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.
It's about 9:30 at night now. I worked all day today and then caught my friendly local paratransit system home. I then caught a different friendly paratransit system so that I could head for Fort Lauderdale Airport where the theory was that I would catch an airplane up to Washington and I would arrive there in time to have a leisurely dinner, take a nice hot bath and get ready to work on budgets tomorrow.
The good news is that we have taken off now. The bad news is that I am flying into Dulles, which is quite a distance from the hotel where I am staying and there is virtually no chance that dinner will be available when I finally trundle into my hotel at close to midnight. Oh, and did I tell you that one friendly paratransit system decided I was meeting somebody at the airport and left me at the wrong terminal and on the wrong level! And did I mention that the college where I work is converting to a new computerized payroll system and, even though we did everything right insofar as anybody can tell, several of the people who work for my department didn't get paid last week. So what's the point of all of this? Well, partly it's to say that I am not having a good day and that being the case, you, dear readers, might as well share it with me.
It's also to say that I am not naive enough to believe that I have cornered the market on bad days. I suspect that most of you reading this can look back at several doozey downer days that will live in your memory as paragons of pure wretchedness. And yet, we belong to ACB and continue to work to make the lives of blind people better!
Why do we do it? There are a lot of cynics out there who have a whole host of glib answers. We do it because we can't make it in mainstream charities. We do it because it gives us a chance to hang out with our friends and feel like we are big fish in a small pond. Perhaps there is a little truth to some of the cynics' assertions but, for most of us, the ACB is a way for us to be sure that the next generation of blind people has more than we did. After all, I guess, it's not very different from the reasons we have children.
When I have days like today and am tired to the bone and maybe just a little annoyed with an ACB caller who wants to tell me how bad a job I'm doing, there is a temptation to say, "Forget it! I don't need this hassle. There are books to be read, people to be loved, places to go and they don't all necessarily have to revolve around ACB!" What keeps me hanging around is the absolute conviction that we have made and continue to make a difference for blind people.
Just spend a little time thinking about what life was like for blind people half a century ago when the consumer movement really began to grow. Very few jobs, many blind people just sitting at home with Mummy and Daddy or working for virtually nothing at sheltered workshops who believed we should be damned glad to be there. There were fewer of us because many premature babies died, and older people didn't live long enough to go blind. Many of the people who were blind lost their sight in ways that are less common now, including eye conditions caused by malnutrition.
The talking book program began in 1933 and braille books were very few and very precious. Growing up I could never perceive that a day would come when we would throw away braille materials. Information access was one of the things that wasn't even dreamed about then. High-tech devices were new braille watches and that new braille writer from Howe Press called a Perkins.
When we look backward, it's clear just how far we have come. It is equally apparent just how far we have to go. We have heard a lot about just how many disabled people there are in the country. If the ADA is to be believed, there are 50 million people with disabilities in the country. We usually accept the notion that there are approximately half a million blind people in the country. That represents only one percent of the disability community. When we think about that number, we can be proud of just how much so few have accomplished. Our needs are very specialized, however. We must continue to articulate our needs or we will flat out get lost.
Blind people die or are injured at street crossings far too often. Both rehab and education need our help. Access to information continues to be a major issue. There is a very great deal still left to do. And that, I suppose, is what it is all about for me. When I have bad days, I focus on the accomplishments that we have already made and on the work still left to be done.
In simple terms, I do what I do because I am here and the things need doing. What's your excuse?
Our ACB national office is the center of much of what our organization attempts to do. It is the mirror in which we as an organization see ourselves. It is the picture that folks in Washington and beyond see as the ACB. This is a reality that we must understand. Evolving our office along the lines of where ACB is going within the context of a world of ever-increasing change is both our challenge and our opportunity. Interested? Read on.
Every modern enterprise uses electronic communications to conduct business. Our national office is now modernizing its electronic systems to process information much more efficiently and quickly. This means our membership information and listings of resources of value to blind folks are being updated to allow for quick searches and reports in alternative media to folks in need of that information. Our ability to move information instantly through the use of the internet will be a reality by the time you read this report. Our tracking of personnel and time utilization has already been converted to the electronic environment. In short, you can rely upon your national office to be ready, willing and able to engage the modern electronic business challenges while holding firm to the values we have always celebrated as an organization!
The national office has moved to refocus and more efficiently utilize available staffing as a way to better service ACB. We have taken advocacy and governmental relations and combined them into a more powerful and focused unit that can address the full range of laws from birth to implementation. We have done this with the expert assistance of Melanie Brunson who has agreed to head up the unit and to help us form a much more comprehensive and powerful approach to the issues of our community.
In addition, your national office has further redefined the duties of staff to make them more consistent with the realities of office work flow. Not only have we done this from classic observations of work, but we have incorporated modern organizational principles of quality circles to the job development process. In brief, we have given staff a chance to make contributions to what the new office will look like and you will see the dividends of this as time moves forward.
We have also seen the need to let you know all the kinds of things we are up to over the course of each week. This helps us to make sure you know what ACB is getting done and when it is doing it. To accomplish this, we have created a short message called "News Notes from the National Office" which we post to the ACB internet discussion group and to our internet "announce" service. To make sure that those who don't have computers get the same information, we will be posting the text of the notes to each "Braille Forum," and, of course, the Washington Connection will continue to have the most important information available to you by phone!
Even as all these changes are under way, we have conducted the regular and important tasks of the national office as well. Getting out the word on the upcoming legislative seminar, producing the informational listings that our leadership needs, putting out "The Braille Forum" which will shortly also be distributed via e-mail, meeting with members of the Clinton administration to deal with issues unique to blind folks, putting together an upcoming major conference on the vending facilities program, assisting state affiliates with their efforts to combat challenges to separate agencies for the blind, developing strategies with our partners for Social Security reform and participating in the recent successes of pedestrian safety advocacy are just a few of the things we are getting done!
Let me close by asking the same question that is on the mind of every ACB member! Are you getting ready for the convention? Looks like we are headed to another great success this summer and it would be wonderful to share it with you in person! So start making those arrangements as the information comes out and let's have a great time together in Los Angeles in July!
While California has many attractions, the most outstanding attraction in 1999 for blind and low vision people is the national convention of the American Council of the Blind. The excitement begins on Saturday, July 3, with board and committee meetings, a tour of Los Angeles, and the opening of exhibits at 1 p.m. There will be a "Welcome to Los Angeles" party Saturday night, hosted by the California Council of the Blind. Several special-interest groups begin their workshops on Sunday, July 4, and there are religious services, get-acquainted mixers, and exhibits are open all day. Sunday evening is the grand opening session of the convention, when President Paul Edwards will present the annual report of ACB and the roll call of affiliates will occur.
This year, because the convention will end at noon Friday, some changes in scheduling of events will be required. The convention banquet will take place Thursday evening and the Candidates' Forum most likely will occur on Wednesday evening. Special-interest group programming and all committee meetings should probably end on Wednesday so that the legislative, diabetes and other seminars and meetings can take place on Thursday afternoon. There will be general sessions each morning Monday through Friday.
Convention dates: Saturday, July 3 to Friday, July 9, 1999 Place: the Airport Westin Hotel, 5400 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90045; phone (310) 216-5858. Overflow hotel: the Airport Marriott, 5855 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles. Calif. 90045; phone (310) 641-5700.
Hotel rates: $60 per night plus tax for up to four people per room
Reservation cutoff date: June 10, 1999
Shuttles between hotels operated by the Marriott, supplemented by the Westin. Airport transportation provided 24 hours a day at no cost by both hotels.
ACB designated travel agency: Prestige Travel, (800) 966-5050; ask for Gina.
To reserve space for an exhibit booth or boutique, call Barbara Hayes at the ACB national office, (800) 424-8666 or (202) 467- 5081.
This year there will be fewer tours because of the shortened convention. The following tour listings are tentative. Watch the March and April issues of "The Braille Forum" for more details.
