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This message will be a little longer than usual because it's important that I place on record where the American Council of the Blind stands with regard to reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act. I also want to make some comments on some attitudes and approaches that are emerging in both the blindness community and in the independent living community.
To understand better what is going on, I should provide you with some background. Of necessity this will be very sketchy and generalizations have a way of being misunderstood. Nevertheless, I think the background is as fair and objective as I can make it.
In the early 1970s there began to emerge in this country a movement that eventually came to be known as the "independent living movement." It was led by a group of disabled people working out of Berkeley, Calif., and out of Texas. This group of people proposed a radical notion of what people with disabilities need both in terms of services and in terms of advocacy. In essence, the movement claimed that disabled people need contact with other disabled people and that agencies controlled and run by disabled people are in a unique position to provide some kinds of adjustment services that rehabilitation agencies, staffed as they are mostly by non-disabled people, simply are not able to offer. In particular, they urged the centers that began to emerge to concentrate on peer counseling, assistance dealing with the rehabilitation process, and generalized disability advocacy. Many of us who were active in the disability rights movement at the time saw independent living as exciting, sensible, and logical. We felt and continue to feel that any process that can motivate and energize people with disabilities is a good one.
Alas, in my opinion, during the quarter century that independent living centers have operated, they have not lived up to the high expectations many of us had for them. Too often, they have become institutionalized under VR's thumb and have lost their autonomous status as a result. Too often they proclaimed themselves open to all disabilities but, in fact, tended to have minimal services for blind and deaf people because of their high cost and complexity. There are good centers out there. These are the exceptions, though. Too often centers seem to concentrate on the needs of people who use wheelchairs to the exclusion of the concerns of other disability groups. To their credit, some centers recognized their failure and joined together to form national organizations that began to insist on standards of services from centers and on appropriate cross-disability services.
As we passed the midpoint of this decade, though, centers still have a long way to go in many areas if they are to claim that they serve a broadly diverse population of people with disabilities. The National Council on Independent Living has become a powerful force in the disability rights movement throughout the country. While many centers have not advocated actively for all people with disabilities, NCIL has. Indeed, for the past couple of years it has adopted a fairly extreme position with regard to the need to serve a broad range of people in their centers and in general. Thus it has begun to refer to deaf services bureaus and agencies serving the blind as providing "segregated services." NCIL members have offered to help their blind brothers and sisters get out from under the tyranny of a balkanized service delivery system that isolates and limits those being served there.
The American Council of the Blind and other organizations in the blindness community met with NCIL to try to get it to moderate its position. NCIL declared, and we would concur, that the meetings were useful and led to a considerable alteration of its position.
That does not mean that all is peaches and cream! The ACB passed a resolution at its convention in Tulsa that was extremely critical of many positions and practices taken by NCIL and the centers affiliated with it. When NCIL's final version of its paper on the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act was published, its position stopped short of calling for the ending of separate agencies serving blind people. Nevertheless it stressed the need for services to be delivered in a cross-disability environment and, unfortunately, NCIL still persists in claiming that separate agencies create a duplication of administrative costs which constitute an inappropriate use of rehab dollars.
We cannot accept that there is good statistical evidence that has been rigorously prepared to support such an assertion. We are afraid that NCIL's arguments are based on a philosophical assumption rather than on hard evidence.
On the 3rd and 5th of December, NCIL and a related organization, ILRU (Independent Living Research Unit??) held a teleconference that was sent to some 800 people at some 100 or so sites all over the country. It is a sign of the efforts being made by NCIL to reach out to our community that I was asked to participate in these conference calls. I wrote a paper that summarized our position and submitted a range of documentation for the manual that each site received. Because it is important that our members and our readers have a clear idea of where we stand, my remarks to those teleconferences follow this message. I hope it will leave no one in doubt about where the ACB stands on separate services.
At its recent meeting in New Orleans, the National Council of State Agencies Serving the Blind (NCSAB) had some harsh words to say to both representatives of the American Council of the Blind and to representatives of the American Foundation for the Blind. It seemed to NCSAB members that neither organization should have anything to do with NCIL. Obviously I can't speak for the AFB. The American Council of the Blind feels very strongly that our dialogue with NCIL has had positive results. The final position that NCIL took is far preferable to the one that was being espoused by NCIL leadership prior to dialogue. Even if we had not affected its position one whit, I believe that blind people cannot isolate themselves either from the rest of the disability community or the rest of the civil rights movement.
No disability is an island and we have much in common with other people with disabilities. As my speech suggests, we have worked closely with others with disabilities to create the beginnings of civil rights that we now enjoy. We will continue to work with people with disabilities when and as we can. We will not give up our right to disagree when we must. As long as I am president of the American Council of the Blind, however, we will not bury our heads in the sand and hope that people who espouse a position that is antithetical to ours will just go away! First, they won't go away! Second, without talking, we cannot hope to change the positions others choose to take!
These are dangerous times for all people with disabilities. We can ill afford the disagreements that are beginning to create room for those who would tear down the infrastructure of services on which blind people depend! As we begin a new and uncertain year, I pledge to all of you to stand up for who we are to any who would threaten our rights or our prerogatives. That's my job! Your job is to seek to build coalitions when it can benefit ACB and express differences when you must! That is what democracy is and what the disability rights movement ought to be! We cannot afford to slavishly adopt philosophical principles for their own sake without asking for empirical evidence of impact! That way lies mainstreaming and totalitarianism and full inclusion. Equally, we can't be so fixed in our position that we are not able to look ahead at possibilities and try to prepare for these.
As we look ahead to the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act over the next year or two, we must be prepared to take a close look at the reforms that others are proposing. In the disability community as in the blind community, unity creates strength! Diversity creates an openness to change while dialogue among groups has the potential of spreading new philosophical principles and novel pragmatic approaches for us to consider. In these perilous times, we would do well to recognize the need for unity but must insist that diverse opinions be heard and valued!
This has been a long message. Nevertheless, I can't end this message without wishing all who read this a happy and joyful 1997. It will be a busy year for all of us but, with luck, it will also be a very successful one.
December 3 and 5, 1996
(Editor's Note: The following is text from a speech delivered by ACB President Paul Edwards on two occasions in early December.)
Blind people have worked side by side with other people with disabilities to build consensus about disability issues. We have been a part of many independent living centers and have worked proudly with others to create the semblance of civil rights for people with disabilities that we are beginning to have. All disabled people have a long way to go and, as we look ahead to the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, the view is not a pleasant one.
Disabled people saved vocational rehabilitation last year. All of us who were involved in that effort shared a set of core beliefs. We believed that vocational rehabilitation represented a more appropriate vehicle for delivering services than the consolidated approach being proposed. We all shared a conviction as well that we were advocating to save a system in need of radical reform. Many of us have been disappointed that professionals in rehabilitation have not been more creative in looking at their own system and suggesting ways to make it better. Many disabled people believe, and I happen to be one of them, that vocational rehabilitation needs to change and needs to change substantially. It must begin to demonstrate that it is effective by producing a better set of outcomes than it has so far managed; and, it must go a lot further towards recognizing disabled consumers as its valued customers, not as cattle to be herded to whatever quick fix seems best.
I suspect that there are a lot of you listening to me who would share my views and I am convinced that people who are blind are as dissatisfied with the rehabilitation structure as it now operates as are members of other disability groups.
Essentially, there are only a few issues that divide people who are blind from other disability groups in the upcoming reauthorization debate. Unquestionably, the most important area of disagreement is whether there should be separate agencies serving people who are blind, as there now are. I believe absolutely that there must be separate agencies and a separate service delivery system in those states where there is not a separate agency. In the next few minutes, I want to try to help you understand why this is so important to people who are blind.
As many of you know, there are two major consumer organizations of blind people: the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind. Both organizations and all the professional organizations that have been formed by those who serve people who are blind are in agreement on this issue. It is not an exaggeration to say that the whole blindness community is united in our belief that the only way that effective services can be delivered to people who are blind is through a discrete program.
