[nfbmi-talk] : Decentralization of the Commission (the long version)

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Sun Feb 26 12:18:21 CST 2012


To Man the Barricades

An Address Delivered by Kenneth Jernigan

President, National Federation of the Blind

At the Banquet of the Annual Convention

Houston, Texas, July, 1971

Some of you may remember the story Will Rogers liked to tell about his early 
career as a comedian in vaudeville. "I used to play a song called 'Casey 
Jones'

on the harmonica with one hand," he said, "and spin a rope with the other, 
and then whine into the old empty rain barrel ... and then in between the 
verses

I used to tell jokes about the Senate of the United States. If I needed any 
new jokes that night, I used to just get the late afternoon papers and read

what Congress had done that day, and the audience would die laughing."

This story reminds me of my own activities over the past twenty years. I 
have gone all over the country as the guest of blind groups and civic 
associations;

and, like Will Rogers, I tell stories about the Government of the United 
States-particularly the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and 
the

other "professionals" doing work with the blind. And when I need any new 
jokes, I just get the latest reports from the agencies and foundations and 
read

what they have been doing recently-and the audience dies laughing. Unless, 
of course, there are people in the audience who are blind, or friends of the

blind-and they die crying.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that much of what goes on in the 
journals and laboratories and workshops of the agencies for the blind these 
days is

a cruel joke. It is a mockery of social science and a travesty on social 
service. Far from advancing the welfare and well-being of blind people, it 
sets

our cause back and does us harm.

The blind, along with some other groups in our society, have become the 
victims of a malady known as "R and D"-that is, Research and Demonstration. 
The

R and D projects are largely financed by the Federal Department of Health, 
Education, and Welfare and account for an ever-increasing chunk of its 
budget.

The whole tone and direction of programs for the blind in the 
country-rehabilitation, education, social services, and the rest-have been 
altered as a result.

The art of writing grant applications, the tens of millions of dollars 
available to fund the approved R and D projects, the resulting build-up of 
staff

in universities and agencies for the blind, the need to produce some sort of 
seemingly scientific results in the form of books and pamphlets to justify

the staff salaries and the field trips and conferences, and the wish for 
so-called "professional" status have all had their effect. Blind people have 
become

the objects of research and the subjects of demonstration. They are quizzed, 
queried, and quantified; they are diagnosed, defined, and dissected; and 
when

the R and D people get through with them, there is nothing left at all-at 
any rate, nothing of dignity or rationality or responsibility. Despite all 
of

their talk about improving the quality of services to blind people (and 
there is a lot of such talk these days), the research and demonstration 
people

see the blind as inferiors. They see us as infantile, dependent wards. The 
signs of this creeping condescension-of this misapplied science, this false

notion of what blind people are, and of what blindness means-are all about 
us. Some things are big, and some are little; but the pattern is conclusive

and the trend unmistakable.

Consider, for instance, what has happened to the talking book. From the very 
beginning of the library service back in the 1930's, the first side of each

talking-book record has concluded with these words: "This book is continued 
on the other side of this record." The flip side has always ended with: 
"This

book is continued on the next record." Surely no one can have any serious 
quarrel with this language. It serves a purpose. The reader, absorbed in the

narrative, may well not remember whether he is on the first or second side 
of a record, and the reminder is useful and saves time.

In the last three or four years, however, something new has been added. 
After the familiar "This book is continued on the next record," the 
statement now

appears: "Please replace this record in its envelope and container." That 
one, I must confess, crept up on me gradually. Although from the very 
beginning

I found the statement annoying, it took some time for its full significance 
to hit me.

Here I was, let us say, reading a learned treatise on French history-a book 
on Gallic statesmanship-one which presupposes a certain amount of 
understanding

and mental competence. The narrative is interrupted by a voice saying 
"Please replace this record in its envelope and container." Then it strikes 
me: These

are the words one addresses to a moron or a lazy lout. These words do not 
appear on records intended for the use of sighted library borrowers. They 
are

intended for the blind. To be sure, they are not an overwhelming or 
unbearable insult. They are only one more small evidence of the new 
custodialism, the

additional input of contempt for the blind recipient of services which is in 
the air these days.

I have heard that the words were added at the request of some of the 
regional librarians because certain blind borrowers were careless with the 
records.

Are sighted people never careless with books or records? Are such words at 
the end of the record really likely to make the slob less slobby? The 
ordinary,

normal human being (blind or sighted) will, as a matter of course, put the 
record back into the envelope and container. What else, one wonders, would 
he

do with it?

Regardless of all this, one thing is fairly certain: My remarks on the 
subject will undoubtedly bring forth angry comments from library officials 
and others

that I am quibbling and grasping at straws, that I am reading meanings that 
aren't there into innocent words. To which I reply: I am sure that no harm

was meant and that the author of the words did not sit down to reason out 
their significance, but all of this is beside the point. We have reasoned 
out

the significance, and we are no longer willing for our road to hell to be 
paved with other people's good intentions, their failure to comprehend, or 
their

insistence that we not quibble.

Here is another illustration-again, a slight and almost trivial affair. I 
had occasion recently to visit a public school where there was a resource 
class

for blind and partially seeing children. The teacher moved about with me 
among the students. "This little girl can read print," she said. "This 
little

girl has to read Braille." Now, that language is not oppressively bad. Its 
prejudice is a subtle thing. But just imagine, if you will, a teacher saying

of a pair of children: "This little girl can read Braille; this little girl 
has to read print." The supposition is that the child possessing some sight,

no matter how little, is closer to being a normal and full-fledged human 
being; the one without sight can't cut it and has to make do with inferior 
substitutes.

Confront that teacher with her words, and she will be hurt. She will say, 
"But that is not how I meant it. It was simply the way I said it." It is 
true

that she was not consciously aware of the significance of her statement and 
that she did not mean to say what she said; but she said exactly what she 
meant,

and how she felt. And her students, as well as visitors to her classroom, 
will be conditioned accordingly. I don't wish to make too much of the 
teacher's

terminology, or the words on the talking-book record. Neither exemplifies 
any great cruelty or tragedy. They are, however, straws in the wind; and 
either

of them could be the final straw-the straw that breaks the blind man's back, 
or spirit. Far too many backs and spirits have been broken in that way, and

the breaking must stop.

