THE BRAILLE FORUM is available in braille, large print, half- speed four-track cassette tape and computer disk. Subscription requests, address changes, and items intended for publication should be sent to: Nolan Crabb, THE BRAILLE FORUM, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005. Submission deadlines are the first of the month.
Those much-needed contributions, which are tax-deductible, can be sent to Patricia Beattie at the same address. If you wish to remember a relative or friend by sharing in the council's continuing work, the national office has printed cards available to acknowledge contributions made by loved ones in memory of deceased people.
Anyone wishing to remember the American Council of the Blind in his/her Last Will and Testament may do so by including a special paragraph for that purpose. If your wishes are complex, you may contact the ACB National Office.
For the latest in legislative and governmental news, call the "Washington Connection" toll-free at (800) 424-8666, 6 p.m. to midnight Eastern time Monday through Friday. Washington, D.C., residents only call 331-2876.
The advocacy services staff at the ACB national office is pleased to remind you of the availability of its electronic Job Bank. The Job Bank is posted on the internet and contains numerous job listings. This service is available now! To access the Job Bank, please contact our web site at http://www.acb.org, and then click on the ACB Job Bank link. Thank you, and good luck.
Due to an area code change, the number listed for Braille International is incorrect. The correct number is (561) 286- 8366.
At the beginning of a new year, it's perhaps appropriate to pause for a little reflection. It's customary to do what I have done before with this column and look back at the preceding year and ahead to the next one. I am not going to do that! Instead, I want to offer some of my answers to the question I get asked more often than any other as president of the American Council of the Blind. Can you guess what the question is? What does the ACB stand for? What is ACB's philosophy? What makes the ACB different from the NFB? Though this question has been posed in three different ways, it's really the same question.
I have often thought of dealing with this issue here and have avoided it because many will disagree with whatever I say. Disagreement is good! One of ACB's hallmarks is its tolerance for people with divergent notions of who they are and what ACB is! That, in fact, is one of the organization's characteristics! It is a fluid set of beliefs and assumptions that changes from state to state and from time to time. But, for me anyway, there are some core values that are at the heart of what the ACB is! Here are some of them!
It is OK to be blind! That's a big one! It carries with it a whole set of other ancillary values. First and foremost, people who have meaningful vision loss are blind. Blindness is much more than just a nuisance. Blind people can and should expect society to make changes that facilitate the inclusion of people who are blind. These last two values may be areas where members of the National Federation of the Blind would not agree with us!
Another core value of the ACB relates to expectations! We are absolutely convinced that there is not a one-size-fits-all "blind person" or that there should be! I believe that ACB values diversity and is tolerant of people who are at various levels of independence. Does that mean that we don't champion good training or expect a lot of our members? I don't think so! It does mean that we embrace people at various levels of competence and try very hard not to be judgmental about where people are! In a very real sense, I think that ACB has almost instinctively adopted the "People First" model by placing individuality far above other values in seeing each other.
And then there is democracy! ACB, as most of you well know, was formed, in part, because those who created our organization believed that states and individual members alike had to have substantial autonomy to express divergent opinions without being penalized. So, another core value of ACB is the notion that there must be room for a broad range of beliefs within our organization. If this is a core value, and I think it is, it goes a long way toward explaining why we have never been able to produce the kind of coherent, easily portable creed that all of our members must accept.
All of the divergence I have talked about so far has some real drawbacks. It truly has impeded coherent, centralized decision-taking and probably always will. That divergence has also made it difficult for us to arrive at positions sometimes. Where there is disagreement, we debate. This debate can often take many years and can cause us to take positions that may seem somewhat ambivalent to those who do not know us well. I choose to use a different word! Our positions validate divergence by creating a place where the majority of our members are comfortable.
What I have written about here does not constitute a complete list of our core values. It may well not be your core list of our fundamental beliefs. But there is one more core value I think we can agree upon! That is that the ACB is much more than just a group of blind people meeting and working together for common goals! It's much larger than the sum of its members! It's a hug when you're feeling sad! It's a belly-laugh at those in society who just don't understand! It's arms around each other when we lose someone! It's a place where you can feel safe! It's anger distilled into action as people die falling off subway platforms! It's people arguing and hugging afterwards! It's 1,500 people singing the national anthem! It's help and hope and hands and holding and happiness and hilarity. It's us, alone and together, divided and united, men and women, young and old! And it's the American Council of the Blind!
So when someone asks you what the American Council of the Blind is or any of those other questions, you can show him or her this column! Will it tell him or her who we are and what we believe? Not really. It might help, but ACB is not a philosophy. It's a dynamic never-ending experience, and the only way you can truly understand us is to plunge right in among us and become us! And then, if you fully understand who we are, tell me because I would like to know too!
By the time this article is published, you will have had time to make too many New Year's resolutions, time to reconsider the ones that were impossible of accomplishment from the beginning and time to start working seriously on the ones worthy of keeping. The new year will also feature a number of challenges to be faced by ACB both in the form of totally new tasks and existing programs or services to be continued and improved upon to the extent possible. A management consultant pointed out at a recent conference that new tasks and programs frequently receive so much publicity that they overshadow ongoing programs that should not be diminished. Some of the very important but not highly visible activities in which national office staff members have been involved recently include participation in proposal- writing training, consultation with the Department of Transportation regarding updated implementation of the Air Carriers Access Act, further consultation with the producers of the upcoming ACB informational video and public service announcement, further training of Amtrak employees, consultation with Continental Airlines concerning service to blind passengers, participation in deliberations and activities of the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities, and active participation in the deliberations and initiatives of the Technology Access Advisory Committee. Two articles that appeared in the December 1997 issue of "The Braille Forum" underscored the importance and effectiveness of ACB's advocacy activities seeking access to electronic information.
Recently I had the distinct pleasure of taking part in the state convention of the Washington Council of the Blind, held in Spokane, and a busy convention it was! On Friday afternoon it conducted concurrent sessions dealing with a variety of different topics, one of which was the techniques of advocacy. I conducted the advocacy workshop, spoke to the convention the next morning regarding ACB activities and delivered the banquet address, focusing primarily on conditions which I had observed last year while leading a People to People Citizen Ambassador delegation of rehabilitation specialists and educators of blind children to the People's Republic of China. Since a full session of the convention program had dealt with the experiences of Washington Council members during the preceding six months, the international theme and the display of a kit of small educational aids received a very warm response. The varied convention program included an excellent presentation by a famous talking book narrator who had traveled to Spokane from the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Ky. Indeed, a busy, varied and challenging program accompanied by an outstanding collection of regional and national exhibits!
I am pleased to announce that the American Council of the Blind will be taking part in the writing of a book being published by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) concerning recommended practices in the education of blind children. NASDSE prepared a similar book recently regarding the education of deaf children. The project regarding the education of blind children is made possible by a grant from the Hilton-Perkins Foundation. ACB will be represented in the project by Ms. Janiece Petersen, an experienced teacher in the Washington, D.C., school system, as the writing teams meet from time to time in the Washington area.
As the new year begins, ACB will be considering or undertaking a number of new initiatives or programs. For example, as a follow-up to recent meetings with representatives from TV station WGBH and Descriptive Video Service in Boston, we plan to work hard to see that more federal grants require audio description as a part of film or video productions made by grantees. Likewise, we are now putting the finishing touches on an informational video about ACB and the capabilities, interests and activities of blind people in the areas of employment, independent living, recreation and sports, advocacy and community activity. Be sure to call the Washington Connection at (800) 424-8666 in order to stay up to date on other activities; at the time we go to press we are working on a truly worthwhile program that will be of benefit to blind students.
ACB's need for financial assistance did not end at midnight on New Year's Eve. If you have not yet sent in at least a small donation in response to the fall fund-raising letter, I urge you to do so. As pointed out by the ACB president in that letter, it costs approximately $20 a year simply to send the braille edition of "The Braille Forum" to one person.
