MARCH, 1976



A Publication of the

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.

MARCH 1975















Editor's Note.—The following testimony was presented by James Gashel before the Select Subcommittee on Education, of the Committee on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives, on December 15, 1975.

The National Federation of the Blind is, as you know, a membership organization of blind persons who come from all walks of life. Our interest is a consumer interest, since we are the consumers of services for the blind. In 1940 the National Federation of the Blind was organized to provide a vehicle through which the blind may speak for themselves. Our publication, The Braille Monitor, says on its cover page: "The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blind—it is the blind speaking for themselves."

Mr. Chairman, we are particularly pleased to be here today to discuss with you and the subcommittee the request of Recording for the Blind for an authorization of Federal funding to develop and further its various recording services. Many of the members of our Federation, especially those who are professionals or those who are studying at the university level, are very familiar with the work of Recording for the Blind and have used the textbooks it prepares on request. Without question this is an important service. For any blind person-child, student, adult, or senior citizen—immediate access to the great world of books still remains a dream, a goal to be reached.

Our firsthand experience with the too often inadequate library services available to the blind has caused us to give priority to this critical area of concern. Accordingly, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President of the National Federation of the Blind, has established a national committee on library services for the blind, appointing as its chairman Mrs. Florence Grannis. Mrs. Grannis is recognized by all as the foremost librarian in this field, and she currently directs the largest library for the blind in the entire world. She is an outspoken advocate for policies and programs which will bring library services for the blind into line with those provided by public and university libraries for persons with sight. It has always been our position that each and every blind person should have available library service which is at least as good as that which he would have if he were sighted and lived in a good library area.

Particularly we recognize the necessity for allocating increased resources (financial and otherwise) to the task of placing more and better books into the hands of blind individuals. To accomplish this end we have attempted to assist the Library of Congress, Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, in obtaining funding and establishing priorities. In this effort we have repeatedly argued that the scarce resources must be spent in the most cost effective manner-we simply cannot afford even the slightest waste. The emphasis, Mr. Chairman, must be on placing books into the hands of readers, and any unnecessary or frivolous expenditures must be discontinued at once.

Mr. Chairman, in this regard, we are frankly concerned about the activities of Recording for the Blind, Inc. While we recognize its need for adequate financing, and while we are the beneficiaries of its worthwhile services, our support for Federal financial assistance for Recording for the Blind is of necessity conditional. If such assistance is provided, Mr. Chairman, we who use the services of Recording for the Blind, Inc., feel that RFB must agree to allocate its financial resources entirely to meeting the reading needs of the blind. We specifically object to any expenditures on the part of RFB for accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). Recording for the Blind, Inc., is currently one of the NAC-accredited members.

Volumes have been written documenting the extent to which NAC approves of and perpetuates the most inadequate services for the blind. Rather than serving as a force for upgrading and advancing these programs, NAC has been the stepchild of the status quo in this field. As such it has attempted to offer legitimacy to programs and policies which are not in keeping with the new effort of the Congress to ensure that handicapped individuals will have all of the rights and privileges available to others in our society.

A specific example of NAC's total disregard for the best interests of the blind themselves is its failure to update the standards it uses to accredit residential secondary schools for the blind. As with most of its standards in other areas, NAC's educational services standards were developed over ten years ago. Mr. Chairman, you and the members of this subcommittee know firsthand the tremendous changes which have occurred in Federal legislation to assist in educating the handicapped. You know this because you and this subcommittee authored this landmark legislation. Even so, the standards of the National Accreditation Council have failed to recognize your efforts and the mandates of this Congress. In fact, an observer from the Office of Education who recently reviewed NAC's accreditation process found that not one member of a NAC on-site review team assigned to the Oklahoma School for the Blind had ever heard of Title VI-B-the Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments of 1974, at that time (until the passage of P.L. 94-142) the most significant piece of Federal legislation in this field.

NAC's standards in other areas are similarly outmoded. The standards on library services for the blind are among the most inadequate. They are so much so that many librarians for the blind and physically handicapped have themselves called attention to the problem. Librarians for the blind from the southern states recently met and passed a resolution which reads in part: "We do not feel that the existing NAC standards are relevant to present-day library service, which has advanced greatly since NAC standards were published about ten years ago." Incidentally, the resolution was adopted without a dissenting vote.

Under these circumstances we do not believe that it is in the best interest of blind students for the educational institutions, including libraries and recording services, which serve them to be accredited by NAC. In our judgment, the fifty-eight agencies which have applied for and been accredited by NAC are, almost without exception, among the worst of the lot. The National Accreditation Council as an accrediting body is itself discredited, and this tends to cast a shadow on the good name and reputation of any agency which associates itself with NAC. Nearly two years ago only fifty-six agencies had chosen to publicly identify with NAC in an accredited status. Today that number has only grown by two, while some have withdrawn and others are considering doing so.

One of these agencies considering a withdrawal from NAC accreditation is, in fact, Recording for the Blind. Mr. Chairman, I am attaching to this statement correspondence between the president of RFB's board of directors, Mr. John W. Castles III, and Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President of the National Federation of the Blind, and I ask that it accompany my statement in the record. In his letter of May 23, 1975, Mr. Castles makes clear that Recording for the Blind, Inc., is undertaking an evaluation of its relationship with NAC. In his response, Dr. Jernigan states that: "The blind of the Nation wish Recording for the Blind well and think highly of its work, but we also wish it to get out of NAC since NAC does damage to the lives of the blind. Surely this is not an unreasonable attitude, or one that is difficult to understand. You have the data and the evidence, and we know that you have it. Further, you know that we know that you have it. Therefore, we await your decision and hope that you will work with us,-not against us. After all, your avowed purpose is to help the blind, not fight us."

Mr. Chairman, because of the good work and invaluable service provided to us by RFB, we support adoption of your bill to assist Recording for the Blind, Inc., subject only to an amendment being added. I will be pleased to work with the staff on the specific language for such an amendment, but the intent will be to specify that during the period of Federal financial assistance under this act no funds from Recording for the Blind, Inc., may be allocated to the purposes of the payment of dues, purchase of materials, or for meeting the expenses of on-site reviews, or for any other activities or purposes in connection with accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped.

This position is consistent with my opening plea that financial resources made available to promote library and recording services for the blind be expended in a cost effective manner. We see no benefit, and in fact we see great harm, to Recording for the Blind, Inc., by its affiliation with NAC. The funds which RFB spends on maintaining its accredited status (including annual dues and periodic on-site reviews) could be spent for recorded books for blind readers.

This position is also consistent with the trend in work with the blind for agencies to withhold financial contributions from the National Accreditation Council until NAC makes certain reforms. The latest group to withhold its financial support from NAC is the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (the organization consisting of all state directors of rehabilitation and other services for the blind).

Finally, the position of Recording for the Blind, Inc., itself. At its May 1975 board of directors meeting, RFB decided to evaluate its continuing relationship with NAC. Both of the witnesses appearing here today on behalf of RFB have indicated to me, in one way or another, their belief that RFB should cease its affiliation with NAC. Particularly, Mr. Krentz has stated to me, both privately and publicly, his "commitment" to see to it that Recording for the Blind, Inc., does not continue as a NAC-accredited member. Mr. Carothers has made similar representations, suggesting that the real problem which RFB faces is how gracefully to get out of NAC, and he has candidly observed that RFB's board of directors would have made a "different decision" today than it did five years ago when it affiliated with NAC. Under these circumstances, knowing as I do the position of both of the gentlemen from RFB, I would think that they would have no hesitancy in supporting our amendment. If such support is, in fact, forthcoming from Recording for the Blind, Inc., we can move forward with a fully cooperative effort to achieve passage of this legislation. Failing such support (which failure we do not anticipate), we would have no alternative but to express our vigorous opposition.

Mr. Chairman, I hope that this makes clear our position, and I know that you and the members of this subcommittee will make every effort to amend this legislation on the lines that we have suggested. We stand ready, Mr. Chairman, to work with you and the members toward this end, and hopefully for the eventual passage of the bill to assist Recording for the Blind, Inc.

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[Copyright 1975 Los Angeles Times. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times.]

A new and angry militancy is growing among America's 500,000 blind people for equal rights in the areas of employment, housing, and transportation.

Its source is the thirty-five-year-old, suddenly vocal National Federation of the Blind which, in its own words, has "declared war on apple pie and Mr. Magoo."

The courts, legislatures, and in some instances the streets have become battlegrounds for efforts by the sightless to open new doors, determine their own destiny, and sweep away the stigma of "social leper" that haunts them.

They want to create a new image of themselves not only among the general public but also among the blind, and to do so they intend to topple the old "blind establishment" which, the NFB charges, has helped keep them in bondage.

The prejudice they face, say the activists, is all the worse because it is based not on fear or hatred but on pity.

Talk among the Federationists is tough and determined. They are tired, they tell you, of society "preventing us from ever reaching adulthood."

They are tired of over-protection and of the "babysitting efforts" of public and private agencies to keep them subjugated and segregated.

"Your days are numbered," they are warning those agencies for the blind which are not joining the new movement: "Reform or be destroyed."

"We want no sellouts, no Uncle Toms," NFB President Kenneth Jernigan has told the organization's fifty thousand members-claiming to be the largest organization of blind people in the world.

He has asked them in a mood reminiscent of the early black movement: "Will you join me on the barricades?"

Not all of this is polemics. Federation members have picketed in New York, Washington, Arkansas, Chicago, and Cincinnati. They have filed lawsuits dealing with equal rights in Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, and Michigan.

And they have challenged the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, Amtrak, and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

In Alabama, two NFB members went on a one-week hunger strike that ended only when Governor George C. Wallace agreed to order a study of the State's services for the blind.

Unless that study reaps change "in a reasonable period of time," the NFB has promised to picket every Wallace-for-President campaign headquarters in the Nation.

The Federation in recent years has consistently confronted the American Foundation for the Blind and the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped.

Militants regard these two organizations particularly as part of the old establishment and charge that they neither represent nor adequately serve the blind.

Both the Foundation and the Council have denied the charges and have accused the NFB of trying to "dominate the field-and raising hell is one way to do it."

Other agencies also have come in for some flack, some lawsuits, and some hard response. Just last month, a State official was booed off an NFB convention stage in Arkansas when he refused a Federation demand.

Oddly, the militancy comes at a time when conditions for the blind are improving significantly. In 1968 California passed its widely heralded White Cane Law, which the NFB regards as a "Civil Rights Act for the Blind," guaranteeing them equal opportunities in government employment, housing, and transportation. Since then, thirty other states have followed suit and a Federal White Cane Law may be in the offing.

In 1973 the National Rehabilitation Act mandated state agencies to establish advisory groups to guide programs for the blind.

A year later in California, the blind were brought under the jurisdiction of the State Fair Employment Practices Commission, which prohibits job discrimination on the basis of physical handicap.

But activists insist that isn't enough, that seventy percent of the Nation's employable blind are out of work, and that they still confront hiring resistance in private business and industry.

"They say their insurance rates would go up if they hired us, but that's not true," an NFB officer said. "Rates are based on payroll, not disabilities.

"They say we are more prone to injury, and even that isn't true. But if it were, I've got as much right to break my finger as anyone else.

"You know what's behind it? An employer might have to say, 'Oh God. I let a blind man hurt himself.' We are still," he added sourly, "the heartache of the world."

Job discrimination often takes more subtle forms, the militants say: Employers will demand a driver's license even though the job doesn't require driving; they will insist applicants must fill out their own employment forms.

In Denver, Judy Miller was denied a teaching job because she is blind. She went to court and won. "I didn't want to end up running a vending stand in Pueblo," she said angrily.

Anthony Mannino, now executive secretary for the NFB in California, came to the State in 1953 looking for a job, armed with a bachelor's degree and seventeen years' experience in business administration.

"I found no one wanted me and no one wanted my people," he said. "The employment office said the best they could do was get me a job going from door to door selling brooms. Selling brooms!" Mannino has been a militant ever since.

"Unless we break down barriers of employment in jobs we can handle," another NFB officer said, "we are nowhere at all. We are what society has always wanted us to be: quiet and out of the way."

White Cane Laws also guarantee equality for the blind in public accommodations, including transportation, but activists say they have encountered problems here, too.

Members picketed the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington last September because many airlines had included the blind in the category of handicapped and were limiting the number who could fly aboard a single plane.

After the picketing, the FAA agreed to remove the blind from the handicapped category but left it up to the airlines to determine how to handle the situation. The blind still cannot sit beside emergency exits.

"It didn't solve the problem and we may picket again," said Ralph Sanders, NFB Second Vice President. "Why should the FAA leave it to the airlines to decide what to do? Would they leave discrimination against blacks in the hands of the airlines?"

In 1974 the NFB challenged an Amtrak policy that required blind passengers to be accompanied by a guide dog or a sighted companion. Canes weren't good enough.

"We threatened them," Sanders said cheerfully, "with other courses of action if they didn't rescind the rule. They rescinded it."

There also have been instances of buses refusing to carry blind people, Sanders added, but these problems generally have been solved with a letter or a telephone call.

Housing is the third main concern of the militant blind. California's White Cane Law requires equal treatment for the sightless in leasing, renting, or buying homes and apartments, but here again there are barriers.

Landlords, the activists say, continue to feel that blind tenants either will burn down their buildings or hurt themselves and sue.

"The reason they often use in not renting to the blind," Mannino said, "is that they don't allow pets—and if the blind person has a dog, he's out. I get at least a call a week on that, and there's nothing we can do."

There was once a State law, he added, that limited the blind to lodging on the first floor of any structure.

"We got out of that," Mannino said, "but there are still fire marshals who enforce the old law because they consider us non-ambulatory. That's both stupid and discriminatory."

Insurance is another front the militants are beginning to attack. They charge that certain companies refuse to give them either double indemnity or any insurance at all.

In Iowa, they went after the State insurance commissioner who found that major underwriters were assuming, without a good basis, that the blind were greater insurance risks.

The commissioner said it smacked of an unfair trade practice that invited a cease-and-desist order and promised public hearings on the problem.

"They'll find," an activist said, "that we're better risks than the sighted. For one thing, you won't find us driving drunk at seventy-five miles a hour."

Beyond the more obvious areas of employment, transportation, and housing, the NFB admits it faces a tougher problem—a more subtle form of discrimination—and at least some of it, the militants say, comes from "within."

This is the area in which the Federationists have taken on the American Foundation for the Blind, which the NFB considers "an unbroken monopoly."

The New York-based Foundation was organized in 1921, and among its many activities is the distribution of pamphlets geared to the subjects of being blind and dealing with the blind.

Militants consider those publications as how-to-be-blind pamphlets and regard them as debasing and humiliating. They insist that it enhances a public attitude that to be blind is to be mentally retarded and that it discourages the blind from rising above their visual handicap.

NFB President Jernigan recently quoted from an AFB publication, the 239-page "A Step-by-Step Guide to Personal Management for Blind Persons."

One section of the booklet is on sponge-bathing and, after informing the potential bather of the equipment required ("water, two containers, soap, cloth, towel, bath mat"), instructs him to:

"(1) Disrobe. (2) Put water of desired temperature in sink or container. (3) Thoroughly wet washcloth . . . ."

Later on, the section covers such necessities as towel-drying, instructing, among other things, "as towel gets damp, shift to a dry section."

"What does it (the booklet) tell us about the intelligence—the presumed intelligence—of the blind person under instruction?" Jernigan demanded in a speech.

"It tells us that he has not the sense to come in out of the rain; or, more exactly, that he has not the sense to bring his clothes in out of the shower. He is presumed to be either a mental case or a recent immigrant from the jungle who has never taken a bath before. ..."

Jernigan next shifted to a section of the publication on "Applauding," which included such instructions as, "Move each hand towards the other so that they come in contact with one another towards the center of the body."

Loyal E. Apple, AFB executive director, said the booklet criticized by Jernigan never was intended for the blind but for teachers of the blind who deal with both the very old and the very young.

"We have always assumed," he said, "that the teachers would use discretion in what they teach, depending on the age they are dealing with."