It is disheartening to us that an organization as committed to self-determination for people who are disabled and to consumer choice as NCIL unquestionably is should choose to categorically ignore the opinions of a whole disability group. We did not come to this opinion arbitrarily. Separate agencies for people who are blind did not emerge because a few folks thought they were a good idea. They emerged because, in the 1920s and 1930s people who are blind were simply not being adequately served by rehabilitation agencies. Time and time again, there were insufficient dollars left to serve people with severe disabilities and there simply were not the funds available to set up the specialized training services without which people who are blind cannot be rehabilitated appropriately.
In those states where separate agencies have been replaced by agencies where services to blind people are combined with service delivery to others, people who are blind have suffered. Illinois is a case in point. Over the past few years, services delivered through the rehabilitation center for the blind in Chicago have become less and less effective. The number of discrete skills that are being taught have shrunk from at least 16 to just nine. The center itself has moved and adults who are blind are now housed with adolescents with physical disabilities. Neither group is well-served by this arrangement.
I truly believe that there are parallels that many other disability groups ought to recognize. Attendant care was not included in the Americans with Disabilities Act and is not perceived, for the most part, as part of the rehabilitation process. This is a money issue. Many deaf people are finding the provision of ongoing interpreter services for post-secondary education hard to arrange. Money is the issue here, too. The reality is that services that are expensive and complex tend to be avoided by agencies when they can be.
It isn't just a question of money though. Blind people require a range of services that other people with disabilities do not. They must learn to find their way around in unfamiliar environments and must master braille; learning to use access technology is more difficult for blind people than it is for other groups; a complex set of techniques of daily living must be mastered if people who are blind are to live independently. The list is much longer than this but you get the idea. Without these services a blind person cannot be successful. The services must, moreover, be delivered by people who are specialists. Agencies without discrete services will be more interested in hiring people who know a little about a lot of disabilities rather than hiring people who know a lot about JUST one.
I hope that I have persuaded some of you to look at this issue through new eyes! We who are blind need separate service delivery if we are to succeed. I hope that many of you will take the time to look at the documents I have placed in your manuals. There are two position statements adopted by virtually all organizations involved with blindness issues. In addition, I have included the testimony of the American Council of the Blind sent to the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Reading this testimony, I am sure you will see echoes of other testimony included in this manual.
The NCIL paper also calls for the broadening of Chapter Two of Title Seven so that services currently provided to older people who are blind would be extended to older Americans with disabilities. There are simply not enough dollars to make this a practical proposal. Even if there were sufficient funds, it would not be a good plan. The program was set up because older people who are blind are not and cannot easily be served by senior centers. Other people with disabilities can be appropriately helped there. It is once more a question of the range of specialized skills that older people who are blind must learn if they are to avoid being placed in nursing homes because they cannot function independently.
Beyond these issues, rehab reauthorization is an area where we and other people with disabilities are in substantial agreement. I personally believe that the advice contained in the NAPAS testimony is appropriate. I think we would do well to concentrate on IDEA next year and work to postpone rehab reauthorization for a year or two.
I also believe that disabled people should seek to develop together some principles of reform that we believe must occur in rehabilitation. Choice, the voucher system, effective outcome measures, consumer-controlled state councils and the strengthening of the CAP programs are all steps in the right direction. The disability community cannot afford to be or appear to be divided as we approach reauthorization. Let us work together to build a rehabilitation system that works and that we can be proud of. That is what the next rehab reauthorization ought to be about. There are too many who would gut the rehabilitation system with nothing better to put in its place. None of us can afford that! Let's work together to build a responsive, consumer-centered rehabilitation system that we can all support that preserves and expands the autonomy of people with disabilities!
As we wish each reader of "The Braille Forum" a happy and healthy new year, we are looking forward to summarizing in this column throughout the year many of the very important things which the American Council of the Blind does and many of the victories it scores in improving the independence and well-being of blind and visually impaired people. However, since it has traditionally been the philosophy of the American Council of the Blind to concentrate first on results rather than promotional publicity, the significance of some of our seemingly routine activities has sometimes been understated and, to the extent that has happened, we regret not making that significance clearer. The sound editorial policy of all official publications of the American Council of the Blind is determined by a five-person board of publications, the majority of whose members are elected by the ACB membership during national conventions. The policies which have consistently been determined by the board of publications and the editor of "The Braille Forum" over the years have precluded the publishing of sensational, inflammatory, inadequately researched, politically motivated, biased articles which, in the opinion of many observers, fit the classic definition of "muck raking" disguised as investigative reporting. Because the true importance of many seemingly routine functions is not always discussed in detail, I plan to devote much of this article, the first one of the new year, to underscoring the importance of the events mentioned in the hope that activities reported in the future will be understood likewise. One observer recently commented humorously after learning of ACB's advocacy, public education and other activities that "because you people are more interested in results than in publicity, you do not sprain your elbows patting yourselves on the back."
It may come as a surprise to many that advocacy of issues of importance to blind and visually impaired people does not terminate when Congress goes home! To the contrary, within just the past few weeks, for example, the ACB Director of Governmental Affairs prepared and filed extensive comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging that agency to adopt strong regulations to implement Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act; that section contains the requirements concerning disability access. Initially the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry in which it asked for input from industry and disability organizations as to whether it should conduct rule- making, adopt just a complaint process, adopt guidelines or simply publish policies. ACB's comments urged the FCC to take the most active role possible to ensure accessibility for blind people. Federal agencies are generally required by law to seek and consider such comments before regulations are issued or similar actions are taken. We know from experience that too often federal agencies, if not pushed and given good reasons, tend to "take the easy way out" by simply issuing vague, unenforceable policies rather than regulations that have the force and effect of federal law. Readers will recall also that within recent weeks "The Braille Forum" editor and the director of governmental affairs provided valuable input as members of the Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee of the Access Board concerning the adoption of standards for use with telecommunications equipment. At that meeting, ACB representatives fought successfully for stronger representation of blind and other disabled consumers on industry panels and advisory committees focusing on industry compliance with the accessibility provisions of the Telecommunications Act.
One of the most important issues facing blind and visually impaired people today is Social Security, Social Security Disability and employment. Recently both the ACB Director of Governmental Affairs and Director of Advocacy Services took an active part in the two-day-long Social Security Return to Work Conference sponsored by the Social Security Administration and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. In view of recent court challenges to the substantial gainful activity provision relating to blind SSDI recipients, termination of the linkage of substantial gainful activity levels, growing interest in changing disability definitions to functional performance requirements and increased interest in tightening disability requirements generally, it was necessary for ACB representatives to point out repeatedly and strongly the unique implications of blindness and the employment situation of blind and visually impaired people. The American Council of the Blind was the only organization of blind and visually impaired people taking part in that important conference.
Recently the Director of Governmental Affairs represented ACB at the annual conference of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB). While there she strongly espoused ACB's unequivocal position in support of categorical services for blind and visually impaired people and made it clear to a few misinformed administrators that ACB, although in communication with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), had not accepted NCIL's position opposing separate rehabilitation and vocational training services for blind and visually impaired people. In view of the very strong and unequivocal language of ACB resolutions 96-13 and 96-15, it is difficult to understand how anyone could have misunderstood or misinterpreted ACB's position. Copies of all the resolutions adopted during the 1996 ACB national convention were sent to all ACB affiliate presidents several months ago.
During recent weeks an ACB staff member continued active participation in the deliberations of the National Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Institution. One of the functions of that committee is the formulation of recommendations concerning more effective ways to make museum displays more accessible to disabled visitors. "The Braille Forum" editor fought hard on that committee for a more accessible Internet web site and in the process he made several specific proposals which undoubtedly would not have been thought about otherwise. Likewise, while consulting with a national rehabilitation center which announced that it had developed an accessible Internet web site he ascertained that the web site was not accessible and in order to improve it he made seven specific suggestions. As a result of those recommendations that web site is now much more speech-friendly than it was in the past.