Saturday, July 3: Los Angeles city tour, repeated Sunday, July 4
Additional tours may include the Queen Mary, the Braille Institute of America, Center for the Partially Sighted, Knott's Berry Farm, the Crystal Cathedral and grounds at Gordon Grove, Autry Museum of Western Heritage and a TV show taping. We are not planning visits to Disneyland or Universal Studios since similar sites were toured last year in Orlando.
Be certain to attend what will be another great convention of the ACB in 1999!
(Editor's Note: The following information was originally provided to members of the American Council of the Blind's two Internet mailing lists, ACB-L and ACB-Announce. We include these documents here for the benefit of those who do not have Internet access. These notes are designed to provide brief updates of national office activities.)
ACB national office writes small Washington, D.C. area elderly blind connection grant
Yup, we mean it when we say we care about the explosion in elderly blind folks. We believe it's important to get the consumer point of view into the mix of what is going on for elderly blind folks. So we wrote a grant and will send it in next week to get a part-time person to work with elders who have lost vision and their service system to let them know that there is indeed a life after blindness. Stay tuned. If it is a success, then ACB should be doing it in many other areas as well.
National Office goes online with the Internet
So you wonder if it would be a good idea for the national office to be directly connected to the Internet and ACB-L? Sure it is. We will be online in January and office staff will be connected to ACB-L. No, we won't get involved with all the discussions, but will offer help and responses when it pertains to the business of ACB. So there you go! Database expansion finally at national office
One of the constant irritations at the national office will go away over the course of the upcoming year! Our membership database was constrained to a limited number of fields of information. This meant that we did not have a single data source to use in the many information processing activities we have to do. Now we have liberated the database from its previous constraints and it is hoped we can add fields like phone numbers, status as active in various affiliates and so forth. Then generating a list of labels or members of a committee or whatever will be almost immediate. This means faster service, greater office capacity to work on other things we may not have had the time to do in the past, and an ability to keep better track of the business operations of the Council.
Reorganization of units to take place in January
The national office is undergoing some changes. Developing a management plan that calls for reorganization of similar functions will result in a consolidation of advocacy and governmental relations, for starters. The business of advancing ACB's public policy agenda is very closely related to what happens as a result of that movement. Hence, it makes sense to have a single person in charge of advocacy and governmental relations. Melanie will be doing that for ACB with the research assistance of Krista, a support person and an advocate we will be hiring towards the spring. Alfred will be leaving the national office in January for other pursuits and we wish him the best.
Braille Forum to be available electronically
We are working on getting "The Braille Forum" sent out automatically to subscribers in either e-mail or just put it on the ACB list.
It was a kind of software development week at the national office. Since so many folks were off enjoying the break between Christmas and New Year's, there was time to develop and install the new office calendar program. This will make it easy to review and schedule the calendars that previously were maintained in print. The new calendar software will also calculate time utilization for reporting purposes and automate that otherwise burdensome and slow task.
In addition, we compiled a Y2K-compliant version of the talking checkbook which will be put up on the web site for downloading. This is only the executable file, but that is all that is needed.
Finally we compiled a version of the electronic resource directory for the ACB national office that will allow folks in the office to search and retrieve information and referral data quickly for folks calling into the office. The program also will allow for printing and text file creation of the information sought. This will provide easy e-mail and fax capacity to send the information to the caller. It will also end the endless compiling of list after list of information that chews up far too much time needlessly.
It's a big week coming up for the national office staff! Congress will be coming back and there is lots to do with the administration as well. This week will feature meetings with White House staff on elderly blind, information access and resources issues for blind folks. It will also be a big week for work on office information access issues under Section 508 and for work on pedestrian safety issues as well. Look forward to the next news notes on what happened!
Stay tuned for increasing information about the upcoming convention! Yup, it's only six months away and things will start gearing up shortly.
Melanie Brunson will start her new duties as Director of Advocacy and Governmental Relations tomorrow. Wish her the best; with the kinds of electronic and human resources that and the other units will be getting, we should really be on our way in 1999!
As we promised last week, this has been one heck of a week for pedestrian safety! A brave group of ACB folks and friends from AER, NIB, and BVA joined with a group of traffic engineers meeting in Virginia to deal with what really are accessible pedestrian traffic signals.
After an all-day meeting on Wednesday and a subsequent meeting of the signals subcommittee on Thursday, new language was successfully developed to provide standards and guidance to traffic engineers on what constitutes an accessible pedestrian signaling system. In short, things like locating the pedestrian- activated button, getting clear information on which crosswalk the button would act on, and even beaconing information for crossings where the other side of the street would not easily be found, made its way into the proposed language for the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. This is the manual used by traffic engineers all over the U.S. and asking your local traffic engineer to get an accessible traffic signal will soon be much more easy since they will have real information on what to get.
Of course, we did not get everything we wanted, but we got more than we expected might come of it. There's more to do and we will keep you updated on the progress of things. All in all it was a great week for pedestrian safety and while challenges such as dealing with getting reasonable parameters to the design of new intersections still lay ahead, you can be proud of what ACB and our friends have accomplished this week on the pedestrian safety scene.
Special thanks to Julie Carroll, Lukas Franck, Beezy Bentzen and Debbie Grubb for their fine leadership in this effort!
Charlie Crawford and Melanie Brunson met with the White House liaison for disability issues and we had a real fine exchange on blindness issues. Making sure that the administration understood that there are issues unique to blindness such as access to information, older blind programming and a more blind-friendly pedestrian environment topped our list of concerns. We are pleased to say that White House staff members were very interested and offered some helpful information and contacts they will assist in making for us. This should help unblock certain problem areas we have had with getting the right level of support as the administration works with Congress on various programs that impact upon our community.
Affiliate services got out the information on the upcoming legislative seminar and important listings of various ACB state presidents to the people who need them! Soon, affiliate services will have access to expanded databases of people and other resource information which are under development and testing now.
Future editions of news notes will take a look at what kinds of advocacy issues we worked with during the past week at the national office. Just this last week, we worked on dog guide issues, automatic teller machine access and helped a state affiliate think through some options on strategically addressing new initiatives from their state governor.
Talking signs 1, getting lost 0
There have been some very impressive developments in the world of talking signs! We met with the company last week and were just thrilled to hear that a major Japanese electronics company is now working on and developing new generations of the talking sign technology! We even saw and heard the newest personal talking sign reader that is a bit smaller and lighter weight than the older model. Not only that, but the talking sign folks report that the largest maker of electronic bus signs has agreed to make the talking sign transmitter available for transportation systems ordering buses. Hmmm, Yup that means that you can be standing out there waiting at a bus stop and know which bus is coming up to 150 feet away. You could be at the bus terminal and just walk down the sidewalk and hear each bus that is waiting until you find yours. No more asking "what bus is this?" to someone around you, eh?
Now imagine you live in Boston or another urban area where museums are equipped with talking signs. You go out, hear the bus you want and flag it down, and then you go into the Museum of Science and get informed as to what exhibits you are passing and if there is another electronic information device which will let you hear the whole story. The talking sign can even be so directional as to let you put your finger right on the button of the tape or other information device.
Things are going so well with talking signs that we can anticipate lots of great news over the next few years, including lesser costs for the personal reader. No pun intended, but stay tuned as ACB helps take this technology from the realm of science fiction to science fact, and puts it in the hands of blind people!
Now just where are those accessible automated teller machines?
Have you been wondering just what is up with these accessible automated teller machines? Seen little news articles or propaganda from one place or another, but ain't seen the real thing at the local bank yet? Well, we've been asking ourselves the same question down at the national office and made a contact with the NCR people last week to start discussions of just what is going on and how do we make things a reality. I expect that we will enter some real talks shortly and then start moving on the banking industry to get them to purchase accessible ATMs if in fact they really exist. So don't throw out your ATM cards yet!
Clinton administration announces big initiative
If you have been wanting to go to work, but afraid of losing your medical benefits, the Clinton administration has started down the road of getting some real solutions. We attended a major press event this week where the president announced a $1,000 tax credit, and more money in his budget to allow continued health benefits to folks with disabilities wanting to go back to work! In addition, the president announced that, beyond asking the Small Business Administration to step up efforts to help people get small business loans, he has also instructed the federal personnel people to get more disabled folks into the federal work force.
