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.
Over the past year or two I have been involved in a number of situations that involve the relationship of blind people to state agencies who serve them! One of the issues that always seems to come up is how far we as consumers should go in opposing what agencies do. I have been told by people both inside and outside agencies that we must be careful lest our criticisms fuel efforts to replace separate agencies with generic models.
Obviously, there is some validity to this argument. If our charges are wildly irresponsible or couched in combative terms, we may well do harm. On the other hand, I have a major problem with the notion that we should be good little consumers just to protect specialized services. I am particularly appalled by the fact that there have certainly been instances over the past couple of years where I am satisfied that agencies have tried to utilize this argument to muzzle criticism.
If we as consumers have a responsibility to approach criticism carefully, specialized agencies also have responsibilities. I believe it's appropriate to hold specialized agencies to a higher standard of behavior than we would expect of generic providers. I also believe we have a right to expect that agencies will take blind people's concerns seriously and respond to them appropriately.
This does not always mean telling consumers they are right. It does mean that we must be sure that the needs of consumers are paramount within the agencies and that responses to criticism should be knee-jerk or defensive. There are systems that are set up to allow for consumer input and there are requirements within the Rehab Act that such input be included as a part of the development of state rehabilitation plans.
I think there's a real question as to how well these systems now work! How do we assure that consumer input to agencies is effective? First, we lobby for positions on advisory committees. Second, we should be sure our members attend state or regional forums and have appropriate input to offer. Third, each state affiliate should probably set up meetings every year with the leadership of their state agencies where they can provide feedback.
These efforts will assure that we are better known as an organization but will do nothing to make certain that our issues are carried forward. This is where the partnership often breaks down. It's easy for agencies to listen. It requires much more effort to actually implement what we propose. We must put our concerns in writing and set time lines that agencies can be expected to adhere to in responding to our issues.
We as consumers must be prepared to stand up for what we want from agencies. If this upsets some people, so be it. Specialized agencies have an obligation to justify the existence of separate, specialized services. We in the American Council of the Blind have long championed specialized services; we will continue to do so. However, we will also continue to expect to be consulted and will continue to justify our support based on the quality of the services blind people receive. If services are poor, there is no reason for us to support those who provide them. In fact we have an obligation to work to see them improved. Ultimately, the issue is how best can we assure that blind people in every state of the union receive the best services money and training can buy! Our role as consumers is clear! We must demand the very best that agencies can provide!
We must also demand the very best that blind people can provide! Just as we must expect service providers to be building services that are effective, we must expect consumers to act responsibly as well. Too often blind people use their disability as an excuse for their failure! Too often blind people expect us to support them because they are blind, not because they are right! Too often as well blind people expect that the organization will do their fighting for them! Excellence is what we should be about!
Excellence and high expectations apply just as surely to blind people as they do to agencies and we should expect consumers to do their very best just as certainly as we believe that agencies must work hard!
In the past year there has been an associated agency of National Industries for the Blind where there may well have been mismanagement! There has been a letter of finding that suggests that Texas may not have done a good job accommodating its blind employees. Some would have us remain silent on these issues on the ground that criticism will hurt other agencies that are doing a good job. This is a very difficult issue for me! I think that we certainly can do harm if we are not careful. I also think that we can do more harm by allowing people to believe that we will remain silent out of solidarity! I think that agencies need to police themselves and each other! Once more we come to the place where, in my opinion, standards become important. We have a need to continue to work for the development and implementation of standards of services that are outcome-based and consumer-driven! This is at the very heart of the 1992 amendments to the Rehab Act and needs to be the cornerstone of what we do! True agency accountability to the consumers they serve and the consumer organizations in their communities would go a very long way toward assuring that specialized services would live up to what we expect of them!
Guide Dog Users, Inc., the largest organization of guide dog handlers in the nation, in consort with the American Council of the Blind and several other organizations, has won a major victory in a long-running battle to allow guide dogs to enter and leave the state of Hawaii without being subjected to long quarantines, according to a press release.
The out-of-court settlement means that guide dogs visiting the state must comply with certain conditions prior to entrance into the state. While a more detailed analysis of this major victory is planned for an upcoming issue of the magazine, we received this press release at press time which will at least provide some details.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14, 1998
JOINT PRESS RELEASE OF STATE AND CLASS PLAINTIFFS
QUARANTINE LITIGATION SETTLED
A class action lawsuit, filed in 1993 by blind guide dog users residing in Hawaii and on the mainland of the United States against Hawaii's Animal Quarantine ("quarantine"), has been preliminarily settled.
The trial, which was scheduled for December, was continued to April 1998 to allow the State Department of Agriculture time to go through the rule-making process, including public hearings, to adopt new proposed rules. The proposed rules, which were worked out in settlement discussions and which are expected to be implemented this spring, will allow guide dog users to visit Hawaii free of quarantine so long as they comply with certain vaccination, antibody and microchip requirements. Provided the rules are adopted without substantive changes, the class action lawsuit will be dismissed.
As part of its rabies-prevention program, Hawaii historically subjected guide dog users to the same quarantine requirements with which all travelers to Hawaii had to comply. However, in 1996, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that quarantine violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and ordered the Hawaii District Court to hold a trial on whether plaintiffs' proposed modifications to quarantine were reasonable. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice intervened in the case in support of the plaintiffs.
The State of Hawaii has a responsibility to protect the public health and safety of the people of Hawaii and to maintain Hawaii's rabies-free status. The class plaintiffs have asserted a right to meaningful access to the state and its services, programs or activities under the ADA. The preliminary settlement balances these competing interests.
"The vaccination and serologic testing requirements in the proposed rules are critical components in any system for keeping Hawaii rabies-free," said Dr. Calvin Lum, State Veterinarian and Administrator of the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture's Animal Industry Division. "We are pleased that guide dog users will be able to travel to and from Hawaii more conveniently with these safeguards in place."
Michael A. Lilly, attorney for the class plaintiffs, stated, "Quarantine has been a 'Berlin Wall' for blind citizens. Unlike sighted travelers, blind Americans have been precluded from visiting or leaving Hawaii with their guide dogs. By this settlement, blind guide dog users will finally be allowed to travel to Hawaii without going through quarantine. I thank both the State of Hawaii and the Department of Justice in coming together to achieve such an outstanding and scientifically sound result for blind guide dog users and the citizens of Hawaii."
Jenine Stanley, a mainland class plaintiff and president of Guide Dog Users, Inc., stated, "Guide Dog Users, Inc., has worked tirelessly to make our right to travel to Hawaii a reality. And we are pleased to have worked out this resolution with the State of Hawaii and the Department of Justice. My husband and I now look forward to being able to take our long-delayed honeymoon in Hawaii."
Vernon Crowder, a mainland class plaintiff, stated, "I am very excited about the progress that has been made and the opportunity after all this time for me to travel to Hawaii on pleasure or business with my guide dog, Aggie. I recognize this will still be a cumbersome process, but it is certainly a big step in the right direction."
Pat Blum, a Hawaii class plaintiff, stated, "Hurray. Finally, I will be able to take my dog, Sultan, to the mainland and return without going through quarantine."
The American Council of the Blind is pleased to announce the establishment of the national visually impaired congressional internship program, which will enable qualified blind or visually impaired college students to serve highly educational and exciting internships in the offices of a limited number of United States senators for a period of approximately five weeks beginning after May 25, 1998. This exciting bipartisan program, which is being endorsed by representatives of both political parties and by the prestigious Brookings Institution, will allow these interns to experience the incomparable benefits of working in the office of a senator, meeting other interns, observing the legislative process and participating in the development of public policy.
In order to be considered for this program an applicant must be at least 18 years of age, must have completed at least one year of college with a B average or better, must possess excellent computer word processing and similar skills, must possess Internet experience as well as good interpersonal and telephone skills, must be able to travel independently in an urban setting, must submit a writing sample about what he or she expects to gain from the experience, must submit at least one letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor or dean, and must submit proof of legal blindness. The letter of application must be postmarked by March 15, 1998 and sent to Mr. Oral Miller, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 720, Washington, D.C. 20005. The final decisions as to the selection of interns will be made by a committee made up of representatives from the Senate, the Brookings Institution and the American Council of the Blind.