In recent weeks staff members have enjoyed meeting with and assisting ACB affiliates in various ways. For example, the Director of Governmental Affairs addressed the outstanding state convention of the Washington Council of the Blind and while there conducted a legislative workshop focusing on timely issues and grassroots tactics. It was my pleasure to address the state convention of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind and to commend it for, among other things, its forthright action in joining as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the Federal Transit Administration to compel those agencies to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In recent weeks it was also my pleasure to speak to the members of the Northern Virginia chapter of the Old Dominion Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired as well as to the members of the District of Columbia Association of Workers for the Blind at their annual conventions.
During recent weeks the American Council of the Blind and other parties in the lawsuit against WMATA have filed supplemental pleadings which have not yet been ruled upon by the court. In the near future many readers will be surprised and disappointed by the announcement as to who is joining WMATA in defending the expensive, unworkable, untested, dangerous "Rube Goldberg, electronic fence, Mickey Mouse" vibrator system instead of an effective, economical, tested underfoot detectable warning.
It is with sincere regret that I report the resignation of ACB's Coordinator of Affiliate and Membership Services, Jessica Beach, to accept a newly created position with the Foundation Fighting Blindness in Baltimore, Md. ACB has benefitted enormously from Jessica's dedication, ingenuity, industry and versatility during her tenure of four and a half years with this organization. It is an understatement to say that we will miss her tremendously and that we wish her the very best of good fortune as she takes this long step forward in advancing her professional career. An announcement concerning the acceptance of applications for her position with ACB is found elsewhere in this issue of "The Braille Forum."
It's Houston, the real Texas, for 1997, with Houston being the fourth largest city in the United States, there is nothing you can't find there -- except perhaps snow. Since you are reading this in January, you probably have had enough of that anyway. Houston represents everything that is typically Texas, from the world's largest rodeo to cowboys and oil wells. It is called the Bayou City because it was founded near the crook of Buffalo and White Oak bayous. A bayou, by the way, is simply a southern name for creek.
The sights to see in Houston are many. The Astrodome, the country's first covered stadium, which opened in 1965 for professional sports competition and other festivities, is still visited by thousands of people each year. Space Center Houston is the visitor center and exhibition hall that tells the story of our country's experience with manned space flights and gives the visitor access to the famous Johnson Space Center at NASA. There are amusement and water parks including the city's largest, Six Flags Astroworld, and Splashtown that offer hours of fun in the sun. There are historic sites, museums and ranches to visit. There is also Galveston Island with the famous Moody Gardens and railroad museum one hour away, and San Antonio and Austin, which are being considered for an overnight tour Friday and Saturday before the convention.
In addition to its center city area, Houston has rapidly growing business districts in various parts of the metropolis. The Westchase commercial area where the Adam's Mark and Marriott hotels are located is one of these and includes a collection of 45 specialty shops and restaurants. The Galleria shopping complex is just minutes away from the hotels. Complimentary shuttle service can be arranged. The hotels are equal distance timewise from both the Intercontinental and Hobby airports. The Airport Express provides van transportation from the airport to the hotels and return at a cost of $36 per person per round trip. Because of the distance, taxi costs are prohibitive unless several people are using the same cab. The hotels do not provide free airport transportation.
The 1997 convention of the American Council of the Blind will take place Saturday, July 5 to Saturday, July 12 at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Houston, Texas. The telephone number for the Adam's Mark is (800) 436-2326 or (713) 978-7400. All convention activities will take place at this hotel. The overflow hotel is the Marriott West Side, (713) 558-8338. Shuttles provided by the Adam's Mark will operate between both hotels. Rates are $49 per night single and double, $59 per night triple and quad, plus tax. Mid-winter Meetings
The ACB board of directors, boards of some special-interest groups and some committees will meet on Saturday and Sunday, February 15 and 16, 1997. The affiliate presidents' meeting will take place Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, February 16 and 17. The cut-off date for reservations at the Adam's Mark is January 27, 1997. Convention rates will apply.
The convention coordinating committee would like to hear from state affiliates who are interested in hosting the ACB convention in 1999 and beyond. Since the at-hotel meeting business is currently booming, sites that have adequate convention facilities are becoming more and more difficult to secure. ACB has a history of paying extremely low rates. It is the larger cities that have the convention facilities that ACB requires but costs in these cities are high. Also, arrangements such as all rooms in one hotel and airport transportation, local telephoning or shuttles at no cost are no longer available unless a higher rate is paid. If state affiliates can provide a lead on a possible future site in their area, the convention committee will be pleased to work with them.
The 1997 convention will offer challenging meetings, great social events and fabulous tours. Don't miss out on Houston this year.
With deep sadness, we report the passing of Maureen Scanlon on November 27, 1996, after a brief bout with recently diagnosed cancer. Maureen was an active member of the Greater New York chapter of the ACB, serving in the past on various committees and in elected offices. She devoted herself to humanitarian service, formerly as a nun, and most recently as an advocate for unionized workers at the Jewish Guild for the Blind.
Maureen was always a bright spot at the ACB conventions. We will miss her warmth, her caustic wit, and her extraordinary artistic talent as a singer. Regrettably, there are no readily available recordings of her 1992 FIA showcase performance of the Bonnie Raitt hit "I can't make you love me if you don't;" we will always be able to treasure the still available tapes of the 1994 showcase, which she co-hosted with Mike Mandel.
It is not for us to know why Maureen did not win her battle with cancer. The rapid progression of her illness and the final reality of its results have been difficult for many to accept, much less justify. It is natural to grieve for a loss so sudden and unexpected. Those of us who remained for any time within the bright circle of light that always seemed to surround her will know that she would prefer that we remember her fondly as the life of every party, a passionate and outspoken advocate for causes in which she believed, and a true and loyal friend. We will keep these memories with us as we go beyond our present grief, and continue along our different paths.
Maureen Scanlon listens to Sharon Lovering perform at the 1995 Showcase in Greensboro. (This photo copyright 1995 by Ken Nichols.)
There was an anniversary last year I wish I'd observed. I learned of the anniversary from a newspaper clipping that came in the mail from my mother. As my wife read the story about the Utah School for the Blind's 100th birthday, I was awash with a mix of emotions. I mentally congratulated the current staff and leadership for its ability to dodge the budget bullet, deal with changing student populations, and survive the ever-louder voices calling for the school's demise.
I marveled at how little those inclusionist zealots know about the value of categorical services and a full continuum of educational options. Those who proclaim that the day of the residential school is over are as inaccurate and dangerous as those who insisted that the earth was the center of the universe. The inclusionists proclaim that whatever can be taught in a residential school can be more appropriately and more efficiently taught in mainstream settings. The lessons of life, they say, can be more effectively taught to a blind child in his neighborhood public school than in any outmoded residential school. But is that indeed so? I think not.
Of course, public schools can teach blind children. But there's too much evidence of requirements waived, scores manipulated, and gaps left unfilled in the academic lives of students whose choices for education are limited to public schools to believe that every public school does an excellent job of this.
Mine was the best of all worlds, I'm convinced. I attended the residential school full-time until seventh grade. At that point, I began attending a public junior high school near the school for the blind for part of the day. By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had made the complete transition to a full-time public school schedule at the high school in my neighborhood. The skills gained at the residential school became the springboard for academic and even social success at the public school.
Contrary to the claims of some of the inclusionists, I did not have to run to catch up to my peers academically. And even more importantly, I left the residential school having learned lessons no public school teacher was capable of teaching no matter how qualified he or she might have been.