Now here's one of those Hollywood unconfirmable reports. Since I could not see who it was, but I did recognize the voice I think, the president came over and gave me a pat on the shoulder and thanked me for coming.
National office goes to the dogs?
Melanie Brunson and I, along with some folks from AFB, had an early breakfast meeting with GDUI President Jenine Stanley to talk over the future agenda for the puppies. Lots of good discussion and you can be sure the national office will be supportive of initiatives coming out of GDUI. To avoid getting in the dog house, we will leave the news to GDUI as it determines its next steps.
ACB to lend consumer expertise to AFB conference
We made the initial contacts this week to line up four great consumer representatives to work with the American Foundation for the Blind in putting together and running its Josephine L. Taylor conference this coming March. Our people will be helping in the areas of education, older blind issues, employment concerns and research. All this is to make sure our classic partnership with AFB continues to grow and yield better service to the blindness community!
Executive Director reveals budget request to budget committee
Despite the worst ice storm in Washington in years, a broken- down subway system, power outages including Charlie Crawford's home, and taxis that were very hard to find, the budget committee meeting came to order on January 15, and we worked through the proposals. While I would just love to wax poetic about the expansion items and directions I believe ACB should take in this fiscal year, I guess it is best to leave some good news for later disclosure. I want to thank Paul Edwards, M.J. Schmitt, Pat Beattie and LeRoy Saunders for working through the process in a highly professional and careful manner, and for traveling on what would certainly not make the top 10 best days to visit Washington!
Stay tuned for next week as news notes from the national office will probably be talking about technology, older blind issues, the vending facilities conference, advocacy notes, and updating the wars on separate state agency preservation and creation. Hint, hint, hint: victory in Texas, help given to two southern states and good things on the way as we take a look at California and Illinois!
Those of you who had the privilege of meeting Jeff Cohn at American Council of the Blind conventions probably did so because he helped you. He was there when you needed to get to a microphone to express your views on the delegate floor. He was the man who guided you to a particular booth in the noisy exhibit hall. He was the fellow who helped you thread through the crowd to get to the rest room or elevator just in time. He was always there until the end of the convention and could tell you the count of an election or which resolutions passed. He loved ACB and respected the work of the ACB staff in Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis. To obtain his lifetime membership in the ACB, Jeff saved his hourly wages at Burger King.
Oregon Council of the Blind members knew Jeff as a helping hand at state conventions, membership chairman for eight years, and district representative on the state board. He was also treasurer of the Willamette chapter of the Oregon Council of the Blind for over 12 years. He submitted reports to "The Stylus," the Oregon Council of the Blind quarterly newsletter. He was the recipient of the Oregon Council of the Blind Distinguished Service Award in 1997.
Jeffrey E. Cohn was born in Sacramento, Calif., on July 11, 1958, and was placed in an Oregon institution for retarded citizens as an infant. I met Jeff on the first day of his education at the Oregon School for the Blind, when he was 10. The child who sat on the floor, crying and screaming from fear of the other children around him, taught me so much about how learning will occur when gentle, patient methods are applied. Over the 10 years he attended the Oregon School for the Blind, Jeff's example taught his peers and teachers about accountability and trust. It was a privilege for me and other instructors at the Oregon School for the Blind to guide Jeff toward a life of independence. As for me, the lesson has been how one crushed spirit can flourish and bloom in a friendly, loving, learning environment.
We will miss Jeff's presence in our lives, but our sadness should be overshadowed by memories of his dependability, loyalty, kindness, thoughtfulness, punctuality, resourcefulness, generosity, and sincerity. We are grateful for his example.
(Editor's Note: Jeff died at the Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital on January 1, 1999, from complications relative to prior medical conditions.)
In September 1994 the American Council of the Blind's board of directors established the Durward McDaniel Membership Development and Retention Fund. The fund was created in honor of ACB's first national representative and key leader.
The first expenditure of funds sponsored two first-time attendees to the 1996 convention. The program is being continued this year for the convention in Los Angeles, Calif. If you have never attended an ACB national convention in the past and want to make a difference in your state, special-interest and/or national organization, now is a wonderful opportunity to do so!
In this contest, a winner will be chosen from each side of the Mississippi River. As the fund grows through gifts (as well as accrual of interest) it is hoped that more people can be chosen as well as other programs sponsored.
In order to apply for this contest, you must do three things. First, submit a letter of application to the American Council of the Blind national office stating the major reasons for which you would like to be considered. The length and format of your letter has not been prescribed but is left to your good judgment.
Second, a letter in your behalf must be submitted by the president or the president's designated representative for your state or special-interest affiliate. This letter should give the selection committee some additional sense of your accomplishments and involvement in activities related to the work of ACB and its affiliate members.
Finally, you must be sure that all materials sent on your behalf and by you are submitted no later than April 30, 1999. A postmark of April 30 will be accepted; however, you are strongly encouraged to have your materials to the office by that date.
National conventions represent wonderful opportunities for learning, networking and new comradeship. Don't miss this chance to find out firsthand what a convention is really like! It can be the opportunity of a lifetime, and the McDaniel Fund can provide it to you simply because of your best efforts and contributions to this movement. The committee looks forward to receiving, reviewing and selecting your application for the 1999 national convention in Los Angeles, Calif.
Send contest entry materials to ACB First Timers Contest, 1155 15th St. NW, Suite 720, Washington, D.C. 20005.
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is pleased to announce two new awards in addition to its existing four awards. The Awards Committee is seeking nominations for awards to be presented at the 1999 national convention to be held in Los Angeles, Calif. The two new awards are the ACB Membership Development Award and the ACB Creative Outreach Award. These awards are designed to honor affiliates for their achievements as outlined in the criteria below.
1999 Award Criteria
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 for the candidate to 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.
The ACB Membership Development Award seeks to recognize a state or special-interest affiliate with the highest percentage of membership increase over the previous year. In 1999, the percentage of increase of membership will be calculated by comparing the membership total reported by the state or special- interest affiliate to the ACB national office as of March 15, 1999, to the affiliate membership total recognized by the 1998 Credentials Committee.
The Creative Outreach Award is available to state and special-interest affiliates to recognize innovative outreach projects or programs. "Outreach" is defined as any activity other than fund-raising, which is designed to acquire or retain members, educate the public about blindness, and about the affiliate. Projects to be considered include but are not limited to: public education, public relations, public service announcements, and web page development. The outreach effort must result in some measurable success. Incidental income derived from a project or program will not disqualify a state or special-interest affiliate from being considered for this award. State affiliates are encouraged to recognize meritorious local chapter outreach efforts; local chapters are not eligible to receive this award. Nominations for this award must be submitted by the president of a state or special-interest affiliate, and must include a description of the project, its goals, and outcomes. Copies of video clips, radio spots, newspaper articles, or other appropriate evidence of impact of the outreach project or program should be attached to the letter of nomination. The project or program must originate in, but not necessarily be concluded in, 1998.
How to Apply
Nominations will be accepted in typewritten, braille, recorded or electronic form (no handwriting, please), and should be limited to 500 words or less plus, if appropriate or required, photocopies of relevant, supporting documentation. If possible, submissions to the Awards Committee should be made in both typewritten and electronic form (disk or e-mail). Nominations will not be acknowledged, and winners shall be notified by June 1, 1999. Please be sure to include in all correspondence the name of the award being sought and the name, address and telephone number of both the award nominee and the person or organization making the nomination.
Nominations must be postmarked no later than April 15, 1999. Nominations should be sent to: American Council of the Blind, Attn. 1999 Awards Committee, 1155 15th Street N.W., Suite 720 Washington, DC 20005. E-mail: [email protected]
STATEMENTS FROM RSVA
by Terry Camardelle, President
I realize that some of this may be old news to some readers. But some members and friends still have concerns regarding the proposed RSVA merger with the NFB Merchants division and its national buying program. Another issue is the Jennings Randolph Institute. I hope that the following statements will help clear up any misunderstandings regarding these issues. Now I would ask that we bring these issues to an end and begin moving forward on the other issues that are facing the Randolph-Sheppard program.
