall at (217) 243-3529.
** Important Additions:
Twice in recent editions of the Braille Monitor important information has been inadvertently omitted. In the February, 1994, issue the notice announcing the election of officers to serve the St. Louis Chapter inadvertently omitted the name of Rick Birch as Vice President. In the March Monitor the chocolate chip cookie recipe omitted the chocolate chips. Now everyone knows that you can't have a chocolate chip cookie without chocolate chips, so we suggest that you add two twelve-ounce packages of chocolate chips.
[PHOTO: Portrait. CAPTION: Floyd Myers, 1919-1994]
** In Memoriam:
We are saddened to report the death on January 17, 1994, of Floyd Myers, a dedicated and active member of the Greater Cumberland Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and husband of Georgia Myers, who has been a mainstay of Federation activities for many years. Many people know Georgia as the creator of the delicious rum balls that faithfully appear at Federation events. Floyd was a quiet Federationist, always ready to notice what had to be done, lend a hand, and work until the project was complete. Floyd will be deeply missed by the members of the Greater Cumberland Chapter, the Maryland affiliate, and all other Federationists who knew and loved him. We are a stronger and more effective force for changing what it means to be blind because of Floyd's presence among us. Georgia and the couple's two daughters have our sympathy in their loss.
The San Diego County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California recently held elections with the following results: John Miller, President; Joseph Lopez, Vice President; David House, Secretary; James Lyons, Treasurer; and Ivan Weich and Valerie Miller, Board Members.