The dedicated group of men and women who were teachers at the Utah School for the Blind when I was there knew that they taught just as powerfully off campus as they did on campus. Those wonderful parties at the home of Merlin Peterson, our band instructor, were backdrops for some of the most powerful lessons I ever learned. We ate voraciously, made far too much noise in his house, learned to love Harry James and Spike Jones, and we learned that a totally blind man could be a successful father, homeowner, and neighbor. Perhaps that doesn't sound like much of a lesson, but to a 12-year-old totally blind kid who privately questioned whether he could ever help raise a family, those life lessons taught quietly and well were never forgotten. Because he did it, we knew we could too. I had an outstanding band instructor in public school, but Merlin Peterson taught us about life as well as music. The full inclusionists just don't or can't understand the importance of that.
From Jill Clark, my English teacher at the school for the blind in seventh and eighth grades, I came to know the immense power of words and the unspeakable joy of crafting creations from words with the same indescribable pleasure felt by any other craftsman building homes from trees and monuments from rough stone. She, too, was visually impaired; and she didn't hesitate to remind us often that blindness alone did not entitle us to free rides at the amusement park or in life generally. So powerful and positive was her influence in my life that one of my children was named in her honor. Could a public school teacher have taught that concept as well? I don't think so; but the full inclusionists just don't get it.
Dwight Moore taught science when I was in the sixth grade. But on one memorable day, he taught me a life lesson I can never forget. I had been particularly irreverent and unruly that day. He called me aside and asked, "What is it you really want to do with your life?"
"Man, I wanna write stuff. This is boring," I announced belligerently. My obnoxious behavior was affecting the whole class and his ability to teach it, and we both knew it.
"If you'll sit quietly through the end of class, and if you'll turn in a writing assignment tomorrow about what we're talking about here, I'll give you some kind of prize," he said desperately.
We were studying water and how even large and heavy things can float. I went home that night and wrote a highly fanciful bit of fiction about an invincible U.S. destroyer in World War II that took on the entire Japanese fleet and won.
I turned it in, and 10 minutes later, Mr. Moore handed me a tiny boat that looked like it came from a Cracker Jack box. I was astounded! For the first time in my life, I had been paid for my writing. That day, for the first time, it occurred to me that I could actually be paid to write. My life was never the same again. But the full inclusion zealots just don't get it.
My kindergarten teacher, Ina Kurzhals, introduced me to books by helping me write a Christmas book that included braille words and three-dimensional highly tactile images. Florence Neil taught me to love Utah history as no one else could. Virginia Salvesen taught me to appreciate poetry and to love braille. Blanche Wilson gave me an appreciation for the political process. So positive were her efforts in that arena that I've never missed an election since I've been old enough to vote. I'm told she's getting an award from the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. I can think of no one who deserves it more, particularly in light of the torture some of us put her through 25 years ago.
There was a great story-telling librarian, piano teachers, typing teachers, a mobility instructor who taught about life as well as mobility, and even a principal, Robert Bischoff, who though not a member of my faith encouraged me to give it a second chance, a second look when I was a slightly rebellious 13-year- old. That encouragement doubtless saved me from a host of problems and difficulties that might otherwise have beset me.
The list could go on for pages, but for your sake, it won't. Suffice it to say that these were men and women who weren't afraid to teach values and character as well as academics. They were a seamlessly integrated team who worked to reinforce what we were taught at home. But the inclusionists don't get it.
There is much written of abuse at residential schools in various parts of the nation. While neither verbal nor physical abuse should ever be tolerated, it must never be forgotten that residential schools are filled with countless other success stories. Zeal without knowledge is a dangerous thing regardless of the direction and form it takes. If abuse cannot be overlooked, it cannot be focused on until it becomes the final coffin nail used by the inclusionists to kill residential schools nationwide. No one would seek to stand in the way of true reform; but we must never lose sight of the reality that residential schools have their place, and it's still an important one in the educational continuum.
I'm indeed sorry I missed the anniversary. But I'll always be grateful to have been part of that long cavalcade of young people who left the Utah School for the Blind on a solid academic track and clothed in the cap and gown of lessons about life as a blind person -- lessons that continue to serve me well.
The American Council of the Blind is now accepting applications for the position of Coordinator of Affiliate and Membership Services. Approximately 50 percent of the work will deal with affiliate and membership relations in cooperation with the membership development, scholarship, and other committees; approximately 35 percent will deal with assisting the national convention committee, and the remaining 15 percent will deal with other duties as assigned. Samples of work to be performed will include, but will not be limited to, the preparation and appropriate updating of instructional materials regarding the duties of affiliate offices in relation to ACB; the preparation, updating or obtaining of appropriate resource materials; the provision of assistance to the National Alliance of Blind Students and other specialized affiliates; the provision of assistance to the ACB national convention coordinator and the preparation of a convention planning manual; preparation of press releases and other materials relating to the scholarship program; and the preparation of appropriate membership development materials.
Required qualifications include knowledge of blindness services and issues of importance to blind and visually impaired people; PC computer literacy; excellent organizational and communications skills; an associate's degree or higher level in education, and two years work experience. Additional desirable qualifications include two years work experience in an association or similar office, experience in abstracting and organizing information, and knowledge of braille. Salary range mid to upper twenties based on qualifications.
Applications consisting of a letter, a resume (including references) and a writing sample should be submitted to: Mr. Oral O. Miller, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St., NW, Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005. Applications will be accepted until position is filled.
(Reprinted with permission from "Horizons," January 1997.)
Dear Mr. President:
At the suggestion of a friend, this soccer dad is writing to raise some potential criteria for you to consider in weighing your selection of Deval Patrick's successor as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Your selection, when confirmed by the Senate, will be at the forefront in shaping your legacy on justice in America.
Mr. President, appoint a person with great legal acumen as well as a commitment to equal justice AND a manager, hard-core political infighter. It is time to rectify some management practices which have festered at the department but which must no longer be unaddressed. Resources can be made available if principles of reinventing government, one of your first-term successes, are followed.
By calling your attention to Mr. Patrick's and the Department of Justice's strengths as well as to the management foibles of the Department in the context of the Americans with Disabilities Act, my hope is that by the end of your second term the path to civil rights will be paved with reinforced commitment and will be accessible to people with disabilities.
The Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights is one of the most important positions in your administration. The Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights is a lightning rod for governmental policies which are increasingly controversial, such as affirmative action.
People with disabilities look to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights as the focal point of the Justice Department's efforts as the lead federal agency for enforcing the non-discrimination by federal grantees mandate in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and as the lead federal agency under titles II (state and local government, Amtrak) and III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
My thoughts are offered as a Yellow/Blue Dog Democrat (who never listens to Rush Limbaugh) who does not seek any appointment from your administration but who has had the benefit of years of public service including as General Counsel of the federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board), and private law practice, interacting with people with disabilities, their advocacy organizations, and state and local governmental entities.
The first prerequisite for being Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights is an accessible mind. Don't worry about any aspect of diversity on this one. Get the very best advocate/manager you can get. Both Mr. Patrick and Drew Days, your former Solicitor General and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Carter administration, learned "disability rights" on the job. Each was successful.
Hire someone who is not afraid to manage from day one. This means taking an immediate, complete but quick inventory of what the Department of Justice has accomplished -- good, bad, indifferent -- under the Americans with Disabilities Act before proceeding with business as usual. This inventorying could even be done in the interregnum period between nomination and confirmation.
Recently the department was unable to tell an inquirer in what percentage of all complaints involving the Americans with Disabilities Act some relief had been obtained or the total financial recovery of the department under the ADA. Sadly this resonated with me, echoing a similar conversation I had had a few years earlier.
Is the Department of Justice effective on the ADA? The answer would seem to be that the Civil Rights Division really doesn't know.
Has the ADA caused businesses to spend great sums and make major (costly) changes in response to federal complaints? Is Justice winning lots of money for disabled consumers? Justice doesn't appear to know the answers to these inquiries, either.
How can the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division know what to do next if it really does not know what its successes and failures have been in the past?
The beginning of a new administration is the perfect time for strategic planning. And Justice's efforts are ripe (actually past ripe) in that regard.