The Foundation, he added, never has posed as a spokesman for the blind—"We have always worked in areas of specific mutual concern."

The NFB, Apple said, "has often talked of raising standards for the blind, but we have never seen any they have offered that exceed ours."

He said he had no quarrel with Federation efforts to improve housing, employment, and transportation for the blind-"and if picketing does it, all right. But why would they criticize a review system designed to improve services for the blind?"

Jernigan's attitude seems to permeate at least the hierarchy of the NFB, if not its full membership. Other militants have adopted different means of fighting pity and discrimination in both the public and private arenas.

Many will no longer carry the shorter white canes. "Short canes make us lean," one man said, "and I don't intend leaning on anything."

For a similar reason, another won't have a dog leading him. That sort of dependency, he feels, goes along with a lessening of independence, "and for another thing," he added wryly, "my cane won't wet on the rug."

Activists are challenging the comic image of the almost-blind Mr. Magoo character, advertisements that stereotype the blind as "different" and government documents that include them with the disabled or the criminalistic.

In one case, an ad to help people stop smoking pointed out that "blind people rarely smoke, not only because of fire danger but because they are not influenced by the visual aspects of smoking." A letter was fired off to the advertiser. He admitted the stereotype and promised to change the wording.

A document issued by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare lumped the blind in a category that included alcoholics, drug addicts, arthritics, epileptics, and the victims of heart disease, cancer, strokes, and "those suffering from communication disorders."

Again the activists lashed out and HEW responded by establishing a separate Office for the Blind.

Sanders would like to see the Foundation spend its "great wealth" in breaking down barriers, ending discrimination, and opening jobs for the blind.

He would like to see the National Accreditation Council—which accredits schools and rehabilitation programs for the blind—open its board of directors to those who represent blind organizations.

The NFB charges that the Council accredits agencies that pay the blind as little as twenty-five cents an hour and that do such a poor job of training the blind that they must be retrained before they can get jobs.

Dr. Richard Bleecker, executive director of the Council, brushed the charges aside and accused the NFB of trying to dominate NAC's board.

He said the Federation has issued "non-negotiable demands" to place ten members on the NAC Board which would be accountable only to the Federation.

"It seems to be the NFB policy to take over or destroy our organization," Bleecker said, "and since they can't take it over, they must be out to destroy us."

Bleecker suggested that if the NFB objects to sheltered workshop pay or job-training conditions, it should go to Congress for reform or subsidies to improve them.

Both the General Accounting Office and the U.S. Commissioner of Education have studied NFB's charges against them, Bleecker said, and have found them to be without merit.

The NFB has gained about ten thousand new members in the past five years and operates with an annual budget of $100,000. As it continues to gain strength and money, Sanders promises, it will go to the courts more often to seek redress of grievances.

Boycotts may be another weapon the NFB can use along the way, Sanders said; and it is already considering how to get its message across in the 1976 presidential election year.

"Our biggest problem," he added, "is not blindness—but the attitude toward blindness."

"The day we can adopt children without a court fight, serve on a jury or acquire such a simple luxury as a safe deposit box," another said, "will be the day that we will know we're on our way."

"We're not weird people. We're only blind."

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[From a broadcast on ABC Radio on January 11, 1976.]

This is Steve Bell, ABC News, Washington, for American Information Radio.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on the case of Mike Borden, a freshman basket-bailer at Ohio University, who was dropped from the squad because he was blind in one eye. The University said it had decided to honor a recommendation by the American Medical Association that persons with the use of only one of a pair of vital organs should be disqualified from contact sports for their own protection. Well, Mike Borden, who became a high school basketball star despite his childhood injury, went to court, seeking reinstatement; and we're happy to report a U.S. District Court Judge has ruled in his favor.

Obviously there is no intention here of minimizing the problems—even risks-that led the Medical Association and University to take their stands; but the point is, Mike Borden and his parents obviously had made a decision many years ago that it was worth the risk for this young man to minimize his handicap while reaching for a fuller life experience.

Along with the Mike Borden story I've noted a couple of other instances lately of rebellion against this sort of negative do-gooding. A new and militant National Federation of the Blind, for instance, is demanding an end to help based on pity and to what it calls the babysitting efforts of public and private agencies that limit the rights of the blind in the name of protection.

Finally, there is the case of Vincent Reed, Acting Superintendent of Schools here in Washington. Reed decries the dogma that tells children they can't learn because they are black, poor, or both. Reed, who is black, doesn't minimize racism but he says we don't want children using racism as a crutch and excuse. If you tell them long enough they can't learn because of what they are, they'll begin to believe it.

Well, the answers are not simple where real handicaps exist, but the evidence is growing that overprotection is not part of the answer.

This is Steve Bell, ABC News, Washington, with a commentary for American Information Radio.  

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[Reprinted by courtesy of The New York Times. Copyright 1975 The New York Times Co.]

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.—Machines to enable blind people to read at normal speed by converting printed or typewritten texts into computerized speech are changing from cumbersome laboratory curiosities into practical devices.

Experts in the field predicted here today that text-to-speech machines could become inexpensive enough for at least some individuals to own within five years—with institutional or business use likely before that.

Advances in miniaturized electronics and complex computer programs for analyzing the structure and pronunciation of words and sentences are the keys to this development, which aims at giving blind people resources beyond those of expensive and limited Braille texts and recordings.

But as the new techniques were being demonstrated today, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind cautioned against too much emphasis on them.

James Gashel, head of the Federation's office in Washington, said that reading machines merely attacked one of the physical problems of blindness and called them "just one of the breakthroughs we need for equal opportunity."

The extra opportunity provided by such machines, Mr. Gashel said, must be "coupled with a new social attitude."

He added, "We don't believe the primary problem of blindness will be solved by technology. The real problem of blindness is not the blindness itself but the misunderstanding of other people."

Based in part on advances in linguistic theory, the developing text-to-speech systems for the blind represent a large step beyond the simpler reading aids already being sold to individuals and institutions.

The most significant of these is a device called the Optacon, which uses a hand-held camera no bigger than a pocket flashlight to read printed material and convert it into impulses that imprint, via vibrating metal reeds, letters or numbers onto the outstretched index finger. The Optacon system is about the size of a large book. Selling for slightly less than three thousand dollars, the device was developed with Federal aid at Stanford University and the Stanford Research Institute, and is manufactured by Telesensory Systems, Inc., of Palo Alto, California.

In the last four years, according to Tele-sensory Systems, about 1,850 of the devices have been shipped, a quarter going abroad.

The leading developers of the Optacon were Dr. James D. Bliss, president of Tele-sensory Systems, and Dr. John G. Linvill, chairman of the Stanford University Electrical Engineering Department. Dr. Linvill's blind daughter, Candy, has also been involved in the project since 1964.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Research Laboratory of Electronics today, Dr. Jonathan Allen demonstrated advanced computer programs and computerized speech output equipment that could be linked in the future to the Optacon.

Also today, at the nearby offices of Kurtzweil Computer Products, Inc., a computerized text-to-speech setup, involving a number of commercially available components and a different type of computer program designed to economize on computer memory capacity, was demonstrated to reporters by Raymond Kurtzweil, twenty-seven-year-old president of the company, and Mr. Gashel.

The text of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, typed on an electric typewriter, was laid face down on a glass sheet above a motorized scanner equipped with a tiny camera. The scanner moved back and forth along its metal frame.

As Mr. Gashel directed the scanner with the Braille-marked keys of a control console, a minicomputer turned electronic signals into coded units of speech.

The code went to a speech output device and the device, guided by special Kurtzweil computer programs, generated a sing-song, mechanical speech that was, occasionally, less comprehensible than that demonstrated at M.I.T.

If Mr. Gashel did not understand a word, he could command that the word be repeated or spelled out. He could tell the scanner to go back a line or jump forward.

Both Mr. Kurtzweil and Dr. Allen agreed that developments in electronics were certain to cut the cost of the computer portion of reading machines several-fold in the next five years.

But Mr. Kurtzweil was urging that his company's already working system be put into immediate and rigorous testing with blind people, while Dr. Allen of M.I.T. said that improvement in electronics would make even more natural-sounding speech output available in a few months.

At least two Kurtzweil systems are being built under a $161,000 contract from the Bureau for the Education of Handicapped in the Federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Mr. Kurtzweil said the machines would be tested over the next eighteen months at the Perkins School for the Blind and the Boston Public School System.

After the testing, Mr. Kurtzweil said, his company plans to sell the machines "to the institutional market" for $25,000, declining later to $10,000. Within five years, he said, advances in electronics would cut the price to between $5,000 and $10,000, which he called "the beginning of individual affordability."

The Federation of the Blind has announced grants totaling $130,000 from two foundations toward a proposed $367,000 program for building and testing six Kurtzweil machines.

Mr. Gashel said this was the first instance he knew of that blind persons were participating so closely in the development of a technical aid for the blind.  

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Editor's Note.—The State of Iowa has just published the Annual Report of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, appropriately entitled "Independence. "It is an inspiring document, beautifully written and graphically illustrated. In the text and photographs are traced the achievement of independence of blind students through improved facilities, through competitive excellence, through jobs, through training, through Braille, through library services, with aids and appliances, in the home community, and with the cooperation of volunteers. The Iowa Commission has most adequate facilities and a top-notch staff. As a result, its most important product is its graduates. The text of the Report follows.

November 10, 1975.

Honorable ROBERT D. RAY,
Governor of the State of Iowa,
State House,
Des Moines, Iowa.

DEAR GOVERNOR RAY: The blind of Iowa continue to move toward self-fulfillment and real INDEPENDENCE—or (perhaps, more properly stated) inter-dependence with others in the mainstream of society. It is to this end that the Commission for the Blind works—attempting to provide training, create opportunity, and stimulate self-confidence. Of equal importance is the effort to educate the public to new ways of thought about blindness, for all of the training and self-confidence will be wasted if there is no acceptance in the society at large—not only in jobs and services but also in the countless everyday details that make the difference between living and existence.

Fiscal 1975 has been the best year in the Commission's history. This is true despite the state of the general economy with all its attendant problems.

Complying with Chapter 601-B, Code of Iowa, the Commission for the Blind submits its annual report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1975. We are grateful to you, the other members of the Executive Branch of government, the Legislature, and all of the citizens of the State for making it possible for the blind of Iowa to realize their INDEPENDENCE.

Very truly yours,


Two hundred years of INDEPENDENCE for the Nation. Much more recently for the blind; and not yet fully completed. This is "what it's all about" at the Iowa Commission for the Blind: jobs and self-support, social activity and civic participation, new awareness and new belief, giving and not just taking—INDEPENDENCE! A new way of life for the blind of America, and the world; and Iowa helping lead the way.

In fiscal 1975 national and world leaders came to Iowa to see the Commission's program and to plan: the president of the International Federation of the Blind from Pakistan, the newly appointed director of the American Foundation for the Blind, and the president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind.

Dr. Andrew Adams, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, also came. His visit was preceded by a letter in which he asked the Director of the Commission to serve as consultant to him on services to the blind throughout the country:

This is a follow-up to our conversations concerning programs for the blind. It was particularly productive to discuss the programs under the Iowa Commission for the Blind and their national impact. The achievements you and the Commission have made for the blind citizens of Iowa are certainly significant, and I highly compliment you. The programs are a model example to the entire Nation.

I fully appreciate your willingness to accept my offer as consultant to me for our services to the blind throughout the country. Your national reputation, expertise in the field of rehabilitation, and personal and professional accomplishments will definitely assist me and the Rehabilitation Services Administration in carrying out our responsibilities to the fullest.


In 1974 the Legislature appropriated money to remodel and expand the Commission for the Blind Building at Fourth and Keosauqua in Des Moines. The work was substantially completed in fiscal 1975, and more and better services are already apparent.

During much of the year it was jack-hammers and dust, moving furniture and books, and working with and around the workmen; but the results place it all in perspective—books on the shelves instead of the floor, needed classrooms for study and learning, and the space to allow for training and opportunity—the road to hope, the fulfillment of dreams, INDEPENDENCE.



Subject: Engineering Complaint NWI-4015

The intent of this letter is to provide additional information concerning engineering complaint NWI-4015. As we discussed, the complaint is identical to several other complaints from different operating companies. Prior to our discussions with Mr.____, we were unable to arrive at an economical design change, as stated in previous answers to this complaint. At the time that this problem came to the attention of Mr._____, we had numerous discussions with him which led to the solution. His analysis and clear definition of the problem and the solution is among the best that I have seen expressed in an engineering complaint. Please make these comments known to Mr._____'s supervisor.

What does it mean? It capsulizes a story of success and INDEPENDENCE. Blind from childhood; high school; training in techniques and philosophy at Commission for the Blind Orientation Center; then to Iowa State University for degree in electrical engineering; worked at electronics company; recession cutbacks forced layoffs; took his like the rest; went to work at Telephone Company; two years later instrumental in solving engineering problem of national significance. Bell Labs and telephone companies save money; everybody happy; future looks good. INDEPENDENCE.


INDEPENDENCE means jobs and self-support. The Commission for the Blind provides the training needed for blind Iowans to enter employment and the job placement contacts for newly acquired skills to be put to use.

Blind persons, like sighted persons, have varying abilities, capacities, and interests. Some achieve full self-support or support a family. Others become competent housewives. Still others are capable of only partial self-support—each finding his own measure of success—the pace of his own INDEPENDENCE.

It is the function of the Commission to find the blind person and to provide encouragement, stimulation, training in the skills of blindness, vocational training, job counseling, contact with well-adjusted blind people, and job placement assistance. It is the responsibility of the blind person to work toward his own rehabilitation, utilize every physical and spiritual resource available to him, and make his own INDEPENDENCE. This is being done ever more vigorously. It is the pattern and the philosophy of the Commission for the Blind and the blind themselves. It is the symbol and the substance of the INDEPENDENCE being achieved by the blind of Iowa.

Blind Persons Rehabilitated: Eighteen Consecutive Record Years


[The following are the captions to a series of photographs of blind people on the job.]

A regular Iowa public school, kindergarten through twelfth grade. Energetic and successful principal. Then deteriorating eyesight; trained at Commission for the Blind Orientation Center; now, back at job as principal. Still energetic and successful. Awards diplomas on graduation day. Commencement has special significance, INDEPENDENCE. Blindness? Irrelevant.

Commission helped with her training, and encouraged INDEPENDENCE. Now, she works as assistant recreation director at a large retirement home. Competent, happy, and productive.

Student at Commission for the Blind Orientation Center. Then, training in Commission-run food service operations. Now, full-time job as dishwasher in hospital. INDEPENDENCE.

Associate Director of Nursing Education at large hospital. Failing eyesight. Training and help from Commission. Back on job. Combines blind techniques and use of remaining vision to achieve INDEPENDENCE.

Farms. Repairs and rebuilds machinery, too. Uses Braille micrometer and other adapted aids when necessary—but mostly, ordinary tools. INDEPENDENCE.

Got a legal problem? He can help. Passed Iowa Bar January 1975. Private practice. INDEPENDENCE. Blindness? Objection overruled.

Cafeteria helper—clears tables and similar work. Routine? Not on your life. Self-respect and INDEPENDENCE. Blindness? Just one more ingredient.

The only question is opportunity, not ability. Blindness is no handicap to this capable masseur. Training and assistance given by Commission for the Blind. He gave initiative and effort; also, the willingness and desire to work. Result? INDEPENDENCE.

She is a teacher's aid at a child development center. Commission training and her own initiative made the right combination for INDEPENDENCE.

She teaches in the deaf-blind program at Glenwood State Hospital School. Helps herself; helps others, INDEPENDENCE.

Totally blind. She grew up in southwest Iowa. Received training and help from Commission for the Blind. She provided her own determination and initiative. Now works as a teleservice representative of the Social Security Administration. Do you think blindness limits her INDEPENDENCE? Claim disallowed.

Training and assistance provided by Commission for the Blind. He did the rest. College professor; teaches in business department, INDEPENDENCE. Blindness not relevant. Pay attention. He's here to tell you.

Builds furniture at desk company. Self-support, INDEPENDENCE. Blindness didn't write him off, or read him out.