The 1998 convention of the American Council of the Blind will take place at the Clarion Plaza Hotel in Orlando, Fla. This first-class hotel, located at the hub of Orlando's fabulous attractions, offers luxurious accommodations, superb service and has a resort style atmosphere. Non-smoking floors and ADA- approved rooms are available. There is a fine gift shop and tropical swimming pool.
At the Clarion, all the famous attractions are close by. Sea World is just a mile away; Universal Studios only five minutes away, and the magic of the Walt Disney World Resort just 10 minutes from the hotel. Additional attractions include MGM Studios River Country, Typhoon Lagoon, Pleasure Island, Busch Gardens, Wet 'n Wild, Churchstreet Station and Kennedy Space Center.
The Clarion's three restaurants include the Cafe Matisse, a full-service coffee shop, Jack's Place, an especially fine restaurant open evenings only, and one that will be of special interest to convention attendees, the Lite Bite, that provides deli snacks, convenience foods and fresh-baked items and is open 24 hours a day. Of course, prompt room service is also available.
The dates of the 1998 convention are July 4-11. Hotel rates at the Clarion are $55 per night plus tax for up to four people per room. The number to call is (800) 366-9700. However, all rooms at the Clarion have been reserved since last October. Any reservation that will not be used should be canceled immediately so that others may benefit.
The overflow hotel about two blocks away is the Quality Inn Plaza, where rates are $51 per night plus tax. This hotel is within easy walking distance with only driveways into parking lots to cross. Call (407) 345-8585.
By this date, the presidents of special-interest affiliates and committee chairs have received forms for completion with menus to indicate their activities for the 1998 convention. Please complete these forms promptly and return them to Holly Fults in the national office by March 1, 1998. The detailed program must be sent in by April 1. We need your cooperation in complying with these dates so that arrangements can be completed with the hotel, the pre-convention registration can be prepared and mailed early and the convention program can be made ready for printing and brailling.
We are looking forward to a great convention in 1998.
In this issue of "Ask the Advocates," we discuss the basic process to use when filing complaints concerning employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Specifically, we pay particular attention to employment discrimination claims against state and local government entities, covered by Title II of the ADA. However, before looking at the process itself, I think it might be helpful for readers to have a "real world" illustration to use as a reference point. Unfortunately, the example is real and well-documented.
As a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, ACB has obtained a copy of a Department of Justice (DOJ) "letter of findings" concerning instances of alleged discrimination by the Texas Commission for the Blind (TCB) against several of its employees who are blind or visually impaired. The letter of findings is an extensive document, outlining the specific circumstances that led to the filing of the complaint, the repeated attempts by DOJ to negotiate with TCB and settle the matter prior to the issuance of a letter of findings, and the recommended terms of settlement. DOJ began to investigate the initial complaint in October 1995. As it looked into the matter, DOJ expanded the scope of its investigation to include similar claims by other TCB employees.
The letter of findings indicates that TCB failed to provide materials in accessible formats to the complainants who needed the materials to perform their jobs. Additionally, the letter discusses TCB's failure to allow the use of adaptive equipment by employees, as well as TCB's unreasonably sluggish responsiveness to meet the assistive technology needs of its blind employees. Perhaps most disturbingly, the letter of findings describes an environment, tolerated by TCB, in which at least one of its employees experienced harassment based on the employee's blindness. DOJ goes to great lengths in its letter of findings to point out that it has tried to work with TCB to resolve these complaints. Although the letter documents TCB's general cooperation with the investigation and its timely responses to requests for information, as of the writing of this column, December 15, DOJ attorneys have indicated to ACB that the matter remains "unresolved."
The following are excerpts from DOJ's letter of findings, dated May 8, 1997, to Pat D. Westbrook, TCB Commissioner. Please note that, although the letter of findings is a public document, names of complainants and others have been omitted by DOJ.
* * * "... the Department finds that the Commission has policies or practices of failing to provide certain employee manuals and information in accessible formats (e.g. braille or audio tape) appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities and failing to ensure that necessary adaptive equipment is provided in a timely manner. Specifically, we find that TCB has failed to ensure the provision of personnel and counselor manuals in an accessible format appropriate to their employees' needs and caused employees with visual impairments to suffer unreasonable delays before being provided with necessary adaptive equipment. While it may be true that the Commission provides a substantial number of documents in accessible format to its employees, clients, and others, and also does provide many of its employees with adaptive equipment, the evidence also shows that the procedural requirements and bureaucratic delays necessary to obtain these accommodations effectively denies at least some of its blind or visually impaired employees necessary accommodations.
In addition, when accommodations are provided, the Commission does not follow-up or engage in an interactive process and individualized assessment with at least some of its blind or visually impaired employees to determine if the accommodation provided actually meets those employees' needs. The evidence demonstrates that the Commission's failure to provide manuals in an accessible format extends to other blind or vision impaired employees other than those mentioned here.
The Department also finds that these problems and others are compounded by TCB's policy or practice of failing to adequately address employee grievances or even to allow adequate access to information about grievance procedures and other personnel matters. For instance, TCB's failure to properly address [Complainant's] complaints of harassment by [TCB staff] over several months allowed [TCB staff] to harass [Complainant] without fear of discipline, thereby making [Complainant's] work conditions unbearable." [NOTE: As an example of the many instances of harassment, she reported that TCB staff ridiculed her for using a brailler and talking calculator and that her use of a talking clock was characterized by TCB staff as "stupid."]
* * * "The Department finds that [Complainant], who is blind, is a qualified individual with a disability as defined by the ADA. The Department finds that TCB discriminates against [Complainant] in violation of the ADA in several ways. First, the restriction on use of certain adaptive equipment, including the braille machine, talking clock and talking calculator, amounts to an illegal denial of reasonable accommodations to [Complainant].
While TCB alleges that these restrictions were made for work- related reasons related to [Complainant's] alleged misuse of this equipment, the United States finds that this argument is pretextual. Our investigation reveals that [Complainant] would have little justification or reason for misusing this equipment. Furthermore, apart from the possible suspicions of other employees, no documents or other evidence suggests that [Complainant] was misusing her braille machine. Further, even if the allegations of misuse of the equipment were true, the restrictions placed on [Complainant] were overbroad and prevented [Complainant] from fully performing all the job functions of her position. TCB's actions, therefore, amounted to a denial of reasonable accommodations. As a public employer, the Commission is required to make reasonable accommodations to the known physical and mental limitations of otherwise qualified employees with disabilities, unless it can demonstrate that providing the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its program. 28 C.F.R. 41.53.
As discussed below, the Commission has not claimed undue hardship and has asserted that it was justified in restricting [Complainant's] use of adaptive equipment. As also discussed below, we believe that these claimed justifications are pretextual and inadequate to constitute a defense to denying [Complainant] her use of adaptive equipment.
The department also finds that the conduct to which [Complainant] was subjected constitutes a hostile work environment in violation of the ADA, and that TCB failed to remedy promptly the harassment. The harassing comments and insults concerning [Complainant's] disability, the restrictions on her ability to use adaptive equipment, the attitude of TCB employees towards her use of her cane, and the repeated failure by TCB officials to address [Complainant's] complaints all amount to harassment on the basis of disability, which created a hostile work environment.
