« ForrigeFortsett »
have had many questions about statistics. I would like to show you two exhibits in that area the committee can refer to in its later studies.
One is the Doctor Hurlin report.
Mr. RUMSEY. The “Estimated Prevalence of Blindness in the United States," AFB Monograph, October 1953.
Mr. BARNETT. American Foundation for the Blind, the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, and various departments of Government use Doctor Hurlin as their principal source of statistics. The only key point in that whole paragraph that I wanted to emphasize was the one significant factor that over half of the people who are blind in this country are elderly, 60 or 65 years old, and my testimony makes the statement that they are sort of a forgotten crowd. Almost no formal program in this country is properly geared at the moment to do very much for these older people and I call this a great unknown that needs considerable study.
Section No. 3 has to do with the employable. You concentrated on that quite a bit this week. The key sentence I have in there, sir, has to do with the fact that there are standards that have been suggested for rehabilitation centers, adjustment centers as they are sometimes known. There are about 16 of those in the country now that have grown up in the last 15 years, and my statement in the printed record is to the effect, very unfortunately, that only a very small number, two or three perhaps, of those centers are at the present time meeting what can be called and are known to be standards.
If thoughtout these 12 points I have any song to sing, Mr. Chairman, it is this theme that if you are going to help the blind, lets help them properly. Halfway pressures are often worse than none at all. Incidentally, there is another common factor in these 12 points. Every one of these problem areas is either directly or indirectly using Federal funds.
I have an exhibit there to refer you to. A group of people who are considered to be competent met at New Orleans in 1956 and there is a pamphlet on the report of the seminar on rehabilitation centers for the blind. That meeting was sponsored by the U.S. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the American Foundation and since that I have had those who know the subject very well tell me that the particular little booklet is still the best thing that has been put together in one cover on the subject of how to operate and what shoud be included in a proper adjustment service for the blind.
The report goes on to state that it isn't necessary for the blind persons to get their rehabilitation through centers. Individual personnel can do it and we refer, however, to our community surveys, none of which I have in exhibit form because of ethical reasons, that too often show that placements don't stick, and I want to adhere verbally to what I said in my prepared statement, to the effect that even when I seem to be damning some of these services that now exist, I do not find that it is the willful neglect of the personnel themselves.
You will notice there is a long section dealing with the problem of the indigent blind, and I wish I could discuss all this question of disability insurance. We tend to advocate a trend toward disability insurance. In our field we become controversial with each other about pensions, and needs tests, and disability programs of our kinds.
One of our great American problems in all fields is how best to assist people who are dependent upon public support. I would like to skip on through to mention the Library of Congress program briefly.
It is number 8 on page 11. It is called the predictable breakdown of library services. Between 50,000 and 60,000 people are enjoying what I like to call, and I am not saying it just for the sake of winning friends and influencing people, the finest library service for the blind in the world.
Nevertheless, the statistical growth is such in the presentation that the libraries through which the Government books are distributed are already overtaxed, generally speaking, and we estimate roughly that the number of users might well double in the next 10 to 20 years or 15 years.
There is another statement there, sir, I think ought to be brought out, and you will notice there is an exhibit. The exhibit is the report of a survey of library service which was conducted by my organization through the usual way surveys are conducted of that type, by assembling a competent group of people who are authorities in the general as well as in the specialized field, and that survey does not itself attempt to set up standards, but it sheds light on them, and I make the statement that probably not more than 25 percent of the library's service for the blind in this country can meet those standards at the moment.
I am referring to those that use Federal equipment, the books. In many areas of the country, sir, the service, even in spite of the valiant efforts of the staffs, is not what it should be. This is not my personal judgment. This is all based on information which is available.
Mr. ELLIOTT. You feel unless something is done in that field that we are going to have a breakdown of library services within the predictable future?
Mr. BARNETT. Yes, sir. I would say the U.S. Library of Congress is doing its best to do something right now. Everyone is doing something, but I personally advocate more Federal aid, which might not be a nice thing to say right now, but the talking books and the braille books are provided to the libraries by the Government. It has been a Federal program every since 1879 and in the adult field since the 1930's.