Rumors have been rampant the last several months and RSVA would like to clear the air.
First of all, members of the RSVA board did attend a meeting in Baltimore, Md., where the NFB Merchants division asked the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America to become part of the NFB as the vendors division. The RSVA board met shortly after that and unanimously decided that Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America as a division would not have the autonomy that it has now. Also, the organization believes that its alignment with ACB and its democratic principles are important to its member vendors.
Secondly, the NFB Merchants also approached RSVA to ask if it would join the national buying group the merchants recently formed. However, the board did not feel that the proportions of funds would be shared favorably with RSVA and its vendors. Also, RSVA has had a buying program for several years which is just starting to reap some rewards for vendors and the organization.
Since many have asked for clarification of RSVA's position in these two areas, we felt it important to dispel the rumors. Regarding recent actions pertaining to the Randolph-Sheppard program
The Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America, as the largest representative organization of blind vendors, supports maximum opportunities for blind people through the operation of vending facilities.
Recently a proposal to create the Jennings Randolph Institute has been circulated that could have substantial impact on the Randolph-Sheppard program nationwide. After a thorough investigation and discussion with the parties involved in the development of this proposal, RSVA finds that the proposal was written and presented by an individual or small group of individuals. Furthermore, the proposal was submitted to members of Congress for support. RSVA's investigation revealed that these actions were taken without substantive consultation with blind vendors organizations, blindness consumer organizations, the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind or any other group recognized as representing blind vendor interests.
After review, RSVA finds that certain aspects of this proposal may have merit and may be incorporated into a future document supported by the blindness community. At the conclusion of RSVA's investigation, it is RSVA's determination that any initiative with respect to blind vendors must be afforded input from the consumers and administrators it is designed to affect.
RSVA supports the continued effort of the blindness community to speak as one voice to our legislators. RSVA cannot and will not endorse any initiatives on behalf of blind people without being afforded the opportunity to review and comment on the content. RSVA's first priority is the preservation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and to diligently work to protect the Randolph-Sheppard priority on federal and state property where applicable. RSVA is mindful of change and will work hard with its partners in the blindness community to meet new challenges and to expand Randolph-Sheppard programs in new directions. RSVA is proud to be an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind, and sincerely appreciates the support it receives from ACB in trying times. RSVA looks forward to participating in the forum that President Edwards graciously offered to sponsor for the purpose of protecting and expanding opportunities for blind vendors. RSVA is committed to supporting efforts to improve the quality of life for all blind people and supports the ACB philosophy of open communication with the blindness community regarding issues that can possibly affect us all.
The 27th annual convention of the American Council of the Blind of Indiana was held September 11 and 12 at the Best Western motel in Scotsburg, Ind.
The theme of the convention was "I hold the key to my future." Amy Pais, director of psychosocial services and field representative at Lions World Services for the Blind in Little Rock, Ark., led a round-table discussion and presented remarks concerning the challenges of living with low vision.
Dr. Michael Brumet of Charlston, In., shared information about low-vision aids. David Nelson, executive director of the League for the Blind and Disabled in Fort Wayne, Ind., discussed independent living centers.
Lisa Shanahan, director of library services, Indiana State Library, gave a brief update of library services.
The ACB of Indiana also offers an award, given to a sighted person, who has worked to improve the quality of life for blind people throughout the world. Dr. C. William Truby received this award for his efforts in helping blind people in third-world countries. He has been involved in this project for more than 24 years with the sponsorship of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. As a Lion, he and others have made 22 trips to these countries since 1974, bringing glasses and eye care to people.
Increasingly, over the last 15 years or so, the interest of blind people has focused on computer technology and the array of access products that have become available to manage and in some cases tame it. This interest covers the gamut from the hobbyist to those who depend on technology for their very livelihood. It is also true that the only certainty during these times has been that both generic technology and access technology are changing rapidly.
As a computer access instructor, I know this since I am forced to keep up with the changes on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. This is a complex arena and the manufacturers of access technology are to be commended for their commitment to blind and visually impaired people. The point of this letter, however, is not to discuss the pros and cons of access products or the latest changes in the marketplace, but to focus on the technical support provided by manufacturers of access technology after the sale.
You are a blind or visually impaired person of average intelligence who has just received the latest upgrade to your access product in the mail. You are excited because you have been anticipating the ability to more efficiently access the internet or to use all the features of your word processor. You take the CD-ROM or floppy disks out of the box and run the installation program according to the instructions. And boom! The installation crashes in midstream or better yet, you get all the way through the set-up and the program presents you with the famous blue screen of death. (This indicates that the program has "performed an illegal operation and will shut down.") What do you do? Naturally, you dutifully read the instructions again, rerun the installation software and hope for the best. Sometimes the second time is the charm and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the third time is the charm! And on and on.
Finally, you think, "Well, maybe I'll have to call the toll- free support number." So, you sit in front of your system and dial. Generally, you get polite voice mail or a receptionist who is happy to take a message but knows little about the product you are having a problem with. You are then given a choice: hold for an indeterminate amount of time, leave a voice message and wait for a call back or send e-mail detailing your problem and await a response.
Generally, if you choose to hold, you can be on the line for anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour. During this time, you may be subjected to an endless loop of company propaganda. This is exceedingly annoying, and I know that it has led to a premature hang-up more than once for me.
If you choose to leave a message and await a call back, a period of several days may elapse. In that time, through the course of everyday events, it is entirely possible to forget your original concern. This is especially true if it is something less than an inability to install the access software.
E-mail, I have found, is the best option if you are frustrated. It affords you an opportunity not only to detail the problem, but also to tell the company what you think of their technical support system. Seriously, e-mail may be the best medium when your question is one that can be answered over a period of time and does not have to be addressed immediately. This is not the case, however, when you are dead in the water.
As one who provides technical support to veterans almost on a daily basis, I know the importance of talking to a real person when you have a problem. I know that these problems are not unique to the blind community. All of us deal with voice mail, e-mail and canned music every day. However, I think the issue of access to computers for blind people is a singular one and deserves special attention. Though I know cost is a sensitive issue with vendors, good money is being put out for these programs, $800 to $2,000 in some cases. The products are in most instances terrific. It is time for the quality of the support to match the quality of the merchandise.
What do I want? I want blind people to get a little angry. If you have been in the above situations and have found yourself frustrated, you need to constructively communicate your feelings to the manufacturers. I hope that this letter can even start a dialogue between consumers and manufacturers in the pages of this magazine. This is an important issue and is not going to go away.
Re: "ADA Revisited"
I have a real problem with Michael Vining's comments regarding golfer Casey Martin. First of all, I see nothing in Goldman's March (1998) article about an ADA ruling. If there was such a thing, Vining should have cited this ruling, date and ruling number. Second, Vining is really off base regarding the PGA being a private club. The PGA organization itself may be termed a private club, but when its events are open to the public, those events are not private. I know that our justice system is far from perfect, but in this instance the judge's ruling was correct. The way Vining interprets the law, Kmart stores could refuse to have disabled parking spaces in their parking lots because they do not receive federal funding. His position seems to be rather biased against other disabilities. Sorry, but I'm on Casey Martin's team.
Jannis Urena, West Sacramento, Calif.
Re: "ACB: Keeping Faith with Our Roots as We Build the Future"
I am mystified by what Charles Crawford describes as a philosophical update in "ACB: Keeping Faith with Our Roots as We Build the Future" ("The Braille Forum," November 1998).
Kenneth Jernigan's articulated notion that with proper training, blindness can be reduced to the level of an inconvenience may be simplistic. In fact, some may view it as unrealistic. But to discount proper training in the skills blind people need to get along (be they alternative, adaptive or plain vanilla) as Mr. Crawford seems to do is downright damn dangerous.
Mr. Crawford seems to go to great lengths to suggest that the "mobility training of old" really doesn't do that much good. The mobility training I received anciently, imparted to me by two men whom I consider to be the masters of their craft, has stood me in good stead. Lessons learned from that instruction have enabled me to respond to situations that would have been unfathomable without their benefit.
