Group Or Groups


Group Or Groups?

     “NEWSPAPER ARTICLE: Today representatives from the leading consumer groups of the blind met on the steps of the capitol to lobby for or against LB2000. The respective presidents were interviewed.

     Federation- “We are opposed to the passage of this bill. It goes too far and weakens the cause of independence.”

     Association- “We are 100% in favor of this bill. It will insure full opportunity for the blind.”

     Counsel- We are opposed. It goes in the wrong direction and needs amending.”

     One might ask of this small community, “Why so many groups and why sometimes such a lack of agreement?” but what this reporter did ask of many members of each group was, “What are the positives and negatives of having more than one group?” Their answers follow-

e-mail responses to

**1. “I would explain to the reporter that the reason there are different groups is that there are different types of blind people, there are elderly blind, congenitally blind, blind people who have lost sight in accidents and are traumatized, people who have gone blind as teens and middle aged.
There are blind who are single, married, with and without children. The blind are black, white, Hispanic, Asian etc. Some blind people are concerned with working and transportation, some want only better social
activities and more funding from the government for the basics. Some want better access to technology while still others are concerned with medical care. with all these types of blind and all these different issues there needs to be different groups for different blind populations. There can no more be just one group for the blind than there can be one religion to join or one type of school to attend. However, I think the groups do need to work together on things such as legislation. Just think
how much we could get done if we stopped cutting each other down and worked as a unit.”

Sue Ellen Melo (Albuquerque, New Mexico USA)

FROM ME: “Here is one reason for multiple groups- different types of blind people, having different sets of needs. And yes, she states there are times these different groups need to work together, like on legislation. So, with all the differences that exist requiring these separate groups, what types of legislation might there be that effects them all; enough to get them to work together?”

**2. “I would tell the reporter that being blind has nothing with forming groups. A group has a similar belief, a similar way of seeing the world. That's the glue that holds it together. Why are there so many political parties throughout the world? Because people are not machines. We all have
different views. it's the comirodity of the views that makes groups last. Now, in my mind, the real question here is what is the bill all about doing? The focus of this story seems in the wrong direction.”

Sarah Lanier (Alabama USA)

**3. “One rationale for the existence of several groups, whether it be of the blind or others in society, is to accommodate the diversity of points of view that exist among members. The NFB always talks
about the blind being just like anyone else, with the same differences of opinion and the same idea variations that there are in other groups such as African-Americans. Unfortunately in the case
of the blind, the fact that the two major organizations of blind people the ACB and the NFB do not work together for the most part, is, in my view, holding back progress in dealing with blindness
issues. We can have groups but they should try to work with each other. By the way, I'm a proud member of both ACB and NFB.”

Michael Alvarez

FROM ME: “What are the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to multiple groups which exist within a segment of the population and that deal with common issues?”

**4. “I would explain to the reporter that persons Blind or sighted come in all types, no generic brands, we do not think or act alike. We are individuals. Some value independence others like to be led. For this reason alone, one can not possibly speak for all persons, blind or sighted.”

Diane Dobson (Victoria, British Columbia)

**5. “To the extent that we pull together, for common purpose, toward common goals, multiple groupings are merely artificial distinctions, and neither serve any function nor provide any particular benefit, except to stroke the egos of those competing for leadership, at which point we digress into
personality versus principle. At this point of digression, we tend to cease being of common purpose and begin to develop artificial distinctions, organizational names included.

I suppose the main advantage in having multiple organizations is in bolstering a sense of independence and freedom among those who cannot work cooperatively together and agree to disagree when there are those inevitable measures of less than pure harmony. When proving a point becomes more
important than solidarity and when having personal control is more valuable than collective action and getting the job done.

On the other hand, perhaps the size of the community is at the heart of the question. We are all "Americans," let us say for the moment. Are we one or are we divided? Is it only natural that we differ and yet blend, by virtue of, if not in spite of the size of the community? Perhaps a small town is
more likely to be expected to be more homogenous, questions generally answered the same by nearly all members. But few small towns, much less an entire nation face a question as fundamental as whether the primary need is the adjustment of the individual to fit, to compete and to succeed in the
culture or for the culture, the environment to be adapted, modified to meet the needs of the individual. Perhaps the question is not simple to answer, but it is that fundamental for the blind. And it is that obvious why we have different organizations, one tending to come down on one side of the
question and the rest tending to answer the question with a contrary if traditional voice. The one seeking equality through personal development and responsibility, the others through environmental development and civic responsibility by others. It is a tough choice, but there you have it.”

Mike Floyd (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)

FROM ME: “I’m getting the sense that there can be out-side and/or in-side factors for there being multiple groups, like place and time, need and purpose or ego that. I wonder, when do we have more groups or fewer; when times are easy or hard?”