In submissions to the Department of Justice, TCB officials do not categorically deny that the harassing comments and treatment took place. Instead, TCB officials allege that the remarks -- made by [TCB staff] -- were made in a "tongue-in-cheek" manner or were taken out of context by [Complainant]. Somewhat alarmingly, the Commission also attempts to use psychological profiles developed while [Complainant] was a TCB client to blame [Complainant] for her negative reaction to these comments, stating that such reactions were 'predicted by psychologists who had worked with [Complainant] as our consumer...' TCB also states that [Complainant] was using her adaptive equipment for tasks outside her job assignments and that the use of the adaptive equipment upset other employees. Evidence in the form of tape recordings and testimony supports [Complainant's] allegations that these comments and actions occurred. Further, the Department finds that TCB's arguments either do not present a defense to the allegations or are pretextual. First, it is not an adequate defense to argue that disability-based insults and comments of the kind experienced by [Complainant], when they create a hostile work environment, were made in a "tongue-in- cheek" or joking manner. Second, the evidence indicates that the comments, denials of reasonable accommodations and work restrictions were not made in a joking manner and were harassing. Interviews with [Complainant] and other employees indicate that the actions of TCB officials created an objectively hostile or abusive work environment and that [Complainant] subjectively perceived them as abusive. Finally, TCB's assertion that [Complainant] misused her adaptive equipment is not supported by any evidence and is pretextual. Even assuming that other employees disliked her use of her adaptive equipment, this evidence only supports [Complainant's] claim of a hostile work environment. The evidence establishes that her adaptive equipment was necessary for her to perform her essential job functions and allowed her to perform ordinary tasks that others without her disability would take for granted.
The Department finds that TCB failed to remedy promptly the harassment. While TCB alleges that it investigated the allegations and counseled employees, our investigation found that most of the complaints were not investigated, that any investigation that was done was insufficient and that any actions taken by TCB were not prompt and did not remedy the harassment.
Finally, the Department finds that, rather than remedy the harassment and offer [Complainant] a workplace free from harassment, TCB created a condition which resulted in her discharge. Evidence clearly establishes that, as a result of this treatment, [Complainant] suffered lost wages, severe emotional damages and other damages."
* * * "The Department hereby determines that the actions described above by the Commission violated Title II of the ADA. Specifically, the Department finds that TCB discriminated against [the complainants] in violation of Title II of the ADA. The Department also finds that TCB's failure or refusal to provide reasonable accommodations constitutes a policy or practice that discriminates against qualified individuals with disabilities in violation of the ADA.
The Department hereby offers the Commission an opportunity to negotiate a voluntary compliance agreement, as provided in 28 C.F.R. 35.173. Such agreement must provide appropriate remedies for the victims of discrimination and will ensure that the type of violation that occurred in the past will not be repeated.
In order to resolve this matter prior to litigation, we believe that a settlement agreement must include, at a minimum, TCB's agreement to provide adequate compensatory damages to [the complainants] and TCB's agreement to undertake steps to ensure that the needs of other employees with disabilities are met consistent with the requirements of Title II. In addition, we also believe that a settlement agreement must include an effective employee complaint grievance process that is independent of an employee's chain of supervision. We propose the following resolution:
1. TCB will agree to pay appropriate compensatory damages to [the complainants] and backpay for [Complainant].
2. TCB shall designate an ADA Compliance Officer responsible for receiving and investigating all complaints of discrimination on the basis of disability in employment at TCB. This ADA Compliance Officer must investigate all complaints, advise complainants of their right to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the [DOJ], maintain records, and provide biannual summaries of complaints to [DOJ] for a period of five years.
3. TCB shall agree that any complaint received by the ADA Compliance Officer that is not satisfactorily resolved to the complainant's satisfaction within 120 days shall be referred to mediation by an independent mediator.
4. TCB shall agree to provide reasonable accommodations to all new employees within 45 days of being hired by TCB. In addition, TCB shall agree to reassess the need for additional accommodations for any existing TCB employee within 30 days of request by any employee and will provide any necessary reasonable accommodations within 60 days of such request.
5. TCB shall agree to provide training for all supervisory employees in all TCB offices concerning the rights and needs of persons with disabilities (including persons with vision impairments). This training shall be provided by an organization with recognized expertise in these issues.
6. TCB shall establish an escrow account to compensate any additional persons subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability.
7. If a TCB employee who is blind or has a vision impairment makes a request to his or her immediate supervisor for a braille, tape, or computer disk copy of any manual or publication that is issued to or provided for use by other employees, TCB shall provide the requested copy within 7 days of the request. TCB shall make copies of all employee manuals or publications available in all three accessible formats and shall make its best efforts to accommodate the employee's choice of formats."
* * * So reads the DOJ's letter of findings. It is both astonishing and disturbing. Even if the claims of the complainants had no merit, which DOJ refutes, it is remarkable that TCB has allowed this process to persist to this point. As we learn about such situations, we need to reexamine our resolve as a community to be zealous advocates. If we are willing to tolerate discrimination or the refusal to provide reasonable accommodations by agencies within our field, how can we ask with conviction and consistency that the law be vigorously enforced against employers or government entities generally? This is especially true in an environment in which we are constantly faced with challenges to specialized services and the very existence of separate state agencies for the blind. The needs of people who are blind or visually impaired are unique, and ACB stands united with the entire blindness community in support of the separate state agency model. However, to maintain the integrity of our commitment to quality specialized services, we should demand and expect the very best from the agencies that we fight tenaciously to preserve. Clearly, we hope that the situation described in the letter of findings is the exception that proves the rule.
Another reason to focus on the TCB matter is that it illustrates how the ADA can operate in the employment context. For all its limitations, the ADA can provide a process for fighting discrimination. Unfortunately, many people believe that the process is inherently complicated. Actually, the complaint process is relatively simple. As indicated earlier, the basic complaint process is the subject of this month's question.
QUESTION: I read your article about the Texas Commission for the Blind, and I can relate to much of what the TCB employees were going through. I work for a state government agency. I have asked for accommodations several times, but I seem to be getting nowhere. I have no idea how the employee in the TCB matter filed her complaint and got the process moving. Furthermore, I'm not sure I could handle it even if I did know the steps to take. Can you give me some basic information?
ANSWER: Yes, but you should make sure you've done your homework before you get to the point of filing a complaint. Although I'm not exactly sure how long you've been dealing with some form of discrimination at work, the first step that you should take is to avail yourself of whatever process you might be able to use to try to resolve the matter. There are two reasons why this is important. First, although there is a considerable amount of intended discrimination in the workplace, often employer actions that violate the ADA are simply the result of ignorance or a failure to think about alternatives. So, using the in-house process might get people together who need to communicate better.
The second reason why the in-house process is important relates directly to the experience of the TCB employees. Formally raising your concerns with your supervisor, documenting your concerns in writing or other appropriate means, and tapping into your employer's grievance process will help you to build a record that will be extremely useful when you decide to file a complaint under the ADA. If you are a member of a union, remember that your union will have defined responsibilities to respond to your concerns and advocate on your behalf. However, keep in mind that unions are also subject to the requirements of the ADA. Some workplace issues can be resolved by reassignment of the employee, shifting work schedules and modifying job responsibilities. Your union needs to be sensitive to these possible accommodations.
If the in-house process does not work out for you, or you are prevented from using it, you should consider filing a complaint under the ADA. A few basic points should be kept in mind. Title I of the ADA deals with employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has the responsibility to enforce Title I. Title II of the ADA concerns the activities, programs and services of state and local government entities, such as your employer. The Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing Title II. Clearly, state and local government agencies are also employers, and the ADA is structured to allow both EEOC and DOJ to enforce the Title I employment provisions against state and local agencies. This has practical significance for you because you have the option to file your complaint with either EEOC or DOJ. Both federal agencies will apply the same regulations, but the process is a bit different for each.
If you file your complaint with the EEOC, you are essentially locked into that administrative process for the duration. You are not free to pursue action in court until you have received a "right to sue" letter indicating that EEOC has completed its investigation. You must file your complaint within 180 days after the instance of discrimination. However, the EEOC has developed formalized relationships with many state human rights commissions, and, depending on where you live, your complaint will actually be filed jointly with the EEOC and the appropriate state body. In such cases, you have up to 300 days to file your complaint. To learn about the process that pertains to you, you can contact the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000. EEOC representatives can guide you through the specific steps in the process applicable to you, but you should also feel free to contact the ACB national office.