Those books are Federal property. The Federal Government long ago recognized library service as a Federal program, that in principal for reducing the cost to some extent it should be a federalized-equipment service. I simply am advocating frfom time to time that a little money go along with it to help these local libraries which are not owned and operated by the Government–they are mostly locally owned, public libraries, and so on-to help them meet these standards. When I say standards I mean personnel, for example. In the case of libraries there are a number of other standards which help them such as good indexes and what have you.
Mr. Elliott. Did you say not more than 25 percent of these libraries would meet minimum standards?
Mr. BARNETT. That is right.
Mr. ELLIOTT. That brings up this question: I wonder what percentage of the blind people of America have access to any library service at all!
Mr. BARNETT. What percentage of all blind persons ?
Mr. BARNETT. Would you agree with me, Mr. Chairman, that the generalization of the blind sometimes is misleading. If you are talking about the statistical total of 350,000, then the percentage is quite small. It is impressive nevertheless. According to the Library of Congress there are between 50,000 and 60,000 if you combine both braille and talking books.
If you singled it out it would probably be about 10,000 or 12,000 who subscribe to braille books, who like to read books in the form of braille and do, and probably close to 50,000—there is a duplication of course between the two sets of figures-who use the recorded service.
Mr. Elliott. Certainly you might say here that of the estimated 347,688 blind as of June 30, 1958, not more than one-seventh of them have any library service whatsoever. Wouldn't that be a fair statement? Nor more than 50,000 of them?
Mr. BARNETT. If I were a librarian I could probably tell you how many average people do read or who do use libraries. I don't happen to know that much about libraries, but I believe you will find that not all 180 million people, if you are dealing with that total population, use libraries, even though they can see.
I don't happen to have that relative comparison. Nevertheless, you are right. It is too small and our general information which we continually receive, all kinds of information at all times that is what we are for-shows that most of the distributing agencies have a little difficulty in meeting the requests for talking book machines, and then most of the libraries do a very good job.
You understand, Mr. Chairman, that I never like to take the position of criticizing people, so all I am doing here is saying that the service isn't adequate in terms of numbers, and probably the reason for that is there is not enough money behind most of these programs.
I want to direct your attention, since we are running very late, to item number 12 in the long list.
It says, “Personnel—the key to proper service.” I show you here a two-volume report of a study done by the Bureau of Labor Štatistics 2 years ago with moneys granted by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the American Foundation for the Blind. I haven't circulated the big report to you, because it is so bulky.
It was so bulky that no one really, except scholars, can read it, so we employed such a scholar by the name of Sidney Tickton to do a short form of it, and this is the one I think that is in front of you, a sample of which you will find in that booklet, and in any opinion it shows a rather depressing picture, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
Almost without exception people who are employed professionally in schools, agencies, and so on, to serve blind persons in one way or another are paid several hundred dollars less per year than people in comparable occupations serving other groups of people.
If you are interested in your own State you can find tables in there. For example, I believe Connecticut counselors for blind people employed by the State government in Connecticut are paid something like $600 or $800 a year less than counselors of people who are dis abled in some other way.
There is a table in there which refers to the teachers of blind children who work in the academy-type schools, of which there are 48 in the country. Almost half of all blind children who are now in schools, of the 12,000 or 13,000, may be found in as many as 300 local school districts. I don't think this survey picked up those local public school personnel.
The table in the book refers to teachers of blind children who are being taught through residential or academy-type programs. You again see in the comparison with regular schoolteachers across the board that these teachers are all paid less money, and I don't know, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, why this should exist.
Perhaps it is another holdover from all this you heard all week long of the historic belief that blindness is a state of inferiority, that we are dependent and so forth, and that it is good enough just to find their help through, perhaps well-meaning and wonderful, amateurs. This is my song that I sing. If someone is going to teach my blind child I want that person to be first a basic teacher who is a good teacher, and that person should have a plus training to know how to teach a person who cannot see.
