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ACB has always advocated strongly for the right of blind people to have freedom of choice. Until recently, that has often meant that people with visual impairments could choose their career paths, where they would receive training, what kinds of services they might receive and so forth. Now ACB faces a curious dilemma in which we find ourselves advocating for folks to have a choice to work in an industrial program for the blind, which we decried just a few years ago as one of an unacceptably limited number of options available to us. In the past, we fought to expand our options, to work pretty much wherever we wanted -- and so, now why is it that we are concerned about opportunities at so-called sheltered workshops? It's a winding road to the answer, so get prepared for the ride.
Our struggle to gain entrance and acceptance in the American workplace has been a long and difficult battle. The battle is certainly not yet won, but we have made progress, and our victories are manifest in the range of careers blind people enjoy today. Some of the benefits of our collective success have been greater social integration, a rising level of expectation within our community, a greater sense of equality and increased financial security for many. Even as our community has undergone substantial changes over this period, so too has our larger society traveled in different, more integrated and more global directions. These trends have contributed to the workshop- related controversy in which we now find ourselves embroiled.
The civil rights struggle of the 1960s; the liberty litigation for people with developmental disabilities, the education and total inclusion struggles for all people with disabilities, and the disability rights movement, all of which took shape -- and flight -- in the 1970s; the supported employment movement of the early 1980s; and the independent living movement -- all contributing to the culminating Americans with Disabilities Act -- have led to the notion that mainstreaming and integrated settings are the only equitable and acceptable solution to transcending differences (real or perceived) between people. This full-integration mentality has taken firm root in the federal government and amongst many who believe themselves to be progressive thinkers in our society. Small wonder, therefore, that the sheltered workshops of the past have become widely viewed as undesirable places to work and nothing short of exploitation mills for people with disabilities. In fact, these undercurrents in perceptions about workshops have long been present within ACB as well. So why should we be defending them now?
There are two major factors that have caused the American Council of the Blind to be supportive of modern industrial programming for the blind. First, we are aware of an evolution of many workshops from paternalistic and custodial exploitation mills to progressive industrial environments which pay well above minimum wage and offer benefits. Second, we know blind people who clearly choose to work at these industries for many reasons; and ACB has a long-standing commitment to honor the informed choices that any of us make.
While there are clearly some workshops left that more resemble the past than the future, there has been a substantial progression, especially within the National Industries for the Blind shops, to modernize wage rates, benefit schedules, and working conditions. At the top of the scale we have seen industries jobs which bear no resemblance to the workshop environments of the past, where people earn competitive wages doing jobs that are better than most -- in any sector. Continued progress in this direction warrants our support. This is especially true when we are pushing for greater upward mobility and other improvements that we believe will come in the not too distant future as ACB continues our advocacy on behalf of industries workers.
ACB does not know all the reasons why some folks choose to work in the "non-integrated" work setting. What we do know is that there are those who make that choice for themselves. For some, it may be the comfort and personal satisfaction they experience from working with other blind people. For others, it may be just getting fed up with discrimination and rejections from mainstream employers and co-workers. Still others might find the job opportunities, wages and benefits to their liking. No matter what their reasons, ACB will stand beside people who choose to work in the so-called workshops, and we will support their right to make free and informed choices about where they wish to work.
Having said all of this, I must explain now, that we find ourselves taking a position which is directly opposite to one the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States Department of Education has taken. RSA has deliberately moved to limit the freedom of choice for people who seek to work in industrial settings for the blind. Despite the clear testimony of ACB and despite language in a recent U.S. Senate committee report warning of the senators' concerns about this very subject, RSA has recently proposed rules that will count only work in "integrated settings" as valid for competitive closures from state rehabilitation agencies. This new policy of RSA is expressed in the form of a proposed regulation that ACB will fight through every avenue available to us. There are both philosophical and concrete reasons why ACB must take on this battle for choice.
In our view, rehabilitation can occur only in the partnership which assists people to the point where they have the skills and knowledge to take control of their own lives. This partnership simply cannot happen when the government arbitrarily defines the choices people can make in terms of a limited domain -- the only one that is acceptable to the government. In short, no matter how high-minded the government might believe its objectives to be, there is a point where public policy must honor the choices of consumers even when those choices are viewed collectively by policy-makers as "the wrong ones." Otherwise, there is only rehabilitation to the liking of bureaucrats, which is as outrageously paternalistic as that of the old style workshops they despise.
Moving away from a philosophical discussion to the concrete ramifications of the RSA proposal, it is important to point out that the rule RSA proposes would deny blind people who choose to work in the industries environment services such as mobility training and home teaching. RSA maintains that industries workers can get that training from the independent living funds given to the states. What a ridiculous position to take! Does RSA really believe that there are any mobility and home teaching services, including braille instruction, out there in independent living facilities? Even where these services allegedly exist, does RSA believe they are being delivered by competent instructors?
So, there you have it: The federal government exercising its heavy hand to slap down the choices that some blind folks have made and will continue to make. This despite the demands of ACB that RSA reconsider its stance and allow for informed choice.
The American Council of the Blind will continue to seek a change in the RSA proposed regulation that will allow for the agency and ACB to move forward as partners, but make no mistake: we will not abandon our brothers and sisters who have the human and legal rights to make choices about where they will work and to receive the assistance of the government to get there.
I am writing this message on the Monday after one of our most successful conventions in the history of the ACB. I can tell you that I, like probably all of our members and visitors who came together in convention in Louisville, feel a combination of exhilaration and exhaustion at the prospect of returning to the "real," post-convention world. I have returned to in-boxes and voice-mail-boxes overflowing with work that has stacked up in my absence and that demands my immediate attention. During coming weeks, I am already planning to devote some time and energy to the much anticipated convention issue of "The Braille Forum," and considering my accumulated work-load and my state of post- convention exhaustion, it is tempting to postpone any discussion of all the issues that came up during convention week until that later time. However, I think it's important to spend some time at this moment reflecting on a particular event that occurred this year, and on the very satisfactory outcome of that situation.
This event was essentially an attempt by a minority of our members to utilize the resolutions process to overturn a decision which our board of directors had made, unanimously, and with indisputable constitutional authority, at its February meeting. The resolutions were determined, by the chair of the convention (me), and by the assembled membership (the convention) to be constitutionally inadmissible. As chair of the convention, I ruled that allowing these resolutions to come to the convention would be a violation of the ACB constitution, and the membership assembled in convention agreed with my decision by an overwhelming majority. I believe that the way our convention resolved this matter represents a triumph of the democratic principles which govern this organization. The outcome has reaffirmed for me my appreciation for the wisdom of those who framed our constitution, as well as my faith in the tolerance and the wisdom of our membership. History and Context
The ACB was formed because many members of the National Federation of the Blind had come to perceive that democracy as they had known it had disappeared from the NFB. When these, the first members of the American Council of the Blind, set out to create our constitution, they were therefore understandably careful to take every possible precaution to ensure that no clique would ever assume dominance over the membership of ACB -- as had happened in the NFB.
The convention was made the supreme governing authority of the ACB, with the board of directors taking on that authority between conventions. The board of directors was given sole authority to approve, or reject, the chartering of ACB affiliates. When ACB first hired someone to execute the will of our convention, that person was called "the national representative," not (until the Greensboro convention, five years ago) did the title change to "executive director." The constitution made it clear that the ACB would be -- at best -- a loose confederation. Very little power was given, either to the national office, or the board of directors. Even as we took steps to give our executive director and our board of directors the authority to take more decisive steps to execute the will of our conventions, we took precautions to safeguard and guarantee the rights and responsibilities of our disparate affiliates. A document -- six years in the making -- which delineates those rights and responsibilities, at all levels, was presented to affiliate presidents assembled at mid-year and adopted by the board of directors at the mid-year meeting. This document will be online at the ACB web site before the end of the summer, and its authors are working on a summary description of its major elements to be published in a future issue of "The Braille Forum."
ACB board members and our elected officers have always had constitutionally mandated term limits -- to ensure that the organization, and the leadership, dependably receive periodic transfusions of new blood and new ideas.
The framers of the ACB constitution also established a board of publications to ensure that neither the national representative nor his staff, nor the board of directors, nor the elected officers of ACB, could control what is published in "The Braille Forum." This organizational design ensures, therefore, that minority viewpoints will always have a mechanism, and a medium, to speak, and to be heard.
So, the constitution guarantees that power will always reside within our membership; that there is balance between the power exercised by ACB officers and board members, and the staff hired to execute the will of the members; and that every voice can be heard, every idea evaluated. The resolutions process, which was designed to give members a say in making ACB policy, further augments the rights of our individual members. Our constitution and bylaws state that any resolution which comes to our resolutions committee must -- unless it is withdrawn during the process of give-and-take which directs resolutions to the floor of the convention -- be sent to the floor for discussion and debate. Therefore, the resolutions process ensures that any ACB member who wants to take issue with anything that is happening within the organization has a vehicle to express his/her discontent.
No one in ACB's leadership has the power to prevent an issue from being referred to the membership. The resolutions committee can, and does, make recommendations to the convention regarding the advisability of passing the resolutions which it brings to the floor. Most of the time, resolutions that make it through the committee are cooperatively amended, so that the committee can recommend a "do pass" to the membership. Sometimes resolutions are referred for action to other committees; a resolution can be sent forward with neither an affirmative nor a negative recommendation to the membership, and, very rarely, a resolution is reported out of committee with a suggestion that it should not be passed. The Failure to Follow Procedure Resolutions
This year, a member introduced a resolution to invalidate a decision which had been made by the board of directors because, the "whereas" clauses in the resolution maintained, proper procedures with respect to advanced circulation of board meeting agendas had not been followed. The president -- that's me -- is supposed to get agendas out to the board of directors at least 15 days before each meeting. During my presidency, I have seldom been able to do this. The resolution stated that, because the agenda for the February board meeting had not been circulated 15 days in advance of that meeting, the unanimous decision which the board took at that mid-year meeting, to approve a special-interest affiliate's application for affiliate status, should be overturned.
