APRIL, 1974


Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010 with funding from
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)



National Offices

Washington Office



Editor                                                                                          Associate Editor
PERRY SUNDQUIST                                                                HAZEL tenBROEK
4651 MEAD AVENUE                                                            2652 SHASTA ROAD
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. 95822                                           BERKELEY, CALIF. 94708



If you or a friend wishes to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath unto NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or, "_____ percent of my net estate", or "the following stocks and bonds:_____ ") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."

If your wishes are more complex, you may have your attorney communicate with the Berkeley Office for other suggested forms.

APRIL 1974





















Chicago, Chicago, that wonderful town—
You'll have the time, the time of your life;
I saw a man, he danced with his wife.

The NFB is going back to Chicago in '74. The place is the Palmer House; the dates, June 30 to July 5. In 1972 the Palmer House was the scene of the largest gathering of blind people in history. In 1973, the Statler-Hilton in New York was the scene of the largest gathering of blind people in history—so far. Each year this "largest gathering" has grown so much larger that 1974 may be the last year any single hotel can hold us. So take advantage of the opportunity and pack the Palmer House.

It should be easy to do. Chicago is called "crossroads of the Nation" because it is the stopping point for nearly every cross-country train, plane, or bus. And the Palmer House is in the crossroads of Chicago—located on the Loop, the main business and sightseeing section of the city. The Greyhound Bus Station is five blocks away (from the station the hotel is two blocks east and three blocks south). All train stations are within a mile of the hotel, with cabs available at the stations. The Continental Air Transport Company runs buses between both airports and the hotel. Buses from O'Hare Airport depart every fifteen minutes between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; after 10:00 p.m., they depart hourly. From Midway Airport buses depart every thirty minutes between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; hourly thereafter. Cabs from O'Hare to the hotel cost about eight dollars; from Midway, five dollars.

The Palmer House itself is bordered on the north by Monroe Street; on the west by State Street; on the south by Adams Street; and on the east by Wabash Avenue. Although the hotel is one of the world's largest, with 2200 sleeping rooms, it would be a good idea to get your reservations in as soon as possible. The address of the hotel is: Palmer House, 17 East Monroe Street, Chicago, Illinois 60690. The hotel phone number is (312) 726-7500. Single room charge is eight dollars per night; doubles or twins twelve dollars; a rollaway bed for a third person in a room is five dollars extra. There is no charge for children staying in the same room with their parents.

The first Convention meetings will take place Sunday, June 30, but many delegates will be arriving on Saturday, June 29. The hospitality room will be open Saturday evening and every night thereafter. Registration opens Sunday morning (and remember that you must register to be eligible for door prizes) and the rest of the day and Monday will be devoted to meetings of the special interest divisions and committees. The division meetings attract more attention every year. There will be meetings for teachers, students, shop employees, merchants, lawyers, computer programmers, secretaries and transcribers, and musicians. Of major interest on Monday is the morning meeting of the NFB Executive Committee. The meeting, as usual, will be open to the general membership and to anyone else interested in seeing the Executive Committee at work or in hearing the President's report to the committee.

The general business sessions of the Convention will begin Tuesday morning, July 2. They will run through the week (with the exception of Thursday afternoon), with adjournment occurring sometime Friday afternoon, July 5. The banquet will be on Wednesday evening this year, since Thursday (the traditional day) falls on July 4. In light of this, make sure to get your banquet tickets as soon in the week as possible.

There will be no Convention activities scheduled for Thursday afternoon, and for a change, there will be no scheduled tours. You will be thrown on the resources of one of the major metropolitan centers of the world. Some points of interest near the hotel are listed below. Some of these will be closed Thursday afternoon for the holiday. From the hotel you can easily walk to stores (Marshall Field's, Carsons), restaurants, or theaters (you will be right in the major section of the city for both legitimate theater and cinema). A short distance away are the mammoth Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute, and Orchestra Hall—home of the Chicago Symphony. (You can follow the Symphony to its summer home in Ravinia, a perfect country setting north of the city and available by trains from Northwestern Station near the hotel). Or walk a few blocks north from the Hotel and you come to Grant Park, stretching along the shore of Lake Michigan. Here you can bask by the Buckingham fountain or catch one of the Grant Park Concerts by the Chicago opera orchestra. July weather in Chicago is bound to be either balmy and breezy or sweltering. In either case, the lakefront will be a good place to relax (in daylight hours anyway). Or soak up the sun at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs and a short distance from the hotel.

Of course the best insurance against hot weather will be the 2200 air-conditioned rooms of the Palmer House. Not to mention the nine restaurants (including Trader Vic's, the French Quarter, Palmer's Pub, and the renowned Empire Room), the seventh-floor swimming pool, or the barber shop, beauty salon, drug store, florist, gift shop, and clothing and jewelry stores—all of these within the hotel itself.

Time is running out. Write or call now for your reservations. That's June 30 to July 5, 1974, at the Palmer House.

"On State Street, on State Street, that great street;

They do things they don't do on Broadway . . . ."

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[Reprinted, with permission, from the June 1973 New Beacon, publication of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, of Great Britain.]

"For a variety of reasons, the Optacon has evoked a great deal of interest among blind people, not the least among those who have tried to reach a useful level of competence with some of the other reading aids developed over the last few decades. The congenitally blind have been hopeful that it would open up for them a range of reading matter not available in Braille or on tape. The adventitiously blinded have seen it as a possible means of regaining access to previously familiar channels of information now closed to them as a result of their blindness. As with many devices produced for the handicapped, there has been a tendency to expect more of the invention than it was designed to provide. Publicity on radio, television, and in the press has inevitably been focused on the more readily appreciated features and potential, and has rather glossed over the difficulties of the learning task and the problems of differing typographic formats, founts, and layouts. The danger of this kind of approach to the publicising of new advances in technology is that unduly optimistic hope may be replaced by unduly dismissive judgment once the nature of the reading task has been appreciated."

Although we have made several references to the Optacon during the last twelve months or so, and although we have been well aware of the interest it has aroused, we have felt constrained to confine ourselves to no more than descriptions of the apparatus and brief notes of the trials it is undergoing for the very reasons given above. As we have said before, we receive from sources all over the world news items and reports about the development of gadgets and devices for the blind. Most of them are very second-hand and many are rather garbled and inaccurate. Some are first-hand and accurate but deal with current research. It is our policy not to use such material unless the development is sufficiently advanced or well-documented to give a clear picture of the practicability of the end-product. We hope thereby to avoid misleading the layman and raising false hopes in the potential consumer.

St. Dunstan's, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and the Research Centre for the Education of the Visually Handicapped at Birmingham University have been co-operating in a training programme to discover the practical value of the Optacon for blind people of varying ages in Britain. As the last annual report of St. Dunstan's notes (New Beacon, December 1972), each Optacon costs about £2,000, a figure which is unlikely to be reduced until the results of the trials in several countries are available, after which the number of blind people who might benefit from it can be assessed. (In fact, at the time of writing, the price is down to £1,500, but the point remains.) Until then, the report emphasises, the Optacon cannot be made generally available, but "it does already appear, however, to offer great hope for perhaps a small percentage of blind people who may find it of considerable value in work situations. More than that cannot be said at present."

We now have the first results of the trials which have been taking place, and it seems an appropriate time to consider in more detail the potential of the Optacon. The opening paragraph comes from the introduction to a report just published by the Research Centre for the Education of the Visually Handicapped. Entitled Print reading by the blind: an evaluation of the Optacon and an investigation of some learner variables and teaching methods, it is the work of four of those who have been closely involved in the trials, Dr. M. J. Tobin, director of the Research Centre, W. R. K. James, senior research associate at the Centre, Miss Alison McVeigh, the Optacon teacher employed by the project, and Mrs. R. M. Irving, research assistant at the Research Centre. The evaluation covers a period of one year and, although the investigators make it clear that "this report is itself an interim or preliminary account of what might be attained with a device that constitutes a major step forward in the development of reading aids for the blind," the report in fact is (to the layman at any rate) a very closely documented and thorough piece of work indeed.

The investigation should be read, the report suggests, in terms of its primary aims, which were (a) to obtain some information on the usefulness of the Optacon to blind people, (b) to pinpoint characteristics and skills that seem to be associated with successful learning, (c) to prepare teaching materials and procedures, and (d) to examine some of the difficulties besetting the learner once the basic teaching programme has been completed.

Ten Optacons were made available for the investigation. Three were used in Birmingham for trials with adults and older teenagers. Seven were used in London by adults. Halfway through the evaluation, the three machines from Birmingham, together with five from London, were taken to Chorleywood College to be used by eight girls aged 16-18. Following the training of the Chorleywood girls, a prolonged period of supervised and unsupervised practice was provided, aimed at gaining information about the learning/performance gradient. A similar number of the London-trained subjects took part in this phase of the evaluation also. The data and results reported are based (a) upon initial, intensive training programmes completed by a group of thirty subjects and (b) upon follow-up training and practice undertaken by a sub-set of this group. Other volunteers took part in the trials but complete sets of data were not obtained from these subjects, some of them being learners used in the very early stages when the investigators were themselves acquiring the necessary know-how and experience with the Optacon and some being learners who were unable to complete a full training/testing course. Owing to the relatively short period of the evaluation, the investigators' own planning and learning had to proceed simultaneously. Changes were made, therefore, in the course of the investigation, particularly in the methods of teaching.

Attempts at devising an optical reading device to give blind people access to the traditional typography of books, journals, and newspapers span some sixty years, the report reminds us. The Optacon is one of the most recent of this line. But it differs from its predecessors such as the Optophone and Visotoner (which produced patterns of sound when letters were scanned by an array of photo-electric cells) in that it reproduces the shape of the printed letter in a tactile form. The Optacon, in fact, derives its name from its function as an OPtical-to-TActile CONverter.

The Optacon system is perhaps best described, the report suggests, in terms of the function of its three main components: the camera, the electronic conversion section, and the tactile display. The miniature camera is used by the reader to scan a printed page and pick up optical images of the letters, one at a time. In the camera, an array of six vertical lines of twenty-four phototransistors converts the optical image into electrical signals which are passed via a flexible cable to the electronics section. Here the signals are converted into mechanical energy which activates the tactile display. This is made up of six vertical lines of 24 tiny rods which just protrude through holes in a finger-size display panel. A phototransistor in the camera that is exactly over the black portion of a letter causes its corresponding rod in the tactile display to vibrate; white areas do not activate the display. The form of the print letter scanned by the camera is thus reproduced as an equivalent tactile form made up of vibrating rods. The size of the tactile letter may be adjusted to suit the preference of the reader, but is usually about 1 .5 centimeters in height.

The reader operates the Optacon by scanning a printed page with the camera held in the right hand while the letters are read by resting the index finger of the left hand on the tactile display. As the camera is passed over a word, each letter is presented sequentially on the tactile display. The rate at which the succession of single letters is presented is determined by the speed at which the camera is passed over the page.

Adjustment of the Optacon to the print size and quality is the responsibility of the user. The hand-held camera incorporates a zoom lens system which may be adjusted to different print sizes to increase or decrease the letter size on the tactile display; print sizes ranging from six point to twenty point thus fall within the range of letters which can be read conveniently. Two further controls permit adjustment of the quality of the letter on the tactile display: one compensates for variations in print thickness and the other adjusts the intensity of vibration.

During reading, the report explains, the process of scanning is controlled by the Optacon user, and several devices may be used to help the reader in the early stages of learning to operate the system. A tracking aid provides a means of holding the camera in correct alignment with the print as it is moved across the page, but this is discarded when scanning skills are acquired. The letter forms presented on the tactile display may be monitored by a sighted teacher by means of a visual display unit which can be connected to the Optacon: this presents a pattern of lights corresponding to the pattern of rods activated on the tactile display and is essential during the initial learning stages.

The principle of direct conversion from optical to tactile letter forms avoids some of the problems associated with variations in type style and printing format by assigning them to the reader, on the assumption that alphabetic letter forms can be read tactually in all their variations. Although computer-based optical character recognition systems have been designed to read stylised founts and a limited range of typescript in restricted formats, none yet meets the requirements for deciphering the multi-column format, the headings and sub-headings, or the 300,000 or more different symbols used in the printing industry (this number including not only the various styles such as roman, italic and the like, but also variations in print size). In these respects, the blind reader is able to cope with a much larger range of typefaces than computer-based systems and is capable of taking advantage of contextual information in a sophisticated manner, the report explains. "It would perhaps be unrealistic at this stage," comments the report, "to expect a portable reading aid to produce a standard output from the wide range of characteristics of even a few commonly used typographic styles," although a recently-designed reading device which does embody automated scanning and optical character recognition with a standard Braille output, the Transicon, achieves this at the cost of portability and operates within a restricted type range.

The stimulus parameters of the vibro-tactile output of the Optacon, such as vibration frequency, amplitude, and rod- spacing are based upon the optimal conditions for the transmission of tactile information established by Bliss and Craine (1969) and are intended to produce a clear image within the constraints of minimum size and weight of device. What remains unclear, the report points out, is the degree to which these stimulus qualities are compatible with individual dispositions and comfort under prolonged exposure.

Development of reading skills with the Optacon, the report stresses, is recognised by its designers as requiring a period of intensive training at the outset followed by substantial periods of practice. The learning task facing the Optacon user is complex in that it involves combining finely-coordinated motor control of the camera with tactual discrimination and subsequent synthesis of letter forms into meaningful units. This task is seen to differ from that associated with Braille reading in that the important features of the Braille system which facilitate speed and accuracy in tactual reading are the simplified components of the letters and consistency in their spacing, which are not features of Optacon-presented letters. Such letters may be subject to variation in type-style and are vulnerable to changes in orientation, position, and stability of the camera. To meet these contingencies, highly-structured reading materials have been provided for use by trained Optacon teachers (the reading programme is set out in a separate appendix to the report). These reading materials may be further supported by the use of the Optacon cassette trainer, which permits a pre-recorded magnetic tape to control the tactile display so that successive alphabetic characters of uniform stability and orientation pass over the display, thus relieving the learner of the scanning task and presenting letters of the best resolution.

The methods, subjects, and teaching materials of the trials are explained and set out in great detail by the report, as are the results and analysis of initial training and follow-up investigations. What conclusions does the report reach?