As an employee of a state agency, you have the option of filing your complaint with DOJ. If you were working for a private employer you would not have this option. Again, your complaint must be filed within 180 days. An important difference to remember about the DOJ process is that you remain free to pursue a law suit in federal court. DOJ will investigate your complaint. However, you should know that you may wait from eight to 12 weeks to receive your first response from DOJ.
As for preparing the complaint, the common assumption is that the actual complaint document is complicated and requires a great deal of formality. This is regrettable because the complaint is really nothing more than a letter. Although it is true that DOJ has prepared a Title II complaint form, DOJ does not require that you submit your information on the form itself. You are asked to provide your name as the complainant, your complete address, your home and business phone numbers, the name and contact information of the agency or other Title II entity involved, the circumstances prompting your complaint in as much detail as you can provide, and the date of your complaint. You are also asked to inform DOJ if you have already filed, or intend to file, your complaint with another agency or court and, if so, to specify the agency or court.
Submit your letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, P.O. Box 66738, Washington, D.C. 20035-6738. If you have questions about preparing this material, you can contact DOJ at 1-800-514-0301, or contact the ACB national office.
The American Council of the Blind will award 26 scholarships to outstanding blind students in 1998. All legally blind persons admitted to academic and vocational training programs at the post-secondary level for the 1998/99 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 an undergraduate student.
The $1,000 Dr. Mae Davidow Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to an entering freshman.
The William G. Corey Memorial Scholarships will be awarded to two Pennsylvania residents. All qualified Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to apply. Each scholarship award is in the amount of $1,500.
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 $1,000 Alma Murphey Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a graduate student. This scholarship is provided by the Braille Revival League of Missouri, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
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. Preference will be given to a Massachusetts resident attending a Massachusetts college or university. This scholarship is funded by the Bay State Council of the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The $1,500 ACB of Colorado Scholarship will be awarded to a resident of Colorado. This scholarship is 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.
The $1,000 Oregon Council of the Blind Scholarship will be awarded to an Oregon resident. This scholarship is provided by the Oregon Council of the Blind, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
The $1,000 ACB of Maryland Scholarship will be awarded to an entering freshman who is also a Maryland resident. This scholarship is provided by the ACB of Maryland, an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.
Scholarship applications are available from the American Council of the Blind, Attn: Holly Fults, Coordinator of Affiliate and 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, 1998.
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 informational 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 Holly Fults 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, 1998. The scholarships will be presented at the 37th annual national convention of the American Council of the Blind to be held July 4-11, 1998, in Orlando, Fla. 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.
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 1998/99 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, 1998. 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.
As the bus wove its way through the busy peak hour traffic, Moses Israel, one of the operators participating in the American Council of the Blind's demonstration project on calling out stops, beamed each time he approached a major intersection and loudly called out the stop. "Calling out stops is routine for me and is just part of my job," he said, "and now all the operators going through the ACB program on calling out stops do the same thing every day of every week of the year. No big deal!"
Garage superintendent Willie White said, "For us, it took a combination of things to get operators to call out stops consistently -- training, consumer participation, monitoring operator compliance, and one-on-one coaching and encouragement. Before ACB's program came along, we had some of the pieces in place but needed some extra help in putting the whole program together."
With funding from Project ACTION, ACB developed and tested a model training program for operators and supervisors on calling out stops. Several transit agency sites participated in the testing and, after making a number of adjustments and refinements, the program achieved 100 percent compliance for those operators participating in the final pilot effort.
Calling out stops should be "no big deal," but ACB has found that compliance with the stop announcement civil right guarantee is about the same, with a few exceptions, across the country as it was when the ADA was first signed into law. Preliminary estimates based on sample surveys indicate that the national compliance rate is between 20 and 30 percent.
Many thought that automated stop announcement systems would solve the problem, but the vast majority of transit agencies do not have automated systems; many cannot afford them. For those larger and medium-sized transit agencies that have purchased such systems, it still will take several years before their entire fleets are equipped.
"The result," said Oral Miller, ACB's executive director and director of the Project ACTION initiative, "is that blind and visually impaired people are still barred from using much of the national fixed-route bus and even rail fleet. If you can't get on the right bus because of an operator's failure to announce the bus route and destination, and if you can't count on the consistent calling out of stops when you ride the bus, you are basically left with an inaccessible bus."
The project undertaken by ACB focused on the development of a model training program for operators and supervisors that involved all the key players in the community who either have a part to play in calling out stops or are affected by calling out stops. Transit managers, union representatives, blind and visually impaired people, operators and supervisors all participated in training sessions aimed at mobilizing operators to call out stops consistently. The training team developed four basic modules that involved all the key players in highly interactive discussions and exercises focused on the following major themes: the ADA and calling out stops as a civil right; barriers and obstacles to calling out stops; standing in the consumer's shoes -- getting off at the wrong stop; and practice on calling out stops.
The project team made arrangements with the transit agencies and members of the local blind and visually impaired community at each site to monitor operator compliance before and after the training sessions. "We got pretty good compliance rates at the first pilot site -- an increase of 18 percent," Miller said, "but we knew our program could do better and achieve full compliance by finding out from the transit agency at the last pilot site what key components or elements were needed to bring us over the top so that we could achieve 100 percent." The team found that by providing one-on-one coaching to operators after the training at the last site, compliance rates reached the 100 percent goal.
"We now have a model program that has been proven to achieve full compliance," Miller said, "but the next step is to take this program to other transit agencies and consumer groups around the country and provide the technical assistance so desperately needed to address this national problem."
For more information on the ACB program on calling out stops, contact the National Training and Technical Assistance Center on Calling out Stops at (301) 384-4749.
"And the winner is ... Kevin Szott!"
On October 23, Kevin Szott of State College, Pa., who holds a first degree black belt in judo and is ranked fourth in the country, was named the United States Association for Blind Athletes' Male Athlete of the Year. But he's not planning to rest on his laurels anytime soon. Indeed, he said he would like to win a gold medal in the Olympics.
But the road to the games has not been easy. Szott remembered taking judo for six or eight months when he was a little kid. He began losing his sight around age 10 due to retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. He played football, wrestled, and ran track and field events in high school, and played football in college. He remembered the 1984 Paralympics as wrestling's last appearance in the games.
In 1988, when judo was introduced, "I was still more into track and field and goalball and powerlifting and those types of sports," Szott said, "but then when I was at grad school here at Penn State and I came back to work here in town and the assistant wrestling coach ... had a judo club and I just decided that since it was going to be a new sport in the Paralympics and it didn't seem like wrestling was going to make a comeback and I enjoy grappling types of sports that judo was the next logical step." In fact, some of his powerlifting records still stand today.
But judo wasn't the only martial art he tried. "I trained a little gojuru karate, which is a Japanese style karate, and also trained a little over three years in the World Tang Soo Do Association," he said. He trained in judo and karate in tandem almost all the way up to the 1996 Paralympics, and then he began making a decision about which one to stick with. "My coach encouraged me to try to go further with judo," he stated. To do that, "I'd need to make a decision as far as time and effort. I just didn't have the time and effort to give both arts their equal due, so I decided to stick with judo."
The decision has served him well. The day after being named USABA's male athlete of the year, he took third place in the U.S. Invitational International Tournament in Colorado Springs, which is the largest international judo tournament in North America. In August he took second place in "the ladder tournament" -- an event that qualified him for a spot at the U.S. Invitational -- which is "probably the third biggest tournament in the U.S." At U.S. Nationals, he finished in the top eight of the heavyweight (95 kilograms plus) division. And in 1996, he took a silver medal at the Atlanta Paralympics.