Since very few presidents in the history of ACB have met the requirement to provide meeting agendas more than two weeks in advance of scheduled board meetings, the resolution would have effectively called into question every decision ever taken by every ACB board of directors. For that reason alone, it was a dangerous proposal. That notwithstanding, however, I think there are implications in this minority attempt to overturn a decision of the ACB governing body that go far beyond even this dismaying prospect. Our constitution says that the convention is the supreme governing body of the organization. It also says that the convention has the authority to make decisions except where the constitution grants authority to other groups. The board of directors is the body that governs ACB between conventions and is that "other group" which is given authority to make decisions and to act on behalf of the organization. In addition, the board of directors is the only organizational entity which has been given the authority to approve, or reject, the chartering of affiliates. The resolution was a very dangerous thing because it would have taken all authority away from the board. If the board cannot act without looking over its shoulder to see if the convention is going to overturn its decisions, then the board will be paralyzed.
When this resolution and a less radical, but still dubious, companion resolution came to the floor, I chose to declare them out of order. I don't know if this is the first time this procedure has ever been utilized in the history of ACB. I do know it was the first time I have ever declared a resolution out of order. This is one of the more difficult decisions I have ever had to make. I felt I had no choice. Even though the resolutions committee had recommended that the first resolution not be passed, I felt, as president, that I had to protect the ability of the board to govern. Even to have allowed this resolution to be debated on the floor would have made ACB ungovernable. When I declared the resolution out of order, I made it clear to the membership that they had the right to appeal the decision of the chair, which, at that point, was me. There was a motion to do this which, after some debate, was overwhelmingly defeated. There were probably 1,200 people in the hall at the time and I would be surprised if more than 10 voted for the motion to appeal the decision I had made.
I want to let all of you know how happy that makes me. It suggests that, as a whole, our membership is happy with the balance of power as it now operates and realizes that our board must be allowed to govern. Other Scenarios
Now, the persons who were displeased by the February decision which the board of directors made with respect to our newest special-interest affiliate had other opportunities to express their opinion, and to make their wishes known. I want to make it clear that a resolution could have been introduced deploring what the board had done. Expressing dissatisfaction with anything I do or with a decision made by the board is well within the powers the convention has. In fact, there were eight resolutions passed this year that did just that. The problem with this particular resolution and its companion was that it sought to allow the convention to tell the board to take back a legitimate action it had already taken unanimously because the board had failed to receive an agenda in time. That contention is vastly different from expressing disapproval of a specific board action. Our board meetings are open, and, as a guest, the individual who introduced this resolution could have asked to speak and raise his questions with the group who made the decision in the first place. In addition, a request could have been made through me or through any board member to have the board take up the person's concerns.
Furthermore, there are still avenues open to this -- or any other -- individual who is unhappy with any decision our board has made or any perceived direction our organization is going in. Our constitution sets term limits and conducts democratic elections so that the membership can express its dissatisfaction with board policies by electing people who will represent the kinds of policies they want. When we hold elections, we allow state or special-interest affiliates to hold caucuses where the candidates appear and answer any questions they are asked. We also hold a candidates' forum at which all the candidates appear to answer questions the membership may have. In my view, the people have ample opportunity to put potential board members under a microscope to determine whether or not various candidates' views are representative of those of the electorate, and if they have what it takes to be a part of our board of directors.
As I see it, ACB is an organization working to make life better for blind people throughout the world. We have a lot of work to do and do not have time to see ourselves divided into hostile camps. The president, the officers, the board, and the national office all need to be accountable to our members, and I believe that all the constitutional safeguards I have outlined in this message continue to guarantee that this is the case. I sometimes get a little discouraged about how often debates seem to speak in terms of "us" and "them."
"The leadership doesn't listen ... The national office doesn't care ... There's a clique of officers ... Special-interest affiliates are poor stepchildren ..." On and on the rhetoric goes.
I would like to see us working in a different way. Clearly nobody is perfect. I certainly am wrong not to have gotten agendas out to the board in advance, to cite just one example. Clearly all of us involved in ACB are interested in helping blind people. There really are opportunities for people to become board members and to serve on committees. Our resolution process and our Internet ACB Listserv give members lots of opportunities to tell the leadership what they like and don't like. I hope that all of our members will think twice before they assume some giant conspiracy on the part of the leadership to stifle opinion or to shortchange members. Conspiracy Theories
Let me give you a couple of examples of the rhetoric I have heard floating around, and the rumors that can take root and become alarming undercurrents before we collectively know what has hit us.
We were short of braille programs at this convention. This was because the company with whom we contracted produced only 400 of the 650 that were ordered. We did not realize this had occurred until we ran out of programs. There is no question that this situation was unfortunate but it was not an attempt to minimize the importance of braille. It was not a conspiracy to force people to use some other format. It was an unavoidable error and that's all it was.
Just before the convention, there was a good deal of sound and fury on the ACB listserv, over the issue of whether we should put our convention program on the web site. I had received a gentle reminder that the board of directors had made a decision several years ago, that only people who had registered for the convention should get programs. There were good and substantial reasons for the board to have made this decision at the time that I won't bore you with here. As a result of being reminded of this board decision on the books, I, as president, ruled that the program couldn't be placed online.
Then the board of publications met and declared that our program is an official publication of ACB over which they have jurisdiction and indicated to me that they believed it belonged on our web site. I took the position that there was ample constitutional basis for the BOP's decision and therefore ordered the program to go onto our site. I must tell you that this led to some lively debate at our pre-convention board meeting and eventually led to an amendment of the constitution and bylaws making it clear that the board of publications has jurisdiction over the ACB program.
This is a great example of how governance happens. The board made a decision. The board of publications asked for a different one. The constitution and bylaws committee acted and the membership approved the change. Government is not a static thing. Our organization is evolving. I hope that everyone in ACB feels that he or she has power. Our officers, board members and staff should always be willing to listen. The resolutions process is another way to assure input. But, the resolutions process should not and cannot be subverted to allow a minority to wrest power from an entity, in this case the board of directors, which has the constitutionally mandated authority to govern.
The power of the people is paramount in ACB and that is as it should be. We have a system of checks and balances in place that works well and I am proud of the convention this year for recognizing that fact. As our organization gets bigger, it becomes harder and harder to be sure that every member feels empowered. One of the resolutions which came to the convention this year, which did pass overwhelmingly, asks me, and the board, to look at getting leadership training under way again. The board and I will be taking a serious look at doing that.
All who were at our convention this year affirmed that our system of government works. It does! You were right to do so! Thank you!
About 25 years ago, for better or for worse, Public Law 94-142 irrevocably revolutionized the education of all children with disabilities, including, of course, blind and visually impaired children. In 1976, parents and teachers were jubilant when Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. What excited them so much was that henceforth, according to the new law, each child who qualified for special education services because of disability was promised a public school education at his or her neighborhood school in an age-appropriate classroom in the least restrictive environment which could accommodate individualized disability-related educational needs. For the first time, blind students could not be denied attendance in the local public schools. They would no longer be sent to designated schools (often located far from their homes) where there were resource rooms, or to residential schools for the blind. Instead, itinerant teachers would visit the neighborhood schools to oversee their academic courses and teach them the requisite skills and techniques of blindness, such as braille, the use of low vision devices, orientation and mobility and activities of daily living. Back then, schools for the blind, resource classes and state hospitals (for very severely multiply disabled blind children) were still available. Advocates and policy-makers hoped the new law would offer a continuum of options to blind students and their families, according to each particular child's abilities, aptitudes and needs.
For many years, there had been in this country good, though geographically and numerically inadequate, options for providing superior education to blind children; but there were many children with additional, often severe and multi-faceted disabilities for whom no educational programs of any kind existed. For these children and their families, the passage of P.L. 94-142 was an event of life-altering significance.
In the lives of many of these children, the law continues to provide a liberating experience. They live with their families, board school buses every morning -- just like all the other non- disabled students who attend their public schools -- participate where possible in community and religious activities, and spend their days in an inclusive environment with age-appropriate peers and expectations. Some question whether these children are receiving an education in the sense that most adults understand that word, but their inclusive educational situation is far superior to the institutionalization and stay-at-home experiences that formerly defined the set of options available to children with the most severe multiple disabilities.
Unfortunately, however, for many students with visual impairments, the mood of jubilation engendered by P.L. 94-142 was short-lived. Fully inclusive education, it turned out, was not the best option for many children who are blind.
Today's population of children who are blind is significantly different from a more homogenous population comprised mostly of relatively healthy children whose blindness had resulted from retrolental fibroplasia, which was the "norm" in the 1950s and '60s. Now, visual impairments have genesis from a number of causes. The number of low-birth-weight babies who survive has increased dramatically, and many of these children have serious disabilities in addition to severe visual impairments. The proportion of blind children whose only disability is blindness is significantly smaller than it once was, and some school systems serve few blind children who are educable in the academic sense of that word.
Soon after passage of Public Law 94-142 , the disability rights and independent living movements began to demand "full inclusion" for nearly every single child with a disability. Interpreting the concept of "full inclusion" in the most literal sense of the term had the consequence of requiring all children who qualified for special education services to take all their classes every day with their peers.
Such a schedule allows little opportunity to learn skills specific to the management of particular disabilities. Champions of full inclusion pushed to abolish all specialized schools, and insisted that all disabled students should be mainstreamed into regular public school classrooms. These advocates for total inclusion argued that the students' specific disability-related needs could be met by itinerant specialists who would travel to the various schools and work with both the children and their regular classroom teachers. The past two decades have seen several incarnations of Public Law 94-142, the most recent being the reauthorized P.L. 105-17, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Today, most schools for the blind serve a population comprised mainly of multiply disabled blind children while so-called "normal" blind children attend public schools and rely on itinerant teachers, who are now known as vision specialists and orientation and mobility specialists.