As I have said, some of the recent incidents in our field are small, and 
some are big; but they fit together to make a pattern, and the pattern is 
conclusive.

During the past decade, for instance, the vocational employment objective of 
rehabilitation has steadily receded before the advancing tide of "social 
services"

and "research and development," and the Division for the Blind in the 
Federal Rehabilitation Service has diminished accordingly in prominence and 
importance.

By 1967 rehabilitation had taken such a back seat that it became submerged 
in a comprehensive pot of Mulligan stew set up by the Department of Health,

Education, and Welfare called "Social and Rehabilitation Service," with the 
emphasis clearly on the "social." A new public-information brochure turned

out by HEW, listing all the department's branches and programs, placed 
rehabilitation-where do you suppose?-dead last.

As far as the blind were concerned, the ultimate blow fell late last year. 
Federal Register document 70-17447, dated December 28, 1970, announced the 
abolition

of the Division for the Blind altogether, and its inclusion in the new 
Division of Special Populations! And who are these "special populations"? 
They include,

and I quote, "alcoholics, drug addicts, arthritics, epileptics, the blind, 
heart, cancer, and stroke victims, those suffering communication disorders,

et cetera." (I leave the specifics of the "et cetera: to your imagination.) 
Therefore, half a century after the establishment of the Federal vocational

rehabilitation program, and almost as long after the development of a 
special division of services for the blind (and still longer since the 
creation of

separate agencies or commissions for the blind in most of the States) the 
blind of America were to lose their identity and return to the almshouse for

the sick and indigent.

This was too much, and every major national organization and agency (both of 
and for the blind) combined to resist it. By February of 1971 the HEW 
officials

had made a strategic withdrawal. They announced that they had never intended 
to downgrade or de-emphasize services to the blind; but that in order to 
clear

up any possible misunderstanding they were establishing a new "Office for 
the Blind," to be on a par with the "Division of Special Populations," and 
in

no way connected with it. Thus (for the moment) the tide was reversed and 
the power of united action demonstrated; but the tide is still the tide, and

the trend is still the trend.

It is not difficult to find the evidence. For example, under date of 
February 4, 1971, the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration issued 
an information

memorandum entitled "Subminimum Wage Certificates for Handicapped Workers." 
The document is self-explanatory; it is damning; and it is all too 
indicative

of what is happening to the blind in America today. "A recent revision to 
the wage and hour regulations," the memorandum begins, "broadens State 
vocational

rehabilitation agencies' certification responsibility with respect to 
employment of handicapped workers at subminimum wages. The responsibility 
was previously

limited by regulation to certain categories of handicapped persons employed 
by sheltered workshops.

"The revision to the wage and hour regulations, effective February 4, 1971," 
the memorandum continues, "authorizes State rehabilitation agencies to 
certify

certain disabled persons for work in competitive employment at less than 
fifty percent of the statutory minimum wage but not less than twenty-five 
percent."

So said HEW in February of this year! No longer must the pay be even fifty 
percent of the minimum wage! No longer is it limited to the sheltered shop! 
It

may now be extended to private industry, to so-called "competitive" 
employment! And this, we are told, is rehabilitation. We are not to quibble. 
We are

not to read meanings into things which are not there. We are not to find 
patterns or trends or hidden significance. No! We are to take our 
twenty-five

percent "competitive" employment, and be grateful for it. That is what we 
are expected to do, but I doubt that we will do it.

I have already spoken about R and D-the so-called "research and 
demonstration"-financed ever more heavily and lovingly by the Department of 
Health, Education,

and Welfare. I have at hand a typical product of "R and D"-a comprehensive 
239-page publication of the American Foundation for the Blind, entitled A 
Step-by-Step

Guide to Personal Management for Blind Persons.1 I invite you now to 
accompany me on a step-by-step guided tour through its pages and mazes. But 
let me

warn you: It may be a bad trip.

"One of the areas," we are told at the outset of this guidebook, "where 
independence is valued most highly by a broad spectrum of blind persons ... 
is personal

management." I myself would put that a little differently. I would say that 
the blind person should, and commonly does, take for granted that 
independence

begins at home-that self-care comes before self-support-but that what he 
values most highly in life is not his ability to master the simple rituals 
of

daily living, such as are detailed in this manual. It is not his ability to 
wash his face, take a shower, clean his nails, brush his hair, sit down on

a chair, rise from a chair, stand upright, wash his socks, light a 
cigarette, shake hands, nod his head "yes," shake his head "no," and so on 
and so on

through two hundred-plus pages of instruction. No, these are not the supreme 
attainments and values in the life of the blind person, or of any other 
civilized

person. They are merely the elementary motor and mechanical skills which 
represent the foundation on which more meaningful and significant 
achievements

rest. The skills of personal management are rudimentary, not remarkable.

However, the American Foundation's Guide to Personal Management for Blind 
Persons does not put the matter in such modest perspective. Rather, it is 
blown

up to majestic proportions, as if it were not the beginning but the end of 
self-realization and independence. Most of all, it is presented as a very 
difficult

and complicated subject-this business of grooming and shaving, bathing and 
dressing-virtually as the source of a new science. Much is made of the "need

for an organized body of realistic and practical personal management 
techniques." The American Foundation, out of a deep sense of professional 
obligation

and the excitement of pioneering on new scientific horizons, agreed as long 
ago as 1965 (in its own words) "to undertake the responsibility for 
developing,

over a period of years, workable personal management techniques for blind 
persons." To begin with, an AFB staff specialist was assigned to coordinate 
the

project, and he proceeded immediately to carry out a massive survey of 
agencies throughout this country and Canada-on such life-and-death questions 
and

critical issues as how to teach blind persons to shake hands correctly and 
put the right sock on the right foot.