In order to earn his black belt, Szott put in a lot of training time. He estimated that he spent about three hours a day training. Lifting weights five or six days a week for about an hour and a half at a time, conditioning five or six days a week for 20 to 40 minutes at a stretch, practicing judo three days a week for about two hours at a time, and wrestling two or three times a week for about an hour each time were listed as his training activities. He also put in an hour or two at least one weekend day. That's what his schedule as an assistant strengthening and conditioning coach at Penn State University allowed. "I have a very convenient full-time job from the standpoint of scheduling and things," he stated. By being right on campus, "I can schedule things around my times. But for the most part, that's why I'm looking to move out to Colorado so I can dedicate full-time toward it."
Looking back at the time he trained in two arts, he compared judo to karate. "Judo is more of, I think, wrestling with a jacket on," Szott said. "It's very different, and it's very physical. And there's really two ways to do it in judo, more so than the karate. One is, if you're a very good competitor, then you will get promoted a little bit quicker. But there still is kind of the art side of it: some of us are just really good technicians and artists and not really good competitors, so there's also that way to get it. It's probably anywhere from a five- to seven- or eight-year commitment just to get to the first degree. But some people think of it as the end; I think of it as the beginning. I kind of think of it as a high school degree going on to college. Then you go through the first couple of ranks of black belt are college, then if you go beyond that it's going to grad school. A lot of people in the U.S. think of it as an end, where a lot of people in Europe and Asia think of it as the beginning. A lot of kids have their black belts in Japan and a lot of Asian countries at a very young age, because it just denotes a certain level of competence before you really get into the meat of it."
One thing he noted about judo was that "no matter what your ranking is, you're going to get on the mat and find out who's the best." It's also a one-on-one sport, which he enjoys. "It's traditional in respect to how it's approached, but it's also just your ability against another person's ability," he said. "No excuses, no qualms about it, you walk out there on that day and at that time the best person wins, you bow out and then you try it again. ... It's a very friendly environment. I mean, when you get on the mat you're trying to win. But afterwards you know you get together, talk BS, it's a pretty friendly environment compared to some other competitive environments I've been in."
What Szott disliked about judo was its lack of visibility in the United States, as well as its lack of funding, backing, and TV air time. "I think it's misunderstood," he stated. "I think also that USA Judo is doing a better job now of trying to promote the sport. For a while I think their attitude was 'we're judo, we're traditional and this is the way we're going to do it.' And they didn't allow the commercial capitalistic USA to infiltrate and market and promote it. And I think that's what's changing ..."
He believed judo to be a great sport for everyone, youth on up. "You want to give kids options," he said. "I think it's a great sport. What it basically does is it trains people how to fall. How many people get hurt falling all the time, from youngsters all the way up to senior citizens? I just think it has a lot of bearing."
People still don't understand what judo is, he added. "It's kind of a sport in obscurity. A lot of people don't know about it; a lot of people don't understand it. They think judo and they start kicking you and that kind of stuff, and it's like, 'No, that's not what it's about.'" When he did tang soo do, he said he repeatedly told his instructor, "If you fall down and break your arm, guess what? You're in trouble. [In real life] if you hit the turf and you break something, that's all she wrote. You've got to learn how to be able to control that."
One thing out of his control, however, was the strengths of his competitors. "Losing in the Paralympics sticks out," he said. "There's never been an American in the Olympics or Paralympics to win a gold medal. We've only had one world champion ever in the sport, and I could have been the first American ... I was the only finalist in the Paralympics from the United States, and to be the first American to win a gold medal on American soil would've been great. And I fell short there. So that's a memory that just burns in my mind."
But what happened after the Paralympics also stuck out in his mind. His coach, Larry Lee from Denver, called and said, "I think you can make the Olympic team. I'm like, 'yeah right.' I try to be a very realistic athlete. It's great when someone has confidence in you, but as an athlete you have to achieve or beat somebody to begin to understand 'yes I can do this', 'yes I am of this ability.' Because before that, all it is is words."
One of the things that also stuck out in his mind was forgetting about winning a match. He was in the bronze medal round at the U.S. Invitational "and probably one of the funny moments is when I threw him for full point to win, but I have to honestly tell you I don't remember it. I don't even remember him stepping in, I don't remember ... Basically what I did was a back souffle, which is called an oranagi in judo, and I don't even remember him stepping in, I don't even remember stepping in and lifting and throwing him. The only thing I remember is as I'm arching back, my head's maybe a couple inches off the ground and I see his shoulders hit the ground. And that's all I remember."
Szott's coach had always told him that he would make history, and in that moment he had. According to the U.S. Olympic Committee records, he said, "it's the first time a disabled person has placed in an open international tournament. So that's when I finally started to believe that I truly am of this level. And the journey continues. I still have to follow this up with many more good finishes and victories. I want to win the national title, I want to be on a world team, I want to make an Olympic team. Those are my goals."
His ultimate goal is to win an Olympic gold medal. "How many people achieve their ultimate goal?" he asked. "A lot of times you achieve somewhere along that line, but I don't think disabled athletes should be any different than able-bodied athletes."
He urged his readers not to put limits on themselves. "I'm not trying to be the poster child for visually impaired or disabled people or whatever, I'm just trying to be the best athlete I can be and train hard. That's part of the reason I'm moving out to Colorado, to dedicate full time, because I'm this close, and what I've always preached to the athletes I work with is you have to put yourself in the best situation to win. ... So part of the reason I'm going out to Colorado, making this sacrifice, is to be the best that I can be and so that I'll have no regrets later on. And part of the choice I think is I don't have a choice from the standpoint that I'm in the situation to maybe do something that could help some people, the able or disabled, and if I choose not to do it I'm not only saying no to myself, but I'm saying no to other people that I could possibly help. So I feel I kind of have an obligation and responsibility to pursue it not only for myself."
Szott said he wanted to be able to influence people in a positive way. "There's a lot I'm leaving behind to do this, so I guess there's some aspect of that I do regret, but obviously I wouldn't do it if I didn't think there was something greater down the road, something greater that would come out of the sacrifice. ... [Judo's] been pretty good to me; hopefully I've been somewhat good to the sport of judo and hopefully I can continue to portray it in a positive light and to hopefully increase awareness for all people about 'disability' but also about the sport of judo."
He believed that everyone should be athletic. "You don't have to be 'an athlete' but I think fitness and exercise can help people," he said. There are resources, such as USABA, available to help people. "You're only limited by what you're willing to try to do. Don't be afraid to accept help or ask for help when it is necessary and appropriate."
Szott also had some advice for life: "Don't let anybody set the limits for you. Set your goals and shoot for them. Be realistic; be honest with yourself, be honest with the people around you, work hard toward your goals, and don't be afraid to find your limits. I think too many people walk around in the world afraid to find their limits. I think you live a more successful, more satisfying life if you know you went for it as hard as you could and achieved as much as you could."
The ACB of Nebraska will meet in Hastings at the Holiday Inn Nebraska Central April 17-19. Room reservations must be made by April 3. To receive the convention room rate of $46 single, $51 double through quad (plus tax), identify yourself as being with ACB of Nebraska. Reservations outside of Hastings can be made by calling toll-free (888) 905-1200. There will be an auction after the Saturday business session; everyone is encouraged to solicit merchandise or bring baked goods to auction. The convention registration fee is $20 and must be in the hands of treasurer Jim Jirak by April 10. The address to send it to is ACB of Nebraska, Attn: Jim Jirak, Treasurer, P.O. Box 94953, Lincoln, NE 68509.