Hire a manager with prosecutorial experience who realizes that the days of emphasizing technical assistance to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act should be over. Six and a half years after the federal law was enacted, five years after titles II and III became effective, it's time for a different approach. ADA is no longer the new civil rights kid on the block. It is a full and equal member of the panoply of equal opportunity protections.
A prosecutor type will be a person who understands that cases have to be timely and impartially investigated, and that federal enforcement of the ADA means initiation of more than a very few, highly select cases (as has been Justice's practice heretofore).
Justice has also filed several friend of the court (amicus curiae) briefs (which are of high quality and most effective when it joins forces with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) on the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, only rarely has Justice filed suit itself, despite having received literally thousands of complaints (though far fewer than EEOC which has much more information about the charges it receives).
Timely resolution of complaints is important. Now the Department of Justice is so non-responsive, so slow, as a practical matter, to get a result it is faster to file a charge with a state/local civil rights agency.
Case in point: a visually impaired client of mine was denied a service by a local government provider agency. A complaint was filed the same day with the Civil Rights Division and the local human rights agency. After several months a letter was received from the Department of Justice forwarding the case to the other federal executive agency which oversaw the particular type of service denied my client. (Justice refers education/school issues to the Department of Education, parks to Interior, etc., to give you an understanding. This situation did not involve those services or agencies.) By the time the first letter from the federal government was received, several letters had been received from the local agency. By the time a second, duplicative letter had been received from the Department of Justice again stating the complaint was being forwarded to the other federal agency, the matter had been resolved through the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution at the local level.
Is that what ADA intended? Is that federal leadership on civil rights? Is this what you want to be your legacy?
The situation described above is but one instance in which an individual complainant got lost in the paper shuffle. Other complainants may not necessarily be interviewed before the Department of Justice -- acting through the Civil Rights Division -- determines that no discrimination occurred or before a charge the individual filed is settled.
A person with prosecutorial experience would realize that to do a truly impartial investigation to determine whether particular actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act occurred or to arrive at a fair settlement, you have to interview people on BOTH sides of the case. This is particularly critical under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act where the Department of Justice (not a private litigant) can recover money, a civil penalty. Regrettably, that does not always happen. If the Department of Justice is to undertake a case, do it right -- or just don't do it, which is much more understandable in these days of budget cuts and limited resources.
To address the resources problem there are complementary, not contradictory, options. If you do not want to enhance the resources at the Department of Justice (with more management and more accountability), then you should support an amendment to the law to give an immediate right to go to court, private rights of action, for unlimited damages to all ADA litigants who are successful. Such a measure would be a counterweight to the more draconian, restrictive amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act that you can anticipate being proposed in the next congress.
The second option involves being a little more politically daring by showing that there are no exceptions to your legacy of a new, more efficient government. Bring in a new Assistant Attorney General willing to do political battle with the civil rights bureaucrats and their special-interest groups in the short run so that the long-term result and benefit is a stronger enforcement entity.
Reinventing government can be applied to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Consolidate resources and program authorities from the Access Board, President's Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities, National Council on Disability, and President's Committee on Mental Retardation into the Department of Justice. Make handfuls of straw into a brick of civil rights integrity as part of your accessible bridge to the future.
But if you opt for this consolidation and reinvent government and the ADA, bear in mind that the importance of managing is magnified. If you do not manage the bigger entity better than the present situation, all you have done is create a larger black hole, a worse mess, into which raised expectations can seep.
The opportunity is at hand, Mr. President. Make the most of it. Your power will never be greater. Remember the essence of what the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey said about a society being measured by how it treats the most downtrodden, the most disadvantaged. Sen. Humphrey did not value himself or others on the size of their bureaucracies. He was a visionary who never forgot his roots or that there were real people with very real problems outside of Washington, D.C.
It's time for the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice to be responsible to and lead the nation into the 21st century in a society which includes men, women, people with physical and mental impairments, people of all colors, national origins and religions, Democrats and Republicans. Pick an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights who can apply your management ideas to the visions of the law. Appoint an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights who can manage the implementation of the law so that the ADA becomes in reality (not unfulfilled rhetoric) the Americans with ABILITIES Act.
The American Council of the Blind announces its 1997 internship program intended to provide meaningful work experience for a blind post-secondary student. The paid internship will be for a maximum period of 10 weeks and will also include, if necessary, a reasonable housing and transportation allowance. Duties will include activities in the areas of public information and education, membership assistance, communications, legislative monitoring and publications.
Students wishing to be considered should submit a letter of application by April 1, 1997 to Oral O. Miller, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th Street, NW, Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005. The letter of application should include documentation concerning the school being attended or to be attended, as well as information regarding the major field of study, vocational or professional objective, prior educational and employment history, skills (e.g., braille reading and writing, typing, computer, low vision aids, etc.), extracurricular and civic activities. The letter should also include a paragraph stating why the applicant would like to spend a summer in Washington and the benefits which she/he would expect to receive from the internship.
The American Council of the Blind will award 25 scholarships to outstanding blind students in 1997. All legally blind persons admitted to academic and vocational training programs at the post secondary level for the 1997/98 school year are encouraged to apply for one of these scholarships.
The Floyd Qualls Memorial Scholarships will be awarded to the top two applicants in the following categories: entering freshmen in academic programs, undergraduates (sophomores, juniors and seniors) in academic programs, graduate students in academic programs, and vocational school students or students pursuing an associate's degree from a community college. Applicants will be compared with other applicants in their category. Each scholarship award is $2,500.
The $3,000 Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship, provided by the Tarver Memorial Fund, will be awarded to a graduate student.
The $1,000 Dr. Mae Davidow Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to an entering freshman.
The $3,000 William G. Corey Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a Pennsylvania resident. All qualified Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to apply.
The NIB Grant M. Mack Memorial Scholarships, sponsored by National Industries for the Blind, will be awarded to two undergraduate or graduate students majoring in business or management. The amount of each of these scholarships is $2,000.
The $2,500 Arnold Sadler Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a student who is studying in a field of service to the disabled (i.e., rehabilitation, education, law, etc.). This scholarship is provided by the Arnold Sadler Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The $1,200 Kellie Cannon Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a student studying in the field of computer information systems or data processing. This scholarship is provided by the Visually Impaired Data Processors International, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The $2,000 Arnold Ostwald Memorial Science Scholarship will be awarded to an entering freshman studying in the field of science. This scholarship is funded by a foundation established by the late Arnold Ostwald, a blind lawyer.
The $500 Delbert K. Aman Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to an undergraduate student who is either a resident of South Dakota or is planning to attend a South Dakota college or university. This scholarship is funded by the South Dakota Association of the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The Commonwealth Council of the Blind Scholarships will be awarded to two outstanding residents of the state of Virginia. Preference will be given to Virginia residents attending a Virginia college or university. One $2,000 scholarship will be awarded to an entering freshman and the other $2,000 scholarship will be awarded to an undergraduate. These scholarships are sponsored by the Commonwealth Council of the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The $1,000 Bay State Council of the Blind Scholarship will be awarded to a Massachusetts resident. This scholarship is funded by the Bay State Council of the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The ACB of Colorado Scholarships will be awarded to two residents of Colorado. The amount of each of these scholarships is $1,500. These scholarships are sponsored by the American Council of the Blind of Colorado, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The $1,000 ACB of Maine Scholarship will be awarded to a Maine resident. This scholarship is funded by the American Council of the Blind of Maine, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
Scholarship applications are available from the American Council of the Blind, Attn: Jessica L. Beach, Coordinator of Affiliate & Membership Services, 1155 15th Street, NW, Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 467- 5081 or (800) 424-8666. All completed applications and supporting documents must be postmarked no later than March 1, 1997.