Students selected to serve as interns will be housed on the campus of one of the Washington metropolitan area universities such as Georgetown University or American University, and the cost of housing will be paid by the American Council of the Blind. ACB will also provide a stipend to assist each intern with the cost of meals and local transportation to and from Capitol Hill. In addition, the American Council of the Blind will provide cultural and orientation counseling about the community and provide opportunities for participating in some of the outstanding cultural opportunities available in the nation's capital. Arrangements will also be made for a limited amount of additional orientation and mobility instruction if such is necessary. The duties performed and all the other conditions relating to work will be determined by the senators taking part in the program.
This is, indeed, an outstanding opportunity for blind college students to take part in the type of voluntary, exceptionally educational and exciting internship program which has generally been unavailable to them in the past. Additional details concerning this program are being discussed as this announcement goes to press, but it is being released at this time to give interested students ample time to apply.
Because of the state's many attractions, Florida's tourist trade is alive and well throughout the year. Orlando, the site for our upcoming convention, is no exception. Even though the summer is sometimes very warm, people still crowd the scenic spots looking for amusement and adventure. Disney World, Sea World, Universal Studios, the Kennedy Space Center and other well-known sites draw people to Florida.
For members of the American Council of the Blind, the outstanding attraction in Florida in 1998 will be the 37th annual convention. The excitement begins with the overnight tour Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4. There will be an Orlando area tour Saturday, July 4, repeated Sunday, July 5. Also Saturday and Sunday the boards of various special-interest groups and some committees will meet. The resolutions committee will begin its discussions of major issues and the exhibit room will be open Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. Also, the Council of Citizens with Low Vision International and Visually Impaired Data Processors International begin their sessions Sunday morning. All this leads to the grand opening Sunday evening, when President Paul Edwards presents his annual report and the secretary initiates the pomp and drama of the roll call of affiliates. Convention sessions begin Monday morning and continue each morning through Saturday. Special-interest groups and committees conduct their programs and social activities in the afternoons and evenings. Tours are also planned for the afternoons during convention week and the exhibit hall is open through Wednesday. There is much more, so stay tuned for further information.
The dates of the convention are Saturday, July 4 to Saturday, July 11, 1998. The place is the Clarion Plaza Hotel, 9700 International Drive, Orlando, Fla. 32819; (800) 366-9700. Room rates are $55 per night plus tax for single through quad. All convention activities will occur at this hotel.
The overflow hotel is the Quality Inn Plaza, located about two blocks from the Clarion. It is within easy walking distance with only driveways into parking areas to cross. Shuttles will be provided. Call (407) 345-8585 for reservations. Rates at this hotel are $51 per night plus tax for single through quad.
Since we are well into the second month in 1998, it is time now to complete your plans to attend this great convention. Remember to use AAA Travel of Muskogee, Okla., (800) 259-9299 to secure the lowest plane fares. This is ACB's designated travel agency. A special agreement through this travel agency that provides discounted fares has been established with American and Delta airlines.
If your company or agency desires to have an exhibit booth or your chapter or affiliate wishes to have a boutique at the convention, now is the time to secure the required forms from the ACB national office or from Diane Bowers, exhibits coordinator. Call (918) 628-1113.
Watch "The Braille Forum" for further details on the 1998 convention.
It's not too early to ask for exhibitor information. Bessie Reece of Missouri examines a book at the National Braille Press booth during the 1997 ACB convention in Houston. (All photos copyright 1997 by Jowdy Photography.)
Don't forget to send in your scholarship applications by March 1! Kim Waegele and Jonathan Avila, 1997 scholarship winners, share a hug at the banquet in Houston.
The annual presentation of awards recognizing outstanding dedication, distinguished service, and achievement by and/or for blind and visually impaired people has become a widely anticipated event at American Council of the Blind national conventions.
These awards are truly exciting opportunities for you to become directly involved in the outcome of some very important decisions. How unfortunate it is that we all too often wait until someone is no longer alive to recognize their achievements and contributions. It's much more gratifying to salute those who have contributed positively to our lives while they are among us. Without you, the process simply doesn't work. But with your help and your very easily crafted and submitted letter of nomination, our awards can do much to uplift and change lives. Gratitude truly motivates people to stay involved and active. There's no better way to show your gratitude and encourage those who have made a difference to continue doing so than by nominating them for one of ACB's prestigious awards.
The Awards Committee seeks nominations for the 1998 awards and asks that all nominations be sent directly to the ACB National Office, 1155 15th St. N.W., Suite 720, Washington, DC 20005.
For your information, criteria for the several ACB awards for which nominations are sought are:
The Robert S. Bray Award, established in 1975 in memory of the late chief of what is now the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, is presented periodically in recognition of outstanding work in extending library services or access to published materials, or improving communications devices or techniques.
The Durward K. McDaniel Ambassador Award recipient is selected each year from among blind candidates who, through their lives, associations, and activities, have demonstrated their integration into and their interaction with the life of the community. It is not necessary that the candidate be a member of or active in any organizations of the blind, or be engaged in work for the blind.
The George Card Award is presented periodically to an outstanding blind person who has contributed significantly to the betterment of blind people in general. This award is not limited by locality or by nature of the contribution.
The ACB Distinguished Service Award is given to a sighted individual who has made substantive contributions to the field of blindness. The award will be given as warranted.
Nominations should be postmarked no later than April 15, 1998.
Know someone who deserves an award? Make sure you get that nomination in by April 15! Here Kathy Megivern smiles and shakes hands with Dawn Christensen, Awards Committee chairperson, as Megivern receives the Distinguished Service Award.
At the most recent ACB national convention held last July in Houston, Texas, the Monday plenary session included a panel discussion on voting rights for the disabled in general and access to a truly secret ballot for blind and visually impaired voters in particular. One of the participants in that panel discussion was one of the attorneys for the blind and visually impaired voters who brought a successful lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas against several governmental entities and election officials. While discussing the plaintiffs' successful arguments in the district court, the attorney also indicated that Texas' secretary of state had appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit at New Orleans. Those in attendance were told that the oral argument had not gone well for the plaintiffs, and the result on appeal might not be favorable.
The attorney's view proved prophetic on August 1 as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit handed down its opinion in Lightbourn et al v. County of El Paso and Antonio O. Garza Jr., Secretary of State of the state of Texas (see 118 F. 3rd 421). Circuit judge Amelio M. Garza delivered the opinion for a unanimous three-judge panel reversing the district court's favorable judgment for the blind voters, holding that they had failed to make out a claim against Texas' secretary of state under either the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA.
With respect to the blind voters' claim that the secretary of state of Texas had violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, the court of appeals held that the law contained a program specificity requirement. The court declared that the plaintiffs had failed to present specific evidence in the trial court proving that the secretary received any federal financial assistance to carry out his duties in administering Texas' election laws, and thus had failed to make out a claim under Section 504. This ruling seems very strange since, while Section 504 originally contained a program specificity provision, the Court of Appeals did not appear to be aware that the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988, P.L. 100-259, 102 Stat. 28, passed by Congress over President Reagan's veto, had removed that provision.
Regarding the plaintiffs' claim that the secretary of state had violated Title II of the ADA by discriminating against them on the basis of their visual impairments in failing to insure them equal access to a secret ballot, the court ruled as follows. It first held that under Texas law, the secretary of state is charged with the responsibility of fairly and uniformly applying Texas' election laws. Thus, the only duty which the secretary of state owed to the plaintiffs was to fairly apply the state election laws. The court then held that Title II of the ADA is a disability civil rights statute, not an election law; therefore, the court declared that the secretary of state does not owe the plaintiffs any special duty or obligation to enforce Title II of the ADA against the hundreds of election districts and officials under his authority. The court thus holds that if the plaintiffs have a valid Title II claim at all, it would be against the County of El Paso and local election officials, against whom the plaintiffs had settled their claims earlier. The court finally said the plaintiffs simply cannot make out a valid Title II claim against Texas' secretary of state.
While this ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seems strange and is arguably in error, the plaintiffs had settled their claims against most of the original defendants in the case at the district court level, and presumably the remedial actions ordered against those government entities and individual election officials by earlier orders of the district court will go forward despite the Fifth Circuit's adverse decision. However, the ultimate order of the district court at least against Texas' secretary of state has been reversed. The Fifth Circuit's opinion does serve as an unfortunate legal precedent which may come back to haunt similar plaintiffs in other cases seeking to forward the cause of disabled voting rights.