BLINDNESS AWARENESS MONTH
The members of the Quazar chapter of the Arkansas Council of the Blind successfully requested that Governor Mike Huckabee proclaim November 1997 as Blindness Awareness Month. The proclamation reads: "Whereas, millions of Americans are blind or severely visually impaired, and 90,000 of these are Arkansans; and whereas, blindness is one of the most feared disabling conditions; and whereas, this year several more thousands of Americans will lose their vision because blindness does not discriminate by race, sex, age, or social standing; and whereas, vision loss is greatly a result of some diseases including diabetes, cancer, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and eye injuries; and whereas, through an increase in community awareness of blindness, new research findings, the efforts of the Arkansas Council of the Blind, and Explorer Post 8, public action is increasing research, reducing fears, and inspiring people to take better control over their severe impairments by seeking medical care, professional training, and education, which will enable them to live a healthier and more productive life; now, therefore, I, Mike Huckabee, acting under the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Arkansas, do hereby proclaim the month of November as Blindness Awareness Month in the State of Arkansas and call upon citizens to be made aware of services and technology which are available to blind Arkansans. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Arkansas to be affixed this 23rd day of October, in the year of our Lord 1997." Signed, Mike Huckabee, Governor, and Sharon Priest, Secretary of State.
ON TRACK IN INDIANAPOLIS
Indianapolis' Columbia Club was the site of the state convention of the ACB of Indiana. Held this past November, the convention offered much information on a variety of topics. Representatives from the state library for the blind updated the group on library services. Attendees also heard from Nicholai Stevenson, president of the Association of Macular Diseases.
Two new chapters were born at the convention as well -- one in Bloomington and another in Lafayette.
The American Council of the Blind announces its 1998 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, 1998 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 board of publications of the American Council of the Blind is pleased to announce the criteria for the 1998 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 1997 and March 1998 are automatically eligible. Materials which have been published by an ACB affiliate will also be considered if submitted. Send a print, braille or disk copy of 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 in radio, TV, magazines, or daily newspapers, which may change public attitudes to recognize the capabilities of people who are blind, rather than focusing on outdated stereotypes and misconceptions. 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.
Previous 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 15, 1998. 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.
(Editor's Note: Some of you may remember Ken Stewart as the author of "Runners High," which appeared in the May 1996 issue. Here he reviews AFB Press' video "Brief Encounters of the Right Kind.")
A board member of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently reminisced when we happened to meet socially several months after I had spoken to him and other board members at a public MTA committee meeting. He recalled how he and his colleagues attended closely to my remarks rather than "shutting down" as they usually do during an advocate's appearance at a public hearing.
I basked in the warmth of his compliment. I should have asked him for more feedback. What was so different about my presentation?
The 47-minute video released recently by the American Foundation for the Blind attempts to answer that question. The video limits its scope to techniques of advocacy within the halls of Congress, but the principles, once distilled, can be useful at all levels of government and with agency administrators as well as legislators. The tape describes and illustrates what I have experienced many times: 1) know your stuff; 2) know who to deliver the stuff to, and 3) know how to deliver it. No, these principles are not quite rocket science, mostly common sense really. The AFB tape also counsels against some other advocacy techniques, and that may be the more valuable message. Don't make threats. Don't waste the staffer's time. And, from my own experience, I would add: don't think vehemence will substitute for substance. I believe one thing that kept the MTA board members receptive during my presentation was that they were hearing calm, careful prose about specific design elements which could be incorporated into subway station renovation plans at reasonable costs for identifiable benefits for their consumers. The AFB Press product suggests "... offer concrete steps he or she can take."
The video presents its advice with a mix of talking heads and heady talk. Succinctly phrased statements of principle narrated by a splendidly modulated female voice accompanying bold white- on-purple screen text are very effectively conveyed. They are interspersed with lecture segments and simulations filmed during the 1994 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute's "Tell It To Washington" workshop. Surprisingly, these portions of "Brief Encounters" are a mite less effective. The camera coverage of the lecturers is too tight, giving too much prominence to a distracting seam on an otherwise blank wall behind each speaker. The wall seam serves to accentuate the swaying of one of the lecturers and the swinging camera's reactive attempts to keep him within the picture frame. Opening with a wide "establishing shot" would also have clued in the video viewer sooner that the occasional chuckles are from a live audience, not the camera crew. The skit simulations are diminished by their audio limitations. Both role players are males with almost indistinguishable voices for those who will depend on the sound track alone to follow the portrayals.
One of the lecture segments, which includes a plodding and flimsy historical sketch of congressional committee dynamics, would have benefited from more severe editing or even excision. On the other hand, a schematic diagram depicting the course of legislative measures was quite effectively executed on the video, both with its visuals and its clean narrative. Kudos also, by the way, to the sound engineers (not identified in the video's closing credits) for a great job of balancing the background music and for top-quality voice pickups.
A lobbyist who snares a benefit for a national constituency by influencing congressional action has achieved the truly awesome. Much of the work of advocates is in the offices of the executive branch, not the halls of Congress though. Getting to the people who will implement legislation can have big payoffs too. And the chemistry of the transactions in the agency building can be considerably different from "on the hill." It is often said that a politician starts running for re-election the day he takes office. That means he and his aides will likely be predisposed to offer a warm reception to anyone with a perceived connection to a block of voters. The administrator should not be expected to welcome an opportunity to please. The advocate about to meet with a governmental administrator must expect a more defensive frame of mind, such as "How will this guy's special interest complicate my job?"; "What will his demand cost out of my already strapped budget?"; and "Who else will be in to see me tomorrow with competing demands?"
These are the reactions I try to be prepared for when I approach officials on the local level. My presentations therefore build in answers to those questions. Whether I am approaching a city department head on the design of sidewalk ramps and crosswalks or a library executive about assistive technology, or a Port Authority architect on the signage in an airport, or the Economic Development Corporation's supervising engineer on ferry terminal visibility, I must remember what it's like on their side of the desk þ tight budgets, looming deadlines, conflicting user expectations, and little glory for doing what is right for a special-needs group. Sometimes I am referred from one office to the next several times before I reach a person who admits to having any control over the issue which is propelling me. So endurance and perseverance are necessary. To paraphrase an old aphorism, "Successful advocacy is 10 percent insistence and 90 percent persistence." The AFB Press video intones, "... and stick to it as long as it takes" in working with congressional operatives.
Once the desired action is secured, follow-up is recommended, both to assure continued adherence to the desired policy and to provide the administrator with deserved feedback on the benefits accruing from their enlightened action. Not glory for them, but at least an opportunity to feel the effort has valued results.
Nary a word on local level strategies is heard or promised in the AFB video. But a printed study guide accompanying the video does offer advice applicable in a broader range of venues. For anyone after congressional action, "Brief Encounters of the Right Kind" is definitely worth a listen or a look. For those like me plugging away in the offices of highway commissioners and councilmen, it is a worthy starting point.
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.
Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic has scholarships available. The Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards are given each year to legally blind college seniors. Applicants for the 1998 awards must have been a member of RFB&D for at least one year prior to February 1, 1998; received a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university in the United States between July 1, 1997 and June 30, 1998, and have an academic average of 3.0 or better on a 4.0 scale. The Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Awards are presented each year to high school seniors who have specific learning disabilities. Applicants for these awards for 1998 must be a member of RFB&D for at least one year prior to February 1, 1998; a member of the 1998 graduating class of a public or private high school in the United States; have an overall grade point average of B or above, and plan to continue formal education beyond high school.
For more information on these scholarship programs, call (800) 221-4792. The deadline to submit applications is February 1, 1998.
Arkenstone's mission is to provide information access to everyone. The company is offering the Arkenstone First Reader 2 for $1,995; the ArkenClone Sound Blaster, the newest complete reading system comprised of a Pentium 166 computer, top of the line parts, and a scanner, costs $2,995; and Atlas Speaks, the company's talking maps, starting at $295. For more information, contact the company at (800) 444-4443, extension 55.