But surveys at a distance, no matter how thorough and scientific, were not 
good enough for such profound subject matter. No. What was needed was (to 
quote

the report) "the pooled thinking and experience of a fairly large number of 
persons from diverse backgrounds and programs." In short, what was needed 
was

a conference, or better yet, a series of conferences-in big hotels in major 
cities, complete with workshops, round-tables, lunches, dinners, social 
hours,

and sensitivity sessions. In the words of the report: "For three years, 
1967, 1968, and 1969, national meetings were held in New York, Chicago, and 
New

Orleans at which key personnel from representative agencies met both to 
develop techniques and methods and to refine and improve already existing 
ones."

Here, to illustrate, is a typical technique-developed and refined over the 
years in New York, Chicago, and New Orleans, representing the distilled 
wisdom

(if that is the proper expression) of key personnel from diverse backgrounds 
and specialized programs. Here, under the broad classification "Bathing,"

is the sixteen-step procedure for the "Sponge Bath." I quote in full:

Orientation: Discuss how equipment can be most efficiently used when taking 
a sponge bath.

Equipment: Water, two containers, soap, cloth, towel, bath mat.

Technique:

1. Disrobe.

2. Put water of desired temperature in sink or container.

3. Thoroughly wet washcloth and gently squeeze cloth together.

4. Take one corner in right hand, the other in left hand, bring corners 
together and grasp in whole hand.

5. With other hand grasp remaining cloth. Hold washcloth in closed fist.

6. Hold one hand stationary while turning other hand to squeeze excess 
water.

7. Unfold cloth and drape over palm of one hand. With other hand pick up 
soap and dip into water, then rub back and forth from wrist to tips of 
fingers

on cloth.

8. Place soap back in dish.

9. Place soaped cloth in dominant hand.

10. Starting with face and neck, rub soaped cloth over skin portion.

11. Place soaped cloth in water and wring as described above several times 
until soap has been removed.

12. Use same motion as step 10 to rinse soap from face and neck.

13. Unfold towel. Using either or both hands, dry using a vigorous rubbing 
motion.

14. Continue to each section of body-washing, rinsing, and drying.

15. As towel gets damp, shift to a dry section.

16. For drying back, put bath towel over right shoulder, grasp lower end 
hanging in back with left hand and grasp end hanging in front with right 
hand.

While holding towel pull up and down alternately changing position of towel 
until entire area of back is dry.

Immediately following this highly developed and refined technique-the 
product of five years of national conferences and international surveys-is 
the step-by-step

guide to taking a "tub bath." I feel that you will want to know that this 
affair of the tub represents a more advanced and elaborate enterprise in 
personal

management. The greater complexity is evident at the outset. You will recall 
that the first step in the sponge bath technique was:

"Disrobe." But the first step in the tub bath exercise is: "Disrobe and 
place clothing where it will not get wet." That is, of course, a substantial 
increase

in subtlety over the sponge bath.

Let us pause here for a moment and contemplate the significance of that 
instruction:

"Disrobe and place clothing where it will not get wet." What does it tell us 
about the intelligence-the presumed intelligence-of the blind person under

instruction? 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. This latter 
possibility

is given additional credence by instruction number fifteen: "As towel gets 
damp, shift to a dry section." If the trainee has ever bathed before, he 
will

know about that. Only if he is a babbling idiot or Bomba, the Jungle Boy, 
does he need to be given that extraordinary advice. This presumption of 
incompetence

or newborn innocence on the part of the blind person is, indeed, pervasive 
of the entire 239-page guidebook.

What else can it mean to say, with regard to the technique for shaking 
hands: "If desired, the hands may be moved in an up and down motion?" What 
else can

it mean to say, with regard to the technique for nodding the head: "The head 
is held facing the person to whom you wish to communicate ... With the head

held in this position, move the chin down towards the floor about two inches 
then raise it again to the original position. Make this movement twice in

quick succession."

One last quotation, before we leave this magisterial work of applied 
domestic science. Under the general heading of "Hand Gestures," we find, the 
technique

for "Applauding." It goes like this:

a. With elbows close to the body, raise both hands until the forearms are 
approximately parallel to the floor.

b. Move each hand towards the other so that they come in contact with one 
another towards the center of the body.

c. The thumb of both hands is held slightly apart from the other four 
fingers which are held straight and close together.

d. The fingers of the right hand point slightly toward the ceiling and the 
fingers of the left hand slightly toward the floor so that when the hands 
come

in contact with each other the palms touch but the fingers do not.

e. The thumb of the right hand rests on the knuckle of the left thumb, the 
fingers of the right hand being above the fingers of the left hand.

f. The hands are brought back to a position about eight to twelve inches 
apart then brought together in a quick slapping motion.

g. Polite applause would require slapping the hands together about twice 
each second. More feeling would be expressed by the rapidity, rather than 
the volume

or loudness of the individual's applause.

2. Hands Inactive: When the hands are not being used for some specific 
purpose, the most common position is resting the hands in the lap. For 
example, the

back of the left hand might rest on the left or right leg, or in between, 
with the palm turned up; the right hand with the palm turned down over the 
left

hand and the fingers of each hand slightly curled around each other.

I cannot leave this great book and its truly vital subject without reading 
to you the "Foreward" as written by Mr. M. Robert Barnett, executive 
director

of the American Foundation for the Blind: "We would like to take this 
opportunity," he writes, "to express our appreciation to the many persons 
professionally

involved in work for the blind across the country whose five years of hard 
work, creativity, and experience have made A Step-by-Step Guide to Personal

Management for Blind Persons a reality. For many years, countless persons 
have expressed a need for such a manual and we hope that this publication 
will

help to fill that need."

I would like to know who those "countless persons" are who have expressed a 
need for such a manual, wouldn't you? Are they blind persons-and if so have

they been waiting all these years without being able to test the water, clap 
the hands, lift the bale, tote the barge, nod, shake, shimmy, rattle and 
roll?