Totally blind. He is a systems and procedures analyst at the home office of an insurance company. Training and assistance given by Commission for the Blind. An electronic reading device enables him to read print programs. Good raise in pay. Good future. INDEPENDENCE.

When it is possible, one of the best ways to rehabilitate the person who has lost sight is to help him get it back. This man was a central office equipment installer with Western Electric. He lost his sight. The Commission helped him get the right assistance. He is once again sighted and back on the job. Rehabilitation. INDEPENDENCE.

Most blind people are not totally blind. Many have remaining helpful vision—especially if they learn how to use it, and get the right training and assistance. This man sold insurance for twenty-six years. Then lost sight. Now continues his business using powerful closed circuit TV reading aid. INDEPENDENCE.

She operates a Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter in a busy office. She carries her share of the load, and her blindness is irrelevant. INDEPENDENCE.

He is the pastor of two churches in eastern Iowa—one with a congregation of 230, the other with a congregation of 110. Blindness is no hindrance.

The father of six, he supports himself and his family as a farm implement mechanic. Things looked bleak to him when he had his accident; but that's behind him. Now, it's work as usual; a lot of grease and a lot of happiness. INDEPENDENCE.

During most of recorded history the blind have been denied the privilege of work, not being thought of as "unemployed," but "unemployable." Unfortunately this situation still exists in most parts of the world today, and in much of our own country. However, in Iowa the blind have moved toward INDEPENDENCE. Although the blind of the State can still not find employment as readily as the sighted of comparable training, capacity, and experience—and although many are still distressingly "under-employed"—we are now at the time when any blind Iowan of working age who is willing to take training and who wishes to work can find productive and remunerative employment.

The money is important, but there is more to it than that. It is true that the blind, like others, have varying degrees of laziness and diligence; but when people have been told throughout the years that they are not capable of productive labor and have been forced to remain in idleness, they tend to greet the possibility of work with joy and pride, with positive zest. Most of the blind go to their jobs with gladness and thanksgiving. They regard work not as a burden to be borne of necessity but a badge of INDEPENDENCE and self-respect to be worn with pride and dignity.


In 1969, the Legislature passed a law of great importance to the blind. It reads in part:

It is the policy of this State to provide maximum opportunities for training blind persons, helping them to become self-supporting and demonstrating their capabilities. A governmental agency which proposes to operate or continue a food service in a public office building shall first attempt in good faith to make an agreement for the Commission for the Blind to operate the food service without payment of rent. The governmental agency shall not offer or grant to any other party a contract or concession to operate such food service unless the governmental agency determines in good faith that the Commission for the Blind is not willing to or cannot satisfactorily provide such food service.

When the Law was passed, it was hoped that it would provide not only immediate and direct employment for the blind but would also serve as a demonstration and a model for private industry. It was the belief that the citizens of Iowa visiting public buildings would see the blind achieving INDEPENDENCE and form a new image—that not only food service but other jobs, too, would result. The INDEPENDENCE has been achieved. The belief has been more than justified. In fiscal 1975 the earnings of blind food service operators reached an all-time high.

Average Yearly Earnings of Blind Operators


During fiscal 1975, 142 blind Iowans were rehabilitated. They were a cross section of the State's population. They were employed in a wide range of occupations, from professor to dishwasher, from minister to masseur, from farmer to factory worker, and from lawyer to associate director of nursing education. The Legislature and Executive Branch of government made possible the funds; the Commission for the Blind provided encouragement, stimulation, know-how, training, and assistance in finding employment; the general public offered opportunity and understanding; the blind did the rest. They worked hard, and they achieved INDEPENDENCE. Their story is one in which Iowans can take pride. To some extent, every citizen of the State has contributed to their success and shared in their INDEPENDENCE.


It is respectable to be blind. This statement cannot be emphasized too strongly or made too often. A great percentage of the population (blind as well as sighted) still do not believe it. The Commission's job? Make it a reality—otherwise, nothing else counts. Everything depends on it—self-confidence, belief, skills, techniques, the courage and the will to venture.

The Orientation staff at the Iowa Commission for the Blind not only develop new techniques and improve old ones; they also teach the hundreds of proved ones to new students. It would be impossible for a single individual to devise or think of all these on his own. By attending the Center, the student can quickly learn long cane travel, Braille, typing, the use of the abacus, wood and metal work, personal grooming and hair styling, cooking and shopping techniques, and other skills.

More important, the student must learn new attitudes about blindness. It may be on a field trip around a campfire; it may be water skiing, woodcutting, or attending meetings or visiting programs for the blind in another state; or it may be sitting in the recreation room at the Center, talking with a fellow student or staff member. The where doesn't matter. The critical thing is for the blind person to come to have belief in himself, to realize that he can be self-supporting, to learn that he can give as well as take, to be glad that he can have responsibilities, to know that life is good—to dream the impossible dream. To achieve INDEPENDENCE.

The mixture of skills and attitudes, of drudgery and dreams, of hard work and high hopes is the secret of the process. The rate of success is gratifyingly high, well over ninety percent. A few (a very few) go away defeated and bitter; blaming the world and the Commission for their blindness and failure; but the overwhelming majority leave happy and optimistic, prepared to achieve INDEPENDENCE.

[Following are more captions.]

Water skiing on a summer day. Class, or picnic? Maybe both. 'If I can do this, maybe other things, too"-self-support, full participation in the community. INDEPENDENCE.

Blind students in training at Commission tour farm implement manufacturing plant. Is this a regular class? Why not? It's what it's all about, INDEPENDENCE.

Woodcutting, and a crosscut saw. Good for the muscles—and good for the spirit. Is it a class? Who cares? It warms things up—and it fuels the fires of self-belief and INDEPENDENCE.

Blindness won't keep her from operating a band saw—nor will being a woman. Don't underrate her cut. Blindfolds (called sleep-shades) are used in class by those students with some remaining vision to overcome false dependency on inadequate sight and to learn faster the alternative techniques of blindness. If the individual continues to try to use visual techniques (even though they are inadequate for her), she will probably not learn blind techniques at all. Also, if she has ten percent or less remaining vision (the generally accepted definition of blindness) and learns (without blindfold) to operate a power saw or some other tool, she will likely think the reason she can do it is because she still has some sight. She wonders what will happen if she loses any or all of the remainder.

If, on the other hand, she blindfolds herself and learns that she can function with safety and efficiency in the manner of a totally blind person, it tends to remove the fear. When the techniques have been learned to reflex perfection, she can remove the sleepshades and use the combination of visual and blind techniques best suited to her own personal need. Her willingness to undergo such training will depend almost entirely on whether she perceives it as "relevant" to her situation—which, in turn, will largely be determined by whether her instructors have the experience and maturity to see the "relevance." If the atmosphere is such that the student must be "required" to wear the sleepshades, use a cane, or employ any other technique, the value is probably already lost. At the heart of the matter are the subtle and often unrecognized attitudes about what blindness really is and what it really means-whether the blind person can truly compete on terms of equality, whether she can actually perform as well as others, and whether she can really be a full-fledged, first-class citizen with all the rights and privileges and also with all of the responsibilities. Here, in this crucial area, many professionals in the field fall short (often without even knowing it) and do much damage. They lack understanding and skill. Even more, they lack belief that the blind can achieve INDEPENDENCE.

He travels alone through city traffic-rides the bus, too. Goes to a job or a social engagement with equal ease and INDEPENDENCE. It's a matter of training, techniques, and self-confidence.

Is he in class or at a party? Step up and he'll cut you a slice—either way you want it. It spells INDEPENDENCE.

She thought she had lost her INDEPENDENCE in the kitchen forever. Now, she mixes it up with the best of them. Not a single ingredient is missing.

She writes Braille by hand on a slate, with an abacus close by for the mathematics.

The search for new technology is continuous. This man was a manufacturing engineer with a respected Iowa firm. Then, blindness. He came to the Commission to learn skills and confidence. The new "talking calculator" arrived at the Commission shortly after he did. Contributions from the Lions Clubs of Iowa helped make it possible. So did the constant search by the Commission staff for new devices. Most of all, he achieved his own rehabilitation by hard work and determination. The road ahead looks like a return to employment and INDEPENDENCE. The calculator? It doesn't just give a visual display of numbers; it verbalizes them—speaking each one, holding them in its memory, and calling them out at the push of a button.

Typing is taught at the Orientation Center, both for ordinary communication with the sighted and as a vocational skill. Either way it spells INDEPENDENCE.


Nineteen-seventy-five is the 150th anniversary of Braille. In the early 1800's there existed over twenty different systems of embossed type. All of these derived from the use of enlarged letters in relief, and all provided slow, cumbersome methods of reading.

Louis Braille, while still a teenager, began working on a system of dot writing. His idea for this came from Charles Barbier's stress on phonetics rather than conventional spelling. The Braille system was complete in all of its essentials.

Braille continued to refine his system and it was well received by blind students. However, it was opposed by sighted teachers and was not officially recognized at Braille's own school until 1854, and was not widely used in England until after 1868.

In the United States, Braille was first officially recognized in 1860 by the Missouri School for the Blind. It still was in competition with raised letter systems such as Moon Type and Boston Line Type, and its own adherents soon were engaged in the War of the Dots.

Opponents in the War of the Dots were: (1) Advocates of the original French system; (2) Advocates of American Braille, in which the most frequently occurring letters were given the fewest dots to speed up writing; and (3) Advocates of New York Point, in which the cell was horizontal instead of vertical and was two dots high and from one to four dots wide to save space.

In 1932 the War of the Dots ended with the establishing of Standard English Braille, grade two, as the accepted system in English-speaking countries. This system is still essentially the one being used in 1975.

Braille is at this time used by approximately forty-five thousand Americans alone. It is produced by at least eight thousand volunteer transcribers in the United State and by Braille presses. Experimentation continues with its production by the use of computers.

Braille is a key element in the programs of the Iowa Commission for the Blind and the INDEPENDENCE of the blind of Iowa. Through its Library, the Commission coordinates Braille production for the entire State, having more than 1,200 sighted volunteers who transcribe print into Braille. With training and experience many blind persons read Braille at several hundred words per minute. It is an effective means of written communication. For an idea of space needed, the King James version of the Bible fills eighteen Braille volumes, each volume being approximately twelve inches square and two inches thick.


Through the Iowa Commission for the Blind Library, great literature and popular magazines, professional books and textbooks, farm journals and light novels are available to the blind-in reading rooms at the Commission, through the daily newspaper readings and other talking book services of radio station KDPS in Des Moines, or through the mail at home. Talking books (long play discs), open reel tapes, tape cassettes, large type, and Braille. A resource for Iowa's more than one hundred blind students in institutions of higher learning; for the hundreds of elderly blind; and for homemakers, elementary and high school students, professionals, farmers, and factory workers.

Almost forty thousand books were processed by the Library each month during fiscal 1975—a constant stream of material going to the borrowers and returning from them. It requires an active staff actively working. To the blind person it means the book he wants at the time he wants it.

Helping the blind achieve vocational sufficiency and social equality, the Commission Library is a key factor and a prime resource in the hope, accomplishment, and INDEPENDENCE of the blind of the State.

In 1959 Iowa had no library for the blind. Today, unexcelled-modern reading rooms, varied collections. In fiscal 1975 more than 230,000 books sent to blind people throughout the State. Total circulation since beginning of Library went over the 2,500,000 mark during the year.

Chapter 601-B.5, Code of Iowa: "Bureau of information and library services. The Commission for the Blind may provide library services to blind and physically handicapped persons and shall act as a bureau of information and industrial aid for the blind . . . ."

The Commission for the Blind provides library services to those who, because of visual impairment or some other physical condition, cannot read regular print. Sometimes a borrower will use more than one means of reading—Braille as well as talking book; talking book as well as tape; etc. In the accompanying chart the same Library user is often represented in more than one category. Some, of course, use only one kind of reading matter. Each employs the pattern best calculated to meet his own desire and achieve his own INDEPENDENCE.

Commission Library Borrowers, June 30, 1975


Talking book




Open reel tape


Cassette tape


Large print





Recorded media


Total, all categories



The Commission for the Blind provides a variety of devices to the blind for use in their daily living. White canes. Braille watches and clocks, specially marked games, cooking utensils and timers with Braille dials, and adapted needle threaders are examples of what is available. All of these special aids are provided to the blind person either at the Commission's cost, or in cases of vocational or other established need, at less than cost or no charge, within the limits of the Commission's resources.


Commission staff members go throughout the State to work with blind persons in their homes. Sometimes the situation is such that the blind person is unable to come to Des Moines for intensive training in the Orientation Center. Maybe it is an older person, who wants help in learning mobility in the neighborhood or techniques for handling household tasks. The home teacher may give instruction in Braille, or cooking, or sewing. Sometimes what is needed is overall perspective concerning blindness—counsel, advice, and information. The home teachers go when and where they are needed—all over the State of Iowa, providing stimulation and fostering INDEPENDENCE.


Iowa Lions—whose motto is "We Serve"—carry on numerous projects to help the blind at the local club level and collectively through the Iowa Lions Sight Conservation Foundation. They pay costs involved in producing Braille and taped material for the Commission Library, and they have a special project of making available through the Commission free Braille and recorded Bibles to the blind of the State. They distribute and purchase special aids for the blind, give information about service available to persons in their community who have lost their sight, and have many club programs for self-education regarding blindness. Their unwavering support of Iowa's program for the blind for so many years is testimony to a deep interest and a real understanding of the problems of the blind. They help the blind achieve INDEPENDENCE.

So that the Commission's Library can have the books to send, hundreds of volunteers give their time and resources to produce Braille, open reel tapes, cassettes, and large type when specific materials are needed. In fiscal 1975 volunteer tapists read over 83,000 printed pages; over 121,000 printed pages were brailled; and more than 9,500 printed pages were put into large type-in all, over 213,000 printed pages were made available in a readable form to the blind in only one year by volunteers alone. This labor of love by members of temple sisterhoods, church groups, service sororities, and individuals is most gratefully acknowledged by the Commission for the Blind.

The Hawkeye Chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America, the Thomas Griffith Chapter of the Independent Telephone Pioneers, and the other telephone workers throughout Iowa distribute and repair the thousands of talking book machines (record players for the blind), teach new Library borrowers their use, assist blind persons in book selection, and have seminars for their own training in their technical assistance to the blind. Without this volunteer service, the Commission for the Blind would be less able to provide proper library and other services to the blind of the State. The blind would find INDEPENDENCE more difficult to achieve.

The Home Industries program of the Iowa Commission for the Blind enables blind persons who, because of age or some additional handicap, are not able to work competitively outside their own homes, to engage in productive activity. The hemming of towels and tablecloths, the making of dishcloths, apron sets, and cloth dolls are but some of these activities.

The items manufactured in the Home Industry program are distributed through the Iowa Federation of Women's Clubs. Each club in the State has a "towel chairman" who coordinates local sales. In addition to this long-standing service project, the clubwomen of Iowa are increasingly active in public education about the capacities of the blind, in community development of opportunity for the blind, in taping books for the Library, and in overall assistance to the Commission for the Blind at the community level.

The program of the Iowa Commission for the Blind would not be complete without many other individuals and organizations. Especially the blind themselves (organized to form the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa) work and consult with the Commission continuously to aid its staff in setting proper goals, teaching effective techniques, and opening economic and vocational opportunities.

The forward movement of Iowa's blind citizens is truly a joint effort of the Legislature, the Executive Branch of government, service clubs, volunteer groups, and the public to cement into the traditions of our State the capacity of the blind to translate into accomplishment and reality their movement toward INDEPENDENCE and a full life.

During fiscal 1976 the Commission for the Blind seems assured of having approximately $600,000 in State-appropriated funds for its regular operating budget. At the time of this report negotiations are still in progress for additional State funds, which may be made available. At the time of this report Federal appropriations, as well as negotiations with Federal officials, have not been finalized. It would appear that at least $1,750,000 in Federal funds will likely be available—possibly more, depending on the amount of State funds available, final Federal appropriations, and negotiations with appropriate officials.