The 1997 Louis Braille Individual Award Winner is Russell Redenbaugh. The award was presented by Associated Services for the Blind of Philadelphia, Pa. VISION AWARDS
Due to overwhelming response, the deadline for applications for the SAP/Stevie Wonder Vision Awards has been extended to March 31, 1998. There is no application fee; awards are self-nominating. Applications are available at http://www.sap.com/vision. Award categories are: product of the year, role model organization of the year, and vision pioneer of the year. Submit all applications via fax, e-mail or U.S. mail to Gina Marchese, SAP America, 950 Winter St., Waltham, MA 02154; phone (781) 684-6433; fax (781) 672-6501; or e-mail [email protected]
HEAR YOUR E-MAIL
E-Now is a new service that allows subscribers to listen to their e-mail by phone toll-free in the United States. Anyone who has an internet-accessible e-mail account that uses the POP3 standard can use it. (CompuServe and America Online do not use this standard.) The basic service costs $12 per month, which includes 20 minutes of toll-free access. Extra minutes cost 15 cents each. Services from e-Now operators cost extra: $1 to forward a message or have one message read to you; $2 to reply to a message, or have up to 10 e-mail summaries (subject, from and date) read to you; and $3 to have up to three messages faxed to you. The company bills your credit card on the fifth of each month for the basic fee plus any extra time charges or operator assistance charges from the previous month. To hear a demonstration, or to subscribe, call (888) 432-7366 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time.
WHITE CANES & MORE
White Canes & More is a non-profit adaptive aids retail store. It is an outreach of Envision, a member of National Industries for the Blind. It provides adaptive aids and appliances as well as services to the blindness community. For more information, call the store toll-free at (888) 311-2299.
National Industries for the Blind recently redesigned its award programs to honor people who are blind working at NIB-associated industries or other private companies. The Peter J. Salmon National Blind Employee of the Year Award has been given to a blind person working in an NIB-associated industry; the award will now honor two blind individuals for exemplary work performance, one from nominees in direct manufacturing, the other for work in a service position. Service positions include administrative, telecommunications, and customer service employment. The NIB board also created the annual Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award, replacing the Private-Sector Employee of the Year Award, which is designed to honor individuals who have found competitive employment in other private companies after gaining job skills and training through an NIB associate. Employees who are blind working within NIB-associated agencies in jobs above direct manufacturing but below senior management level are also eligible for this award.
"Telling Time" is a new book written in large print and braille that is designed to make teaching your child how to tell time fun and rewarding. It is an easy-to-read rhyming book suitable for sighted and visually impaired children. Each verse has a corresponding clock face with moving hands to encourage interactive play. To obtain a copy, contact Sylvia Bendet via e-mail at s.z.bendet.worldnet.att.net or call her at (561) 395-2226.
The National Telability Media Center recently released the third edition of "America's Telability Media," which includes more than 1,000 mass media resources, according to a press release from the company. It lists 850 periodicals, 80 broadcast producers, 20 newspaper columnists, 46 newspapers for the blind and 12 professional media organizations. It is available in print or on disk in ASCII format for $30; a complete set of mailing labels is also available in ASCII (for $100). Your check or money order made payable to National Telability Media Center should be sent to the company at P.O. Box 1488, Columbia, MO 65205. For more information, call (573) 445-7656.
Wanted: contact with those people, particularly Social Security employees, using JAWS with Windows NT. Please call Ann Brash at (708) 579-5531.
NEW WEB SITE
Poetic Expressions of St. Nazianz, Wis., has a web site. Its address is http://www.expressivepoetry.com. The company offers plaques, greeting cards, bookmarks, large print and braille cards, nature stationery and cards. For more information, or a price list, check the web site or phone the company at (920) 773-2686.
The VISION Foundation recently released the 16th edition of its VISION Resource List. More than 120 items, many of which are free of charge, are listed. Categories include eye diseases and conditions, consumer organizations, electronic reading aids and computers, financial resources, large print resources, Massachusetts agencies/services, and a wide variety of general brochures. Many items have been recorded. The list is available free in large print or on cassette, in single copies upon request. To get a copy, send your name and address to VISION Foundation, Inc., 818 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02172, or phone (617) 926- 4232.
CARDS WITH FEELING
Braille/large print greeting cards with tactile designs are available for all occasions. Each card costs $3. Each one is handmade. Larger orders receive a discount. Samples are available on request. Write in braille, print or on tape to Tina Blatter, Artistic Touch, 2600 W. 28th St., Sioux Falls, SD 57105; phone (605) 335-1736.
Are you an artist? Would you like to enter a show? The Sister Kenny Institute is looking for art for its international art show, to be held April 17 through May 15, 1998. Any artist with a disability that causes a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities is eligible. All forms of fine art may be entered. Crafts will not be accepted. All work must be original and must not have been submitted to previous Sister Kenny art shows. Artwork is limited to two entries per artist; one entry must be for sale. (If multiple artists from organizations are submitting work, no more than 50 pieces of art will be accepted from any one organization.) Each piece of artwork should be framed and, except for sculptures, should not exceed 36 inches in any direction, because showing space is limited. Please mat your paintings as necessary. The frame will be sold with the artwork, so price accordingly. All work should be packed in reusable shipping containers. Entry forms must include your name, address, telephone numbers, title of the artwork and medium used, asking price, and your signature. The auxiliary will retain 25 percent of the selling price of each piece of artwork to help defray show expenses. All artwork must be received by March 23, 1998. Space is limited to the first 300 entries for sale. For more information, or to enter, send your items to: Art Show/Public Relations Dept.-16601, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, 800 E. 28th St., Minneapolis, MN 55407-3799.
The American Foundation for the Blind Press recently released four videos focusing on children with multiple disabilities. The first video, "What Can Baby See? Vision Tests and Interventions for Infants with Multiple Disabilities" presents common vision tests and methods of information gathering that help identify visual impairments in infants and very young children. It demonstrates early intervention strategies to encourage infants to use the vision they have. "Vision Tests for Infants" shows the full range of vision tests used by pediatric optometrists and ophthalmologists in evaluating visual impairment in infants and toddlers. "Making the Most of Early Communication: Strategies for Supporting Communication with Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers whose Multiple Disabilities Include Vision and Hearing Loss" shows ways to assist such children in developing early communication skills and functional abilities. This video is for service providers and families of young children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities, including deaf-blind youngsters. The final video in the series is "What Can Baby Hear? Auditory Tests and Interventions for Infants with Multiple Disabilities," which describes various auditory tests and emphasizes the importance of early identification of hearing impairment.
"What Can Baby See?" is a 30-minute VHS closed captioned tape; its ISBN is 0-89128-299-8, and it costs $49.95. "Vision Tests for Infants" is a 20-minute tape; its ISBN is 0-89128-289-X, and costs $39.95. "Making the Most of Early Communication" is a 34-minute tape; its ISBN is 0-89128-296-3, and it costs $49.95. "Making the Most of Early Communication" is also available with audio description; its ISBN is 0-89128-297-1, and costs $49.95. "What Can Baby Hear?" is ISBN 1-55766-288-6; it plays for 30 minutes, and costs $45. Add on $5 per tape for shipping and handling. To order, call AFB Press at (800) 232-3044. Orders must be accompanied by payment (institutions may use purchase orders). Send orders to AFB Press, Customer Service, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, NY 10001.
Also available from AFB Press is a book called "Foundations of Rehabilitation Counseling with Persons Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired," edited by J. Elton Moore, director of the Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision. It provides information for rehabilitation professionals to help them meet the employment and independent living needs of blind people. Some of the topics discussed are: types and uses of medical, vocational and psychological assessments; demographic and cultural issues and how they affect rehabilitation services; and the roles and functions of the members of a rehabilitation team. The book costs $54.95 plus $6 postage and handling. Contact AFB Press at the phone number or address above.