I concede that some situations may arise where pedestrians must receive information visually. But I submit they are few and far between. Mr. Crawford states that no amount of listening for traffic patterns can overcome changing light cycles as determined by sensors buried in the pavement. Even in the small community where I live, these kinds of traffic signals are becoming the norm. It is true that the traffic patterns are inconsistent. But, with the appropriate combination of judgment and skill, they can be listened for and responded to. I would be happy to provide Mr. Crawford with a demonstration of how I personally deal with this situation.
He also states that no amount of mobility instruction can deal with the problem of traffic circles. Indeed, these are an unfortunate development. But again, by noting the environment in which these traffic circles exist and developing a deep and abiding familiarity with it facilitates dealing with these situations independently. This degree of environmental awareness can only be provided with effective mobility training, yes friends, the mobility training of old.
Now, a word about technology. Lest I be accused of a lack of understanding, let me make clear that these observations are made in the voice of one currently crying from the unemployment line.
Indeed, common sense and federal law dictate that the blind must aggressively address the questions and issues raised by the introduction of digital displays and other visual interfaces.
But I think there is a larger issue when it comes to dealing with technology that's already out there. And I fear that it is an issue we as blind people are reluctant to talk about.
I am frequently asked to speak to groups of blind and sighted people alike about how technology has enabled me to work in the fields of broadcast and print journalism. On every occasion, I say that the technology has been essential. But I also add that without the communications skills which are specific to blindness, I would not be productive.
I could have the best Windows-compatible computer system with the most understandable synthetic speech in the world, but if I couldn't type, I wouldn't be much good in a newsroom, no matter what access to whichever material I had. The finest, fastest, best braille printer in the world would be of little consequence if I couldn't read the braille it produced.
The American Council of the Blind could do much to clarify and articulate a reasoned philosophy of how blind Americans view their condition. But everything must be brought to the table and all questions, even the ones we don't like, must be dealt with in some way.
The philosophy of blindness as a mere inconvenience may indeed be simplistic. But the axiological and epistemological constructs that surround it provide much that I believe the blind community should at least seriously think about, if not apply.
W. Kent McGregor, St. George, Utah
(Reprinted from the "Kitchener-Waterloo Record.")
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and Cesar Romero's 14-year-old son, Alex, definitely had a need. Alex is legally blind because of a combination of problems, including extreme nearsightedness and sensitivity to light.
For years, the Romero family tried out various products in an effort to help Alex, including special sunglasses that filtered out most of the light rays that he can't handle. But when they tried to find something that would both magnify objects and filter out light, they hit a dead end. So Romero took the matter into his own hands and set out to develop a device that would assist his son. What he came up with was a combination of binoculars and sunglasses. Zoom into focus
They look like protective industrial glasses, except they have a little knob on the side that lets the wearer adjust the binoculars and zoom objects into focus. At the same time, the lenses are made of light-filtering material so they double as sunglasses. Romero started a company, Optimum Optics, that markets and has exclusive rights to sell the new glasses, which are manufactured by an Asian company. When the first product arrived and Alex tried them on, the difference was amazing, Romero said.
Previously, Alex had to watch television less than a meter from the set. Now he is able to focus on the screen from a couch. And when he's wearing them outside, he can see the bus stop sign, even in the strong sunlight, something he previously couldn't do.
"It's given him a lot more confidence in moving around," Romero said.
In an optometrist's office, Alex normally can't make out the large letter "E" at the top of the eye chart. When he put on his special glasses during the last eye exam, he could make out the letter, Romero said. "Even the doctor was amazed."
Romero said he hopes to recruit disabled persons to sell the glasses on a commission basis. They will retail for about $100 and he figures the sellers, who would buy one sample at a wholesale rate to show prospective customers, should be able to pocket about $10 to $15 for each unit sold. "I wanted to do it this way, so that most of the profits go to them instead of to a big store. Disabled people are at a disadvantage in terms of making money," Romero said. Price could fall.
Right now, the glasses are being manufactured on a special- order basis, but if there is enough demand to justify a larger order, the price could come down, Romero said. He said he's often seen older people using magnifying glasses when doing fine work such as needlework. He thinks his binocular-sunglasses could be useful for doing those things when sitting in a park, or anywhere in the sun. They could be ordered with clear lenses as well.
As well, they might be useful for people involved in other outdoor activities, including spectators at baseball games and bird-watchers. But mainly Romero hopes the glasses will help other visually disabled people as much as they have helped his son.
While looking through November's "Braille Forum," I came upon the "Affiliate News" section. Included in that month's news was a section about blind ping-pong and fencing. It brought something to mind for me: Bop-it.
Have you ever heard about Bop-it? It is a long device with a knob on one end to twist, another knob on the other end to turn, and a middle piece to bump against yourself. To start it, just pull the knob, and the game starts. It talks to you and says "Pull"; you then pull the knob. When it says "twist," you twist it, and when it says "bop" you bump it against yourself. Failure to do any of these commands ends the game. The object of the game is to twist, pull and bump (or bop-it) yourself and score points. The most you can get is 100 points. It was a hit among my circle of blind friends.
It started in Detroit at the MBBA tournament. One of our acquaintances had purchased one at a Kmart in his hometown of Madison, Wis. He brought it to the tournament; some people saw it and liked it. So when they got home from the tournament, they went to their nearest discount store and started buying them. It was used at many parties. Soon more people bought them. They are a hit across the country, but especially in our blind group in Minneapolis. Our local chapter was looking for a new fund raiser. Vice President Wally Waranka had a Bop-it. President Tom Heinl went to Wally's house one evening, saw it, tried it, and enjoyed it so much he couldn't put it down. An idea was born: let's have a Bop-it tournament. And on Friday, November 13, the first annual Bop-it tournament occurred. Nine brave souls were the first to attempt this activity. The chapter charged $20; $12 went as prize money and the rest went to the chapter. The contestants each had three chances to play the game and see how high they could go. The highest scorers were: Tom Heinl, 100 points; Carol Clancy, 89 points; and Wally Waranka, 71 points. I came in last, with eight points. I went out the next day with my wife Elaine and got a Bop- it as an early Christmas present. Now I am up to 54 points.
The chapter received $72 from the Bop-it tournament. It's a start. We are getting ready for next year.
If you are interested, call the Minneapolis office at (612) 332-3242; they know how to find us. Bop-its are inexpensive. I've seen them for as little as $13.95 at Super Kmart and for as much as $24 at Kaybee Toys. Elaine paid $16.95 for mine at Target.
So if you haven't bought one yet, try it. It can be habit-forming. You can't put it down. Your affiliate may find a new fund raiser too.
I am going to stop now and practice. Next year will be here before we know it.
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.
1999 dog calendars are now available in braille with raised images of the dog. Each calendar costs $22.98. (Washington state residents will need to add 8.5 percent sales tax.) Payment must be made by check or money order. Send your orders to Warm Your Heart Enterprises, P.O. Box 82855, Kenmore, WA 98028.
The Michigan Family Independence Agency is currently accepting applications for the position of director of the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center in Kalamazoo. Applicants must have: thorough knowledge and understanding of blindness and of the issues facing blind people; experience in administering a diversified service delivery program for blind people, preferably within an institutional setting, including independent living, employment and vocational rehabilitation; experience supervising administrative functions such as personnel, budget, facility maintenance, clinical services, or capital outlay projects. You must also have: demonstrated commitment to strategic planning and implementation, as well as the ability to work with all levels of management, and lead and serve on management teams; experience networking with community groups, statewide business or governmental organizations, or political leaders to develop mutually beneficial programs; proven leadership qualities and excellent communication skills, including public speaking; a bachelor's degree in vocational rehabilitation and two years of experience as a professional manager (or equivalent). The deadline is March 17. Send your cover letter and resume to Personnel Services, Attn: Leila Frangie, Grand Tower, 235 S. Grand Ave., Suite 710, P.O. Box 30037, Lansing, MI 48909.
The Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped is accepting applications from blind musicians throughout the United States, 10th grade and up, to participate in its fourth Summer Music Institute for Blind College-bound Musicians. The three-week program will be held in July at the University of Bridgeport, and will provide exposure to braille music, musical composition by computer, keyboard, theory, and ensemble, and strategies for independence in a college setting. Enrollment is limited to 10 students, who will be accepted based on their applications and telephone interviews. The program costs $2,000, which includes tuition, room and board, and materials. Partial scholarships are available. Applications must be completed and returned by May 1. Students under the age of 15 or in need of significant financial assistance should apply early. For an application, or more information, contact the Music and Arts Center for the Handicapped, 600 University Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06601; phone (203) 366-3300, or e-mail [email protected]
The Braille Authority of North America met Nov. 9-10, 1998, in Boston. New officers are: Phyllis Campana, chairperson; Bettye Niceley, vice chairperson; Frances Mary D'Andrea, secretary; and Susan Reilly, treasurer. Dolores Ferrara-Godzieba is the immediate past chairperson. BANA will meet in Colorado Springs May 2-3, and will host the International Council on English Braille November 2- 6, 1999. For more information, visit the web site at http://www.brailleauthority.org An errata sheet of errors found in "Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription 1997" will be available on the web site and in transcriber newsletters this spring.
Alan Ackley's Appliance Service has moved! The new address is 4301 Park Ave. #540, Des Moines, IA 50321; phone (515) 288-3931, or e-mail [email protected] If your Perkins brailler has gotten sluggish, or needs fixing, Alan Ackley can fix it. He uses only factory parts and has restored more than 2,000 braillers.
The First International Anophthalmia/Microphthalmia (A/M) Conference will be held in Philadelphia April 9-11, 1999. The conference is open to both families and professionals who manage and care for individuals with A/M. It will offer educational sessions, small group discussions for families to share their experiences, opportunities for families to establish support networks, and updates on research being done on A/M. Medical professionals will discuss the latest advances in the treatment of the disorders. For additional information, or for registration materials, call Joyce Barbagallo at (215) 456-8722, or write her at Albert Einstein Medical Center, 5501 Old York Rd., Levy 2 West, Philadelphia, PA 19141.
Campanian Enterprises, Inc. of Oxford, Ohio, has several travel programs for 1999 that are designed for blind and visually impaired people, their families and friends. One program is a tour to Washington, D.C., Mount Vernon and Monticello, called "Cherry Blossoms and Presidents." It will occur April 5-12. A tour of New York, "Little Italy and Gourmet Dining New York," will be going on May 20-25. Participants in this program will stay at the Waldorf- Astoria in New York City. Site visits include: Fifth Avenue, the Museum of Modern Art, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Old St. Patrick's, Little Italy, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Lincoln Center.
"California, the Land of the Lotus Eaters: San Diego to Los Angeles" will take place June 24-July 3. This tour will include a wide range of travel adventures from Balboa Park in San Diego to La Jolla, Laguna Beach, Capistrano, Long Beach and Los Angeles, including Hollywood and the breathtaking new Getty Museum. Another tour, "The Gold Coast of Historic Long Island," is planned for early September. Sites to visit include Sands Point Preserve, the Vanderbilt Mansion, Sagamore Hill, Walt Whitman's home, and much more. "Treasures of Hawaii: Paradise Islands," planned for mid- October, will include the islands of Maui and Oahu. Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head and the Hana Highway are among the sites planned.
For more information, contact the company at (513) 524-4846, or visit the web site at http://www.one.net/~campania/
The Kansas City consortium of agencies representing blind consumers will be holding a KC Technology Fair April 23-24 at the Trinity North building, 2801 Wyandotte, Kansas City, Mo. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Training sessions for Windows 95 and Word 97 are available, as are sessions on screen readers, internet access and electronic note takers. For more information, call Ben Blagg at (816) 751-4540.
The 1998 baseball season is over, and version 13 of the World Series Baseball Game and Information System is ready. It comes with 262 teams, including the 1998 pennant winners and Mark McGwire's 1998 St. Louis Cardinals, every pennant winner since 1901, many All-Star teams, Negro teams, Japanese teams, and more. There are also nine updated information programs and a 1,000- question quiz. The price is $15 for new users, $5 for updates. Send your check made out to Harry Hollingsworth, 692 S. Sheraton Dr., Akron, OH 44319; phone (330) 644-2421 or e-mail [email protected]
Mobility International USA is looking for young adults ages 18 to 24, with and without disabilities, to apply for an upcoming international exchange program. This program, scheduled for mid- July, will last two to three weeks. It is called "Leadership, Diversity and Disability Rights Exchange Abroad." The program's goals are to explore disability rights, examine diversity issues, strengthen cross-cultural ties and expand leadership skills. Activities will include presentations at disability workshops, attending cultural events, participating in outdoor recreation activities and learning about the culture and traditions by living with local families. Alternative formats, sign language interpreters and attendants will be included on a case by case basis. Partial scholarships are available for all programs. For more information, contact Mobility International USA at P.O. Box 10767, Eugene, OR 97440; phone (541) 343-1284, fax (541) 343-6812, e-mail [email protected] or visit the web site, http://www.miusa.org
The Evansville Association for the Blind is hosting an active learning conference at the Radisson Hotel. The conference will offer two sessions: an introductory course, scheduled for June 20- 23, and an advanced course, scheduled for June 27-30. The seminars may be of interest to parents and professionals who interact with children who have various disabilities (including blindness, autism, hearing impairment and mental retardation). Dr. Lilli Nielsen is one of the scheduled speakers. For more information, contact the Evansville Association for the Blind at (812) 442-1181.
LIGHTHOUSE WILL HOST
Lighthouse International of New York City will host Vision '99, a conference on low vision, July 12-16, 1999 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear experts such as Dr. Carl Kupfer, founder and director of the National Eye Institute, and many others. Professionals in optometry, ophthalmology, vision rehabilitation and related fields as well as leaders in government, business and non-profit institutes will explore topics such as: aging and vision; epidemiology of vision impairment; latest treatments and technological advancements in glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and cataracts; training around the world; AIDS and vision loss; and more. For more information, contact Lighthouse International, 111 E. 59th St., New York, NY 10022-1202; phone (212) 821-9482, or visit the web site at http://www.lighthouse.org
The Foundation for Blind Children's Arizona Instructional Resource Center has reduced the price on its English braille Koran. It is composed of six volumes. Copies are available for $495 each. For more information, or to buy a copy, call the AIC at (602) 331- 1470.
MUSIC BY EAR
There are new teaching tapes available for the Piano by Ear and Guitar by Ear libraries. They are called the EZ Solo Series, and contain five songs per tape. Each costs $10. Solo series 1 includes "Amazing Grace," "O Danny Boy," "America the Beautiful," "Aura Lee" and "You Are My Sunshine." Series two includes "Just As I Am," "My Wild Irish Rose," "My Country 'tis of Thee," "Down in the Valley" and "Five Foot Two." Christmas tape one includes "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night," "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," "White Christmas" and "Jolly Old St. Nick." Christmas tape two includes "Away in a Manger," "Drummer Boy," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "Deck the Halls" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." There is a $3.50 U.S. shipping and handling fee per order; foreign orders need to add an additional $3 to that $3.50. Of course, the introductory courses to the piano and the guitar are still available for $37 each. To order via credit card, call toll-free (800) 484-1839 and enter code 8123 when prompted. To order via the internet, visit http://www.guitarbyear.com
The Selective Doctor, Inc. specializes in the repair of Perkins braillers and IBM typewriters. Repairs for braillers are $45 for labor, plus the cost of parts. Send your brailler to The Selective Doctor, Inc., P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, MD 21234. Free matter shipping is accepted and recommended. The brailler should be insured, which will cost around $6. The company will include the cost of return insurance to your bill. For more information, call (410) 668-1143.