In an effort to provide information in accessible media, the scholarship application will be available in braille, cassette and as an ASCII file on an MS-DOS 3.5 inch diskette for those students who request it. However, these versions of the scholarship application are for information use only. Scholarship applications and supporting documentation must be submitted in print only. Applications submitted in any format other than print WILL NOT be considered. To request an informational copy of the scholarship application in braille, cassette or computer disk, contact Jessica Beach at the address and telephone number listed above.
Leading scholarship candidates will be interviewed by telephone in April. The ACB scholarship winners will be notified no later than May 15, 1997. The scholarships will be presented at the 36th Annual National Convention of the American Council of the Blind to be held July 5 - 12, 1997, in Houston, Texas. Scholarship winners are required to be present at the convention; ACB will cover all reasonable costs connected with convention attendance.
Among the criteria to be considered in the selection of scholarship winners will be demonstrated academic record, involvement in extracurricular/civic activities and academic objectives. The severity of the applicant's visual impairment and his/her study methods will also be taken into account in the selection process.
Steven Hagemoser, who is working on his Ph.D., expresses appreciation for the ACB scholarship. (Photos copyright 1996 by Jon B. Petersen.)
Kimberly Waegele [way-gl] tells her listeners what she plans to do at college, and thanks ACB for awarding her a scholarship.
Michael Stahl jokingly tells his audience to say he attends MIT if they forget where he really attends college (Boston University).
Chad Newcomb gives his listeners a big grin and a huge thank you for the scholarship enabling him to attend college.
Jennifer Tatomir thanks ACB for awarding her a scholarship. She attends Mary Washington College in Virginia.
The American Council of the Blind is pleased to offer the John Hebner Memorial Scholarship to a blind or visually impaired applicant who is gainfully employed full time. This is a need-based scholarship enabling an individual to enroll in school while remaining employed full time. The amount of the scholarship will be $600. The winning student will receive the scholarship during the 1997/98 school year.
Qualified applicants should submit the documentation specified below to the Hebner Memorial Scholarship, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th Street, NW, Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005 no later than March 1, 1997. Faxed application materials WILL NOT be accepted. All materials in the application packet MUST be neatly typed. Handwritten applications WILL NOT be accepted. Applicants must submit the following in order to be considered:
1. A personal statement explaining how the scholarship will be beneficial to the applicant. Describe the class/classes to be taken and the benefits to be gained by being enrolled in the program. Applicants should describe their financial need and provide the Scholarship Committee with any relevant personal background information.
2. A resume including information about current and previous work experience, educational achievements, community service, etc.
3. A letter from the applicant's current employer confirming his/her employment status.
4. A statement from a medical doctor, rehabilitation specialist, or other qualified individual certifying that the applicant is legally blind. The definition of legal blindness is as follows: visual acuity of
20/200 or less in the better corrected eye or a visual field of 20 degrees or less in the better corrected eye. To be eligible applicants must be legally blind in BOTH eyes.
Ouida Sue Parker worked for the Scherring-Plough Corp. from 1981 until 1990 when she became permanently and totally disabled because of the effects of chronic, severe depression complicated by a severe anxiety disorder. Since she was unable to continue working, Parker requested benefits under Scherring-Plough's disability retirement plan which is administered through Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. However, as is true of many disability benefits plan products offered by employers through insurance providers, the Scherring-Plough disability retirement plan limited benefits to be paid on account of mental or nervous conditions to 24 months of benefits while providing that benefits resulting from sickness, disease or physical injuries or impairments would continue until the beneficiary reached age 65 and was eligible to claim pension benefits under Scherring-Plough's normal pension plan. In the spring of 1993, Parker's disability retirement benefits under the plan terminated, and her employer and Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. reviewed and denied her claims that her disabling condition had its roots in chemical imbalances and other physical characteristics.
Subsequently, she commenced a legal action under titles I and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 against both her former employer and the life insurance company for allegedly discriminating against her on the basis of her mental impairment in the administration of the terms of the disability retirement plan. Specifically, Parker challenged the appropriateness and validity of the 24-month benefit cap under the plan for beneficiaries with mental and nervous impairments as being unlawfully discriminatory on the basis of her disability. The trial court, which was the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee had little or no hesitancy in granting both defendants' motions for summary judgment on both the claims.
The court granted summary judgment to both defendants on the Title I count of the complaint by unfortunately holding that since the plaintiff had stated in numerous fora that her chronic, severe depression and anxiety disorder left her totally and permanently disabled, she could not qualify under Title I of the ADA as a qualified individual with a disability within the protected universe under that title. She was not eligible to maintain her legal action under Title I.
With respect to the plaintiff's claim under Title III, the public accommodations and commercial facilities title of the act, in granting summary judgment to both defendants, the court adopted a very restrictive interpretation of the title holding that it only addresses physical access issues to public accommodations and commercial facilities. Since the gravamen of the plaintiff's claim challenged the validity of a provision of the disability retirement plan, the trial court held that the plaintiff's claim was beyond the scope of Title III. The plaintiff promptly appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit at Cincinnati, Ohio.
After hearing oral arguments from all parties and duly considering written briefs, Circuit Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, announced the opinion of the court in Parker v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. et al. Unfortunately, with respect to the appellant's Title I (employment discrimination) claim, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the two defendants with surprisingly little comment. The court apparently endorsed the view of the District Court that Parker could not simultaneously claim to be permanently disabled while attempting to maintain that she is also a qualified individual with a disability who can perform the essential functions of a job with or without reasonable accommodation. The appellate court agreed with the trial court that the plaintiff was not within Title I's protected universe and that therefore she was not eligible to maintain her Title I action.
The court then turned its attention to the appellant's public accommodations or Title III claim with some surprising results. At the outset, Judge Merritt found that the language of a number of sections of the ADA was ambiguous, confusing, and in several instances at least to some degree, downright contradictory. In order to attempt to ascertain the true intent of Congress in enacting these ambiguous, confusing and somewhat contradictory provisions of the ADA, Judge Merritt turned for guidance and enlightenment to the legislative history surrounding the adoption of Title III of the act. Unlike several other federal courts, including the trial court in this case which had adopted the restrictive access only interpretation of Title III, Judge Merritt found ample indications in the legislative history that the prohibition of disability discrimination found in Title III was intended by Congress to cover the content of goods and services offered through places of public accommodation, and not just to access issues of such places. Having reached the point of holding that Parker could mount a challenge under Title III of the act to the content, such as the benefit cap for beneficiaries with nervous or mental conditions, under the disability retirement plan, Judge Merritt was then forced to confront strenuous arguments from Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. that the insurance safe harbor provisions of the act exempted it and its insurance product under the Scherring-Plough disability retirement plan from the reach or scrutiny of Title III. Judge Merritt simply deflected such arguments by holding that Metropolitan Life could on remand before the district court attempt to demonstrate that the prima facie discriminatory provision of its insurance product resulted from actuarially sound risk classification or reflected actual or reasonably anticipated actuarial experience as required under the insurance safe harbor provisions. The judge simply maintained that the defendants were wrong in contending that the insurance safe harbor provisions granted a blanket exemption for all insurance products. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment of the defendants on Parker's Title III claim and sent the claim back to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.
The court of appeals' opinion in this case is a major landmark victory expanding judicial interpretation of the disability discrimination prohibitions under Title III. The opinion, if adopted and followed by other federal appellate courts, should make it possible for disabled plaintiffs to challenge the discriminatory content or elements of a wide range of goods and services offered through places of public accommodations. For example, if software offered for sale through a computer outlet or store is not usable by blind people, a blind person could under the recent Parker v. Metropolitan Life Insurance opinion bring a claim of disability discrimination against both the store and the software manufacturer under Title III of the ADA which would at least survive a motion for summary judgment. This may not sound like much to the laymen, but to disability rights advocates and attorneys, this is a big step down the road toward successfully winning such a claim in the federal courts. One cautionary word: the Title III claim in the Parker case has been remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, so we have not yet heard the final word as to whether the insurance carrier will be able to prove that the cap for nervous and mental conditions in its insurance product is or is not the result of actuarially sound risk allocation and thus within the shield of the insurance safe harbor provision of the act. Yet the decision greatly expands the horizon for potential disability discrimination claims under Title III of the act, and as such, we as blind people should welcome and cheer the result.
