« ForrigeFortsett »
EDUCATION AND ASSISTANCE TO THE BLIND
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 1959
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to recess, in room 429 Old House Office Building, at 10 a.m., Hon. Edith Green (acting chairman of the subcommittee), presiding.
Present: Representatives Green, Daniels, Giaimo, Lafore, and Wainwright.
Also present: Mary P. Allen, subcommittee clerk, and Charles Backstrom, research assistant to subcommittee.
Mrs. GREEN. The subcommittee will be in order.
The chairman of this subcommittee, Mr. Carl Elliott, of Alabama, is unable to be here this morning, not because of any lack of interest in this legislation, certainly, but because of previous commitments in his speaking engagements in his own State of Alabama.
I think there is no Member of the House who has been more interested in legislation to meet the needs of the blind and in other legislation that is before the subcommittee, than is Mr. Elliott. This is not a recently acquired interest, it is one he has had over a period of years.
Mr. Clifford McIntire, Congressman from Maine, and Mr. Robert L. F. Sikes, Congressman from Florida, wanted to be here this morning to give testimony before the committee and, without any objection, I would ask that their remarks be inserted at this point in the record.
(The material referred to follows:)
TESTIMONY SUBMITTED BY HON. CLIFFORD G. MOINTIRE
Mr. Chairman, I think the great number of bills that have been introduced on the subject of aid for the blind cogently attests to the urgent need that exists for this type of legislation.
In short, it appears that the matter to be resolved is not one of whether such aid should be extended, but, rather, just how it should be extended.
My legislation-H.R. 3737—which is similar to other bills introduced on this subject, is designed to set up a temporary national advisory committee. Such a committee would, within 24 months, report to the President and the Congress after an intensified study into existing aid-to-the-blind services. Thirty days after it submits its report, the committee would dissolve.
In essence, then, my legislation establishes a temporary device that is designed to effect permanent and long-range aids for the visually handicapped.
Our Federal, State, and local governments have, through a recognition of the needs of the blind, set up a variety of services for those who cannot see. My bill would set forth to coordinate these various aids, endeavoring to bring them together in such a manner as to bring to the blind a maximum of benefits.
I sincerely hope that this committee will, in its wisdom, endorse that type of legislation which will advance the greatest benefits to our sightless citizens. By
so doing, it would make a big step in the direction of lightening the burden of those who now walk in darkness.
It is with this thought in mind that I submit my bill for this committee's consideration.
Mr. Chairman, I deeply appreciate having this opportunity to be heard by this committee on my legislation.
STATEMENT BY CONGRESSMAN BOB SIKES, DEMOCRAT, OF FLORIDA, BEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SPECIAL EDUCATION Mr. Chairman, my distinguished colleague, Congressman Billy Matthews, of Florida, appeared before this committee on March 9 and presented what I consider to be an outstanding statement in behalf of his bill, H.R. 1855. Since I have introduced a companion bill, H.R. 3502, I would like to add my support to the statement by Congressman Matthews who has had considerable experience in working with and for the blind.
Mr. Chairman, there is no need for me to take the time of the committee to give a detailed description of the purposes of my bill since others have already done so. However, I would like to point out that for years we have been operating under varied laws and regulations for blind assistance in many Government departments and agencies. With the establishment of a National Advisory Committee for the Blind, I feel we will see evolve a more uniform and coordi. nated program which will reduce duplication of services and be more effective in the overall programs of aid to the blind.
I sincerely hope the members of this distinguished committee will make it possible for a national advisory committee to be established by giving a favorable report to this legislation.
Mrs. GREEN. Mr. McIntire also has been a person who has been interested in this type of legislation for a considerable period of time. He did come to the commmittee a few moments ago and expressed again his interest in it.
Now the first witness to be heard this morning is Mr. Richard Wilburn, of Utah, and, Mr. Wilburn, you may proceed as you would like to.