I am emphasizing only the blind principles in helping handicapped people go through the whole program. It is rather unfortunate that we require people to know more to handle a person with a more serious human problem and we pay them less. That is I guess typical of our society, but I don't see that we need to accept it and rest with it. There are several other points here, but I do want to go on, and you may have questions and I will be glad to answer them as long as you feel we have time. There is a great deal of information for the benefit of this committee or any other group.
It is, however, very spotty. Most of these things are revelations of problems rather than recommended solutions. I am jumping around. I would like to pick up the number that refers to the Randolph F. Sheppard program, since you haven't made me stop. Any time you want me to stop just stop.
It is No. 9. It says, “Problems and Potentials in the Randolph F. Sheppard Program.” That is another authorized Federal program, the Randolph F. Sheppard Act of 1936. If you read my testimony there you will notice it is rather strong language. “I am shocked and amazed,” words like that, and I mean it, at the petty vested interest which still stands in the way of the intent of Congress as it was when this act was passed in 1936.
Neither the Federal departments, and there are several of them involved, nor organizations like my own have been able to resolve many, many problems. To make matters worse among us, people in this very room, in these organizations, become engaged in controversies over the philosophies of this program and the way to run it. As a result of all of the confusion that has been caused as a result of arbitrary redtape throughout lesser Federal officials out in the field and because of the vested interest of groups which do not have the legal right to operate commercial businesses on Federal propertiesat least there is no other permissive law that I have been able to find this program is slowing down badly, and when you have your representatives of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare here I am sure they will be glad to give you information.
We have a report and exhibit compiled by our own agency. The Government perhaps wouldn't agree with what you find in that big thick book, “Vending Stand Program for Blind Persons, 1957.".
I am not going to try to remember the statistics. There are about 2,100 to 2,400 operators, I think, employed in the public building locations.
Mr. ELLIOTT. What are these vested interests that you say are giving so much trouble to that program?
Mr. BARNETT. Mostly employee groups within the building who can be contacted by owners of vending machines that dispense cold drinks, cigarettes, candies, and so forth. The people who make these machines are, themselves, in any opinion, not the cause. Of course, automation does affect the operation of a stand by a live blind person, but if the operator himself and those who are helping him know what they are doing there is a way to supplement the live stand, itself, where it is appropriate with these machines.
Our position always has been that such machines are extensions of the right of the stand in the location in the first place and should accrue to the net income of the operator to meet the cost of maintaining his family.
I will give you one example. Again I hope you will not push me, sir, to name people and things. The American Foundation for the Blind does its best never to do that as an ethical matter, but there is one post office in one Midwestern State where the employee group had certain machines where the owners of the machines get a certain percentage.
The employee group got the rest of it, which amounted probably to $40 a month. They put this into the employee group's flower fund, or hospital fund, for sending flowers to their sick friends. This is very sweet and I am glad they do it. With respect to the man in the lobby vending stand, the blind man who had a family and children, his net income in that particular location was probably $135. They got Members of Congress, sir, to intercede when the State agency involved tried to assert the intent of the Randolph F. Sheppard Act to get the machine privilege to accrue to the operator so he would get then maybe $160 a month. The employee group, sir, used Members of Congress. They used paid attorneys to prove that they had a statutory or some regulatory right to operate those machines, and the blind man never got the money.
This is what I mean by petty vested interest. There are other obstacles, sir, which aren't just petty. There are people who are afraid that blind man is going to dirty up the premises. There are those who are afraid that it will be some sort of a hazard to the people who come and go.
There are those who don't like the smell of coffee or something in the lobbies of buildings. There is, of course, real competition which I do not necessarily charge to be vicious in any sense, but there is real competition in the General Services Administration which, of course, has to provide certain food services in many, many Federal buildings.
At times there have been troubles where the GSA had the installation. They also wanted the concession part for cigars, cigarettes, et cetera, and it has been rather difficult to also get another installation in