In this month's column, we answer a follow-up question to last month's inquiry regarding the process to use when filing complaints relating to employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As you will recall, last month we discussed in depth a Department of Justice (DOJ) letter of findings concerning the Texas Commission for the Blind (TCB). As a result, ACB has heard from consumers and professionals throughout the field of blindness expressing concern and disappointment in TCB, especially in light of TCB's national reputation for providing quality service to people who are blind.
ACB has also heard from Terry Murphy, acting executive director of TCB, who expressed his concern that last month's column did not accurately reflect the circumstances surrounding the allegations of discrimination, failure to provide reasonable accommodations and harassment. Murphy was invited to submit a written response for publication in "The Braille Forum," and we may devote further space to this matter in our March issue. However, ACB recognizes that agencies serving us should be judged by what they do and not necessarily by what they say.
Last month's column also raised a number of issues relating to use of the complaint process under the ADA. This month's question provides some additional information about employment discrimination claims. As always, the information offered here is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of the issue. Rather, it is intended to provide basic guidance about available options.
QUESTION: I read last month's column about the process to use when filing employment discrimination complaints under the ADA. Although your column addressed some general concepts, I am looking for some additional details. I am an employee of a state agency, and I believe that I am facing discrimination based on my blindness.
ANSWER: As a state employee, you have some options that those who work for private employers do not have. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title I of the ADA which prohibits discrimination by employers. Title II of the ADA applies to the programs and services of state and local government entities and is enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Since state and local government entities are also employers, DOJ is given the authority to enforce the provisions of Title I against state and local governments. The practical significance of this is that, as a state employee, you may file your complaint with either the EEOC or DOJ. The actual complaint itself is not complicated, but it does need to be thorough. If you have questions about how to prepare your complaint, contact the ACB national office.
If you choose to file your complaint with EEOC, you must file within 180 days of the discrimination you allege. Many state Human Rights Commissions have established formalized relationships with EEOC enabling information sharing and joint effort. In such circumstances, you have up to 300 days to file your complaint. However, you should file your complaint as soon as possible. Although it might be possible for you to use any internal grievance procedures that you may have at your disposal, keep in mind that the clock continues to run while you are trying to resolve the problem with your employer internally.
Incidentally, when you request reasonable accommodations from your employer, use the buzz words "reasonable accommodation" in a written request. Although courts do not require employees to use such phrases in their requests for accommodation, using the specific words helps you to strengthen your claim. Also, although it is not necessary to work with an attorney to proceed with your complaint, it may be to your advantage to obtain the assistance of counsel to help you navigate the process successfully and to inform you of other legal options that you might wish to pursue. Many EEOC offices, state bar associations and Protection and Advocacy organizations maintain rosters of qualified attorneys who can assist you in filing your charge. Additionally, the ACB national office can offer assistance in locating attorneys and other appropriate advocates.
If you choose to file your complaint with EEOC, you can access a process known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In short, your complaint to EEOC may contain a request that your claim be handled through mediation. Rather than proceeding through formal investigation and possibly litigation, processes that are quite lengthy, the EEOC's mediation program offers an opportunity for both employers and employees to resolve their differences in a more timely way. Through face-to-face negotiation, EEOC has had considerable success using mediation to provide satisfactory outcomes for employees. Most recently, the Clinton administration has expressed the intent to expand the mediation program and thereby attempt to address the overwhelming number of cases that EEOC lacks the staff to investigate.
If you file your complaint with EEOC, you may not take your case to court until you are issued a "right to sue" letter. However, it is important to remember that although an action in court will not be permitted until the issuance of the letter advising you of your right to sue, you can nevertheless petition EEOC for such letters at any time during EEOC's investigation of your claim. Given EEOC's backlog of cases, the request is likely to be granted. Since you are a state employee, you may choose to file your complaint with DOJ. If you do, you have 180 days in which to file. One distinction about filing with DOJ is that you may bring an action in federal court at any time during the process. However, as a state employee, you would be wise to cross- file your complaint with the appropriate state agency to preserve whatever rights you may have under state law. The timelines for filing with these agencies vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If you have additional questions, you are welcome to contact the ACB national office.
(Editor's Note: I met Jim Womack only once, and it was for a brief period. In that fleeting few moments, I knew instantly that I was in the presence of a hero. Not a war hero alone, but a spiritual hero as well. I don't recall how it came up in our conversation, but I learned that Mr. Womack and I were members of the same church. His stories of encounters with church leaders were truly inspiring to me, and his example was one I will personally never forget. All too often, ours seems to be a world where sports figures and others set themselves up to be heroes for young people, then behave in a decidedly unheroic way. We miss those who die and who were true heroes in terms of their behavior and their willingness to spend time with others. While I knew him only briefly, I am indeed grateful for the inspiration he provided in so many ways.)
James Leone Womack of Winnfield, La., entered into rest September 9, 1997 at Willis Knighton Health Center in Bossier City. Most of us in the Louisiana Council of the Blind knew him as Big Jim or Captain Hook. I am sure we all remember his humor, as well as his dedication.
Jim was born November 18, 1925, at Sikes, La., to A.W. and Lona Head Womack. He is survived by his wife, Geraldine A. Womack of Winnfield; son, Michael Womack of Memphis, Tenn.; daughter, Michelle W. Lawrence of Bossier City; and mother, Lona H. Womack of Winnfield. Services for Womack were held Friday, September 12, 1997, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Winnfield, La., with Bishop Loy Garr officiating. Interment was at the Sikes Cemetery with full military honors.
In February 1944, at the height of World War II, Womack joined the 8th Army Infantry and served his country with honor and valor. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a hip wound he received in battle in Germany in January 1945. Despite his injury, he continued to serve on active duty until March 2, 1945. Jim was removing a land mine which discharged; he received life-threatening wounds that ended his military career.
Left blind, and with both arms amputated below the elbows from his war injuries, Womack pressed forward with his life with courage and an enduring inner strength. He attended Louisiana Polytechnic University and was a 1955 graduate of the LSU law school, where he graduated fourth in his class. He was honored with membership in the Order of the Coif and was a member of the Louisiana and 8th Judicial District Bar Associations. He maintained an active legal practice in Winnfield until his death.
He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which he served in many capacities, including the stake and ward levels. He had served as Stake Patriarch of Monroe, La. since 1969 and was serving as a member of the Bishopric of the Winnfield, La. ward.
Womack was involved in numerous civic and charitable organizations at the local, state and national levels. He served as chairman of the Louisiana Crippled Children's Association and was 1957 Louisiana Easter Seal Campaign Chairman. He served as president of the Winnfield Kiwanis Club, and was active with the Salvation Army, the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, and the American Heart Association. He was instrumental in organizing the Winn Sheltered Workshop for the Association of Retarded Citizens and was a member of its board of directors until his death.
He was an active supporter of the Norwella Council of the Boy Scouts of America and in 1968 was awarded the Silver Beaver Award. He was instrumental in organizing the Disabled American Veterans in Louisiana and, in the 200th anniversary of our nation's birth (1976), he was honored as the National Outstanding Disabled American Veteran. That same year Womack served as delegate to the White House Conference on the Handicapped.
Jim served two terms as president of the Louisiana Council of the Blind. During his tenure, LCB began its braille transcribing program. He also served on the board of directors for a number of years. He didn't mind references to the hook he wore and used very effectively on his right arm. This gained him the loving title of Captain Hook in Louisiana. Jim was also a member of the Blinded Veterans Association, and was awarded its National Achievement Award in 1956. He was also an active member of the American Blind Lawyers Association.
In addition to his law practice, Jim ran another business and managed rental properties for his mother. He was the leading founder of another ACB affiliate, the Independent Visually Impaired Enterprisers.
Jim had many accomplishments to be proud of, but he never lost his perspective of being an ordinary man involved in civic affairs, working for his fellow man. We will all miss Cap'n Hook.
When I last updated you on the ongoing saga of the Minnesota state licensing agency and its licensed blind vendor, Dennis Groschel, to obtain an unconditional permit under the Randolph- Sheppard Act to operate a vending facility at the St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had again ruled that the department had violated the act by denying the agency and its vendor the unconditional permit being sought. The court's opinion stated that it was high time for the scorched-earth campaign of the Veterans Affairs Department to thwart implementation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act to come to an end. Undaunted by the court's cautionary words, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs requested the Solicitor General of the United States to seek review of the opinion before the Supreme Court. The solicitor general and the Justice Department denied the request, refusing to bring the same arguments before the Supreme Court which had twice been rejected by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
With no further avenue of federal court review available to it, Veterans Affairs, after 16 years of fighting the inevitable, finally capitulated. In a quiet ceremony held on August 29 at the St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the assistant hospital administrator and the director of business enterprise programs for the Minnesota state licensing agency jointly signed the unconditional, indefinite duration permit which the state agency and its vendor had been seeking all along. This simple signing ceremony marked the end of a long, arduous legal battle for the agency and its vendor. The hard-fought total victory will serve as an important precedent for other state licensing agencies and many blind vendors. This issue constitutes an important victory for the state licensing agency and its vendor, since Veterans Affairs had strenuously argued for a permit of only three to five years duration, which would have legitimated the idea that an operating permit could be renegotiated periodically.