How have they managed their lives all these years without this personal 
guide from the American Foundation and its cohorts?

But maybe they are not the ones who have expressed a need for such a manual. 
Perhaps it is not the blind at all but-as the Foundation puts it-those 
"professionally

involved in work for the blind" to whom this definitive guidebook is 
addressed. Not our blind brothers, but our blind brothers' keepers. 
Presumably they

are the ones who are to conduct the "orientation" sessions which precede 
each of the various procedures and techniques-such as:

"Discuss types of ties and materials from which ties are made (silk, linen, 
leather, knit, synthetic, and wool)." And: "Discuss reasons for brushing 
hair

regularly and the suitability of different types of brushes" (scrub brushes, 
toothbrushes, horse brushes, sagebrushes, brushes with the law, etcetera).

Well, admittedly, I added the last part of that sentence myself; but I 
maintain that it is no different in character, and no more foolish, than the 
trivial

and vacuous material set forth in most of the 239 pages.

Indeed, the very triviality and vacuity of this misguided guidebook may 
deceive some readers into dismissing it as an unfortunate exception, not 
characteristic

of the main body of work turned out today by serious scholars and 
professionals in the field of work with the blind. Let me emphasize, 
therefore, as strongly

as I can, the typical and conventional character of this manual. It is not 
the exception. Its name is legion; its approach, its philosophy, and its 
superficial

contents have been duplicated many times over in the research and 
demonstration projects of the American Foundation for the Blind, the 
Department of Health,

Education, and Welfare, the college institutes, and the State agencies 
caught up in the profitable cycle of grants, surveys, tests, and 
questionnaires.

There is another potential objection to dispose of. That is the supposition 
that this set of instructions, simple-minded as it is, is not really 
intended

for the ordinary, capable blind person but only for a minority. Moreover, it 
is true that the book itself makes a verbal nod in this direction, admitting

modestly that its techniques are not the only ones possible and that there 
may be other ways to approach the same goals. But the book also contains an

opposite disclaimer, to the effect that the proposed techniques may be too 
complicated and advanced for some blind persons to handle without 
preliminary

instruction. However that may be, it is clear that this lengthy five-year 
report is meant to be circulated generally to agencies and schools, to 
parents

and counselors, to guides and custodians, without reservation or 
qualification.

The best evidence of how this book is intended to be read is to be found in 
its title. It does not say that it is a step-by-step guide to personal 
management

for mentally retarded or extremely backward blind persons. It does not say 
it is a guide for tiny children. It says what it means, and means what it 
says-

namely, that it is A Step-by-Step Guide to Personal Management for Blind 
Persons.

And we can do no less than that ourselves; we must also say what we mean. As 
long as such insulting drivel about us continues to be issued in the name of

science by agencies doing work with the blind-as long as Federal money 
continues to be available to support it-as long as the climate of general 
public

opinion continues to tolerate it-as long as blind persons continue to be 
found who can be coaxed or hoodwinked into participating in it-then, for 
just

so long must we of the National Federation of the Blind raise our voices to 
resist it, denounce it, and expose it for the pseudoscience and the fraud 
which

it is.

The Federal research and demonstration projects, the wording on the 
talking-book records, the attempt to abolish the Division for the Blind in 
Federal rehabilitation,

the payment of subminimum wages in sheltered shops and private industry, and 
the guidebooks to tell us how to run our daily lives are all straws in the

wind, signs of the times. But there are other, more hopeful signs. Though 
the Library of Congress tells us to replace our records in the envelopes and

containers, its book selection policies have been refreshingly updated. More 
and better books are now available to the blind than ever before, including

best-sellers and popular magazines. Likewise, though the Division for the 
Blind was abolished at the Federal level, the move was successfully resisted

and reversed. And although teachers still talk of blind people who have to 
read Braille and can't read print, although subminimum wages are still 
allowed

in sheltered shops and private industry, and although the Foundation's 
guidebook is still distributed by the hundreds and thousands to slow our 
progress,

we (the organized blind) are abroad in the land in growing numbers-aware of 
the peril and prepared to fight it. It is just that simple: We are prepared

to fight, and we will fight. We don't want conflict or trouble with anyone; 
we don't want to quibble or be aggressive or militant; we don't want strife

or dissension; but the time is absolutely at an end when we will passively 
tolerate second-class citizenship and custodial treatment. We are free men,

and we intend to act like it. We are free men, and we intend to stay that 
way. We are free men, and we intend to defend ourselves. Let those who truly

have the best interests of the blind at heart join with us as we move into 
the new era of equality and integration. Let those who call our conduct 
negative

or destructive make the most of it!

I want to say a few words now to those agencies doing work with the blind 
who march with us in the cause of freedom, who are glad to see the blind 
emancipated,

and who work with us as human beings-not as statistics or case histories or 
inferior wards. To such agencies I say this: You have nothing to fear from

the organized blind movement. Your battles are our battles. Your cause is 
our cause. Your friends are our friends. Your enemies are our enemies. We 
will

go with you to the legislatures and the Federal Government to secure funds 
for your operation. We will urge the public to contribute to your support. 
We

will defend you from attack and work with you in a partnership of progress.

Now, let me say something to those agencies who still look back to 
yesterday, who condescend to the blind, who custodialize and patronize. To 
them I say

this: Your days are numbered. Once men have tasted freedom, they will not 
willingly or easily return to bondage. You have told us as blind people and 
you

have told the community at large that we are not capable of managing our own 
affairs, that you are responsible for our lives and our destinies, that we

as blind people must be sheltered and segregated-and that even then, we are 
not capable of earning our own keep. You have told us that we as blind 
people

do not really have anything in common and that we, therefore do not need an 
organization-that there is no such thing as an "organized blind movement."

But you have not spoken the truth.

