« ForrigeFortsett »
out the intent and spirit of the rights of free speech, petition, and assembly to the organized blind so that they may beable to formulate democratically and voice effectively their views on the pro grams that our National Government and our State governments are financing for their aid and rehabilitation.
As to the area in which organizations may function, it is also the opinion of this writer that the only time organizations of any kindred group of people encounter opposition and hostility is when their concerted demands upon the community begin to show signs of unreasonably self-serving goals which have doubtful value in the healthy development of the entire community,
Does this writer by this statement mean that when the organizations of blind people cross the boundaries beyond good fellowship activities and recreational programs and become interested in social, economic, or legislative matters that their "concerted demands upon the entire community begin to show signs of unreasonably self-serving goals which have doubtful value in the healthy development of the entire community”?
If the writer feels that these "self-serving goals” are unreasonable and have "doubtful value in the healthy development of the entire community,” then he must also feel that organized labor, the farmer cooperative, and veterans' organizations which are so much a part of the national picture, have been an unhealthy development in our Nation's progress,
In further analyzing this bill the same writer asserts that the real issue is— that administrators of federally financed programs of aid or service to the blind shall seek and abide by the guidance of representatives of organizations of the blind in the execution of their work.
Nowhere in the proposed measure do we find the words "seek and abide by” nor can we gather such an interpretation. In our opinion the bill does recommend that appropriate steps be taken to encourage agencies to consult with authorized representatives of organizations of the blind in the formulation, administration, and execution of any State programs for the aid and rehabilitation of the blind to which Federal funds are contributed.
The leadership of the organized blind mererly desires the same rights accorded to them as are accorded to the leadership of the agencies for the blind.
Further continuing his opposition to the bill, this writer claims that this bill would make it possible for the combination of some blind persons or of one blind organization which I do not believe to be truly, representative of the views and hopes of the great majority of persons who are blind.
By the same token, how does the organization which this writer heads know by what scientific method or rule of thumb that it represents the views and hopes of the "great majority of blind persons”? The organization to which we think he refers has a dues-paying mombership with voting rights while his organization is conducted upon an agency-client-service basis and has been "speaking” for the blind for many years.
If his position that an organization should represent the "great majority' be a valid one, then we must conclude that the AFL-CIO
with only 15 million members is of no benefit to the remaining 50 million workers in the United States.
While it is unfortunate that the views and aspirations of blind people have been frequently disregarded by many of the public administrators and agencies serving the blind and have necessitated the bringing to the attention of the public the introduction of such legislation as H.R. 14, this is not the first time that the blind have found it necessary to seek public intervention on their behalf. The history of 20 years experience of the Associated Blind can well attest to the urgency for such drastic recourse.
To point up but a few illustrations of the harassment and continual pressure with which the Associated Blind was forced to contend, almost from its very beginning, it is interesting to observe that for the first 2 years of the organization's existence we were unhampered as we engaged only in recreational activities. But as our organization grew and ventured into a broader program of services, the boom was lowered upon us.
Clients were forewarned by various agencies against joining the Associated Blind with the implied but unmistakable threat of reprisal.
Numerous investigations were instigated although the accusers were not revealed. In one instance one of the officers of our organization was contacted by the administrator of an agency and advised for his own good to immediately resign from the Associated Blind. Two days later an investigation was instituted against our organization. However, it is reassuring to report that the Associated Blind came through each investigation unscathed. In fact, our organization after each investigation attained greater prestige and confidence in its purpose
and ultimate cause. Much pressure was also exerted upon sponsors of our organization. One of them, a well-known international lawyer, took the trouble to study the charges and make a thorough examination of the work of our organization and the cause for which our blind members had banded together. Having found the charges completely false and malicious and having become more convinced of the rightness of our cause, he became an even stancher supporter of our organization by giving larger contributions and enlisting other friends in our behalf. We can never forget the incident when one of the agency
heads urged us to apply for membership in the Greater New York Council of Agencies for the Blind with the plea that the council was becoming defunct and needed now blood to reactivate. We complied and made formal application for membership. Our application was denied although we were officially advised that “the membership committee of the council recommended the acceptance of your application.
We later learned that four "blackballs” were cast against our admittance to the council, which, according to its constitution, was the required number of negative votes to reject an application. We also learned to our astonishment that the individual who had persisted in our joining the council spoke against our admittance at the time our application was being considered by the membership. Obviously, this was another strategem on the part of the agencies to embarrass us and to be able to announce that the Associated Blind had applied for membership in the council and was not found "worthy."