All of us as advocates for the legal rights of blind and visually impaired people should give a cheer of thanks and congratulations to the Minnesota state licensing agency and its vendor for their steadfast dedication to the cause of enforcing the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority in favor of blind vendors on federal property. Now it is up to blind vendors and advocates in other states and like-minded state licensing agencies to join together to use the hard-won legal precedent from Minnesota to obtain profitable vending locations and business opportunities for blind licensees on Department of Veterans Affairs properties throughout the country. To do anything less would be to squander the years of hard work and dedication put in by the Minnesota agency and its vendor. Let's not drop the ball. Let's rededicate our efforts to fully enforce and implement the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority.
We all care about the quality of the programs and services that affect us. In this era of shrinking budgets and emphasis on technology and the information age, policy makers and program administrators increasingly are concerned about measuring whether programs are effective, and figuring out what makes them so. They demand statistics and outcome measurements. They want to know the bottom line: Is what we are paying worth the price? Well-conducted research can provide answers.
Research can be a tool for consumers, advocates, and service providers, as well as for policy makers. Research can help us to discern the strengths and weaknesses of programs. In addition, research has other important uses: to explore alternatives to the status quo, to set priorities among the needs expressed by people who are blind or visually impaired, to identify significant problems (for example, Which barriers to employment are most serious? What are the main barriers limiting availability of services for older blind people?), or to validate the need for specialized services to people who are blind or visually impaired.
In the past, researchers sought to include consumers, but primarily as the subjects of the research and occasionally involving them in refining research procedures during pre-testing. In some instances, a few consumers served on advisory committees to research projects. Rarely have consumers become researchers; even more rarely have researchers become consumers of blindness services.
Consumer advocates have made it clear that consumers desire much more extensive, active involvement: first in deciding what research is proposed and funded, then in judging its value when complete, and finally in using worthwhile results. New developments make this a particularly good time for consumers to become more aware of research which is getting under way and to become more deeply involved in the research process.
To improve the quality of research and to respond to consumer advocacy, federal agencies that provide much of the funding for research in our field are requiring a more significant place for consumers. The agencies are formalizing a role for consumers throughout the peer review process by which agency personnel select among proposals submitted by researchers. In addition, those agencies are encouraging "participatory action research." In PAR, consumers take part in the process from beginning to end, and the research must be designed to affect practice.
AFB is sponsoring the Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in partnership with ACB. The Research Roundtable at JLTLI was created four years ago to promote collaboration both among researchers in different places, and among researchers, practitioners and consumers. Whether they are studying education, rehabilitation, or services for older people who are blind or visually impaired, researchers need consumers' active cooperation. This may be more true in the blindness field than some others because the relatively small numbers make it difficult to conduct studies with large and diverse samples. Most importantly, researchers need to hear from consumers because consumers bring expertise from their experience as blind or visually impaired people.
This year's Research Roundtable will be on Saturday, March 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Washington Marriott Hotel. It provides an opportunity for consumers and researchers to come together and begin to develop informal as well as more systematic collaboration. We will hear from representatives of federal agencies about opportunities for consumer participation, and from researchers about proposed plans for a research institute to promote projects around the country. Dinner will be served and there will be plenty of time for questions and lively discussion. The Research Roundtable will include a facilitated discussion about ways to help make research more relevant to what you, as a consumer, care about, and to suggest concrete ways you can become more involved.
Please plan to come to the JLTLI Research Roundtable. You can make a difference! (If you cannot attend in person, ask an ACB representative who will be attending to raise your questions or suggestions and to give you feedback after the meeting.)
For more information or more background about the Research Roundtable, contact Debbie Grubb, ACB of Maryland, at (410) 337- 9430 or e-mail [email protected], Emilie Schmeidler, AFB New York, at (212) 502-7644 or e-mail [email protected], or Karen Wolffe, a private consultant in Texas, at (512) 280-5792 or e-mail [email protected]
OHIO AWARDS 3
At its annual convention in November, the ACB of Ohio presented three awards. The 1997 Ken Morlock Award, given each year to someone who is blind or visually impaired who has made a significant contribution to the lives of blind or visually impaired people, was presented to Edward Swartz. Each year for the past nine years, Swartz has organized a fishing derby fundraiser. He has contributed a significant amount of time organizing the event, and has obtained the assistance of many other organizations in his area such as the Lions Club and the Sons of the American Legion. Proceeds from the fishing derby are donated to the Cleveland chapter. The Ruth Davidson Award, which is given to a sighted individual for outstanding service to the blind and visually impaired community, was presented to Rev. Joseph McNulty. McNulty was instrumental in establishing the Catholic Association for the Blind in 1990, an integral part of St. Augustine's parish. He encourages members to become involved with activities in the parish and the surrounding community, and assists members in arranging transportation to activities. And the Ambassador Award, which is given to a blind or visually impaired member of the ACB of Ohio, was presented to Barbara Corner. She has served on the ACBO board as a director and as first vice president. She has been involved with legislative issues and other board activities.
NEWS FROM HOUSTON
The Houston Council of the Blind recently presented Taping For The Blind with the Vision Outreach Award. This award recognizes Taping's 30 years of outstanding community service, enhancing the lives of blind and visually impaired individuals in Houston. The plaque is now on display at the Taping For The Blind Studio.
COME TO LAFAYETTE!
The Louisiana Council of the Blind will hold its state convention in Lafayette May 15-16. It will be held at the Holiday Inn North, 2716 NE Evangeline Throughway, Lafayette, LA 70507. Make reservations by calling (318) 233-0003; room rates are $53 per night (plus tax) for single through quad.
GOOD TURNOUT AT JOB SEMINAR
The Pennsylvania Council of the Blind conducted a very successful employment seminar on the Friday before its annual convention. Seventy visually impaired people interested in employment or career advancement attended, as did several staff members from the Pennsylvania state agency. New officers elected at the state convention are: Joseph Perry, president; Pamela Shaw, first vice president; Anthony (Tony) Swartz, second vice president; Cathy Long, secretary; and Anthony (Tony) Evancic, treasurer. John Horst was appointed executive director.
CALLING ALL HAMS
The American Council of the Blind Radio Amateurs affiliate has been inviting hams and those interested in ham radio to write to us, either through the usual mail or by e-mail. I just received mail to beat all mail in this regard. A blind ham, Boris Meshevtsev (EX5T) in Kyrgyzstan, read one of our ACBRA affiliate articles in a copy of "The Braille Forum" and wrote to me. I didn't realize "The Braille Forum" even circulated to Kyrgyzstan, a member state of the CIS, located in west central Asia. I am very honored Boris saw fit to write to me. In his very interesting letter, he told about himself, some of the conditions in his country, and how he and I have certainly communicated in the past on the air. We can all be very proud of "The Braille Forum," its quality of production, and how it gets the word out to the world.
Again, several have asked me about where to get tapes for preparation for the written exam and code exam for the amateur radio license. If you're interested in obtaining exam material, call W5YI at (800) 699-9594 or Handihams at (612) 520-0515. Both organizations are good sources of material for all of the exams. My preference leans toward Handihams. This year continues to be a good one for ACBRA. The letter from Boris gives me that feeling. So hams, contact me. 73's from K8CO (Rob). Submitted by Robert Rogers, president of ACBRA, 1121 Morado Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45238; (513) 762-4022, (513) 921-3186; e-mail: [email protected]
The Alabama Council of the Blind will hold its state convention April 3 through 5 at the Radisson Hotel at the University of Alabama Birmingham. For additional information on registration, call Alabama Council President Van Fulghum at (205) 362-4358.
(The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the official point of view of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials.)
In an age when so much reading is done with the aid of talking technology, one might reasonably ask why use a direct translation machine like an Optacon? I would like to put forth some of the reasons why this is a good option for many.