Division 11 (Rehabilitation Teaching Service) of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired is holding a conference entitled "Rehabilitation Teaching: The Next Century Conference 1999." It will be held July 23-27, 1999, in Kalamazoo, Mich. It is planned to be a two-day work session and a two-day celebration of the 150th anniversary of rehabilitation teaching. Work groups will create documents addressing critical issues in the field of rehabilitation teaching. A session depicting the breadth of the profession and vendor exhibits will be featured during the July 25-27 sessions. For more information, contact Lisa-Anne Soucy at (914) 831-7199 or via e- mail at [email protected]
C. Richcreek Enterprises has a scanner deck available for the HP Scan Jet IIP. It supports books and allows for easier scanning. Also available are an Easy Writer guide for $19.95 plus $4.50 shipping and handling, and an Aladdin Knife Sharpener for $12.95 plus $1.50 shipping and handling (single item orders only).
For more information, call (503) 325-4005, or write C. Richcreek Enterprises, Route 5 Box 42B, Astoria, OR 97103. The company accepts purchase orders and personal checks.
Recently, while working with a president of an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind to fend off confrontational tactics by the National Federation of the Blind, the president expressed his frustration with the difficulty of convincing members against the NFB's philosophy about blindness. It was by no means the first or only time I have ever heard ACB members, or unaligned blind individuals, speak about the "NFB philosophy." So, with mock surprise, I demanded to know what about the philosophy belonged to either the NFB in general, or the late Kenneth Jernigan in particular. I asked dramatically, "Whose philosophy is it anyway?" And I challenge you to ask the same question.
The discussion of this topic both amazes and amuses me. It is amazing that human beings are so willingly bullied by others who can shout louder and longer. It is amusing when you consider that once blind individuals stop and think about it, the reality of the notion is so clearly erroneous.
It is necessary, therefore, before proceeding far and seriously in consideration of this question to distinguish certain parts of what is generally called the NFB philosophy, and what parts of that paradigm are really philosophy and which parts are simply argument or strategy.
There is no tear in the quilt of the fabric of the culture of the organized blind movement. What most blind people mean when they refer to a positive philosophy about blindness is the concept that a blind man or woman can, with adequate training and reasonable opportunity, live a normal life. He or she can work a career, marry, bear and raise children, own a home and live a fully productive and contributing life in the community.
And whose philosophy is it anyway? It is important for history to record, and we the blind to remember, that the organized blind movement has one common cultural heritage. The rhetoric of recent decades not withstanding, the blindness consumer advocacy front grew out of the creation of a national organization based on grass roots blind and visually impaired individuals without regard to education, alumni, profession or economic status. It found its first articulation in the teachings of Dr. Newell Perry, and came into full blossom by the early 1950s.
In the beginning there was darkness over the future of the blind of the world, including the blind of America. Then there appeared over the landscape a movement providing the prophetic liturgy of a better life, a future world yet to come a way not so much to the promised land, but a way out of the wasteland of the blind. This early formalized positive group reinforcement spawned the notion that blindness need not be a tragic circumstance beyond the hopes and dreams of those afflicted.
It was not the philosophy that was unique. The bold new step was the writing down of the simple, direct and compelling message that blind and visually impaired men and women could have hope hope of fulfillment, of family, of bread and fruit, and of life itself.
Was the concept new? Was the awareness of its validity a breakthrough in human development of self-actualization? Certainly not. The concept itself, even its reality, is as old as humankind. And what is equally true is that this concept, this awareness, this philosophy did not and does not belong to any one person. It is not owned by Ken Jernigan, Paul Edwards, Sam Larson, Jill Smith, Nancy Small, Ted Johnson or anyone any more than to anyone else. What was new, and most significant, was the concentrated effort at working the concept out in a formalized fashion.
Where did this philosophy begin? We will never know. It probably started with the dawning of humankind, somewhere back when the first blind person crawled out of the cave along with his/her brothers and sisters and wanted more than was generously, or grudgingly, given by the village or tribe. The philosophy evolved over the millennia through the hard-won successes of individual blind and visually limited individuals struggling for a better life, an existence beyond the meager subsistence of the beggar or street minstrel.
Certainly blindness-based organization was not new. History does not leave us much written record on the issue of blindness organizations from earlier times, but the last two centuries offer plenty of organizational examples. But those which came before the organized blind movement were mostly based on a commonality such as education, i.e. alumni associations, professions (as in crafts unions), and the earliest American example, the American Association of Workers for the Blind.
Have blind men and women attempted an organized effort at changing the prevailing view about their blindness among their own population or the broader culture? We can speculate about the answer, but we will never know with certainty. We do know with certainty that blind individuals have, from the earliest times, tried to better their circumstances. And we do know the history of the movement in 20th century America.
The rift in the culture which ripped through the organized blind movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s did not change the philosophy or compromise its validity, or challenge its foundations in historical, cultural or factual truth. It merely altered the banners under whose names the philosophy was espoused. So how did it become NFB's domain?
What makes this question so fascinating, so mystical, so all- encompassing, is what happened after the splitting in the development of the organized blind movement. The NFB has demonstrated an almost insatiable drive to record its interpretation of all events, large and small. It has put them down in writing in published speeches and pamphlets, and recorded them on audio tapes and captured them in video. In one media, or all, it has chronicled all manner of events. And where those were not sufficient it has either dug out obscure histories or invented revisions of the present or the past to suit the organizational politically correct current interpretation.
The ACB, on the other hand, with the notable exception of "The Braille Forum," has seemed to shy away from creating a written record of interpretations of events. And the NFB has termed its interpretations as "philosophy" whenever and wherever there was an audience. It is this different approach to the recording of interpretation of events which has led to the general view among many blind individuals that the NFB philosophy is uniquely branded, like Kleenex instead of tissues, or Levi's instead of jeans.
It is as simple as the cliche: "Say something often enough and it will become a reality."
It is at this critical juncture that it becomes necessary to begin trying to sort out the paradigm from the dialectic, the hype from the hope, the dogma from the dream. For example, part of the NFB dogma is the statement that blind is blind. That if you are partially sighted at any level, you are blind just as is the total. Clearly, no thinking blind people believe that statement is true. Sure, everyone who is legally blind has something in common. We are all eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. We are all subject to discrimination. But this is one of the points that turns off a lot of the blind community. Vocational rehabilitation services provided to individuals who are legally blind, but who have usable vision, are very often significantly different from the type and quality of services provided to people who are totally blind or who have extremely limited vision. This is not to throw stones at anyone. Like job discrimination, it is a part of being blind or visually impaired in a sight-dominated world.
But the function of that position or statement is not wholly philosophical. It is a political strategy. If you want to increase your organizational solidarity and fill out your ranks, then one way is to gain a broader group concept that gets everyone equally charged to fight each and every battle. But to recognize the reality of what happens in the world to individuals with different levels of visual impairment does not mean you don't or can't have a positive philosophy about either blindness or the potential of blind individuals to be normal human beings.
Well into the 1980s, one of the NFB's most common knocks against the ACB was that it was an agency, or house, union. That is, the assertion was that a substantial percentage of the ACB membership were blind people who worked for the blindness agency system, Rehabilitative Service Administration, AFB, workshops, schools and rehabilitation agencies. The NFB, on the other hand, said the argument, was made up of blind individuals who were not part of the system. This supposedly made the NFB more of a consumer organization.
Was that philosophical? Not really. It was purely political rhetoric. And now the roles have largely reversed themselves. It is the NFB that is dominated by employees of the blindness agency system. In fact it can be argued that the NFB has ceased to be a consumer organization and has, itself, become an agency. Its primary direction seems to be more in the service component such as news line, job line, etc.
But we digress from the central issue of philosophy. The NFB mantra that causes most blind individuals the greatest problem is that statement that blindness is nothing more than a nuisance. In fairness the statement is more like: blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance, with proper training and opportunity.
That statement is a catalyst for many blind and visually impaired individuals. Some are excited by it, and others are profoundly offended. But is that statement an essential ingredient in the philosophy? Not really. Again, it is more political than philosophical. It is designed to get a reaction. It is part of the NFB's 1970s challenge to the blind of America to go to the barricades against the foe AFB, ACB, NAC, NIB and more importantly the collective.