"It's a raw deal for blind students and their parents and educators," says Jerry Fields, who has taught blind children for nearly four decades and is immediate past president of the California Council of the Blind's San Francisco chapter. "Educating blind kids has become a nightmare. Each week, itinerant teachers travel hundreds of miles to work with as many as 40 or 50 kids in as many as 20 schools. That means that most of the specialists barely manage to maintain contact with their charges. If they're lucky, they may spend an hour or two a week with each child. The net result is that a blind child can experience serious learning difficulties well before the classroom teacher and the vision specialist spot them. How, then, can educators teach kids all the required skills that blind and visually impaired people need to live, learn, play, work and function successfully in society?
"Working with kids is often not the main job of these itinerant teachers. They must advise classroom teachers on how to provide materials for and test a blind child; they talk to nurses about how to do vision screening; they give advice on how to get materials brailled. They consult with specialists about working with multiply disabled children, when visual impairment isn't the major disability.
"Much of the vision specialist's time is taken up with endless paperwork, record keeping and assisting with preparation of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) reports," Fields bristles. "These teachers are being treated like overpaid clerks or aides."
Two years ago, Fields taught a class of very severely disabled students, two of whom were blind. He started, in September, with eight students. By the following April, he had 15, with only two aides to assist him. Most class time was spent in either toilet training or diapering the children.
California once had the Cadillac of this country's special education systems for blind and other disabled kids. "Not anymore," sighs Fields. "In my opinion, this state now has one of the worst special education programs in the nation."
The U.S. Department of Education concurs. According to CCB member and special educator Dan Kysor, a recent study commissioned by that department found that California ranks 50th among all the states in its implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Lately, there has been considerable discussion about reducing class size in public schools. However, the limitation does not apply to special education. Whereas, in California's public schools, a classroom teacher who works in the first three primary grades can serve a maximum of 20 students, there is no such class-size limit for special education. Teachers must accept all disabled students who live in a particular district.
Since the state master plan was adopted, there have been no specific student-teacher ratios for sensory and mentally disabled children.
"Because most blind kids are required to be educated in regular classrooms, they don't get much special education attention," Fields says. "It's hard for many of them, therefore, to cope with adjusting to living as a blind person. In fact, ironically, for many blind children, the public school classroom is the most restrictive environment."
Of course, a smart kid can use readers, low vision aids, and maybe parental help and may not have much trouble learning. The vision specialist will bring him or her materials in braille, large print or on audio cassette; and the classroom teacher will be responsible for teaching all academic subjects.
"However, newly blinded children -- or kids who lack drive, creativity, ingenuity and self-confidence or whose parents aren't strong advocates -- will most likely end up with an inferior education. They may occupy seats in a regular classroom, and their teachers may even give them all A's; yet, one thing is clear: They won't learn much.
"For blind students, learning involves much more than mere academics. Because they can't gain information from watching other people, blind kids may have to be taught such simple tasks as finding a dropped object, buttoning a shirt, or eating with a knife and fork. Unfortunately, though, most itinerant teachers don't have time to plan and teach a detailed curriculum in skills of blindness."
So, what are blind kids learning nowadays from their teachers? "An oversimplified message," says Fields. "They are being taught that they are like everyone else. Too late they discover what they have missed -- when they approach such issues as dating or looking for a job. Worse still, blind kids are learning that they're either gifted or stupid. There's nothing in between."
Given today's realities with regard to class size, money, personnel preparation, and frequent lack of parental involvement, what can we in the ACB do to help make significant improvements in the education of blind children?
Fields suggests that we can do quite a lot. "First," he says, "people must understand the difference between how it was when most blind adults went to school, and what's going on today. Second, schools for the blind must be responsible for teaching all blind children the skills and techniques of blindness. In fact, they must be for kids what (blindness) orientation centers are for adults. Third, the federal government must be forced to reinstate training programs that provide an adequate number of credentialed teachers to maintain resource rooms throughout the (schools in each) state. Fourth, we need to develop a comprehensive program to educate blind children and their parents and educators about blindness and the potential of blind children and adults. Finally, the American Council of the Blind affiliates must provide many more adult role models for blind children and sponsor occasions for parents and children to interact with these role models."
The motivations behind the Education for All Handicapped Children Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act were -- and continue to be -- noble and worthy of celebration. The poor implementation of the laws, especially in terms of poorly understood and overutilized concepts, has been disastrous for many children with disabilities, particularly for children with visual impairments. We in ACB must become involved in the education of the next generations of blind Americans, or the answer to the question, "How will they ever learn?" will be expressed in generations of young adults who cannot function as blind people in a sighted world, who cannot live independently, find meaningful work, or find a place in the leadership of organizations like the ACB.
Until a few years ago, we heard frequent stories about blind citizens' being summarily rejected for jury service because of stereotypical assumptions about their blindness -- e.g., the assumption that they could not judge the veracity of the witnesses because they could not see their faces or body language, or the assumption that they could not understand exhibits, etc. Although these attitudinally based exclusions have declined markedly in recent years, slightly more practical barriers have still existed for certain categories of citizens in many jurisdictions. One such barrier which existed until fairly recently in the District of Columbia was the nearly automatic practice of excluding from jury service all attorneys and law enforcement officials, on the assumption they would be biased or would perhaps exercise undue influence over their fellow jurors. In recent years, however, as communities have recognized the need to call upon the talents of all elements of society they have phased out these categorical exclusions as well--deciding instead, to explore, in detail, any individual's possible bias before automatically excluding a whole class of citizens from potentially valuable jury service.
It was in this climate that I recently responded to yet another summons to appear for possible jury duty in the Superior Court, the court of general criminal jurisdiction, for the District of Columbia. I had been called several times previously, but, once I identified myself as an attorney who had defended clients in criminal cases in the past, I was never selected .
What a pleasant change I encountered! First, the jury clerk did not attempt to talk me into asking for dismissal as soon as he saw my long white cane. Next, before questioning the dozens of people in the jury pool as a group, the presiding judge instructed everyone to be prepared to take notes in response to several dozen questions which he intended to ask during the voir dire process. (This is the process used by judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys to examine, accept or reject prospective jurors before the beginning of a trial.) So, out of my jacket pocket came my six-line pocket slate, a four-by-six-inch card, and a stylus. The questions related to such matters as prior knowledge, knowledge of the attorneys or anyone else connected with the case, revulsion concerning the alleged offense, location of residence, nature of work performed, etc. All we had to do was mark the number of each question for which we had an affirmative answer. This series of questions constituted the most thorough inquiry I had ever seen at that stage of a case. Next, each prospective juror was questioned individually by the judge in the presence of the attorneys but out of hearing of the other prospective jurors, about all the affirmative answers he or she had noted.
When the judge saw my braille notes, he asked if I would be able to take personal notes for my own use if I were selected for the jury, and, of course, my answer was in the affirmative. When I asked about examining visual exhibits, the judge explained that jurors would be permitted to ask relevant, clarifying questions through the judge himself, who would, if necessary, determine the admissibility of each question and rephrase it. Additionally, for the benefit of the two attorneys I pointed out that, if I were selected and if visual exhibits were used, it would be very helpful for each to emphasize the relative value of those exhibits. Each attorney, realizing that such emphasis and analysis would help his or her case, eagerly declared that such attention would be given. Following the examination of approximately 75 prospective jurors, I was seated as juror number seven to hear a case involving the sexual abuse of a female child.
Each of the 14 jurors empaneled, two of whom would be dismissed as alternate jurors upon conclusion of testimony and arguments, was assigned a specific seat in the jury box, given a pad and pencil for note-taking purposes, instructed not to discuss the case during its progress and instructed to leave his or her notes in his or her assigned seat when out of the jury box. So, out of my pocket again came my little six-line slate and a stylus for use with my pad of paper. The trial lasted three days; the judge asked two clarifying questions, which I read to the clerk from my braille notes; my fellow jurors found my notes to be very helpful and, after due deliberations, the jury found the defendant guilty.
Ah, how helpful was that little six-line braille slate and stylus! Of course, other note-taking and information retrieval systems or no system other than memory itself could perhaps have been used, but the simplicity of the slate and stylus and its equivalence to simple handwritten notes on paper eliminated possible questions about such things as the not-permitted use of tape recorders in court rooms, the use of electronic note-taking devices which the judge and the attorneys had never seen or heard of before, and the need to leave the notes in the jury box at all times before the beginning of deliberations. My experience underscores the continuing need for blind and visually impaired people to equip themselves with a full arsenal of skills and equipment, both simple and not so simple, in order to be prepared to perform the full range of duties of citizenship.
A leading cause of preventable and irreversible blindness is the eye disease glaucoma, which destroys vision by causing permanent damage to the optic nerve. African-Americans seem to have an especially high susceptibility to this so-called "silent" eye disease. Others in the high risk group include relatives of people who have glaucoma and people who are diabetic. I am writing this article with the hope that my readers will inform others that early glaucoma detection and life-long treatment can prevent blindness.
Your glaucoma tests should begin at age 35 to 40, and continue every two years thereafter. Since age increases your risk of contracting glaucoma, you should have an annual glaucoma exam each year, starting at age 60. The exam is painless and not time-intensive, and should include an eye pressure test and dilation of the pupil to examine the optic nerve.
In mid-1994, at age 59, I learned that I was legally blind in both eyes from low tension, normal pressure glaucoma. Normal intraocular pressure had destroyed most of my optic nerve.
First I was afraid. Then I was angry -- why me?
Then I resolved to take any actions I could to learn as much as possible about glaucoma. Initially, I was told by an ophthalmologist that I would be totally blind in six months to two years. Five years later, I have experienced some additional vision loss, but I can see relatively well with my remaining vision, and I can do most of the things I want to do. Eye drops and a series of eye surgeries have delayed my subsequent vision loss.