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
The Lighthouse Inc. of New York has an updated version of its brochure "Diabetes, Vision Loss, and Aging" available. The brochure identifies common diabetes-related eye symptoms and provides detailed descriptions of related conditions. Illustrations show the structures of the eye and the impact diabetes can have on vision. The brochure is also available in Spanish. Single copies are free. Contact the Lighthouse at (800) 334-5497.
Radka and Ventzislav are girls who were born in Bulgaria in 1995. Both are blind. Both are in need of an adoptive family. For more information on either girl, and about the adoption process, contact Norina Giri, Waiting International Children Program Coordinator, 2230 Como Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108; phone (612) 646-4414 extension 209. Serious inquiries only.
Top Guide to the Internet is an 11-track, 31-chapter tutorial on Internet use for users of shell accounts. The interactive tutorial teaches ten skills of effective Internet use, and features many resources of particular interest to blind Internet users including reading newspapers, searching the yellow pages, and searching the RFB&D and NLS catalogs. Also included is a supplemental disk full of additional information and useful programs. The tutorial is available by check or money order for $19.50 plus $2 shipping from Top Dot Enterprises, 8930 11th Pl. SE, Everett, WA 98205; (206) 335-4894; e-mail: [email protected] Inquire about catalogs and credit card availability.
"Visions" is an armchair guided tour series produced by Herb Malsman. These travelogues walk you through the Puerto Rican rain forest, a day in the life of a Heathrow air traffic controllers, an "other side of the window" look at the FBI, a ride on the Orient Express, and many more places. Designed specifically for the blind, it is free of charge to organizations serving the blind and visually impaired. For more information, contact Visions at (212) 267-7361.
The Foundation Fighting Blindness has a new free newsletter for those with age-related macular degeneration that includes the latest information on eye research and where to find helpful resources. To receive a subscription, contact the foundation toll-free at (888) 394-3937.
"Point of Departure" is a free newsletter designed to help parents, advocates, educators and other professionals working with transition-age students with disabilities. One of the most serious barriers these students face is a lack of knowledge about how the adult service system works. Each issue provides information, issues and resources of interest to the people who work with these students. The newsletter is published semi-annually; subscriptions are free. If you would like to receive it, contact the TATRA Project, PACER Center, 4826 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55417, or phone (612) 827-2966; e-mail [email protected]
Would you like to acquire the knowledge contained in each of the world's 100 greatest books, such as "The Iliad," "The Divine Comedy," "Wuthering Heights," "The Scarlet Letter," "A Farewell to Arms," and "Cyrano de Bergerac?" "The World's 100 Greatest Books" is a collection of audiocassettes that include two 30- to 45-minute presentations per tape of two famous classics. "The World's 100 Greatest People" is a collection of stories about such people as Albert Einstein, Christopher Columbus, Socrates and Abraham Lincoln. "The World's 50 Greatest Composers, Their Lives and Their Music" tells the stories of people like George Gershwin, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This collection of cassettes tells their life stories, struggles, accomplishments, and several of each composer's most famous works. Each collection comes in two hardcover plastic volumes of 25 cassettes, as well as a work-along study guide and knowledge maps. Call (800) 275-6940 for more information.
National Industries for the Blind has appointed two staff members recently: Beth Baxter-Wiggs and Daniel Bailey. Baxter-Wiggs joined the NIB Service Development Department as a regional service contract specialist. She will work out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area to identify and develop new administrative and general office jobs for blind people. Some of these positions include secretaries, customer service representatives, receptionists, word processors, and telecommunication/console operators. Bailey works as a sales representative in the marketing department of the Alexandria office. He was formerly employed by Virginia Industries for the Blind, and will focus on expanding NIB's relationship with federal customers in the Washington, D.C. area as well as the northeastern part of the United States.
The California Cane is a cane made of carbon fiber. It is strong yet lightweight and can retain its shape under conditions where an aluminum cane would bend and break. For more information, call California Canes at (714) 489-1973.
The American Foundation for the Blind has several new items available. One is called "Words from Washington," a report available by e-mail or fax on legislative activities and other topics of interest. To receive it, request a subscription form from Barbara LeMoine at AFB's Washington office, fax (202) 457-1492 or e-mail [email protected] AFB also has its 1996 annual report available in print or on tape; single copies are available free from AFB, Communications Group, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, N.Y. 10001, or e- mail [email protected] Also, the new AFB Press 1996-1997 catalog is available in print, on disk, on tape, and online. The printed version, the disk and the tape are available from AFB Press at (800) 232-3044; the online version is available at http://www.afb.org/afb/catalog.html.
AFB also has three new trustees: John T. Bourger, president, chairman and CEO of Brown Bridgman & Company, New York City; Larry B. Kimbler, executive vice president, Staubach Company, Dallas, TX; and Allan Wittman, partner, Wittman Associates of New York City. Recently the Jessie Ball duPont Fund of Jacksonville, Fla. awarded AFB $164,000 over two years to support AFB's technology access program.
Information about audio-described events in Indiana, especially live theater performances, is available in the Indiana Audio Description News. The newsletter is published 10 times a year and is available in regular print, large print, braille, on cassette, computer disk, and by e-mail. For subscriptions and information, write to Pat Smith, Editor, 4300 E. Morningside Dr., Bloomington, IN 47408-3149, or phone (812) 339-5400. Give your name, mailing address, and format preference. TUTORIALS
" HTML Made Easy" and "Navigating Netscape" are two new tutorials available from Magical Mist Creations. "HTML Made Easy" tells how to create your own Internet web page, and includes information on everything from basic tags to images to formatting text and placing the pages on your server. It also includes a speech-friendly graphics program for Windows. "HTML Made Easy" is available in ASCII format on disk, cassette, large print and braille. "Navigating Netscape" teaches you how to toss the mouse aside and use the keyboard to navigate the World Wide Web. For more information, or to place your order, call Magical Mist Creations at (714) 490-1011; credit card orders call (888) 936-0001.
Arkenstone Inc. recently released an upgraded version of its ArkenClone. The new version uses a 166 mHz Pentium processor with 16 megabytes of RAM, 1 gigabyte hard drive, quad speed CD-ROM drive, 3.5-inch floppy drive and a 33.6 KB fax/modem for $1,595. The new ArkenClone will include Arkenstone's standard 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year warranty. For more information, call the company at (800) 444-4443, or write to Arkenstone, 555 Oakmead Parkway, Sunnyvale, CA 94086-4023.
Computer courses are available on tape from OneOnOne Computer Training. One is called "How to Use MS-DOS;" comprised of four tapes, it costs $175. "How to Use OS/2" is available for Warp on four tapes for $195; OS/2 version 2.x is also four tapes for $195. "How to Use Novell NetWare" teaches new users and system supervisors alike how the system works on four tapes (for version 3.x); it costs $245. "Understanding Local Area Networks" teaches what LANs do, as well as the terminology they use. It, too, is four tapes and costs $245. There are other courses available. For more information, contact OneOnOne at (800) 424-8668.
The National Cancer Institute has five new easy-to-read large print publications, including: "Get Relief from Cancer Pain," "The Pap Test: It Can Save Your Life!," "Help Yourself During Chemotherapy," "Having a Pelvic Exam and Pap Test," and "Spread the Word About Mammograms." To order these and other materials, or for answers to your questions about cancer, call (800) 422-6237. TDD users call (800) 332-8615.
National Technology for the Blind and Visually Impaired sells speech software, scanners, and much more. For a catalog (available on 3.5-inch high-density disk, cassette, or large print), contact Clayton Wall at (207) 799-5091, or write the company at 105 Sawyer St., South Portland, ME 04106. If you called recently requesting a catalog and never received one, please call again.