Two sets of information were obtained, one from a series of initial Optacon training programmes with thirty blind adults and adolescents, the other based on extended training and practice sessions ranging in length from four to ten months with seventeen of the original trainees. The nature and duration of the investigation (for which the label "learners" was applicable equally to trainees and investigators) imposed constraints which affect the generalisability of the findings, the report stresses, "The use of certain statistical procedures depend upon assumptions about the reliability of test measures, normality of distribution, and an adequate number of subjects. It cannot be said that these conditions and others, such as the representativeness of the sample, have been completely met." For these reasons, therefore, some of the conclusions are less soundly based than others, and need to be interpreted with caution.

In brief, the report tells us, the initial training showed that the most successful Optacon learners were, on average, above the norm in terms of tactual discrimination ability, short-term memory capacity (letter span), and Braille reading speed; they were, in general, below the average of the whole group in age and in age at which Braille was learned. Wide divergences quickly appeared among the learners even during the relatively short initial training period, some achieving speeds on specially prepared test materials of the order of 15 words per minute while others could not even reach one word per minute. The mean reading speed was 6.6 wpm for the whole group of thirty, 4.9 wpm for the sub-group of twenty-two "older" subjects, and 11.1 wpm for the sub-group of eight "younger" subjects, this latter comprising the adolescent girls from Chorleywood.

The extended period of supervised and unsupervised practice did not bring about any clustering or "regression to the mean," i.e. wide disparity in performance was still very evident, even after subjects had had prolonged use of the Optacon in their own home, job, or at school. Some readers were managing only some 10-12 wpm, while others were able, for short periods, to read from books of their own choice at speeds of about 40 wpm. Even the most successful learners felt that their reading speeds were not good enough for occupational purposes or, indeed, any purpose which entailed lengthy periods of reading. Nevertheless, the group as a whole retained very positive attitudes towards this method of reading, feeling that it gave them access to reading matter not otherwise accessible, or accessible only through the mediation of sighted helpers.

These findings suggest, says the report, that training to some "useful" criterion is going to be a lengthy process. For adults and adolescents who already possess a high level of reading skill in some other medium, the investigators consider that nothing shorter than three months of supervised, daily practice with carefully-structured and graded materials would be sufficient. Once the novelty effect has worn off, motivation has to be sought from the learner's own needs and aspirations and from the setting of suitable and varied goals by the teacher.

It would seem, the report says, that many adult blind people would not be able to cope with the demands made on them by the Optacon if a target of the order of 40-50 wpm were to be set. "No doubt a less rigorous criterion would be acceptable in relation to many non-vocational reading needs, but the attainment of a lower level of proficiency, e. g. 10 wpm, would seem, on the evidence of this investigation, to be by no means easily or quickly accomplished. Experienced teachers of Braille are well aware, and objective investigations such as that undertaken on the mobility and reading habits of the blind by Gray and Todd (1967) bear them out, that most newly-blinded adults find it extremely difficult to learn Braille." Optacon reading, the report suggests, would seem to be of the same order of difficulty, even when the learner has a good combination of the characteristics associated with success. Training courses for adults are likely to have, therefore, a very high failure or "drop-out" rate unless entry to training is made on a selective basis. Even in these circumstances, continuation of training may need to be made contigent on attainment of prescribed levels of proficiency at intermediate stages of the course.

Perhaps a true assessment of the value of the device for study and occupational purposes can only be made, the report suggests, when much younger pupils, starting at the age of six or twelve, have had the opportunity to obtain training on a daily basis over a period of five to ten years, i.e. a period comparable to that made available for the teaching of Braille.

The vibro-tactile display and the problems involved in the manual operation of the camera, the report says, present the learner with a difficult perceptuo-motor task. The vibrating stimulus pattern is itself lacking in clarity. The tactile stimulus is vulnerable to distortion arising from incorrect manipulation of the camera, and this problem can be exacerbated by the subject's own tactual discrimination ability, which is, in turn, affected by mood, fatigue, and progressive desensitisation of the fingers during the course of reading. Some learners experience very great difficulty in keeping the camera on the line of print and in coordinating information received by the "reading" finger with corrective movements of the camera.

There are two implications here, the report points out. The first is that further work on the Optacon system might well be concerned with the development of a self-aligning camera and/or an improved tracking aid suitable for use with different book and page sizes, layouts, and line-spacing. The second relates to the kind of aids to be incorporated into the initial stages of Optacon learning. If the aim is to reduce the recognition threshold for letters and words and build up fluency in reading, every effort must be made to reduce the interference effects of poor tracking and scanning. The TSI (Telesensory Systems, Inc., the manufacturers of the Optacon) cassette trainer and the Centre's automated input device (a variation of the cassette trainer) both serve to reduce this particular load, and the recommendation would be that extensive and intensive use be made of them from the very beginning of training, even in the face, the report suggests, of the learner's desire to dispense with such "crutches."

The design of the camera and the tactile display makes it possible for only one letter at a time to be presented. This feature, together with the relatively long time required to scan a whole word, makes word synthesis and closure very difficult: the net effect is to interfere with comprehension and reading speed and, thus, the general usefulness and acceptability of the device.

The implication for training is that it needs to have built into it exercises designed to improve word synthesis—perhaps by means of "spelled speech" practice using a tape-recorder or some other external pacing method. In addition, systematic practice in lowering the tactual recognition thresholds of letter shapes is needed throughout the training, with the, learner's attention being drawn to the salient, defining characteristics of the letter shapes.

From a design viewpoint, the report recommends, the widening of the camera's "field of vision"—and its counterpart in the tactile display—might help, in part, to overcome these problems, since this would reduce the number of camera movements needed.

"The educational, cultural, and recreational needs of blind persons are unlikely to be met by any single information medium," the report concludes. "Nor is this the case, of course, for the sighted. Braille, Optacon, talking books, and other devices and procedures now being developed, can be seen as components in a larger informational network. They are not, necessarily, rivals. The value of any one is not to be measured solely by its capacity to replace any other. Put it another way, there is no requirement for them all to convey information at the same rate. When the criterion is the extent to which one can extend or complement the others, then the Optacon and some of the other new devices may be seen as important additions to the network."

Now that we have the report of the twelve-month investigation of the Optacon, we can add as a footnote that trials are to continue for a further year, although on a more limited basis. Four of the participants in the first year's trials will continue (not all of them took part for the whole of the year), and there will be six new trainees selected from age groups not already covered.

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Editor's Note.—Michael Hingson is a topflight second-year graduate student in research physics at the University of California at Irvine.

Preliminary comments

For several years we have heard of the tactile reading device known as the Optacon. Two years ago, the San Diego (Calif.) Unified School District undertook the project of teaching some of its blind students to use this device. Thus far, five students have participated in the learning program and they have all succeeded to a greater or lesser degree.

Because of the success that San Diego has had with the Optacon learning program, members of the school district have been holding a series of demonstrations in which they describe the Optacon to members of other school districts as well as to members of agencies such as the State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. I attended one such demonstration.

I have been conducting various forms of research in the field of tactile vision for the past two years. I have visited Telesensory Systems, Inc., where the Optacon is manufactured, as well as other laboratories in which tactile vision research is being carried out. Statements here are based on the knowledge gained from this research.

The demonstration

The conference began with a description of the Optacon and, more important, an overview of the San Diego project.

The project involved the selection of five blind participants who went through an Optacon training program. These students met for about two hours every day, after normal school hours. Over a period of time the students participating were taught the letters of the alphabet. After learning most of the letters in a simple print style the students were then introduced to devices which enabled them to begin scanning letters by themselves. Up until that time an assistant did the scanning.

After they mastered a simple print style the students were then encouraged to develop faster reading capabilities. Later, they were introduced to more ornate print styles.

After the general description of the program a question-and-answer period was held. Most of the questions dealt with the operation of the device. One question dealt with the cost of the unit. The Optacon presently costs $3400 plus $500 for training if one goes up to Telesensory Systems, Inc. Under such an arrangement the purchaser is given ten days of intensive training at TSI. One of the San Diego representatives stated that it is possible for people to learn to read with the Optacon at a reading rate which is comparable to that of a sighted reader who reads every letter of every word. This sounds impressive, but I asked just what that meant in actual words per minute. I was told that eighty words per minute was the maximum that anyone could expect. This does not sound nearly as good as "as fast as a sighted reader who reads every letter."

A more detailed explanation was given of the actual teaching program. The letters of the alphabet are divided into four groups which are composed of letters which are as similar as possible. The first group contains letters more easily recognizable than those of the second, et cetera. After the students learn the basics of the Optacon and after they become proficient enough to read on their own, they are permitted to take the Optacon home so that they can practice at their convenience. It is, of course, only through much practice that any reading speed can possibly be attained. The students also are encouraged to take their Optacons to class and to use them wherever possible.

One of the five students participating in the program gave a reading demonstration using the Optacon. The student read only two or three sentences during a three-minute period. Now, he had been training with the Optacon for more than a year. It was claimed that he was making his first public appearance. He was supposed to be able to read at a rate of 15-30 words per minute. He obviously didn't do that.


In order to assess the value of the Optacon let us examine the capabilities of the machine. It has already been stated that the maximum reading speed attained thus far with the Optacon is eighty words per minute. This speed was attained only after years of practice, and the feat was accomplished by three persons who could easily be termed exceptional. They are exceptional in that they are the only three to have such a high reading speed, so far as is known by the author. In any event, very few people have attained a speed near to eighty words per minute. The average, according to members of the San Diego project, is between thirty and fifty words per minute. TSI has done research in methods of increasing this reading speed, but it appears as if the Optacon has reached its limit. There has been some work on a two-finger device, but it has not proven too successful. So, we cannot look forward to any dramatic reading speed increase.

On the other hand, even a slow reading speed is better than none and there are many places in which the Optacon's reading rate would be quite sufficient. For example, suppose you received a letter, not in Braille. You could use the Optacon to read it. Your reading would be easily accomplished and it would be accurate. In such a case, you would be independent and would not require a sighted reader. You could also use the Optacon if you were a computer programmer. You could read the computer printout, or you could scan a video screen. Your job would indeed be much easier since you would not have to depend on a sighted reader. You could also use the Optacon for reading newspaper and magazine articles. Again, you would be independent of a sighted reader.

However, this idea of independence can be carried too far. For example, in the San Diego project proposal description, there is a picture of a student who is using the Optacon to find items on a supermarket shelf. The picture's caption is as follows: "Luis is selecting a personal item in a supermarket."

Just how practical is the Optacon in a supermarket? The Optacon can only scan one letter at a time, so how did he find the area in which his "personal" item was located? This picture certainly would look impressive to one unfamiliar with the Optacon, but how can Luis do it? He cannot go down each row scanning each and every item, not only because of the time factor, but because it would be easy to break merchandise.

Another picture shows a girl searching for a book in a bookstore. Again, how did she find the proper area? Perhaps since this was her neighborhood bookstore she knew it very well. However, in order to be truly independent one must be able to use the device anywhere. Therefore, unless one can go down every row or read signs which he must first find, then the prospective buyer is again forced into asking for aid. Is it really that hard to ask for help?

The members of the San Diego project say that a blind person would be more independent if he used the Optacon because he could vote without aid. This is quite true. It may be a bit more convenient to use the Optacon, but not much.

One final point. During a film describing the students and their training with the Optacon, the statement was made that the students involved in the project still require sighted readers or tape recordings. The implication is obvious. Some day those readers and tape recorders will not be needed because of the Optacon. The members of the San Diego group don't seem to throw words around needlessly, so I can only believe that the statement was intentional. Therefore, no matter what they say about the Optacon being strictly a supplement, they seem to believe that it is the only way to go and that it will one day replace all other forms of reading for some or all blind persons. Such a belief, at least on the basis of the evidence available so far, is premature; and the program should be carefully monitored.

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What is it?—The Optacon is an electronic device which enables the blind to read most inkprint materials. Printed symbols are read with it through the conversion of optical images into tactile ones—it does not convert into Braille. The user must know or learn the print alphabet (both upper and lower cases), digits, and commonly-used punctuation marks. It is completely portable, weighing just four pounds, and is the size of the average cassette tape recorder. It is operated on either battery or alternating (house) current and the battery can be recharged overnight. An array of tiny stimulators (pins) vibrate in such a way as to form the shape of the symbols perceived by the small, zoom-lense camera. The tactile images can be greatly magnified for easy recognition and the characters are read one at a time. Tracking with the camera is not automatic but must be done manually. This is somewhat difficult at first for some but it gets easier with practice.

What can be read with it?—Here are some of the items which I have read successfully with the Optacon: personal mail when printed or typewritten (including bills), my paychecks, labels on medicine containers and those on prepackaged food products (including frozen foods), recipe books, business cards, the Bible, unabridged dictionary, telephone directory (for verifying addresses), magazine articles, newsletters, computer programming manual, computer printouts, hardcover books, commercial record jackets and the labels on the discs, and photographic copies of printed documents. Other Optacon users have told me they have read many of the same items.

Can anyone learn to use it?—I think it is evident that not all persons can learn to use it successfully. You need reasonably good sensitivity in your fingers, but not exceptionally good. This means that some diabetics would have great difficulty with it. I don't think you need any special skills or exceptional intelligence though. I rather believe it's a matter of motivation—how badly do you wish to read print? If you tend to be pessimistic and negative in your outlook or general attitude, if you give up easily with things, I don't believe the Optacon is for you. It requires real work to learn to use the Optacon during the first few weeks, but if you have enough patience and perseverence, you can reach the point where it comes much easier. Also, I should warn you that some print fonts are easier to read than others. The rate of reading with the Optacon is very slow at first but with much practice, your speed gradually increases. I think that anyone who is really determined to read with it can do so, but this is only an opinion. If you are easily discouraged with things in general, you will not do well with the Optacon. There are two people who claim they can read 85-90 words per minute. I do not doubt this for they are both exceptional people and have had the Optacon for over two years. The manufacturer says that the average user should be able to attain reading speeds of 50-60 words per minute.

Where can one obtain the Optacon and where can you receive the recommended training?—The Optacon can be ordered from Telesensory Systems, Inc., 2626 Hanover Street, Palo Alto, Cal. 94303. This is the only company that builds it but there are several places that offer the training course. They are: Telesensory Systems, Inc., in California; the Cleveland Society for the Blind in Ohio; the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind in Pennsylvania; and the Lighthouse for the Blind in New York City. The latter will lend blind persons the purchase price of the Optacon, $3450, for two years at one-percent interest with monthly payments of $147. You must receive the training from them, however, to participate in this loan service. They do charge for the training.