I do not wish to cast aspersions on those who use scanners and other modes of talking reading machines. I have read many computer files that were scanned in this way. However, there are many cases in which talking technology does not fill the bill.
I am a retired music teacher. During the time I taught, it was imperative that I have some method of reading music manuals and notation. It was important that I be able to check formats of the manuals so that I could perceive what the children were seeing. I had to be able to point out configurations which illustrated the concepts being taught. This was especially true in teaching music theory. The most accurate way to achieve this was to use the Optacon. I was quite successful with teaching in this way and the children became quite accustomed to hearing the buzz of the machine.
I am also a harpist. Little or no harp music exists in braille. I therefore used the Optacon to read my music. My coach was able to pencil in any fingering changes or changes in notation. The fact that I could go and buy music or read music sent to me also made me more competitive in the workplace.
During my career I also became interested in some forms of ancient music notation. The early Middle Ages saw a notation which consisted of squiggles, curves, dots and other shapes written underneath or over the words. This study would have been impossible without an Optacon. Although I never really mastered that notation, I was greatly enlightened by this work.
A third instance where the Optacon is quite useful is in foreign languages, especially those where the characters are not Latinate. I learned some of the Hebrew characters.
If you are a computer user, you can also use the Optacon to check the configuration of your printer as well as the format of your document. I have seen many documents written by sighted colleagues where the configuration was not checked. There were token numbers all over the place as well as file names that were superfluous. With the Optacon, I don't need to worry about this. When I first ran my music notation program, I noticed that there were mirror images on the paper. I called technical support and was told that the printer wasn't configured correctly. I played it until it was right, using the Optacon to check the pages.
The Optacon also encourages a sense of literacy that is not available with talking machines. An accurate comparison might be with braille and talking books. Those of us who read braille know a kind of literacy that does not exist for those who do not read with their fingers. Spelling improves and the sense of the "written" word is preserved.
In an age of declining literacy which seems to be universal, it is vital that blind people be as literate as possible. We must be able to read braille and print tactually. If we cannot read we can't write. Many times I've heard my mother say, "I know if it's spelled right by the way it looks." We need to know the way something looks. If we can visualize the work, either in print or braille, we can write more easily. In reading with our fingers, we can read at our own rate. We can stop and contemplate more easily.
Literacy makes us more competitive. It also dispels the image of the illiterate blind person. We must use all technologies available to blind people. We can't be dependent upon the whims of seeing people. Imagine what would happen if someone said to our sighted brethren, "We're going to take away your eyes. We don't really think you need them because of other technologies."
Re "Why We Can't Ignore Mr. Magoo"
When I heard the news report about the National Federation of the Blind wanting to sanction Disney because of the soon-to-be- released Mr. Magoo movie, I laughed and thought it was another stupid idea from the NFB. I was happy to hear Paul Edwards say that we have more important things to worry about. However, when I read the "From Your Perspective" piece in the September issue, I was incensed from the depths of my being. It is sad when we have to worry about a cartoon character determining our self-esteem.
Until cataracts lessened the vision in my good eye, I could see the television screen, and saw the Mr. Magoo cartoons. I did not care a lot about it because I didn't care for cartoons. So Magoo has thick glasses, bumbles around, etc.; things always work out. What is wrong with that? I took an unscientific poll of people and found that no one felt threatened by Mr. Magoo.
I think we should be more concerned with how many blind people are involved in the media. How many blind people and characters can you name on TV programs since TV began? Not very many. There was the guy who always sat at the bar on Archie's place, a blind detective in a short-lived program called "Longstreet" which aired on ABC in the early '70s, and the preacher on "Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman," who went blind because of an illness or accident. I don't know how realistic these characters were, but at least we were represented. You take what you get and try to do better.
I agree with Mitch Pomerantz that many sighted people do not have a clue about blind people because they do not know us. How many of us have sighted friends who really know very little about how we live? They just see us in certain situations. When I mentioned the Magoo flap to these people, their reaction was "another group complaining again?" Is this what we want? I hope not. These people could not see the relationship between Magoo and the blind. Have we become, or are we already, too sensitive?
On the issue of employment, I asked a couple of friends if a cartoon character could influence them on hiring a blind person. They said no. In fact, one of them said that people in a self- employed situation hardly have time to watch TV or movies. They are more concerned with whether the blind person could do the job. Maybe this is where we are falling short. Are we able to do the job? Maybe we have to sell ourselves better. Do the figures mention that those of us haven't just decided not to work and stay away from the workplace to collect disability?
I hope that if the ACB decides to have a forum about self- esteem and negative attitudes that we have some employers come in and tell us why they wouldn't hire us. Let's not just look at surveys and polls.
I believe that we are being overly sensitive. Instead of complaining, maybe we should help in getting more positive role models into movies and TV. I throw the torch to Friends-In-Art to do something about this.
Oh Magoo, you've done it again.
Re: full inclusion
We were delighted to have Paul Edwards, our national president, as a guest of honor at the Utah affiliate convention May 2 and 3.
My wife and I attended the morning session on Friday. I have a serious hearing impairment along with total blindness so I was very pleased that means had been provided so that I could hear the proceedings reasonably well. We left after the morning session on Friday because Alice, my wife, was not feeling very well. We were looking forward to the banquet.
The Friday evening dinner and program were very enjoyable. On our way home, however, my dear wife suffered what proved to be her fatal heart attack. It happened right out on the street. We were lucky to get home without serious mishap. I won't bore you with details. Suffice it to say that she passed away on May 15th.
I mention this only because sometimes it takes something like that to do some serious thinking. I have done a lot of that since that time. I am not at all happy with some of the conclusions I have come up with in that time. I feel the need to share some of them with someone.
I was somewhat perturbed by your article in the January "Braille Forum," "The Full Inclusionists Just Don't Get It!"
I left the school for the blind in Ogden at the end of the 1934-35 school year. Miss Kelly, principal of that school at the time, somehow got word of my intention to go to public high school the next year and made an effort to get me to change my mind. I have never been sorry for one moment that she didn't succeed in doing that.
Please don't get me wrong. I learned a lot during my years in Ogden. For the most part, it was a rather pleasant experience. However, I did feel the need to get out into the real world to finish my education.
I realize that things were far different then from what they are now. I also realize, however, that there is far more opportunity now for students who choose to get into the mainstream than there was 60-odd years ago. At that time, it would have been virtually impossible for a student to begin at the beginning and remain in the public school system through high school. I think it could have been done even then, however, with proper support of parents and others. Admittedly, it would have been a battle.
Judging from our experience here in Utah, I think a good case can be made for the elimination of residential schools altogether. Certainly a case can be made for integrated schools, if only for financial considerations. The cost of maintaining a separate school for the blind has skyrocketed, to put it mildly.
I'm sure that you are at least somewhat aware of the fiasco that occurred here in Utah when the schools for the deaf and blind were separated. As a former student, I was urged to join that campaign for separation. It was carried out by some of your contemporaries. I don't know whether you were a participant.
The schools are together again after a comparatively brief period of separation. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the students were the biggest losers. Another argument for abolition. Not surprisingly, those responsible for the separation campaign "went back into the woodwork" so to speak, without ever having acknowledged their goof.
I believe that we should face one fact, and face it squarely and honestly. Separate agencies are more costly, infinitely more costly, and usually less efficient, in terms of real service rendered.
One thing is for sure: I don't want decisions as to private agencies being made in Washington. Such matters should be settled locally to suit local conditions and circumstances. I don't want such matters being made by our national office or by some federal bureaucrats.
I wonder if a lot of others don't feel the same way. I wonder if that could account, at least in part, for the decreasing membership and the lack of support, financially and otherwise, of which we have been hearing so many complaints lately from the national office.
Oral Miller, our executive director, recently complained about the fact that only 10 percent of our members make any contribution to the council over and above their dues. I am not the least bit ashamed to admit to being one of the other 90 percent. I resent people trying to tell me what to think. I believe that to be a good and healthy resentment, don't you?
The American Council of the Blind supposedly seeks to promote the independence of all blind and visually impaired people. I don't see why anyone could or should take offense to that goal. All right then, let's put our money and our effort where our mouth is. Let's stop running to our state and federal governments for additional programs and aid which we have gotten along without for this many years and try to achieve real independence. We can do it if will power is exerted. Certainly we should.