And hot off the presses are the second edition of "Foundations of Orientation and Mobility" and "Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy." The new edition of "Foundations" builds on the foundations laid down by the first edition, and offers contributions from more than 30 eminent experts on the subject. It also includes an international perspective, as well as expanded information on research in low vision, aging, multiple disabilities, accessibility, program design and adaptive technology. Its ISBN is 0-89128-946-1; it costs $68.95 plus $6 shipping and handling. "Instructional Strategies" is a handbook that provides teachers with specific strategies and methods for teaching braille. It is intended to help pre-service and in- service teachers develop their instructional literacy and braille skills, and provides information on working with students with various types of visual impairments, as well as those with other disabilities or those whose first language is not English. Contact AFB Press at the phone number or address above.
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, 1998, to American Council of the Blind, Pat Beattie, Treasurer, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005.
Re: "Blindness, Special Policies & Future Success"
Right up front let me state that I am not a blind person, but I am married to a blind person. I hope this gives me some right to speak on this issue.
I am really tired of all the rhetoric bouncing back and forth about mainstreaming and special schools. As I see it, the bottom line is NOT which is right, it is CHOICE! What is correct for one student is way off center for the next. For instance, when I was in grade school I excelled in English -- spelling, composition, vocabulary, all of it. But I was 35 years old before I really mastered simple mathematics (forget about algebra and geometry þ beyond me). The point is that I felt very stupid in that subject. But you know what, I was NOT stupid, I was just slow. I needed special help. But back in the '40s this kind of problem was not recognized. If I had been aware that I needed help I would have asked for it. I wasn't shy. But no one knew back then.
NOW WE KNOW! Every student is different. Every student learns at a different rate and in different ways; and we learn different subjects at a different rate as well. Special education students are as varied in learning processes as the rest of us. Let's not pigeonhole them for life in a slot where they don't fit. Let's stop arguing about which is right and which is wrong and give ALL students a good education in accordance with his/her individualized education plan, not by eliminating one or the other means of achieving that education.
-- Jannis Young, Sacramento, Calif.
WASHINGTON -- In commemoration of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Department of Labor hosted a program called "Ability: The Bridge to the Future" on October 22, 1997. Among the disability organizations in attendance were the American Council of the Blind, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, the Epilepsy Foundation, Mainstream America, IAM Cares, and the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (PCEPD).
Shirley J. Wilcher, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance at the Employment Standards Administration, welcomed the speakers and attendees. She reflected on the employment situation of people with disabilities as it had been in the past, as it currently is, and as it should be. The United States has come a long way from the time when people with disabilities had little or no chance of finding employment, but there is still a long way to go in making the workplace more accessible. Wilcher commented that "people with disabilities encounter a glass door instead of a glass ceiling."
Deputy Secretary Kathryn Higgins of the Department of Labor remarked on the need for diversity and accessibility in the workplace. "There is much we can learn from people with disabilities," she said. Higgins mentioned the history of the United States in recognizing the value of diversity. She referred to the phrase found on American coins þ "e pluribus unum," meaning "in many, we are one." There is great strength in our diversity, she added.
Higgins acknowledged that progress has been made with accessibility to public places but recognized the need to work harder on making employment more accessible for disabled workers. She said federal purchases from workshops was a good start, but she stressed the need for greater advances in accessibility.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was the keynote speaker. He commented that ADA should stand for the "American Dream for All." It is "a ramp to allow people with disabilities to get to the top by breaking down barriers and providing structure. The ADA is a civil rights act. It is an opportunity to show that 'disabled' does not mean 'not abled.'"
Harkin challenged the Department of Labor to make employment of people with disabilities its number one priority. He listed five specific goals: (1) making one-stop career centers at which everyone would receive generic job training, and those who needed it would receive specialized vocational rehabilitation; (2) making sure the Job Corps evolves and changes with the times to accommodate persons of varying abilities and backgrounds; (3) making accommodations to serve the 20 percent of people on welfare with disabilities in the welfare-to-work program; (4) enforcement of employment acts; and (5) leading by example. Accomplishing these goals will show that "disabilities are not liabilities," Harkin said.
Tony Coelho, chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, was the guest speaker. He discussed the many problems and frustrations of getting a foot in the door in finding a job. Because he has epilepsy, Coelho knows firsthand about the inaccessibility of employment. He praised the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), a fairly new program created by the government to find qualified applicants with disabilities for summer and permanent positions. This program gives disabled workers the much-needed foot in the door for obtaining employment. He also challenged attendees to keep working toward making accommodations to give greater access and opportunities in employment.
The program concluded with a panel discussion led by Stan Croydon of the Office of the Solicitor. The members of the panel included Susan Bowmaster of the Employment Standards Administration, Scherrone Dunhamn of the Employment and Training Administration, and Chris Schuman of the Office of the Solicitor. The panel advised persons with disabilities to be aware of their needs and to be willing to ask for reasonable accommodations in the job setting. They also discussed the benefits and drawbacks to technology that has been developed to help persons with disabilities to perform various tasks in the office. The concluding remarks were that everyone has a right to reasonable accommodations and everyone needs to get involved to come up with new and better solutions.
Mable E. Fowler, a past member of the board of directors of the Wyoming Council of the Blind, died Sept. 27 of natural causes. She was 81.
She became blind in 1990 due to complications after bypass surgery. She was an active member of the northeast Wyoming chapter of the Wyoming Council of the Blind and served on the WCB board. Barbara Veatch, secretary of the northeast Wyoming chapter, wrote, "Those of us in Wyoming will miss her ever-cheerful presence and her wry wit. She will be fondly remembered and sorely missed by all who knew her."
She was also a 42-year charter member of the Buttons and Bows Club, a 41-year member of the Hulett Rebekah Lodge No. 34, and a 13-year member of the Eastern Star Pine Cone Chapter No. 41. She was involved with the New Haven Farm Bureau and was a first warden and secretary-treasurer of Crook County Fire Zone No. 8.
She is survived by daughters Ione Hauber of New Haven, Wyo. and Linda Fowlkes of Kamiah, Idaho; son John Fowler of Gillette; sister Pauline Fitch of Jordan, Mont.; seven grandchildren, two great- grandsons and three step great-grandchildren.
A memorial has been established to benefit the Wyoming Council of the Blind or Crook County Fire Zone No. 8. Donations may be sent in care of the Wilson-Noecker Funeral Home, P.O. Box 734, Gillette, WY 82717.
FOR SALE: Vocal-Eyes version 3.0. Asking $125 or best offer. Contact Monty Cassellius at 234 Barton Hall, Normal, IL 61761; phone (309) 436-4965, e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: Xerox SA-4 Bookedge scanner with Reading Advantage software, internal DecTalk 3.1 card. Used very little. Demo model. $2,000 or best offer. Reading Edge carrying case $75, Optelec 20/20 carrying case $50. Call Mark at (320) 251-4378 evenings.
FOR SALE: New, complete braille Blazer portable embosser and full case of braille fan-fold paper. New, complete DecTalk PC speech synthesizer. Never taken out of packages. Get both for $2,750 or best offer shipped to you. Call Jerry at (303) 769-4581.
FOR SALE: Battery/electric Cannon typewriter, three cartridges and manual, $1,100. Scrabble game, $150. Checkers, $15. Dominos, $15. Ten British wallets, $2.50 each. Braille compass, $25. Braille watch, $20. Contact Jake Miller at (330) 674-0015.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil personal reader, scanner, software (version 2.2) and cassette and print manuals for $1,000 or best offer. Call Cheryl Daube at (312) 236-8569.
Sue Ammeter, Seattle, WA
Ardis Bazyn, Cedar Rapids, IA
John Buckley, Knoxville, TN
Dawn Christensen, Holland, OH
Christopher Gray, San Francisco, CA
John Horst, Elizabethtown, PA
Kristal Platt, Omaha, NE
M.J. Schmitt, Forest Park, IL
Pamela Shaw, Philadelphia, PA
Richard Villa, Austin, 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
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ELIZABETH M. LENNON, Kalamazoo, MI