My form of glaucoma, normal pressure or low tension, is the form of the disease that is experienced by up to 45 percent of people with glaucoma, which can result in significant optic nerve damage. Mine was not caught in time, even though I had had an annual eye exam, including eye pressure measurement, since age 30. Fortunately, because of the efforts of many medical researchers, medications and surgeries to reduce intraocular eye pressure have delayed catastrophic vision loss for me.
With glaucoma, there is no pain. There are no early warning signals. Vision loss progresses from the gradual loss of side vision to the final stages, central vision loss. Until recently, many ophthalmologists believed that the intraocular pressure test would detect glaucoma, but this is true for only about 55 percent of people with the disease. For the other 45 percent -- like me -- intraocular eye pressure is normal, and damage can only be detected by examining the optic nerves, or by administering visual field tests.
Glaucoma is not caused by something that you or your parents did wrong. It is not contagious. You can't tell someone has it by looking at the front of their eyes. It is often caused by genes that were present in a parent or grandparent. You cannot get glaucoma by reading in poor light, eating an improper diet, or wearing contact lenses. It is possible to develop glaucoma as a result of an eye injury, but this is not a usual occurrence. Treatment can prevent additional vision loss, but it can't restore lost vision. For now there is no cure for glaucoma- damaged optic nerves, but there is prevention.
Since glaucoma comes from our genes, that means certain groups are more likely to get the disease. For African- Americans, glaucoma is the number one cause of blindness. African-Americans are five times more likely to get glaucoma than any other ethnic group, and with glaucoma they are four times more likely to become blind. It doesn't do any good to blame anyone because no one is to blame. It is unfortunate that the group often least able to afford the costs of early detection, lifelong medications and possible surgeries is the group with the highest genetic risk.
For the past year, as a member of the Glaucoma Research Foundation Volunteer Speakers' Bureau, I've had the opportunity to speak before senior citizen groups on early detection and treatment of glaucoma. From audience feedback, I've learned that people who are covered by Medicaid have the advantage of paid health care and prescription coverage. People with Medicare must pay for 20 percent of their own doctor costs and 100 percent of their prescription costs.
Glaucoma often requires treatment with two types of drops daily for the rest of one's life, as well as possible eye surgery to reduce intraocular pressure. The costs of these treatments are not insignificant, especially for people on Social Security.
Fortunately, there are local organizations in many cities who provide low cost or no cost early screening for glaucoma. If there's a teaching hospital in your city, the facility probably conducts a free glaucoma detection clinic several times each year. For information about low-cost screening programs for low- income individuals, call Vision USA at (800) 766-4466. I also recommend contacting your local church pastor to obtain names of social services organizations which might be able to help defray the costs of these sight-saving examinations. For more information about glaucoma, call the Glaucoma Research Foundation at (800) 826-6693.
Optic nerve damage from glaucoma is permanent, but blindness can be prevented by early detection and treatment to lower eye pressure. We can all make a difference by asking our family members and friends this question: "Have you had a glaucoma exam recently?"
Thank you for your incisive and comprehensive editorial, entitled, "The Tyranny of Technology," which appeared in a recent issue of "The Braille Forum." We at the American Foundation for the Blind and many others in the field of visual impairment and blindness agree that precious little has been done by our field to ensure the continued growth of the number of qualified individuals who work as access technology specialists. We also agree that, nationally, there is no set of minimum training standards for a curriculum that can be used to instruct blind and visually impaired persons in the use of access technology and applications software. Finally, we agree that there is an evident and immediate need to develop a set of minimum competencies which access technology specialists must possess or acquire to effectively provide assessment, training, and job-site modifications.
The American Foundation for the Blind, in concert with many partners in the field of blindness and visual impairment, is currently endeavoring to find solutions to the problems you so eloquently outlined in your editorial. We believe that the problems we face today will only get worse as the labor market demand for technologically literate persons is growing and the demand for thorough training by blind and visually impaired consumers is increasing proportionately. As we go around the country speaking to consumers, a consensus is growing about the kinds of training that are needed by blind and visually impaired persons who attend academic or job-training programs, work at a variety of jobs, or who are out there, currently job hunting. Similarly, although not as widely agreed upon, a defined set of competencies for access technology specialists is emerging from meetings and conversations with large numbers of professionals in our field.
Also emerging is the fact that most access technology specialists enter the "field" without formal training in their craft. Many possess competencies obtained from academic or professional training programs in mainstream technology; others through apprenticeship and self-study; or some combination of these two methods. There is emerging a set of "sub-specialties" within the access technology field as some workers possess only sufficient competency to provide basic access hardware and software training and instruction in the most popular mainstream applications software while others have developed their skills in programming. Still other access technology specialists have accrued a world of experience and skill in systems interface and job-site modification and it is this latter group that you have correctly identified as most in demand. "Technology access expediters," for lack of a better name, require a great deal of expertise and need to possess a set of meta-skills that differs from in-classroom or center-based trainers. Access technology job-site intervention professionals require excellent social skills that will enable them to work closely and cooperatively with employers. Often, the on-site technician must negotiate entry to a work site and ameliorate employer concerns about the perceived "invasiveness" of their interventions.
Similarly, in-class or center-based trainers must possess a set of meta-skills that relate directly to the art and science of teaching. Consumers appear to be clamoring for instructors who can adjust their teaching style to match consumer learning styles and to be able to provide learning tools that will prepare consumers to know more than just enough "to be dangerous." Further, there is growing consensus that consumers are dissatisfied with a perhaps inadvertent but real dependency on the rehabilitation system that has been forced upon them by inadequate training in problem-solving and help-getting skills. Unexpected problems and (more predictable) software upgrades are inevitable. Consumers need to be provided with the variety of tools they will need to handle these inevitabilities as they proceed with their working lives and they need to be able to secure human assistance on a real-time basis.
If these events do not transpire, we will continue to be mired in the high and continually disturbing unemployment rates blind and visually impaired persons face. "A good job is a horrible thing to lose!" Sincerely, Gil Johnson Director, Anthony R. Candela National Program Associate AFB West San Francisco, Calif.
For years I have been reading about the unacceptably high unemployment rate among blind and visually impaired Americans of working age. It is always around 66 percent regardless of the status of the economy. Blind workers aren't even the last hired and first fired -- we never seem to make it that far!
The availability of computer technology is certainly changing the type of work that people who are blind can be expected to be able to do. But the availability of assistive technology seems to have had little effect on the big picture.
We have grumbled and complained, but have we used our collective brain power and imagination to initiate change? I think not. Perhaps we should create our own opportunities instead of looking for positions within the big corporations or the federal government. After all, the corporations no longer offer jobs for life, and the government, which is accomplishing so much these days by "outsourcing," cannot begin to absorb large numbers of blind job seekers.
What we need is a complete sea change, a new paradigm, a different way of looking for work opportunities.
Is there any reason why blind individuals cannot pool their resources and create their own business opportunities? In a society where telecommuting, e-mail, faxes, and conference calls are normal business practices, it ought to be possible for highly motivated, competent individuals to start and manage a variety of successful enterprises.
I am submitting this article not because I claim to have the answers, but because I hope that it will start a discussion in the pages of "The Braille Forum."
I am proud to be a member of the American Council of the Blind. I want to know if you are proud of ACB, too.
I think of ACB as standing for action, and commitment to people who are blind. Is that how you think of ACB as well? Do you know what we stand for, and do you share this knowledge with others?
When I talk to other folks, and to new acquaintances who are interested in ACB, I let them know that I am proud to be a member - - and I show it!
I know members who cannot even tell you when the organization was formed -- or why. This is a disgrace! We need to share our story, with one another, and with everyone we know! The best way to show the world that we are proud of who we are is to let our history, our accomplishments, and our stories be known, and celebrated!
If we as members of ACB become better informed, and show it, we can attract new members and become an even more effective organization.
ACB is not someone in Washington, DC, telling other people what to do, or what to think. ACB is our organization! Let's all get off our comfortable backsides and make a difference!
I am writing this to stir up your feelings! Maybe I even want to make a few people a little mad! Well, if I do, that's OK with me! I want everyone to know how proud I am of ACB. So, get mad or get even ... but don't just talk about the issues I raise! Learn who we are, share your pride in ACB, and let your commitment show!
(Note: Long-time ACB member Dr. Ed Bradley joined ACB in 1962. At the July 2000 convention, Bradley was elected to the ACB Board of Directors. )
Whether you're a teacher, a librarian, a student or a parent, "A Field Guide for the Sight-Impaired Reader" has something for you. In this book, author Andrew Leibs shares his knowledge of the tools and resources available for visually impaired people.
The book, printed in large print, contains excellent forewords, one "To the Student" and one "To the Librarian." Leibs' introduction explains some of his experiences under the special education umbrella, and the reasoning behind the heavy emphasis on books on tape. He states, "In the fall of eighth grade, after finally getting my first book on tape, and having taken Braille and typing lessons, it was abundantly clear to me what tool was going to drive my education: only tapes would play a significant role." When he tells about his difficulties with a four-track tape recorder, I could sympathize, and I feel certain that many of you will too. And when he speaks about reading "Watership Down" on tape, and his relative's ire at Leibs' method of reading, I feel like I'm right there with him.
His closing paragraphs emphasize the importance of books on tape, and of using all resources and technologies. "Once you learn how to find and use all resources and technologies, a great thing happens: reading becomes as much a part of you as it is for any fully sighted reader," Leibs says. "... With this book, you can do in a day what took me 20 years." Content and organization
Leibs has organized the book into seven different chapters: foundation resources; technology resources; braille resources; large print resources; how to find and manage readers; Internet resources, and winning strategies for any academic reading task, as well as five appendices (a state-by-state resource guide, commercial audio publishers, what to read, the Americans with Disabilities Act in the library, and grant sources for funding ADA projects in the library). This is a well-organized book that leads the reader through the basics to the somewhat more complex world of reading. In chapter 1, he focuses on cassette books, calling RFB&D and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped the "eternal library cards, the life changers, the points of departure on the road of reading." At the end of each informational section on the particular organizations, he places a summary box containing all the contact information on each. I hadn't known before I read this book that the National Association for Visually Handicapped has a lending library!
