[NFB-Talk] civil disobedience question

Julie McGinnity kaybaycar at gmail.com
Tue Jan 14 17:38:08 UTC 2020

Hi all,

That article by Jernigan is fascinating!  Also, reading onward to that
article about coalitions will give you an idea of the perspectives at
that time.

I was born in 1990, not a month after the passage of the ADA.  So I'm
trying to put myself in that place, before accommodations and civil
rights joined hand in hand.  Many of the language in that monitor
feels foreign to me.  Just look at the use of the word handicapped.
But you can also see the subtle differences in the term accommodation

Jernigan's premise is that blindness is not disabling.  It's a tough
premise to have when discussing the Americans with Disabilities act.
He asserts that blind people don't need modifications to physical
spaces, and that is true for most blind people.  We require access to
another facet of society entirely, to information.  We use the ADA now
to defend access to websites, to university courses, and to our jobs.
All of that for us stems from being denied to right to access
information.  Jernigan, in all his predictions concerning the ADA, may
have missed that piece.

I am wondering if the leaders of the NFB could imagine how useful the
ADA would be for our future students and employees.  Maybe that's the
missing link.  I wasn't around at the time, but it sounds like
Jernigan was convinced that most federationists only saw the
limitations for blind people under the ADA.  And to be quite honest,
with all that happened regarding air travel back then, I don't blame
them.  We wanted to walk on an airplane, go through a flight, and get
off without harassment.  We wanted to cross streets without the
assumption that we needed audio pedestrian signals to do so.  These
were the prevailing issues of the time.  No wondered blind people were

In terms of that self-determination issue, I think it's control of our
accommodations that we desire.  If we think it's best to do it
ourselves, then we should.  However, not everyone has the funds to
hire readers, pay for transportation, or get the assistive technology
they need.  If you always have to pay for accessibility, then
self-determination will only take you so far.  There are resources out
there, but those resources have their limits too.

This is an interesting discussion!  I love reading these articles and
learning how the NFB evolved.


On 1/14/20, Pamela Dominguez via nFB-Talk <nfb-talk at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Yes!  When you mentioned that the accommodations need to have to do with our
> needs and abilities, the first thing that jumps to my mind is the airlines
> wanting to put us into wheelchairs when it's our eyes that don't work, not
> our legs.  Pam.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jim via nFB-Talk
> Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 11:40 AM
> To: 'Jack Heim' ; 'NFB Talk Mailing List'
> Cc: Jim
> Subject: Re: [NFB-Talk] civil disobedience question
> Hi Jack,
> Sounds like your mind is made up, and no one is going to convince you of
> anything you don’t already believe.
> I keep going back to Dr. Jernigan’s idea that self-determination must be
> first and foremost.  He articulated the concern that it’s a terrible bargain
> to trade self-determination for over-accommodation and the well-meant yet
> misguided intentions of others.
> For whatever it’s worth, I feel that self-reliance and accessibility are
> both necessary for self-determination.  Frankly, your rant about
> accessibility and advocacy being only about accessibility makes no sense to
> me because it assumes accessibility is always good.  I don’t mind asking for
> accommodations, but I also want to reserve the right to reject
> accommodations, especially when accommodations are not logically linked to
> the functional limitations of blindness.  For whatever reason, you cannot
> understand that letting others do for us the things we can do for ourselves
> is a human rights disaster.  Balance, my friend.  Asserting our humanity by
> insisting on self-determination is powerful.  Depending only on
> accessibility is oppression.
> Lastly, you are way off base regarding the NFB support of the ADA.  We made
> the ADA better.  No amount of ignorance and vitriol will eclipse that truth.
> Best!
> Jim Marks
> blind.grizzly at gmail.com
> (406) 438-1421
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jack Heim [mailto:john at johnheim.com]
> Sent: Monday, January 13, 2020 5:55 PM
> To: Jim <blind.grizzly at gmail.com>; 'NFB Talk Mailing List'
> <nfb-talk at nfbnet.org>; mike at michaelhingson.com
> Cc: 'Chris Westbrook' <westbchris at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [NFB-Talk] civil disobedience question
> Jim, this world does not have a problem with blind people being given so
> many accomodations that they stop doing things for themselves. That is not a
> problem.
> How many times do we have to have this debate on this list? We just had it a
> few weeks ago when we discussed  a mom who demanded that her son's
> certificate of achievement be brailled. Its always the same dam thing!
> Watch out, you don't want to give a blind person the idea that they can get
> anything simply by asking for it. Since when has that ever been a problem?!
> The bottom line is that the NFB has made one mistake after another. The ADA
> is the most valuable civil rights legislation for disabled people in human
> history. I deliberately put that hyperbolically but its true.
> Other countries have modeled their laws after the ADA. People in the
> European Union envy our ADA. The NFB could have said, "Wow, this is huge.
> Lets see what the power of the NFB can do to make sure it passes."
> The NFB's lack of support for the ADA is a stain on it's history.
> So is the NFB's choice to fight the ACB in its lawsuit against the
> government on accessible money. And the NFB's siding with TV and movie
> producers on audio descriptions. And organizing protests against accessible
> pedestrian signals.
> I do not know how many times I've made this point on this list... This
> attitude that we should take care of ourselves is destructive toward our
> goals. Of course people should do as much for themselves as they can but
> that has nothing to do with advocacy. It gets in the way and prevents the
> NFB from being an effective advocacy group.
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Julie A. McGinnity
MM Vocal Performance, 2015; President, National Federation of the
Blind Performing Arts Division

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