How can you afford to buy an Optacon?—Though the cost is no great burden to some, I fear it would be a financial strain for most of us. There are numerous ways of receiving financial assistance for acquiring such a useful device. There may be friends or relatives who would be anxious to help by contributing a portion of the price if not the entire amount. Many Lions Clubs would be eager to help or perhaps your employer would recognize the value of supplying all or part of the necessary funds. You say, "Fat chance!" These are facts: the IBM Corporation has bought outright five Optacons for as many blind computer programmers employed by them throughout the country. Honeywell Information Systems recently purchased one. A blind employee and the Dupont Company of Delaware just ordered one for an employee. Numerous Federal agencies have bought Optacons for blind people working for them and a few state rehabilitation offices have purchased them for employees and clients. Among these states are Iowa, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and Missouri. In other states, if you hound them enough, they will have to follow suit. Blind residents of Western Pennsylvania should be interested to know that the Mellon Fund stands ready to subsidize Optacon purchases.

If you have the necessary determination to learn to use the Optacon, you should also have enough determination to find a source of financial assistance.

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DEAR MR. KIMBROUGH: As you know, we of the National Federation of the Blind feel that Dialogue magazine has often dealt unfairly with us. We feel (and I have told you this face to face, and we have also said it in The Monitor) that the reporting has frequently been less than objective.

Therefore, when you attended our NAC demonstration in Chicago last summer and later came to our New York Convention, we wondered whether your reporting would be straight or slanted. We did not jump to conclusions and prejudge your efforts, but we did express honest doubts—and we expressed them openly and directly. In your recorded Convention interview with me (reported in the October, 1973 Monitor) you will remember that our conversation went like this:

Mr. KIMBROUGH. Going back to what we said in the beginning about being for or being against. Would you assume that since I have not joined, and will not join—while I am here in New York—your organization, that it will not be possible for me to write what you would consider to be a fair story on this Convention?

President JERNIGAN. I don't know that- no, I would not assume that. But I would assume something else. That since you are part of Dialogue magazine; and since Dialogue magazine seems to me to be very biased in its reporting usually; and since it, all things to the contrary notwithstanding, seems to many of us to lean toward the ACB; and since Don Nold, who has been a long time associated with it, has been part and parcel of ACB; I would assume that that might preclude objectivity on your part, but it might not, too. I don't know. I'll wait and see with interest what you write. If you write objectively, more power to you.

Well, Mr. Kimbrough, the jury is now in. I have read your reports of our NAC demonstration last summer and of our New York Convention, and I believe they were fair and objective. I wish that we could have so converted you that your remarks would have been somewhat partisan in our behalf, but I do not fault you that this did not occur. The preacher has no right to blame the listener for the lack of aroused fervor. There are, of course, probably those who feel that your articles prove that you came to our Convention and went away entirely with us. I hope they are right.

Be that as it may, I told you I would reserve judgment until I read your articles. I did it, and I think they were honest and objective. If I had thought otherwise, I would have said so publicly in the pages of The Monitor. Therefore, we should give equal recognition to a job well done.

Mr. Kimbrough, regardless of what Dialogue magazine may have done in the past or may do in the future, your reporting of our NAC demonstrations and our New York Convention was professional, honest, and objective. We commend you for it, and we commend Dialogue for publishing it. If you choose to come to our Chicago Convention this summer you will be welcome. As was the case in New York, you will be able to attend meetings and go where you wish. In fact, we think you ought to join up and become one of us.

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[Reprinted by courtesy of the Grand Junction (Colo.) Daily Sentinel.]

Carl Coleman of Grand Junction would seem to be an ordinary man.

He is a transmission specialist, a job which would fall somewhere in the range of common blue collar occupations. He worked his way through school, which many persons have done. And, he and his wife Gerry have five children ranging in age from seven to seventeen years, which is another somewhat common characteristic.

However, there is something uncommon about Coleman. He is blind.

Coleman, 33, has been employed at Aamco Transmissions in Grand Junction since October 1. Before moving to Grand Junction, he worked at an Aamco shop in Greeley.

Coleman said he had been working on cars since "I was twelve or thirteen. I started working on transmissions in 1964 at an automotive school in Lakewood."

Although born with impaired vision, Coleman's eyesight deteriorated until, at the age of eight, he went to Colorado Springs to attend the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind.

At that time his father owned a ranch three and a half miles west of Mesa. In 1955, his family moved to Grand Junction and when Coleman graduated from Colorado D&B School in 1960, he, too, moved to Grand Junction.

While attending the Colorado Springs school, he learned piano tuning but the training turned out to be a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

"There's no money in piano tuning and I prefer transmission work to piano tuning," Coleman said.

Although piano tuning or auto mechanics would be considered an unlikely profession for a farm boy, Coleman said his father and brother were also auto mechanics.

"Besides, I guess you're sort of an auto mechanic when you run a farm anyway," he said and smiled.

In 1963 Coleman moved to Denver and a year later he graduated from the Lakewood automotive school.

"It took almost a year to pay the money to go to school so I worked and went to the Lakewood school at the same time," he said. "From 7:30 in the morning till 1:30 I was in school and then from 2:30 until about 8:00 or 9:00 at night, I tuned pianos at a Denver music store."

After graduating from the automotive school, Coleman worked at a transmission shop in Denver and then in Greeley before returning to Grand Junction.

"I came back here because this is my hometown," the thirty-three-year-old mechanic said. "I was born in Denver but I grew up here. And, I just bought my house so it will be permanent."

Coleman, who lost what blurred sight he had in 1948, has a congenital eye condition called anorthepia. He described it matter-of-factly as "no iris. The pupil won't dilate."

The decision to become a transmission specialist wasn't a difficult one to make, according to Coleman.

"I thought it would be a problem but it never bothered me," he said. "I guess because I'm not afraid to try anything. I just like my work."

Coleman also brushed aside the question of whether he was ever discouraged after he made his decision.

"I'm sure no matter who we are, we're always discouraged at sometime," he said.

Because blindness could be considered as a crutch or stumbling block by some individuals, another uncommon feature about Coleman is that he doesn't refer to his blindness as a handicap.

"I consider it a nuisance sometimes because it limits me," he said. "I can't drive a car. When a good book comes out I have to wait a while. There are facilities for recording most materials on records or tapes. They don't get all the best sellers but they get a lot of them."

Although Coleman said he enjoys reading, "Braille books are awful expensive and the expense for the recordings is taken by the government."

While he admitted doing some piano tuning "Off and on since leaving the automotive school," Coleman indicated his future plans are based on transmission work and staying in Grand Junction.

Despite the impression of casual concern toward his blindness, Coleman is vice-president of the Colorado chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.

According to Richard Clark, general manager of the Grand Junction Aamco shop, Coleman's work "is exceptional. And we don't give him any special considerations. He doesn't need them. The only thing he can't do is road test the cars but we have two other men here who can do that.

"No, I wasn't hesitant to hire Carl. He came very well recommended." Clark added. "I wouldn't care if a man had ten eyes and could see only blue. The only thing that counts here is if the man can do the job."

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Author's Note.—Strange, indeed, are the letters which cross my desk. Flippant, flagrant; hopeful, heartrending; improbable, insoluble; hostile, hilarious; belligerent, bombastic; mangy, militant; lovely, lively; generous, joyous; heinous, humble—and above all, varied and stimulating. And challenging, too.

I would like to meet the man who wrote the letters I am about to share with you. I like him, and I think you will, too. He got one of our neckties in the mail and said his say about it:

Reading, Penna., October 24, 1973.

GENTLEMEN: One envelope designates Bank of Overland, St. Louis, Missouri, and the other names Central National Bank and Trust Company, Des Moines, Iowa. Please explain the difference in depositories.

P.S.—Please have the Madison Avenue characters who handle your advertising and collection drives put me down for regimental and/or college stripes!


Des Moines, Iowa, January 6, 1974.

DEAR MR. ____: I herewith send you a picture copy of the letter you sent us under date of October 24, 1973. The body of your letter is reasonable and deserves a reasoned response. I shall try to give you such a response. Your postscript is written in the language of a smart aleck and deserves another kind of reply altogether. I shall try to give you that one, too.

First, the reasoned response. Our mail was opened at the Bank of Overland in Missouri until quite recently. We then moved the mail opening to the Central National Bank in Des Moines. Since the time of your letter, we have made an arrangement with Bankers Trust of Des Moines to open our mail. In view of the fact that the funds are publicly contributed it seems desirable to have them sent to a bank, not only for security but also for accounting and audit purposes. All of our officers and board members are blind. They are also volunteers. Therefore, they do not physically open the mail themselves.

I, for instance, am President of the organization, but I am also Director of State programs for the blind in Iowa. This is a full-time job. However, I give many hours to the work of the National Federation of the Blind. I do this because I have seen the effect of the work of the Federation in the improvement of the lives of blind people. I do it because I deeply believe that this organization is constructive and worthwhile.

Now, let me deal with your postscript. In many things (not just the law) ignorance is no excuse. You refer to the "Madison Avenue characters who handle" our advertising. The comment is smarty without being witty, and the fact that you do not know the circumstances does not excuse your jumping to conclusions. There are no "Madison Avenue characters" involved in our operation. I did a great deal of the design of the copy myself and I got paid the same amount for doing it that you did for making your "cute" remarks—which is, zero. I work as hard and am as human as you are. I have feelings and concerns and beliefs. I am sure that you do, too.

Contribute to our organization, or not—whichever you please; but don't make snide remarks about what you don't understand. We appreciate your support if you choose to give it, but we can survive without you. Incidentally, nobody from Madison Avenue read your letter or is making the reply to it. I am doing it myself and on my own time.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.


Reading, Penna., January 12, 1974.

DEAR MR. JERNIGAN: In the closing paragraphs of your letter of January 6, 1974, you say that you are as human as I am, and add that you have feelings, concerns, and beliefs. Of this I am convinced from the general tone of your letter wherein you scored—tellingly—many points on my ignorant, cute, snide, and smart aleck remarks made in my letter of October 24, 1973.

To all of the above you added the statement that I jumped to conclusions without knowing the circumstances. This is also quite true and I shan't hide behind the screen of, "I didn't know."

Now that I do know more about your operations, without the aid of "Madison Avenue characters," please accept my apologies and pass my plea for forgiveness along to your board and staff whom I may have impugned.

Finally I realize that you can very well exist without my contribution but shall continue my support.

Very truly yours,


Des Moines, Iowa, January 30, 1974.

DEAR MR. ____: I have your letter of January 12, and it made my day. There is a story that in medieval England a dragon plundered the countryside. The local abbot offered a reward to anyone who could slay the dragon. Several monks were killed in the attempt to do it. The abbot withdrew the offer and decreed that (because of the danger) no further attempts should be made.

One young monk, heartsore because of the depredation, went forth (despite the decree) to try. He killed the dragon.

The rejoicing multitude brought him on their shoulders to the abbot and asked that he be given the reward. The abbot looked sternly at the young monk and said: "You deserve no reward but punishment. You violated the orders which you were given. Go to your cell."

The young monk bowed his head and replied, "You are right, and I ask forgiveness." He sorrowfully turned to leave.

The abbot called him back and said: "You shall have the reward, but not for killing the dragon. You shall have it for your humility and your capacity to take correction."

I assume that you are no monk, and I shall certainly not be presumptuous enough to suggest that I am an abbot or that I stand in that relation to you. However, if I were and if you were, I would give you the reward. You have behaved like a man, with no attempts at wiggling or evasion. I thank you, and I hope that I may one day meet you.


National Federation of the Blind.

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Editor's Note.—The following is reprinted from the Palmetto Auroran, publication of our NFB affiliate in South Carolina. Don Capps is president of the affiliate and First Vice-President of the NFB. This annual report by Mr. Capps to his fellow members of the South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind is taken from the transcription of a tape made at the SCACB convention.

I'd like to add my greetings and welcome to all of you in addition to Art Kloster's and the Mayor's. I share your enthusiasm and excitement that has been apparent throughout the convention. This is a large convention and I feel it will probably be the largest one ever in the history of the Aurora organization. This particular time, August 1973, represents and marks a very important anniversary in the life of your State president. It was exactly twenty years ago, in August of 1953, that I joined the Aurora Club in Columbia. My only regret at this time is that I did not join earlier and then I would have had more joy and more pleasure and satisfaction in the tremendous accomplishments of this organization. As I think back on this twenty years I realize that in August of 1953 there was no State organization; there were two chapters, Spartanburg and Columbia, but there was no State organization, no State constitution, no State charter, no treasury. I recall that in 1956 money had to be borrowed from the bank to attend the national Convention. There was no Aurora Center; there was no Palmetto Auroran, no bus, no White Cane Week, no legislation. I think now of the Model White Cane Law that was passed last year. I think of the Set-Aside bill which abolished the practice of collecting set-aside funds from the blind vending stand operators, and the thousands and thousands of dollars that have gone into the pockets of the blind vending stand operators since 1964 because Aurora was willing to take this matter before the General Assembly. I think of other things as well. I think of the affiliation with the National Federation of the Blind which was not apparent in 1953. Of the very little influence this organization had in 1953, twenty years ago. I could go on and on and on about the growth of the seven chapters we have today and the influence that we do have and the legislation that we've passed and the individual service that has gone on in the Aurora Club. I should pause just a minute to salute you, the membership, the State officers and State board members and all chapter officers and members for the tremendous accomplishments of this organization during the past twenty years. I look forward with great anticipation to the next twenty years of working with you.

Last year I spoke of stewardship. I said that we would be looking to those persons holding down responsible positions in work with the blind, for their stewardship is nothing more than accountability. That is, to be accountable for your performance, for your decisions, and for your dedication, and for our accountability to the blind of this State. During the past year I have been happy and pleased with the stewardship of some people in work with the blind, both sighted and blind. I have been disappointed in the lack of stewardship and positions taken by other persons, both sighted and blind, in work with the blind. At this time I would like to talk with you about the stewardship of this administration, and the State officers and State board and officers of chapters.