STATEMENT OF RICHARD WILBURN, DUGWAY PROVING GROUND,
Mr. WILBURN. Madam Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Richard Wilburn and I am Chief of the Physical Chemistry Section of the Chemical Warfare Operations at the Army Chemical Corps' Proving Ground, Dugway, Utah. I have been totally blind since I was 4 years old.
When I received my Ph. D. in chemistry from the University of Washington in 1954, there were many who said I would never find a job as a working chemist. If it had not been for my association with the National Federation of the Blind, they might have been right. As it is, I am working along with other chemists in a program that is considered an important part of our scientific defense effort.
I received my elementary education at the Illinois School for the Blind, and then moved to the State of Washington, where I attended the State school for the blind for 2 years.
I completed by high school education at Bremerton Public High School in 1945. That fall I enrolled as a chemistry major in the University of Washington.
At this point I would like to tell you about an experience I had with an agency doing work for the blind. I applied to the State welfare agency for financial assistance in attending the university to meet the costs of tuition and readers' fees. When the agency learned
that I intended to study chemistry, they refused to grant the aid. The agency officials did not believe that a blind person could become a chemist, and they told me that they would give me financial assistance if I could secure a letter from the university stating that I would be accepted as a chemistry major. I secured the letter and sent it to the State agency. For a period of 3 months I heard nothing from the agency. Just before school started, I received notification that aid had been denied. The reason given was that my parents were able to take care of my expenses.
This was difficult to understand in view of the fact that other blind persons (not majoring in chemistry) whose parents had more means than mine, were receiving State assistance.
It seemed clear that the real reason for the denial was the fact that the State agency officials continued to believe that a blind person could not become a chemist, and that they were protecting me from my own folly.
I entered the university anyway. After 2 years of appeals, I finally received the aid. In 1949, I got my bachelor's degree in chemistry. The work was not at all impossible for a blind person to do, and the irony of the situation was that the very agency which should have encouraged my efforts discouraged them.
Two years later I obtained my master's degree and after 3 more years, my Ph. D.
In 1954, I left the State of Washington and moved to California. I was blind. I had a Ph. D. in chemistry and I had no prospects for getting a job.
I contacted literally dozens of colleges and universities and many private companies, but got no offers. I had little money and things fooked pretty discouraging.
About 2 months after I arrived in California, I learned about the National Federation of the Blind and met its president and many of its members. They gave me the kind of encouragement and boost in morale which kept me trying to get a job. It was the first time in my life that I had ever come into contact with a group that really believed that blind people could do things and that I could be a chemist. They were willing to do more than just believe in me. They arranged for me to have interviews with executives in the chemical industry, and when difficulties arose in connection with my application for a position in the Federal civil service, they really went into action.
I applied to be put on the register as a chemist in the 12th civil service region. My qualifications were fully adequate, and the rating was issued.
Within a month, however, my name was removed from the register, solely on the ground of my blindness. The National Federation of the Blind immediately appealed the case. In the meantime I got a job in private industry as a research chemist.
In the fall of 1955 my appeal was successful, and my name was restored to the civil service register.
Early in 1956, I was offered a position as a research chemist at the Dugway Proving Ground. I accepted the offer. Since that time I have received several promotions and have taught courses for the University of Utah.
It is probably not hard for you to understand why I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind and why I believe that the
proposed legislation protecting the right of the blind to organize and requiring that their organizations be consulted should be passed.
My case illustrates graphically, I think, two things:
First, agencies for the blind are not always professionally competent to advise their blind clients.
Second, organizations of the blind are performing a valuable and indispensable service.
Mrs. Green. Thank you very much, Mr. Wilburn.
Mr. LAFORE. I have no questions, Mrs. Green. I would like to say I was very much interested in Mr. Wilburn's case, and I think he has made an outstanding success of his life with the handicap he has.
Mrs. GREEN. Are there any questions, Mr. Daniels?
Mr. DANIELS. I have no questions, either. I do desire to compliment Mr. Wilburn for the remarkable progress he has made despite his handicap. He is an inspiration to many others who are handcapped.