[Following are more captions.]

At the State Lions convention Commission students weigh Lions, then write the weight in Braille. It's a demonstration of the efficient use of ordinary scales by blind persons; it's a message in Braille; it's a novel calorie reminder; and it's just plain fun. Lions—good people, good friends. Good boosters for INDEPENDENCE.

This Catholic sister does volunteer reading to help the blind achieve INDEPENDENCE. Her tape recorder is a faithful companion and source of real benefit to the blind of Iowa. She was a teacher, spending more than fifty-five years of her life imparting knowledge and helping others. Now she is retired but she still imparts knowledge and helps others—not just occasionally, or hit or miss—but constantly, and lovingly. That others may have INDEPENDENCE.

Students, former students, members of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, and Commission staff demonstrate INDEPENDENCE at the Iowa State Fair.

The public learns firsthand that the blind can function competently. It's one thing to hear it described. It's another thing entirely to see and hear and taste it yourself—blind persons making and pouring coffee, baking cookies and giving them to onlookers, operating power saws, sewing, reading and writing Braille, moving about with INDEPENDENCE, and talking with thousands of sighted visitors. It means a new attitude about blindness. It means jobs and self-support. The fresh coffee and the free cookies are convincing evidence. They spell INDEPENDENCE. Governor and Mrs. Ray sampled the coffee, tasted the cookies, and saw the blind at work. So did more than thirty thousand other Iowa citizens.

The woman named Tomorrow
Sits with a hairpin in her teeth
And takes her time
And does her hair the way she wants it
And fastens at last the last braid and coil
And puts the hairpin where it belongs
And turns and drawls: "Well, what of it?
My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone."

Walking alone but marching together with the rest of the citizens of the State the blind of Iowa go to meet the future with joy and confidence, with hope and INDEPENDENCE.

Back to contents



[Reprinted from the November-December 1975 issue of The Minnesota Bulletin, publication of the NFB of Minnesota. The conclusion of the article will appear in next month's issue of The Monitor.]

The Chairman, a representative of the American Foundation for the Blind, directed his fatherly gaze down the long oak table at the neat rows of blank pads and poised pencils. Well-pleased at what he saw, he called the meeting to order.

"Gentlemen," he said, "the Foundation has called this meeting for an urgent reason. Our problem is that we need to find new problems to solve. As you know, the Federal Government has the money, we have the professional qualifications, and the blind have a bottomless gold mine of problems. So far, we have worked only the veins near the surface; but if we are to get more funds from the Government and expand our operations, we need to dig more deeply and discover the wealth of problems that lie far below the surface. The Foundation has invited you to attend this planning meeting because you are the leading professional experts in the field of work on the blind. We also have with us today Mr. Strings from the Federal Department of Research Grants, and Mr. Coffers, one of our most generous trustees, who has proved himself to be a true friend and benefactor of workers on the blind. To begin this meeting, I would like to call upon Dr. Tanglewood, one of the Foundation's highest officials, who has been very active in the recruitment of trustees and who has provided us such long and enthusiastic service that he might be likened to the very cornerstone of the Foundation. Chief Deputy Assistant Executive Manager Director Tanglewood will explain why this meeting is particularly important in the light of the fact that certain elements that are in opposition to other elements have created certain uncertainties that tend to unstabilize the stability of established tendencies."

Dr. Tanglewood heaved himself energetically to his feet and said in a deep gruff voice, "Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me get to the point in a nutshell without beating around the tree or getting our heads so lost in the bog that we lose sight of the forest. The long and short of the upshot boils down to this: If we're going to keep the Federation from letting the air out of our public image, we need to put our heads to the grindstone, bear down, and start cutting corners. We need to dig in and shake up the hole we're in, so we can get the Foundation off the ground and start cracking. If everyone tightens up his chain a notch and gets on the ball, we can fall down into the groove of things and grind forward until we pull our axes out of the fire and knock the Joneses right out of the saddle. Most important of all, we've got to strike before the lid falls in. Look here, boys, you heard about how the Federation took NAG by the horns and got the ear of the Government? Well, when they said there was something fishy in the state of Mrs. Robinson's chowder, the Government smelled a rat, and they slammed the door on our hand in the till. After that, when we went to the cupboard, we couldn't find a single chestnut for NAC. Now, fellows, is the time for all the king's men to come to the aid of their golden goose and keep the world of the blind safe for the agencies. The Foundation will stand shoulder to shoulder behind NAC and shore up the pieces. We need to step into the breech and put our fingers in all the leads to cut our losses, or else the ground is going to fall out from under us and we'll be left hanging there by our bootstraps without a bird in the bush. By George, if we play our house of cards right, we can carry home the pay dirt and feed the leftovers to NAC. They want to knock NAC, but we'll let it lean on the Foundation, until they learn to treat it as a real equal, like father, like son. And then NAC will shake the hand of justice, and we'll give credit to those who helped it.

"Now is our chance to rattle our pockets and load the dice. Mr. Strings from the Government is here, so let's all pull together. Come on, let's rule out the red tape for our guest. Just keep in mind, nothing projected, nothing funded, and a penny spent is a penny matched, and the busywork gets the grant, and the Government helps them who can help themselves, and we need to speak fast and carry some big statistics, or else the Government is going to think the grass is greener on the other side of the barricades. These, Mr. Chairman, are the threads of my thoughts, and I'll be happy to unravel any loose ends that I didn't already kick around."

"Thank you. Dr. Tanglewood," the Chairman said, "for your inspiring breakdown of the situation. Now, if there are no questions, I would like to ask Mr. Strings a question of my own. Mr. Strings, you have gathered, no doubt, that we would like to undertake some kind of project. Would you please outline for us the political and social parameters that would govern your department's decision to fund such a project."

Strings paused for a moment to light a cigarette and then, blowing smoke, he said reflectively, "Why yes, I suppose I could give you a few tips, though you guys already seem to be in the swing of things. I'll bet the fat guy who just spoke could teach even our people a lesson or two. The political noise nowadays comes from Watergate and all that, and from the Nader business, and there's a lot of hard stuff against running city financing from a Skinner box. As a result, the Government is still opening up its closet doors, and it is doing something about consumer interests by idling down some of the big lobby machines. The heaviest research money in your line is in special systems analysis, but we're still pretty much interested in techniques and gadgets. If you want a sure winner, get a hard novelty. That would be my suggestion."

As Strings paused to stub out his cigarette, Mr. Coffers bent forward and said, "I'm not sure what you mean by a hard novelty, and of course, I'm just a millionaire and not an expert on blindness. But I think there is a need for public education. I know I'm not very familiar with the blind myself. What about a project studying how best to inform the public about the different things blind people do and the techniques they use to manage in a sighted world?"

"Sure," Strings said, "that would certainly be a novel—"

He stopped, because a shocked and frozen silence had fallen over the meeting room. After several seconds in which everyone seemed to be speechless, the Executive Director from Minneapolis suddenly burst out, "Look here! Chairman! I thought you said this guy was on our side! Now he starts talkin' like that guy from Iowa had gotten at him! Next thing he'll start tellin' us how we got to pay the minimum wage in the workshops, or how we should let the blind run our own business, or maybe even drive our own cars!" He pulled his car keys from his pocket and threw them on the table in front of Mr. Coffers: "Here! Take these! Try givin' them to a blind guy and see what he can do with them! Ask him if he thinks he can drive a car!"

Before the Minnesotan could say anything more, the Chairman hastily cut in: "I'm sure—I say I'm sure that Mr. Coffers is not acquainted with the subtler complexions of work on the blind, and thus he did not realize just how inappropriate his suggestion was. Of course, it is a fundamental rule of our work that we must alter the blind person and not the environment." Keeping his gaze riveted on Mr. Coffers, he pointed at random to one of the agency administrators and said, "Perhaps you can enlighten Mr. Coffers for us."

Smiling sadly, the chosen administrator looked up at the overhead lights and began to recite in a sing-song voice, "To sing and dance . . . ." After going on with it for several minutes, he concluded. "Only then will the blind be ready to take up their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and we, who helped them so long, will lay down our professions with gladness in our hearts. Like children rejoicing in the air and light, the blind will go free, for our work will be done and the blind will no longer need us."

Mr. Coffers was chastened. He said in a subdued voice, "I—I didn't know it was that bad. Do you suppose that very much can be done for them—I mean really? I would like to do something for them. I have seen a melancholy object: I have seen many of these poor creatures walking the sidewalks, and they do not have dogs to show them the way. I would like to buy a dog for every blind person who is in need of one."

The agency director from Hawaii tittered. Looking at her reflection in a handglass, she remarked, "I don't think that would work very well, but I've often wondered how they arrange the he and the she in those diadic relationships. Do you suppose they keep the he's with the he's and the she's with the she's, or do they mix them? Oh well, when it comes to that, it seems unlikely that it would' matter very much; the human component of the team is, after all, blind, isn't he?"

While she was musing in this way, an eager young counselor from California had been checking rapidly through his copies of NAC standards. At this point, he said perceptively, "Even if all blind people don't want dogs, we must nevertheless insure that all guide dogs measure up to standards of high quality. I have found a section in the NAC standards that might apply. It says that all mobility specialists must have 20/20 vision and extroverted personalities. This refers specifically to human instructors, but there may be an ambiguity in that text. Therefore, I propose that we design a study to answer two contingent questions: First, may we interpret the text as referring to canine as well as human specialists. Secondly, if the first answer is negative, how may we determine if the text can be amended so as to include guide dogs within the conceptual frame of the standards."

"That suggestion has certain merits," the Chairman said dryly, "but may I suggest that such research would be more fitting for a doctoral dissertation than for an agency research project. I’m sure that Mr. Strings would agree—am I correct?"

"Yeah," Strings responded absently, "I guess so, but I'm still figuring over what the lady was getting at."

The counselor cast about in desperation for another idea. He said, "Sir, I propose that we investigate new applications of the guide dog's unique ability in mobility."

The Executive Director from Minneapolis said, "Oh yeah? What do you have in mind, driving cars?"

The counselor looked at him blankly. Then wheels of association spun and he suddenly had it. He said smoothly, "In northern climates, such as that of Minnesota, blind people are confined within doors during the inclement months when many feet of snow cover the ground. In parts of Alaska, teams of dogs are used to pull sleds through such snow. Therefore, I propose that we examine the feasibility of developing dog sleds as a means of enabling blind people to travel outside during the winter months." Turning to Strings, he said triumphantly, "This idea has gadgets, techniques, and novelty!"

The Chairman looked at the Minnesotan. "Well, what about it?" he asked.

The Executive sneered, "It won't work. The snowbanks go in too many crazy directions, and besides, they salt the streets. The dogs just couldn't handle it."

Looking dreamily into her mirror, the Hawaiian Director said, "That's such a pity. The idea was so appealing. Imagine a blind man out for an evening of sledding when a snowstorm overtakes him. There are only the red lights above the doors of that wild district to show his team the way. What a lovely image of mingled instincts."

Ignoring her, the Chairman glanced curiously at the Executive and asked, "By the way, how in fact do your people manage in Minnesota during the winter?"

The Executive replied carelessly, "I don't know. They're there when I arrive in the morning and they're still there when I drive home. That gives me an idea; I'm going to check the production figures to see if they go up or down in the winter."

The young counselor said quickly, "I propose that we study the production—" but as the Executive turned on him with a glare, he smoothly changed directions without pausing, "that we investigate whatever it may take to teach blind people to travel out-of-doors during the winter in the northern regions of the United States." As the planners looked at him with growing excitement, the counselor caught fire and showed his youthful enthusiasm: "We can call the project a guide to the management of step-by-step travel in the snow! We can have the Radio Talking Book broadcast the location of snowdrifts! We can ask the Weather Bureau to put together forecasts for the blind! We can equip blind winter walkers with walkie-talkies! We can make laser canes that will blow up snowbanks! We can design insulated coldsuits with helmets and heaters just like the astronauts wear, with checklists for going out into the cold and techniques for pressurization and special blind hops and skips, and everything, just everything!"

The meeting applauded and the Hawaiian Director smiled at the young counselor. Mr. Coffers blew his nose and Dr. Tanglewood slapped him on the back. The Executive from Minnesota began to map out routes, and the Chairman turned to Strings, announcing proudly, "This project has gadgetry, techniques, and hard novelty."

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On December 19, 1975, the North Carolina Utilities Commission gave Southern Bell Telephone a fine Christmas gift—a $36 million rate increase. But neither the Utilities Commissioners nor Southern Bell and Carolina Telegraph Company were prepared to deal with the hornets nest hidden in the mint green wrappings. Included in the rate increase was an innocent-appearing charge of twenty cents for directory assistance, effective January 15, 1976.

When confronted by the fact that such a charge for directory assistance would reduce the incomes and imperil some jobs held by the blind, the commissioners replied that they were not interested in doing charity work. If the blind couldn't pay, then let the taxpayers absorb the costs or let the State set up an agency to handle directory assistance, perhaps with volunteers. Besides, said the commissioners, looking down from their very high horse. State law forbids preferential rates for a class of customers. In addition, if it exempted the blind, other persons who "considered themselves handicapped" would want the same treatment and where would one draw the line?

The NFB of North Carolina, under the leadership of their president. Hazel Staley, swung into action. There was an immediate burst of newsstories, editorials, radio and television commentaries, and one fine cartoon depicting the Utilities Commission as Scrooge refusing to exempt the blind, which commanded space and attention in all media. Some legislators threatened to add the subject to the upcoming 1976 budget session, feeling there would be little difficulty in obtaining the necessary two-thirds vote to do so. The Attorney General's office prepared to appeal to the courts. Telephone calls from blind and sighted flooded the Utilities Commission's office.

Suggestions were mingled with threats of action. When it was proposed that the company should issue directories in Braille, John Nicely, first vice president of the North Carolina affiliate, reported that the Commission said it would quickly authorize specific rate increases to companies which issued Braille directories.

The turmoil around the commission's office became so great that the Legislative Utility Review Committee called for hearings which were hurriedly set for the ninth of January. All organizations of the blind and State and private agencies in work with the blind appeared to support exempting the blind from this charge. There are about 12,500 blind persons in the State. Hazel Staley appeared and spoke for the Federation. She said, in part:

"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee: Thank you for the privilege of appearing here today to present the views of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina on the recent ruling of the State Utility Commission denying to the blind an exemption from telephone directory assistance charges.

"We believe that this ruling is unreasonable and discriminatory. Part of the service which a customer expects to receive when he pays his telephone bill is access to the telephone numbers which he needs. Since blind persons cannot read the inkprint directory, the only means of securing numbers is from the operator. Cassette tape or Braille editions of the directory would be impractical ....

"Many blind persons in the State are employed in occupations that require the use of the telephone. Fellow employees cannot be expected to take time from their own jobs to look up numbers. Employers certainly could not be expected to pay an extra person to perform this service; and as a rule, a blind person does not earn enough money to pay for such service himself. Consequently, if this ruling is allowed to stand, many blind persons will be thrown out of work and will become tax recipients rather than tax contributors. This is damaging to one's dignity and self-image and should not be allowed to happen.

"The Utility Commission has suggested that some social agency assume the responsibility of supplying the blind with telephone directory assistance. Because of the lagging economy most agencies have cut their staffs to a bare minimum. Since they are already overworked, they could not possibly assume the added responsibility of providing the blind with directory assistance. Even if the agencies could recruit enough volunteers to provide this service, it would not be a satisfactory solution. Volunteers are too unpredictable to be depended on entirely for such a vital need. Also, the blind would be deprived of service at night, on weekends, and on holidays when the agencies are closed.

"If a State agency, such as the Division of Services for the Blind, were assigned this task, it would mean hiring more personnel and adding building space to house the directories from all of the State. WATS lines would have to be extended to every nook and cranny in the State so that blind people could call in when they needed a number. The cost of such a program would be astronomical.