If you tell us that you are important and necessary to our lives, we reply: 
It is true. But tear down every agency for the blind in the Nation, destroy

every workshop, and burn every professional journal; and we can build them 
all back if they are needed. But take away the blind, and your journals will

go dusty on the shelves. Your counselors will walk the streets for work, and 
your broom corn will mold and rot in your sheltered shops. Yes, we need you;

but you need us, too. We intend to have a voice in your operation and your 
decisions since what you do affects our lives. We intend to have 
representation

on your boards, and we intend for you to recognize our organizations and 
treat us as equals. We are not your wards, and there is no way for you to 
make

us your wards. The only question left to be settled is whether you will 
accept the new conditions and work with us in peace and partnership or 
whether

we must drag you kicking and screaming into the new era. But enter the new 
era you will, like it or not.

Next, I want to say something to those blind persons who are aware of our 
movement and who have had an opportunity to join it but who have not seen 
fit

to do so. In this category I also place those blind persons who are among us 
but not really of us, who (technically speaking) hold membership in the 
Federation

but are not really part of the movement. The non-Federation and the 
noncommitted blind are a strange phenomenon. Some of them are successful in 
business

or the professions. I have heard them say, "I really don't need the 
Federation. Of course, if I could do anything to help you people, I would be 
glad to

do it, but I am independent. I have made it on my own." I have heard them 
say:

"You really can't expect me to go down to that local meeting of the blind. 
Nobody goes there except a few old people, who sit around and drink coffee 
and

plan Christmas parties. I am a successful lawyer, or businessman, or judge; 
and I am busy. Besides, they never get anything done. They just talk and 
argue."

I have heard them say: "I don't know that I necessarily have anything in 
common with other blind people just because I'm blind. Almost all my friends 
are

sighted. My life is busy with bowling, hiking, reading, or my business or 
profession." I have heard them say: "You people in the Federation are too 
aggressive.

You are always in a fight with somebody, or bickering among yourselves. I am 
an individualist and never was much of a joiner."

I have heard some of them say: "I am an employee of a governmental or 
private agency doing work with the blind, and I think it would destroy my 
professional

relationship with my clients if I were to work actively in the Federation. 
Anyway, we all have a common concern, the betterment of blind people; so 
I'll

make my contribution by working as a 'professional' in the field. Besides, 
not all blind people agree with you or want to join your organization, and 
as

a 'professional' I have to represent and work with all blind people."

I have heard them say all of these things, and to such blind persons I say 
this: You are patsies! Not only that but you are also deceiving yourselves 
and

failing to act in your own best interest. Further, you are profiting from 
the labor and sacrifice, and are riding on the backs, of the blind who have 
joined

the movement and worked to make it possible for you to have what you have. 
Some of you feel superior to many of the blind who belong to the Federation

(especially those who work in the sheltered shops or draw welfare), but your 
feelings of superiority are misplaced; for collectively these people have

clothed you and fed you. They have made it possible for you to have such 
equality in society and such opportunity as you now enjoy. Resent what I say 
if

you will, but it is the truth, whether you like it or not and whether you 
admit it or not. It is true for those of you who work in the agencies as 
well

as for those of you who work in private endeavor.

If you think this movement should be better or that it should be of higher 
caliber, then join us and help make it that way. If you think the local 
meetings

or the State conventions are dull or uninspiring, then do your part to make 
them different. Even animals in the jungle have sense enough to hunt in 
packs.

The blind ought to be at least as intelligent.

We need you, and we want you as active participants in the movement; but 
until you will join, we must do the best we can without you. We must carry 
you

on our backs and do your work for you, and we will do it. The fact that we 
say you are patsies does not mean that we resent you. Far from it. You are 
our

brothers, and we will continue to look upon you as such, regardless of how 
irresponsibly you behave. We are trying to get you to think about the 
implications

of your actions. We are trying to get you to join with us to help make 
things better for other blind people and for yourselves. We are trying to 
get you

to stop being patsies.

Finally, I want to address myself to the active members of the NFB-to the 
blind, and to our sighted brothers who have made our cause their cause. To 
the

active Federationists I say this: We are not helpless, and we are not 
children. We know our problems, and we know how to solve them. The challenge 
which

faces us is clear, and the means of meeting that challenge are equally 
clear. If we fail in courage or nerve or dedication, we have only ourselves 
to blame.

But, of course, we will not fail. The stakes are too high and the need too 
great to permit it. To paraphrase the Biblical statement: Upon the rock of 
Federationism

we have built our movement, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against 
it! Since 1969 we have talked a great deal about joining each other on the

barricades. If there was ever a time, that time is now. What we in the 
Federation do during the next decade may well determine the fate of the 
blind for

a hundred years to come. To win through to success will require all that we 
have in the way of purpose, dedication, loyalty, good sense, and guts. Above

all, we need front-line soldiers, who are willing to make sacrifices and 
work for the cause. Therefore, I ask you again today (as I did last year and 
the

year before): Will you join me on the barricades?

FOOTNOTE

1. American Foundation for the Blind, A Step-by-Step Guide to Personal 
Management for Blind Persons, New York, New York, 1970.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Mark Smith" <mark.smithyman60 at gmail.com>
To: "'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'" <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2012 12:09 PM
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] : Decentralization of the Commission (the long 
version)