I also desire to congratulate you, as well as the Federation of the Blind, for the fine assistance they have given you to enable you to make what progress you have.
Mrs. GREEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Wilburn, and we appreciate your testimony before this committee.
Mr. TEN BROEK. I wonder if I could resume my testimony now to the introduction of the next six witnesses, which will be testimony in a little bit different area? We are about to take up the interferences with the right to organize.
Mrs. Green. Yes, indeed.
STATEMENT OF PROF. JACOBUS ten BROEK, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND, BERKELEY, CALIF.-Resumed
Mrs. Green. For the record, would you identify yourself again! Mr. TEN BROEK. My name is Jacobus ten Broek. I am the president of the National Federation of the Blind.
Madam Chairman, I would like briefly to summarize where we are in these hearings, what the testimony will have shown, and our views so far, and then give you a short preview of the testimony that will follow, this morning, from six witnesses from States in which there have been interferences with the right to organize.
May I suggest to the committee a motion with respect to the volumes of testimony already submitted! I do not know what your procedure is, or will be in these matters, but with respect to the written statements submitted by the witnesses in volume III of the federation's testimony, some of them were, by formal motion, included in the record and some were not. The testimony of Mrs. Bascom and Mrs Harrison and one or two others did not receive such a motion. If such a motion is necessary, I would suggest that a motion be made to include all of the written statements of testimony in volume III in the record. In fact, I hope that the committee will include in the record the entire volumes I, II, III, and IV of the testimony of the national federation.
Mrs. GREEN. May I ask this question: Did Mrs. Bascom and Mrs. Harrison testify?
Mr. TEN BROEK. Yes; they have testified.
Mrs. GREEN. Was their testimony different than that which appeared in the volume to which you referred?
Mr. TEN BROEK. Well it may have been somewhat, I would not be sure how much of a variation there was.
Mrs. GREEN. A motion is not necessary. May I suggest this procedure to my colleagues: that if the testimony is not complete, then we make it a part of the record. If it is duplication, I think we will not put it in a second time.
Mr. LAFORE. Most of the testimony I have heard, Madam Chairman, is verbatim, as it appears in the volume III.
Mrs. GREEN. That was my impression.
However, in case a person did not appear to give their testimony, we will make that a part of the record; otherwise we will proceed as we are doing.
Mr. TEN BROEK. All right.
Madam Chairman, yesterday, Mr. Whitten testifying for the NRA made some references to the National Federation of the Blind, which, among other things, spoke of the complaints which he had been aware of in connection with the activities of the National Federation of the Blind, particularly as it referred to our so-called State surveys.
The National Federation of the Blind carries on its activities in many areas. The work, as you have seen from some of the testimony so far, is in trying to improve the opportunities for blind persons in employment and in other areas to improve public assistance legislation and rehabilitation legislation and other legislation for the blind,
One of our activities is to conduct surveys of State programs for the blind.
Mrs. GREEN. May I interrupt just a minute?
Congressman Wainwright is here, and I think the record should show that he is here in the room and is interested in such legislation.
You may proceed, Mr, ten Broek. Mr. TEN BROEK. Yes. Mr. Whitten suggested that our State surveys had been the source of a good deal of irritation and he tended to suggest that in some ways they had been undiplomatically conducted, and perhaps even a little offensive.
May I say for the record that our State surveys are conducted only upon two conditions: one, that the Governor of the State invites the national federation to supply a team to survey programs for the blind in his State; and, two, upon the concurrence of our own affiliate in that State.
All of the State surveys which we have conducted have been conducted under those two conditions.
Now, our surveys undoubtedly have created unhappiness and displeasure in some States and some States more than others. The object of these surveys is to provide an evaluation, from our point of view, of the weaknesses of existing programs and the methods by which they might be improved, so as better to serve the needs of the blind people as we see them.
We have conducted a number of these surveys. First, I believe, was the one in Colorado, one in Arkansas, and one in Nevada. We just recently completed one in West Virginia. We have one currently underway in the State of New Hampshire.