"Far too many people today regard the blind as objects of charity and recipients of welfare. We have been, and still are, striving hard to dispel this notion. To require us now to depend on some social agency for directory assistance would further strengthen this pitiable image and would deprive us of our right to independence, dignity, and first-class citizenship. We pay our bills like everyone else. Directory assistance is telephone business and should be provided by the telephone company. The telephone company is equipped to handle it, part of their proceeds are allocated to pay for it, and they have expressed a willingness to provide it. Therefore, it is not necessary or desirable to involve another agency or organization to provide this service or to use other funds for it. We are not asking for special favors. All we want is what is rightfully ours. The Utility Commission contends that 'other groups' would demand exemption if it were granted to us. . . . If there are others, we believe that they, too, should be exempted from assistance charges.

"Thank you for your time and concern. We will be grateful for any help you may be able to give us in resolving this very crucial matter."

The Utility Commissioners had until this time ignored the fact that Southern Bell, following the example of other states and cities which have imposed charges for directory assistance, had been willing all along to exempt the blind and handicapped. But the public pressure became too great, and on January 9, 1976, the Utilities Commission, in a face-saving ruling, exempted the blind for a one-year trial period.

The efforts of the NFB of North Carolina, the cooperation of the agency people, public interest of individuals and media, made this positive action possible. There are still some who ask, "Why a Federation?"  

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Berthold Lowenfeld's recently published The Changing Status of the Blind: From Separation to Integration is an invaluable handbook for those curious about the blind and how they came to their present condition, as well as for those who are interested in doing further research. Packed into something over three hundred pages is a ready reference for the history of the place of the blind in society, the development of programs for their care, sketches of individuals, ancient and modern, whose very being influenced public reactions, and for the first time, recognition of the impact of the National Federation of the Blind and its leaders and leadership in the integration of the blind.

Dr. Lowenfeld views events through kindly eyes and with a gentle soul, attempting to be fair to all and harmful to none. He has read most of the available secondary works and, in addition, writes out of his own life experiences. The influence of his classic European education, his work with the blind in Austria, and his involvement in the education of the blind in the United States, are all apparent. To the many who know him personally, the distinctive writing style and turn of phrase will be familiar.

The subject is dealt with in two distinct parts: Part I is entitled simply "Historical Review." It contains, beside the expected tracing of the treatment of the blind from prehistoric eons through Biblical times, through the epochs of Greece and Rome, and the Middle Ages, unexpected items such as the philosophers' views of blindness. For example, the discussion of Diderot's "Letter on the Blind" of 1749 will bring a perspective which may be new to many. The alphabetical listing, along with a summary of their lives and importance, of a number of successful blind people, whom the author designates as "The Blind Self-Emancipators," spans the centuries, and some of those included in the list will be a surprise. The first part of the volume is concluded with a discussion of the "Early European Schools."

But it is in Part II: Integration, that the author really has put his heart. Again, the divisions of the subject are simply stated: Forces Favoring Integration; Forces Unfavorable to Integration; and Public Assistance—An Ambiguous Force. Dr. Lowenfeld deals with the ideas and uses extensively, the writings of authors most of whom he has known personally. He brings life and perspective to the development of education and integration by acknowledging and discussing the influence of individuals in the formation and forwarding of programs for the blind.

The author also deals with the influence of the organized blind on these subjects. Though he finds it irritating to have to deal with its aggressiveness, a good many pages are devoted to the National Federation of the Blind and its antecedents, written with paternalistic tolerance. He records the prominent part played by Dr. Newel Perry and his "boys." Jacobus tenBroek, he says, though at times "a controversial figure, is indisputably recognized as a leader of the blind whose influence in the United States and internationally was unique and of great impact." President Kenneth Jernigan is characterized in a fine understatement as "a forceful representative of the blind." The history of the Federation, its causes and issues, are reviewed and viewed largely from the writings of Federationists. Ideas expressed, especially on the need to take an active part, will be familiar to all who have read "To Man the Barricades."

About the Federation's "Modus Operandi," Dr. Lowenfeld has this to say: "Like agencies and organizations for the blind, the National Federation of the Blind exerts its influence on the Federal Government and its legislative and executive functions by being represented through a Washington, D.C. office. Besides this it has also a membership that has been enlightened to the importance of giving active support to their leaders by informing legislators and others of their convictions and desires either by personal intervention, by telegrams, or letters. Unlike most other organizations, however, the Federation goes to court if necessary and fights by legal means whenever the equal status and rights of the blind appear to be violated and legal means promise to rectify the wrong and establish legal precedents of national significance."

He sums up the section on the NFB so: "The National Federation of the Blind as a self-organization of the blind has made mistakes as all active organizations are bound to make at times. However, the total impact of the Federation's activities has not only substantially improved the social and economic status of the blind in the United States, but it has also been a strong force moving toward integration. Integration has been the avowed and relentlessly pursued goal of the Federation. Its statement of purpose begins thus: 'The ultimate goal of the National Federation of the Blind is the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.' In this the Federation has been a strong and uncompromising force."

In the "Preface" Dr. Lowenfeld states: "I hope that the book will give the student or novice in work with the blind an introduction to this specialty and some convictions about the direction it should take. I hope that the blind and the professional workers in the field will find in it philosophy that they can make their own and put into practice in words, deeds, and spirit. I am also hopeful that the book will contribute to make such specialists as teachers and rehabilitation workers more aware and knowledgeable of each other's responsibilities and competencies. Finally, I hope that the general reader will discover in the book the story of the ascent of one minority group as an example of advancing humanity, of which many find reason to despair." Only time will give the answer to the question of whether the author's hopes are realized.

The volume will be well thumbed by all who are interested in the blind and blindness. One could wish that the publishers, Charles C. Thomas, had done a more professional job of editing, as one expects a good publishing house to do. It would have eliminated inconsistencies in the spellings of names and provided more accuracy to latter-day dates and generally smoothed the wrinkles of every author's peculiarities and produced a more pleasing result. These, however, are small irritations when one considers the volume as a whole.

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Federationists from twenty states remained after the NAC demonstration to join with members of the Arkansas affiliate for its 1975 convention, November 14-16. The greater Little Rock chapter again served as host for the convention held at the Downtown Holiday Inn in the capital city.

Activities began on Friday evening with an open board meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas, followed by a Resolutions Committee meeting headed by Bean Hudson. Both Meetings had some eighty Federationists in attendance.

The Saturday morning session began at nine o'clock. The keynote speaker was David B. Ray, Director of the Arkansas Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services. Mr. Ray said that he was "damn proud" of a his actions during his five weeks in office including the appointment of Louis Rives as Director of the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He also said that he was glad there was a National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. In addition, Mr. Ray said that he would fight any effort to remove the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired from Vocational Rehabilitation or from his department. Mr. Ray espoused a belief in consumer input yet said that whether the Federation like what he had done thus far was immaterial. The session ended with Mr. Ray walking out after an unsuccessful attempt to take control of the floor from President Ralph Sanders. Mr. Ray's behavior left no question in the mind of Arkansas Federationists as to the difficulties ahead in improving services to blind Arkansans.

Next on the agenda was a panel, "Discrimination in Insurance, The Right to Equal Protection," moderated by Bean Hudson. Ron Sheffield, legal assistant for the Consumer Protection Division of the Arkansas Insurance Commission, and Don Morris, vice president of the NFB of Iowa, served as members of the panel. Examples of discrimination in insurance in Arkansas as well as in the Nation were cited. Mr. Sheffield expressed his concern and said that he would welcome complaints regarding the problem of discrimination in insurance.

Ralph Sanders then presented a brief report on the progress which the NFB of Arkansas has made during the past four years since the reorganization of the affiliate in December of 1971. He said that there had been positive contributions made to the blind of the State in a number of ways: In the field of job placement, at changing the negative attitudes about the capabilities and the rights of blind individuals, and in the establishing of legislative and governmental liaison to work toward change on behalf of blind Arkansans.

The report of the National Office was ably handled by Richard Edlund, our national Treasurer. Mr. Edlund said that we as Federationists have a tough battle to fight and that we should all consider making contributions, especially through the Pre-Authorized Check Plan. He also proposed that Federationists present do something to assist the treasury in Arkansas. His initial thirty-dollar contribution soon grew into over six hundred dollars given by those present. This is truly an example of support and dedication.

The Saturday afternoon session began with a panel entitled "Arkansas Laws Concerning the Blind" moderated by Jim Hudson. Panelists included Jim O'Hara, attorney for the NFB of Arkansas; Wally Nixon, representing the office of the Attorney General; and Representative Winston Bryant, member of the Arkansas Legislature and sponsor of the White Cane legislation in 1973. Mr. O'Hara kicked off the session by discussing the newly created Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He said that according to the provisions of the act which established an advisory council, some of those who were serving on the advisory council were doing so with a conflict of interest because agencies by which they were employed received State funds from OBVI. Giving the group another view of OBVI, Wally Nixon described in detail the structure of OBVI and its relationship with Social and Rehabilitative Services. He further stated that the Attorney General's office was studying the validity of the advisory committee.

State Representative Winston Bryant talked briefly about the White Cane legislation and acknowledged that some amendments should be added in order to strengthen the law. However, Mr. Bryant said that blind Arkansans should be the ones to make the necessary recommendations. With regard to OBVI and SRS, Mr. Bryant expresssed his concern about the controversy which had evolved and said that it was basic to our governmental structure that agencies involved in the delivery of human services should be responsive to the clients which they are designed to serve. Time was allowed for a question-and-answer exchange with the audience.

The report given by our regional librarian, Miss Cleotta Mullin, was cordially received. She called for continued participation regarding library services. She projected January as the target date for Braille services and discussed the gradual phasing down of talking books to cassette tapes. Miss Mullin also provided a display of various library services and equipment.

The biennial election of the officers of the NFB of Arkansas followed, with the results being: Jim Hudson, president; Ordis Higgs, first vice president; Searcy Ewell, second vice president; Bruce Higgs, secretary; Lesley McDaniel, treasurer; Joe Kelly and Bean Hudson, board members.

The afternoon schedule had to be readjusted somewhat as Mr. Louis Rives could not participate in the program as planned. Therefore, the Saturday afternoon session ended with Federationists enjoying a showing of our new film "The Blind: An Emerging Minority."

The climax of Saturday's activities came with over 150 Federationists joining together for the banquet at 7:00 p.m. Searcy Ewell, president of the Little Rock Chapter, served as master of ceremonies. With his jolly tone and candid jokes, he certainly made the evening an enjoyable experience.

Richard Edlund, our national representative, delivered the banquet address. Before he went into his prepared remarks, he put aside the usual formalities and asked Don Morris of Iowa to come up and explain what was to happen. What did happen was uniquely different, an auction of articles ranging from a two dollar bill and a bag of money of an undetermined amount, to a stuffed razorback hog, complete with tusks. Close to one hundred dollars was raised as a result.

In his address, Mr. Edlund cited instances of discrimination against the blind which occurred in various ways and in various states. His main topic was the image of blind people held by the sighted world. In short, he stressed the fact that individually not one of us could bring about the changing of such conditions. However, as members of a collective group which shares a common cause and which works together as a large family, "we can do something about it." He said that the reason discrimination and myths of blindness have broken down is that we ourselves have caused it. As a final plea, he asked that each blind individual rededicate himself to joining the ranks on the barricades.

Ralph Sanders, president of the NFB of Arkansas, presented the charter of affiliation to Joe Kelly, president of the newly established Texarkana Chapter. Mr. Sanders also issued an award for outstanding salesmanship to Anne Basaraba for her work in selling ads for the convention program.

The final event of the evening was the presentation of a plaque to Ralph Sanders for his outstanding work as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Arkansas for the past four years.

The Sunday morning session began with the finalizing of the resolutions which had been formulated during the past two days. Several of them dealt with Social and Rehabilitative Services, the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind. This final session adjourned at twelve noon.

Throughout the convention, door prizes were given away and were ably handled by Mrs. Elberta Higgs of Little Rock.

This year's convention was unique in several ways, but what made it truly unique was that for the first time in Federation history (as far as we know), the NAC demonstration and a state convention were held back to back. Some 150 Federationists were in attendance, not only from Arkansas but representing twenty other states. One could have called this convention a mini national convention providing a great opportunity to bring blind persons from all over the country together again.  

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Editor's Note.—Juanita Porter is an active Federationist and past president of the Glendale-Burbank Chapter, NFB of California.



3 cups minute oatmeal
3 large teaspoons cocoa
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup milk
¼ cup margarine
⅛ teaspoon salt


Mix the oatmeal, cocoa, coconut, and chopped nuts together in a bowl and set it aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Then pour the hot mixture over the ingredients in the bowl and mix well. Drop the cookies onto a greased metal sheet and let them cool and harden. They are then ready to eat.  

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The NFB of Alabama will host the State convention of the NFB of Alabama from March 19 to 21, 1976, at the Holiday Civic Center Hotel in Birmingham. Rates for single rooms will be fifteen dollars. Further information can be obtained from Dale Hamm, 3420 Eighth Avenue South, Birmingham, Alabama 35222.

A Monitor Miniature in the January Braille Monitor incorrectly stated that National History and Time are available from the Library of Congress as direct circulation cassette magazines. These two magazines are not available. The correct titles are Natural History and True.

U.S. News & World Report gets a gold record—presented for their millionth non-profit recording for the blind and physically handicapped. The award comes from Eva-tone Soundsheets, Inc., producers of the special flexible recordings called sound-sheets used for the weekly newsmagazine. The use of soundsheets makes the distribution of these transcriptions economically practical. John H. Sweet, publisher of U.S. News, states that soundsheets allow a fifty percent reduction in producing and shipping costs compared to costs for conventional records.

The blind or physically handicapped person can obtain the talking edition of U.S. News by direct subscription from the publisher. Also available free, on a recirculating basis, it is distributed through regional libraries by the Library of Congress. It reaches about 12,500 subscribers each week. The success of U.S. News & World Report, first talking magazine issued on flexible discs, has made possible many more magazines recorded on soundsheets for the blind. For more information, write to Eva-tone, Inc., P.O. Box 23, Deerfield, Illinois 60015, or phone toll-free to (800) 323-5845.

At the State convention of the NFB of Colorado, the following persons were elected officers: president, Judy Miller; first vice president. Merle Schippert; second vice president, Abe Karp; recording secretary, Diane McGeorge; corresponding secretary, Patti Jacobson; and treasurer, Georgia Cox. Several other important steps were taken at the convention. The establishment of a commission for the blind in Colorado was made a major priority; the delegate system of voting was abolished; and it was voted to give, on a regular basis, ten percent of our State fundraising efforts to our National Office. John Taylor's banquet address was one of the convention highlights.

The new officers of the Student Chapter of the NFB of Colorado are: president, Patti Jacobson; vice president, Ed Harris; secretary, Steve Jones; treasurer, Joe Lamers; and board members, Kevin Shields and Homer Page.

Beginning January 1 of this year, the maximum amount a Social Security beneficiary can earn without any loss of cash benefits was increased to $2,760 a year from the previous $2,520, meaning $230 a month. The amount of earnings upon which working persons pay social security taxes was also increased on January 1 from the previous taxable base of $14,100 a year to $15,300. The Social Security tax rate, now at 5.85 percent of taxable earnings for both employees and employers and at 7.9 percent for self-employed persons, will remain unchanged in 1976. The increase in exempt earnings for retired persons under Social Security usually means that a similar increase eventually follows for those receiving Disability Insurance, although it must be said that any increase in such exemption comes slowly and almost reluctantly. As a matter of fact, and for some unknown reason, the Disability Insurance people in HEW are most reluctant to let anyone know precisely what the amount of exempt earnings is.

More and more restaurants throughout the country are printing their menus in Braille. And now some of our leading hotel chains are following suit.

Daniel J. Boorstin, age sixty-one, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be the Librarian of Congress. He succeeds L. Quincy Mumford who retired at the end of last year. Boorstin has had a long and distinguished career as a writer, educator, and historian. He graduated with highest honors from Harvard and was a Rhodes Scholar and received a doctorate in juridical science from Yale. He taught history at Harvard, Radcliffe, and for twenty-five years at the University of Chicago. The first volume of his United States history appeared seventeen years ago. The third volume, "The Americans: The Democratic Experience," won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1974.

Beginning on January 1 of this year Medicare's hospital deductible was increased to $104. This amount is the equivalent of the average cost of one day of hospital care. At the present time the average hospital stay under Medicare is around thirteen and a half days at a cost of $1,400. The deductible is the part of the hospital bill for which the beneficiary is responsible during the first sixty days of hospital care in each benefit period. Medicare pays for the rest of the costs of covered services for the first sixty days and for an additional thirty days subject to a daily co-insurance payment.

A glaucoma patient until recently had to spend several nonproductive hours every working day after instilling drops in his eyes. The drops of pilocarpine, fine for the control of glaucoma and used for one hundred years, had to go into his eyes four times a day. For at least an hour afterward every time, they made his world dark by their effect on the pupils of his eyes, and they caused blurring of vision. Now, once a week, he tips into each eye a tiny oval wafer. For a whole week, the wafer releases pilocarpine at a uniform rate without blurring or other unpleasant effects. And the medication is in his eyes around the clock. Recently released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for prescription by eye specialists, the wafer, called Ocusert, will be good news for the almost two million Americans who have glaucoma.

We have heard of an airline which demanded a waiver of all personal damages to a blind passenger before letting him ride; of not permitting blind persons to sit in exit aisle seats; of dog guides not being permitted in restaurants; and even of blind persons being refused rentals because they were blind. But now Northwest Airlines really takes the cake! It actually tried to make a totally blind man give up his white cane on one of its airliners. The traveler was none other than James Gashel, Chief of the NFB's Washington Office. Gashel was flying from Washington to Minneapolis to attend the convention of the NFB of Minnesota and was actually asked to give up his 61-inch fiberglass cane by the stewardess so she could store it in the closet. The pilot concurred with the stewardess. After a discussion, Gashel was told flatly that he must either give up his cane or leave the airplane. He chose to leave. The crew insisted that Gashel's cane be stored in a closet even after he patiently explained that he needed the cane handy so he could move about the plane or move hurriedly in case of an emergency. He offered to lay the cane alongside the wall beside the window or even beneath the seat. But all to no avail! This whole sorry tale was verified by Gashel's seatmate on the plane, an Assistant Director of the Veterans' Administration in Wyoming. 

The Philadelphia Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will celebrate the Bicentennial by hosting a National Exhibit by Blind Sculptors. The exhibition is now planned to run from June through September of 1976. The purpose of this show will be to give proper public recognition to quality sculpture created by the blind; to stimulate interest in art in the blind community; and to make the sighted more aware of the potential of the blind in the field of art. The Library is centrally located in the most historic area of Philadelphia, and will be visited by thousands of tourists. A grant has been obtained by the Philadelphia Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to sponsor a judged show. Local art museums and art schools, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the Bicentennial organization—Philadelphia '76—are giving their support and will be working closely with the Library on this exhibit. Entries will be limited to sculpture and other three dimensional forms. Prizes will be awarded. Blind artists nationwide are invited to submit entries. For further details and applications, contact Ms. Sandra Viddy, Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, 919 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.

The Braille Rotary Calculator which was described in the August 1974 issue of the Braille Monitor is still being produced. These machines are converted from used Marchants. They are motor driven and are available in two sizes: 8EFA = 8 x 8 x 16 digit (35 pounds) $300; 10EFA = 10 x 10 x 20 digit (39 pounds) $350. This calculator is distributed with the cooperation of the National Federation of the Blind. For more information, write to: Noller Engineering Services, Route 1, Box 60, Soulsbyville, California 95372; telephone (209) 532-7959.

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Prepared in consultation with LEO J. PLUMMER, M.D.

Published and Distributed by the NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

For further information, contact
Kenneth Jernigan, President
National Federation of the Blind
218 Randolph Hotel Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 243-3169

Dr. Leo J. Plummer is consulting ophthalmologist for the Iowa Commission for the Blind. He received his B.A. cum laude from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1960 and M.D. from the University of Iowa College of medicine in 1964. He served an internship at Emmanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon, in 1964-65 before entering the United States Air Force, in which he held the rank of Captain from 1965 to 1967. His residency in ophthalmology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, was followed by three-and-a-half months as associate instructor at the Guiness Clinic in Kaduna, Nigeria. He is presently in private practice in Des Moines, Iowa.


The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) presents this paper as a service to NFB members and to the general public in the belief that better information and adequate medical care can prevent much blindness or in some cases lead to its cure. With proper training and opportunity, however, those who do become permanently blind can lead normal, productive lives by using alternative techniques which do not require the use of sight, so that today no one needs to remain unemployed or dependent solely because of blindness. We invite you to contact the National Federation of the Blind (218 Randolph Hotel Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50309) for more information about education, rehabilitation, and general opportunities available to the blind citizen today.

Only a relatively small percentage of blind people are totally blind, but one may be termed "legally" blind for various purposes if (a) he has a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses (that is, he can see only at 20 feet what a person with normal 20/20 vision can see at 200 feet) or (b) has a field of vision which at its widest diameter subtends an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees. In other words, one is legally blind if, even with correcting lenses, he retains 10% or less of normal vision. The width of the visual field is as important as the central acuity, even though an uninformed person may assume anyone with 20/20 central vision sees "perfectly." A different and much more meaningful definition than the legal one, therefore, says that a person is blind if, in a substantial number of life situations, it would be more efficient for him to use alternative techniques instead of relying on his sight, whether this condition results from loss of central or peripheral vision or both.

Thus, many who are legally blind do have sight that is useful for some purposes, but unfortunately many try to rely on their partial vision in situations where alternative techniques would be more efficient for them. The sensible course of action for anyone with a substantial loss of vision is, of course, to learn alternative techniques (Braille, cane travel, typing, and so on) and then select the methods that work best for him in each particular situation in life.

A great deal has been said and written recently—much of it misleading—about the percentage of learning which comes to people through their eyes, some attributing as much as 85 or 90 percent of learning to visual stimuli. One must be rather careful that in making such statements he does not assume that deprivation of physical sight thus renders a person incapable of learning. Neuro-ophthalmologists have determined that the brain and central nervous system are so structured that they can spend the major portion of their time handling any visual information they receive, but also that sight is only one of the brain's sources of information.1 Blind people thus can and do use the other senses to obtain information denied by lack of physical vision. One should not, therefore, suppose that the blind are incapable of learning or that the individual blind person's intellectual potential is less than it would have been had he possessed sight. To do so would be to exaggerate greatly the impact blindness need have on one's life.

Finally, both sighted and blind people often ask about artificial sight, and many experiments have been performed in this area. It is now possible, for example, to stimulate parts of the brain artificially and cause a person to "see" points of light in simple patterns. Technology has not yet progressed, however, anywhere near the stage of truly useful artificial sight, and it is doubtful that use of many of the combinations of television cameras linked to electrodes in the brain or similar devices would be preferable to efficient use of alternative techniques.

1 R. Burde, M.D., "Neuro-ophthalmology," Lecture given to the Institute on Diseases of the Eye (St. Louis, Missouri, October 26, 1971).



Canal of Schlemm
Ciliary muscle
Ciliary zonule
Capsule of lens
Medium choroidal vessels
Lamina suprachoroidea
Branches of ciliary artery and nerve
Vorticose vein
Large choroidal vessels
Optic disk
Macula lutea
Branches of ciliary artery and nerve
Anterior chamber
Posterior chamber
Rectus oculi medialis muscle
Ora serrata
Ciliary processes
Vitreous body
Pigmentary epithelium
Retinal arteries and veins
Capsule of Tenon
Central artery and vein of retina
Lamina cribrosa
Medullated nerve fibers

Photo furnished courtesy of Lederle Laboratories, Pearl River, New York.

Anatomy of the Eye

2 Material for this section is based upon: Department of Ophthalmology, Washington University School of Medicine, "Institute on Diseases of the Eye," (St. Louis, 1973) pp. 1-4.

Anatomy and Physiology

The eye starts out in the embryo as part of the brain, occurring first as lateral outpouching and then undergoing infolding. The inner layer of the infolding eventually becomes the retina; thus the retina is actually a modified portion of the brain.

The retina is analogous to the film in a camera; it is that layer of the eye which actually "takes the picture." The "picture" is then "developed" by the brain after being instantaneously transmitted from the retina to the brain via the optic nerve. The photoreceptors of the retina are the rods and cones, with the rods being most responsible for vision in darkness and for peripheral vision, while the cones are more responsible for color vision, vision in bright light, and central vision. Vitamin A is necessary for the photochemical reaction in the retina to take place. This vitamin is usually present in adequate amounts in the diet.

The eye receives its blood supply from the middle layer (between the retina and the sclera) known as the uveal tract. This pigmented vascular layer is divided anatomically into a front portion, the iris, and a back portion, the choroid. The amount of pigment varies, and in general one can say that a blue iris represents lack of pigment whereas a dark brown iris represents a normal amount of pigment.

The outer coat or sclera is the "white of the eye" and is like a strip of tendon in consistency. The front portion of the outer coat is the cornea, which acts as the clear front window of the eye and also has tremendous focusing power.

Just behind the cornea is a chamber which contains a continuously flowing fluid called aqueous humor. Since the lens and the cornea have no blood vessels, they receive their nourishment from this aqueous humor, which constantly flows out of small channels located at the angle where the iris and the cornea meet. If this outlet of aqueous humor is impeded in any way, then the pressure in the eye rises and glaucoma may result.

At the junction of the iris and the choroid there are small muscles (ciliary body) which control the shape of the lens for focusing as well as opening and closing the pupil (the central hole in the iris). When the light is bright the pupil becomes small (miosis) and in the dark the pupil dilates (mydriasis). The lens is held in place by fasteners called zonules. A gel-like material, the vitreous body, fills the cavity behind the lens.

The muscles on the outside of the eye are responsible for moving the eye so that it can "aim" at an object. When looking at close objects, the eyes converge and the lens changes its focus. This focusing power for close work is usually lost by the time the normal individual reaches the age of forty-five.

Visual Function

When we want to see something clearly we aim our eye in such a way as to place the object onto the central portion of our retina known as the fovea. At the same time, however. we can indeed see objects below, above, and to the sides in our peripheral field of vision. The retina therefore has two visual properties: resolution (central vision) and detection (peripheral vision). A simple example illustrates this. If we hold up two fingers in front of our eyes and we can tell that they are indeed two fingers, we are resolving this. At the same time, a bird might fly over our heads and we might be able to detect that something is flying overhead, but we would not be able to resolve exactly what it is.

The test for resolution is the visual acuity test and the test for detection is the visual field test. To determina a person's visual function, an examiner must know both the visual acuity and the visual field.

Three illustrations of why it is important to know both the acuity and the field should suffice. An eye with a cataract is, for example, analogous to a camera with a dirty lens. All the images are blurred, both central and peripheral. In such a case visual acuity may test at 20/200, making the person functionally blind. An eye with a macular hole, on the other hand, also tests out at 20/200 visual acuity, but it is more analogous to a camera with a small spot on the film. A person with such a condition has poor central visual acuity, but retains peripheral vision. Finally, a person with retinitis pigmentosa may appear to have excellent "vision" if his central visual acuity tests 20/20, but his peripheral vision is so reduced that he has difficulty functioning as a sighted person.

The Snellen chart, used to test visual acuities, consists of lines of letters and numerals visible to the average normal eye at different distances stated on the chart. In recording visual acuity, the first number is the testing distance and the second is the distance stated on the chart for the smallest letters read by the person being examined. For example, 20/20 vision is testing vision at 20 feet in a particular person, and it also says that the average person can see the same letter at 20 feet; 20/40 would mean that the smallest line read by the person tested at 20 feet was the one visible to the average person at 40 feet.

Blind spots in the visual field called scotomas do occur, frequently without being obvious to those who have them. This is why peripheral field defects are insidious, especially in such diseases as glaucoma, pointing up the need for routine eye examinations.


This section is intended to explain, in language understandable to the average person, many of the important causes of blindness in the United States today. It is not all-inclusive or technically detailed, and many medical facts have been simplified. This paper is not in any way intended to be used for diagnosis of any individual's eye condition, a job which should be reserved only for the eye doctor. If you are wondering whether anything is wrong with your eyes, we urge you to see a doctor at once. If you cannot afford to pay, there are many agencies and funds which can help you.

Some of the conditions below are described as hereditary (passed on from parent to child by means of genes and chromosomes), but there are many patterns of heredity, even for one particular disease. For specific questions about the inheritance of a particular characteristic in a given individual or family, one should consult a genetic specialist. A family physician can usually provide the proper referral.

Over 450,000 people in the United States are legally blind—roughly 0.2% of the population. Blindness occurs most often in the higher age brackets, but a significant number of blind people are children or young adults. Following are descriptions of the specific eye conditions which are most common or most generally known in the United States. In some cases the categories decribed overlap somewhat, and in most cases a given condition has various forms and patterns depending on circumstances. In addition, the anatomical diagram and text in Section I explain terms used to describe parts of the eye, and brief explanations of other eye conditions—not generally considered leading causes of blindness may be found in the glossary. Generally we have not attempted to rank causes by percentages or numbers of cases since such statistics are constantly changing, and the analysis of them is a complex matter. The bibliography lists a few of the many references which may be used for further study.


Albinism is a hereditary condition in which there is a lack of normal pigment in part or all of the body. The hair is white, the skin very fair, and the iris of the eye appears white or pinkish. The person with albinism usually has poor vision, an imperfectly developed retina, oversensitivity to light, and nystagmus (abnormal muscle movement causing constant twitching or jerking of the eyes).

Specially treated lenses can improve vision and can also lessen discomfort by reducing the amount of light entering the eye. Albinism cannot, however, be cured. 


The general term amblyopia applies to poor vision which is not due to any observable disease and which cannot be corrected by glasses. It may be congenital (present at birth) or may develop later.

Sometimes the cause is unknown; however, blindness can often be prevented if proper steps are taken. A common example is "lazy eye" or amblyopia ex anopsia. This condition occurs in a young child if one eye becomes so dominant that the other is suppressed and deteriorates through lack of use. This is likely to happen if the two eyes focus differently because of strabismus (muscle inequality, commonly called "crossed eyes") or because one eye is much more nearsighted than the other. If this problem is discovered and treated early enough, often the weak eye will regain its strength. Many service organizations provide free preschool screening tests in an effort to find and refer these children before the vision of one eye is completely lost. Treatment generally consists of correcting the basic inequality of the eyes (through surgery or corrective lenses) and/or putting a patch over the strong eye temporarily to force the weak one to work again.

Cardiovascular Disease

This classification encompasses a number of different problems of the heart and circulatory system, such as high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, and diseases of the heart. Heart and circulatory diseases cause problems in various places throughout the body, and the eyes are frequently affected. Veins or arteries may be deflected from their normal course, enlarged or constricted, or otherwise changed in size or shape. There may be too strong a pulsation of blood, too little blood circulated, hemorrhages within the eye, or swelling in the eyes or lids. The exact nature of the damage and the outlook for the future vision of a particular individual depends on various factors, and improvement is often possible with drugs and with treatment of the basic cardiovascular problem.


The lens of the human eye is comparable to the lens of a camera or magnifying glass, and for obvious reasons it needs to be transparent and free of flaws. In the condition known as cataract, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, blocking the passage of light.

Various forms of cataract make up one of the leading causes of blindness in this country today. Although some cataracts are present at birth (congenital cataracts), likelihood of developing them later in life increases with the age of the individual. Chemical burns and heredity are two important causes of cataracts, but all the causes are not yet known. Cataracts, like the majority of eye conditions, are not contagious.

Cataracts are not painful. In fact the only symptom, as far as the patient is concerned, is the interference with vision: and this interference may range in degree from very slight to virtually total. Medication does not help, and the only effective treatment is surgery to remove the affected lens and the subsequent wearing of strong contact lenses or conventional eyeglasses. Much progress has been made recently in the development of improved forms of cataract surgery. The decision about whether and when to operate is an individual one, depending on many factors such as the patient's occupation and age. The likelihood of regaining useful sight through surgery is generally good, although complications prevent successful treatment in some cases.

Color Blindness

This familiar condition is predominant in males (in about 8% as opposed to around 0.4% of females) and most commonly is a sex-linked inherited characteristic transmitted through the male chromosome. Generally affecting both eyes, it most often takes the form of a loss of perception of one or two fundamental colors (red-green color blindness is the most common), but occasionally it is complete, so that the individual literally sees only in black and white. The disorder can also be acquired in cases of retinal disease or poisoning.

The exact mechanism of color blindness has not been fully explained, but some writers simply attribute it to an absence of one or more of the cone pigments or an abnormal presence of a mixture of two of the color-sensitive pigments in one cone. In any event, testing for color blindness, using various charts, is commonly included as part of an eye examination, especially for drivers and workers in industry and transportation, where the ability to distinguish colored signals is important. One of the most familiar tests consists of a circle containing dots of different colors, in which the subject with normal color vision is supposed to discern one number, while a person with defective color vision is likely to see another.

Some have found the pattern of inheritance of this recessive characteristic confusing. To put the matter simply, a female usually will not be color-blind herself unless there is an abnormal gene for color blindness on both of the "X" chromosomes carried by all females. On the other hand, a male, who carries only one X chromosome, will be color-blind if it contains an abnormal gene. Moreover, the female with only one abnormal gene inherited from her father can become a "carrier" and pass the trait on to a male offspring without being color-blind herself.

There is no treatment for color blindness.

Congenital Eye Defects

The term congenital means "present at birth": hence, this term includes some or all cases of many conditions listed under other headings. Some congenital eye conditions, such as retinoblastoma, are truly hereditary (passed on through the genes and chromosomes), while others are the result of a disease or deficiency during pregnancy—for instance. German measles (rubella).

Often the exact cause of a congenital defect is unknown. Following are examples of conditions which may be seen at birth as a "developmental deficiency" of unknown cause:

Aniridia — Absence or near-absence of the iris.

Microphthalmos — An abnormally small eye, usually with poor vision.

Megalophthalmos — An abnormally large eye present at birth.

Anophthalmos — Absence of the eyeball. (An artificial eye can usually be worn, and the eyelids are usually present.)

Coloboma — A cleft or slot in the iris and/or retina, as a result of incomplete growth.

Corneal Disease and Corneal Transplants

The cornea, a transparent layer over the front of the eye, functions as a refracting and protective "window" membrane through which light rays pass on the way to the retina. While there are no blood vessels in the cornea, there are many pain fibers, so that most injuries do cause severe pain. In addition, blurred vision results from injury to or disorder within the cornea. Problems in this area, resulting as they can in permanently blurred vision or blindness, are extremely serious and should receive immediate attention from an eye specialist.

Corneal Ulcers — Scarring or perforation due to corneal ulceration is a major cause of blindness throughout the world. Usually such ulcers can be treated if attended to quickly. Ulceration may be caused by bacteria such as streptococcus, viruses (herpes simplex keratitis being one of the most common), fungi, vitamin A deficiency, or other disorders. New drugs have aided the treatment of many of these conditions.

Degenerative Corneal Conditions — Keratoconus, a rare degenerative condition which is inherited, causes a general thinning and an abnormal protrusion of the central cornea, as well as some scarring. Blurred vision results, and in advanced cases there may even be perforation of the cornea. While contact lenses (especially the new soft types) can aid vision in the early stages, corneal transplants are sometimes performed before extreme thinning takes place, and in such cases reading vision can usually be obtained.

Other degenerative conditions include corneal dystrophy and arcus senilis, an extremely common condition in elderly people.

Other types of corneal disorders may be indicated by pain, irritation, or blurred vision; however, some corneal ailments can be detected only by a trained eye specialist.

Corneal Transplant (Keratoplasty) — When the cornea becomes opaque or there is danger of perforation of a corneal ulcer, an ophthalmic surgeon may remove the affected cornea and replace it with a healthy one taken from a donor. In many states Lions Clubs and other groups have made it easy for one to donate his eyes for this purpose at death. Only the cornea is used in such cases. There is no immediate prospect of successful whole eye transplants. Surgeons would prefer to use the donated cornea immediately, but it may be used up to twenty-four hours after death if properly handled. New techniques for this procedure involving surgery under the microscope and finer suture material have constituted a major advance in treatment of corneal disorders.

Diabetic Retinopathy

This eye condition, a very common complication of diabetes, rivals glaucoma and cataracts as a leading cause of blindness in this country. Its incidence is rising as a result of the increased lifespan of diabetics, which has been made possible by improved medical technology and particularly by the synthesis of insulin in the early years of the 20th century. The likelihood of retinopathy increases with the length of time a given person has had diabetes, so that many who have been diabetics for twenty or more years do become blind.

Long-term diabetes often brings about changes in the tiny blood vessels in the retina (the lining of the back of the eye). New, abnormal blood vessels may be formed; blood vessels may become engorged with too much blood and burst, or the retina may break loose from the back of the eye. In addition to the direct interference with vision caused by these events, blood from the burst vessels enters the vitreous (jelly-like) part of the eye and makes it cloudy instead of transparent.

Modern medical treatment can often slow the course of diabetic retinopathy. Laser treatments sometimes can seal or "weld" broken blood vessels or seal a detached portion of the retina back into place. In many cases, however, this treatment is wholly or partially unsuccessful.

Medical science does not yet fully understand just what characteristics of the disease of diabetes bring about retinopathy. Although good adherence to the diet, regular administration of insulin, and other prescribed regimens will improve the patient's general health and help to lower the likelihood of complications in general, the most careful and conscientious patient may still become blind. On the other hand, some people have severe diabetes for many years and never develop eye problems.

German Measles (Rubella)

Many readers may be surprised to find that German measles is associated with blindness since it is commonly thought of as a very minor disease. Neither child nor adult is likely to be harmed permanently by a case of German measles, but an unborn baby may be very much affected. If an expectant mother has the disease during the first three months of pregnancy, she herself will probably hardly feel sick at all, but the disease is likely to infect her unborn child through the placenta, with serious results.

Many such babies are born mentally retarded, and they also are likely to have physical problems. Heart disease, ear defects, and respiratory difficulties are particularly common. Many such children have cataracts or other eye problems such as glaucoma, abnormally small eyes, or defects in the iris or retina.

Strong efforts are being made to prevent this threat to the unborn. Children—especially girls—should be exposed to the disease or vaccinated if possible, so that they may have mild symptoms and develop resistance to German measles for the future. Women who might be in the early stages of pregnancy should avoid contact with cases of German measles.


Glaucoma is another of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. In this condition, the transparent fluid inside the forward part of the eye does not drain normally, and excess pressure is built up within the eye. If the pressure is not controlled, the delicate structure of the eye is increasingly damaged, resulting in blurred vision, a narrowed field of sight, and eventually total blindness.

The causes of glaucoma are not fully understood. Some cases are hereditary, while others arise as complications of other eye disorders. Glaucoma, not a contagious condition, is most common after the age of thirty-five.

The "acute" type of glaucoma appears as a sudden attack, characterized by great pain and discomfort. Such an episode can damage the eyes severely in a short time. More common, however, is the "chronic" type, in which there is no pain and in which the damage to vision is so slow that it may not be noticed by the patient for a long time. Since treatment of this disorder can only prevent further loss of sight rather than restore that already lost, chronic glaucoma is a particularly good example of the value of regular eye examinations by a competent eye physician.

Many cases are controlled by medication which relaxes and unblocks the drainage channels for the eye fluid. Sometimes surgery is necessary. In many cases, although not all, modern medical treatment can control the disease completely. A true "cure," however, has not yet been developed; medication must be continued for control. If treatment is not successful, removal of the eye may be necessary in severe cases.

Injury (Trauma) — Including Burns

In an era when cures for disease are constantly being developed, injury remains a prominent cause of disability, and eye injuries are no exception. Preventable accidents injure the eyes of one-half million Americans per year.

Adequate protective eye guards (not just any goggles or eyeglasses) should always be worn during welding, in factories and laboratories, and in any other situation where the danger of bums or other injury exists. Children must be effectively taught not to point arrows, BB guns, or other sharp or dangerous objects toward the face. Farmers using anhydrous ammonia or other chemicals must observe suitable safety precautions, since chemical burns are an important cause of injury on farms.

Everyone should know the basic principles of emergency first aid in case an injury does occur. In case of a chemical burn, the eyes should immediately be rinsed thoroughly with water for at least fifteen minutes, and emergency medical care should be secured at once. For other injuries, it is generally best to leave the eye alone or if necessary to cover it with a loose bandage while securing emergency medical care. Hyphema, a hemorrhaging into the anterior chamber, is a sign of serious injury. In such a case blood will be visible through the cornea, and a doctor's help should be sought at once.

In addition to direct damage due to the injury itself, the danger of infection is always present and may be even more serious. Moreover, injury to a single eye may result in pathologic symptoms in the other, a condition called sympathetic ophthalmia, which in the past often meant that total blindness ultimately resulted from injury to a single eye. Although the exact cause of sympathetic ophthalmia is not fully understood, it can usually be prevented today by prompt modem medical care.

We do not yet have it in our power to foresee and prevent all injuries. With proper precautions, however, a great many accidents can be prevented, and the effects of those which do occur can be minimized.

Macular Degeneration

The retina is the inner surface or lining at the back of the eye and serves a function similar to that of the film in a camera. The macula (the proverbial "apple" of the eye) is the part of the retina which forms the center of the "picture" and the sharpest image.

Degeneration or breakdown of the macula may come from many causes. Some cases are hereditary, and others are caused by diseases such as arteriosclerosis. The course of the deterioration may be slow or rapid; however, the patient generally keeps good peripheral vision—that is, he can still see well around the edges of his visual field, although his central vision is blurred.

The most common form of this condition occurs in the elderly. In severe form this is called "senile macular degeneration." the term "senile" here meaning only deterioration occurring with old age, not mental senility.

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

Myopia results when the eyeball is longer than normal or when there is some change in the eyeball which causes the light rays to be bent abnormally. In either case when a distant object is observed, the parallel light rays passing through the lens into the eye tend to be focused in front of the retina rather than on it, and the result is a fuzzy image. Rays coming from nearby objects are more easily focused correctly, and thus the individual is "near-sighted."

Most nearsighted people need only wear properly prescribed corrective lenses in order to see normally. These people are said to have simple myopia, which hardly ever causes blindness. 

A much less common condition, generally hereditary, is degenerative myopia, also called progressive myopia. Persons with this condition may not see well even with glasses. Complications such as retinal detachment, cataracts, or secondary glaucoma may appear with degenerative myopia.


Continuous, jerky, involuntary movements of the eye muscles are called nystagmus. These oscillations may be in any or all directions, but are usually more pronounced in some directions than others and are usually fairly consistent in a particular individual. Sometimes dizziness is associated with nystagmus. The person with nystagmus has reduced visual acuity from being unable to maintain steady fixation on objects.

The exact cause of nystagmus is not fully understood, but it seems to be associated with poor vision in a kind of "vicious cycle"—that is, nystagmus makes it more difficult to see, while at the same time poor vision increases the likelihood of nystagmus.

Usually nystagmus cannot be cured. The individual may find he is more comfortable and sees better if he tilts or moves his head slightly to compensate for the involuntary movements, and often he will do this unconsciously.

Ophthalmia Neonatorum

The well-chosen name of this disease means "inflammation in the eyes of the newborn." Once a dreaded and very common cause of blindness, it is now preventable by means of modern hygiene and medical care.

Ophthalmia neonatorum appears soon after birth, but it is not hereditary. It is caused by the entrance of bacteria from the mother's birth canal into the baby's eyes. Inflammation appears in the eyelids and cornea, and may spread further if not treated. Often the bacteria are those of gonorrhea, but other bacteria (such as staphylococcus) may be the cause as well.

A successful treatment to prevent the development of this disease was discovered in 1880, and this treatment or its equivalent is now required by law. The eyelids of every newborn baby are cleansed, and drops of a silver nitrate solution (sometimes penicillin and other antibiotics) are put into the eyes. Effort is also directed, of course, to promoting good health on the part of the expectant mother so that she will not transmit harmful germs to her baby.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

This condition is characterized by degeneration of the retina and the choroid, usually involving an abnormal development of excess pigment. It is hereditary, with a variety of patterns of inheritance and development.

The most common pattern of development is as follows: At approximately age ten or twelve, the youngster begins to experience some difficulty in seeing at night and in poorly lighted areas. His visual field also begins to narrow, although he may not realize this at first. The visual loss is progressive, so that the individual usually becomes legally blind by young adulthood and slowly loses more and more vision thereafter. Many adults with retinitis pigmentosa have a very tiny field of vision in which they see well under a good light but which is so small as to be of little use. Total blindness often results.

There may or may not be accompanying additional problems, such as cataracts. There is no known treatment.

Retrolental Fibroplasia

Retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) is caused by exposing a newborn (frequently premature) baby to a high concentration of oxygen in an incubator resulting in an abnormal proliferation of the blood vessels in the eye and subsequent development of scar tissue, with bleeding and detachment of the retina. Total blindness may result. Glaucoma, uveitis, cataract, and degenerative lesions of the eye may occur months to years after onset of RLF. Strabismus and myopia are commonly associated. RLF did not exist until the widespread use of infant incubators in relatively recent times. It was first recognized in 1941, and the number of cases rose to a high peak in 1952. By 1954 the cause had been definitely determined, and medical practices were altered so that infants now receive only as much oxygen as is really needed for survival. The incidence has thus declined dramatically, so that the disease is now rare.

Most of the children who developed RLF in the early 1950's are now adults and remain blind. A few new cases continue to appear, especially since it is sometimes very difficult for the doctor to determine the best balance between the twin dangers of possible blindness and death from insufficient oxygen.

The history of RLF has affected the education of blind children in the United States. Because of the surge of RLF cases in the 1950's, large numbers of blind children reached school age at a time when social sentiment increasingly favored the "mainstream" placement of children with disabilities in the regular classroom. The parents of many RLF children worked successfully to arrange for education in the regular public schools, a trend which continues today.


Trachoma is a contagious disease, caused by a virus, which affects the eyelids and the cornea. Though still common in many less developed countries, it has become rare in the United States. It can be prevented by modern sanitation and medical care.

The exact pattern of development varies with the individual, but the following symptoms are typical: The eye becomes painful, with burning sensations and oversensitivity to light. Vision is disturbed (or, in some advance cases, destroyed) as the cornea becomes more and more opaque. An excess of tears is produced, and often an additional discharge. The eyelids develop muscle spasms; and the eyelashes may be turned inward, further irritating the cornea.

In its early stages, a case of trachoma can usually be cured by suitable drugs along with improved cleanliness and general health. Surgery is helpful in some cases. However, if the case is far advanced or if complications have set in, successful treatment may be impossible.

The best way to control trachoma, of course, is by prevention.


Not all tumors and growths are cancer. A "benign" or "nonmalignant" tumor is not much different from the surrounding tissue, stops growing after reaching a certain size, and does not spread to other areas of the body. Some benign tumors in or near the eye cause no trouble at all. Others, however, do interfere with sight or cause pain. Such a tumor may be removed surgically, and in many cases the eye recovers to become completely normal.

A cancerous tumor is much more threatening than a benign tumor. It is greatly different from surrounding tissue, grows rapidly without stopping, and often spreads through the lymph system to sprout growths in other parts of the body.

There are many different kinds of cancers which may appear in or around the eye. The most common is melanoma, a malignant spot of color. (Some benign tumors are also called "melanomas.")

Retinoblastoma is a cancer of the retina (the lining at the back of the eye). Usually hereditary, it appears in very young children, and is believed to be present at birth in an incipient stage. If any history of this disease is known in a family, it is vital that each baby be examined frequently by an ophthalmologist. The eye specialist can detect the cancer before it is visible to the layman and before it causes any discomfort to the child. If the condition is untreated, the cancer will soon spread to the brain and elsewhere, causing death.

Successful treatment of a tumor is always much more likely if it is begun early. Radiation, drugs, and/or surgery may be used, but frequently complete removal of the eye and any other affected tissue may be necessary.

Veneral Disease

With modern medical care, most cases of venereal disease can be cured. Ignorance and other barriers, however, often encourage the development of these diseases, and blindness can be the result. Advanced gonorrhea can cause pain, discharge, severe irritation of the eyelids and eyes, and corneal ulceration. As indicated earlier, the germs of gonorrhea may even infect the eyes of a newborn baby as the child passes through the birth canal of an infected mother.

Advanced syphilis may cause a rash on the eyelids, irritation of the cornea or retina, muscle paralysis, and degeneration of the nerves. Babies may be born with congenital syphilis acquired from an infected mother.


Modern medicine can prevent or cure many diseases and conditions which formerly blinded large numbers of people. We urge all readers to take advantage of good medical care and to protect their eyes from injury so that unnecessary blindness may be prevented.

When medical care cannot prevent or cure blindness, the National Federation of the Blind assures the reader that another course of action which leads to normal, productive living is available. That course is to secure good education and training in the use of alternative techniques and to develop the attitudes and beliefs necessary to reduce blindness to the level of a physical nuisance. In this connection the following information should be of assistance:

(1) Although sight is not the single most valuable thing in a person's life, it is by all means to be protected carefully. One should, therefore, select a competent eye specialist with appropriate training and visit him for regular eye examinations to detect problems before they become acute. If one experiences problems with his eyes, he should visit the specialist immediately for diagnosis, treatment, or referral to avoid needless loss of vision. In this regard it may be helpful to point out that an ophthalmologist is a physician (Doctor of Medicine) who specializes in conditions of the eye, their medical and surgical treatment, and prescription of corrective lenses, an optometrist (Doctor of Optometry), a specialist in examining the eyes and prescribing corrective lenses, but not in prescribing medication, and an optician (not a doctor), a person skilled in grinding lenses and fitting them according to prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists. Ophthalmologists, formerly called "oculists," are the only eye specialists permitted to prescribe medication or perform surgery.

(2) If serious problems do develop, one should insist on candor from his doctor about his eye condition and the best estimate of where it will lead.

(3) If one discovers that he is, in fact, losing his sight, he should not delay learning the alternative techniques which will be the passport to independence as a blind person. A call or a letter to the National Federation of the Blind at the address shown on the front of this pamphlet will enable us to put the newly blind person in touch with his local educational and rehabilitation services and with local and state affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind. Through the Federation one learns the very fundamental truth that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight but, rather, the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. We believe that if a blind person has proper training, and if he has opportunity, blindness is only a physical nuisance.

The National Federation of the Blind

Because this last point is so important in assessing the impact which any of the afore-mentioned conditions need have on a person's life, we close with some information about the organized blind movement in the United States and the opportunities it provides for blind persons to push toward realization of their potential.

The National Federation of the Blind is the largest nationwide organization of blind people in the United States. It was established in 1940 and now has affiliated organizations in every state. Interested sighted persons may also join. Through chapter meetings and state and national conventions, the blind express their needs and formulate programs to meet those needs.

What is the purpose of the National Federation of the Blind?

The ultimate purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. This objective involves the removal of legal, economic, and social discriminations; the education of the public to new concepts concerning blindness; and the achievement by each and every blind person of the right to exercise to the fullest his individual talents and capacities. It means the right of the blind to work along with their sighted fellows in the professions, common callings, skilled trades, and regular occupations.

How does the National Federation of the Blind help the newly blinded person?

The newly blind person faces a difficult adjustment. One of his best medicines is to meet other blind people and learn of their jobs and the techniques they use in doing things without sight. Membership in the NFB provides this common meeting ground and, even more important, a sense of participation and restoration of confidence. Members of the NFB contact newly blind persons to help them with problems of adjustment and orientation.

Information is also given concerning services available from governmental and private agencies, as well as facts about laws and regulations concerning the blind.

What distinctive role does the National Federation of the Blind play in the lives of blind people?

The Federation is to blind people what labor unions are to workers, the Chamber of Commerce to businessmen, the American Bar Association to lawyers, the NAACP to blacks, the American Medical Association to doctors, and the Farm Bureau to farmers. It is a vehicle for joint action by the blind. In other words, the National Federation of the Blind is the voice of the blind. It is the blind speaking for themselves.

How does the National Federation of the Blind differ from governmental agencies and other organizations serving the blind?

Indeed there are numerous governmental agencies and private charitable organizations and foundations providing services to blind people. Many of them do excellent work; but only the blind themselves (acting through their own organization) are able to speak for the blind. This is a basic concept of democracy.

The government has a Department of Labor, but it cannot truly speak for workers. They speak for themselves through their unions. Likewise, the Department of Agriculture does not replace farm organizations, nor do governmental agencies or private foundations take the place of democratic membership organizations of minority groups. This is true even if the agency or foundation is headed or largely staffed by members of the minority. As with others, so with the blind. More and more of the governmental agencies and private foundations are becoming responsive to the views and needs of the blind and are learning new concepts and attitudes about blindness. The future looks bright. There is an overwhelming feeling of goodwill and a wish to help on the part of the general public. Most important of all, the blind are moving forward to speak for themselves and take a hand in the management of their own affairs through their organization, the National Federation of the Blind.

What are some of the specific activities of the National Federation of the Blind?

By means of speeches, pamphlets, radio and TV appearances, members of the NFB strive to educate the general public to the fact that the blind are normal individuals who can compete on terms of equality with others.

The Braille Monitor is a monthly publication of the NFB devoted to news and discussion of issues important to the blind. It is published in Braille, in print, and on record and is available without cost to the blind and the sighted alike upon request. To subscribe write to the National Federation of the Blind. 2652 Shasta Road, Berkeley, California 94708.

Detailed studies of state programs for the blind are carried out by the NFB when officially requested by state governors or legislatures.

Scholarships are awarded to blind students.

Assistance is given to blind persons who are the victims of discrimination or whose rights have been denied. Such assistance takes the form of initiating court action, negotiating with public officials, conferring with private groups or individuals, and seeking publicity in the press and broadcast media.

New state and Federal laws and regulations concerning the blind are researched, and the blind are informed of services available to them and of their rights under the law. Consultation is provided to congressional committees and state legislatures, as well as to Federal and state administrators. In short, the National Federation of the Blind is prepared to take whatever action may be necessary to improve the lives of the blind. 

What is the structure of the National Federation of the Blind?

Local chapters ordinarily hold monthly meetings, and the state organizations usually meet annually. There is also one annual Convention of the national body, attended by more than two thousand delegates from all over the Nation. The National Convention is the ultimate authority of the Federation and establishes all policy.

Blindness knows no discrimination. Any child can be born blind. Any individual can become blind in childhood or in later life. It is in the best interest of every individual to understand blindness and how to cope with its problems.


Accommodation. The adjustment of the eye for seeing at different distances, accomplished by changing the shape of the crystalline lens through action of the ciliary muscle, thus focusing a clear image on the retina.

Artificial eyes.  See Prosthesis.

Astigmatism. A refractive error which prevents the light rays from coming to a single sharp focus on the retina for near or distant vision.

Binocular vision. The ability of a person's two eyes to focus on one object and to fuse the two images into one.

Blepharitis.  Inflammation of the eyelids.

Buphthalmos.  Abnormally large eyeball in infants, usually in cases of infantile glaucoma.

C.F.  Abbreviation used in eye reports to note that the person tested counted fingers held up by the examiner.

Coloboma. A congenital cleft due to failure of some part of the eye to complete its growth.

Concave lens. Lens having the power to diverge rays of light; also known as diverging, reducing, negative, myopic, or minus lens, denoted by the minus sign.

Cones and Rods. The two kinds of receptor cells in the retina. Cones receive information related to visual acuity and color; rods receive information related to peripheral vision and vision under low illumination (e.g., night vision).

Conjunctivitis (pink eye). Inflammation of the mucous membrane which lines the eyelids and covers the front part of the eyeball, ending at the cornea. 

Convergence. The process of directing the visual lines of the two eyes to a near point. The near point of convergence is defined as the nearest point at which the two eyes can direct their gaze at the same time. Usually this is about three inches from the nose.

Convex lens. Lens having the power to converge rays of light and bring them to a focus; also known as converging, magnifying, hyperopic, or plus lens, denoted by a plus sign.

Corneal Graft (Keratoplasty). Operation to restore vision by replacing a section of opaque cornea with transparent cornea.

Dacryocystitis. An infection or inflammation of the lacrimal (tear) sac.

Diplopia. Seeing one object as two; i.e., "double vision."

Dyslexia. A reading problem which may be neurological rather than strictly visual.

Enucleation. Complete removal of the eyeball through surgery.

Evisceration of the eyeball. Surgical procedure in which the cornea and entire contents of the eyeball are removed, leaving only the sclera. This procedure is seen to leave more support for an artificial eye than does enucleation.

Exophthalmos. Abnormal protrusion of the eyeball.

Field of vision. The entire area which can be seen without shifting one's gaze or turning the head, about 150 degrees.

Focus. The point to which rays converge after passing through a lens; focal distance is that distance between the lens and the focal point.

H.M. Abbreviation used in eye reports where visual acuity tests 1/200 or less to note that the person tested can detect hand movements.

Iridectomy. Surgery in which a piece of the iris is removed, particularly in some procedures for cataract extraction or treatment of glaucoma.

Iris. The colored circular membrane suspended behind the cornea and immediately in front of the lens.

Iritis.  Inflammation of the iris. Additional symptoms include pain and discomfort from light.

L.P. Abbreviation used in eye reports where visual acuity tests 1/200 or less, to indicate that the individual can detect light, though without localizing the source. Occasionally one encounters variants such as "PLL" for "perceives and localizes light," and "No LP" or "nil" for total blindness.

O. D.  Abbreviation for oculus dexter, the medical designation for the right eye.

Ophthalmoscope. An instrument with a special illumination system for viewing the inner eye, particularly the retina and associated structures.

Optic atrophy. An atrophy (wasting away) of the optic nerve tissue, which carries impulses from the retina to the brain, leading to visual loss.

O.S. Abbreviation for oculus sinister, medical designation for the left eye.

O.U. Abbreviation for oculus unitas, medical designation for both eyes.

Peripheral vision. Ability to perceive the presence, motion, or color of objects outside of the direct line of vision. The measurement of this ability is just as important as that of central visual acuity in determining a person's total visual functioning. One may, it will be recalled, have 20/20 central vision with a loss of peripheral vision so severe that he is legally and functionally blind.

Photophobia. Abnormal sensitivity to light and the attendant discomfort.

Prosthesis. An artificial eye and/or the procedure by which it is used to replace a missing eye. Artificial eyes can be made and fitted for normal appearance and movement by the eye muscles. Two artificial eyes or one in combination with a natural eye can usually be made to move together normally without special effort on the part of the individual. A properly fitted artificial eye is not uncomfortable to wear and is perfectly attractive in appearance.

Refraction. (1) The bending or deviation in the course of rays of light in passing from one transparent medium to another of different density. (2) The determination of refractive errors of the eye and correction by glasses.

Refractive error (Ametropia). A defect in the eye that prevents light rays from being brought to a single focus on the retina.

Refractive media. The transparent parts of the eye having refractive power: cornea, aqueous, lens, and vitreous.

Retinal detachment. A separation of the retina from the choroid (vascular layer behind the retina). This results in a break in the connections between cones and rods and the pigmentary epithelium. The condition often results from holes or tears in the retina.

Retinoscope. An instrument especially designed to determine the refractive state of the eye by projecting light onto the retina.

Rods. See Cones and Rods.

Scotoma.  A blind or partially blind spot in the field of vision. 

Snellen Chart. The familiar chart seen in most doctors' offices, consisting of lines of letters or numbers in different sizes. Each line is labeled with the distance at which a person with normal central visual acuity can read it, most generally when he is standing or sitting twenty feet away from the chart. (See also Visual Acuity.)

Sympathetic Ophthalmia.  Inflammation in one eye following injury to the other. This condition can thus lead to total blindness.

Tunnel or "gun barrel" vision. Popular names for the severely contracted visual field associated with such conditions as retinitis pigmentosa. The loss of peripheral vision and retention of central vision gives the impression of looking through a long tube or tunnel.

Uveitis. Inflammation of one or all portions of the uveal tract (includes iris, ciliary body, and choroid).

Visual Acuity. Term commonly used to mean central visual acuity, the degree of sharpness with which one can distinguish detail in his direct line of central vision (that which registers on the small part of the retina called the macula). Distant visual acuity is expressed in terms of the test situation relative to the Snellen Chart, using a number such as 20/100. This simply means that on the test the subject saw at 20 feet what a person with normal vision would see at 100 feet. For acuities less than 20/200, the first number becomes the actual distance at which the subject can read the 200-foot letter (for example, 5/200). Near visual acuity is tested using another chart of lines printed in lines of different type sizes. (See also Peripheral Vision, Snellen Chart.)


Note.—Items marked with an asterisk (*) may be obtained free of charge or at nominal cost from the National Federation of the Blind, 218 Randolph Hotel Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50309.

Adler, Francis H. Textbook of Ophthalmology. Philadelphia: W. B. Sanders Company, 1962.

Allen, James H. May's Manual of the Diseases of the Eye. Baltimore: The Williams and Wilkins Company, 1968.

Berland, Theodore and Richard A. Perritt. Living With Your Eye Operation. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974.

Burde, R., M.D., "Neuro-Ophthalmology," Lecture given to the Institute on Diseases of the Eye, St. Louis, Missouri, October 26, 1971. (Recorded on tape cassettes deposited in the Library, Iowa Commission for the Blind, Des Moines, Iowa.)

Cataract—What It Is and How It Is Treated. Publication Number G-4, 1/74. New York: National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, 1974.

Chalkley, Thomas, M.D. Your Eyes: A Book for Paramedical Personnel and the Lay Reader. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, Publisher, 1974.

Department of Ophthalmology, Washington University School of Medicine, "Institute on Diseases of the Eye." St. Louis, Missouri: Washington University School of Medicine, 1973. (Mimeographed.)

Estimated Statistics on Blindness and Vision Problems. New York: National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Inc., 1966.

Estimated Total Cases and New Cases of Legal Blindness By State, 1971. New York: National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Inc., 1972.

*The First Thirty Years: A History of the National Federation of the Blind. Des Moines, Iowa: National Federation of the Blind, 1970. *Jernigan, Kenneth. Blindness: Concepts and Misconceptions.

*____ . Blindness: Discrimination, Hostility, and Progress.

*____ . Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic.

*____ . Blindness: Is History Against Us?

*____ . Blindness: Is Literature Against Us?

*____ . Blindness: Is the Public Against Us?

*____ . Blindness: The Myth and the Image.

*____ . Blindness: The New Generation.

*____ . Blindness: The Triple Revolution.

*____ . A Definition of Blindness.

* ____. Disability and Visibility: Uncle Tom. Blind Tom, and Tiny Tim.

*____ . Jargon and Research-Twin Idols in Work with the Blind.

*____ . A Left-handed Dissertation: Open Letter to a Federationist.

*____ . Milestones and Millstones.

*____ . To Man the Barricades.

*Rottmann, Robert F. When Your Best Efforts Fail . . . Open Letter to Eye Specialists.

Seeman, Bernard. Your Sight: Folklore. Fact, and Common Sense. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1968.

Vaughan, Daniel, M.D., Taylor Asbury, M.D., and Robert Cook, M.D. General Ophthalmology. Los Altos, California: Lange Medical Publications, 1971.

Vocabulary of Terms Relating to the Eye. Publication Number P-607, 4/73. New York: National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Inc., 1973.

*Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind? Des Moines, Iowa: National Federation of the Blind, 1975.

*Why the National Federation of the Blind. Des Moines, Iowa: National Federation of the Blind, 1972.

*Willoughby, Doris, ed., et al. Your School Includes a Blind Student. Des Moines, Iowa: National Federation of the Blind, 1974.

Your Eyes . . . For a Lifetime of Sight. Publication Number G-510, 7/72. Des Moines: Iowa Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Inc., 1972.  

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