> Hello Fred,
> Thank you for your service to our community, and again for taking a
> critical look at the situation and developing a very substantive  response
> to my comments.  Not all of us choose to affect change in the manor that 
> you
> have done over the years.  Sometimes though when ones mouth gets too full
> you have to spit it out, I guess this is the point that I reached when I
> made my first post.  Perhaps after this message I will sink back into the
> weeds and you may never hear from me again.  Unfortunately I am very busy
> and do not get to monitor the list very often, however I feel that I made
> comments to good folks who are asking passionate questions that I feel
> compelled to respond to.  I accept your apology and enjoy a spirited 
> dialog
> that has substance and well reasoned responses.  Life is too short to 
> worry
> about the rest.
> You provide a lot of great historical content, clearly you have been
> around the block once or twice.  State boards are not created with the
> intent of managing the executive directors though.  Yes, I agree that the
> MCB director was far from stellar in both actions, as well as upholding
> ethical standards.  The board though is not the place where he is micro
> managed.  The board should have the ear of the governor and that is where
> the pressure should be applied.  Again I understand that this was not
> effective.  This in my humble opinion does not give consumers and board
> members free license to demonstrate childish and juvenile antics in 
> meetings
> or in public.  People who are managing state agencies, and business 
> concerns
> quickly close down when they hear demands and saber rattling and look for 
> a
> loophole so that they do not need to deal with the annoyance.  I fear that
> this is what has happened to a very important asset for blind people in
> Michigan..
> I completely agree with you when you say that it is a communication
> and marketing problem.  Perhaps your product could be even bolstered more
> with a few more of those facts that the board was requesting.  In any case
> The image problem.  Do you remember back more than a year ago when the 
> group
> was picketing in Lansing and in Kalamazoo?  I certainly do, because the
> comments that my colleagues made about that group really disturbed me on
> many levels.  The First comment was that "They look like a bunch of 
> homeless
> people mad at the system.  The second was that the spokes people did not
> have a well rehearsed script that came across in a positive professional
> manor.  I understand that there are reasons and that ultimately the goal 
> was
> achieved, furthermore I was one of the people trying to explain away the 
> bad
> visual image.  The intent of this was to illustrate the point using it as 
> a
> learning example for improvement, not a criticism.  I have a bag full of
> additional examples however I do not feel that this is the proper venue 
> for
> dragging them all out.
> The core of my suggestion for a solution would be a multi-tiered
> approach.  First develop a script with positive bullet points that are 
> clear
> and concise that everyone in the community agrees with.  The message must 
> be
> positive but firm, including facts and figures that provide a wow factor,
> another words a well measured amount not information over load.  Utilize 
> all
> tools in this approach, flash mob, face book, twitter, and an iPad or
> equivalent device  with the multimedia presentation that is short and 
> sweet.
>
> Next Take the message to the people of Michigan, including the state
> representatives.      Pull together a bipartisan group of articulate
> individuals willing to get the message out.  These people must look, speak
> and act like professionals.  They cannot get angry in the face of
> opposition, nor can they waver from their message.  The core message is 
> what
> you hit on Fred, by operating these programs you are empowering taxpaying
> citizens, these programs change lives and make our state stronger.  We are
> not handicapped we just do things in a different way.
> The third prong is perhaps a letter and phone campaigned, that would
> include advertisements, radio and public awareness.  This would all 
> require
> funding and resources, along with a dedicated group of people.  Which I 
> know
> that The NFB has, at least the dedicated people.  I would continue the
> transparency pressure, however I would eliminate the rhetoric, derogatory
> comments, and harsh language that is currently used.  Another words
> everything that is uttered from the community is vetted through the lens 
> of
> best business practices and what is adopted by all professional
> institutions.  We want to cultivate a positive message that everyone wants
> to adopt, everyone knows someone who is either blind or is going blind, 
> this
> is a fact that no one can deny.  We can use this disturbing fact in a
> positive way, however you would not want to throw it in their face. 
> Phrase
> it in a manner that we garner their support not turn them against us,
> because we come across as an angry blind person mad at the system.
> I truly do not want to be kicking the hornets' nest so to say.  I
> have certainly struck a nerve, my intend was in the effort to, provide
> reflection and perhaps let people within the Michigan NFB understand that
> there are a group of blind professionals who do not feel that the current
> direction is working in a positive way.  With this said many of the 
> comments
> that I have read in response to my prior message are the perfect example 
> why
> we stay silent.  They squelch the more subtle approach and do not want to
> listen to another perspective.  This is the other reason that I will sink
> back into the weeds and just look and listen.  In solidarity we are 
> strong,
> divided we are weak, these  are only suggestions and a beginning to a
> direction.  This plan can be strengthened only by others adding their 
> ideas
> to the wall, I feel that perhaps this is only one brick in our wall of
> solidarity.
> Sincerely,
> Mark
>   Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 10:50 PM
>
>
>
> To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
> Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission (the long
> version)
>
> Hello Mark,
>
> Thank you for the measured reply to my pointed response to your message. 
> I
> have been involved with this issue since the mid '70's.  I was there when
> Governor Milliken signed P.A. 260.  I believe P.A. 260 was a pretty good
> piece of legislation given the constitutional constraints here in 
> Michigan.
> I was annoyed that someone who, to my knowledge, has never worked with
> others to make changes was so confidently telling us all what we had done
> wrong and how we had created the problem.  I apologize if I overreacted 
> and
> wish to explain, probably in too lengthy a post, my perspective on the
> matter.  It is easy to Monday-morning quarterback.  Not so easy to work
> nearly every day to do one's best to create an agency that will create 
> jobs
> and opportunities for first-class citizenship for blind people, even if
> mistakes were made.
>
> I have been away from the computer all afternoon.  It seems there is a lot
> of interest in this topic and you have certainly raised some points that
> have struck some nerves.  This is good.  Until we can all have some
> consensus about what happened, Why it happened we will not be able to set 
> a
> direction in which to proceed.
>
> First, are we, the consumers, the cause or the victims here.  My opinion 
> is
> clear.  We, the consumers did not cause this to happen.  In my view 2
> unfortunate forces converged within MCB.  First, generally speaking the
> field of rehabilitation of blind people is arcane and thus not well
> understood by the vast majority of public administrators.  It is the job 
> of
> the agency administrator and other influential parties to articulate this 
> to
> decision-makers in order to direct public policy in favor of positive
> rehabilitation outcomes.  Second,
>
> Second, unfortunately, MCB was directed by an inept, uneducated and
> self-promoting director.  I almost said ineffective.  This would have been
> wrong.  When he had a personal goal he was quite effective in attaining 
> it.
> It even appears that he used some of this effectiveness to make positive
> changes.  He orchestrated the move of MCB from the welfare agency to the
> Labor department.  Second and even more important, he was able to acquire 
> a
> better split of federal funding between MRS and MCB.  Tragically, Larry 
> Best
> died about that time and there wer no more such beneficial outcomes for 
> MCB
> within state government.  It was Larry Best who managed the budget and was
> liason among various departments including between the Labor finance 
> people
> and MCB.  The MCB Director has no financial acumen and ceded all authority
> to the Department finance people following Larry's death.
>
> I have my view of the appropriate role for the MCB Board.  I agree with
> those who argue that the Board is not to micro-manage life on a daily 
> basis
> for MCB staff.  The board , clearly to me, has a role to set good policy
> based on sound management practices and sound rehabilitation principles.
> The board needs to see to it that the director is the conduit between 
> these
> 2 segments of the agency. This is where the constraints of the Michigan
> Constitution get in the way.  P.A. 260 was  a little too ambiguous on the
> ability of the board to manage the Director.
>
> The Director inappropriately acquired too much power over the board by
> manipulating the appointment process and then emasculated the board by
> controlling the agendas, the information they received and partitioning 
> them
> from training about the budget, the laws and their role.
>
> You characterized the board as amateurish.  I do not see it that way.The
> most recent board was demanding data.  Data like the costs for closing 
> cases
> either successful or unsuccessful.  The numbers of intakes and training
> information about the agency's clientele.  They were demanding apropriate
> legal counsel on those arcane points of law that they were responsible to
> carry out.  To me, this is very professional and appropriate.  It was also
> not in the interest of the Director who wished to keep the Board out of 
> the
> loop on what is happening.
>
> On 1 major point, the board was pushing hard to improve the training of 
> the
> rehabilitation staff.  Again, even in the general field of rehabilitation,
> blindness rehabilitation is specialized and different from the general
> agency.  Most of MCB's new-hires were from MRS or did not have much if any
> blindness training or experience.  This was leading to poor services and 
> the
> proposal of poor  and even illegal policies for the agency.  To me it is
> totally appropriate for the board to advocate for quality and targeted
> training.
>
> Now come a whole batch of new administrators with the new administration.
> They see the tension and even hostility created by the Director's 
> inability
> to manage the agency and immediately, as if following an ages-old script 
> of
> paternalistic knee-jerk reactions.  The blame the clientele for being
> dissatisfied instead of grateful that anyone would throw them a few 
> crumbs.
> They, despite much evidence, were unwilling or unable to directly manage 
> the
> Director.  They followed, quite logically, but very wrongly the course as
> you described.  They said well these people are unhappy.  We'll show them
> how it is going to be because we know about administration and never mind
> the purpose of the agency.  We'll figure out a better way and tell those
> amateurish ungrateful poor blind incapable children how it is going to be.
> It was an unprofessional, imature and emotional reaction, but here we are.
>
> now what to do.  Assuming, and I have no reason except my initial reaction
> to your earler post, to believe you have only good intentions.  You point
> out our major weakness.  It is a communication and marketing problem. We
> have a great product.  We want good-paying jobs for lots of successful 
> blind
> people.  Blind people who can live independetly, contribute to the
> community, support their families, pay taxes and be good citizens.  This
> seems like a great product and an easy sell.  Now, our task is to create a
> mechanism to make the product.  This process is nuanced and has it's own
> technology which has been proven, but is mainly unknown to the ordinary
> citizen, administrator or policy maker.  How do we insert such a system 
> into
> state government in a way to get our outcomes and meet the needs of the
> political system?  To me, an astute politician would jump at the chance to
> create such an agency given the positive benefits of success.  We need to
> figure out how to sell such a process to the decision makers.
>
> This is where we all are.  We, the NFB, are a civil rights movement.  We
> view events and actions through this lens.  We are flexible, but in the 
> end,
> to us it is all about equality and equal opportunity.  Any solution or
> course of action will need to take this perspective into account.  Among 
> our
> goals is the means of acquisition of jobs and full participation in 
> society.
> A government agency cannot fully accomplish these goals, but it can create
> opportunities and conditions to make it happen.  I hope you and others can
> come together with us to figure this out.  It will not be easy.  The only
> people who like to be changed are wet babies.  Our governor has created
> change.  It is now up to us to reassert ourselves and retake the change
> process for blind people.  I, for 1 am confident we can do it.  I also
> believe it will take some time and a lot of hard work in the halls of the
> legislature and on the streets.
>
> If you made it this far, thank you for your attention.  I look forward to 
> a
> spirited and productive conversation about how to deal with what seems a
> tragic turn of events.
>
> Best Regards,
>
> Fred
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
> On Behalf of Mark Smith
> Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 1:14 PM
> To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
> Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission
>
> Hello Fred,
> I am not gloating nor am I being smug, I apologize if this is how my
> Previous message came across.  I am seeing the forest for the trees, 
> calling
> the cards as they have fallen.  Frankly as a advocate for persons with
> disabilities and a person with a visual impairment myself it pains me 
> deeply
> to see the mantel of authority for a esteemed agency be passed to a
> department that is not solely vested to do the work for our community. 
> The
> fact is that the group who is the most vocal in our state has not chosen 
> to
> come to the table so to say like adults.
> When someone who is not deeply vested or has immersed themselves in
> Michigan blind  politics views the situation,  What they see is  a group 
> of
> squabbling children. When an outside elected official views the situation
> along with the  dialog from the consumer groups, finally mixing the recent
> reports the facts do not mesh.  As with any good parent you fire the baby
> sitter and hire a new one.  This is what is happening now.
> The primary purpose of MCB is to empower persons who are blind or
> have a visual impairment so that they can become taxpaying citizens. 
> Please
> do not forget this fact,  do not cloak it in pretty words.  The old 
> analogy
> is to, give a person a fish they eat for a day.  Teach a person to fish 
> and
> they can eat for the rest of their life.  How many times do some people 
> need
> to be re-taught to fish?  I had once heard a quote from  Einstein he  said
> that "to do the same experiment over and over, expecting a different 
> result
> is insanity."  So things needed to be changed, with the lack of a 
> productive
> plan our governor provided one.  I certainly do  not feel that this was a
> proper course of action or positive development for our community. 
> However
> I am capable of reading the table as it is set right now.
> I choose to see this as an opportunity to make a break from the old
> ways.  The castle building that you describe is always going to be in our
> government, this will only change when the fundamental system is altered.
> You are not keeping in mind though that the government is being shrunk and
> only the strong nobles will remain standing after the hammer stops 
> swinging.
> Consolidation and making the system as cost effective as possible is the
> mantra today.  This move as I mentioned in my previous message is the most
> logical for the government now.  The thought of your destruction of civil
> liberties was never part of the decision process.  You are making it
> personal when it is not so. Come to the table in the frame of mind to make
> things work for the community, solidarity is the answer and the point of
> power right now.
> Mark
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
> On Behalf Of Fred Wurtzel
> Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 11:52 AM
> To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
> Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission
>
> Hello Mark,
>
> I do not know who you are.  You sure sound smug and a little gloating.  I
> guess we ought to expect this from people who do not understand the nature
> of why there is an agency for the blind.  It is not simply a conduit to
> spread federal money to self-interested bureaucrats for their 
> agrandizement
> and empire building.  This money is to empower people who have little or 
> no
> power.  It is exactly this lack of power that allows the faint
> acknowledgement of people's goals for first-class citizenship to be so
> casually disposed of.  This is 1 more insult and insult to blind people in 
> a
> landscape of centuries of similar insults.  We have dignity and we will 
> not
> accept this as our fate.  We have fought this fight before and we will 
> fight
> it again.  We may suffer other setbacks, but we will not ever give up on
> recognition of our right to first-class citizenship.
>
> Regards,
>
> Fred
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
> On Behalf Of Mark Smith
> Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 11:14 AM
> To: 'NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List'
> Subject: Re: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission
>
> Hello Larry,
> Both groups advocated this move by proxy.  If no one provides a
> positive critically thought out solution, you are part of the problem.  I
> have more than 500 messages from this list from the past few months that
> absolutely unequivocally call for the destruction of MCB in its current
> incarnation.  I do not see one positive critically thought out solution. 
> I
> see only the rare call by Christine boone providing a bit of well thought
> out clarification or if necessary admonishment of a member in a gentle and
> kind way.
> Coming from the business world this move that the Governor is taking
> appears to be a  solid one.  He is taking what appears publically to be 
> two
> agencies that are not functioning in an efficient manor, moving them to 
> the
> most logical place where they will leverage the assets of one another 
> along
> with enhancing their own already established organizations.  In addition 
> the
> removal of a program that has smelled of nepotism and insider trading  is
> being placed where it makes the most logical sense, the department who
> handles the states ways and means.
> Only a short sighted person would or could say that the MCB board is
> NOT the most dysfunctional group that has ever existed.  One only has to 
> sit
> in a meeting for about two minutes to realize that it is run by amateurs 
> and
> attended by a group of circus clowns.  The lack of human dignity and 
> respect
> alone calls for its destruction.  The most eloquent and efficient way to 
> do
> this is to dismantle the entire organization.  Take what is working, give 
> it
> to a different management team,, then eliminate the parts that are
> disfunctioning , establish a new legally appointed board to satisfy the 
> law,
> and move on.
> So you got your wish, the change that you have been calling for is
> here.  The bureaucrats in this state are currently hunkering under their
> desks right now just wondering where the next hammer blow is going to come
> from.  The word on the street is that no one has seen this many laws fly
> through the legislature this fast  in a very long time.  Go lawyer up and
> bring up a case.  Before it gets anywhere , you will see the law change.
> The most interesting evidence for the promotion of that change  will be 
> your
> own words and arguments that you have been lodging against MCB for oh 
> about
> the last ten years or so.
> The only question left is; is this going to be good for the blind
> and persons with visual impairment community in our state?  This is a very
> treacherous and mine field ridden question.  On one hand if it is business
> as usual I think that it is going to be very bad for our community.  I 
> feel
> that the credibility is in the toilet bowl and the voice is horse, people
> are sick of hearing the bitching and griping without any real answers that
> call for bringing the community together.  On the other hand it could be
> something that rises like a phoenix from the fires of destruction welding
> our community together in a positive way.  Power is in solidarity not in
> division.  Stop the juvenile antics and come to the table like 
> professionals
> with critically thought out questions and possible reasonable solutions,
> ready to negotiate and give and take a little.  Sound a lot like what our
> federal government should do as well. Lol Mark
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmi-talk-bounces at nfbnet.org]
> On Behalf Of Larry D. Keeler
> Sent: Saturday, February 25, 2012 8:01 AM
> To: NFB of Michigan Internet Mailing List
> Subject: [nfbmi-talk] Decentralization of the Commission
>
> It is my oppinion that none of us from iether organization of blind
> comsumers advocates this shocking move by our estemed Governor.  I didn't
> nor will ever vote for him.  That aside, to my knowledge, NFB never
> advocated the abolishment of the Commission.  We constantly called for
> reform in order to serv its clients, blind folks the way it waas meant to.
> I am stunned that this is happening!  I am not really sorry about its
> director being out of a job but otherwise, I think this is appalling!  How
> can us blind folks fight for ourselves when our services will be devided
> across the board?  If our Board of Commissioners is abolished, how can we
> continue having a real say in how our tazx dollars get spent on blindness?
> I also know many folks in the Commission who are decent folks and truely
> want to better our lot.  Having dealt with DHS in a semiproffessional and
> personal capacity, I truely don't have a clue how they plan to have access
> to the services they are supposed to be providing.  And what of BEP?  For
> all its faults, it has provided many blind folks iether with a means to 
> make
> a living or as a start to move up and really be able to contribute to the
> tax pool.  Again, I want to make it clear that in my perception, us in NFB
> never!! called for decentralization!!  I believe we will always fight
> against coruption and abuse of the system whereever it occurs!  Dhis
> decentralization is disastrous for all of us!
> Intelligence is always claimed but rarely proven!
> _______________________________________________
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