One of the things that a state organization must do is to continue to work with its chapters. To continue to reach out and find new blind people. To sell them on the idea of Aurora. This past fall an organizing team came to Greenville and assisted in the growth and development of the Greenville chapter, and there still is a great deal to be done in Greenville as there is in other areas of the State. Greenville is a difficult area in which to organize a representative chapter of the Aurora Club. First of all it does not have the ties that are enjoyed by some other cities, such as Spartanburg where the school is located, and Columbia where the broom shop operated for such a long time, and in Charleston where you have the Charleston County Association. But I am convinced that with continued effort we will ultimately have the type of organization here in Greenville that the city deserves. In addition, the organizing committee is working at this time in Sumter and other areas of the State. Our goal at this time is to have eight chapters before this year is concluded, nine chapters in 1974, tne chapters by 1975. I want to salute again the organizing committee under the direction of Marshall Tucker, James Sims, Billy Potter, and Tommy Ingle, and others who have worked over the State.

One of the things that a state organization ought to do, or any business from time to time, is to hold a management session or a seminar. It has been the practice of your State organization for some time now to hold at least one annual seminar where there is a free exchange of ideas pertaining to the Aurora Club. I hope next time we plan a seminar that all of you will make an effort to attend. I think you will find it enlightening and I think it will be beneficial to you. We must develop leaders and we must have an exchange of ideas because this is the way that you learn. During the past several months we have been working on an Aurora film. Tonight you will see and hear a fifteen-minute Aurora film presentation. A great deal of work and a good bit of money has gone into the preparation of this film, and it will have its premiere showing tonight.

Last year at our 1972 convention in Columbia, you recall that there was a discussion of a student division. Suzy Bridges is the chairman of that group and this administration is committed to helping the students in every possible way that we can. The young people of today coming into the Aurora Club have much more going for them than we had going for us twenty years ago. But we are committed to helping them every way possible and we know that in years to come, Aurora will have good leadership. And there will be involvement of the blind themselves in upgrading conditions among the blind. Recently we have been working on a program of promoting wills and bequests for the Aurora Club. The chairman of the Wills Committee is Dr. R. Wright Spears, president of Columbia College. In the near future we will be working with banks, lawyers, and rank-and-file citizens throughout South Carolina, giving them an opportunity to leave a portion of their property and their estate to the Aurora organization. I think this will be not an immediate source of financial help, but over the long haul we will certainly be benefited by promoting this program of wills.

Most of you know that in addition to my duties as State president, I also serve as First Vice-President of the National Federation of the Blind. I have a number of responsibilities with the NFB. Since our convention a year ago, I have spoken to five different state conventions, in Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Florida. In addition, I made side trips to Georgia and to Alabama. As you know, it takes time to prepare speeches and to perform out of state and yet when I am attending another state convention I feel that I am not only representing you but I am also representing South Carolina. And this is why, when we are out of state, or representing you, we try at all times to put our best foot forward.

As you know, for the past three years we have had a chartered bus for our State organization to attend the national Convention. During the past three years we have spent between three and four thousand dollars of State funds and chapter funds to assist as many members as possible to the national Convention. I believe it is vitally important for each and every member to attend the national Convention if at all possible, and the State organization and the chapters are committed to doing just that. This past year we had forty-six South Carolinians at the national Convention. We slipped just a little. We slipped out of the top ten. The tenth position had fifty-one people from that state. I thought about that—now if one other member from each of the seven chapters had gone this year, just one more, we would have had fifty-three people there and we would not have slipped out of the top ten. I realize that South Carolina is not as big a state as a lot of them, but we have a larger membership in comparison to some of the state organizations throughout the country. So next year, even now, I ask all State officers and all State directors and chapter presidents and chapter officers to begin work on the 1974 Convention in Chicago. Let's get back in the top ten and share the pride and joy of being among the leaders. So one more from each chapter next year, or let's try to make it two more. It's a wonderful experience to attend the national Convention. If you read the last issue of the Palmetto Auroran, there were three people who presented articles on their first NFB Convention. Let's go all out next year for the national Convention.

I'd like to take this opportunity of thanking many of you for the contributions that you have made to the Palmetto Auroran during the past twelve months. Many of you have sent in articles or newspaper clippings on our various members, and it makes very good reading. We are proud every time one of our members is featured in the newspaper. As you know, I have served as the editor of the Palmetto Auroran for more than ten years. From time to time I have encouraged various people to become editor, but I don't get any offers. If any of you feel that you would like to work on the Palmetto Auroran and have the credentials, I'd be glad to talk to you. It takes up a good bit of my time and yet it is essential that a state organization of the blind have a good state publication. Many of the articles that go into the Palmetto Auroran are reprinted by other national publications. The purpose of the Palmetto Auroran is to keep you informed on important matters. Obviously it cannot cover all of the situations that come up from time to time, but if you will make it a practice to read it carefully, I believe you will keep essentially up to date. I think a better-informed member is indeed a better member.

One of the finest things that could have possibly happened to the State organization occurred this past March. The officers and directors of the Association of the Blind of South Carolina voted to contribute all of the assets of the Association to the South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind, to the tune of $47,000. I'd like to pay tribute to the officers and board members of the Association for the wonderful job they did in winding down the affairs of the Association. And let's not forget the $45,000 that you-the membership and the Association's officers and board members—gave to the Commission for the Blind. All you need to do is do a little arithmetic and you'll see that was $92,000 that was given to the Commission for the Blind and the Aurora Club. Isn't it wonderful that an organization of the blind like the Association ended its operation and went out in glory to the tune of $92,000 which will perpetuate the memory of the Association and the fine manner in which its business was conducted. Again, I do pay tribute to the membership and to the officers and directors of the Association of the Blind.

In recent years, more and more groups, including organizations of the blind, have turned to the courts to resolve controversial issues. This includes the South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind. We supported and we financed the litigation this past February against two members of the Commission for the Blind, Mr. Neidhardt and Dr. Holmes. We were successful in that the litigation was terminated by the resignation of a member of the Commission board who was serving illegally. Now I think any group, whether it be a sighted group or a blind group, should first try to resolve issues through negotiation and dispose of them as amicably as possible. But there are times when this is impossible. If it involves a legal question, or if the court can resolve it, then the Aurora Club has no fear in going to court. We do not welcome it, but we do not fear it. In the future, this will continue to be our policy. We will negotiate differences. We will try through meetings, arm twisting, and every honorable way to resolve situations that come up. But you can rest assured that this organization will not back away from the courts if it takes this to insure the rights and to get justice on behalf of the blind of the State.

As I have spoken I am sure that you realize that Aurora has become big business. I can envision the time when the Aurora organization will need a full-time staff member. I don't mean people who operate the Aurora Center, the two ladies we have employed there. I'm talking about a knowledgeable, articulate member who will be working full-time for the State organization. I can think back during the past year that there were times when we needed to have someone at the State capitol, needed someone to perhaps visit with the Attorney General, needed someone on the spot, right at that particular time, to attend meetings. Obviously, those of us who work for a living cannot always take off and do these things, but in the years to come I predict that we will want to hire a full-time staff member who will work under the State board and State president. Obviously he should not be an elected officer; he should work under the State president and the State board. Not many of us have the means to purchase a large number of shares in an ongoing business or organization with assets of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Not many of us own a large share of stock in an organization of the blind or any other business operation, and yet do you realize that while this organization had nothing in the way of money twenty years ago, today the State organization and its chapters have nearly a quarter of a million dollars in assets. Did you realize that? By just being a member of the Aurora Club, you are actually a large stock-holder in a large organization of the blind with assets of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. So when you go out and meet other blind people you've got something to offer them. This is not a do-nothing or dormant organization, but an ongoing organization of which every blind person should feel privileged to be a member.

Some of you might know that I'm a Rotarian as well as an Auroran. I did not join the Rotary Club because I had idle time or that I believed in Rotary more than I do Aurora. I joined Rotary because I think it's important for your State president to be an integral part of the business and community life of the area where he lives. To walk shoulder to shoulder with the leading businessmen.

This helps improve the image of the blind. A couple of years ago one of our prominent members in the Rotary Club resigned, and in making some inquiries I learned that he had resigned because a person who had been in the Rotary Club less time than he had become president. He did not think that was fair. He thought that he should have been president because he had been in there longer than the guy that did become president. This guy that resigned operates a big business in Columbia, is probably a millionaire, a college graduate, and a leader in his church. Yet he resigned because one other Rotarian became president before he did. I bring this up because whether it is an organization of the sighted, the Rotary Club, or the Aurora Club, there are times when members become disgruntled and unhappy because of their status in the organization. I have worked with State presidents and chapter presidents during the past twenty years and I can say to you this morning that I believe every chapter president and every State president that I have ever worked with in this organization have served to the very best of their ability and as sincerely as they know how to serve. I know of no organization that has a greater dedication and greater cooperation than this organization. Being president is not a place for a sissy. You have to make decisions, take positions, and you have to have a tough hide in order to be a good, strong president of any organization. We should also remember that this organization is made up of volunteers. There are no paid people. All members of this organization serve without pay and give of their time and give it very unselfishly.

Now, how do you want me to spend my time as State president? Do you want me to spend a great deal of time pampering and petting people and doing negative things? Or answering rumors—inaccurate information or misinformation? Or do you want me to use my time and energy—what I have left over from my regular job with Colonial Life—do you want me to use my time and energy to get more chapters in the organization, or writing better publications, or bringing in more money to White Cane Week, or getting more people to the national Convention? I think it's very obvious what you want. You want me to be fair with all people but you want me to make decisions, to work with other State officers, and to build this organization. I would say that five percent of the president's time ought to be involved in working with members who are upset, but ninety-five percent ought to be used to promote the organization, and making it a better organization.

And finally, how about the future of this organization? Well we've got a lot going for us, believe me. I would say that the future is just as high as we can make it. It depends upon our commitment, it depends upon our willingness to give of our time, to sacrifice evenings to attend meetings, to contribute financially and give of ourselves. We ought to be wholehearted members, not halfhearted members or lukewarm members. And we have our share of wholehearted members, believe me. This concludes the president's report, and I would hope you will endorse the stewardship of the State president and the State board of this organization during the past twelve months.

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In many ways the ongoing battle between NAC and the blind symbolizes much more than the immediate issues. In it can be seen our rejection of custodialism, our growing self-awareness, and our determination to emerge as first-class citizens. In it can also be seen the resistance to change, the failure to understand, and the outrage which custodial interests always feel when the members of a minority group take concerted action to achieve their rights and alter the status quo.

The struggle with NAC has probably been more thoroughly documented than any problem we have ever faced. It is known and understood in depth by tens of thousands of the blind and their sighted friends throughout the country. The broad outlines of the record are complete. Two questions, then, are now squarely before us: What have we accomplished, and where do we go from here?

In the first place, NAC's strategy has been clear and consistent from the beginning. The tactics have changed to try to meet new circumstances, but the overall strategy has never varied. NAC refuses to deal with the issues or answer the charges raised by the blind. Indeed, it even denies that we are the blind. It does this by a two-fold maneuver: trying to inflate the numbers of blind people in the Nation, and claiming that we are only one of many organizations of the blind. At first NAC accepted the usual figure of several hundred thousand blind people in the United States; then it said there were more than a million; and now it claims several million. If the National Federation of the Blind has only fifty thousand members, it should have a proportionately smaller voice in affairs of the blind every time the total number of the blind population can be boosted higher. At least, this is what NAC would seem to be saying.

Further, NAC keeps sending out form letters to what it calls "all national organizations of the blind"—implying that there must be a great many. In addition, it tries maneuvers to discredit our membership figures.

What, one might ask, does all of this have to do with the charges which have been raised against NAC? Nothing, of course; but this is the NAC strategy. Don't defend. Attack the one who makes the charges. Attack the representative character of the Federation. Question the membership figures. Make innuendoes about the personal lives of the leaders. Imply that the Federation is improperly filling out its tax returns. Attack everything and anything, and try to discredit; but don't answer the charges or deal with the issues. This is the NAC strategy.

Will it work? Only in the short run, and only then if we permit it. In fact, the very viciousness of some of the recent NAC attacks is the clearest proof of their growing alarm and desperation. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the following exchange of letters between Don Staley, executive director of Recording for the Blind, and the NFB President. When the blind expressed concern that Recording for the Blind (a generally respected and well-thought-of organization) had allowed itself to become associated with NAC and when they asked to appear before the RFB Board to show why the relationship should be terminated, they were not there to talk about the nature or character of the NFB. They were there to talk about NAC:

New York, New York, January 17, 1974.

National Federation of the Blind,
Des Moines, Iowa.

DEAR KEN: As you may have heard from Marc Maurer by now, we have invited him and a representative of the NAC to attend the next meeting of the executive committee of our board of directors on Tuesday, February 12th.

I am preparing a file of information to circulate to the members for study prior to the meeting, and I would like to include copies of your latest Annual Report and audited financial statements. I would appreciate your sending me sixteen copies by return mail.

Thank you very much.


Executive Director.


Des Moines, Iowa, January 24, 1974.

Mr. DON STALEY, Executive Director,
Recording for the Blind, Inc.,
New York, New York.

DEAR DON: I am, of course, pleased to hear that you have invited Marc Maurer and a NAC representative to attend your February executive committee meeting. The purpose of that meeting, I assume, is to discuss NAC, not the National Federation of the Blind. Under the circumstances your request that we send you an audited financial statement would seem strange—it would, that is, if I were not aware of NAC's latest defense tactics.

As you may know, NAC first tried to ignore the organized blind altogether. When this failed, they tried vilification and name-calling. When this did not divert attention from their shortcomings, they turned "cutsie" and tried the "documenting" game. In this connection you are doubtless familiar with the article (copy enclosed) which appeared in the December issue of The Monitor.

When we exposed the "documenting" trick, NAC began to try a new tactic. Members of Congress and even HEW officials were asking questions. Dr. D. C. MacFarland, head of HEW's Office for the Blind, had suggested to Mr. Robinson, NAC's president, that NAC meet with us to discuss problems. Under date of November 28, 1973, Mr. Robinson sent Dr. MacFarland a letter attacking NFB's tax status and financial integrity. Among other things, he enclosed parts of our 1971 tax return. You are familiar with this letter and with this information. I know this because I have seen Mr. Handel's memorandum accompanying the Robinson letter to all NAC-approved agencies. In my opinion, the Robinson letter is vicious and filled with half-truths and downright falsehoods. I can and will illustrate what I mean, but let me first say something else. Whether Mr. Robinson's letter is totally true, totally false, or somewhere in between, NAC is not going to be helped by it. The blind are determined to bring reforms in NAC, and we are not going to fall into the trap of trying to justify ourselves to NAC, thus diverting attention from the charges we have made concerning them. Regardless of how bad the blind and their organizations may be, NAC must still deal with the substantive questions which have been raised concerning their structure and performance. Likewise, the agencies doing work with the blind in this Nation must deal with those questions, too.

As I have said, Mr. Robinson's letter to Dr. MacFarland leaves one with the usual question about the ethics of NAC's behavior. For instance, Mr. Robinson says:

The leaders of NFB have claimed for several years to be spokesmen for more than fifty thousand members. Yet on the first page of the same Form 990 NFB reports a total income from membership dues in the year 1971 as $1,366. NFB has not told us what its dues are, but a dues income of $1,366 for fifty thousand members is less than three cents per member, which seems rather curious.

With respect to the amount of money which the National Federation of the Blind reported for dues for 1971, our Constitution says in article VII: "Each state affiliate shall pay an annual assessment of thirty dollars. Assessments shall be payable in advance on or before January 1." We have affiliates in all of the states except four, and in those we have individual members, who pay one dollar dues per year. Thus, in my own State of Iowa we have thirteen local chapters and almost a thousand members, but we pay dues of only thirty dollars to the National Office. At our 1973 Convention in New York almost two thousand blind persons were present. NAC is aware of this because it had representatives present to monitor our meetings. What, then, does this say about Mr. Robinson's comments?

Later in his letter Mr. Robinson says: "NFB is also banned from soliciting funds in the State of North Carolina." To the best of my belief and knowledge this is an unqualified falsehood. It is true that we have not asked the North Carolina Solicitations Bureau to license our fundraising campaigns, nor have we asked any other state to do so. We have held that the states do not have the authority to regulate the United States mails, and our fundraising is a mail campaign. This, however, is something quite different from being "banned." It is not merely a matter of semantics. In my opinion, it is a matter of innuendo and deliberate distortion.

With respect to the remainder of Mr. Robinson's letter I can only say to you that the National Federation of the Blind received a very thorough tax audit from Internal Revenue in 1969. No fault was found with our method of accounting or filing. We are still operating in the same manner.

Don, so far as I know, the blind of this country have a high regard for Recording for the Blind. They regret that, for whatever reason, you allowed yourselves to become accredited by NAC. The question now is not whether the National Federation of the Blind is a good organization or a wretched one. Rather, the question is whether Recording for the Blind will continue to allow itself to be associated in name with a group like NAC. If we of the Federation were asking that you seek accreditation from us, then you might very legitimately, it seems to me, inquire into our credentials, as we are now asking that you do with NAC.

However, such is not the case. You know (and, incidentally, NAC knows) that we have the largest membership of any organization of blind people in this country. Regardless of our morals, we are consumers (the largest group in the Nation), and we have the right to be heard regarding services and standards which affect our lives. We have not the slightest intention of trying to justify to NAC or to any other agency our existence as an organization of blind people.

I would ask that you give your executive committee a copy of this letter and that they also be permitted to see the extensive file we have gathered concerning NAC. That file is damning. In my opinion, it shows conclusively that NAC is unfit to accredit any organization and that it violates both professionalism and reasonable ethics.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.

P.S.—We are now consulting with legal counsel with the view of providing Mr. Robinson with a forum in the courts to establish the veracity of his various statements concerning the National Federation of the Blind. I am sure that he will respond to this opportunity with his accustomed degree of dignity and straightforwardness.



As congressional protest and pressure have mounted, HEW and NAC have developed a series of stock answers, usually given in form letters:

(1) HEW appointed an independent team of outside experts to study the NFB charges against NAC, and this independent team found that the charges were without substance—besides which the Federation had representation on the team.

(2) It is not the blind but the members of the National Federation of the Blind that are dissatisfied with NAC-and not really the members of the Federation but the leaders-and not really the leaders but the President.

(3) The NAC standards represent a consensus, and everybody favors NAC except the NFB, which is only one small group standing alone.

(4) The NAC standards may not be perfect, but they are improving the quality of services to the blind.

(5) NAC has a policy of "openness," and Federation members have freely been allowed to attend NAC Board meetings. In spite of this generosity, the Federation has picketed NAC meetings and otherwise demonstrated ingratitude.

All of this is, of course, a pack of nonsense. As Federationists know, Congressman Ron Sarasin of Connecticut has helped lead the way in trying to reform NAC. Under date of December 15, 1973, Mr. Stephen Kurzman, Assistant Secretary for Legislation for HEW, wrote to Congressman Sarasin with some of the usual stock answers. He said, among other things, that NFB observers "freely attended" recent NAC Board meetings.

NFB Washington representative Jim Gashel, disturbed by such an astonishing statement, discussed the Kurzman letter with another high HEW official in January. Mr. Gashel asked the official to read the exchange of letters last summer and fall between NAC's president and the NFB President and then to read the Kurzman letter and tell him whether he thought it was truthful. The HEW official reportedly said, after reading the correspondence, that he thought the Kurzman letter was not true but that it didn't matter. He indicated that, if necessary, Mr. Kurzman could go to Congressman Sarasin and simply say, "Ron, lay off."

We of the Federation do not agree with this reported assessment made by the HEW official. We do not believe that the Congress has merely engaged in an exercise in letter-writing concerning NAC, nor do we believe NAC and HEW can forever avoid their responsibilities by form letters and misrepresentations. A number of the letters which Jim Gashel spread before the HEW official have appeared in past issues of The Monitor. Some of them have not.

In order to set the record straight and make the issue unmistakably clear, we herewith print the Jernigan-Robinson correspondence and follow it with the Kurzman letter. We invite Monitor readers to make the test for themselves. Is the Kurzman letter truthful? Did Federationists "freely" attend the NAC board meetings?

Des Moines, Iowa, July 19, 1973.

National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the
Blind and Visually Handicapped,
New York, New York.

DEAR MR. ROBINSON: It is my understanding that you are now the president of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). Therefore, I write to you in your official capacity.

At NAC's board meeting at the O'Hare Inn last month two silent observers from the organized blind movement were admitted, but they were refused permission (after having been promised by Dr. Salmon, then president of NAC, that it would be granted) to distribute a memorandum to those present. The full text of the memorandum is as follows:

This memorandum is to be distributed to members of the NAC Board at the time of their meeting Thursday, June 21, 1973.

TO: Members of the Board of Directors of the National Accreditation
Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped

FROM: Kenneth Jernigan

DATE: June 21, 1973

The National Federation of the Blind asks that copies of the minutes of the NAC Board meeting being held today, and of all future NAC Board meetings, be sent to the Federation so that the blind of the Nation may have an official record of your proceedings. Further, the events of the past few months make it clear that NAC's executive committee makes policy decisions (often in direct contravention of actions taken by the NAC Board). Therefore, we also ask that we be notified of the time and place of all future meetings of the NAC Executive Committee and that we be permitted to have observers at those meetings. We would also suggest that our observers be allowed a reasonable amount of time (both at NAC Executive Committee meetings and NAC Board meetings) to bring to NAC matters of concern to the blind.

National Federation of the Blind.

I now officially ask that you respond to the issues raised in the memorandum and that this letter be circulated to the members of the NAC Board. Will we be notified of the time and place of future NAC Executive Committee and Board meetings, and will we be permitted to have observers at those meetings? If observers may attend, must they remain silent, or will they be allowed to make brief statements regarding matters of concern to the blind? May we have copies of minutes of executive committee and board meetings, and may we have an up-to-date list of the names and addresses of NAC Board members?

Some NAC officials have said that we have declined to meet with them to discuss differences. As the record will indicate, this is not the truth. I now repeat to you our request that a delegation of top NAC Board members meet with a delegation from our organization to discuss differences. We would suggest that such a meeting be held in Chicago at the earliest possible date. We hope your response will be affirmative, for we have no quarrel with the concept of accreditation—only with the undemocratic structure and procedures of NAC. I shall appreciate an early response from you.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.


New York, New York, July 26, 1973.

National Federation of the Blind,
Des Moines, Iowa.

DEAR MR. JERNIGAN: In response to your letter of July 19, 1973, please note that the memorandum you refer to and quote was made available to members of the board at the meeting of June 21, 1973.

The enclosed committee report and resolution, unanimously approved by our board of directors, sets forth the current policy of the board regarding the conduct of its meetings.

Very truly yours,



Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 1973.

DEAR MR. ROBINSON: On July 19, 1973, I sent you a letter. I asked you certain specific questions. On July 26, 1973, you sent what purported to be an answer. It wasn't. You did not respond to a single one of my questions. Instead, you sent me a committee report and a resolution.

In the meantime I have received a letter (copy enclosed) from Mr. Corbett Reedy. You will observe that Mr. Reedy says that he has asked NAC to do the very things the Federation has been requesting all of these months and years.

I would like to make some comments about your July 26 letter. You say the memorandum that the Federation asked NAC to distribute at its June 21 meeting was "made available to members of the board." Mr. John Taylor (one of the two NFB observers at that meeting) tells me that Dr. Salmon had promised him that the memorandum would be distributed but that Dr. Salmon said publicly at the board meeting that the NAC Executive Committee had decided the memorandum could not be distributed. Are you now telling me that the memorandum was distributed, or are you playing NAC's usual word game and saying that "made available" means something other than "distributed?" I believe Mr. Taylor told me the truth, and I want to know if you are prepared to deny it. I would like to know whether you will distribute this correspondence and our earlier letters to the members of the NAC Board.

I now ask you once again to respond to the questions that I raised in my July 19 letter. Please do not send me a resolution or a committee report or a speech or a diatribe. Just give it to me straight. If you will not let Federation representatives come to your board meetings, please have the courage and decency to say so directly, without wiggling or equivocating. If you will not permit observers at your executive committee meetings or send us your minutes or give us a list of the names and addresses of your board members or meet with us to discuss differences, then be man enough to say it—and in simple, straightforward language. On the other hand, if you will do these things, say you will do them—say it directly and straight to the point.

Must we prod and push you every step of the way to fair treatment and democratic action! If so, we will do it. In the meantime the record NAC is building is clear for all to see.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.


New York, New York, September 24, 1973.

DEAR MR. JERNIGAN: Your letter of August 10th, which reached me on my return to the city, contains a number of questions which I believe have already been answered in the materials which have been sent to you over an extended period of time. I believe, if you will review them with care, our policies of openness and our desire to receive specific input and suggestions from all concerned persons and groups will be apparent. I believe no useful purpose would be served at this time, therefore, by an attempt on my part to paraphrase or further elaborate on official actions of our board.

The next meeting of NAC's board of directors is scheduled for December 12 and 13 in New York City. If you have a specific matter which you wish to present to the board, please advise me of it in sufficient detail so that it can be considered for possible inclusion in the agenda of that meeting.

Very truly yours,



Des Moines, Iowa, September 27, 1973.

DEAR MR. ROBINSON: In your letter of September 24, 1973, you say that the questions raised in my letter to you of August 10 "have already been answered in the materials which have been sent" to me "over an extended period of time." You tell me that if I will review this material with care, you think your policies of openness will be apparent. You then say that you believe "no useful purpose would be served at this time" by an attempt on your part to "paraphrase or further elaborate on official actions of" the NAC Board.

I have taken your advice. I have carefully reviewed the mass of material I have received from you and other NAC officials. Your expectations were not fulfilled. Your policies are not apparent. I do not want you to paraphrase. Most especially I do not want you "to elaborate" on actions of the NAC Board. All I ask is that you have the courage and the honesty to give me simple, unequivocal answers.

Therefore, I herewith send you once more my August 10 letter and request that you reply to it. In view of the fact that NAC first said that it would and then that it would not and, finally, that it would admit observers to its last board meeting, how can you say with a straight face that your policies are apparent?

You tell me that your next board meeting will occur in New York December 12-13. Will you admit observers, and what is the location of the meeting? In other words will you answer my letter of August 10?

We will take the record you have built to the Members of Congress, and I should think you would be ashamed of the record of deception, double-talk, and double-dealing you are building. All we want from NAC is fair play and fair treatment. I now ask you again to respond to my letter of August 10. This letter is being sent by registered mail so that there cannot be any question later as to whether it was received.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.


New York, New York, October 5, 1973.

DEAR MR. JERNIGAN: Thank you for your letter of September 27, 1973.

With respect to your request for more detailed information than I have already given you concerning the location of our board of directors meeting scheduled to be held in New York City on December 12-13, please watch for the fall issue of The Standard-Bearer.

With respect to our policy of admitting observers to board meetings, please refer to my letter of July 26, 1973, and its enclosed statement of board policy relative to this matter.

With respect to the reason why we requested that you send observers to our June 1973 board meeting, please refer to our telegram of June 11, 1973.

With regard to the rest of your letter, I am sorry that your difficulty in comprehending is not matched by my powers of exposition.

Very truly yours,



Des Moines, Iowa, October 23, 1973.

DEAR MR. ROBINSON: I have your letter of October 5, 1973, and the National Federation of the Blind again formally and officially requests that you tell us the exact time and location of your December board meeting and that you permit us to have a reasonable number of observers present. We also request that those observers be given fifteen minutes to present to the NAC Board matters of concern to us. In view of the fact that NAC is established to improve services to blind people and in view of the fact that the National Federation of the Blind has more than fifty thousand members and is the largest organization of blind persons in this country, our request would seem to be reasonable.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.


New York, New York, November 8, 1973.

DEAR MR. JERNIGAN: Since it appears that you had not received the most recent issue of The Standard-Bearer on October 23 when you wrote me, I enclose a copy. The method of requesting time for a presentation to our board is described therein.

Very truly yours,



Des Moines, Iowa, November 15, 1973.

MR. ROBINSON: Your cryptic letter of November 8 received. Standard-Bearer contained nothing new. Your letter contained nothing new. Two official Federation observers (Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Ralph Sanders) will be present at your meeting in December. Will they be admitted?

National Federation of the Blind.


New York, New York, November 21, 1973.

DEAR DR. JERNIGAN: In view of all the correspondence and documentation already supplied to you, the question contained in your letter of November 15, 1973, is incongruous.

Very truly yours,



Des Moines, Iowa, December 4, 1973.

MR. ROBINSON: It isn't, and will they?

National Federation of the Blind.


Washington, D.C., December 3, 1973.

House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C.

DEAR RON: Thank you for your letter of October 11 concerning complaints about the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) raised by members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) who recently visited your office. You also enclosed a letter from Mr. Rami Rabby alleging patronizing and discriminating practices on the part of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind.

We have received a number of similar inquiries from other Congressmen stemming from visits from Federation members during the second week of October. As a result of these inquiries, you may be assured that the staff of the Social and Rehabilitation Service will be closely monitoring the situation.

Since the inception of NAC, the Social and Rehabilitation Service has been one of the sponsors of this organization's efforts to increase the quality of services to blind persons throughout the Nation. Including the current grant, our agency has provided financial assistance in the total amount of $566,000 spread over the past five years, matched by an equal amount from other resources. Like other accrediting efforts in the field of education and health, required financial assistance through our agency will decrease until NAC is self-supporting through private resources and fees from membership and accreditation.

The overall plan for an accrediting base for public and private agencies, rehabilitation facilities, and schools serving blind persons resulted from an expressed need on the part of many agencies for the blind to upgrade their services. The effort culminated in the development of standards for the different phases of work for the blind. Following the initial stages of development, an organization was officially established for the purpose of serving as the accrediting agency applying the standards previously mentioned. It should be emphasized that accreditation is a voluntary process. Detailed methods and procedures for self-evaluation, on-site review, and other pertinent information regarding accreditation procedures are contained in the brochure entitled "The Why/What/How of Accreditation in Servies to the Blind and Visually Handicapped," a copy of which is included. NAC is continually adding new facets to these methods and procedures.

In 1971, NAC became the first accrediting body in the field of secondary education to receive official recognition from the U.S. Commissioner of Education and to be included in the Commissioner's listing of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies. This decision was made following a thorough review of NAC's standards and methods. The fifty schools and agencies now accredited, headed by highly respected leaders in the field, provide services for at least eighty-five thousand blind children and adults.

Of the current thirty-two members on the NAC Board of Directors, eleven are blind. The board membership represents a wide variety of expertise in business, labor, education, ophthalmology, and other technical experience encompassing areas of knowledge which are essential for reviewing large multi-faceted organizations. The fact that eleven members of the current board are blind does not, however, meet the demands of the National Federation of the Blind. They believe that one-third of the membership should be appointed by the Federation, with power to remove or replace such membership. Such an arrangement is unacceptable to NAC and would violate the corporate charter under which they operate.

Another major issue raised by NFB during the past year is the right to have observers attend all board meetings. We have discussed this with NAC officials, and NFB observers were invited to attend both the New York meeting in December 1972 and the annual meeting in Chicago, June 1973. Although NFB observers freely attended all sessions at both meetings, a large NFB group demonstrated and picketed both meetings.

Executive Order 11671 requires HEW meetings to be open to the public; this rule does not extend, however, to grantees who are being supported in part by Federal funds. While we certainly encourage such meetings to permit public attendance insofar as such participation does not constitute direct violation of laws of confidentiality, we do not exercise control in this matter. In fact, we must respect the judgment of the officers of the Council to determine those conditions that require closed executive sessions.

With respect to the additional correspondence received from Mr. Rabby, the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind is a private organization, and the Department does not exercise any authority over their operations. As to any specific charges regarding mistreatment of blind employees or abuse of individual worker certification, it is my understanding that the Labor Department exercises very stringent control over certificates granted for special circumstances, and supervises the program with great regularity. I am forwarding a copy of your correspondence on this matter to the Labor Department and requesting that they respond directly to you on it.

We believe that HEW has demonstrated its sensitivity to the needs of the blind and shall continue to be responsive to suggestions received from numerous agencies and private citizens in support of NAC, as well as the criticisms raised by the National Federation of the Blind with respect to our responsibilities for administration of the grant.

Because of NFB's charges, HEW commissioned a group of highly qualified and respected experts, from outside the granting agency (SRS), to assess NAC's performance. The group reported to the Department that NAC was performing properly and that NFB's charges were not sustained. A copy of that report and of the names of its authors is enclosed for your information.

The two organizations have at least one thing in common—an interest in providing better services to blind persons. We have sincerely felt that with this premise in mind, problems can best be resolved by the two organizations' working directly with each other. However, in view of your intervention, and that of other Members of Congress, I have asked the Administrator of the Social and Rehabilitation Service to review your correspondence to see whether there is anything further HEW can do to help the two organizations achieve a working relationship.

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.

Sincerely yours,

Assistant Secretary for Legislation.


In view of the foregoing correspondence, Mr. Robinson's Memo, dated January 31, 1974, is of considerable interest. Again, are the facts really facts, and are the implications accurate? Let Monitor readers decide for themselves:

January 31, 1974.


TO: National Organizations Concerned with Services to
Blind and Visually Handicapped Persons

FROM: Daniel D. Robinson, President
National Accreditation Council

SUBJECT: Meetings of the Board of Directors

It is a pleasure to be able to advise you that you are welcome to send an observer to meetings of the Board of Directors of the National Accreditation Council. I invite and encourage you to do so as a means of stimulating greater understanding of matters of interest and concern to us all.

I want to share with you the factors which led us to issue this invitation.

In 1971 the question arose as to policy regarding the admittance to board meetings of observers. A review of prevailing practice found that of the national voluntary agencies comparable in operation and function to NAC, none admitted general observers to their board meetings.

Despite these findings NAC's board decided that it had a real interest in receiving constructive information, and a general policy of openness was adopted in 1972. This policy stated in essence that the board encourages input from all individuals and organizations having an interest in the improvement of services to blind people. The policy provided a structure by which such imput could be provided, including a provision for special presentations to the board itself. It did not, however, provide for routine attendance at board meetings by observers.

This policy was reviewed in the spring of 1973 and again unanimously affirmed.

The environment has changed recently, and the public has become concerned about "closed" meetings. In order that the public trust in NAC not be affected by the growing suspicion of secrecy in high places, NAC's policy was broadened at the board's December 1973 meeting.

The modified policy now includes provision for an observer at NAC's board meetings from any national organization concerned with service to blind and visually handicapped persons. NAC asks only that it be given reasonable notice in order to assure that adequate space can be provided for all guests. The provision for special appearances is retained. NAC's Annual Meeting, of course, has always been open.

This action (a copy of the revised resolution is attached) makes NAC the first national voluntary agency, so far as we know, to open the doors of its board meetings to observers, and certainly the first accrediting organization to do so.

Announcements concerning future board meetings will appear in The Standard-Bearer or in special bulletins as soon as the dates and places have been determined. If you do not receive these publications and wish to do so please let us know so that your organization may be placed on our mailing list. Your organization is welcome to send an observer to any such meeting. If you wish to do so, please give us reasonable advance notice and indicate who your representative will be. Should you wish to make a special appearance before the board, kindly submit an outline of your intended presentation.

The next meeting of the board of directors will be held on Friday, May 31, 1974. NAC's Annual Meeting will be held the previous day. May 30. Both meetings will be held at the Flagship Inn, which is directly adjacent to the Greater Cincinnati Airport.

We look forward to hearing from you concerning your plans to attend either or both of these meetings.


December 13, 1973, New York, New York

Whereas, the National Accreditation Council's primary constituency is made up of those agencies which are fully participating members of the Council; and

Whereas, Annual Meetings of the Council are open; and

Whereas, the National Accreditation Council maintains a permanent staff, which includes among its responsibilities that of affording a channel to the board for all responsible communications from individuals or groups who have valid business to transact with the board; and

Whereas, officers and members of the board are widely dispersed in the Nation, and direct access to them is easy for any communication validly related to the function of the National Accreditation Council; and

Whereas, staff and board, alike, are expected to transmit communications related to or affecting the business of the National Accreditation Council; and

Whereas, the approved board minutes are available for inspection by members of the Council during regular business hours: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Board of the National Accreditation Council hereby adopts a general policy of openness which encourages input by individuals or groups who have a determinable interest in the welfare of blind persons as it may be affected by the National Accreditation Council;

And further, That a representative of any national organization concerned with services for blind and visually handicapped persons is welcome as an observer at any NAC Board of Directors meeting except executive sessions and that every reasonable consideration be given to requests for special purpose appearances at or presentations to meetings of the board of directors—in either case provided only that reasonable advance notice is given of the desire to attend so adequate accommodations may be provided.

*Revision of Resolution of June 24, 1972


The blind have repeatedly asked NAC to meet to discuss differences. NAC has just as repeatedly refused or ignored the invitations. Nevertheless, we continue to try, feeling that sooner or later NAC must come to the conference table—that it must consider its ways and reform. Thus President Jernigan sent the following letter to Mr. Robinson under date of February 13, 1974:

DEAR MR. ROBINSON: This letter is being written pursuant to my letter of January 16, 1974. In that letter I suggested to you once again that the leaders of our two organizations get together to discuss our differences.

As I see it, Mr. Robinson, the situation is like this: The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of blind persons in this country. At our New York Convention last summer we had some two thousand blind delegates from all over the Nation in attendance. You know this because NAC representatives were present. In other words the National Federation of the Blind is a fact of life, and its members feel that certain changes must be made in NAC if the best interests of the blind are to be served. NAC cannot ignore us or solve the problem by acting as if we were only one of many groups in the field.

On the other hand, NAC is also a fact of life. We cannot ignore it, and we do not wish to. Your standards and your interaction with agencies in the field affect our lives.

Surely no good purpose is served by continued hostility and warfare. The National Federation of the Blind would like nothing better than to resolve differences. To this end the Federation asks NAC to meet with us to discuss issues and solutions. As we have done in the past, we suggest Chicago, but there are also good reasons to consider Washington. We would be agreeable to either. We would arrange for an appropriate meeting place and would have top Federation people present. We would only hold such a meeting, however, with top NAC leaders, people in a position to make policy. A meeting with Mr. Topitzer, Mr. Collingwood, or other staff people at that level would serve no useful purpose. Specifically, NAC Board members and Mr. Handel should be included. We would come to such a meeting in good faith and would earnestly try to achieve an accord. We might also consider whether Congressmen and HEW officials should be invited.

In any case I urge that you give careful consideration to what I have said, and I hope you will make an affirmative response.

Very truly yours,

National Federation of the Blind.

So, where are we now, and where do we go from here? The blind of the Nation are thoroughly informed and thoroughly mobilized. The Members of Congress are becoming increasingly aware and disturbed. NAC is showing more and more strain and ever-growing hostility and bitterness. HEW is beginning to demonstrate some concern but is still largely relying on form letters and stock answers, apparently feeling that Congress will be too busy to pursue its inquiries in depth. There have been casualties on all sides, and there is still no end to the conflict. Yet, there are hopeful signs and a promise of progress ahead. The final outcome will depend upon the vigor and determination of the individual blind citizens throughout the country. Surely there can be no doubt as to what the outcome will be.

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We extend heartfelt sympathy and understanding to the blind of the states of New York, California, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. The reason is simple. The Winter, 1 974, issue of the Standard-Bearer, the official publication of NAC, tells the story.

The Standard-Bearer reports that the following agencies have now been accredited by NAC:

Blind Association of Western New York
Buffalo, New York
Clophos F. Bulleigh, Executive Director

Lancaster County Branch, Pennsylvania
Association for the Blind
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Mrs. Marion R. Campbell, Administrator

New Hampshire Association for the Blind
Concord, New Hampshire
Gale N. Stickler, Executive Director

Sacramento Society for the Blind
Sacramento, California
Tom Ryan, Executive Director

According to the Standard-Bearer fifty-three agencies have now been accredited in thirty-two states and the District of Columbia. Of course, this is still only about ten percent of the agencies doing work with the blind in this country but the NAC plague continues to spread. The blind of the infected areas deserve condolence, but they also deserve from all of us help in curing their agencies of the NAC disease. Faith without works is dead.

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[Reprinted by courtesy of the Associated Press.]

Highly successful cataract surgery, the use of sophisticated new instruments, and a search for better ways to treat diseases of the retina mark a renewed effort by research scientists to prevent blindness.

Blindness can be headed off in many cases through recent advances in detection, diagnosis, and treatment—but even so, if the present trend continues, a half-million Americans will lose their sight in the next ten years.

Despite the advances, eight out of ten cases of blindness result from disease processes that remain mysterious, and specialists agree that further strong efforts in basic research are needed now.

A turning point in research in ophthalmology came in 1968, when Congress established the National Eye Institute as part of the National Institutes of Health. It became a functioning unit more than three years ago.

"Since the institute was established, more research and more research training have been accomplished than in any previous comparable period and, more important, more high quality vision research and research training are projected than ever before," says Dr. Bradley R. Straatsma, a leading researcher at UCLA.

But research costs money, and like other medical and scientific researchers, Straatsma is worried about declining Federal support. The budget of the eye institute has been cut from $33.8 million in 1973 to $32 million for fiscal 1974. Dr. Straatsma says a minimum of $50 million is needed.

Whatever the outcome of the funding dispute, it is clear that the field of ophthalmology is in the midst of sweeping change and growth.

Consider cataracts, the most frequently diagnosed eye disease and the second most common cause of blindness in the United States. A loss of transparency of the lens, it can occur at any age but is more common with old age.

Nearly sixty percent of people at age sixty have some form of cataract; everybody has some degree at eighty years.

The success rate in restoring good vision through surgical extraction of cataracts now is over ninety percent. With improved surgical techniques and suturing, even the elderly can be up again quickly, some on the same day as the operation.

Glaucoma, another common cause of visual disability and blindness, is a condition marked by increased pressure within the eyeball. Drugs help some victims, and Americans spend $700 million annually for glaucoma medication.

If the drugs do not help, there is surgery.

The surgical technique remains essentially what it has been in recent years, but instruments have been refined. Still there is the underlying question: Why does the pressure go up?

Screening programs are one way of detecting glaucoma, a painless thing initially that a person may not realize is present. But standard glaucoma detection instruments require the use of anesthesia and a physician.

Researchers have developed a new automated glaucoma detection instrument, which measures eyeball pressure without touching the eye itself by using jets of air onto the eye. It can be operated by a technician, does not require anesthesia and in the opinion of one ophthalmologist, is ideally suited for large-scale screening.

The major area of concern in ophthalmology is in diseases of the retina, considered by many eye doctors to be the most difficult to treat and the most in need of new research.

One of these serious retinal conditions is the result of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, the most rapidly growing cause of blindness. There are four million diabetics in the United States.

A dramatic new treatment is being evaluated now for diabetic retinopathy--the use of a laser beam to coagulate bursting blood vessels in the retina. Some eye researchers expect the laser treatment to show positive results in a study being conducted at sixteen clinical centers around the country.

While standard techniques are improving now, new techniques are being studied, and new automatic instrumentation is being developed, it appears that much more remains to be done before the overall incidence of eye disability and blindness can be reduced.

Much of the impetus for all this activity has come from an eye research foundation. Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc., New York City, was founded in 1960 by a millionaire music man. Dr. Jules Stein, once an eye doctor and builder of the giant MCA Corporation.

The foundation, among other activities, has channeled more than $17 million in private funds into construction of modem research facilities across the country, including facilities at Johns Hopkins, Columbia, the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, and the University of Louisville.

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Edmonton, Alberta, December 2, 1973.

DEAR DR. JERNIGAN:  . . . Thank you so very much for all the material you sent. I assure you that the extra copies have been placed where they will do the most good. The recorded material is probably the best way to disseminate your material because I can pirate what I need and distribute the resulting tapes. There is a lot which doesn't apply to Canada because our systems are so different. However, what does apply is the philosophy. Also, because we are deluged with so much propaganda from AFB [American Foundation for the Blind] and other sources, it's a pleasure to read in The Monitor about what's really happening in work with the blind to the south of us. I make considerable use of your speeches in our adjustment training program. I believe it is important that blind people be faced with reality as soon as possible and that they be helped to develop positive attitudes toward themselves and their blindness, that they have not died and must be born again and all the rest of that rot.

In Dr. tenBroek's 1967 banquet address, mention was made of the situation of the organized blind in Canada and also of the CNIB [Canadian National Institute for the Blind], the only national organization providing services to the blind in this country. His remarks were somewhat critical of our situation, and they were probably justified to some extent. Things are not always as they seem on the surface, as I am sure you know. Canada is a large country geographically, but our population is about one-tenth of the United States. Seven of our ten provinces are rather poor from an economic standpoint. Therefore, when the blind decided to organize nationally during the middle 1940's, the original organizers knew that funds were going to be a major problem. The CNIB was raising funds in the communities and the organized blind were afraid that with two outfits competing for the same dollar, they would probably get shortchanged. Therefore, they sought the advice of Colonel Baker, the managing director of CNIB. The Colonel heartily endorsed the decision of the blind to organize and said, in effect, "We will help you in any way we can. We need you and want you to be effective. Therefore, we will give you all the funds you need." The organized blind felt this was a good idea, but they were naturally concerned about the possibility of interference from CNIB. To avoid this, they will not allow agency staff members to join the organization. Staff members appear at their functions by invitation only.

We meet with the organization regularly to discuss common problems. In my own work, for example, I draft a fair number of briefs for submission to the government. I wouldn't think of preparing one of these without consulting with the officers of the Council. Our briefs are usually submitted jointly by the agency and the organized blind. Although I am blind myself, I cannot say that I represent blind people. I can represent the agency who hired me and chose me to represent it in dealings with other agencies, but I don't think the agency can realistically say it represents "the blind." That is the responsibility of the Canadian Council of the Blind. The Council has had good times and bad, and in Alberta it is in quite a state of flux. I am very optimistic about the future of the organized blind in the province.

I would like to say something about the CNIB. It's more or less patterned on the commission format in the U.S., or maybe the commission is patterned after CNIB. I don't know. At any rate, we are involved with the delivery of all services to the blind except direct educational services and welfare-type services. The situation here is no Utopia, and there were some problems in the past with Uncle Tom, but I think he's becoming less and less powerful all the time. For one thing, we are recruiting more and more young people for staff positions. These people are their own men or women and will not tolerate paternalistic attitudes. Most of our direct service personnel are blind and all of our top administrators are. Our boards of management do contain blind people, usually chosen by the Council. Our rehabilitation program is based on the needs of the individual, determined by the individual. Aptitude testing is available, for example, but if the individual doesn't wish to be tested, he isn't. Although we don't pay for training, I have been able to convince the governmental agency responsible for such payment that if a blind person wishes to pursue any vocational goal, his wishes should prevail. Maybe the test results indicate that the goal is unrealistic. However, after pointing out the possible pitfalls and suggesting alternatives, the blind person is still hell-bent on the original goal, he pursues it. I think you people have run into the bureaucrat types who say that they are responsible for spending the taxpayer's dollar and they have to spend it carefully. Therefore, they don't support a student unless they agree with his goal. We've run into that here, too, but as I said earlier, I have successfully convinced the government that the right to fail is important too. After all, sighted people sometimes make unwise educational and vocational choices. Why should the blind teenager be better oriented to himself and his abilities than his sighted counterpart? Can't the blind person have to find himself?

I would like to say something about adjustment training manuals. We have one, but we don't use it very much. Actually, what ours is is a list of tips submitted by blind persons on various activities both in personal management and practical angles. For example, there is one section in which methods of designing garden rows are given. In August 1971 I noticed the AFB had prepared a manual on personal management. We were preparing an adjustment training course at the time, so I thought I'd order the book from the library to see if there could be something in it which would help the rehabilitation staff. The book came the day before I received my recording of your 1971 banquet address. I started looking through the book, and the more I read, the angrier I became. I was just about over my initial "mad" when I listened to your speech. I decided I'd better find out whether it was I or the army who was out of step so I called an emergency lunch-hour meeting of my staff and showed up armed with that book. The staff found the book very offensive and asked me to write letters to our national office and to AFB protesting the book. I did, but I guess it didn't do any good. The thing is still around. Last year, AFB was plugging it on the Monday night NFL football broadcasts. One of my staff asked me if it was because of garbage like that that I left the U.S. in 1970 and came to Alberta. That had something to do with it.

Shortly before I came to Alberta, I fought my way through the COMSTAC Report. We don't have NAC in Canada, but we do get their literature. Personally, I don't believe in NAC, and I have a square, metal container beside my desk in my office which accommodates NAC propaganda very nicely. If I want to know anything about that organization, I just wait for my issue of The Monitor and I get anything relevant about it there. I agree with you that this is the crucial year in your struggle against NAC. In view of what has been happening, I guess it will be necessary to talk to them in the only language they seem to understand. Like it or not, we need agencies, but they need us as well. I think it's imperative that more blind people be encouraged to enter the field of work with the blind and become involved in policy-making matters. I am concerned that so many blind kids who are going into fields like social work hesitate to accept positions in agencies for the blind because they feel that society doesn't think they are capable of working anywhere else. I am not saying that kids shouldn't try to work in other agencies, but work with the blind needs capable blind people. By capable, I don't mean simply professional competence. I mean blind people who believe in themselves, their capabilities, and the capabilities of blind people in general.

I guess this letter has gone on long enough, and I know you have many other things on your mind. If you ever have the opportunity to vacation in Alberta, I would love to spend an evening talking with you and treating you to some good Canadian beer or rye, if you are inclined along those lines. Please feel free to use any or all of this letter in The Monitor if you see fit. Keep up the good fight.



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Public Law 92-603, better known as H.R. 1, was enacted on October 30, 1972, and established the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) to be administered by the Federal Social Security Administration effective January 1, 1974. Thus there was a big "lead time" of fourteen months in which the Federal Government could get properly geared up to handle the transition of payments to the blind, aged, and disabled from the states to the Social Security Administration.

What occurred on and after the "take-over" has turned out to be one of the biggest snafus in the history of governmental bureaucracy. In fact, for many of our neediest citizens it has become a veritable welfare nightmare. Thousands and thousands of these fellow Americans across the land are getting less money or no money at all-and they get nothing but a royal runaround when they go to their local Social Security offices to complain.

Meanwhile, thousands of Social Security employees from coast to coast are on mandatory overtime, working nights and weekends, trying to straighten out the monumental foul-up. The mess stems apparently from program errors buried somewhere in a computer bank in Birmingham, where all checks for this SSI program are churned out—or aren't. So far the errors have obviously defied detection.

The Social Security Administration has had an enviable record heretofore in sending out social security checks in the right amounts and on time. But its handling of the SSI program has badly tarnished this image.

In the meantime, we suggest to the thousands of victims of this bureaucratic ineptitude to hang in tough and be both insistent and persistent with your local Social Security office, including the filing with that office of a request for a hearing on your problem, as provided for under the provisions of section 1631(c) of the Social Security Act.

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[Reprinted from the Alabama Bulletin Board, publication of the NFB of Alabama, where it was in turn reprinted from the Sand Mountain Reporter, December 27, 1973.]

One night recently Euclid Rains heard a disturbance among his chickens. Grabbing his gun he headed out to see what it was all about. He was already on the alert because of rustlers who had been stealing hogs and cattle in the area recently. Euclid, who has been totally blind since childhood, couldn't see a thing, of course, but he decided the thing to do would be just to fire to the spot where he heard each chicken squawking, which he did three times.

The next morning he and his boys went back to see what had happened. They found two chickens shot right through the head.

"Anybody who can shoot that good in the dark ought to be in the police force," some of his friends around Geraldine were saying later. What with the energy crisis and all, our policemen may have to do more patrolling in the dark, they reasoned.

Euclid has become almost legendary as a blind marksman among his neighbors, who have known about many of his amazing shooting exploits over the years. They have seen him fire away at cans rolling across the yard twenty or thirty feet away, hitting them two out of every three times, and with a pistol at that!

One day, while flocks of blackbirds were flying over, some of the boys kept shooting at them without ever downing one. "Here, let me take a crack at it!" Euclid said. He did, when the next bunch came over, and promptly brought down two birds.

With all the cattle and hog stealing that has been taking place in the area lately, Euclid has been keeping watch over his herds by night, gun in hand, ready to ward off any would-be rustlers. The previous three years he has lost a large number of hogs to rustlers, and he's determined not to let it happen this time. If I were a rustler, I'd sure stay away from Euclid Rains' place! The cover of darkness pulls no punches with this fellow, who can shoot sharper with no sight than most of us can with two good eyes in wide open daylight!

Euclid is a gentle man who loves people and would not hurt anyone by choice. But he hasn't much use for pig rustlers.

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In the fall of 1972 when the annual United Fund campaign got under way, we learned that one of the organizations being supported by our community of Devils Lake, North Dakota, was the Braille Foundation. After some inquiry into the matter, as we had never heard of the Braille Foundation, we found that the address to which the contribution was being sent was the same as the address of the American Foundation for the Blind. Strange coincidence? Maybe, but maybe not. Although it is possible that the United Fund Board mixed up the name while preparing their campaign publicity and literature, the more likely "mistake" was made by the fundraisers at the American Foundation for the Blind. Was it only coincidental that the radio publicity sponsored by AFB at the time of United Fund campaigns all over the country was a dramatic appeal to help buy Braille books for a blind child? Naturally, people would associate that with a name like the Braille Foundation and give generously to such a needy and worthwhile cause. I leave it to you to be the judge, but those were the facts.

This matter was put on the agenda of the 1973 convention of our affiliate, the NFB of North Dakota. At that time the following resolution was unanimously passed.


Re United Fund

Whereas, the National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota is a statewide organization of blind people dedicated to improving social and economic opportunities for the blind of this State; and,

Whereas, the American Foundation for the Blind, located in New York City, is a private agency whose policies endorse and perpetuate the second-class status of, and harmful public attitudes toward, blind people; and.

Whereas, the United Fund organizations of this State usually lend valuable assistance and financial support to worthy nonprofit organizations; and,

Whereas, the United Fund of Devils Lake, North Dakota, has, in the past, contributed a substantial amount of money to the American Foundation for the Blind: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota in convention assembled this nineteenth day of August 1973 in the city of Devils Lake, North Dakota, that this organization calls upon the United Fund of Devils Lake to cease giving aid and support to the American Foundation for the Blind; and, be it further

Resolved that this organization instruct its officers to take whatever steps necessary to persuade the United Fund Board of Devils Lake of the validity of this position.

After the convention I contacted the United Fund Board and, subsequently, went to one of their meetings. I spoke to them about the NFB and made a budget request from our own organization. I also gave them a copy of the resolution that we had passed. After a lengthy discussion about the positive philosophy and activities of the National Federation of the Blind and the negative attitudes toward blindness which characterize the American Foundation for the Blind (I inserted some examples such as the "Step-by-Step Guide to Personal Management for Blind Persons" and the creation of NAC), it was clear that the United Fund Board was impressed.

Shortly after that meeting we were notified that the National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota would be included among the organizations to receive funds from this year's United Fund campaign. The Braille Foundation was not included.

The time and method used for hearing budget requests varies from city to city. Some don't hold hearings until late summer or early fall, while others hold them in the spring. I would strongly urge state affiliates and local chapters throughout the country to look into this matter. If the American Foundation for the Blind (prior to this year) was receiving funds from our small town in North Dakota, what do you suppose is their total take from the whole country? This will not only give you an opportunity to boost the financial condition of your local or state organization, but also provide an excellent opportunity to meet the leaders of your particular community and educate them about blindness and the NFB. If we can get United Fund Boards to start contributing to us instead of the American Foundation, we can begin a very significant trend; that is, it will mean that the public is beginning to listen to and act according to the wishes of the blind themselves instead of our historic caretakers.

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"The squeaky wheel gets the action." This was the admonition of Congressman Barry M. Goldwater, Jr., to the well over one hundred blind Americans who attended the fourth annual Legislative Luncheon of the West Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California on Saturday, February 16, 1974, in Sherman Oaks.

The Congressman was the featured speaker. He demonstrated his great understanding of those major problems which confront the blind of this State and Nation. Regarding the travel restrictions against the blind proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, Congressman Goldwater commented, "To treat blind people as helpless human beings on airplanes is disgusting." This statement was met with resounding applause from those in attendance. The Congressman was greatly concerned over the efforts of the Postal Employees Union to prevent blind people from establishing vending stands in post offices. Congressman Goldwater also expressed his strong support for H.R. 6554, the Social Security Disability Insurance for the Blind bill. He is one of seven California Congressmen to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.

The discussion then turned to the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Although Mr. Goldwater was not familiar with the actual bylaws of NAC, he stated, "It makes good sense to me that you, the blind consumers, should have a voice in those policies which HEW dishes out to you." On a note of frustration, Representative Goldwater stated that HEW could be considered to be the fourth branch of Government and that it did exercise great power over the Congress of the United States. He said that he would do all he could to urge HEW to straighten out "this NAC business." The Congressman left the podium with a strong appeal to the National Federation of the Blind of California to keep the pressure on the Congress and especially to keep him informed regarding the major concerns of the blind of this Nation.

Bob Fuentes of Senator John Tunney's office spoke at length to us about the legislative process and on how to influence our legislators. He offered to establish an advisory committee on the handicapped with the Federation playing a prominent role in such a committee. The advisory committee would provide the Senator with input about the needs of the handicapped. Mr. Fuentes stated that he would urge the Senator to mediate those issues which divide the blind from the National Accreditation Council.

Ethel Schuman, the director of the Braille Services Guild, was commended for the great work of her organization on behalf of the blind. Mrs. Schuman stated that, although she cannot provide instant Braille, she could try to have an item brailled within seven days. This is one agency serving the blind which does not require NAC accreditation. This agency has the best kind of accreditation—the total approval of the blind people whom it so ably serves.

Thomas DeSavia of the Social Security Administration gave a most enlightening yet humorous discussion of the Supplemental Security Income program (SSI) which has just gone into effect. Mr. DeSavia concluded by pleading with us to be patient with the computers.

One of the major highlights of the program was the presentation of the Federationist of the Year Award which goes to that person within the West Valley Chapter who has done the most to carry forth the message of the National Federation of the Blind. This year, the honor went to a sighted Federationist. We all heeded the words of President Ruth Acosta who said, "If we were to discriminate against this person solely due to the fact that he happens to be sighted, then we would be doing exactly what we accuse too many sighted people and organizations of doing. Such an action would be the most blatant kind of discrimination." This year's honoree was Jim Skinner. Jim not only works tirelessly on behalf of the West Valley Chapter, but he also assists State President Mannino in the mailing of Federation materials to the membership. As one of the officers of the West Valley Chapter commented, "Jim is a better Federationist than many of the blind people in the chapter." Federationism is a way of life; it is a state of mind. It is the belief that blind people have the right to be treated as first-class citizens in this Nation. Federationism is the belief in security, equality, and opportunity for all of the blind of this nation. Jim Skinner is one person who is definitely working toward the achievement of these goals. Congratulations, Jim.

We could not conclude our program without having our auction of valuable door prizes. The chapter raised seventy-five dollars from this endeavor. I must say that your reporter was forced into the bidding by his eleven-year-old son who purchased a clock radio with his dad's hard-earned money.

We were most fortunate to have in attendance Manuel Urena, Program Manager of Services to the Blind of the State Department of Rehabilitation. Also, President Mannino was able to find time in his busy schedule to participate in this gala event. All who attended came away with a great feeling of unity of purpose and with the fervent belief that as members of the National Federation of the Blind of California, we are not alone in our efforts to solve our common problems.

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Editor's Note.—John Zuska was chief compositor on the Monitor staff until last year. He now works as a professional chef. The following are basic recipes for which various kinds of fruit can be substituted for the apples or carrots.



3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup (tasteless) vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup ground nuts
4 eggs


Mix first nine ingredients and beat in the four eggs one at a time. Bake in a greased pan 45 minutes at 350°. Cake may be iced with eight ounces of softened cream cheese into which 1/2 pound of powdered sugar has been beaten, along with a teaspoon of vanilla.



1 cup sugar
2 cups raw apples, coarsely grated (firm, tart apples, such as Macintosh or Pippin) (unpeeled)
1 or 2 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1 cup ground nut


Mix sugar, grated apples, oil, and one egg. Stir in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nuts. If batter seems too thick, add another egg. Bake 45 minutes at 350° in a buttered baking dish.

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A laugh—or maybe a tear—at the pity of it all: Recently the New Outlook for the Blind (the house organ of the American Foundation for the Blind) sent a request to the secretaries of state throughout the country. The request said: "We are gathering information about the state regulations which cover the mandatory reporting of diagnosed blindness by physicians. We will be publishing this information in the New Outlook for the Blind, the professional journal for the field of work for the blind and visually handicapped . . . ." The people at the Foundation feel so insecure and unsure of themselves that they underline the word "the" when they say that "the New Outlook for the Blind is the professional journal for the field of work for the blind… "


A recent opinion by the Missouri Supreme Court held that welfare benefits are fundamental civil rights protected by the Federal Constitution and not mere gratuities granted by the State. Thus Missouri now follows the United States Supreme Court decisions which have held that termination of welfare benefits is subject to the same constitutional restraints as disqualification for unemployment compensation, denial of a tax exemption, or discharge from public employment. The United States Supreme Court has held that welfare entitlements should be regarded as property rather than gratuity because much of the Nation's wealth does not fall within traditional concepts of property. The effect of this decision is to give welfare applicants and recipients greater recourse to the courts for review of administrative decisions. In such a case the court must determine if the agency's decision: violated constitutional provisions; exceeded statutory authority or jurisdiction; was upheld by competent and substantial evidence; was unauthorized by law; was made upon unlawful procedure or without a fair trial; or was arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.


Peggy Pinder will represent the NFB on a panel of consultants being set up by Frank Cylke, Chief of the Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the Library of Congress. The 21-member panel will be charged with the evaluation of existing policy and the generation of a new one. In his letter appointing Miss Pinder, President Jernigan wrote to Mr. Cylke: "I wish to express to you our appreciation for your initiation of this forward step in service. We believe it will make a real contribution to the betterment of the lives of blind people."


In 1961 the NFB secured an amendment to the Social Security Act making it mandatory on all the states to exempt additional income and resources for a one-year period for those blind persons with a plan for self-support. In 1963 we secured another amendment providing for two additional years of exemption, but optional with the states. The NFB sought over the intervening years to remove this rigid time limit and in the Social Security Amendments of 1972 this was achieved. Under present law, any income or other resources in any amount, for any length of time necessary for the fulfillment of a plan for self-support, will be disregarded. It is significant and most encouraging that the Supplemental Security Income program is not setting any dollar amounts on either the income or resources which may be retained, but rather the approved plan itself will specify the amounts needed to fulfill the particular plan for self-support. Thus, a blind person who needs to retain a considerable amount of resources to begin a professional practice or start a business would be entitled to retain sufficient funds for this purpose. Our state affiliates are urged to be alert as to how their respective rehabilitation agencies (which approve plans for self-support) administer this provision of the Social Security Act so that the maximum benefit will be extended to those wishing to become economically independent by having a plan for self-support and working to carry out that plan.


The Associate Editor was mighty surprised when names of the officers of the Nashoba Valley Chapter arrived via ham radio from Massachusette to California—not only that, they were received and reported by more than one operator. Our thanks to these licensed Amateur Radio Operators. Oh, yes, the new officers are: Richard Wood, president; Philip Oliver, vice president; Leroy Sabben, treasurer; Jean Sabben, recording secretary; Claire Oliver, secretary; Elizabeth Wood, state delegate.


Starting in 1974 the beneficiaries' costs under medicare have been increased. For the first sixty days in the hospital, they must pay the first $84 (up from $72) and medicare pays all other covered costs. For the sixty-first through the ninetieth day in the hospital, the patient pays $21 (up from $18) and medicare pays all other covered costs. For the sixty lifetime reserve days, the patient pays $42 a day (up from $36) and medicare pays all other covered costs. For the twenty-first through the hundredth day in a skilled nursing facility, the patient pays $10.50 a day (up from $9) and medicare pays all other covered costs. These very substantial boosts are due, of course, to the spiraling costs of hospital care in this country.


Florence (blind) and Rudy (sighted) Gaudette of Worcester, Massachusetts carry on a very broad program of square dancing and other activities for young people in their area. Now that their six children are out on their own, they have more time to give in service to others.


James B. Cardwell is the new Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. He has been with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare since 1955. As Commissioner, Mr. Cardwell will head an organization of approximately fifty-eight thousand employees with an annual budget of nearly two billion dollars. His principal responsibilities include administration of the social security system, medicare, and the new Supplemental Security Income program—the biggest Federal undertaking since the medicare program was established in 1965.


Tri-City Federation of the Blind, the NFB of Virginia's eighth and newest chapter, was organized January 26, 1974, to serve the Hopewell, Petersburg, and Chester area. Sixteen people attended the organizational meeting, adopting a name and constitution, and electing officers. NFBV President Robert (Mac) McDonald described the activities of the State organization. The Tri-City area is twenty-five miles south of Richmond. Officers elected were: president, Mary Collins of Chester; first vice-president, Mary Thompson of Hopewell; second vice-president, Walter Nicol of Hopewell; secretary, Mary Culley of Chester; treasurer, Thelma Collins of Chester. Elected to the board were Willie Anna Harris and Martha White, both of Hopewell. The Tri-City Federation of the Blind will meet the third Saturday of each month at 2:00 p.m. at the home of Mary Thompson, 3310 Western Street, Hopewell, Virginia 23860.


According to HEW, about 35,000 people disabled by blindness, and 20,000 of their dependents, now receive approximately $65 million a year in Social Security Disability payments. Medicare coverage can start for these persons after they have received disability checks for two years or longer.


Under the Internal Revenue Service regulations a blind taxpayer is entitled to an extra personal exemption for Federal income tax purposes ($750). To claim this exemption in the past, a person who was not totally blind had to attach to his tax return an eye specialist's or optometrist's statement that the individual met the required conditions for that year. Now, the regulation has been changed to provide that if the physician certifies that the condition is irreversible and a copy of the certification is filed with the return for any year, no further certifying statements need be attached to later returns. Only a simple statement referring to the certification need be attached to future returns claiming the exemption.


The telephone company recently announced in a bulletin that if a blind person's job requires him to use a multi-line key telephone set, the telephone company can modify a standard set to his order, so he can hear—rather than see—the status of the illuminated line buttons.


Two new chapters in North Carolina have recently been added. Hazel Staley and Nancy Best spent the week of October 22 in Wilmington appearing on news media, distributing literature, and contacting prospects. The New Hanover Federation of the Blind was organized on October 25. Seventeen people were present for the organizational meeting. The following officers were elected: president, Esilda Kempton; vice-president, Eva Brady; secretary, Donald Cay ton; treasurer, Donald Kempton.

The first weekend in December Don and Mabel Conder and John Niceley went to Asheville and organized the Skyline Federation of the Blind. Twelve members were present for the organizational meeting. Officers elected were: president, Everett Burleson; vice-president, Hilda Shuler; secretary, Betty Jensen; treasurer. Margaret Ely; board member, George Robinson.


From Ohio comes word of trouble for that State's Rehabilitation Service Commission. The trouble stems from the finding by the State Auditor's Office that the Columbus area supervisor of vocational rehabilitation improperly spent $27,000 of State funds. The supervisor is accused of submitting "erroneous and unsubstantiated vouchers" for payment, often to companies which did not exist. The examiners from the Auditor's Office were critical of the accounting procedures of the Rehabilitation Service Commission, stating that its procedures are inadequate "to provide a proper system of checks and balances." The Commission, directed by Denver L. White, has been in existence since 1970.


At a recent conference held in San Francisco, a new reading device called the Dactoscope was displayed. Developed by Dr. Marian Kossenberg, of the Netherlands, the Dactoscope is a small electronic sensor mounted on a ring. The reader feels the lines of letters through his finger. The sensor is powered by regular house current or tiny batteries. Although not yet on the market, the Dactoscope may eventually sell for around one hundred dollars.

A totally blind man, Dennis Moore, recently paddled a kayak alone across the English Channel, from Folkstone, England, to Cape Gris Nez, France. He was guided on the twenty-mile, eight-hour trek by music broadcast from an accompanying boat.


The following are the officers for 1974 of the Lucas County Federation of the Blind (Toledo, Ohio). President, Seth Haslem; vice-president, Angela Buck; secretary, Ray Meyers; treasurer, Josephine Brooks.


The National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina held a Leadership Seminar in Charlotte on Saturday afternoon, January 26. The rain came down in torrents all Friday night and most of Saturday, and the gasoline shortage, a statewide bus strike, and the flu virus each took their toll of those who had planned to attend. Even so, there were twenty-eight people from around the State present. All chapters except the New Hanover Federation of the Blind were represented. Don Capps conducted the seminar.


At their recent State board meeting the NFB of Colorado voted to establish an annual scholarship award. The maximum amount is not to exceed one thousand dollars. Those qualifying are legally or totally blind Colorado students. For further information please contact the State office of the NFB of Colorado at 901 East Seventeenth Street, Denver, Colorado. Telephone (303) 332-3332.


On January 21, 1974, the Northern chapter of the NFB in Kentucky elected officers, who were all chosen by unanimous vote. The list follows: Letcher Vanderpool, president; Cybl Martin, vice-president; Pauline Vanderpool, treasurer; and Esther Risch, secretary.


The Little Rock Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas held its annual elections on November 17, 1973. The results were as follows: president, Bruce Higgs; first vice-president, Searcy Ewell; second vice-president, Leslie McDaniel; secretary, Sherry Redferrin; treasurer, Elberta Higgs; and the three board positions were filled by Ordis Higgs, Billy Joe Redferrin, and Jim Hudson.


The 1973 convention of the Kentucky Federation of the Blind was held at the Ramada Inn in Frankfort, Kentucky, September 7-8, 1973. It was a great success. The following officers were elected: Bob Whitehead, president; Ernest Bourne, first vice-president; Charles Allen, second vice-president; Marie McCullough, third vice-president; Peggy Peak, recording secretary; Mae Budesheim, corresponding secretary; Harold Reagan, treasurer; and Orville Phillips, chaplain. President Whitehead appointed Pat Vice and Ernest Bourne to head, respectively, the legislation and finance committees.


From the February 1974 Newsletter of the NFB of North Carolina comes the following: John Niceley, who is working on his doctorate at State University in Raleigh, was excluded from Ed. 641 (Practical Counseling) this semester because the instructor did not believe a blind man could do the work. John called the United States District Attorney, reported this incident, and reminded the District Attorney of the Federal law prohibiting any institution receiving Federal funds from excluding a blind person from any course of study or activity. The District Attorney said that he would take care of it. He called the University chancellor, who said that he did not know anything about it, but would check into it. The chancellor called the department head, who said that he didn't know anything about it, but would check on it. The department head called the instructor—and who's to say what happened. All we know is that the instructor meekly and apologetically came to John inviting him into the course. By this time, however, the deadline for changing courses had passed and John could not drop another course which he had already begun, to take this one. He plans to take it next semester.

Do you know what your rights are or what to do when faced with the denial of them? You could be the next to need help. Read your Monitor and attend all meetings (local, state, and national) so that you will know what to do if the occasion arises.

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