Regarding the matter of separate agencies for the blind and visually impaired, there is far too much divisiveness in the world today. We should be working for greater unity, not more division. I would like to see the day when the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind could join and present a united front to the members of both organizations and to the rest of the country and world. I don't expect to see that happen. I think I share the feelings of many others, however. I find myself more and more disenchanted with both organizations. Perhaps the "Mr. Smith" from whose letter Paul Edwards quoted in his Houston speech could be persuaded to take the lead in forming a new organization. It grieved me rather deeply to learn that the president did not agree with a thing Mr. Smith said. Personally, I found his comments a refreshing light of truth. We need more not less input from guys like that.
I would respectfully suggest to the national office that those therein would do well to put themselves in greater harmony with the membership. Potentially, we have a wonderful organization. As is, however, I for one cannot and will not very enthusiastically support it.
If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would bet that these comments or any portion thereof will not find their way into "The Braille Forum." Be that as it may, I feel a little better for having made them.
(Editor's Note: Dr. Majid lost his sight at the age of 17. According to his biography, he is the first blind person to have attained the dual qualifications of doctor of civil law and barrister. He is a Reader in Law at the London Guildhall University, practices law and sits part-time on a British tribunal in a judicial capacity. He visited the United States last year and attended the ACB Legislative Seminar held in conjunction with the 1997 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute.)
While I believe that I am living in a civilized country, the acuity of uncouth conduct of many of my fellow citizens toward disabled people leaves me gasping for breath. That's especially true when I review the results of an authoritative survey conducted in autumn 1995 regarding the denial of access to people with disabilities. Among those disabled people surveyed, 54 percent suffered incidents of violence and harassment, and 46 percent experienced psychological abuse in the preceding year at the hands of so-called "normal" people. A 45-year-old man stated, "I had stones thrown at me and was spat on by local thugs." A 26-year-old woman said, "I was punched and slapped and had my hair pulled by a relative." In another disturbing incident, a 55-year-old disabled person stated, "A total stranger came up to me, swore at me and told me to get out of my wheelchair and [email protected]#&ing walk."
The fact that many so-called respectable magazines publish appalling articles on disability is proof that these reprehensible attitudes are not confined to the lower strata of society. One of these articles was described as "Harris' kicking cripples piece" ("The Spectator," 2 Dec. 1995). In it, Harris writes, "It is a dreadful thing to be crippled or blinded or deafened; it could happen to any of us; and if it happens to me I would want every benefit I could wring from the wretched state and its tight-fisted taxpayers."
While the British Labor Party has been aware of tangible prejudice against disabled people for more than two decades, the Conservative Party failed to see the need for protective legislation until 1994. As a result of the potent campaign on the part of disabled Britons, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) became law on November 8, 1995. The serious gaps in the DDA were good indications that the government was not fully committed to conferring meaningful enforceable rights on disabled people. Restrictive Definition of Disability
"You make me sick by the spectacle of your disability; get out of my shop, dozy, and do not dare to come back here again to upset my customers" is as such not an unlawful act under the DDA. The victim of this taunt has to show that he/she has a disability which falls within the ambit of the act. The act does not use a social definition of disability which would have outlawed any prejudice against disabled people as illustrated by the preceding statement. The act uses a medical definition and regards a person as disabled if he/she has "a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities" (DDA 1995, S. 1). The debate on whether the definition should be social or medical occupied considerable time in Parliament. The activists in the disability field were vindicated when the House of Lords agreed on an amendment, making unlawful the conduct of a service provider if he/she treated a person as having a disability, as defined by the act, even though he/she did not have it or did not have an impairment serious enough to come within the statutory definition. In the House of Commons, Labor Party spokesman Tom Clarke asked the government to embrace the wisdom of the upper house, but the amendment was rejected. The omission of this amendment means that if a person not covered under the narrow terms of the act is subjected to discrimination by a service provider who wrongly believes that he/she is disabled, then that person has no cause of action. Under the Race Relations Act of 1976, a factory owner who mistakes a Scotsman for an Australian cannot escape liability for the denial of access to goods and services on the grounds of his/her error.
In the debate on the act in the House of Commons on October 31, 1995, the figure of 6.5 million was incontrovertibly referred to by all sides as representing the disabled people in the UK. However, I can confidently say that a sizeable proportion of these disabled people will not enjoy the protection of the DDA due to the definitional traps. Those who are covered are given the following limited protections against detrimental discrimination.
1. If with some reasonable adjustment a disabled person can be employed, and there is no justification for refusing him/her employment, an employer who employs 20 or more workers discriminates against a disabled person when the disabled person is treated less favorably as a result of the disability (DDA 1995, SS. 5-6). The protection applies to job advertisements, recruitment interviews, selection and retention of employees, promotion and transfers, training and staff development, occupational pension and bonus schemes and dismissal and redundancy.
2. It is unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing or failing to provide any service which it provides to the public (DDA 1995, SS. 19-21). The unlawful discrimination is deemed to have occurred if a service provider refuses to serve a disabled person, offers him/her a lower standard of service, offers to him/her less favorable terms, or fails to make reasonable service provision arrangements or structural alterations to a facility which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult to use. Examples of service providers are commercial businesses, shops, banks, hotels, restaurants, theaters, riding schools, insurance companies, telecommunications services, libraries, places of interest such as historic buildings and bus and railway stations.
3. It is unlawful for a person with power to dispose of any premises, or having the capacity to manage them, to discriminate against a disabled person (DDA 1995, SS. 22-24). A person is guilty of illegal discrimination if he/she offers less favorable terms to a disabled person, refuses to sell or let property or land, treats a disabled person differently on lists such as local government housing departments, accommodation bureaus and estate agents, offers different facilities to a disabled person, refuses a disabled person access to land or property, evicts him/her or refuses to authorize subletting to a disabled person. This applies to councils, housing associations, hostel owners, private landlords, estate agents, accommodation agencies, property developers, property management agencies, property investment agencies and institutions, banks and building societies, voluntary bodies and owner occupiers when they use estate agents or advertise, in respect of, e.g., land, houses, flats, hostels and business premises. Landlords or members of their immediate family who let out rooms to six or fewer people in their own homes are not covered by the act.
4. The conservative government wished to make no provision in respect of education of disabled people in the DDA. But the opposition and the House of Lords imported into the act some protective measures. Through the management and funding bodies, the DDA places a duty on schools, colleges and universities to issue "Disability Statements" containing, among other things, information about institutional policy toward disabled students, admission arrangements, access for disabled students, availability of any special equipment, complaints procedures for disabled students, counseling, etc. (DDA 1995, SS. 29-31).
5. The act gives power to the relevant Secretary of State to make accessibility regulations to require that all new public vehicles, buses, coaches, trains and trams, as well as newly licensed taxis, are accessible. The changes will aim to make safe getting on and off vehicles and producing safety and reasonable comfort for disabled people when they are traveling in them (DDA, SS. 32-39). However, the act exempts transit providers in certain cases.
Discrimination cases filed after December 2, 1996 can be tried by an industrial tribunal within three months of the discrimination or victimizing act. The act also provides for mediation of the complaint. Pension complaints may be resolved through the Pensions Dispute Resolution Mechanism. Damages for loss suffered or injury to feelings, in addition to some non-pecuniary remedies, can be sought in these proceedings, if a disabled person is discriminated against or any person is victimized. Legal aid for advice and assistance is available as part of any industrial tribunal and county court proceedings. Legal aid is not available in several other instances. These cases can represent as much as 98 percent of the legal expenses another significant gap in the enforcement machinery of the act.
As you can tell, the act is very complicated and its dependence on conciliation is over-optimistic, if not totally naive.
Disabled people in the UK have not been given access to any body of support in their pursuit of rights under the DDA. I concur with the view that this is "Undoubtedly, ... the single greatest weakness in the DDA compared either with the British sex and race statutes or with comparable legislation in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, all of which have strategic enforcement agencies." (Caroline Gooding, "Blackstone's Guide to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995," page 53, 1996; London.) An advisory council has been established under the act, but it has virtually no power.
The layers of weakness in its provisions inspired Lord Lester of Herne Hill to say that the act is "so full of holes that it is more like a colander than a binding code" (Direct Action Network, PR, Oct. 30, 1995/5). The act's purported objective is to eliminate discrimination against disabled people, yet it talks about medically ascertainable impairments rather than attacking disability-based prejudice per se. It is ineffective and vague in giving rights to disabled people because invariably they will not have sufficient resources to prosecute their claims. The unemployment rate among disabled Britons is similar to that found in the United States. Many claims will not stand in court because either the complainant is not covered by the statute or the respondent is able to take advantage of the many exemptions and loopholes the act currently includes.