If you look at it in retrospect, much of what was called the NFB philosophy, mostly by the NFB, was more political than philosophical. That is not to retract the earlier recognition that the NFB has written down a lot of interpretations of events, and done so in a philosophical context. But the basic element of what has come to be called the NFB philosophy is really something which is elemental to the philosophy of life of most blind and visually impaired people. That is the recognition that blindness, the less vision the greater the extent, does not prevent the individual from leading a normal, productive life. The real key remains the availability of competent training and real opportunity.
Those of us who embrace this view of our lives and our opportunities must stop letting the claim that this view belongs to one organization, or one group of individuals, stop us from expressing our philosophy. We must stop letting this claim keep us from competing for the minds of blind and visually impaired individuals.
After all, whose philosophy is it anyway? It is yours and mine. We have as much right to it as anyone. When you strip it down from the politics of confrontation and emotion, it is something that all of us can be proud of, and state with pride. Just remember the notion that it belongs to me, and, by the way, to you.
FOR SALE: One Braille Comet and several Perkins braillers. If you need any of these, or know someone who does, contact Donald Kirkner at [email protected]
FOR SALE: Kurzweil Reader. Missing keypad. Asking $2,500. Contact Theresa Sullivan at (813) 932-8036.
FOR SALE: Perkins brailler. Asking $250 plus shipping. Call Roger at (510) 412-0791.
FOR SALE: Televideo 14-inch color CCTV. Price negotiable. NEC 5D 15-inch color monitor. Contact Tony Santamaria at (214) 331- 5112.
FOR SALE: The Reading Edge, 1997 revision. $2,500 or best offer. Phone (732) 222-3510, or e-mail [email protected]
FOR SALE: About 200 cassettes, five cassette carriers, and one cassette storage box with three drawers. $225. APH four-track tape recorder-player for $50. Contact Ruth Di Marzio at (419) 756- 1142, or write her at 600 S. Trimble Rd. #305, Mansfield, OH 44906.
WANTED: Four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder. Contact Darrell Burch, 3017 NW 43rd St., Oklahoma City, OK 73112; phone (405) 946- 4090.
WANTED: Good used APH handy cassette recorder (the type discontinued about three years ago). Call Walt Stromer at (319) 895-8693, or write him at 410 7th Ave. S., Mt. Vernon, IA 52314.
The ever-present pressures that permeate state capitals to produce more efficiencies in governmental administration have been greatly exacerbated throughout the last decade due to highly charged political debates over returning tax dollars to the people and forcing government to mirror the ideological construct of the private sector. In so doing, it is assumed that government will become disciplined to the realities of the business world and properly serve its customers through the adoption of modern private sector methodologies. One such approach which is far from being universal in the private sector is the elimination of so-called "duplicative administrative functions" or in the old-fashioned vernacular, centralizing administration.
The intent of this concept paper is to explore what really works as an optimal administrative configuration for public agencies serving the blind. It leaves the issue of whether there ought to be agencies set up for the blind to the already fairly well-documented advantage to doing so.
Administration in its most pure form is the act of supporting those functions of an agency which do the actual production of the organizational product. Hence personnel, payroll, management information systems, accounting, budgeting, report generation, legal services, clerical supports, and management functions are examples of what is necessary for an agency to properly conduct its business.
A legitimate question that is increasingly asked in state capitals is to what extent does an agency for the blind really need to have its own full administrative functions when many of those functions can be performed by larger administrative entities such as those that might be already found in umbrella departments of human services or labor. Indeed, the notion of consolidating administrative functions as a means of producing the same administrative results while maintaining agency service products at a lesser cost to the taxpayer is almost axiomatic in many state capitals. After all, it seems only a matter of common sense that if you reduce the amount of employees and produce the same product, then you get efficiency and savings which can either go back to the taxpayer or be used in full or in part to improve or provide more service.
What governor, senator, or representative in a state capital can resist the lure of these arguments? Why should they? At first glance, even those of us who have had the opportunity to really dig below the surface find ourselves nodding in agreement.
Even as the above arguments may have their own initial attractions, they fail when viewed from the following four realities that define the critical relevance of administration within a blindness agency. First, proximity to the practitioner yields the greatest results; second, the interaction of all the various parts leads to a greater whole; third, the sense of mission that motivates administrative staff cannot be underestimated; and fourth, there is the reality that shifting the burden of so-called duplicative administrative functions to another agency creates an inverse productivity proportion to the original larger human and automated resource.
The first argument of proximity holds that the closer you are to the practice of the agency service system, the greater understanding you will have of what is really needed. Far too often in those states that have adopted a more distant administrative configuration, the blindness community is left with procurement and other administrative decisions that pay much more attention to irrelevant concerns than to the advisability of the product to the blind consumer. In these scenarios for example, a blind end user can receive computer software that is either not usable or requires relearning a new system while the opportunities or jobs for which the procurement was made go by the boards. Similarly, if a distant personnel administrative staff person does not pay attention to the skills and training that are required in servicing the blindness community, then a generic employee would at best require a long training curve, or eventually fail to provide the assistance they were hired to do. Finally, in this scenario a lawyer administratively assigned to handle blindness cases on a random basis can hardly be expected to know the many blindness- specific provisions of state and federal laws. Too many instances of training the lawyer while the case is lost can happen from these distant administrative functions.
The second argument of staff knowing, interacting with and supporting the real operations and culture of an agency by participating in it underscores the greater efficiencies that result from staff working together on commonly understood problems to develop system effective solutions. The management information staff that communicate internally within the agency knows that there are braille, large print, and file format considerations that are highly attendant to the proper distribution of information. In those states where management information functions are not carried out within the agency, these considerations that are critical to the functions of a blindness agency are far too often never recognized and the subsequent loss of an accessible and effective MIS operation to the agency mission are indeed damaging to the productivity and viability of the agency. Moreover, the common agency culture that is understood and reinforced through agency- wide interaction of all staff leads to solutions that truly address the issues rather than attempting to resolve problems unique to blindness through generic solutions.
The third argument of administrative staff faithfulness to the mission of the organization is highly relevant in blindness service agencies. Even though the administrative staff know they are not providing direct services to the blindness community, they nevertheless take pride in their contributions and work harder to make sure their support counts. This motivation is just not often present in the distant administrative person. Ironically, removed administration is the very reason why Congress has been so prone to decentralizing various programs since they know the advantage to having the administration of an agency close to the people it serves.
The fourth argument confronts the underlying assumption that duplicative administrative functions can be performed by similar administrative units in larger or more centralized agencies with resulting lesser cost and same productivity. In fact, the one major implementation of this theory of which this author is aware, not only decreased efficiency through longer delays of servicing the administrative need, but also resulted in the eventual hiring of more staff to accomplish the work that was originally done by lesser staff in the aggregate agencies from which duplicative administrative functions were removed. In short, the work load does not decrease by shifting it somewhere else. The only decrease that occurs is to where the work is shifted and their capacity to get both the old tasks and the new work done.
If all of this is true, then why is consolidation of so-called duplicative administrative functions so popular with state decision makers in legislatures, governors' offices, and departments of finance and administration? The answer is that they are hard- pressed to find the time to realistically review the consequences of their decisions when those decisions are deemed minor in scope, the pressure to produce at least good-sounding schemes for cost savings is constant, and they are always assured that the proposal will not hurt anyone.
Only consumers such as those in the American Council of the Blind, who once had to educate state decision makers to the fact that services consolidation did not work, must now once again show state officials how the quick administrative fix may look good in the short run, but will certainly damage services to the blind over time.
Finally, this discussion cannot be complete without a brief acknowledgment that the question remains open as to the extent to which those making the arguments to consolidate administrative functions really will be influenced by the above information. Some will regard the counter arguments as self-serving and standing in the way of their enlightened plan. Others may not care about the net impact to services except as a small variable to what they believe can be achieved for the larger common good. Still others will understand the merits of the arguments, but find themselves powerless in their view to do anything about it.
In short, the question will likely not be ultimately answered by logical debate alone, but will require the strong and continued vigilance of the blindness community to do what is necessary to make sure that elected officials know they are accountable to both people who are blind and the larger public, for guaranteeing that not only needed services are provided, but that those services are administered in a way that truly supports the effort.
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