In conclusion, the introduction of this bill has brought us face to face with the basic issue-namely, the agency is entrusted with the responsibility of serving the blind to the fullest extent. With the ever-increasing availability of Federal funds, thereby resulting in greater assumption of power by individuals and groups, every precaution must be take to guard against control and domination of those they serve as well as to recognize the humane principle that all blind people do have the right to self-expression and self-development without the necessity to receive the approval of any administrator or agency. Every effort must be made to encourage and maintain understanding, enlightenment, and mutual cooperation between the agencies and blind people. In the last analysis this responsibility rests with administrators and agencies.
Mr. ELLIOTT. Thank you very much, Miss Greenspun. We appreciate the statement of Mr. Selis as read by you.
Since it is now 5:15 I will declare the subcommittee in recess until 10 o'clock tomorrow morning, when it will meet, again, at room 528, House Office Building.
(Whereupon, at 5:15 p.m., the committee was recessed, to reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 10, 1959.)
EDUCATION AND ASSISTANCE TO THE BLIND
TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 1959
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to recess, in room 528, House Office Building, at 10 a.m., Hon. Carl Elliott (chairman of the subcommittee), presiding.
Present: Representatives Elliott, Green, Daniels, Giaimo, Lafore, and Wainwright.
Also present: Representative Weir.
Also present: Mary P. Allen, subcommittee clerk, and Charles Backstrom, research assistant to subcommittee.
Mr. ELLIOTT. The subcommittee will be in order.
We meet this morning, my friends, under somewhat unusual circumstances. We heard our bill, H.R. 14, and related bills, all day yesterday. We were having trouble this morning; our friends who are interested in this bill have come from all over the country. I have said that we could meet in my office for a while. Chances are this afternoon we may be able to find another room. In the meantime, we will not be losing time, but trying to give all of those an opportunity to testify who desire to do so.
The first witness on this list this morning is Representative Thomas J. Lane, a Member of Congress from the State of Massachusetts, who has expressed himself as being interested in the two bills, or the two classes of bills, pending before the committee.
May I say to you, Mr. Lane, that we are very happy to have you. You may proceed at this time.
STATEMENT OF HON. THOMAS J. LANE, A MEMBER OF CONGRESS
FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
Mr. LANE. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate, of course, the kind opportunity to say a few words here in reference to this legislation this morning, and to join with my other colleagues that are here from other sections of the country. I know they are vitally interested, as I am.
I want to compliment you, Mr. Chairman, for giving us all this opportunity for the entire week, hearing these people who have come from all sections of the country. In order to save your time, and to save the time of the other speakers who are to testify, I would just like to make a very short statement.
I am interested, as many of them, in this legislation, and of course, we are anxious to put forth some of our ideas to you,
Mr. Chairman, and members of your subcommittee.
It is a well-known characteristic of American society that persons sharing a common interest or a concern, form organizations to give greater force to their opinions, and to freely meet and discuss, to arrive at conclusions and to make these conclusions known is an unquestioned right, sanctioned both by our constitutional determinations and the customs of our people established down through our history.
But to have value and to have force, these conclusions must be listened to and considered by those entrusted with the responsibility of serving all the people of any particular group of the people. In 45 States, Mr. Chairman, as you well know, of this Nation, blind men, blind women, have exercised this right to assemble, to organize, to make known their views on matters which have particular concern to the blind. These organizations are joined together in the National Federation of the Blind, the only countrywide organization which any blind person may join.
But in some parts of the United States, the right of the blind to join this organization has been questioned. Officials of agencies created for the sole purpose of serving the blind and financed in part by Federal funds have used their position to intimidate, coerce, and threaten blind persons, sad to say, of course, Mr. Chairman, who would have joined the local affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind. The blind of the Nation have long been a vital concern of the Congress of the United States. In programs of aid, you, of course, have been most active in your capacity as Congressman from your State in many, many of these programs-programs of aid and rehabilitation. You have fought for those on the floor of Congress, I know, Mr. Chairman, on many, many occasions, programs have been adopted so that these blind persons might better contend with the problems incidental to living in a sighted community.
On January 7, 1959, I introduced H.R. 187, a bill to protect the right of the blind to self-expression through organizations of the blind. On the 5th of last July, it was my happy privilege to attend the convention banquet of the National Federation of the Blind held in Boston, Mass.
I was invited to that banquet by members of an organization in my home area known as the Greater Lawrence Association of the Blind, with whom I have worked on occasions to assist in their projects. Massachusetts is not one of the States where the organized blind, the Associated Blind of Massachusetts, are struggling for the rights of blind people against the State agency for the blind. We have a very, very happy arrangement there, Mr. Chairman.
John F. Mungovan, director of the Massachusetts Division of the Blind, was also a guest at the same banquet and he was a speaker in the course of the convention.
In 1957, at the New Orleans convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Mr. Mungovan, who is the director of that agency in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, received the highest award of this organization for distinguished service to the blind.
On the 14th of August last, 1958, this same gentleman was reappointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a new term as director of that State agency for the blind.