He repeatedly mentions the National Federation of the Blind, even listing the organization's state offices in his state-by- state guide. I feel uneasy about this aspect of the book. I realize that ACB does not publish books -- "The Braille Forum" is listed in a later chapter -- but people may acquire a bias after seeing so much mention of NFB, and so little of ACB.
In the technology-related chapter, I was pleased to see so much variety. However, that pleasure turned to dismay upon seeing mention of Maxi-Aids. After the suit between that company and Independent Living Aids, which Maxi-Aids lost, even the NFB refused to deal with them, stating in a "Braille Monitor" article that "Zaretsky and Maxi-Aids do not behave ethically and are a destructive influence in the blindness field ..." ("On Ethics and Maxi-Aids" by Kenneth Jernigan, July 1998).
Also, some information in that chapter is out of date. Henter-Joyce and Blazie Engineering have merged. The companies will continue to manufacture their product lines separately, but administrative functions will be combined at Freedom Scientific in Florida.
I especially enjoyed reading the braille chapter. It contained information about where to get braille writing equipment, translation software (though Duxbury and MegaDots have now merged, too), speech synthesizers, screen readers, braille embossers, portable braille devices, braille books and periodicals, transcription services, and much more.
"Today, braille has both ardent champions and a host of blind persons with no interest in learning or using the language," Leibs states. "The availability of cassettes or talking books offers what some regard as a more convenient way to read, and many who lose their sight later in life find it difficult to begin learning a new language. ... That no blind person had any hope of becoming literate and educated before the existence of braille often goes unmentioned." That last sentence stuck with me throughout the rest of the chapter and the book. Though I have been sighted all my life (and a bookworm too), I have wondered what I would do if I were to become blind. This book has helped me understand what's available. Appendices
The five appendices are a useful follow-up to the information in the preceding chapters. Those new to the field of blindness will find the state-by-state resource guide especially helpful (though again, the ACB is not listed). If you're a bookworm like me, and you like reading books on tape, Appendix B will really get you going. And if you've ever made a list of books you want to read, but haven't done so yet, check out Appendix C. It contains 60 books selected from the American Library Association's "Outstanding Books for the College Bound," Robert B. Downs' "Books That Changed the World" and a list published by the Great Books Society (University of Chicago). What's more, each entry in the list contains the RFB&D shelf number, NLS cassette number, a braille identification number, and mention of its availability in large print and/or via commercial audio producers. Books include "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "Battle Cry of Freedom," "The Canterbury Tales," "The Great Gatsby," "Moby Dick," and selected works by Shakespeare.
Appendix D deals with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the library. "In general," Leibs says, "libraries will make changes that will benefit the largest number of patrons." He gives the example of a library supplying a CCTV or computer with screen-reading software instead of a live reader. The appendix lists valuable resources for librarians and other library workers with regards to the ADA. Appendix E talks about sources of funding for ADA projects in the library. It is the shortest of the five appendices, and lists four web sites and two guides to finding grants and other funding sources. While it does contain useful information, I feel it would benefit from a lot more detail to make it useful to the general public. Conclusion
I believe this book is well worth its 280 pages of information. It is useful to students, parents, families, teachers, librarians, and other people who work with the visually impaired population. It is well organized and written, with doses of the author's experiences sprinkled in to add color and flavor. Anyone new to the field of blindness would do well to read through this book.
To order, call Greenwood Publishing Group toll-free, (800) 225-5800. A complete listing of all Greenwood titles is available at http://www.greenwood.com.
Henter-Joyce's recent release of JAWS for Windows, version 3.5, is indeed a significant event in the history of developing screen readers. While, beginning with version 3.3, JFW has really come to the fore with exciting innovations and enhancements, version 3.5 has outdone them all. Features
All the new features in JFW-3.5 are outlined in the What's New file, found on the JFW Help menu. The file contains a number of hyperlinks which can lead you to even more-detailed information on various features. In addition, Henter-Joyce has produced an excellent CD, playable either on your computer or audio CD player, in which Eric Damery takes you through actual demonstrations of many of the new features.
A few highlights include support for a significant number of new applications; e.g., Microsoft FrontPage 2000, WinFax Pro 9.0 and Corel Quattro Pro 9. In addition, JFW 3.5 can be configured to detect various languages in multi-language documents, and read the texts, each in its proper language. Also, the JFW cursor now has three modes, including an unrestricted mode which allows it to go anywhere on the screen. Installation
The task of installing JAWS continues to be essentially the complicated procedure it has always been. For example, when I attempted to install version 3.5 on a computer with a previous version already installed, instead of simply asking if I had an update disk for authorization (as JFW did the last time I installed an upgrade), it told me that I had a demonstration copy and required me to reboot to start the application. This did not frighten me, but I can well imagine it putting a scare into a novice user. At any rate, when I rebooted and started JFW, I got the more appropriate message, "Your serial number was not found ... insert your update disk."
When I complied, and clicked "Continue," JFW updated and ran as expected. It's apparent that the annoying authorization complexities are still with us, but I have been assured that Henter-Joyce is looking at CD-based methods of authorization, such as those used by Microsoft and Adobe. Conclusion
Current JFW users who have not yet upgraded to version 3.5 should do so without delay. Professional and power users who have not yet selected a screen reader should get hold of a JFW- 3.5 demo and put it through its paces. Having said all this, however, I want to conclude by suggesting that my examination of both JAWS and GW Micro's Window-Eyes 3.1 has led me to believe that casual, home-based personal-computer users may prefer Window-Eyes, while power-users may prefer the more sophisticated Henter-Joyce product.
I expect to complete my review of the latest version of Window-Eyes in the near future, and to prepare a comparison of the two products for a future issue of "The Braille Forum."
(Editor's Note: Thanks to the National Organization on Disability for the information in this article. We encourage our readers to register to vote, and to find out if the "Motor Voter" Act is working for blind citizens in the states where you live.)
If Americans with disabilities voted at the same rate as people without disabilities, there would be at least 5 million additional votes cast November 7, 2000. A major reason for the failure of most Americans with disabilities to vote is they are not registered to vote.
In 1993, the National Voter Registration Act (Motor Voter) was signed into law. Section 7a of the NVRA requires all public and private agencies serving people with disabilities to offer voter registration to their clients at intake, re-certification and change of address. If an agency's services are not provided in agency offices, the person who provides itinerant services must also offer voter registration services. If an individual declines to register to vote, the agency must obtain the individual's signature on a declination form and keep that form on file for 22 months.
Some agencies, but by no means all, that are covered under this law include: vocational rehabilitation; special education; commissions for the deaf and the blind; paratransit providers; independent living centers; disability-specific service providers such as ARCs, MS Society, Epilepsy Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Associations, etc.
Many disability agencies are in violation of the NVRA. A 1998 National Organization on Disability/Harris poll reports that only 25 percent of people with disabilities have been asked by a service provider to register to vote.
Contact the service providers in your area and ask the questions on the questionnaire below: National Voter Registration Act Implementation Questionnaire 1) Does your agency offer the opportunity to register to vote to your clients as part of intake? 2) Does your agency offer the opportunity to register to vote to your clients as they receive services from your agency? 3) Does your agency keep records of those clients who decline to register to vote? 4) Who in your agency is in charge of ensuring that your agency complies with the National Voter Registration Act?
Please return this information, along with your name, phone number, and address, and the address and contact information for the agency which you surveyed, to: Adina Topfer, National Organization on Disability, 910 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20006, or via e-mail to [email protected]
Maryland to Focus on Access, Rehab and Aging
The American Council of the Blind of Maryland will hold its 2000 convention October 6-8 at the Mount Vernon Hotel, 24 W. Cathedral Street, Baltimore. Activities will begin on Friday evening, October 6, with a meeting of the board followed by live entertainment featuring musician John Student.
The Saturday session will begin at 9 a.m.; it will feature a speaker from the U.S. Access Board, who will update us on the regulatory initiatives being addressed by this agency. We are planning a panel discussion on accessible pedestrian signals and have invited the Maryland State Highway Administration to let us know why they are still reluctant to install more accessible pedestrian signals in our state. Patrick Sheehan, our vice president, will talk about the latest regulations from Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
There will be two panels during the afternoon session; the banquet speaker will be executive director Charles Crawford. In one panel, there will be discussion of the problems faced by older blind people. During this segment, we plan to ask participants if they would form a regional chapter of the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss, so we could more effectively address some of these problems. On Saturday evening, we will have an auction fund-raiser. The business meeting will take place on Sunday morning. Please join us for some serious work and much fun and friendship. For more information, call (410) 529-9475 or e-mail Ralph Sanders at [email protected]
The editorial staff reserves the right to edit letters for content, style and space available. Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not those of the American Council of the Blind, its staff or elected officials. "The Braille Forum" cannot be responsible for the opinions expressed herein. We will not print letters unless you sign your name and give us your address.
I can appreciate the concerns raised by Audley Blackburn in his response to my April article, although I had no intention of communicating any criticism of the Seeing Eye's daily schedules. My purpose for writing this series of articles has been, solely, to share my own experiences and provide a glimpse into what retirement of one dog and transition to a new dog have been like for me.
Although I might have wished that my Seeing Eye schedule could have included more unscheduled hours in a day, I believe that all of the elements of the schedule are necessary in order for us as dog users to gain the maximum benefit from training. However, realizing this does not change the fact that the schedule is extremely busy and in many ways draining, especially for someone who is dealing with additional health concerns.
My discussion of a typical day in class was included merely to illustrate the kind of schedule which trainees typically experience, not to provide any opinions about the reasoning behind the rigors of such a program. I dislike getting up at 5:30, but I also recognize that there are few alternatives which would permit a better waking hour and still allow time for interaction and relaxation in the evenings.
The only appropriate context for reading this series of articles is as reflective of my personal experience. People frequently ask me about my experiences at the school. The truth is the training one receives at the Seeing Eye, or any other guide-dog school, is hard work -- a very different kind of hard work from what we do when we bring the dogs home.
I hope this clarifies any misunderstandings or perceived misrepresentations in my article.
-- Sarah J. Blake, Anderson, Ind.
Regarding "Professions and Vocations"
This is in response to those who touted the article by William Lewis (August 1999) called "Professions and Vocations Held or Studied by Blind People in Kansas and across America." In this article, Lewis misrepresents the facts with a plethora of misleading misinformation. Falsehoods are replete throughout this long-winded infinite manuscript. He stated that in the 1940s, when vocational rehabilitation was created, one "career" held by blind people was that of worker in a sheltered workshop. This is not a career, since the rates of pay offered in these sweatshops are sub-minimal wage, which reduce workers to a state of hidden slavery, and force them to live below the poverty level. He proceeds to cite what he terms as occupations held by "blind" people -- "engineers, aerospace, biomedical, civil, electrical, general, industrial, mechanical, metallurgic ... Astronomer, biologist, chemist, geneticist, geophysicist, oceanographer, physicist, physiologist, theoretical chemist, ... track coach ... editor, media administrator, ... teacher of biochemistry, biostatistics, chemistry, careers in nursing ..." Who would hire a blind person as a nurse? Early childhood specialist: again, who would hire a blind person? Special ed teacher, food service worker: where are they hiring? Restaurant owner/manager: are we crazy? They won't even let us into some restaurants. Administrator, case manager, mental health worker, probation officer (I know two), chiropractor, genetic counselor (where? In Lewis' dreams or what?), health aide, paralegal (with an Arkenstone?), nurse aide instructor (are we #[email protected] crazy?). Lewis cites psychiatrist as a career. Yes, there is one! Dr. David Hartman. Hello! Lewis is not being honest with us. He is not citing typical careers blind people are allowed to pursue.
Not that blind people should not have initiative and be venturesome and realize their dreams. The few in these occupations happened to have been lucky, however! Lucky just as I am to have been privileged enough to work with Lady Evelyn. Lewis also cites blind people in careers such as radio and television, "print media copy editor" (again, how do they manage the print?), "radio and television writing, journalist." There is one. He goes on with "actor, artistic director" (how is this possible), "auto detailer, owner of women's clothing store ..." How is this possible? Enlighten me. "President of television production company," he says. Who? Where? How? Why not us?
Although I am the Al Sharpton of the blind, this does not mean that even I know everything. I am always open-minded enough to want to know how a blind person can perform the duties, tasks and functions of a particular job, instead of being relegated to the workshop, which is not a career. But Lewis is in error, as usual. Out of all those people who allegedly hold those careers, how many are what I call "high (very high) partials"? According to Lewis, nothing's wrong. According to me, and 75 percent of blind people nationwide, we have a whole lot of work to cover. Discrimination, prejudice, ignorance, bias, and intolerance are alive and well. In fact, they are at a premium. This is not to say that blind people could not perform the duties, tasks and functions of some of the careers mentioned in Lewis' specious, spurious "reasoning." In conclusion, "I think I can, I think I can" does not hold water. I did, but I had Evelyn and the EEOC. I will not abandon the downtrodden, oppressed blind people who lack family support, which I was fortunate enough to have.
There is an expression I do not like, but I have to use it anyway. It goes "free, white and 21." When will blind people, particularly these conservatives, stop and realize that we are merely free and 21? We are there with all other oppressed minorities, not ahead of them by much. If we don't help ourselves, no one will. And if a blind person does not make it, it is not his fault, but the fault of those who discriminate against us. There is a book available at Barnes and Noble called "Cry in the Dark" by Michael Baisley. It states, briefly, that if a minority is a success, if he should be fortunate enough to be affluent, he is still viewed by the majority as a minority. This is why gentlemen are crying in the dark. When will blind people realize this, work together to combat discrimination, prejudice and bigotry and stop jumping ship like a bunch of rats? Why do blind people abandon their own? Worst of all, when will conservative, complacent, reactionary ... elitists stop claiming they "made it" and blame those who did not for their own misfortune?
Life is not fair. And when will blind people see that and stop placing the onus on themselves? There is a very old problem with taxi cabs refusing to take us, refusing to pick up blind people. There is unrelenting housing discrimination. When will blind people protest, organize, advocate for themselves and each other, and start a revolution?
When will blind people stop abandoning each other? If they continue to betray their own kind, what will we do? Where will we go? Blind people, particularly those who work for the "blindness system," will never get another job if terminated. Blind people had better start crying in the dark.
-- Lucia Marett, New York, N.Y.
The Sin of Ingratitude
We need to remind ourselves, or be reminded, of how much we have to be thankful for. I wonder if this is not particularly true of the blindness community, if we may call it that. Think about that when you think about independence. I think we will have to conclude that we are very interdependent.
"ACB seems to think that all is well, so let's party." Good comment, good observation. Last summer, this great organization completed another successful convention in Los Angeles. No sooner was that convention completed than we began reading in "The Braille Forum" of another one next summer in Louisville. So things have gone year after year for how many years now?
Would any of those conventions have been possible without the very generous and substantial contributions of folks outside of the American Council of the Blind? Of course, we all know the answer to that one.
Charlie Hodge, in his article "Right to Secret Ballot Fails Again," comes up with the preposterous notion that the voters in Michigan have an obligation to provide blind and visually impaired voters with technology which would enable them to exercise their right to a secret ballot. Readers of the "Forum" are aware, I'm sure, that this battle has been going on for a very long time, much too long.
Never mind the fact that court battles in connection with this campaign have been ongoing for the past several months. Never mind the fact that such battles are very expensive. Someone has to pay for those battles. It would seem, however, that Charlie figures that is all right as long as he or ACB is not that somebody. It isn't as though blind or visually impaired voters in Michigan are deprived of their right to vote. Even if that were the case -- which it is not -- it wouldn't be worth the hassle that has already occurred over the matter. And the end is not yet in sight.
Two things seem to me to be regrettable and reprehensible in this matter: 1) Charlie Hodge isn't even a resident of Michigan, if I am correctly informed; 2) He is a very active member of the board of publications of ACB.
I gather that the same situation exists in many if not all of the 50 states. I have cast my vote, for better or worse, in virtually every election since, or beginning with, 1940. I don't remember ever having experienced any difficulty. Sure, I would like to be able to exercise my right to a secret ballot. Like most of us, I would like to be able to do a lot of other things as well. But how can I possibly justify asking my fellow taxpayers to put out thousands of dollars to make that possible? Is that really any different if we multiply me by a few hundred or thousand? Sorry, I simply can't buy that idea.
Paul Edwards in one of his "President's Messages" talks about gaining independence for blind and visually impaired people. He seeks to compare our struggle for independence with that of our founding fathers. It shouldn't take much thinking to realize that his analogy is entirely without credibility.
The fact of the matter is that we cannot be independent, like it or not. But can you or I point to any member of our society who is independent, especially in this day and age? We all depend on others one way or another.
Let me hasten to add that we increase our independence, to say nothing of our self-esteem, by well-considered and constructive service to others. Heaven help us if one day our fellow members of society come to the point where they become fed up with our constant and all too often ridiculous demands. If that were to happen, we could well find ourselves independent. But who would really want or profit by that kind of independence? It's a scary thought, but a real possibility.
-- Dee E. Christensen, Salt Lake City, Utah
We were saddened to learn in late February 2000 of the sudden death of long-time ACBI member and friend Mary Solbrig. Perhaps the best way to honor her is to tell her story one final time.
Challenge characterized much of Mary Solbrig's life. Though recognized as an award-winning painter, she achieved the honors despite severe vision impairment. In fact, she often commented that as her sight worsened, her paintings got better.
In early childhood, Solbrig, of South Bend, IN, was stricken with polio. However, she overcame most of the disability and eventually went to the Patricia Stevens Finishing School to learn how to walk more gracefully. Later she became a professional model, and after that, she began a career in the travel industry. As she traveled around the globe seeing beautiful scenery, visiting galleries, and meeting people, Solbrig often wished she could paint a picture of the things she saw.
After her retirement from the travel industry, she joined the faculty of the Michiana College of Commerce where she worked part-time as a travel career instructor and also taught a grooming class. When her husband retired, Mary did also. Her life became quiet and her need for challenges increased.
In 1978 she enrolled in a watercolor class at the South Bend Art Center and in a class at the YWCA. Misfortune struck in October when her left eye hemorrhaged. The specialist decided to photocoagulate it to stop the bleeding, and hemorrhagic glaucoma resulted. The retina was fragile, detachment occurred and she became blind in that eye. Later it became necessary to remove her eye.
In July of 1979 she enrolled in an art class at Indiana University-South Bend, hoping she could regain some depth perception that would enable her to drive her car again. After a semester of drawing, Mary was able to drive. Her teacher, Professor Droege, quietly and patiently encouraged her to become a serious artist.
Unfortunately, two years later, the good right eye deteriorated. There was now a fine pigmentary mottling in various places and central vision had diminished. Glare was a severe problem, but fortunately form and color remained. As Mary looked around, things were out of focus and distorted. Doorways had strange lines; glare obliterated objects completely; and there was a constant movement and quivering like a bed of worms, or the ground when a mole crawls through. The yellow line on the highway moved up and down like a snake crawling. Windows changed from convex to concave. Houses and high buildings became crooked or wavy.
Mary was now legally blind, yet a training course helped restore her confidence and opened new doors like the Sister Kenny Foundation, the National Exhibit by Blind Artists, and Art of the Eye.
Mary enjoyed painting in most media. Acrylic and watercolor/gouache were her favorites. She liked pastels, charcoal and colored pencils, monoprints and oil, but the chemicals caused her eye pain and headaches. So she limited her use of these media to the outdoors exclusively. With her distorted vision, she learned it was better to be free and loose. She liked to layer colors and use quick-drying acrylic, which gave her that freedom. Her paintings breathed and moved, and she liked to strike deep into the viewer's thoughts.
Mary began creating her works with photographs of subject matter she wanted to paint. Often she would cut these to pieces and rearrange them to form a composition. Composition was key to her success, which found her works consistently winning awards in competitions with sighted artists.
Mary valued her "mottler" vision and found mystery in the impressions of its faultiness. Working on three or four paintings at once, she went from one to the other applying color to heighten value to fit her style. Ophthalmologists and others wondered how, with faulty sight, Mary could give her impression of that sight. Skill at careful reinterpretation was her talent, combined with a dogged perseverance to engage in the repeated and meaningful activity of painting.
Mary demonstrated her remarkable skill at reinterpreting the effects of her vision loss. Like the late works of Georgia O'Keeffe, who also developed macular degeneration, Mary enlarged her flowers to imbue them with a sense of supremacy and magic, placing their subject matter solidly before the viewer's eye.
It is interesting to note that most people with macular degeneration do not report a black spot in their central field the way an ophthalmologist might suspect. This is because the missing space is filled with light and projected images that combine to form a visual continuity of field. Mary was aware of this vacancy, as are others with retinal problems who are missing key areas. These were not absent, black voids of non-response on the part of the retina. These became elaborate paintings of the mind's making.
At night when her eyes were closed, she tuned into a world of art where her thoughts automatically became finished paintings. She saw shapes and shadows through her mind's eye, and watched the colors blend and change. For instance, a tree changed from greens to pinks, to reds or yellows as the light hit her retina and the subject, and she could see it sway in the breeze. Images changed and moved like a kaleidoscope and to her it was better than counting sheep.
Although the painter is no longer with us, her paintings currently hang in a number of public places throughout the United States. Many of her works have been winners of numerous coveted awards, and have been included in such prestigious exhibits as Art of the Eye I and II, the Glaucoma Research Foundation exhibit in San Francisco, Scott-Foresman/Harper-Collins Publishers Exhibit in Illinois, American Folk Art and Craft Show, Very Special Arts Gallery in Washington, D.C., and Art Beyond Sight, National Exhibit by Blind Artists in Queens, N.Y.
As would be expected, Mary Solbrig was frequently called upon to lecture, conduct workshops, and present solo exhibits of her paintings. This helped her to transcend the disappointment she experienced from the misunderstanding that often greeted her in public places as an elderly woman with a cane. She knew she was not alone. Often the talents, experiences and wisdom of elderly Americans are shadowed and silenced by afflictions of aging. Mary countered this trend with a determination not to fall behind these things but rather to do what she could to get ahead of them. And she was most successful in doing just that.
WANNA BE A COLUMNIST?
"The Braille Forum" has received several inquiries from members who are interested in putting together our very popular "Here and There" column. We will accept applications for this unpaid position of "Here and There" contributing editor until September 15. Please send a resume and cover letter to: Penny Reeder, Editor, The Braille Forum, American Council of the Blind, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 1004, Washington, DC 20005.
E-mailed applications are also quite acceptable. If you attach files, please do so in MS Word or WordPerfect 5.1 formats. If you are uncomfortable with attachments, you may paste your resume and cover letter directly into your message. E-mail to: [email protected] Thank you.
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.
Congratulations to Marla Runyan, a legally blind runner, who made the Olympic track team in the 1,500-meter run. She came in third in the trials despite her knee injury.
APH FILE REPOSITORY
The American Printing House for the Blind now has a file repository in addition to its Louis database. This pilot project calls for the inclusion of braille textbook files, publishers' textbook files, and APH educational software products. The repository currently includes braille files from APH in Duxbury format, as well as braille files in various formats from volunteer, non-profit and government agencies. It is available through the APH web site, http://www.aph.org from the Louis database. Anyone searching Louis will be able to see if a file is available for download. The cost for each textbook file downloaded is $25.
How can you help? APH will pay non-profit agencies $50 for any braille textbook file below college level copyrighted after 1993. APH is especially interested in getting files for the "hard to do" braille, such as math, science, geography, spelling and social studies.
If you would like to receive information about skills that visually impaired people use in their daily lives at home, work and play, consider subscribing to "Dialogue: A World of Ideas for Visually Impaired People of All Ages." In "Dialogue" you will learn methods for coping, cooking, gardening, accessing technology, parenting, working, studying, traveling, writing and many other activities. The magazine is available in braille, four-track audiocassette, large print and on IBM-compatible diskette. A four- issue subscription is $28 annually for legally blind readers and $40 annually for those who are not legally blind. Call (800) 860- 4224 and order a sample copy free of charge. To subscribe, use your MasterCard or Visa, or send a check or money order in U.S. funds to Blindskills Inc., P.O. Box 5181, Salem, OR 97304-0181. For information about "Dialogue," call the number above.
CONGRATS TO SUSAN!
Susan Sygall, executive director of Mobility International USA, was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This award will give her five years of support, no strings attached, for Mobility International. Sygall may be the first woman with a disability to receive such recognition, according to the Eugene Register-Guard. Her mission is to include people with disabilities in international programs, and to focus on the rights of people with disabilities, especially women.
"Blue Moon" is the newest electronic suspense novel by Carla Ledbetter. It is available at http://www.dlsjpress.com. The book retails for $5.65, and is 412 pages.
ABLE-NET has a variety of Internet services available: DSL, dial-up and ISDN. It offers discounts for people with disabilities and non-profit organizations. There are accessible services available in 32 states and Canada. Unlimited Internet access and e-mail start at $11.50 a month. To sign up, call toll-free (888) 221-4900, or visit http://www.able-net.net.
George Kerscher was recently elected chairman of the board of directors of the Open E-Book Forum. OEBF is an organization for stakeholders interested in electronic books, and includes publishers such as Random House, technology companies like Microsoft, and other organizations. For more information about OEBF, visit http://www.openebook.org.
Marjorie Arnott has available a wide selection of knitting, crochet and cooking books at reasonable prices. They include several afghan and blanket books (knitting); potpourri; sweaters for adults and children; wash cloths; hats, gloves, scarves, mittens, etc.; slippers; knit and crochet toys; knit and crochet baby shower books; and many more. Recipe books include: Meals across the miles; three-ingredient cookbooks; Lipton mix; Mexican; vegetarian; crock pot; chili recipes and more. In the catalog are sections with poetry books, kitchen cupboard remedies, and a book written by Diana Braun from Australia.
If you want a selection of patterns to your own specifications, she may be able to put a book together for you. Or if you want something put into braille, she may be able to do that too. Call or write to Marjorie Arnott, 1446 N. Coronado St., Chandler, AZ 85224-7824; phone (480) 345-8773. A shortened version of the catalog is available at http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rowan/marjorie-crafts.html. Braille inquiries appreciated.
Healthy Choices specializes in teaching people how to improve their health through proper nutrition. If you wish to learn about eating right, or need to lose some extra pounds, contact the company at (800) 253-1866 or e-mail [email protected]
GDP Research has developed a tiny electronic mobility aid called the Miniguide. It is about the size of a small box of matches and weighs less than an ounce. It indicates the distance to the nearest object via an audio tone. The higher the pitch, the closer the object. There is a small speaker on the aid, as well as a set of earphones that have volume control. A single push of the button turns the aid on and off, and selects different modes. The device costs $390 Australian (about $235 U.S.). For more information, visit the web site, http://users.senet.com.au/~gphillip/ultra.htm.
"The Disability Resources Monthly Guide to Disability Resources on the Internet" is now available at http://www.disabilityresources.org. Bell Atlantic Foundation provided a grant to Disability Resources, which helped get the new web site address, as well as other new features. Disability Resources, Inc. is a national non-profit organization. It provides information about resources for independent living. The organization is seeking additional site sponsors as well as volunteers to build, edit and update subject and state pages. For more information, contact Avery or Julie Klauber between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at (631) 585-0290, or send e-mail to [email protected]
TLC Distribution invites you to check out its web site, http://www.shaklee.net/wakefieldtlc. It offers you a variety of health information as well as a chance to purchase Shaklee products, including nutritional supplements, skin care items, environmentally safe cleaners and water purification systems. If you do not have access to the Internet, write to Loren and Teresa Wakefield, 722 Denver St., Waterloo, IA 50702.
DON'T MOW YOUR LAWN!
According to a recent press release, Friendly Robotics Inc. has developed a robotic lawn mower; advertisements state that "It mows. You don't." The device is called the RL500. It cuts grass while guided by a low-voltage perimeter cable installed around the lawn. Its suggested retail price is $795. Readers in Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia and Seattle are probably already seeing and hearing advertisements. More ads will appear later in the year, just in time for the holiday season. For more information, or to order, call toll-free (888) 404-7626.
WELCOME BACK TO DC!
Paul Schroeder was recently named the new vice president of governmental relations at the American Foundation for the Blind. His duties include overseeing all of AFB's advocacy efforts on behalf of blind or visually impaired people before Congress and government agencies. Prior to this appointment, Schroeder headed AFB's National Technology Program and the AFB Midwest office in Chicago. But before joining AFB, he was the director of governmental affairs at the ACB national office.
Adaptive Innovations recently released BrailleStream-LCD 1.1, an assistive technology solution for offices using Digital business telephones that present call data in an LCD window on the telephone. It was designed to assist visually impaired people by sending the data shown in the LCD window to a speech synthesizer, using JAWS for Windows. For those with low vision, a screen magnification program like MAGic can provide the necessary information in large print. For more information, visit http://www.adaptiveinno.com, or call (905) 737-6388.
A new web site, http://www.disability-marketing.com, is helping companies get in touch with the buying power of America's people with disabilities. The site is the online home of The Solutions Marketing Group, and features a description of the benefits of disability marketing, monthly highlights of companies with successful disability marketing campaigns, descriptions of the company's services, and links to disability marketing resources. It will feature a broad range of services to help companies target and address the needs of consumers with disabilities. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, Americans with disabilities command $796 billion in income, of which $176 billion is discretionary income. While this community purchases the same products and services as other consumer markets, people with disabilities and their families are often not sought after as a viable consumer market.
Do you need a shell account to use the Internet? There is a shell account provider out there: shellworld.net . It features the latest versions of all popular Unix shell applications as well as some less common ones, and intends to keep it that way. The company has access to OC48 (fast) connections to three service providers and gives you access to technical support. To receive a sign-up form, send a blank e-mail to [email protected] If you have questions, send an e-mail message to [email protected] or [email protected]
Blind children now have the chance to create drawings they can see by using a Woolly Pen. This pen was designed by Quantum Technology of Australia as a way for blind and visually impaired children to draw pictures. Wool binds to a reusable adhesive pad and makes images the children can feel. For more information, contact Quantum Technology, PO Box 390, Rydalmere NSW 2116, Australia; phone 011 61 2 9684 2077.
Rebecca Kragnes has her debut CD, "Golden," available for sale. It is comprised of 11 tracks, all of which are her original compositions. She is an ACB member, on the board of directors of the Minnesota chapter, and twice received ACB scholarships (you may remember her as Rebecca Rupp). CDs cost $15 each. Send your check or money order to Rebecca Kragnes, PO Box 52008, Minneapolis, MN 55402. For a single CD, shipping costs $2; for multiple copies, song samples, and so forth, visit http://www.RebeccaK.com or call (612) 827-2132.
The American Antiquarian Society is now accepting applications for fellowships for historical research by creative and performing artists, writers, film makers and journalists. The deadline to return your applications is October 5, 2000. Applicants will be notified on or around December 5. Fellowships will be awarded to people whose research objectives are to produce works dealing with pre-20th century American history designed for the general public, rather than for academic/educational communities. These fellowships will allow recipients to conduct uninterrupted research, reading and collegial discussion at the AAS. To get an application, contact the Artist Fellowship Program, American Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609-1634; phone (508) 363-1131, or e-mail [email protected]
CanVote 2000 is a new service of CanDo.com that offers articles and tools designed to get you involved in the democratic process. It also offers in-depth disability-rights focused coverage of the presidential election, as well as U.S. Senate and state gubernatorial races. Visit http://www.CanDo.com for more information.
The Massachusetts Association for the Blind can send you audiocassette copies of the "Harvard Business Review." A one-year subscription costs $75. Archived issues (past three years only) are also available upon request. Contact Robert Pierson at (617) 972-9117, or within Massachusetts, toll-free at (800) 152-3029.
Bavisoft is a new computer software company dedicated to creating computer games for the blind and visually impaired that are based purely on sound imagery. The company's first product, Grizzly Gulch Western Extravaganza, is an action and adventure game set in the old west. You will meet and interact with numerous crazy characters, have a chance to visit the saloon for a game of chance, and maybe even try upholding the law against some of the "baddest outlaws in the West" with a six shooter. It features four-key control interface, CD quality sound, original music, complete audio help, and much more. For more information, reviews and downloadable demos of Grizzly Gulch, visit http://www.bavisoft.com.
Have you ever traveled without your computer and wished you could have access to the Internet? Wish no more! The following free information services give news, stock market quotes, weather, traffic and more. They can get you the information you want from the Internet via telephone. TellMe.com requires that you sign up on its web site first, http://www.TellMe.com. After you've signed up, you may call (800) 555-8355 and get the information you need.
MyAudioPoint.com can be reached at (888) 382-8346. And Quack.com may be reached by calling (800) 737-8225.
VOICES TO ACCESS
People with disabilities, listen up! You now have improved access to Smithsonian Museum exhibits. The Smithsonian Institution has published numerous brochures and script texts on audio tape, including its current exhibit, "Piano 300: Celebrating Three Centuries of People and Pianos." Volunteers record, review and duplicate tapes of "The Associate," the institution's monthly members' magazine describing all events offered by the resident program, as well as exhibit brochures and catalogs, event calendars, museum guides, scientific papers, educational materials and exhibit scripts. This group of volunteers will also record publications on request of an organization or patron. Forty volunteers from the Washington bureau of ABC News are recording two Friends of the National Zoo newsletters, "ZooGoer" and "Wildlife Adventures." WMAL radio is also supporting the "Voices to Access 2000" project. For more information on the tapes currently available, or to request taping of a particular Smithsonian publication, call (202) 786-2942. The audio tapes list is also available on the web site, http://www.si.edu/resource/access.
The 2000 NCAA college football schedule in braille is now available! It lists 132 division 1-A and some requested division 1-AA teams. The results of the 1999 bowls, the top 25 teams in the AP final polls, the 2000 pre-season poll, and the 2000-2001 bowl schedule are included. Each schedule costs $10. The schedules will be sent free matter. Send your check to Allen H. Gillis, 302 Schaeffel Rd., Cullman, AL 35055.
Freedom Scientific recently acquired the business operations and product lines of Arkenstone, Inc., as well as its name, intellectual property and business assets. The Arkenstone engineering group, including Jim Fruchterman, will continue in California as a non-profit entity, to be renamed Benetech, and will develop new adaptive technology products for people with disabilities. Freedom has also engaged Fruchterman's group to continue research and development work on the purchased software product lines, including future upgrades of each.
On May 6, a group of former Perkins students gathered at the Atlantic 101 restaurant. About 26 people met for a fun-filled afternoon of dinner, memories and entertainment. Bob Branco, class of 1977, wishes to thank the staff of the Atlantic 101 for their kindness and generosity. If you were unable to attend this year, and wish to put your name in for the next gathering, write to Bob Branco, 359 Coggeshall St., New Bedford, MA 02746, or call (508) 994-4972.
Ruff Wear manufactures numerous items for dogs on the go, including collapsible food and water bowls, packs, boots, overcoats, "float coats," first aid kits, travel bags, training and grooming supplies and gear. Recently the company launched its web site, http://www.ruffwear.com. The web site is Bobby approved; people who use screen readers will be able to navigate the web site. Check it out!
Full Life Products now has available a talking big button braille-enhanced telephone, the Dialogue JV-35. Jumbo-sized buttons with braille characters help you dial quickly and correctly. The phone announces the numbers as you dial. It also has 10 programmable "speed dial" buttons, and three programmable emergency buttons; when you use these, it will announce the name of the person you're calling. Call Full Life Products at (800) 400- 1540 or visit http://www.superproducts.com/textonly.htm.
The International Association of Lions Clubs recently awarded Narrative Television Network the Lions International Humanitarian Award for NTN's efforts in making movies and television accessible to blind and visually impaired people. Past recipients of the award include former president Jimmy Carter, former first lady Nancy Reagan, and Mother Teresa.
Ladybug Press recently released a book titled "Women and Disabilities: It Isn't Them and Us." Written by Mona Hughes, a single parent with a disability, the book intends to convey the message that nobody's perfect. It includes a resource list. It costs $18.95. Fifteen percent of the sales of this book will be donated to "Mouth: Voice of the Disability Nation," a magazine to give the disabled population a sense of community and contact. To order, call (888) 892-5000, or write Ladybug Press, 751 Laurel St., Suite 223, San Carlos, CA 94070-3113.
We don't know what has been going on in some cab drivers' minds over the past few months, but Municipal Licensing and Standards has noticed a disturbing increase in the number of complaints registered by blind people with guide dogs being refused taxi service.
Where possible, charges have been laid and we know of one driver who has been fined $1,000 in Bylaw Court and was whacked with a 30-day license suspension by the Licensing Tribunal, as well as having to retake a good large chunk of the standard cab driver training course.
We totally support the efforts of authorities to get the few morons out there refusing service to clean up their acts.
There is absolutely NO reason to refuse service to any individual with a guide dog. Period. It is both illegal and utterly immoral to refuse these customers.
Some try to weasel out of their despicable behavior by trying to spout the bogus excuse that they have religious reasons to not let dogs into their cabs. No religion on Earth prohibits serving the blind accompanied by guide dogs. Leaders of both main sects of Islam, Suni and Shiite, confirm that there is NO religious prohibition to this service. NONE!
You say you have allergies? The proper course of action is to politely explain to the customer that you have a medical problem, call for a replacement vehicle and wait with the customer until the next cab comes. Then be prepared to prove you have a long-standing allergic reaction to dogs, in a courtroom, to a judge who is undoubtedly going to be skeptical at best.
Better yet, smarten up and treat these people with the same courtesy and high level of service you'd give to any other passenger.
FOR SALE: Two blood glucose monitors. One is a One Touch Profile with Synthavoice. The other is a One Touch 2 with Synthavoice. Both come with three boxes of test strips and carrying case. $75 each. Call Ty Eastwood at (785) 232-3198.
FOR SALE: Reading Edge, $1,500 or best offer. Call Maria at (502) 456-5848.
FOR SALE: BookMaker interpoint braille embosser with 512K buffer, recently cleaned and serviced, $5,000 or best offer. Braille Lite with latest revisions, braille manuals and cables, $2,000 or nearest offer. Visa, MasterCard and American Express accepted. Contact Ann and Dave Durber at (718) 335-1788; e-mail [email protected], or write them at 63-24 Fitchett St., Rego Park, NY 11374.
20330 NE 20TH CT.
MIAMI, FL 33179
FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
57 GRANDVIEW AVE.
WATERTOWN, MA 02172
SECOND VICE PRESIDENT
7601 CRITTENDEN ST. #F-2
PHILADELPHIA, PA 19118
556 N. 80TH ST.
SEATTLE, WA 98103
906 N CHAMBLISS ST
ALEXANDRIA VA 22312
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
2118 NW 21st St.
Oklahoma City, OK 73107