According to a report issued by the Royal National Institute for the Blind in September 1996, 50 percent of British employers have no intention of employing a person "with difficulty seeing" (Steve Winyard, Blind in Britain: the Employment Challenge). A society which could not persuade itself to comply with a statutorily imposed quota of 3 percent employees during 1994-1995 cannot rationally be presumed to give effect to the limited protections of the DDA by procedures of conciliation.
The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.
The American Foundation for the Blind is asking for nominations for the 12th Alexander Scourby Narrator of the Year Awards. Two awards will be presented, representing outstanding narration in fiction (including mysteries, westerns, science fiction, romance, and adventure) and non-fiction. All Talking Book readers are eligible to nominate a Talking Book narrator in each category. A third special recognition Scourby Award will also be given at the awards ceremony and reception, tentatively scheduled for June. To cast your vote, send your choices (one per category) to the American Foundation for the Blind, Communications Group, 11 Penn Plaza, Suite 300, New York, N.Y. 10001; e-mail [email protected]; phone (800) 232-5463. Submissions must be made no later than March 27.
The Carroll Center for the Blind of Newton, Mass., will be holding free screening and orientation for its 1998 summer youth programs. On March 24, there will be a screening in Oklahoma at a location to be announced; March 27, Missouri; April 15, western New York; April 22, Carroll Center, and April 23, eastern New York. Summer programs include: Youth in Transition, which assists teens in learning how to live independent, satisfying lives, to be held June 30 through July 31; Student Career Assessment, designed to help teens and young adults develop their career choices and job- seeking skills, to be held Aug. 4-26; Computers & Sailing, Aug. 3- 7, to include advanced computer internet skills and basic sailing instructions; and computer introduction, July 27-31. Applicants must submit a 1997 eye report and general medical report, transcript and/or IEP, and any other reports (such as audiology, low vision, psychological, psychiatric, work assessment). Youth in Transition costs $4,800; Career Assessment costs $3,000; Computers & Sailing with housing, $800 (without housing, $700); and computer introduction costs $700 (no housing available). For more information, or an application, contact Margaret E. Cleary, Director of Admissions, The Carroll Center, 770 Centre St., Newton Center, MA 02158; phone (617) 969-6200 or toll-free (800) 852-3131.
The Carroll Center will also be offering a small business training program. It's a three-month program for those who are beginning or expanding a small business, or those who are self- employed. It will begin April 6 and end June 26; tuition is $5,826, housing $2,700. Students must have a vocational/business plan with their vocational rehabilitation counselor, have basic touch typing skills, notetaking skills and independent mobility. Applications must be submitted with a copy of the business plan to the address above.
NEWS FROM AFB
The American Foundation for the Blind's 1998 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute will be held March 5-8 at the Washington Marriott. The theme is "The Consumer-Provider Partnership: Mobilizing for Specialized Services." The American Council of the Blind in conjunction with AFB will host the legislative portion of the conference. "Tell It To Washington" activities will be incorporated as part of JLTLI in 1998; participants will spend most of Friday on Capitol Hill, preceded by a legislative briefing for all and optional advocacy training. Additional highlights include workgroup sessions in education, employment, and aging, and a role-playing session called "Using Negotiation to Win the Argument About Specialized Services." The Access Awards and Kay Gallagher Award ceremony and reception will be held on Friday evening. Also, the fourth annual research roundtable, designed to bring researchers, practitioners, students and consumers together to discuss collaboration, expanded uses of results, and the broader role of consumers in ongoing and new research projects, will be held during the seminar. For more information, or to be added to the "JLTLI Bulletin" mailing list, contact Corinne Kirchner at (212) 502-7640; e-mail [email protected], or Alberta Orr, (212) 502-7634, e-mail [email protected]
AFB also has a new brochure available about the importance of preserving specialized services. "Every Seven Minutes ..." is intended for use in advocacy efforts by individuals and organizations providing specialized services to visually impaired people. To receive a free copy, or for bulk-order pricing, call (800) 232-5463 or e-mail [email protected]
The Mississippi State University Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision would like your help in identifying innovative strategies or practices to assist blind and visually impaired people in overcoming barriers to employment. If you know a rehabilitation provider or employer who wouldn't mind sharing his/her expertise, contact Amy Skinner toll-free at (800) 675-7782, or mail the information to her at MSU-RRTC, P.O. Drawer 6189, Mississippi State, MS 39762.
The Emil Fries School of Piano Tuning & Technology is seeking trainees. All of the school's instructors are blind. The school offers a one-to-one hands-on approach to teaching, and has a 90 percent success rate among graduates. Financial aid is available. For more information, call (360) 693-1511, or visit http://www.pacifier.com/~dsmitch.
The Blinded Veterans Association will award 16 scholarships under its Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program for the 1998-99 school year. Only dependent children and spouses of blinded veterans of the U.S. armed forces are eligible. The veteran must be legally blind; the blindness may either be service-connected or non-service-connected. Applicants must have been accepted for admission or already be enrolled as full-time students in an accredited college, university, business, secretarial or vocational training school. To get an application, write to: The Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program, Blinded Veterans Association, 477 H St. NW, Washington, DC 20001-2694. Completed applications and supporting materials must be returned to BVA no later than Friday, April 17. Applications received after that date WILL NOT be accepted. Scholarships will be awarded on a "most highly qualified basis" using the following criteria: answers to questions on the application form; transcripts of high school and/or college records; three letters of reference; and a 300-word essay on the applicant's post-education, lifetime career goals and aspirations. And take note, if you have previously received a scholarship: the BVA board's policy concerning these scholarships is that the number of scholarships a recipient may receive under the program is limited to four.
Speak to me! now has its mid-winter catalog available. It features items such as a musical water fountain, talking Star Trek products, recording multi-picture frames, talking Coke clocks, talking Looney Tunes cereal bowls and much more. It also features Easter products, such as a musical bunny fountain, musical Easter eggs, talking squeeze animals, and talking items to put in Easter baskets. To receive a free catalog in print, on tape or computer disk, call toll-free (800) 248-9965.
Integral Resources Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., recently hired Shereen Hawkesworth, who is blind, as a telemarketer. The company gave her the basics of the script in braille, adapted her computer so it would speak the needed information, and gave her a headset that would allow her to listen to the computer and the caller. Integral Resources, Inc. is actively involved in raising funds for the American Council of the Blind and its Massachusetts affiliate the Bay State Council.
In November, blind and visually impaired as well as deaf and hearing impaired people were able to enjoy a movie in a movie theater, according to a press release from WGBH. General Cinema Theatres, Universal Pictures, Digital Theater Systems, and the WGBH Educational Event collaborated to make this possible. The General Cinema Theatre, which is the first conventional movie theater to install the Rear Window Captioning System and DVS Theatrical, showed "The Jackal" with these technologies Nov. 14-25.
Audio Darts of Pittsburgh will hold the first Harold Schledel Darts Tournament the weekend of April 17-19. This tournament will be held at the Best Western Motel, 3401 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, Pa. The room rate is $69 per night plus tax for up to four people per room. For room reservations, call (412) 683-6100. The first event will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday; the tournament should conclude at 5 p.m. Sunday. The cost of the entire tournament is $60; make checks payable to Audio Darts of Pittsburgh and send them to Louis Wassermann, 2503 Silver Oak Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15220. For more information, call Lois Briggs at (412) 366-2630, Harold Schlegel at (412) 921-0172, or Joe Wassermann at (412) 687-5166.
Arkenstone recently released VERA, its Very Easy Reading Appliance. It scans a page and reads it aloud. VERA is controlled by a keypad that has oversized keys with tactile markings and high- contrast color labels to make the keys easy to distinguish. Each key performs only one feature. The complete system costs $3,155; the supplemental color monitor, $300 additional. For more information, call the company toll-free at (800) 444-4443.
The Used Equipment Clearinghouse is a free service that matches someone who wants to buy an adaptive device such as a slate and stylus, brailler, CCTV, etc., with someone who wants to sell one. Contact Barbara Mattson at 519 E. Main St. #8, Spartanburg, SC 29302; phone (864) 585-7323.