The process of growing older brings many changes in our lifestyles. We often find that the "golden years" may become a bit tarnished and require a little polishing. Add to this loss of visual acuity and you have the foundation for the grieving process. Psychologically one must work through the phases of grieving before becoming confident again.
When we first hear that we are losing our sight we experience denial, and many of us go to several different doctors because we are not yet ready to accept this fact. Another emotion that we must work through is anger at our loved ones, ourselves, our supreme being, and the world in general. Next we may suffer from a "poor me" syndrome, followed by loss of self-worth, a feeling of helplessness and despair.
Once these emotions have been worked through, it's time to start thinking in a positive manner. Remember, you are the same person that you have always been, and even though you have lost your sight you have NOT lost your vision! Begin to think positively. Remember that you have a purpose for being, and that help is available.
Sometimes it takes a while to work through the emotional process of grieving and to come to terms with the inconvenience of loss of sight. How you cope with this depends to a great extent on the type of person you have been throughout your lifetime. If you have been a happy, upbeat person, it will be easier to deal with. Sharing with others who have a visual impairment helps us understand that we are not alone. Volunteer work, finding solutions through rehabilitation training, joining the American Council of the Blind or other consumer organizations and continuing to live your life as you have in the past as much as possible are all helpful.
The summation of the entire dilemma of dealing with the emotional trauma of vision loss in our mature years is ultimately up to each of us individually. How we perceive ourselves in the situation is exactly how it will be.
If you're interested in amateur radio, there's a special-interest affiliate for you. Known as ACB Radio Amateurs, the affiliate consists of about 70 ham radio operators. It holds its annual meeting at the ACB national convention. There are plans for a program at the 1997 convention; more information on that will be included in a future issue of "The Braille Forum." If you are currently an amateur radio operator or if you're interested in becoming one, the affiliate's activities are just what you're looking for. For additional information, contact Robert Rogers, president of ACBRA, at (513) 762-4022 or (513) 921-3186; e-mail [email protected]; call sign K8CO. Be sure to give your name, call sign, address, phone and e- mail address (if any).
The board of publications of the American Council of the Blind is pleased to announce the criteria for the 1997 Ned E. Freeman Excellence in Writing Award and the Vernon Henley Media Award.
Each year, the Freeman Award is administered and granted by the board of publications to an outstanding writer who has made a specific contribution of particular merit in the area of writing by and for blind people. The award is given in memory of Ned E. Freeman, ACB's first president, who at the time of his death was serving as editor of "The Braille Forum."
The board of publications will accept submissions for the Freeman Award from any writer on a topic that would be of interest to readers of "The Braille Forum." Submissions may be published in the magazine if space allows. Articles published in the magazine between April 1996 and March 1997 are automatically eligible. Materials which have been published by an ACB affiliate will also be considered if submitted. When submitting previously published material, send a print or braille copy of the original manuscript along with the published article.
The Vernon Henley Media Award will be presented to a person, either sighted or blind, who has made a positive difference in the press, whether it's radio, TV, magazines, or daily newspapers, which the public can see that may change their attitudes toward acceptance of blind people as they are, rather than as they seem to be. Programs and/or articles written and produced specifically for a visually impaired audience, as well as those intended for the general public, are eligible. Multiple articles or programs submitted by one author or organization will be judged as separate entries.
The Henley Award is intended to be a vehicle for publicizing ACB throughout the general media, and to encourage excellence and accuracy in electronic and print coverage of items relating to blindness.
Beginning in 1997, Freeman and Henley award recipients will not be eligible to enter a second time. Those who are members of the ACB national office staff or who are members of the board of directors or board of publications during the awarding period are not eligible. Articles from affiliate publications are eligible for the Freeman Award if accompanied by a letter of nomination.
Submissions for both awards must be postmarked no later than April 30, 1997. All submissions should be accompanied by a cover letter providing details about the submission, its origin, and any other pertinent information. Please include your return address in the cover letter. If you want your manuscript returned, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
Send submissions to ACB Board of Publications Awards, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005.
The annual presentation of awards recognizing outstanding dedication, distinguished service, and achievement by and/or for blind and visually impaired people has become a widely anticipated event at recent American Council of the Blind national conventions.
The Awards Committee seeks nominations for the 1997 awards and asks that all nominations be sent directly to the ACB National Office, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005.
For your information, criteria for the several ACB awards for which nominations are sought are:
The Robert S. Bray Award, established in 1975 in memory of the late chief of what is now the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, is presented periodically in recognition of outstanding work in extending library services or access to published materials, or improving communications devices or techniques.
The Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award recipient is selected each year from among blind candidates who, through their lives, associations, and activities, have demonstrated their integration into and their interaction with the life of the community. It is not necessary that the candidate be a member of or active in any organizations of the blind, or be engaged in work for the blind.
The George Card Award is presented periodically to an outstanding blind person who has contributed significantly to the betterment of blind people in general. This award is not limited by locality or by nature of the contribution.
Nominations should be postmarked no later than June 1, 1997.
The American Council of the Blind Constitution and Bylaws provide that any person who has reached the age of 18 and who is not a voting member of an ACB state/regional affiliate is eligible to become an ACB member-at-large with the right to an individual vote at the ACB national convention. Annual membership at large dues are $5. Application forms for new members-at-large are available from the ACB National Office. The ACB Constitution and Bylaws further provide that all dues are to be received no later than March 15. All membership at large dues must be clearly identified as such and should be sent so as to be received no later than March 15, 1997, to American Council of the Blind, Pat Beattie, Treasurer, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005.
FOR SALE: Perkins brailler. Like new. Asking $300. Contact Jake E. Miller, 434 N. Washington St., P.O. Box 5001, Millersburg, OH 44654; phone (330) 674-0015.
FOR SALE: Flipper screen-reading program. Slightly used. Asking $50- $100. Contact George Behunin at (801) 765-9950.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil personal reader model 7315. Has flat bed scanner, hand scanner, carrying case for the electronic unit, complete instruction manuals in braille, print and on tape. In excellent condition. Asking $1,500 or best offer. Contact Ed Walker at 4701 Fort Sumner Dr., Bethesda, MD 20816; phone (301) 229-7060.
FOR SALE: Vocal Eyes version 3.0. Comes with all manuals. Asking $300 or best offer. Contact Monty Cassellius, 234 Barton Hall, Normal, IL 61761; phone (309) 436-4965.
FOR SALE: Voyager CCTV low vision reading machine. In excellent condition. Asking $2,100. For more details, call (301) 340-9785.
WANTED: Baptist hymnal in braille. If you know of someone who has one or more hymnals that include braille music and lyrics, please contact the individual at the address and phone below as soon as possible. He is willing to offer either a charitable donation or small compensatory sum if necessary. Transcription accuracy and character clarity are very important. Will not accept hymnals that do not offer the actual notes in braille. In this search for the long haul, so even if this notice gets to you after some time, please don't hesitate to reply. Contact Phil Zukas, 43 Delle Ave., Boston, MA 02120.
Sue Ammeter, Seattle, WA
Ardis Bazyn, Cedar Rapids, IA
John Buckley, Knoxville, TN
Dawn Christensen, Holland, OH
Christopher Gray, San Jose, CA
John Horst, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Kristal Platt, Omaha, NE
M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, IL
Pamela Shaw, Philadelphia, PA
Richard Villa, Irving, TX
Carol McCarl, Chairperson, Salem, OR
Kim Charlson, Watertown, MA
Thomas Mitchell, North Salt Lake City, UT
Mitch Pomerantz, Los Angeles, CA
Jay Doudna, Lancaster, PA
Ex Officio: Laura Oftedahl, Watertown, MA
20330 NE 20TH CT.
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FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
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SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
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CRYSTAL TOWERS #206 NORTH
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IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
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Oklahoma City, OK 73107
ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI