[nfbwatlk] FW: [Brl-monitor] The Braille Monitor, July 2013

Nightingale, Noel Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov
Fri Dec 13 00:04:59 UTC 2013

NFB of Washington listers:

I found the below e-mail about the July 2013 buried in my e-mail.  I hope you all receive the Braille Monitor, and I don't intend to forward each monthly e-mail about it.  However, the July 2013 issue is particularly potent to me, and I share it with those of you who may not be receiving the Monitor and with those of you whose issue is also languishing in your e-mail or mailbox.


-----Original Message-----
From: brl-monitor-bounces at nfbcal.org [mailto:brl-monitor-bounces at nfbcal.org] On Behalf Of Brian Buhrow
Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 11:15 PM
To: brl-monitor at lothlorien.nfbcal.org
Subject: [Brl-monitor] The Braille Monitor, July 2013

                               BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 56, No. 7   July 2013
                             Gary Wunder, Editor

      Distributed by email, in inkprint, in Braille, and on USB flash drive
(see reverse side) by


      Marc Maurer, President

      telephone: (410) 659-9314
      email address: nfb at nfb.org
      website address: http://www.nfb.org
      NFBnet.org: http://www.nfbnet.org
      NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300

      Letters to the president, address changes,
      subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
      should be sent to the national office.
      Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
      be sent to the national office or may be emailed to gwunder at nfb.org.

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation  about  forty  dollars  per  year.
Members  are  invited,  and  nonmembers  are   requested,   to   cover   the
subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to  National  Federation
of the Blind and sent to:

      National Federation of the Blind
      200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
      Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998


ISSN 0006-8829
            © 2013 by the National Federation of the Blind

      Each issue is recorded on a thumb drive (also called a memory stick
or USB flash drive). You can read this audio edition using a computer or a
National Library Service digital player. The NLS machine has two slots--the
familiar book-cartridge slot just above the retractable carrying handle and
a second slot located on the right side near the headphone jack. This
smaller slot is used to play thumb drives. Remove the protective rubber pad
covering this slot and insert the thumb drive. It will insert only in one
position. If you encounter resistance, flip the drive over and try again.
(Note: If the cartridge slot is not empty when you insert the thumb drive,
the digital player will ignore the thumb drive.) Once the thumb drive is
inserted, the player buttons will function as usual for reading digital
materials. If you remove the thumb drive to use the player for cartridges,
when you insert it again, reading should resume at the point you stopped.
      You can transfer the recording of each issue from the thumb drive to
your computer or preserve it on the thumb drive. However, because thumb
drives can be used hundreds of times, we would appreciate their return in
order to stretch our funding. Please use the return label enclosed with the
drive when you return the device.

Vol. 56, No. 7                                           July 2013


Illustration: Braille Brings Music to Life

Singing Our Story: Federation History in Song
by Barbara Pierce

The Nature of Independence
by Kenneth Jernigan

Randolph-Sheppard: Our History Calls Us to Action
by James Gashel

Me, Myself, and Seattle
by Emily Zitek

Technology for the Blind: Blessing or Curse?
by Gary Wunder

An American Hero Remembered
by Jim Omvig

Low-Vision Specialists: An Impediment to Meeting Patients' Rehabilitation
by Sean Ziadeh

Rehabilitation: A Contract Between America and Her Blind Citizens
by Gary Wunder

I Was Reported to the Police for Crossing the Street
by Glenn Ervin

Hiring Blind: The Misconceptions Facing America's Visually Impaired
by Belo Cipriani

What Did You Say? What's That? Say it Again?
by Agnes Allen


Monitor Miniatures

Braille Brings Music to Life

[PHOTO CAPTION: Caleb proudly shows off The Shapes of Music, the Twin
Vision book he recently received.]

      In the May issue we published an article about Jean Dyon Norris and
her work in creating Twin Vision books, provided by the Kenneth Jernigan
Library, which is operated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children
and Adults. Caleb Hyndman is a student finishing kindergarten at Webster
Elementary in Lewiston, Idaho. His teacher, Nora Mayton, signed him up for
services from the library. In an end-of-year report she mentioned his
interest in music and asked that the Library look specifically for books
about music for next year. A few weeks later a book showed up with a note
from the Library director that Caleb could keep the music book she sent.
Nora explains: "He was absolutely delighted. He immediately began jumping
up and down and took the book into his classroom, where he shared it with
other students. His grandmother tells me that he keeps it on his piano at
home and looks at it often."

[PHOTO CAPTION: Caleb reading his new book in the classroom]

[PHOTO CAPTION: Barbara Pierce]
                              Singing Our Story
                         Federation History in Song
                              by Barbara Pierce

      From the Editor: Barbara Pierce has been involved with this
publication for at least twenty years, and for most of that time she served
as the editor-looking at every word, touching ever so lightly to add the
special shine we have come to expect from the Braille Monitor. In this
issue we feature her tribute to songs of the Federation as our lead
article, and, for those receiving the recorded edition, we have included
performances in lieu of the text. Songs performed in the audio edition are
marked with stars for the convenience of those who wish to go to the web to
enjoy them. Here is what Barbara has to say about our Federation history in

      For almost forty years I have been a Federationist. While a number of
organizational traits have endeared the NFB to me-care for individual blind
people, the passion to fight injustice and discrimination, and the mutual
devotion of the Federation family, to name a few-the role and importance of
NFB songs in our life together is virtually unique in the blindness field.
      In the seventies and eighties we were still defining our movement and
establishing our voice. The first songs I became aware of were those that
identified and defined what we began calling "the organized blind

                          ** Battle Song of the NFB
                   Tune: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
                  Words by Floyd Fields and Josephine Huff

1. Blind eyes have seen the vision of the Federation way.
New White Cane legislation brings the dawn of a new day.
The right of the blind to organize is truly here to stay.
Our cause goes marching on.

(Refrain:) Glory, glory, Federation,
Glory, glory, Federation,
Glory, glory, Federation,
Our cause goes marching on.

2. We have seen it in the action of four hundred chapters strong.
Good leadership and courage have righted many a wrong.
Let's aid NFB's program and join in its battle song.
Our cause goes marching on.

3. TenBroek has sounded trumpet which shall never sound "retreat."
We have sifted out the hearts of blind before our judgment seat.
Oh, be swift all blind to answer, and be jubilant your feet.
Our cause goes marching on.

4. To aid the blind's long struggle we have formed the NFB
To free them from their bondage of workshop and agency,
To give a hand to all the blind wherever they may be.
Our cause goes marching on.

                           We Shall March Together
                   Words and original tune by James Omvig

We shall march together to gain equality.
Through our common effort we'll make opportunity.
When we reach our goal of security, brave effort we'll applaud.
We shall march together "Within the Grace of God."

      At about the same time as I learned these songs, a group of workshop
songs and what one might characterize as songs about ineffective
rehabilitation began appearing. These resonated in the hearts and minds of
thousands of Federationists, so we sang them whenever numbers of us got

                     **I've Been Workin' in the Workshop
                  Tune: "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad"

I've been working in the workshop
All the livelong day,
And with the wages that they pay me
It's just to pass my time away.
And when I ask about more money,
They give me the big lie.
"We'd like to give you lots of raises,
But you'd lose your SSI."
"Work is therapy,"
They keep telling me.
I've heard it till I've had my fill.
'Cause if it's therapy,
I wish they'd let me be.
This therapy's a bitter pill.

                           **Blind Workshop Blues
                               Tune: original
                            Words by Arthur Segal

1. When you're working in the workshop, you've got no money in your pants,
For the bosses in the workshop don't give a blind guy a chance.

(Refrain:) Baby, I've got those blind workshop blues.

2. You're dining on steak and salad like a mogul at the Ritz.
Blindness lands you in the workshop, and you're eatin' greens and grits.

3. The bosses in my workshop drink champagne before they sup,
But the workers in the workshop wind up with an empty cup.

                               The Rehab Song
                          Words and music original

Today I am happy. Today I am glad.
I finished my five-year course in rehab.
I've learned chair caning. I've learned basketry,
And now there's not a damned soul who wants to hire me.
Rehab, I'm glad, rehab.

                              **The Bureau Song
                            Tune: "In the Garden"
                             Words by Ted Young

1. I went to the bureau alone
Straight from school and a little bit nervous.
I asked for a job, then the counseling slob
Signed me up for two years rehab service.

(Refrain:) Then they tested me, and they rested me,
And they told me there was some hope.
With the anger I bear as I tarry there
No blind guy should have to cope.

2. I took all my medical exams
And the best eye tests I could get.
Then they tested my means, which was four cans of beans,
Three cans of beer, one cassette.

3. I finally got a job on my own
Breaking loose from the bureau's long tether.
I called and said, "I found work," and the counseling jerk
Said, "Close case, 'cause we've done this together!"

      Though it was written much later and comments on unwise use of
technology as powerfully as it does on inept efforts at rehabilitation, "A
Technology Song" also belongs in this category. By the way, this was one of
Dr. Jernigan's favorite songs. He was especially moved by the ending.

                              A Technology Song
                      Tune: "The Marvelous Little Toy"

1. When I wrote my rehab plan, my counselor promised me
The hottest screen access program of the twentieth century.
I waited for six months, then gave my counselor a call;
He said, "Our budget's frozen; you must wait until next fall."

(Refrain:) It went zip! when it moved and pop! when it stopped, and whir!
when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.

2. When my equipment finally came, my counselor explained
That I couldn't get my hands on it till I'd been thoroughly trained.
I said, "Let's start tomorrow!" but my counselor told me,
"We have a six-month waiting list at our facility."

3. I said I'd get trained on my own, but rehab made a fuss.
They said, "You won't get funding, unless it's done by us."
Now my training's finally done, and I've come home to wait.
If I ever get a job, my skills will be out of date.

4. Today I had an interview, but I didn't get to go;
I called for paratransit, but my vehicle didn't show.
The finest new technology won't help us, it's quite plain,
Without good blindness training and a thirty-dollar cane.

(Refrain:) It went zip! when it moved and pop! when it stopped, and whir!
when it stood still.
I've never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.
I've never done a thing in life...and I guess I never will.

      The largest group of Federation songs emerged out of our decades-long
battle to rid the blindness field of the devastatingly dangerous influence
of NAC, the so-called accrediting body created solely to provide its seal
of approval to any school for the blind, workshop for the blind, or
rehabilitation agency serving the blind that was prepared to pay colleagues
to step in and apply accreditation standards that blind consumer
representatives had had no part in developing. During the decades when NAC
tried to "take over the field," the NFB showed up to picket on the street
and talk to the press every time a large NAC gathering took place. Those
who participated in these exhausting picket lines remember them with great
fondness and much laughter. We walked the line for three or four hours at a
time, up to three times a day, and we did so in biting cold, pouring rain,
or stifling heat.

                           **We Shall Not Be Moved
                  Tune: civil rights song of the same name
                               Original words

1. We shall not, we shall not be moved.
We shall not, we shall not be moved.
Just like a tree standing by the water, we shall not be moved.

2. NAC shall be, NAC shall be removed.
NAC shall be, NAC shall be removed.
Just like a tree that's fallen in the water, NAC shall be removed.

3. We blind guys, we are on the move.
We blind guys, we are on the move.
Just like a ship that's plowing through the water, we are on the move.

4. We're moving, we're the NFB.
We're moving, we're the NFB.
We're going to lead the blind through troubled waters; we're the NFB.

      The next song was one of the most singable on the picket line. To
understand the first line, you need a couple of pieces of information. One
effort in the eighties to work around the NFB was the formation of the
Affiliated Leadership League of and for the Blind (ALL). Mostly these were
big agencies and NAC, but the ACB eagerly aligned itself under the ALL
banner. And because it so often allied itself with any blindness group that
opposed the NFB, the ACB often found itself singled out in our songs, as it
did in this one:

                      **So Long to NAC and the Council
                 Tune: "So Long, it's Been Good to Know You"
                      Words by Carol Hawk and Lee Kerr

1. I'll tell you of NAC and the Council and ALL,
How they act just like babies; they scream and they squall!
They know they can't beat us; they're not very strong;
And we'll be without them before very long.

(Refrain:) So long to NAC and the Council,
So long to NAC and the Council,
So long to NAC and the Council,
It's been too long a time, and you're still here,
And we wish you'd be movin' along.

2. There're prisons and dungeons of all different kinds,
But none can be worse than the shops for the blind.
They'll work you for nothin', and they'll tell you why:
If we give you more money, you'll lose SSI!

3. We go to the workshops to slave every day.
We don't want their handouts; we just want our pay.
An honest day's wages for an honest day's work,
And here's what we say to those agency jerks!

                         **With A Little Bit of NAC
                         Tune: "Little Bit of Luck"
                   Words by Jim Erhard and Maureen Sheedy

1. They say that blind guys have trouble with employment.
It appears to be a problem with the eye.
They say that blind guys have trouble with employment, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You can live your life on SSI.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC you'll live on SSI.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin' NAC.

2. They say the agency has got the finest people.
The staff diplomas clutter up the wall.
They say the agency has got the finest people, but
With a little bit of NAC, With a little bit of NAC,
They will be no help to you at all.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC, they'll be no help at all.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin' NAC.

3. They say a blind guy could be a secretary
If someone sighted will read the printed page.
They say a blind guy could be a secretary, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You would only get a workshop wage.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC, you'd get a workshop wage,
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin' NAC.

4. They say that blindness is such a tragic hassle.
We need that extra expert help to get along.
They say that blindness is such a tragic hassle, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You'd get milk and cookies and a song.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC they'll sell you for a song.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin' NAC.

5. They say that blind guys have trouble with our travel.
We get lost no matter where we try to roam.
They say that blind guys have trouble with our travel, but
With a little bit of NAC, with a little bit of NAC,
You'd get lost while you're inside your home.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC you're lost inside your home.
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin' NAC.

6. They say that blind guys must have the best of training.
On this one point, I most certainly agree.
They say that blind guys must have the best of training, but
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
You get sighted people who can't see.

(Refrain:) With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little NAC the sighted folks can't see,
With a little NAC, with a little NAC,
With a little bit of bloomin' NAC.

      Like getting to national conventions, getting to NAC-tracking events
meant lots of driving for many of the picketers. One year, perhaps it was
the trip to St. Augustine, the Maryland affiliate sent two vans. The
vehicles maintained contact with each other using the radios that would
later keep us organized on the picket line. The passengers in van 2
entertained themselves on the trip by writing a song and singing it to
those in the other van. To its creators and their friends, the following
song was known as "The Van 2 Song."

                    **Oh, NAC, You'll Learn to Be Humble
                  Tune: "Oh, Lord, It's Hard to Be Humble"

Oh, NAC, you'll learn to be humble
While falling apart at the seams.
We're glad to give you trouble
By ruining all of your schemes.
To know us is to fear us;
We get more determined each day.
Our NFB is a winner!
The blind are here to stay!

      Somewhere along the line NAC moved its annual meeting from the fall
to just before Christmas. Who knows why that decision was made; at the time
we simply assumed that it was in an effort to cut down on the numbers of
picketers outside the meeting to at least fewer than the number of
attendees inside the meeting. If that was NAC's hope, it was a forlorn one.
Our numbers were always close to a hundred, and the longer we carried out
our demonstrations (we called them the primary event of the NFB fall social
season), the fewer members attended the NAC meetings. The great thing about
a December meeting was that we could and did create what we called "NAC
Carols." At this time the head of NAC was a man named Dennis Hartenstein.

                       **Dennis Hartenstine Looked Out
                    To the tune of "Good King Wenceslaus"
                           Words by Peggy Elliott

Dennis Hartenstein looked out
Oozing sanctimony.
The blind were marching all about,
Picketing that phony.
We had come from far and wide
Though the winds were cruel
To proclaim the truth to all:
A NACster is a fool!

                    **We Have Come to Greet the NACsters
                       To the tune of "Deck the Halls"

We have come to greet the NACsters,
Falalalala, lala la la.
Agency money is what they're after,
Falalalala, lala la la.
Quality ethics and standards are lacking,
Falalalala, lalala, la la la.
That is why we go NAC-tracking,
Falalalala, lala la la.

                        **Hartenstine Hurts the Blind
                        To the tune of "Jingle Bells"

Hartenstein hurts the blind;
NAC should go away.
Many of their agencies are not with them today.
Hartenstein hurts the blind;
NAC's standards are a waste!
The NFB will help you see
For NAC there is no place.

      In Little Rock we could walk from our block of hotel rooms to the
banquet space where the Saturday evening NAC dinner was being held while we
remained cozily indoors. By that time, after eight hours or so of singing
NAC carols on the picket line, our voices were shot, but we certainly did
have the words of the carols down pat. Late in the afternoon someone ran
out to buy tiny flashlights that looked like candles, so we dressed as
nicely as we could and set out for the space outside the banquet room,
singing NAC carols, carrying our flashlight candles, and using our white
canes and well-behaved dogs. People in the lobby of the hotel who looked up
to see where the Christmas carols were coming from, obviously thought they
were watching an inspirational choir of blind people walking and singing.
We really did not sound very musical, and of course they could not hear the
scathing words we were singing, so they applauded us madly, much to our
amusement and probably the frustration of the NAC guests who were gathering
at the time.
      Another battle that inspired songs through the years was a fight we
called "the cane wars." The airlines were determined to stow our canes in
coat closets, make us demonstrate our ability to fasten our seatbelts, and
occasionally sit on blankets in case of incontinence. And of course they
did not want us sitting in exit rows, even when they had assigned us those
seats. The first airline song was the following:

             **We Fly Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease
             Tune: "The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze"

United Airlines and the old FAA
Say blind folks can't carry their white canes today.
They say they're a hazard and get in the way,
But we say our white canes will stay.

(Refrain:) We fly through the air with the greatest of ease.
Our white canes won't shatter in emergencies,
So take your hands off of my cane if you please.
United, we are NFB.

      At the height of the cane wars in the eighties, the 1985 national
convention took place in Louisville. On Wednesday afternoon lots of NFB
members toured the Ohio River on the paddle wheeler, "The Belle of
Louisville." Waiting in a very long line to board the ship, a group of
Federationists wrote this airline favorite:

                        **Let's Go Out to the Airport
                    Tune: "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"

   1. Let's go out to the airport.
      We're just part of the crowd.
      If you insist on preboarding us,
      The NFB will make a national fuss.
      So let's go down to the jetway.
      It's time for us to go,
      And we'll keep our canes and our dogs in the exit row.

   2. We are all in our seats now.
      The plane is still on the ground.
      If you say that moving is best,
      We will stay till we're under arrest.
      And then the blind will gather.
      We'll come from all around.
      And we'll win the seat of our choice
      When we close you down.

      Skeptics may wonder about the promise made in that last line to close
down an airline. But, following the 1985 Washington Seminar, a group of
Federationists accompanied Russell Anderson to the Baltimore-Washington
International Airport, where their sit-in inspired U.S. Air to close its
gate for some little time. The demonstration took place because airline
personnel would not allow Russell to sit in the exit row seat to which he
had been assigned.
      Our problems with hybrid and electric cars capable of moving silently
gave birth to a couple of NFB songs, though the loss of opportunities to
learn NFB songs has meant that they never became familiar.

                             The Hybrid Car Song
                    Tune: "Surry with the Fringe on Top"
                         Words by Mary Ellen Gabias
              Copyright 2007, National Federation of the Blind

Kids and dogs won't know when to scurry.
Silent death arrives in a hurry.
All who walk have reason to worry
'Bout the hybrid car.

We all want to stop the polluting,
Save a lot of gas while commuting.
If they made sound, there'd be no disputing
With the hybrid car.

Saving the planet we all hold dear,
Nobody wants to destroy it.
Please make cars pedestrians can hear
'Cause we want to be 'round to enjoy it.

We don't need a noisy vrum-vrumming,
Just a simple audible humming,
So that we can know when you're coming
In a hybrid car.
Then we all can walk with safety on the street
Without fear that we will accident'lly meet a hybrid car.

                             The Quiet Car Song
                           Tune: "Found a Peanut"
                          Words by Sandy Halverson

1. I was walking down the sidewalk
Thinking of what I would eat
When I got up to the restaurant
And the friends I was to meet.

2. I was so close I could smell it.
Didn't have to go that far
When my life was quickly altered
By that sneaky quiet car.

3. I approached my destination
When my cane broke at my feet.
Never heard the car approaching--
I was lying in the street.

4. Heard the siren of the ambulance
As it carried me away.
Lost my hunger in the ER.
Guess we'll meet another day.

      A number of blindness topics have resulted in a single, memorable
song. Perhaps the most popular is "The Library Song," reputedly a favorite
of longtime NLS head Frank Curt Cylke.

                             **The Library Song
             Tune: "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys Are Marching"
                         Words by Curtis Willoughby

1. At the mailbox I sit thinking of the book I need,
And the library so cold and far away.
And the tears they fill my eyes 'spite of all that I can do
When I think of what the library will say.

(Refrain:) "Wait, wait, wait, your book's not in yet.
We'll try to have it next year without fail.
We are not your corner store. We cannot do any more.
After all, we know just one percent read Braille."

2. 'Cause they're running out of space. "For your book there is no place.
The demand for it, you see, is far too low.
How about a light romance or a novel set in France,
For we mostly serve the elderly, you know."

3. So at home and on the job I am waiting for the day
When the mailman will come up to my door
With the book that I have sought and not the one they thought
That my profile showed I should be asking for.

      In the 1980s the NFB took on the U.S. Department of State over the
question of whether or not a blind person could qualify to serve the
country in the Foreign Service. We won that battle, and this is the song
that emerged from the tussle.

                         **The State Department Song
                            Tune: "Yankee Doodle"
                     Words by Paul and Mary Ellen Gabias

1. The State Department keeps us out. They say that we're not able.
They won't let our readers in to read their secret cables.

(Refrain:) State Department, let us in. We want to serve our nation.
We will fight until we win 'cause we're the Federation.

2. They say that we can't go abroad. They say we'll be in danger.
They tell us we will be attacked by every foreign stranger.

3. The blind have traveled far and wide to every state and nation.
We can serve in every post and every foreign station.

      We may have more than one song about Braille but this is by far the
most familiar:

                              **Ode to the Code
                            Tune: "Jingle Bells"
         Words by Lloyd Rasmussen, Judy Rasmussen, and Debbie Brown

1. Going to the school to write an IEP--
The teacher says, "Use print because your child can see."
The equipment is too big, and large print is too rare,
And fifteen words a minute will not get you anywhere."

(Refrain:) Oh, Braille is here, Braille is here. Braille is here to stay.
We will keep on using it. We don't care what you say.
Braille is here. Braille is here. We will sing its praise.
It's the system for the blind to get a job that pays.

2. They say that Braille's too tough to teach the newly blind.
Its codes and its contractions discombobulate the mind.
Contractions we've learned all, and codes we've mastered too,
For blindness has no negative effect on our IQ.

3. They say that Braille's complex. They say that it's too slow.
They say that new technology's the only way to go.
But we'll keep using Braille because it is the key
To making sure that blind folks will be literate and free.

      Once the NFB adult rehabilitation centers began graduating blind
people who were both competent and confident, it was no surprise for NFB
songs to begin reflecting this new approach to the world and disdain for
the old custodial model of rehabilitation.

                          Happy Home for the Blind
                          Tune: "Home on the Range"
           Words by Students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind

1. Oh give me a home where the blind people roam,
And the canes don't see traffic all day,
Where never is heard an encouraging word
>From the certified staff with high pay.

(Refrain:) Happy home for the blind, where we sit around on our behinds,
Just listening to tapes, never touching our slates,
'Cause Braille's slow and tough on our minds.

2. The day starts at ten, or whenever I get in
On the arm of some sighted guide.
I don't know my way, so it takes me all day.
Maybe next week they'll let me outside.

3. At noon they serve lunch to the whole helpless bunch
While we sit there and wait to be fed.
They carry our trays through the long lunch line maze,
And they serve twenty napkins per head

4. In classes we're shown how to dial a phone,
And to tell apart nickels and dimes.
How to shake hands and clap, how to take a sponge bath,
And to punch talking clocks for the time.

5. When I do graduate, well for me it's too late
'Cause for me half my life's passed me by.
They say I'll find work, but I don't trust those jerks,
And now my best hope's SSI.
(the sound of all yawning)

      Probably since the beginning of Federation history NFB members have
been frustrated and annoyed by individual blind people who affiliate
themselves with agencies rather than with the blind people trying to bring
about reform of worn-out ideas and ineffective rehabilitation methods. The
following song has always been popular generally, since even nonsingers can
join in by adding pig snorts at the end of the first line of the refrain.

                        **Big Old Blind Uncle Tom Pig
                          Tune: "Truck-Drivin' Man"
                             Words by Ted Young

(Refrain:) He's a big old blind Uncle Tom pig. (snort, snort)
He hangs with the sighted. That makes him feel big.
They think he's the best they can find,
A model and an expert on all of the blind.

1. As a child he sold out his soul.
He learned and adopted the agency role.
And as he grew older, he earned his reward;
He's got a big spot on an agency board.

2. He's learned every sighted cliché, (You're amazing!)
And he lives them all in his own special way.
He's the first to jump up and to follow a plan
As long as the planner is some sighted man.

3. He's been known to feel somewhat maligned
When he tries to advise and be nice to the blind.
But the blind, they laugh at him. They know he's abused
When the sighted parade him, and he's being used.

      Not many years ago the Louisiana Center students arrived at the
Washington Seminar with a new song.

                            The Blind Go Marching
                        Tune: "The Ants Go Marching"
              Words by Louisiana Center for the Blind Students

1. The blind go marching one by one, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching two by two, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching three by three,
We're making NFB history,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.
(Refrain:) tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap

2. The blind go marching four by four, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching five by five, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching six by six,
We're shaping national politics,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.

3. The blind go marching seven by seven, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching eight by eight, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching nine by nine,
We're keeping Jernigan's dreams alive,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.

4. The blind go marching ten by ten, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching ten by ten, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching ten by ten,
And next year we'll be back again,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.

5. The blind go marching all as one, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching all as one, hoorah, hooray.
The blind go marching all as one,
And we won't give up till the job is done,
As we all come together at Washington Seminar.

      This compilation of NFB songs could go on for pages. Though we have
more than scratched the surface, we have quoted many fewer than half the
NFB songs that have been loved and sung through the years: "Where Have All
the NACsters Gone?" "I Broke my Neck in San Francisco," "Amazing Grace,"
"The Paratransit Song," and so on. No doubt the favorite songs of many did
not make the cut for this article. We will close with a recent song that
deserves to be better known than it is. And of course there are hundreds of
songs still to be written. But we will close with "The White Cane Freedom

                        The White Cane Freedom March
                 Tune: "As Those Caissons Go Rolling Along"
           Words by the Sligo Creek Chapter of the NFB of Maryland

1. Over hill, over dale, we have hit the concrete trail,
As our white canes go tapping along.
Down the block, cross the street, walking on our own two feet,
As our white canes go tapping along.
On the job or at home, wherever we may roam,
Yes, independent and free, NFB!
We can find our way at night or in the day,
As our white canes go tapping along.

2. On a bus, on a train, even flying on a plane,
As our white canes go tapping along.
As we board, find our seat, no great danger shall we meet,
As our white canes go tapping along.
We're the able blind, so leave your carts behind.
Don't put us in your holding tanks. No Thanks!
We'll meet no harm. Don't view us with alarm.
As our white canes go tapping along.

3. On we go at full speed, no contraptions do we need,
As our white canes go tapping along.
No rough tiles for our feet, nor the traffic signal's "tweet,"
As our white canes go tapping along,
No PhD's, just skillful travelers, please,
Teaching blind people to be free, NFB!
And the rehab snobs can go and find real jobs
As our white canes go tapping along.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Kenneth Jernigan at the 1993 annual convention]
                         The Nature of Independence
                             by Kenneth Jernigan

      From the Editor: Given the number of articles the Monitor has run
lately about the issue of independence, it seemed appropriate to look back
at this address delivered to the annual convention of the National
Federation of the Blind held in Dallas, Texas, in 1993. Never has there
been such a cogent argument differentiating the tools and techniques to
achieve independence from the attitudes and behaviors that express true
independence. Here is what Dr. Jernigan said to the spellbound audience who
responded enthusiastically to his remarks:

      Shortly after last year's convention, I received a number of letters
from students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was clear that the
letters were written as the result of discussions held at the Center and
that, although the apparent topic was independent mobility, the real issue
was independence in general, and how blind persons should live and behave.
I want to share those letters with you, then tell you how I answered them,
and finally say a few things about what I think independence really is. The
letters are all dated July 23, 1992. Here is a composite of them:

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

      I am a sophomore in high school. Right now, I am in a teenage program
that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is sponsoring. It is the STEP
program. That means Summer Training and Employment Project. We are allowed
to get jobs and make money as well as have classes.
      A few weeks ago I attended the national convention. I really enjoyed
all your speeches and everything. People noticed that you and Mr. Maurer
walked sighted guide sometimes, [I interrupt to call your attention to the
almost code-word use of the term "sighted guide." Not "walking with a
sighted guide" or "walking with a sighted person" or "holding the arm of a
sighted person," but "walking sighted guide." This makes it clear that the
concept of "sighted guide" has been the topic of considerable conversation.
But back to the letter.] and we thought you all would never walk sighted
guide, because you all are so highly involved in the NFB. I never thought
sighted guide was OK until then. So why did you all use sighted guide? I
know there are many reasons why this might be. We discussed this in one of
our talk times and came up with one reason this might be. We know that you
all have to be at meetings all the time, and it would be faster if you
would use sighted guide. [I interrupt again to call your attention to the
use in the following sentences of the depersonalized "it." Now, back to the
letter.] I am sure you don't use it so much that you lose your cane travel
skills. I am not trying to say this is wrong. I was just wondering why you
do this. Someone brought up that if we, as the people being trained at the
moment, were caught using sighted guide, they would fuss at us. And I
realize that you are not the one in training, so it is not wrong. We
couldn't use sighted guide, because we might want to use it more than the
cane if we use too much of it.
      Yours truly,

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

      During this past convention in North Carolina some of us noticed that
you did not walk with a cane. I do not understand this at all. I can
understand that you have to be in many places in a short amount of time at
the conventions, and that might be the reason you went sighted guide. But I
also know that when you came for a tour of the Center, you also went
sighted guide. We do not understand this.
      We all have our own theories as to why you went sighted guide, but we
want to get the correct answer straight from the horse's mouth.

Your fellow Federationist,

      That's a very clear-cut letter, and I am pleased to be called that end
of the horse. Here is the last one:

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

      This year I came to Charlotte to attend my third national convention
of the NFB. I am currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind
in the STEP program for blind teenagers. This program stresses cane use,
Braille literacy, employment readiness, and self-confidence based on
achievement. While at the convention I heard from a friend that you were
never actually seen using your cane. I discussed this with a group of
friends, and it was decided that you most likely had many places to go and
had to get to them quickly. This made sense, and the question seemed
settled. Then one of the group remembered you using sighted guide during a
tour you took of the Center while passing through Ruston on the way to the
Dallas convention in 1990. This was such a hectic situation, and the
question was no longer settled because the only alternative travel
technique anyone noticed you using was sighted guide.
      I do not mean this letter to imply any disrespect towards you, the
Federation, or its many achievements. If the Federation had not pushed so
hard for independence for the blind, I would have no grounds on which to
write this letter. It is because of my own personal convictions about
independence that I ask why the figurehead of the NFB is not himself using
the alternative techniques that his student, Joanne Wilson, has been
teaching for nearly ten years in Ruston.
      I would prefer to end the letter on a positive note. I realize that
you are responsible for the training I am currently receiving, and I am
grateful for it. I am not implying that you have no cane skills, because I
do not honestly know.


      These are straightforward letters, seriously written. They raise
fundamental questions, questions that deserve a reasoned answer. Here is
the expanded substance of what I wrote:

Baltimore, Maryland
July 29, 1992

      Under date of July 23, 1992, the three of you wrote to ask me why I
didn't travel alone with a cane during the national convention in Charlotte
and why on a visit to the Louisiana Center in 1990 I took a sighted
person's arm instead of walking alone with a cane. I appreciate your
letters and will tell you why I do what I do.
      In the first place let us assume that I didn't have any cane travel
skills at all. This might be comparable to the situation of a parent who
had no education but dreamed of an education for his or her child. That
parent might preach the value of education and might work to send the child
to high school and then to college. The parent might, though personally
uneducated, feel tremendous satisfaction at the learning and accomplishment
which his or her effort had made possible. In such circumstances what
attitude should the child have toward the parent? The child might be
critical of the parent for his or her poor grammar and lack of education
and might even be ashamed to associate with the parent-or the child might
feel gratitude for the sacrifice and the work that had made the education
      This is not an apt analogy since I have perfectly good cane skills,
but it has elements of truth about it. When I was a child, there were no
orientation centers or mobility training. The only canes available were the
short heavy wooden type, and we youngsters associated carrying a cane with
begging, shuffling along, and being helpless.
      It was not until I finished college and had taught for four years in
Tennessee that I first carried a cane. It was made of wood and had a crook
handle. I might also say that it was longer than most of those in vogue at
the time, forty inches. I started using it in 1953, just before going to
California to work at the newly established state orientation center for
the blind. The Center had been in operation for only a few months and had
enrolled only four or five students by the time of my arrival.
      In those days the California Center was using forty-two-inch aluminum
canes. They were a tremendous improvement over the forty-inch wooden cane I
had been carrying, and I immediately adopted the new model. Even so, it
seemed that something better was needed. I worked with the person who had
been employed as the travel teacher, and we experimented with different
techniques and canes.
      In the mid-1950s the solid fiberglass cane was developed. It was first
made by a blind man in Kansas, but we at the California center popularized
it and brought it into general use. We also worked to improve the tip. Our
students received intensive training, those with any sight using blindfolds
(or, as we called them, sleep shades), and our students and graduates were
identifiable in any group of blind persons because of their competence and
ease in travel. Since they had enjoyed the benefit of our study and
experimentation, as well as intensive instruction and the time to practice,
many of them probably became better travelers than I-and I felt pride and
satisfaction in the fact. We were advancing on the road to freedom and
      In 1958 I went to Iowa as director of the state commission for the
blind, and I carried with me the experience and knowledge I had acquired in
California plus a 48-inch fiberglass cane and a head full of new ideas and
hopes for the future. I hired a young sighted man who had no experience at
all with blindness and spent several days giving him preliminary
instruction in mobility, using blind techniques. First I had him follow me
all over Des Moines, watching me use the cane while crossing streets and
going to various places. Then, he put on sleep shades, and I worked with
him to learn basic skills. Next I sent him to California for three or four
weeks to gain further experience and to compare what I had taught him with
what the California Center was doing. Finally he came back to Des Moines,
and I spent several more weeks working with him until (though sighted) he
could (under blindfold) go anywhere he wanted safely and comfortably using
a cane.
      During all of that time I worked with him on attitudes, for unless
one believes that he or she is capable of independence as a blind person,
independence in travel (as in other areas) is not truly achievable. This
travel instructor's name is Jim Witte, and he developed into one of the
best I have ever known.
      Iowa students rapidly became the envy of the nation. You could single
them out in any group because of their bearing, their confidence, and their
skill in travel. As had been the case in California, some of them
undoubtedly traveled better than I, and I felt a deep sense of fulfillment
in the fact. Joanne Wilson (the director of your own Louisiana Center) was
one of those students, and I am sure she has told you how it was at the
Iowa Center-how students were treated, what was expected of them, the
relationship between staff and students, our dreams for the future, and how
we set about accomplishing those dreams. Arlene Hill (one of your teachers)
was also an Iowa student. Both Joanne and Arlene are living examples of
what we taught and how it worked. So are President Maurer, Mrs. Maurer,
Peggy Pinder, Ramona Walhof, Jim Gashel, Jim Omvig, and at least fifty
others in this audience.
      It was in Iowa that we developed the hollow fiberglass cane. It was
an improvement over the solid cane, lighter and more flexible. We also
gradually began to use longer and longer canes. They enabled us to walk
faster without diminishing either safety or grace. As I have already told
you, I started with a 40-inch wooden cane. Then I went to 42-inch aluminum-
and after that to solid fiberglass, then to hollow fiberglass, and (three
or four years ago) to hollow carbon fiber. As to length, I went from 40
inches, 42, then to 45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, and 57. At present I use a 59-
inch cane. It seems about right to me for my height and speed of travel.
Will I ever use a still longer cane? I don't know-but at this stage I don't
think so. Obviously there comes a time when a longer cane is a disadvantage
instead of a help.
      I've told you all of this so that you may understand something of my
background and approach to independence in travel, and independence in
general. The doctors who established the medical schools a hundred years
ago were (with notable exceptions) not generally as competent and skilled
as the doctors they trained, for they did not have the benefit of the kind
of concentrated teaching they themselves were providing. Obviously they
could not stand on their own shoulders. Through their students they
extended their dreams into the future, building possibilities that they
themselves had not known and could never hope to realize.
      So it is with me in relation to you. You are the third generation of
our mobility trainees, having the benefit of what I have learned and also
of what Joanne and the other Iowa graduates have learned. Unless you make
advances over what we have done, you will, in a very real sense, fail to
keep faith with those who have gone before you and those who will follow.
In this context I would expect and hope that some of you will become better
travelers (and, perhaps, better philosophers and teachers) than I, and if
you do, I will take joy in it.
      Having said all of this, let me come back to my own travel skills.
During the 1950s I traveled completely alone on a constant basis throughout
this entire country, going to almost every state and dealing with almost
every kind of environment-urban area, city bus, taxi, complicated street
crossing, rural setting, hired private car, country road, and almost
anything else you can imagine. During late December and early January of
1956 and 1957, for example, I traveled alone to fourteen states in eleven
days, writing testimony for the NFB's Right to Organize bill. It was no big
deal, and not something I thought about very much. It was simply a job that
had to be done, and the travel was incidental and taken for granted. I have
taught travel instructors and have developed new techniques and canes. I
travel whenever and wherever I want to go in the most convenient way to get
there-and sometimes that means alone, using a cane.
      Once when I was in Iowa, students observed that I walked to a barber
shop one day with another staff member, and they raised with me some of the
same questions you have raised. That afternoon in our business class (you
may call it by some other name-philosophy or something else) I dealt with
the matter. I told the students some of the things I have told you, and
then I went on to say something like this:
      "Although what I have told you should mean that even if I couldn't
travel with much skill at all I might still not merit your criticism, we
don't need to leave it at that. Follow me. We are going to take a walk
through downtown traffic-and see that you keep up."
      I took the lead, and we walked for eight or ten blocks at a fast
clip. When we got back to the classroom, I didn't need to tell them what
kind of travel skills I had. They knew.
      Then, we talked about why I had walked to the barber shop with
another staff member. In that particular instance I had matters to discuss,
and I felt I couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing while going for a
haircut. As a matter of fact, in those days I often made a practice of
taking my secretary with me to the barber shop and dictating letters while
getting my hair cut. Of course, I could have made a point of walking alone
each time just to make a visible demonstration of my independence, but
somehow I think that such insecurity might have made the opposite point and
would certainly have been counterproductive.
      In the Iowa days I was not only director of the state Commission for
the Blind but also first vice president and then president of the National
Federation of the Blind. Both were full-time jobs, requiring me to use to
best advantage every waking minute.
      I was up before 6:00 to go to the gym with the men students; I wrote
over a hundred letters a week; I entertained legislators and other civic
leaders an average of two or three nights a week to gain support for our
program; I traveled throughout the state to make speeches; and I spent long
hours working individually with students. Besides that, I handled the
administrative details of the Commission and the NFB on a daily basis. At
the same time I was doing organizing in other states and dealing with
problems brought to me by Federationists throughout the country.
      In that context it would have been a bad use of my time (and both
Federationists and Iowa students and staff would have thought so) for me to
spend much of my day walking down the street to make a visible show of my
independent travel skills. I traveled alone when I needed to, and I gave
demonstrations to students, legislators, and others when I needed to do
that-but I never did either to convince myself or to establish in my own
mind the fact of my capacity or independence. It didn't seem necessary.
      So what about the NFB convention in Charlotte? I was in charge of
convention organization and arrangements, and there were a thousand details
to handle. There were four hotels and a convention center, each with its
own staff and each requiring separate handling and a myriad of decisions.
Sometimes I had not only one but two or three people with me as I went from
place to place, talking about what had to be done and sending this person
here and that person yonder.
      Even so, I might (you may say) have refused to take the arm of one of
the persons with me and used my cane to walk alone. But for what reason?
When a blind person is walking through a crowd or down a street with
somebody else and trying to carry on a meaningful conversation, it is
easier to take the other person's arm. This is true even if you are the
best traveler in the world and even if both of you are blind.
      In fact, I contend that there are times when refusing to take an arm
that is offered may constitute the very opposite of independence. If, for
instance, you are a blind person accompanying a sighted person through a
busy restaurant closely packed with tables and chairs, do you create a
better image of independence by trying to get through the maze alone, with
the sighted person going in front and constantly calling back, "This way!
This way!" or by simply taking the sighted person's arm and going to the
table? What is better about following a voice than following an arm? From
what I have said, I presume it is clear which method I favor. Of course, if
no arm is conveniently available, you should be prepared to use another
method, regardless of how crowded the restaurant or how labyrinthine the
path. In either case you should do it without losing your cool.
      But back to the convention. When you are trying to get through crowds
quickly to go from meeting to meeting, and possibly also trying to find
different people in those crowds in a hurry, the efficiency of sighted
assistance multiplies. Incidentally, even if I were sighted and doing the
things I do at national conventions, I would want two or three persons with
me-to look for people in crowds, to send for this and that, and to talk and
advise with.
      As an example, consider what happened at last year's convention with
respect to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He has normal eyesight
and is in every other way, so far as I know, able-bodied and energetic. I
am sure that he can drive a car and walk vigorously. Yet, he sent an
assistant to Charlotte a day in advance of his arrival. The assistant
scouted out the convention and then went to the airport to meet the
Secretary. The assistant drove the car from the airport to the convention,
accompanied the Secretary into the meeting hall, went with him to the
platform, met him at the edge of the platform when he finished speaking,
and drove him back to the airport. If the Secretary had been blind, I
wonder if somebody would have said, "Just look! He's not independent. He
has to have a sighted person with him at all times, accompanying him
everywhere he goes and driving his car."
      Since I am not a student trying to learn to travel independently or
to establish within my own mind that I can compete on terms of equality
with others, and since I can and do travel by myself when that is most
convenient, I feel no particular obligation to make a demonstration when it
is more efficient to do otherwise. If I were a student, I should and would
behave differently. As an example, I think a student should always use a
rigid (not a collapsible) cane. But I generally use one that is
collapsible. Why? Students often are uncomfortable with canes, and if they
are allowed to use those that fold or telescope, they may tend to hide or
conceal them because they think (even if subconsciously) that it will make
them look less conspicuous. I have carried a cane for so long that I would
feel naked without it, and I always carry one whether I am with somebody or
not. Because they were so rickety, I refused to carry a collapsible cane
until we developed the telescoping carbon fiber model. I pull it to such a
tight fit that it doesn't collapse as I use it, and I almost never collapse
it unless I'm in close quarters. Again, it is a convenience, and my sense
of independence is not so brittle that I think I have to carry the rigid
cane to prove to myself or others that I am not ashamed to be seen with it
or uncomfortable about blindness.
      When I was teaching orientation classes in California and Iowa, I
often said to those in attendance that students at a center tend to go
through three stages: fear and insecurity, rebellious independence, and
normal independence-FI, RI, and NI. During fear and insecurity one tends to
be ultra-cautious and afraid of everything, even if at times putting on a
good front. During rebellious independence one tends to be overly touchy,
resenting anybody who attempts to offer him or her any kind of assistance
at all, even when the assistance is appropriate and needed. In the
rebellious independence stage one is likely to be a pain in the neck, both
to him or her and others-but this is a necessary step on the road from fear
and insecurity to normal independence. Unfortunately some people never get
beyond it.
      Hopefully one will eventually arrive at the stage of normal
independence, with relatively little need constantly to prove either to
oneself or others that one is capable of independence and first-class
citizenship. This means maturity in dealing with condescending treatment
and it also means flexibility in accepting or rejecting offers of
assistance, kindness, or generosity. Sometimes such things should be
graciously or silently taken, sometimes endured, and sometimes rejected out
of hand-but the reason should never be because you doubt your own worth,
have inner feelings of insecurity, or wonder whether you are inferior
because of blindness.
      Normal independence also means not rationalizing your fear or
inability by saying that you are just doing what is convenient and
efficient and that you don't feel the need to prove something when in
reality you are just covering up the fact that you are as helpless as a
baby-and it means not going so far the other way and being so touchy about
your so-called independence that nobody can stand to be around you. It
means getting to the place where you are comfortable enough with yourself
and secure enough with your own inner feelings that you don't have to spend
much time bothering about the matter one way or another. It means reducing
blindness to the level of a mere inconvenience and making it just one more
of your everyday characteristics-a characteristic with which you must deal
just as you do with how strong you are, how old you are, how smart you are,
how personable you are, and how much money you have. These are the goals,
and probably none of us ever achieves all of them all of the time.
Nevertheless, we are making tremendous progress-and we are farther along
the road now than we have ever been.
      I am pleased that you wrote me, and I am especially pleased that you
are able to receive training at the Louisiana Center. It is grounded in
Federation philosophy, and it is one of the best. You are getting the
chance while you are young to learn what blindness is really like, and what
it isn't like. You have the opportunity to profit from the collective
experience of all of us-the things we tried that didn't work, and those
that did. On the foundation of love and organizational structure which we
have established, you can make for yourselves better opportunities than we
have ever known-and I pray that you will. The future is in the hands of
your generation, and I hope you will dream and work and build wisely and

Kenneth Jernigan

      That is what I wrote, and there have been a number of subsequent
developments. One person, hearing these letters, said, "I can see your
point, but don't you think you should try to be a role model?"
      To which I replied, "I thought that was what I was doing."
      Then, there was the letter I got about a month ago from a person who
attended a seminar at the National Center for the Blind last Christmas. She
said in part:

      The discussion about the letter from the students at the Louisiana
Center for the Blind has stuck with me and helped me in two ways. I no
longer feel the deep embarrassment I had been experiencing about being
unable to read Braille and having less-than-perfect travel skills. I remain
painfully aware that I could be much more efficient than I am, particularly
if I could read and write Braille, but I no longer feel that I am less
worthy because of the lack. And, by the way, I hope to take care of my
deficiencies in that area soon.
      The discussion also helped me better to appreciate and respect my
dad, who was blinded by an on-the-job accident when he was 26. After he
became blind, he went to law school, and I have always admired his
relatively quick adjustment to blindness. On the other hand, I have always
felt somewhat embarrassed that when traveling he uses a sighted guide the
majority of the time. (For instance, I was horrified and disbelieving when
I heard my dad flew to Alaska by himself to go fishing without his guide
dog or a white cane!) He has a guide dog but only used him when he was
going to work. I have never seen him use a white cane although I have just
learned that he used one while in his office at work. However, the seminar
discussion helped me to understand that everyone's situation differs and
that the opportunities available are not uniform. My dad has accomplished a
lot: He was an administrative law judge until he retired last month; he is
an avid fisherman; and he is as pro-Braille as anybody I have ever met.

      That is what the seminarian wrote me, and her letter makes a point.
It is simply this: We absolutely must not become so rigid and dogmatic
about the means and precise details of achieving independence that we make
ourselves and everybody else around us miserable. Down that road lies
bigotry, as well as the loss of any real independence or true normality.
      Usually when I go to bed at night, I read myself to sleep with a
recorded book. A few months ago somebody took me to task for this. The
person said something to this effect: "You should not read recorded books.
You should use Braille. After all, the Federation advocates Braille
literacy, and if you use tapes and talking books, you decrease the
circulation of Braille from the libraries, and you also set a bad example.
What kind of statement are you making? What kind of image are you creating?
You have an obligation to serve as a role model."
      I didn't argue with the person. It wouldn't have done any good. Yes,
I use Braille; and as you know, I find it helpful. More than that. My life
would be poorer without it. But Braille is a means. It is a vehicle, not an
article of faith. I am conscious of the fact that I have an obligation to
be a role model, and I do the best I can to meet the requirement. But the
kind of role model I want to be (for anybody who cares to see me that way)
is that of a competent, well-balanced human being, not a caricature. The
fact that I don't want to die of thirst doesn't mean that I want to drown.
      What is independence? I would define it this way. With respect to
reading, it means getting the information you want with a minimum amount of
inconvenience and expense. For me that means Braille, but it also means
using live readers, recordings, and (despite my limited competence in that
area) a certain amount of work with computers. For somebody else the
combination may be different, but any active blind person who lacks skill
in Braille will be limited-not necessarily unable to compete but definitely
      As to travel, independence is the ability to go where you want when
you want without inconvenience to yourself or others. Probably none of us
(blind or sighted) ever fully achieves that goal all of the time-and almost
all of us achieve at least some of it some of the time. Usually we are on a
      If I could not travel by myself without discomfort or great expense,
there are times when it would be a real problem. What about the trip I made
to Kansas City in May of this year to meet with local Federationists and
speak at a JOB seminar? My wife had other things to do, and it would have
been inconvenient to take somebody else. I went alone. Did I have any
assistance during the trip? Yes. At times-when it was convenient for me and
not inconvenient to others.
      What about the time last month when I was called for jury duty? It
would have been very difficult for a guide to have accompanied me to the
jury box or the jury room-so, of course, I went by myself. Does that mean
that nobody showed me where the jury box was or gave other assistance? No.
It means that I went where I needed to go without inconvenience to me or
those around me. That is what I call independence.
      Just as with the sighted, there are times when you as a blind person
want privacy-want to go somewhere (to see a boyfriend or girlfriend, for
instance) without being accompanied by your daily associates, want to buy a
present for a friend or a loved one, or just feel like following a whim. In
such cases a dog or a cane is helpful. On the other hand, there are times
when the assistance of a sighted person is extremely beneficial. Taken by
itself, the use or lack of use of a sighted guide has very little, if
anything at all, to do with real independence. In fact, the whole notion of
independence (not just in mobility but also in everything else) involves
the concept of doing what you want when you want, and doing it without
paying such a heavy price (either monetarily or otherwise) that the thing
is hardly worth having once you get it or do it.
      In conclusion, I say to each member of this organization: Hold your
head high in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of independence-but
not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to
read Braille or use a computer. These are the trappings of independence,
not the substance of it. They should be learned, and used when needed-but
they should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes
from within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb
reading skills-and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and
independence in the only way that really counts-in rising self-respect,
growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices.
Above all, independence means choices, and the power to make those choices
stick. We are getting that power, and we intend to have more of it. That is
why we have organized. That is why we have the National Federation of the
Blind. We know where we are going, and we know how to get there. Let
anybody who doubts it put us to the test. My brothers and my sisters, the
future is ours! Let us meet it with joy; let us meet it with hope; and
(most important of all) let us meet it together!
[PHOTO CAPTION: James Gashel]
              Randolph-Sheppard: Our History Calls Us to Action
                               by James Gashel

      From the Editor: Jim Gashel is the secretary of the National
Federation of the Blind, vice president in charge of marketing for KNFB
Reading Technologies, and former director of governmental affairs and later
head of strategic initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind. To
newer members of the Federation, Jim is best known as the man who is always
talking about books and reading technology, but to longtime members, and
especially to those who have long been active in the Randolph-Sheppard
Program, he is probably best known for his creative leadership in crafting
legislation and implementing regulations to advance the rights of blind
      The following remarks were delivered at the 2013 Business Leadership
and Superior Training (BLAST) Conference, a place where the fruits of Jim's
work are made manifest in the lives of hundreds of blind businessmen and
businesswomen. Here is what he said to conference participants:

      Thank you very much. What a pleasure it is for me to be back at BLAST,
not to mention having the special privilege of being asked to speak to the
whole crowd, and I don't think I am expected to talk about books or to
demonstrate any technology. Wow! All I have to do is relax and say
something meaningful about blind people succeeding in business-that I can
      Although BLAST reflects an interest among blind people that goes
beyond the operation of vending facilities alone, these business leadership
gatherings certainly have a rich tradition of speaking to the needs of
blind vendors. And, by the way, how about getting our more modern term,
"blind entrepreneurs," officially adopted to express who we are and who we
have become? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, an
entrepreneur is "one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a
business or enterprise," and the same source defines "vendor" as "one who
sells" or "vending machine." So here's your choice: you can organize,
manage, and assume the risk of a business, on the one hand, or, on the
other, you can be a vending machine-take your pick.
      Now the Randolph-Sheppard Act was originally written in 1936 when two
members of Congress-Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard-put their heads
together to back an historic economic opportunity bill for the blind.
Jennings Randolph served as a member of the House of Representatives from
West Virginia, and Morris Sheppard represented Texas in the Senate. Their
vision was to create business opportunities for blind people by means of a
preference for vending stands run by the blind to be set up in federal
buildings; the concept was really quite simple and amazingly elegant.
      Elegant? I think so. Remember, we are talking about a bill developed
in the 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression. Few blind people had
jobs outside of working in workshops or making brooms or rugs at home. The
chance to have a small business if you were blind at that time was all but
unheard of, and here were two visionaries in the Congress working to create
a business program for the blind. Even more amazing, they were working to
create this program a full four years before the founding meeting of the
National Federation of the Blind in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Imagine if
Messrs. Randolph and Sheppard could be present here at BLAST 2013, how
proud they would be; their vision lives in us.
      But the vision that Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard had in 1936
was not the only vision for the blind at that time. In 1938 Congress passed
two other laws about employment of the blind, and both are still on the
books. One of these was the Wagner-O'Day Act, providing sheltered work
opportunities for the blind to make products needed by the government. This
is now called the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, and the program is known as
"Ability One." The second law enacted in 1938 was the Fair Labor Standards
Act, for the first time setting up a minimum wage for all workers in the
U.S., except for workers like the blind, who were presumed to be unable to
be productive. Unlike the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which focused on enlarging
economic opportunities, the abilities of the blind, and striving to become
self-supporting, the Wagner-O'Day Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act
focused on disabilities and limitations, promoting sheltered jobs at
substandard wages for the blind on assembly lines but no jobs in the front
office. All jobs in the executive suite were reserved for the sighted. This
vision for the blind reflected a plantation mentality.
      So what are the results of these visions from the 1930s three-quarters
of a century later? Annual gross sales reported by blind entrepreneurs in
federal fiscal year 2010-the most recent year available-$792,613,306, with
net earnings to the blind of $134,412,036, and average earnings of $56,168.
Although blind people can certainly find jobs individually that are more
lucrative, as a group blind entrepreneurs do better than any other single
subset of blind people in the U.S. and probably around the world as well.
      Turning to Ability One, $557,700,000 was paid out in wages to 48,816
blind and disabled employees in fiscal year 2012. These 48,816 employees
worked a total of 47,700,000 hours during the year, with the average number
of hours being 977, or on average less than half-time employment. With an
average hourly wage of about $11.24, the average annual compensation of
Ability One employees was $10,983 and change during 2012. Now remember that
the average net earnings of blind Randolph-Sheppard entrepreneurs was more
than $56,000 even two years before these official figures from Ability One.
      In Randolph-Sheppard, blind people are the managers, but not so in
Ability One, where the amount paid to sighted, non-disabled managers is not
even disclosed except through occasional press reports and annual charity
filings. Imagine what life would be like to be the president and CEO of
Goodwill International, perhaps the largest of the mega charities with
contracts through Ability One. According to Goodwill's form 990, filed with
the Internal Revenue Service for 2012, the president and CEO received an
annual salary of $434,252 and total benefits and other compensation of
$99,513, as well as retirement and non-taxable benefits of $103,554. Added
all together, his total compensation and benefits package amounted to
$637,319 in 2012. Also his eight other colleagues in the executive suite
with pay high enough to report, collectively received salaries and benefits
totaling $1,815,770 as a group. And all of this to produce average annual
wages of less than $11,000 for their blind and disabled employees; and they
wonder why we call it exploitation!
      Looking at the results, the vision of Randolph-Sheppard, focusing on
ability, has clearly delivered better opportunities for blind entrepreneurs
than the so-called "Ability One" program has done with its focus on
disability and limitations of blind and disabled workers. The reason why is
not a mystery. If you're looking for the secret sauce that makes the
Randolph-Sheppard vision work, look no further than the spirit of an
entrepreneur-not to mention the collective power of several hundred
entrepreneurs assembled for this conference and hundreds more working to
support one another through the National Federation of the Blind and our
merchants division.
      To be fair, the Randolph-Sheppard program does provide blind
entrepreneurs with space, resources, and support (including money) needed
to set up shop. This help is vital, but businesses succeed over time with
smart management, strategic planning, hard work, dogged determination, and
serving the customer first to sustain and build demand. State agencies do
not-cannot-provide these essentials, but all of them are job one for blind
      In 1974 the law on federal property was changed to convert a
preference for the blind when feasible into a priority, meaning a first-in-
line status or prior right for blind people over other competing interests.
The 1930s term "vending stand," was replaced by a far broader definition of
vending facility, incorporating gift shops, cafeterias, and other services
not thought of as falling within the more limited scope of a vending stand.
The point is, blind people had outgrown the original concept of a single
vendor in a small stand and were demanding more lucrative business
      In 1966, when a new federal building was constructed in Des Moines,
Iowa, a great kerfuffle ensued over how food service would be provided to
employees and the public. As late as the 1950s (according to the minutes of
the Iowa Commission for the Blind), popcorn stands were the most common
form of business operated by the blind in the state, so the idea that a
blind person would operate the cafeteria in the new federal building was
unthinkable, and the law did not support this outcome.
      But the fact that the blind had popcorn stands but not cafeterias did
not stop Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and the blind of Iowa. Never mind the
limitations of the Randolph-Sheppard Act at that time; the tide of change
was rising, and the newfound voice of the blind-the organized blind-would
not be denied. So, when the cafeteria opened on the first day, Sylvester
Nimmers, a blind person, was in charge. Regardless of the limits of the
Randolph-Sheppard Act, and over the objections of the U.S. General Services
Administration, a way had been found to honor the preference for the blind.
Rather than calling the food service a cafeteria, which it was-no question-
a permit was granted for operation of a manually operated snack bar. That's
what they called it on the books at the GSA in Washington, DC, but in Des
Moines this business was a cafeteria. Call it by any name you want-call it
George or Kevan if you want-but this business was a cafeteria. The rising
expectations of the blind would not be denied.
      So it was by no means an accident that, when the 1974 amendments to
the Randolph-Sheppard Act were written, cafeterias were specified as
covered under the priority for the blind. Through our advocacy in Congress
we made that happen. Today, although the Ability One executives don't like
it, cafeterias even include military troop dining services. The businesses
resulting from these contracts keep faith with the Randolph-Sheppard Act
objective to support blind people in achieving their maximum vocational
potential. In fact some blind entrepreneurs show higher annual earnings
than the sighted executives at Ability One and its affiliates. Need I add
that they do this without exploiting their blind or disabled employees?
Business opportunities awarded to blind entrepreneurs resulting from the
vision of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard are among the best business
opportunities available to blind people anywhere in the world.
      And what of our counterparts, the state agencies and the Department
of Education? Clearly some of the state agencies are our partners and stand
with us in promoting the vision of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard.
Some of those agencies are represented at this conference, and others would
be here, state funds and travel restrictions permitting. To those who
support us and work with the blind to expand opportunities we say: your
support deserves our support. When times get hard, when jobs are on the
line and budgets get tight, you can count on our support, and you have
nothing to fear from the blind.
      But, I think I have to say this: there are other agencies that have
turned their backs on blind entrepreneurs and view the Randolph-Sheppard
program as an annoyance. Rather than taking pride in the success achieved
by blind entrepreneurs, their administrators and staff resent the blind and
especially resent those whose earnings exceed their own. Rather than
sharing the entrepreneurial spirit of Jennings Randolph and Morris
Sheppard, they view the blind as subservient. And to these agencies and
their resentful staff we say: your days are numbered. Although you may not
understand or believe this fact, the jobs you have depend on us. Trample on
the blind if you will, but we will not forget what you have done.
      To the Department of Education for failing in its statutory
stewardship on behalf of the Randolph-Sheppard vision and mission we say:
shame on you. Shame on you for putting bureaucratic inertia-the desire to
go along and get along-ahead of doing your duty to build more opportunities
and better lives for the blind. And shame on you especially for tying the
hands of our friends and colleagues both inside and outside of the
Department who share the vision of Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard.
To the blind it matters not whether your failure comes from ineptness,
indifference, or a conscious disregard of the law; the result for the blind
in lost opportunities and wasted lives is all the same.
      Finally, what of ourselves-America's blind entrepreneurs and our
friends? To this group-growing in numbers and firm in purpose-we say: on
behalf of the blind we salute you. In business and in life you are the
finest examples of success and tenacity. Because of you the vision of
Jennings Randolph and Morris Sheppard is still alive. For the blind of the
present generation and the generations to come, we thank you. Through your
entrepreneurial spirit you are changing what it means to be blind.
                           Me, Myself, and Seattle
                               by Emily Zitek

      From the Editor: the following article is reprinted from the Spring
2013 Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Minnesota:

      When I think of taking a trip or vacation, I think of going somewhere
nice with the family or my husband. Together my husband and I have traveled
all over the United States and even to Mexico for our honeymoon. Until now,
any time I have taken trips, they have always included at some point during
the trip at least one other person I already knew. Often I have taken a
plane to a specific place where I would be meeting with a specific group of
people. All I had to worry about was getting there, and the itinerary for
the week or weekend had been set up for me. But I never imagined taking a
trip out of the state, totally by myself.
      In mid-August of 2007 I had been teaching a life-skills class at
Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated, where I had
been working for almost ten years. After class that day Shawn Mayo, the
executive director, asked if I would be interested in attending a seminar
in Seattle about how to teach English to blind immigrants. The prospect
seemed quite interesting, not only because of what I would be learning, but
because I would be traveling completely alone to a new city. The other
woman attending the seminar was someone I had known for quite some time,
but I wouldn't be traveling with her or even staying at the same hotel. I
recognized that this would be a challenge, something new that I would
remember forever.
      I told Shawn that I needed to think it over, but the more I thought
about it, the more I realized how exciting and challenging it would be to
travel completely independently as a blind person. At first little voices
in my head were nagging me with questions: what would I do to occupy myself
during the days when the seminar wasn't going on? Would I just sit in my
hotel? Would I be able to find stores and places to eat? What would happen
if I got off the bus in the wrong neighborhood on my first night in
Seattle? I am sure these are fears that sighted travelers also face when
going to a new place by themselves, so I knew it had nothing to do with
being an incompetent blind person.
      Despite all my anxieties regarding the trip, I told Shawn that I
would attend the seminar. Of course she had considered asking others, but I
knew that this was an opportunity I would regret passing up because this
kind of challenge might never come my way again. Ever since I was a little
girl, whenever I put my mind to something, I could do just about anything.
After all, I told myself, this trip would be fun. The seminar was to take
place Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of the week I would be in Seattle, and
on Tuesday and Thursday I could set up my own itinerary of things to do and
      Shawn told me to do some online searches for reasonable airfares and
book my own flight. Then with the help of one of my longtime friends in the
Federation, I got the names of decent hotels in Seattle. The hotel I chose
wasn't very close to the seminar location, but I got the phone number for
the transit center in Seattle, which is almost as efficient as the one in
the Twin Cities area.
      After I made my flight and hotel reservations, I began making plans
for what I would do with my free time. By two days after I was invited to
go on this trip, I had information about how to get from the airport to my
hotel and then to and from my hotel and the Kaizen Center, where the
seminar would be held. In fact, the people at the hotel were very friendly
and helpful over the phone and gave me the names and addresses for some
great restaurants and diners, and even a supermarket and drugstore within
walking distance of the hotel.
      By the time I left for Seattle, I felt more confident than ever, and
an overwhelming sense of excitement had taken me over, especially when my
week in Seattle started. I couldn't believe how simple it was to get around
the city using the buses and how informative the people had been over the
      I had a great time that week. I had almost forgotten how much fun it
was to sit up late watching my favorite TV shows and talking on the phone
without worrying about disturbing somebody else trying to sleep. Married
people don't always have the luxury of sitting up late at night, going out
to dinner at midnight and coming in late from listening to a jazz band, or
working out in the hotel's workout room whenever you want, even at 5:00 in
the morning. As planned, I took the seminar on the designated days and
learned a lot, and on the other days, when I wasn't studying, I ventured
out to Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, and I went on a two-hour
cruise around the lake, where I listened to detailed descriptions of
different historical things we passed during that cruise. I found a nail
shop and hair salon and spent an afternoon getting pretty. I visited many
shops at Pike Place Market and bought a few souvenirs to bring home with
me, and there I ate some of the best fish I'd ever eaten. Sharon (the other
woman taking the seminar with me) and I met once for dinner at a New
Orleans-style restaurant we had heard about, but other than that I was
completely on my own, and I came home with a great deal of enthusiasm about
the trip and self-confidence, because all my fears about traveling alone
had been washed away by nothing but great experiences.
      If you're ever up for a challenging adventure, I recommend taking a
little trip by yourself if you haven't done so before. Even if the trip you
take has no specific purpose, I can assure you that it will be very
rewarding and will give you a great sense of freedom and independence. Even
if you only have a day or two to spare and only want to go to the nearest
big city, go ahead and do it. You'll realize how nice it is to take time
out for yourself and set your own itinerary and schedule, and doing so will
make you want to try it again. Doing research about the place you choose
beforehand is a big help. Talk to friends, family, or other acquaintances
who have gone there. This is where I began my research. Researching online
was also helpful, but the things that made this trip so successful were my
determination and ambition.
[PHOTO CAPTION: HAL 9000, the iconic artificial intelligence from the 1968
movie 2001: A Space Odyssey that killed to protect itself from being
deactivated by the human crew]
                Technology for the Blind: Blessing or Curse?
                               by Gary Wunder

      Just this morning I read an article from a blind journalist who
talked about questions blind people are asked and how stupid or offensive
they often seem. For example, when he was recently asked how he could be a
blind journalist, his first reaction was to be offended that anyone would
assume blindness would keep him from pursuing this profession, and he
wanted to withdraw from the questioner and suspend the conversation.
Happily, his better angel took over, and he decided to answer the question
as honestly as it had been asked.
      Before I discuss his answer, I'd like first to reflect a little about
the reasons we are offended at questions about blindness when we loudly
proclaim that one of our roles as blind ambassadors dedicated to changing
the world is to educate the general public about blindness. It may sound
trite to point out, but isn't the only bad question the one not asked?
Whether the silence comes from fear, political correctness, or arrogance
born of unwillingness to admit that one simply doesn't know, the result is
the same: the question not asked is the one not answered, and the question
not answered is the stereotype that goes unchallenged, the opportunity
missed, the possibility to instill a new paradigm lost, and the chance to
build or strengthen a friendship based on mutual understanding thwarted
before it can begin.
      I certainly know how much fun it can be to sit in a group of like-
minded people and marvel at the stupidity of the outsider, but do we really
mean what we say when we exchange barbs about the silly or stupid people we
meet? Are we simply having a little harmless fun, or are we actually
forming and expressing our view of what the outside world thinks of us and
how we should react to it? The woman who asks how we know whether our
infant's diaper is wet or dirty might reasonably be expected to realize
that the answer is as close as her nose, but, if we were bounded by her
world, a world in which marketers develop disposable diapers that change
color when they are wet, would her question seem quite so unreasonable?
When a person depends upon vision to determine whether or not it is safe to
cross the street, should we be surprised when she comes running up to us to
tell us that the light is against us? The initial reaction is one of
compassion and concern based on what she has seen and the first thoughts
that come to her mind. Although it makes for interesting conversation
around a table of blind or enlightened sighted people, is it fair when we
decide how informed or uninformed other people are about our condition and
then use that judgment to decide how involved we will be with the so-called
sighted world? Isn't it inconsistent to be shocked and put off by the
questions we are sometimes asked, and at the same time be critical of the
sighted mother who hushes her child when she asks why we are carrying that
stick or why that dog has a handle?
      Getting back to the article I received this morning, the man who
decided to answer the question about how he could be a blind journalist did
so by explaining that he could because he had a Victor Stream, a laptop,
and a Braille display. Is this really the case? Is it the technology I am
using now that allows me to write this article, or is it what exists in my
brain that makes what I am saying understandable and hopefully interesting?
Certainly the technology makes it easier for me to put what I am thinking
on paper, but could technology alone communicate my concerns and concepts
to those who read my words? I love the technology that lets me speak into a
microphone and have what I say appear on a Braille display and a screen. I
love the technology that lets me sit on my back porch enjoying the
springtime weather, free from the prison of my office, but does the article
come from the notetaking device, or is that simply the mechanism I use to
put my ideas in readable form?
      The Braille Monitor devotes an enormous amount of space to the
subject of making technology accessible, not so much because for the first
time this technology makes things possible for blind people, but because
technology is what our world uses today to communicate with others. The
Braille Sense, PAC Mate, and BrailleNote are phenomenal devices for blind
people, but they do not allow us to read and write--they are only devices
that allow us to read and write using personal data assistants equivalent
to those available to people who read and write print visually.
      I am highlighting what may seem nitpicky differences because I think
that our focus can easily be on technology when it should be on ourselves.
Technology may be the most efficient way to accomplish something in our
lives, but it is important that we ask ourselves whether it is the only way
to do those tasks. If it is, all of our hopes and dreams for equality rest
in the hands of creators of technology and in their ability to make it
accessible. If, on the other hand, technology or a given piece of it is
simply one alternative, then our hopes and dreams still rest in our own
creativity, our ability to problem-solve, and our ability to find solutions
for the problems that living in a predominantly sighted society throws at
      As much as I enjoy technology, I want it to be my slave and not my
master. I want to marvel at the size and the power of the hardware and
software that make up the iPhone, but I want to marvel even more at the
fascinating piece of biological technology we wear atop our shoulders. The
well-constructed house is fundamentally the product of the creativity and
craftsmanship of those who built it and not of the hammers and saws used in
its construction. Similarly, I believe that the lives we make for ourselves
are fashioned by what we want them to be rather than by what technology
makes it easy and convenient to do. Of course blind people must play an
active part in shaping the technology that is developed for us while
simultaneously carrying the message of accessibility to technology we want
to use to the designers of technology for the sighted. But let us always
keep in mind that we are the reason for and the masters of technology, and
it is our minds and our creativity that make technology valuable.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Shown here are, from left to right, Sharon Omvig, Jim
Omvig, Jim Burke, Ashley Kielty (the scholarship recipient), and Mark
Saunders at an awards ceremony at which the Judith Young Scholarship was
                         An American Hero Remembered
                                by Jim Omvig

      From the Editor: Jim Omvig is one of the longtime leaders of the
National Federation of the Blind. He has served as the director of both the
Orientation and Adjustment Center operated by the Iowa Commission for the
Blind, and the Alaska Center for Blind and Deaf Adults. His pioneering work
at the Social Security Administration, his work with the National
Association of Insurance Comissioners, and his contributions as an author
only hint at the depth and commitment he has to better the lives of blind
people, a passion he has demonstrated for more than fifty years.
      Jim and his wife Sharon now live in Des Moines, Iowa. Here is what he
has to say about a gifted Iowan who was encouraged to follow her dreams,
who had the courage to do it, and whose work has been recognized by the
University of Iowa with a scholarship lovingly endowed by members of her

      It has been said that "The key to immortality is living a life worth
remembering." Such a life was lived (all too briefly) by a young Dunkerton,
Iowa, woman named Judy Young (she later became Judy Saunders). Because of
the purposeful life she lived, the University of Iowa School of Education
has established a scholarship, the Judith Young Saunders Scholarship in her
name and memory. My wife Sharon and I recently attended the 2013 awards
presentation. What a marvelous experience it was.
      As longtime Monitor readers know, Judy was totally blind. She was an
Iowa Commission for the Blind, Kenneth Jernigan student in the early 1960s,
and like many of us she believed Dr. Jernigan absolutely when he said,
"Judy, you can be anything you want to be."
      Following her Jernigan "empowerment," the bold young Judy decided that
she wanted to teach young children in the public schools, but she soon
learned that, to that point in our history, no blind elementary teachers
were working in Iowa. Then, to make matters worse, it wasn't much later
that she learned to her dismay that the University of Iowa refused to
accept blind students at all into its School of Education. Its
administrators and faculty argued that one must have sight in order to
teach young children competently and safely. (For the complete Judy Young
Saunders story and what Kenneth Jernigan did to get her the opportunity for
acceptance into the University of Iowa's School of Education and then to
get her the opportunity for her first public school teaching job, see the
article, "An Affectionate Validation," in the November 1995 issue of the
Braille Monitor.)
      Judy did complete her Jernigan training; she did get into the
University of Iowa; she did complete the School of Education's rigorous
programs successfully; and then she did become Iowa's first blind
elementary public school classroom teacher. In 1967 she traveled to Los
Angeles to attend the annual convention of the National Federation of the
Blind. While there, she met a young blind chiropractor from North Dakota by
the name of Curtis Saunders. Eventually they married; Judy moved to North
Dakota; and, before long, what do you know?--Judy became North Dakota's
first blind elementary public school teacher, too. Wow, what an amazing
      The popular couple soon had three children-all boys. Life was good in
Devils Lake, North Dakota. Also before long Judy began providing incredible
inspiration for the many blind public school teachers who were to come
after her. Then tragedy struck. Judy developed cancer, and she died in
1981, at the age of thirty-six. Only a few short years later (1994), Curt
also developed cancer, and he too died rather quickly.
      By 1995 Judy's remarkable story had become ancient history and almost
folklore in the National Federation of the Blind, when I made a trip from
Tucson to do some staff training for Minnesota State Services for the Blind
in Minneapolis. But, on my flight home to Tucson, I had an amazing
experience. By chance I sat beside a young Minneapolis businessman named
Mark Hewitson. Judy Young Saunders had been his fourth-grade teacher in
Devils Lake, North Dakota. I had always known what a wonderful teacher she
had been and also what a tremendous role model she was for the blind who
would come after her in the blind civil rights movement. I had often used
her success story in teaching and stimulating others. But what a
heartwarming experience it was to have my personal knowledge validated by
one of her enthusiastic and appreciative students. We had a joyous talk on
our trip from Minneapolis to Arizona.
      It was this experience that moved me to write the article, "An
Affectionate Validation." But now you need to know, as Paul Harvey used to
say, "The rest of the story." For Judy's story doesn't end with the 1995
Braille Monitor article either. Judy's mother Kathryn continued to be a
loyal Federationist and a Braille Monitor reader long after Judy's death.
She saw the article, and, after she read it, she circulated it throughout
the entire Young family. Eventually the article and the Braille Monitor
itself became the impetus for the establishment at the University of Iowa
of the Judith Young Saunders Scholarship.
      The scholarship was established and funded in 2011 by Judy's uncle,
James H. (Jim) Burke, and her brother, Richard J. Young. Jim Burke tells me
that the family had always been proud of Judy and her many achievements
(she was the family hero), but it was only when they read the Monitor
article that they understood that Judy was actually an American hero. They
decided then and there that it would be appropriate to create and fund a
scholarship in Judy's memory for future blind students in the School of
Education at the U of I.
      Late last year I had to be in Iowa City for some medical care. Though
Jim Burke and I had spoken by phone several times through the years, we had
never met in person. So Sharon and I took this opportunity to get together
with him for lunch. Jim is one very proud uncle. He told us that a
scholarship luncheon and award ceremony would take place on Friday, April
5. He said that the dean of the School of Education, Dr. Colangelo, hosts
this event each year both to honor the donors of the scholarships and to
announce and recognize the new winners. He asked Sharon and me to come, and
of course we were honored to do so.
      So on April 5 we drove the 120 miles from Des Moines to Iowa City to
attend and participate in the event. It was a fine affair. Sharon and I
were proud to be able to sit with Uncle Jim Burke and the 2013 Judith Young
Saunders Scholarship winner, Ashley Kielty, who is earning her master's
degree in English and Spanish at the U of I. She was blinded in one eye in
an automobile accident.
      We also had a very special surprise. I wrote earlier that Judy had
three sons. Her middle son Mark, who lives and works in the Minneapolis
area, was able to attend and participate. He was on a business trip from
Minneapolis to Chicago and was able to squeeze in both a visit with his
great uncle and attendance at the awards luncheon as a part of his trip.
      Sharon tells me that Mark looks remarkably like his mom and that he is
one handsome young man. His attendance and participation made our day
complete. Talking with Mark, we learned much more than we had already known
about Judy and her life. This should conclude the saga of Judy Young
Saunders, and perhaps it will, but perhaps it won't either. What a
wonderful tribute it would be both to Judy and to the Braille Monitor if,
like "Validation," this story were to motivate a family member or friend
from another family to establish a similar university scholarship in the
name and memory of yet another blind American hero! Who knows? Strange and
unusual things do happen, don't they?
      Finally, Jim and Richard, we of the National Federation of the Blind
wish to thank you sincerely for establishing and funding the Judith Young
Saunders Scholarship at the University of Iowa. What a fine expression of
generosity, kindness, and love your action was. And Judy, as I remember and
think about you, I shall never forget the emotions and words of that former
student of yours when he said at the end of our plane ride together,
"Without a doubt, she was the best teacher I ever had; I just loved her!"
Giving a Dream

      One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to
assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the
Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not
merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will
directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.

Seize the Future

      The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities
that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest
benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is
leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to
provide more:
 . Helping the NFB fulfill its mission
 . Realizing income tax savings through a charitable deduction
 . Making capital gain tax savings on contributions of appreciated assets
 . Providing retained payments for the life of a donor or beneficiary
 . Eliminating or lowering the federal estate tax in certain situations
 . Reducing estate settlement costs

NFB programs are dynamic:
 . Making the study of science and math a real possibility for blind
 . Providing hope and programs for seniors losing vision
 . Promoting state and local programs to help blind people become first-
   class citizens
 . Educating the public about blind people's true potential
 . Advancing technology helpful to the blind
 . Creating a state-of-the-art library on blindness
 . Training and inspiring professionals working with the blind
 . Providing critical information to parents of blind children
 . Mentoring blind job seekers
      Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further
information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Sean Ziadeh]
         Low-Vision Specialists: An Impediment to Meeting Patients'
                            Rehabilitation Needs?
                               by Sean Ziadeh

      From the Editor: Sean Ziadeh is a relatively new member of the
National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. As he relates in the
following article, he knew he had a problem before the medical profession
did, and, once they understood that they could not give him back his lost
vision, they were done with him. We have heard this story many times, and
the problem for most blind people is, not that they have been told that
their vision can't be restored, but that they are shown to the door with no
discussion of resources, no examples of successful blind people, and no
instructions about where to turn for information and inspiration. Here is
how this story played out in Sean's life:

      I was eight years old when it became apparent that I had a vision
problem. Our family eye doctor was puzzled. He could not detect an issue
with the eye. Based on my reading of the eye charts, however, he claimed
that I should not be able to see an eighteen-wheeler coming down the
street. He could not reconcile his test results with my mother's testimony
that I rode my bike throughout the neighborhoods, played video games, and
was an avid racquetball player. His conclusion: I must be lying about what
I could see to gain special attention from my parents.
      Unwilling to believe my poor vision was an elaborate hoax for
attention, my mother took me to various vision specialists. For the next
three years I was drawn out of school for an array of tests--everything
from having probes attached to my temples, to immobilizing my head before a
monitor for hours at a time, to CT scans. Often my mother dealt with a
young child frustrated by having to go to another appointment. I did not
understand what they were doing to me; all I knew was that I wanted it to
      I was about thirteen years old when my parents and I received the
definitive answer from a neuro-ophthalmologist. I was diagnosed with
congenital optic nerve atrophy. Basically there was little function in my
optic nerve, which conducts signals from the eye to the visual cortex in
the brain. The bad news was that I am legally blind. The good news was that
this specific cause of my low vision should not get worse. The low-vision
specialist remarked that we must be happy to have a diagnosis finally. He
then uttered what may have been the most unfortunate words. He wished us
luck and directed us to the check-out window.
      After all the years of uncertainty and unpleasant tests, we were left
with nothing more than a diagnosis and a final farewell. For the next few
years I struggled to get through school as the amount of reading increased
and textbook fonts decreased, aided by nothing more than drugstore-
purchased magnifiers. My grades were very poor, in significant contrast to
those of my two older brothers, who excelled in their studies and
extracurricular activities. For my part, not much was expected. I was just
      As so often happens in life, coincidence and plain luck finally
brought me some hope when I was approaching the latter part of my junior
year in high school. For reasons I cannot recall, I was in the school
library, which I seldom visited since reading was not my favorite task. It
just happened that the regular school librarian was sick that day, and the
substitute librarian was a former employee of the Michigan Commission for
the Blind. When she saw me struggling to read, she approached me and asked
what the problem was and whether she could help. I could explain very
little since little had ever been explained to me about my condition.
      This kind woman requested a meeting with my parents. She asked several
questions regarding my condition and what assistance I was receiving, which
was none. This was before the Internet and Google made researching medical
conditions and available resources much easier. She was concerned and upset
that we were not notified about the services and organizations available
for the visually impaired and their caregivers. She made certain that for
my final year of high school I would receive large-print books and become a
client of the Michigan Commission for the Blind. Although there was some
delay in my receiving the large-print books at the beginning of my senior
year, I was admittedly excited about my ability to read assignments quickly
and more accurately than I had been able to do with the drugstore
magnifiers. This improvement was reflected in my grades as well.
      My grade point average before large-print books hovered around 2.0. My
grades quickly rose to over 3.7 my final year. I also recall taking a
national standardized chemistry test during my senior year, which was
offered in large print. I scored in over the 90th percentile, and I did not
even enjoy chemistry. Being impressed by my academic achievement once I had
been provided with some accommodations for my vision, the University of
Michigan in Ann Arbor accepted me into its undergraduate program.
      My grades improved significantly once large-print text books were
provided. However, I might have leveraged other skills and accommodations
if only they had been offered. A closed-circuit television, audio books,
reader services, cane travel training, and screen-magnification devices
could have helped me. Rehabilitative services would have introduced me to
these items and many other skills useful for the blind and visually
impaired much earlier in life.
      I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had not entered the
library that day in high school and had a chance encounter with a former
Michigan Commission for the Blind employee. I predict I would not have
earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and then go on
to receive both a law degree and an MBA from Michigan State University. In
fact, I have no idea what would have happened to me at all.
      One thing is certain: too often a significant gap in our health care
system occurred for ensuring that individuals diagnosed with legal
blindness or visual impairments are properly and expeditiously directed to
rehabilitation services. Patients would be better served and their
difficulties might be mitigated if rehabilitation occurs soon after
diagnosis. Vision specialists are on the front line in suggesting
opportunities to address the functional and psycho-social ramifications of
living with low or no vision. Steps must be taken to ensure that all those
newly diagnosed with visual impairments are headed in the right direction
for available resources. Personal experience and conversations with other
legally blind friends and colleagues suggest that little if any direction
is being given to patients.
      Theories offered for this lack of direction include: It is not the
role of low-vision specialists to prescribe rehabilitation services. Their
duty consists of making the diagnosis of the vision impairment, and no
more. Another possibility is that doctors feel personal and professional
failure when they cannot correct vision deficiencies. It is as if what they
cannot cure, they will ignore. Other explanations for why low-vision
specialists are not ensuring a seamless transition from diagnosis to
rehabilitation may exist. However, understanding the motives of the vision
specialists is of less importance than trying to change this tendency.
      To influence change in the profession, low-vision specialists should
consider this statistic: in 2011 the unemployment rate among the visually
disabled was as high as 73 percent, depending on the location within the
United States. These people were twice as likely to be below the poverty
line.[1] Half of people with a visual impairment suffer from alcohol abuse,
and 35 percent experience drug abuse.[2] More than a third of blind and
visually impaired people may suffer from depression[3] and face an elevated
risk for suicide.[4]
      If made aware of these secondary diagnoses, the professionals
diagnosing the onset of low vision or blindness would likely try to do more
for their patients. If not, an argument could be made that these doctors
are violating the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath, vowing to do no harm.
Unfortunately it appears the practice of leaving their patients without
advice on rehabilitation opportunities continues. In a recent visit to my
low-vision specialist in January of 2013, I inquired about this issue. It
was her opinion that, once she makes the determination of legal blindness,
it is the responsibility of school districts to provide the necessary
      Problems exist with this position, however. She did not elaborate on
the accommodations that she might recommend or agencies that might help
ensure that necessary accommodations are actually provided in a timely
manner. And, if the patient is not of school age, she might not make any
suggestions for rehabilitation at all. Even more important, providing
accommodations for performing well in school does not address the many
psycho-social and emotional aspects of living as a blind or visually
impaired person, particularly at the time of the first diagnosis.
      It is time for a change. Advocates for the blind and visually impaired
must call upon low-vision specialists to direct their patients to crucial
rehabilitation services. This could help patients face the new challenges
of living with low or no vision and live a more fulfilling, independent,
and productive life. Bringing awareness to the professional organizations
or associations these doctors belong to is a start. Approaching state
legislatures may be another avenue to follow, leading to implementation of
public policy requiring counseling about rehabilitation options once a
diagnosis is made.
      A consultation as short as ten minutes and the provision of pamphlets
to the patient or parents of the patient may go a long way toward improving
the outlook for the patient. The key to such consultations is emphasizing
the importance of rehabilitation and the negative impact vision loss may
have on an individual if proper post-diagnosis measures are not taken. The
financial expense of providing such direction is minuscule, but the
devastating costs to the patient lacking necessary services after diagnosis
may be immense. So what can we do to effectuate this change? It is an issue
too important to be ignored any longer.
      Rehabilitation: A Contract between America and Her Blind Citizens
                               by Gary Wunder

      From the Editor: This presentation was made on April 5, 2011, at the
statewide staff meeting of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and
Visually Impaired. Bob Deaton, the assistant director of the agency, heard
a version of these remarks at the 2010 national convention and thought
agency staff would benefit from hearing them. They still seem relevant, so
here they are:

      I want to begin by thanking Bob Deaton for asking me to come. It's
flattering when someone says he wants to hear you speak, and this is all
the more exciting when he's already heard a version of it once and
apparently likes it enough that he wants his colleagues to hear it as well.
I don't often give the same speech twice. For starters, I question how many
people want to hear me speak the first time, and frankly I get bored with
speeches I try to do more than once.
      When I was invited to speak to the rehab people last summer at the
national convention, I was elated. I've never taken a single class in the
field, and, unlike many who have been asked to address that conference, I
have no certification demonstrating expertise. What I was given then, and
what you are giving me today, is a wonderful chance to say thank you for
something I value more than anything except the life given me by God and
the love and support I get from my family and the parents who raised me.
This is how much rehab has given to me, and only someone completely
oblivious to the blessings he has been given could be anything but honored
by the chance to express this gratitude.
      As a customer who has benefited immensely from the rehabilitation
system, I have learned a great deal about the good things America can bring
to her citizens when she decides they are deserving and worth the
investment. Unfortunately I've also learned how the granting of some money,
a title, and a little bit of power can turn some very angry and bitter
people, who believe they are generally underappreciated anyway, into real
abusers of the students they are supposed to serve.
      I should preface my remarks about rehab by saying that I have
experienced it in only one state, Missouri. Some of you know that Missouri
has a pretty bad reputation in certain quarters of the National Federation
of the Blind because of its decision to block the distribution of our free
literature to its clients, simply because the ACB, which has no similar
information, claims that the agency's giving out our material amounts to
      Putting all of this aside for a moment, over the last twenty to
thirty years we have pressured the Missouri agency into sending people
almost anywhere they want to go for an education and buying them any kind
of equipment they need in order to be successful. I know this is not true
in all states, but, if anything, my state goes overboard to say yes when
asked to provide an education and the blindness-related equipment to make
it happen.
      When I came to the rehab system in the early 1970s, the general
orientation was that we were spending tax money and therefore were handling
a very limited resource for which agency officials were reluctant to risk
their necks. Seldom were services just offered; if you needed something,
you had better be prepared to argue for it. In many cases the argument had
to go well beyond making a coherent case to your counselor. Getting what
you wanted required that you engage in meetings with higher-ups, formal
appeals, fair hearings, and the enlistment of an advocacy organization to
help you. Over the years, with changes in the law and repeated beatings
which we have administered to the agency, Rehabilitation Services for the
Blind in Missouri has done an about-face. There is trust where once there
was suspicion. We call the agency director our friend, and he welcomes the
opportunity to visit with us as a reprieve from his administrative duties
and a chance to mix with the people he really is working to serve. Mark
Laird would rather be a counselor or a job specialist, but he is too
competent for his superiors to let him stay there, so he finds himself at
the helm.
      Contrary to the practices of the past, the orientation of our
Missouri agency is to give people what they want when they want it, with
little regard for whether or not they are really ready to handle the rigors
of the educational experience using the blindness skills they possess. If I
could change the direction of rehabilitation and have a say in the way
decisions get made, I would opt for a system which would almost never say
no but which would much more frequently say "Yes, but after...." and then
require and provide the blindness services necessary to ensure that a
student's performance is based on his or her ability and not some deficit
in the skills of blindness.
      Dr. Jernigan used to tell us that everybody has the right to fail,
but there's a tremendous difference between having the right to fail and
being set up to fail when an agency abandons its responsibility to help a
client determine whether or not he or she is really ready to face the
challenge of technical training or college. It is my observation that far
too many students fail in their attempts because, when they say they don't
have time to learn the skills of blindness, we acquiesce and send them into
an environment where they are ill-equipped to cope. If you know that a
client is unable to write you a literate letter requesting service, why in
the world would you send him to a college or university which will presume
a minimal level of competence even in its beginning English composition
classes? If you have someone who clearly cannot travel from point A to
point B in an area which should be familiar to her, how can you expect that
she will succeed on a university campus where students routinely have to
travel a quarter of a mile or more between classes in less than ten
minutes? Some failures provide tremendous learning experiences, but some
forever close doors. You won't be a clinical psychologist, a veterinarian,
or a psychiatrist if after thirty hours of classes you are forced to
withdraw from school. Why not condition vocational training on the
completion of an intro to writing class and on a bit of O & M training? For
some clients the key is a stay at a quality rehabilitation center, and we
shouldn't be reluctant to say so and to put some teeth into what we say. I
suppose the system that seems to say yes at every opportunity is better
than the one that once took every opportunity to say no, but I think there
is a wiser in-between course that would serve everyone involved better.
      If you've managed to stay with me so far, then you've heard the worst
I have to say about your profession. When I look at my own rehabilitation
experience, I have to say that rehab ranks right up there with the National
Library Service in proving that some government programs can and do work,
that good things can happen when we decide collectively to invest in our
fellow human beings, and that there is something magical in the contract we
create when blind people and the rehabilitation system enter into an
agreement which says, "I believe in you enough to invest a significant
amount of money and time, trusting that in turn you will make this
investment worthwhile by living the full and rich life desired by all
      I like to tell the story of rehabilitation at its best, for my own
political view is that we spend far too much time kicking government and
being sarcastic and degrading when we speak of programs that should belong
to us. Too often we also fail to say good things about genuinely dedicated
people who make their living by really trying to do good and changing lives
for the better.
      I understand that we in the Federation take our fair share of shots
at the rehabilitation system, but I believe we do so for constructive
purposes that not only serve to focus public attention on the shortcomings
of the system, but also highlight how we can make it better. It may also be
that the rehabilitation system sometimes serves as a convenient whipping
boy: a group of agencies powerful enough to do good or cause harm, but not
so powerful or high up in the government that they can simply ignore what
we say and go on about their business.
      I began by saying that my dealings with the rehabilitation system
revealed to me the best and the worst in people. The best came through when
a rehabilitation counselor assured me that I could indeed live alone,
manage my own grooming and house cleaning, label my food, and learn to cook
it. This was good news for a boy whose grandmother had told him that he was
very smart but that the Welfare would still have to come in each day to
make sure that he had brushed his teeth and washed his face.
      I can't tell you how liberating it was when I started carrying around
a writing pen rather than a signature stamp and a bulky and leaky ink pad
because somebody in rehab said I could learn to write my name and taught me
to do it. I don't have the best signature in the world, but it's good
enough for most of the card companies in the country, and the utility
companies never reject my checks.
      On the not-so-positive side of my experience with rehab was the raw
exercise of power which became clear to me as a high school senior when I
received a letter saying I must attend a summer orientation program in
Columbia, Missouri, some hundred-fifty miles from where I lived. My plan
for the summer between high school and college was to go to the Seeing Eye
to get a dog, for which I'd waited more than a year and a half. I was an
early registrant, scheduled to attend in July of 1973, but the letter I
received in May declared that the summer orientation program was mandatory.
Being young, determined, and rather full of myself in the belief that I
could persuade anybody to do anything I wanted, I set up a meeting with the
district supervisor for the Kansas City office to discuss this letter and
my summer plans.
      When my mother and I entered the building, we were ushered into an
office where the district supervisor pointed us to chairs, went behind his
desk, reclined in his own swivel chair, put his feet up on his desk, and
said, "Well, young man, let's hear it."
      I went through a well-rehearsed speech about how I came to find out
about guide dogs, how I already had summer plans to go and get one of these
magical creatures, and how I was certain that this form letter, while well
meant, could not have been written with the intention of changing my long-
held dream to go to Morristown.
      At the end of my presentation the district supervisor removed his
feet from his desk, sat straight up in his chair, looked directly at me,
and said, "Young man, you say you want to get a dog. Now why you would want
to get one of those things is beyond me, for, if you can travel with a
cane, I think it would be nothing but a nuisance in your life. Let me tell
you a thing or two about your magical creatures. Dogs stink. Dogs shed.
Dogs make messes you have to clean up or other people have to walk around.
Dogs make other people uncomfortable. Few people will offer you rides in
their cars. You'd be better off without a dog, but the real issue is that
our agency has sent you a letter saying you're going to an orientation
program in Columbia. Now, young sir, if your parents have the means to pay
for your college tuition, your books, and your housing, then you're free to
do whatever you wish with your summer. But, if you intend to attend college
under the auspices of the Bureau for the Blind, you will be in Columbia
from early June through the beginning of August. Go home; talk it over with
your parents; the decision is up to you."
      When my mother and I left that meeting, I was humiliated. I had never
heard the word "auspices," but it was perfectly clear to me that I had not
won the day. What bothered me more than that the decision hadn't gone my
way was the arrogance and tone of the meeting. This man was not friendly.
He was not courteous. My mother was ashamed and almost in tears. Never in
her thirty-eight years had she been treated so dismissively by a person she
was inclined to respect because of his position. Neither of us came away
feeling that the man who had just spoken with us respected us or felt we
had anything of consequence to say.
      By disposition my mother was mild compared with my father. My dad
didn't take guff from anyone, and, truth be told, he felt it his right to
administer guff in whatever portion he pleased. So, with my confidence
rising as we drove home, I thought about the anger which would be provoked
in this strong giant of a man, my father, and, though I was saddened by the
fact that I couldn't sell the idea of my summer plan on my own, I rather
looked forward to the confrontation I was sure was to come. What I really
looked forward to was the spectacular butt-kicking that would occur when
District Supervisor Cordle met Mr. John Wunder. That would be a day one
cocky state employee would remember.
      When Dad got home after a twelve-hour workday, my mother and I barely
gave him time to eat before we began talking about our visit to the rehab
agency. His reaction was one I didn't expect. He let a bit of time go by,
absorbing what we said in silence, and then, in a subdued tone, he said,
"Son, I understand that what you went through today wasn't what you
expected. The man you talked with should have treated you better, whether
or not he agreed with what you had to say. Now I know you're ready for me
to go down there and set things right, but son, the truth of the matter is
that the state of Missouri is offering you something that I just can't give
you. If that man says you have to go to a program and wait on getting your
dog so you can get a college education, then that's what you have to do.
Sometimes you have to play by other people's rules. I was in the army and
the merchant marines. I got busted twice for trying to play by my own
rules, so, believe me, I know. If you don't like that man's rules or the
way he treated you, you go through school, get yourself a college
education, and then see what you can do to fight with that man when he no
longer has the upper hand."
      That day changed my life forever. I was a reader of the Braille
Monitor in 1973, and, to tell you the truth, I found it very entertaining
but not very credible. So protected was I that I just couldn't believe the
events chronicled there really happened to blind people. Either the people
who were discriminated against were people who couldn't argue their way out
of a paper bag, or the Federation was just making a lot of noise about
nothing so they could raise a little money. But, when I learned that
someone could shut me down with a word and treat me as if I were some kind
of a fool whose opinion was worth far less than his time, I went back and
reread those old magazines, and this time it was easy for me to substitute
Gary Wunder as the main character in many of the stories.
      Some of you who are still awake might be saying to yourself, I see a
contradiction in what he's saying. He starts by arguing that the
rehabilitation agency too often says yes, when the proper response should
be first to require a bit of extra training to increase the chance of
success. Now he's telling us that he became a committed member of the
Federation, precisely because somebody made him take that extra training.
      I readily concede the point, noting that my failure to get my way was
far less difficult to swallow than was the way I was told no and to get
about my business. You see, I did have skill deficits which the summer
program helped me identify and begin to address. My original plan, almost
laughable now, was to go off and get my dog (something I still think was a
good idea), and then go back to the University of Missouri at Kansas City,
where I would go to school during the day, go home to live with my
grandmother at night, and visit with my parents every weekend.
      When I got to Columbia, Missouri, a town which I now modestly claim
to be the hub of the universe, I decided that Grandma's house was no place
to spend the evening, and going home for the weekend was something I should
try to work in once every four or six weeks, whether I could really spare
the time or not. This fantastic city actually allowed me to walk from my
dormitory to my bank, to restaurants, and to the local record store, which
managed to get more than its fair share of my monthly SSI and maintenance
checks. When I moved from the small town of Cleveland, Missouri, which at
the time boasted a population of two-hundred and sixteen, the only place I
could walk was the post office. Well, in fairness there was the gas
station, but back then gas stations were really just gas stations and not
the convenience stores we see today.
      Being able to walk from place to place brought another change in my
life, and it was probably the real reason I didn't want to go home to
Grandma. When you live in a little town like Cleveland, the only way you
can take a gal out on a date is to pick her up from her house and deliver
her home again. Being blind made that impossible without a chauffeur or a
chaperone, and on my family's budget it would have been a chaperone, my
mother, and that was not, let me repeat, not cool. When you live in a town
like Columbia and can walk everywhere you need to go, suddenly
transportation isn't a barrier to dating, and, if you're Gary Wunder, you
soon realize that girls are not repulsed by you, and, believe it or not,
some of them even want to spend time with you. I will admit here to
becoming a bit carried away with the romance part of things that summer.
Once I even decided to live really on the edge and scheduled three dates in
one night. If you start early and finish late and if you're willing to lie
shamelessly to girls one and two about your crushing study schedule, it can
be done. Yes, I was a jerk and I loved it!
      Before I close today I want to thank you for something else. I looked
for the words to say this when I gave my speech in July but couldn't find
them. Maybe, thanks to David Foster Wallace, I have them today. I want to
thank you for making my life difficult. When I was in high school, I
thought I knew a lot about the world. I knew about people of different
races who said they were treated unfairly and who rioted and burned cities
to show their displeasure; I knew about women who demanded equality with
men, when everybody in my small universe knew women had the world by the
tail; I knew about patriotic people who went to war and those others of the
same age who had the opportunity to go to college and wasted their time in
public demonstrations and destroying the campuses we built for their
education. I knew about the odd people who were confused about their sexual
identity and the sex of those they should love. I knew about the
dissatisfied of the world and wondered why they made so much noise. Then
you people decided I should go away to the big university and meet some of
these weird and different human beings. Slowly you made me confront and
eventually question many of the things I had known to be true. I was forced
to read books by people I had never credited with a reasonable point of
view. Not only did I have to read their books, but I had to demonstrate an
understanding of what they said. Dr. King preached nonviolence. Malcolm X
was more than a radical spouting hate and leading demonstrations. Gloria
Steinem had a reason for her anger and, horror of horrors, she was
articulate. I still love one of the quotes attributed to her: "A woman
needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." She popularized that statement,
but it was first coined by Irina Dunn, a spirited Australian who served for
a time in the senate of her country.
      Thanks for robbing me of the superiority I was convinced belonged to
me in the same way kings believed they were the superiors of others, by
divine right. Thanks for seeing that I was paired with a black man when it
came time in my class on electricity to wire a house and for revealing that
his was a kinder, gentler soul than the soul of his partner. He was also
better at figuring out the power required to run our house and what circuit
breakers to use in which parts. Thanks for introducing me to women whose
mothers did the same jobs as men and made two-thirds of what they did.
Thanks for shattering my image of the ill-tempered easterner by seeing that
I hired a gal from the Bronx to work with me in computer science classes.
She never once lost her temper when having to read lines of code over and
over again or when she had to help me retype those old punch cards we used
before there were computer terminals. "You can learn this, Hon," was her
constant refrain as she gently encouraged me to try again. Oh, she was also
the first person who tried to teach me to dance, and I'll never forget the
warmth and tenderness of that embrace. We can sing about country girls if
that's what sells records, but wow-what a woman this city girl was, and no,
it never went further than the dance.
      Mostly I thank you for putting me in touch with people who were less
interested in telling me what to think than in showing me how to think;
people who were less interested in my opinions than in how I came to them;
people who cared less about whether I shared their view than they did how I
had come to mine and whether those views could stand the light of day; the
constraints and rules dictated by reason; and fair consideration for the
feelings, wants, and needs of others. You made me look into the soul of the
young man who functioned too much from default behavior and not nearly
enough from a thoughtful and compassionate point of view. David Foster
Wallace expresses this far better than I can, but you believers in the
normality of blind people made me join a wider universe and helped to show
me that I was not the center of it, the keeper of the keys to all wisdom,
and the superior human being I thought I was because I was male, white,
middle class, heterosexual, Christian, and from the Midwest. You put me in
an environment where I had no choice but to consider points of view as
something other than strange or bizarre or foolish or weird or perverted.
My church taught me to recite the Golden Rule; your giving me exposure to a
world far different from the one I had known taught me something about how
to practice it.
      Some people claim that college robs people of their values and turns
conservatives into liberals. I disagree. College didn't convert a
conservative into a liberal. It made me confront beliefs I thought so
elemental and self-evident that they needed no defense. The college
experience helped me become a man who tends to believe that "conservative"
and "liberal" are labels that only hint at the complicated beliefs we
employ. I am leery of the people who believe all the answers can be found
in experiences of the past and equally leery of those who believe all good
comes from collective action or a changed human nature which has advanced
as a result of evolution.
      My time is nearly exhausted, and so too is my audience, I'm sure. I
want to thank you for the good you do, for your ability to take people who
would otherwise sit at home and endure the passing of time and help them
make something of that time. I want to thank you for being representatives
of a government program that brings credit to the idea of a state-federal
relationship that works to help her people become all that their drive and
talent will let them be. Thank you for enduring the jokes about the
government bureaucrats as you quietly go above and beyond the forty-hour
week to change people's lives. Last but not least, let me thank you
personally for what you have done for me. You took a kid who knew his
family's work ethic demanded he make something of himself, and you gave him
the means actually to do it. What more could any American ask, and what
greater gift could any group of professionals give to America's citizens?
You folks really shine, and I am blessed because you've given me that same
[PHOTO CAPTION: Glenn Ervin]
            I Was Reported to the Police for Crossing the Street
                               by Glenn Ervin

      From the Editor: Sometimes it is tiresome to be blind: the extra
effort required to read and label items, to get material in a form we can
read, or to get where we want to go when we want to go there. But one other
thing makes being blind difficult-the knowledge that we are always being
observed. Whether this results from the curiosity of the sighted or a
concern that we will need help, the outcome is the same. Sometimes even
well-intended concern can get to be too much, as we see in this article in
which Glen Irvin describes an evening walk that turned out to be more than
he bargained for. Here is what he says:

      We are fortunate to live in a country in which all citizens have the
right to pursue the vocation of our choice and recreational activities, as
long as they are legal and do not infringe on the rights of others. As
pedestrians we have the right to travel in areas that are open to the
public whenever we choose. But I was recently reminded that some people
seem to think that these rights are not for everyone, namely the disabled.
      I am a counselor with the state of Nebraska, and my job is to teach
blind Nebraskans the alternative skills that will enable them to live
independently, such as Braille, cooking and cleaning, and walking with a
long white cane. One reality that I explain to my clients as well as to
people who can see is that the most difficult aspect of blindness is not
that we have little or no eyesight but that every day we have to deal with
people who are unfamiliar with blindness and who don't know that we can do
pretty much anything we want other than driving a motor vehicle.
      The other day I was taking my usual evening five-mile walk. Sometimes
along my walk I cross a fairly busy street to do business in a particular
store. When I was finished with my errand that day, I crossed back to the
other side of the street, where I was called over by a couple of police
officers who told me that they had been called because I was crossing the
street. They had observed me, realized that I was safe, and concluded that
they did not need to have been called. Often crossing a street takes a
blind person a bit longer than it would take a sighted person to do
visually because we rely on interpreting the sound of traffic. Sighted and
blind folks with normal hearing can hear traffic blocks away and can
determine its speed by the sound of the engines. When a car passes, blind
pedestrians must wait until the vehicle is far enough away that its sound
does not interfere with hearing oncoming traffic. This is not an amazing
skill; it is just a technique people can easily develop if they give it the
proper attention. I teach this skill along with the use of the long white
cane, which when held upright should reach from the ground to one's chin in
order to give proper warning of objects in the path.
      I must admit that I am outraged that this incident escalated to the
point of sending officers to the scene. They clearly had more important
things to do than making sure I was safe crossing a street. I know that
some people think it must be difficult to do anything without sight or that
they could never do the things they see blind folks doing and therefore
assume that blind people must need assistance. At the beginning of
blindness training it is understandably difficult for someone who used to
have normal sight to adapt to doing things nonvisually. But, when blind
people are out walking with a white cane, they are doing so because they
have made the decision to travel independently, whether they are new at it
or are skilled travelers. This is an individual choice, and happily people
have the right to choose where they walk in this country. Others, blind and
sighted, make the decision to take on far more dangerous activities, such
as climbing a mountain or jumping out of airplanes, and we don't call the
police to check on them, because we live in a society where people have the
right to choose their activities, whether or not others think they are
dangerous. It seems to me that the person who made the call to the police
should have been asked whether the blind pedestrian being reported was
using a long white cane or a dog with a harness. In my case the caller
should have been informed that the police had no business offering
assistance to the blind person unless contacted by the person himself or
notified that he appeared to be under attack or injured.
      I want the public to know that, if blind people need assistance, we
are totally capable of asking for the help we need. This may seem obvious,
but surprisingly the public practices discrimination every day against the
blind without even realizing it. This is why the difficult aspect of
blindness is not that we don't see, but that people treat us with little
respect. This is largely why folks who should be using a white cane refuse
to do so, preferring to fumble around like the cartoon character, Mr.
      For example, I am frequently at a restaurant with a sighted person,
and the server refers to me in the third person with statements like "Would
he like a Braille menu?" or "What would he like to order?" Another example
of this lack of simple respect comes when people put their hands on me
without asking. How often do people put their hands on a perfect stranger?
Yet blind people are often grabbed and pulled somewhere, even though they
haven't asked for help. This is not to say that people who are blind don't
ever need assistance, but I believe that the experience of blindness would
be far easier if others would just allow us the dignity of asking for
assistance when we want it. A simple "hello" provides the opportunity for a
blind person to ask for assistance or to provide the person wishing to help
the assurance that it isn't needed.
      We all know that the pedestrian has the right of way in traffic. But
something that most people don't know is that since the 1960s the White
Cane Safety Laws in every state give the blind the same rights as other
pedestrians as long as they are using white canes or service dogs.
Governors frequently recognize this law each year on October 15, in the
form of a proclamation. But teaching the public about blindness requires
more than proclamations-it requires personal contact. For this reason I
have offered to do in-service training for our police department, for the
emergency dispatchers, and for any other branch of local government that
may be called upon to help the blind. My goal is someday to live in a
society in which a blind person crossing a street is commonplace and hardly
garners a second glance. Making this dream a reality will require work.
This work is part of what I do, and the belief that it will make a
difference is an important part of who I am.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Belo Cipriani]
     Hiring Blind: The Misconceptions Facing America's Visually Impaired
                              by Belo Cipriani

      From the Editor: Belo Cipriani is a freelance writer, speaker, and
author of Blind: A Memoir. Belo was the keynote speaker for the 2011
Americans with Disabilities Act celebration in San Francisco and was a
guest lecturer at both Yale University and the University of San Francisco.
Amber Clovers, his first work of fiction, will be published in 2013. He
welcomes anyone to contact him at <belocipriani.com>, or on Twitter
@Beloism, and Google+. The following piece is reprinted from

      As a recruiting manager staffing for clients such as Google and
Apple, I was concerned about three things: experience, unemployment gaps,
and the probability of the person becoming a long-term employee. I
interviewed few disabled candidates and rarely considered their job
prospects. As a recruiter I rarely debated if or how they would perform the
duties of a position. I soon found a new perspective-one that changed the
way I viewed both the role of the recruiter and the place of people with
disabilities in the job market.

                             A Shift in Thinking

      I was attacked more than six years ago-a beating that caused severe
retinal trauma which left me blind. A year after the attack I found myself
at California's Orientation Center for the Blind, learning new ways to
complete necessary daily tasks. Most significant, I learned that, while I
had helped place hundreds of people in positions at top companies, my own
opportunities and chances of finding a job were slim.
      Members of the blind community warned me that I would need a lot of
patience when I began my job search. I now belonged to a group of people
erroneously viewed by recruiters as unskilled, unproductive, and more
difficult. I didn't need my guide dog Madge to sniff out the irony of my
new situation.
      According to University of Illinois at Chicago professor and
disabilities studies scholar Dr. Lennard Davis, these stereotypes exist in
part because people's misconceptions of the blind are split between
thinking they're completely helpless and brimming with superpowers. These
misconceptions carry over into the business world and can seriously confuse
potential employers.

                       The Misconceptions of Managers

      According to a recent study done by the nonprofit National Industries
for the Blind (NIB), out of 3.5 million blind Americans of working age, a
walloping 70 percent are not employed. And of the 30 percent working, the
majority work for blind organizations. One major reason blind people
struggle to find employment is that public misconceptions of the blind
affect hiring managers' perceptions of potential candidates who are
visually impaired. I'd like to break down a few of these reasons-put out by
the NIB study-and discuss why these misconceptions are fallacies. According
to the NIB study:
      "Among hiring managers, most respondents (54 percent) felt there were
few jobs at their company that blind employees could perform, and 45
percent said accommodating such workers would require `considerable
expense.' " The reality is that a blind person can do any job that involves
a computer, and there are a slew of adaptive tech toys that make most jobs
accessible, such as a portable scanner to read printed material. As for the
purported expense, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, most
accommodations cost less than $1,000, a negligible amount for a serious
      "Forty-two percent of hiring managers believe blind employees need
someone to assist them on the job; 34 percent said blind workers are more
likely to have work-related accidents." This fear can be attributed to some
of our common idioms, e.g., "It's like the blind leading the blind." This
phrase implies poor navigation skills, when the reality is that blind
people often have superb orientation skills due to hours of training by
mobility experts. Far from being clumsy, the visually impaired have an
attention to detail that most sighted people lack. Insurance statistics
back this up: blind people actually have better safety records than their
sighted colleagues.
      "Nineteen percent of hiring managers believe blind employees have a
higher absentee rate." In reality blind people don't actually miss more
time from work. A DuPont study, completed during a twenty-five-year span,
found that disabled people in general have better attendance than 90
percent of their nondisabled colleagues.

                            The Realities of 2013

      The disabled did not get their rights during the Civil Rights
movement and had to wait until the 90s for the Americans with Disabilities
Act to pass. Even now many people assume the blind are unemployable. As a
former recruiter I realize different requirements and considerations need
to be addressed when hiring a visually impaired individual, but, without
changing our perspective on the capabilities of the blind, we can never end
the discrimination that still takes place.
      Some companies such as Google, Apple, and Yahoo! routinely hire
visually impaired employees. The U.S. government-especially the CIA, the
Rehabilitation Services Administration, and the Social Security
Administration-also hires many visually impaired people. Jobs capitalizing
on the unique skills the blind develop are also being created. Givaudan, a
company in the fragrance and flavors business, has developed a special
internship program designed to give the blind work experience. Participants
evaluate fragrances, detecting subtle differences that aid the creative
team. It will take some time to abolish blind stereotypes. However, both
blind and sighted people can contribute to the shift.

                    How Managers Can Improve Inclusivity

      Prejudices toward the blind workforce are not beyond repair. In
addition to a lead-by-example role that managers can take, they can also
become more inclusive by reaching out to groups that cater to the blind to
recruit for potential new hires. Encourage your human resources department
to diversify its pipeline of candidates by recruiting from employment
programs at organizations such as LightHouse in San Francisco and The Lions
Center for the Blind. Hiring a blind person for an internship not only
gives him job experience but also will encourage others to be more open to
considering a person who is blind for a position in the future.
      If a company is serious about inclusivity, then it is also very
important that its website and job application portal be ADA compliant.
Companies can also demonstrate a commitment to diversity by portraying
blind people in their recruitment advertising.

              How the Blind Can Increase Their Chances of Hire

      The reality is that we live in a sighted world, and stereotypes
pervade the workplace. People without sight should bring their adaptive
equipment along to interviews to demonstrate how they would complete
required tasks to give the hiring manager the insight he needs to make a
      Blind job applicants should network in the blind community and get to
know people in their line of work. When they know of a blind person doing a
job similar to the one they are applying for, they should get advice from
him and obtain a reference if possible. Telling a hiring manager about
another blind person in a similar role can help land the job. Finally, no
one should hesitate to report a company if he or she believes
discrimination took place.

                         How Sighted People Can Help

      If you work for a company that does not feature people with
disabilities on its employment page, let your employer know he is not being
inclusive. You can also ask your employer, school, and friends what they
are doing to acknowledge disability awareness month in October.
      Education helps young people crush outdated beliefs at an early age.
In California the FAIR Education Act, which passed in 2011, requires public
schools to include disability education. If you are a parent outside of
California, demand that your school district add disability studies to its
      Finally, perform a quick Google search any time a disabilities
stereotype crosses your mind. Educating yourself on the truth about
disabilities is the best way to eliminate outdated stereotypes. It will
take time to change the collective consciousness of society and root out
wrongful discrimination against people with disabilities. However, people
can help by educating themselves about issues facing blind people today,
discouraging outdated stereotypes, and working to encourage inclusivity in
their workplaces.
[PHOTO CAPTION: Agnes Allen]
                What Did You Say? What's That? Say It Again?
                               by Agnes Allen

      From the Editor: In the April 2013 issue we published an article
entitled "Blindness and the Value of Life," in which we discussed the
decision of two deaf-blind men to end their lives. Since that time we have
received several letters and articles affirming the value of life as people
who are deaf-blind. Here is the one we chose to print. The author, Agnes
Allen, will be familiar; she had an article in the June issue. Here is what
she says:

      I ask you to look up at the moon and the stars-how shining and bright
they are. I ask you to listen to a Beethoven symphony-how majestic and
grand it sounds. Taste a sweet, juicy orange-how succulent. Come smell a
lovely blossoming rose-how fragrant. Pet a soft, furry kitten-how silken.
Can you imagine for a moment what it is like to be bereft of any of our
five remarkable senses? I would like to share with you some of the ways in
which I have personally experienced the loss of two of the sentient gifts
bestowed upon mankind: total vision loss and partial but moderate to severe
hearing loss.
      Most people take sight and hearing for granted, and to be without one
or both of them seems unthinkable. I have been totally blind since early
childhood and have lived with a major hearing deficiency for much of my
adult life. Since I lost my sight very young, my adjustment to my
predicament was a relatively simple matter. Training and education made it
possible to live normally and actively in my world. But developing a
hearing impairment along with blindness as an adult was devastating. I was
neither psychologically nor emotionally ready to cope with this double
whammy, nor could I have foreseen adapting to it in the future. I could not
make eye contact with someone, nor would I be comfortable in communicating
freely with others.
      Yes, wearing hearing aids to a degree enhanced the hearing I had left,
but that is just what they are: hearing aids. I find them to be of very
little help in certain situations. If a person speaking to me turns his or
her head even slightly so as not to face me directly, the spoken words
become unintelligible. I cannot understand what the person sitting across
the table is saying if any other noise is occurring simultaneously, for
example in a restaurant, where talking and clattering music create
background noise. At a social gathering or a meeting, when a joke or funny
remark is being passed along, I cannot join in the ensuing laughter; I sit
in silence and let the whole episode pass me by.
      The pastor of my church has kindly installed an audio system
especially designed to improve the auditory quality of the mass or other
services. When the system is working efficiently, I can clearly hear the
homily and other parts of the mass.
      Prior to the traumatic change in my life engendered by the hearing
loss, I was a successful student, productive employee, and dedicated mother
of three girls. But with the onset of my hearing difficulty I was compelled
to meet new challenges. One of the most important of these was to search
for employment in which sight and hearing were not absolutely crucial. The
skills of Braille literacy had become second nature, and a friend who was a
professional Braille proofreader suggested that I try to find employment as
a proofreader for a nonprofit agency for the blind in Philadelphia. I
followed up on my friend's suggestion and arranged an interview with the
head of the department. After serving in the field of Braille proofreading,
I found employment as a tutor of two blind students in the Vineland, New
Jersey, public schools.
      From time to time I am invited to speak to various groups about
blindness and Braille. Often, if the audiences wish to follow up with
questions or comments, I am besieged by the nagging fear that I will be
unable to hear or understand. To alleviate this anxiety somewhat, I like to
ask someone in the front to repeat what was said when I cannot hear the
original speaker clearly.
      I am certain it would be less stressful to remain at home and avoid
such situations, but how could I live as a recluse and remain happy? I
would become less a person for doing so. It is very easy to isolate oneself
and begin to question, "Why me, Lord?" and feel inferior to those around me
who can see and hear. At such times I must take stock of my own talents and
capabilities, focusing on what I can do, not what I can't do.
      A sense of humor lightens the pain of most hardships. It softens the
vicissitudes imposed by the condition. This is no less true of deaf-
blindness. For example, Bill, a hearing-impaired man said to his friend,
"Joe, I just received a new hearing aid, and it is simply wonderful!"
Joe replies, "Oh, yeah, what kind is it?" Bill responds, "2:30." Then there
was John, who said to his wife, "Susie, go do the bills." Susie retorts,
"Did you say, `Go take a pill?'" In the foregoing witticisms unintelligible
speech is the culprit.
      Hearing technology seems to be keeping moderate pace with general
technology. I have benefitted exceedingly from digital hearing aids,
comparatively speaking. Without them the hearing world shuts down. My
digitals contain a built-in switch which, when activated, allows my hearing
to adjust to different environments. When the switch is on program one, it
sets the tone for normal conversation. When on program two, it reduces
background noise. This mechanism homes in on the targeted voice. When I am
riding in an automobile or a bus, my digitals can be set to diminish the
roar of outside traffic, making it easier to converse with the driver.
      Once I attended a wedding reception at which the surroundings were so
fraught with noise that I could scarcely hear what was being said by the
woman sitting next to me. I could hardly await the return to my peace and
quiet at home. If an interesting topic is introduced at a meeting or social
gathering, it is difficult for me to follow the discussion, no matter how
much I would like to contribute. In such a situation I feel isolated and
excluded. If I ask a question or make a comment, I do not know whether what
I say has any relevance. My tendency is to remain quiet in order to stave
off embarrassment. The acoustics of a room can affect the quality of
hearing. An entire lecture or discourse can be lost or muffled. A sighted
and hearing person may be able to salvage some of the information by
watching the speaker's gestures and other visual clues, but not me.
      When speaking to someone by telephone or face to face and I miss a
word or sentence, I may ask the person to say it again or question, "What's
that?" My companion may patiently repeat the missed word or phrase the
first time, but on the second or third try I sense mounting frustration for
both the other person and me. When I am on the telephone and listening for
an important number, I can write down a wrong number because a nine and a
five, for instance, contain the "i" vowel and are easy to confuse.
Consonants are not always clear.
      When one learns that someone has a hearing difficulty, the tendency
of the person communicating is to raise the voice when all that is needed
may be a clear, modulated voice and clearly enunciated consonants, because
loudness can distort the sound. High frequencies in some women's higher
pitched voices can play havoc with communication.
      Although the human ear has never been replicated, the miracles of
technology are phenomenal. Hearing technology has really made great strides
over the past decades. Gone are the days of old-fashioned hearing
contraptions, which little improved the hearing of the affected individual.
As sophisticated and revolutionary as modern hearing technology has become,
it has yet to transform the original and natural hearing function of the
human ear. Nor do I ever expect it to do that. Of course no one can predict
the future. Who can tell what miracles may be produced for people with
hearing loss? I look forward to a time when it will no longer be necessary
for me to ask, "What's that?" or "Say it again?" or "Beg pardon?" How
spectacular that day will be!

      This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of
the Blind of Minnesota.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Becky Bergmann]

                                Boboli Spread

                              by Becky Bergmann

      Becky Bergmann is the home management instructor at BLIND,
Incorporated, the NFB's adjustment-to-blindness training center in
Minnesota. Federationists who have bought items from the NFB Store at
national convention have likely met her since she is one of those who take
the payments for purchases.

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to 3/4 cup) prepared Hidden Valley ranch dressing, to
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 large Boboli pizza crust

      Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cheeses, dressing, and
artichoke hearts in bowl. Spread on pizza crust. Bake for twenty to thirty
minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Allow to sit about five minutes
before slicing. Slice into pizza-style wedges before serving.

                          Cheese Scalloped Carrots

                              by Becky Bergmann

12 medium carrots, sliced and cooked till just done
8 ounces American or cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup buttered bread crumbs

       Method: Alternate layers of carrots and cheese in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch
baking dish or two-quart casserole dish. In a medium saucepan melt butter
and cook the onion, stirring often, until tender. Stir in flour, salt,
mustard, and pepper and heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir
for one minute. Remove from heat; gradually stir in milk. Heat to boiling
again over low heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for one minute.
Pour sauce over carrots. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top. Bake at 350 degrees
for thirty-five to forty-five minutes. Serves 10.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Joyce Scanlan]

                                Mini Quiches
                              by Joyce Scanlan

      Joyce Scanlan served on our national board and was the NFB of
Minnesota's president for many years. She is the president of our seniors
division. Dinners at Joyce's house are a real treat, and the bidding goes
quite high when such a dinner is auctioned off at our state conventions.

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed (or one 17.3-ounce package of
refrigerated biscuit dough)
2 cups cooked ham, diced
2 cups cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 cup sliced mushrooms, cooked
6 large eggs
1 splash of cream or half-and-half
Ground black pepper and salt to taste

      Method: Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Cut puff pastry sheets into four-
inch squares or separate individual biscuits. To make the biscuit dough go
further, you can cut each buscuit in half at this point. Press puff pastry
squares or biscuit dough into well-greased muffin tins, forming a cup in
each compartment with your fingers. Fill with ham, cheese, and sautéed
mushrooms or any other ingredients you like, leaving a half inch at the
top. Whisk eggs and cream with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon egg mixture
over toppings in each pastry cup. Bake until pastries are puffed and golden
and toppings are set, about 25 minutes.

                          White Bean Chicken Chili
                              by Sheila Koenig

      Sheila Koenig teaches English to ninth graders. She serves on our
affiliate board and chairs our scholarship and social media committees.

1 to 2 pounds chicken (I use boneless, skinless chicken breast)
1 48-ounce jar Great Northern Beans
1 16-ounce jar salsa of your choice
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon or so of cumin
1 can chicken broth
2 cups or so of shredded cheese

      Method: Simmer the chicken until cooked. Let cool and chop. Combine
chicken, beans, salsa, cumin, and chicken broth. Let this mixture simmer
covered on top of the stove for ninety minutes and then add the cheese
before serving.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Sheila Koenig]

                           Almond Poppy Seed Bread

                              by Sheila Koenig

2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
3 eggs
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups 2 percent milk

Glaze Ingredients:
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

      Method: In a large bowl combine the sugar, oil, eggs, poppy seeds,
lemon juice, and extracts; beat until well blended. Combine the flour,
baking powder, and salt; alternately add dry ingredients and milk to sugar
mixture, beating just until moistened. Pour into two greased 8-by-4-inch
loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty-five to sixty minutes or until a
toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Meantime, combine glaze
ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over hot loaves. Cool for ten minutes
before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: two
loaves (sixteen slices each).

                               Monster Cookies
                              by Sheila Koenig

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 pound margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
4 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal (not instant)
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 pounds M&Ms

      Method: Combine all ingredients and mix well. Shape into cookies and
place at least two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350
degrees for ten to fifteen minutes. These cookies should be large.
                             Monitor Miniatures

      News from the Federation Family

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hazel Staley, August 17, 1916 - May 30, 2013]
In Memory of Hazel Staley:
      We have received news of the death of Hazel Staley from James Benton
of North Carolina. This is what he has to say about a wonderful American
and a dedicated Federationist:
      The passing of an icon--for more than seven decades she stood on the
front lines, defending the rights of people who are blind and visually
impaired in the state of North Carolina. Sadly, her journey has ended. On
Thursday, May 30, 2013, Ruth Hazel Staley was lifted from this world to
take her place with the angels above. Hazel was a graduate of the Governor
Morehead School for the Blind, then known as the State School for the
Blind, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. With support from
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Don Capps, and others from the National Federation of
the Blind, Hazel formed the North Carolina affiliate of the NFB in 1969.
Living most of her life in Charlotte, Hazel did everything she could to
embody and embrace the signature mission of the NFB: security, equality,
and opportunity for all blind or visually impaired people. In 1989 she won
the tenBroek Award, which is the highest award given by the Federation. She
has touched the lives of many over all these decades and made North
Carolina a greater place, a richer place, a deserving place for those of us
with visual disabilities. With sadness we say goodbye to Ms. Staley, and we
will all work together to enhance the legacy she left us.
      Anyone wishing to make a donation in her memory is urged to
contribute to the Robert and Hazel Staley Scholarship Fund.  Be sure to
make checks payable to the NFB of North Carolina, mark all such donations
clearly, and send them to Boyce Locklear, P.O. Box 2633, Lumberton, NC

      That was what James Benton eloquently wrote. We conclude our tribute
to Hazel by including a letter she wrote to Dr. Jernigan a month before his

Ruth Hazel Staley
Charlotte, North Carolina

September 3, 1998

Dear Dr. Jernigan,
      For the past year I have prayed hard daily for your recovery, but
apparently that was not to be. Now I try to console myself with the belief
that God has something very special in heaven that He wants done, and,
having carefully surveyed the whole world, He chose you as the person most
likely to do it and do it well. I know you will serve Him well there as you
have served Him and us here. I can't imagine life without you. You have
been there so many times for me when I needed help or encouragement. I
probably don't have many more years here myself, so I shall look forward to
meeting you again when my turn comes.
      I have been where Mrs. Jernigan is now, and I know the pain and
frustration she is experiencing. Please convey to her for me that, if she
ever needs a shoulder to cry on or just an understanding friend to talk to,
I will be here.
      Until we meet again, I am

Ruth Hazel Staley

In Memoriam Dorothy Kirsner Dies:
      On Monday, May 20, 2013, Dorothy Harriett Kirsner died at the age of
ninety-four. In 1958 Dorothy Kirsner chaired the three-person Iowa
Commission for the Blind board that hired the young Kenneth Jernigan to run
the Iowa Commission for the Blind when it occupied three rooms in a rundown
state office building in Des Moines. At the time the Iowa Commission was
independently rated as among the worst agencies serving the blind in the
nation, according to the Mallas Report. Under the leadership of Kenneth
Jernigan as director and Dorothy Kirsner as Commission chair and employing
the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, the Commission
transformed itself and its programs until in 1968 a federal official said
in an award presentation, "If a person must be blind, it is better to be
blind in Iowa than in any other place in the nation or the world!"
      As a young woman in the early forties, Mrs. Kirsner qualified as a
Braille transcriptionist. These volunteers were so highly prized that her
certificate was actually signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Early
in her career she transcribed a long textbook for Kenneth Jernigan, then a
college student in Tennessee. That was the beginning of a long association
between the two.
      In 1958, when Dr. tenBroek and his chief lieutenant Kenneth Jernigan
were looking for a larger platform than a regional adult training center on
which to demonstrate convincingly the effectiveness of the NFB's
rehabilitation ideas, the Iowa agency's director's job opened, and Dr.
Jernigan noticed that his old friend, Dorothy Kirsner, was chairing the
commission that would hire the new director. With extraordinary energy and
creativity Dr. Jernigan contrived to get himself to Des Moines with a
majority of the Commission for the Blind ready to vote for him as the new
director. Thus began the most exciting transformation of a rehabilitation
program for the blind that this country has yet seen.
      In 1966 the conference room beside the director's office at the
Commission was officially named the Dorothy Kirsner Conference Room. In
addition to transcribing books into Braille herself, Mrs. Kirsner and a
friend established a program at the Fort Madison Penitentiary to record and
transcribe books into Braille for the blind. For a number of years she was
a member of the board of the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service. She is
survived by Alvin, her husband of seventy-two years, her four children,
four grandchildren, and one great-grandson. Federationists everywhere
salute the life and work of Dorothy Kirsner and offer our sympathy to her
family and friends.

Son of Longtime Federationists Honored:
      Steve Benson is a former member of the national board of directors
and served for a long time as president of the National Federation of the
Blind of Illinois. He and his wife Peg are the proud parents of Patrick,
who teaches music in a Chicago high school. Recently Steve sent along this
note about an honor Patrick has received:
      Patrick has made a significant difference in the music program at
Hubbard High School, and it has been recognized by a number of people,
including the president of his college. At Hubbard's spring concert the
senior class paid tribute to his effectiveness by presenting him a snare
drum with the signature of each band member on the drum head. The formal
presentation brought tears to Patrick's eyes, and several of the band
members began crying. As Patrick described the scene while driving home, I
could tell that he teared up again. It was very moving for Peg and me-I
guess one could say we're just a little proud of that young man. He is only
in his fifth year of teaching; it is all quite remarkable.

[PHOTO CAPTION: Denise Brown making remarks after she received her award]
      As we were going to press, we learned that Denise Brown, president of
the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania and a member of
the affiliate board of directors was selected by the Quaker City Alumnae
Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., as its awardee at the eighth
annual Greek Gala on Friday, May 3, 2013. The award was for outstanding
social action in the community. Congratulations to Denise.

                                  In Brief

      Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor
readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we
have edited only for space and clarity.

      In the May 2013 issue we published an article entitled "My Constant
Search for Accessibility" by Robert Kingett. In it the author says his
research while in high school led him to believe the cost of Window-Eyes
was $1,250. The good folks at GW Micro have requested that we explain that
this figure represents the cost of Window-Eyes when purchased on a payment
plan with a concurrent Software Maintenance Agreement. They correctly state
that they have always charged less for their screen-reading program than
their competitor, JAWS for Windows, developed and marketed by Freedom
      In response to the same article we have also received a note of
concern from the developers of NVDA suggesting that the use of Eloquence
through the plug-in that the article referred to may constitute a violation
of copyright. Short of a finding by a court, we have no way to verify this
opinion, but we pass along their cautionary note.

New iOS/iPad User Guide Available:
      iOS technology is a game changer. School districts across the country
are purchasing and deploying iPads to students across grade levels-even
integrating them into classroom curricula. But how many teachers and
parents are ready to ensure that their blind students have equal access to
all the iPad has to offer?
      iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible-A Guide for Parents and
Teachers, written by Larry L. Lewis, a blind iPad user and instructor,
gives step-by-step instructions for every pertinent accessibility feature
the iPad has to offer-including getting acquainted with VoiceOver and Zoom,
setting accessibility options, pairing external devices such as keyboard
and refreshable Braille displays, setting up Apple accounts to buy apps,
use iBooks, the Cloud and Dropbox, and much, much more. The last chapter
includes tips from blind students who use their iPads daily and one very
committed parent who is mastering iOS technology alongside his blind sons.
      The book assumes that the reader has never used an iPad. Although it
is geared to parents and teachers, there is plenty of useful advice for
blind users as well. Join the iOS revolution! Order online from National
Braille Press at <www.nbp.org>, or call toll-free (800) 548-7323. Large-
print edition costs $28; in Braille, eBraille, DAISY, ASCII, MP3, or Word,
cost is $20.

Video about Inaccessible Websites Available:
We recently received the following announcement from Dr. Jonathan Lazar, a
Shutzer Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard
University who is currently on leave from his duties as a professor in
computer science in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences and
Universal Usability Laboratory at Towson University. He has worked closely
with the National Federation of the Blind to study and highlight access
problems that limit opportunities for the blind. Here is his announcement:
      I am pleased to announce that the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced
Study at Harvard University has posted a video (fully captioned) of my
fellowship presentation on February 13, 2013, titled "Locked Out:
Investigating Societal Discrimination Against People with Disabilities Due
to Inaccessible Websites." The video is at

BANA Accepts Two New Member Organizations, Approves Addition to Nemeth
      We recently received the following press release from the Braille
Authority of North America:
      The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) held its 2013 spring
meeting April 11 to 13 in Washington, DC. The National Library Service for
the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a BANA member organization,
hosted the meeting at the Library of Congress. During its three-day meeting
the BANA board reviewed and acted on semiannual reports from its eighteen
committees, considered committee recommendations, and deliberated issues
and challenges facing Braille users and producers.
The UEB Task Force reported on the development of a plan for the transition
to UEB in the United States as well as the collaborative steps that have
been taken to initiate dialogue and planning among the various Braille
communities that will be affected.
      Actions taken at the board meeting included the following: the review
and approval of a major revision of the organization's entire set of bylaws
and policies as recommended after intense study by the BANA Bylaws
Committee. Approval of the applications for two new member organizations:
the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB) and the Hadley School for the
Blind. BANA welcomes both of these organizations and looks forward to
working with them. Approval of a recommendation from BANA's Braille
Mathematics Technical Committee that the following be added to the Nemeth

      Rule XIV, §86c.
When the expression being modified is a single digit or a letter, lower-
case or capitalized, from any alphabet, and in any type form, and when the
modifier is the horizontal bar directly under such a single digit or
letter, the digit or letter, followed by the directly under symbol and the
bar, serves to express the modification. This construction should be
regarded as a contracted form of expression and must be used whenever
applicable. If the modification includes a superscript, subscript, or
prime, the five-step rule of "a" above must be followed. The five-step rule
may be used in conjunction with the contracted form without fear of

      On Saturday morning BANA hosted an open forum at the Arlington Public
Library, Arlington, Virginia. The forum was quite well attended by DC-area
Braille readers, students, and teachers. Participants also traveled from
West Virginia and Maryland to attend. BANA board members and forum
participants engaged in a dialogue that centered on the characteristics of
UEB and the coming transition. The tone of the forum was extremely upbeat
with numerous questions and comments about the importance and future of
Braille; the well-spoken students added their individual and open-minded
perspectives. For additional resource information visit
                                 NFB Pledge
      I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National
Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for
the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to
abide by its constitution.

[1] See Cornell University, Disability Statistics, accessed at
<http://www.disabilitystatistics.org/reports/acs.cfm?statistic=2>, last
visited February 14, 2013.
[2] Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse as Coexisting Disabilities: Considerations
for Counselors Serving Individuals Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, Koch
et. al. (2002), accessed at
[3] Cardiff researchers study blindness and depression link, BBC News
Wales, September 24, 2011 accessed at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-
15042096>, last visited February 14, 2012.
[4] Reported Visual Impairment and Risk of Suicide: The 1986-1996 National
Health Interview Surveys, Lam et. al., JAMA Ophthalmology, July 14, 2008,
Vol 126, No. 7 accessed at
eeb80001>, last visited February 14, 2013.

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