The Princeton Braillists is a group of transcribers who offer numerous tactile maps and drawings. "Atlas of the Middle East" is 69 pages and costs $20. "Atlas of North and South America" contains three units in four volumes: Unit 1, Northern North America; Unit 2, the United States (two volumes); Unit 3, Middle and South America. The four-volume set costs $50 plus $6 shipping and handling; individual volumes are $15 plus shipping and handling. "Basic Human Anatomy" costs $15 including shipping. There are maps of individual states available as well: Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Each state booklet costs $6 including free matter shipping. "Maps of Morocco" costs $5 including free matter shipping. "Maps of Russia and Its Former Republics" costs $4 including free matter shipping. Send check or money order (institutions may use purchase orders) to the Princeton Braillists, 28-B Portsmouth St., Whiting, N.J. 08759-2049. For more information, call (732) 350-3708.
Do you need more information before you make a choice on a brailler? A new video is now available which describes the Mountbatten Brailler and its functions. It is available free from distributors of the Mountbatten. In the USA, contact Humanware at (800) 722-3393; in the United Kingdom, contact RNC Enterprises at (0432) 265725; for all other inquiries, contact Quantum at 61 2 9684 2077, or e-mail [email protected]
I was attending the 1997 ACB national convention in Houston. There was so much going on ... exciting tours, interesting speakers and workshops, receptions, and special events.
One of these special events was the Friends-In-Art performance showcase on Tuesday night where members with talent were featured in a 2-1/2 hour long musical revue. Although my forte is not music, I thought I might have something to contribute in the area of interpretive reading. Since I had been in radio and TV broadcasting for 22 years, and several more in public speaking, I felt pretty confident about my ability to deliver a professional and entertaining performance.
So, on Sunday, I went to the appointed suite to sign myself up for an audition. The young woman who greeted me immediately asked me what I was going to sing. I replied that I was not planning to sing anything. Somewhat surprised, she then asked what instrument I played. I explained that I was not going to give a musical performance -- that I was going to read.
"Something you have written?" she asked expectantly. I replied that it was not. She said they didn't have anyone doing that sort of thing and wasn't sure if it would fit in. Somewhat taken aback, I offered to do a reading for her right then and there so that she could judge for herself. I had selected two short pieces -- the first, a sophisticatedly humorous piece by Judith Viorst, called "Open House," about 2-1/2 minutes in length and the second, a sardonically whimsical creation by Ken Nordeen, entitled "Ant Smith," just over a minute. My impromptu reading evoked an abject response and the question, "Are you sure you don't sing? You have a good voice." I assured her that I did my singing only in the shower.
She hesitated a moment and then told me to come to the audition at 4 the next day and they would see if they could include me in the show.
I left the suite considerably deflated. In the old days, I could always count on words of praise or at least a positive response from my listeners. I began to question my ability and wondered to myself if I was losing the knack.
Determined to win them over, I decided to return for my audition at the appointed time and place. So, the following afternoon, I was there 5 minutes early and sought out the woman who had interviewed me the day before to let her know I was present. She barely acknowledged me.
I waited ... and waited. 4:15, 4:20. Singer after singer stood up and demonstrated their talent. Some got loud enthusiastic applause, while others received only a few brief polite hand claps. Each performer was recorded and timed.
Despite my years of experience in public speaking and broadcasting, I began to feel butterflies in my stomach and wondered if I should be there at all.
Finally, my turn came. I walked to the front of the room, adjusted the microphone and prepared to begin.
"I have two pieces I'm going to read," I announced.
"No," interrupted one of the judging panelists, "just read one."
Everyone else was getting 5 minutes. Reading both pieces would still have been under four minutes. I felt they were being unfair. I decided to read the longer of the two pieces. "OK. Do you want me to do an introduction or give the name of the piece?" I asked.
"No. We know who you are," was the terse reply. "Just begin."
So, I took a deep breath and began to read. Now the first sentence of an interpretive reading is all-important. It establishes the mood, connects you with your audience and allows you, the reader, to get into your part.
Well, I was about halfway through my first sentence when someone dropped their guitar case. The loud crash startled me and broke the mood. I hesitated, fully expecting someone to say, "Please start over." But no one did. So I continued on, trying to regain my concentration and my rapport with the audience.
Feelings of doubt and discouragement crawled into my consciousness. "This is not going well," I thought to myself as I continued to read.
As I concluded the last phrase, the punch line of the piece, I waited expectantly for a reaction. There was none. Just silence ... not a laugh, not a giggle, not even a polite hand clap. I turned to the panel for their verdict. The only comment that came forth was a terse "Thank you. Next?"
Picking up my cane and my script, I walked quickly down the aisle and out the door feeling humiliated, angry and rejected.
I left the meeting room area and walked bewildered and alone down the long hallway and into the lobby. There, I found an empty leather lounge chair and sank down into it. What a lousy performance I must have given, I thought to myself. Why, the panel didn't even offer me a verbal pat on the back or a face-saving, "We appreciate your effort, but, well, it doesn't quite fit into our program." I guessed they were too embarrassed over how awful I was.
But, wait a minute, I reflected further. I couldn't have been all that bad. Sure I may not have been at my best, and granted I was distracted by the dropped guitar case, but I didn't stammer or fluff any of the lines. Why then did they so coldly reject me?
Then, it came to me. It was so simple. They were looking for musical talent, and I tried to offer them something else. I had smugly believed that I could change their minds on the basis of my "talent." How arrogant and presumptuous I had been. Why did I think that I could impose my will, my ego, upon them? Theirs was a musical show, and if I wanted to participate, I'd better come up with something musical.
A huge wave of humility swept over me ... washing away the embarrassment and anger, replacing it with understanding and acceptance. It had been an important lesson, and I was strangely grateful. We all need to be "cut down to size" from time to time, I thought. And it cost me nothing ... no prize money, no medal. The only part of me that was slightly injured was my pride. And that would certainly heal.
So, pulling myself up out of the chair, I smiled with satisfaction over my perceptive self-analysis and strode off to join my roommate and friends for dinner.
The next evening at 8 p.m. was the big musical extravaganza. I chose to give my ticket to my roommate rather than attend. Perhaps I still harbored some resentment toward the organizers. I like to think, however, that it was more because I was enjoying the conversation and company of a group of new-found friends from Japan. We spent a delightful evening together.
The next morning, Wednesday, was my last day at the convention. As I strolled among the exhibits, an acquaintance asked me why I had not been at the show the night before.
I explained that I had spent the evening quietly with some Japanese friends.
"But you were supposed to perform," he admonished.
"I was?" I asked in surprise.
"Yes," he replied. "They kept announcing your name all evening, but you never responded."
"Holy smoke. Let me find out about this," I said as I rushed over to the exhibit booth where the Friends-In-Art group was gathered.
"Excuse me. Is it true?" I asked. "Were you looking for me last night?"
"Why, yes. You were on the program and we were looking for you all over." Thoroughly embarrassed, I apologized and explained my misunderstanding about the outcome of the audition. They apologized too for not being more clear with me about it and reassured me that I had given a "really good" reading. I felt greatly relieved that my "talent" had indeed been recognized.
This incident caused me to reflect on just how often it may happen that we miss out on wonderful opportunities in life because we doubt ourselves, lack faith in our own abilities or because we fear embarrassment. Selling ourselves short deprives others of the fruits of our talents and denies us the joy of sharing them with others.
I learned, that day, an important lesson about humility. But I also learned it is equally important not to be too quick to give up on oneself.
FOR SALE: Kurzweil Personal Reader model 35. Comes with all manuals and cables. $2,500 or best offer. Call (850) 455-3994 and ask for Brenda.
FOR SALE: Jumbo braille writer, $400 (negotiable). Talking adding machine, $200 (negotiable). Braille 'n Speak 640 with carrying case and cable, $900. Call Kathy at (617) 969-3496. Cannot return long-distance calls.
FOR SALE: Used CCTVs. Optelec 20/20 plus 20-inch monitor, Telesensory Vantage with 14-inch monitor and Voyager XL with 19- inch monitor. Call Tom at (941) 378-8161.
FOR SALE: Braille 'n Speak 640 with Flash-Rom and SuperFlash, leather carrying case, several cables, and manual on cassette. The unit has the June 26, 1997 software revision. Asking $800. Contact Jane Sheehan, 14311 Astrodome Dr., Silver Spring, MD 20906- 2245; phone (301) 598-2131, or e-mail [email protected]
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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