**6. “Like the United States Congress, more than one group can cause gridlock and much effort can be expended on political wrangling rather than on helping consumers. However, it is also good that
different points of view and philosophies have a chance to be heard. I favor groups working together with room for respectful disagreement. I also like to see people with different
disabilities support one another. Many have multiple disabilities and
need support from different groups - it is hard if they are too competitive and don't listen to one another.”

Catherine Alfieri (Pittsford, New York
Monroe County Women's Disability Network

FROM ME: “Here is a question- When can coalitions between different disability groups work to get the best result? It doesn’t work in every issue, does it?"

**7. “I will give you MY take on the group that advocates against special assistance for the blind.

They state that they are changing what it means to be blind, that blind persons are no different from anyone else and that it is perfectly acceptable to be blind. However, they then torpedo their own message! How?
Well, they insist that there is a "one size fits all" solution to blindness: that the blind person must be capable and independent, using No assistance’s such as warning strips, audible signals, guide dogs or
paratransit. By inference, then, blind persons who NEED to rely on such devices or assistance’s, are NOT independent or changing what it means to be blind. In effect, they are inferred to be inferior because they Are dependent! What a message to send! Not everyone CAN get along without special assistance. Some blind persons cannot read Braille due to their age or to neuropathy in their fingers.
Some cannot follow traffic sounds due to partial or total deafness or brain injury. Many blind persons rely on paratransit and cannot afford regular transit or live too far from regular stops. Are blind persons who rely on a dog or a sighted guide instead of a cane inferior? DOES one size fit all?
When I brought this question up on a mailing group that the group I am referring to ran, I, and others who asked the same question, were told that
the group was "re-organizing" and that we all had to re-apply to become members of the mail group... Three guesses as to which persons ended up NOT qualifying for membership! The group's slogan should be reworded from "We are changing what it means to be blind" to "We are claiming ownership
of the correct way to be blind." which will better reflect the reality it represents. Sad, but true.

Perhaps this group does NOT need audible signals, warning strips or other aids, but they should NOT try to speak for ALL blind persons whose abilities differ. Pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps works ONLY if one HAS boots on to begin with!”

Sylvia Stevens (USA)

FROM ME: “How does one group effectively set about to represent all persons of one general segment of the population?”

**8. “Next, in regards to my thoughts: I am a blind student who is majoring in journalism, so I might have a better perspective than someone else. A reporter's job is to report, and to be objective about it. That means, getting quotes from all sides of the issue and presenting those to the
reader, then leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. That's the basic idea, although I realize not every publication/magazine/newspaper/other media outlet fulfills that requirement.
I myself have had trouble in fitting that requirement in my first journalism reporting lab.

In the lab, we are given an assignment each week from a workbook and expected to write a story about that assignment within a two hour time block. There has been a recent assignment that I had trouble writing since it hit home for me; not about blindness but about censorship. Afterward, I asked my
T.A if there was a way that I could go to my editor in the real job, and ask him to take me off a story because I didn't think that I could write objectively about it. My T.A's response might sum thing sup for your readers, ‘Your job is to write objectively, whether it be about something
that you are sensitive to or not.’”

Wayne Merritt, Denton, Texas USA)

**9. “Why more than one group to advocate for the same cause? The answer seems simple to me. We recently had an election in which 2 candidates earned the votes of about 98% of the voting population. The other 2% voted for "third party" candidates. The two candidates honestly believed that their
philosophy of government was the best for all of the people. The only problem with that idea, is that no two people are exactly alike and have the exact same needs.

The idea of having multiple groups representing the same population is not new, nor is it bad. People seek other people who espouse the same ideals and values that they believe. It is not likely that one group would be able to accommodate the vast differences that exist among the blind population.
For example, the Republican party stands on a pro-life platform. This platform allows those who are pro-life to have a voice in government. Conversely, the Democratic party believes that women have choices regarding procreation, and that the government has no business making decisions for
them. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to belong to both parties.

The best thing about having multiple organizations, is that an individual can listen to a multitude of ideals and beliefs, and draw their conclusions based on those ideas that best represent their own. It is difficult when one organization represents themselves as the "ONLY VOICE" of the
population. Let's respect each others differences and work for the advancement of all.”

David Ondich (Dallas, Texas USA)

**10. “For an historical account of how the blind community in the U.S. began to diverge in the early 1900s, see Catherine Kudlick's article in the December
'Braille Monitor.' It describes two blindness oriented magazines, The Outlook' (precursor to JVIB and, interestingly, aligned philosophically with today's AER and ACB) and 'The problem,' (prototype, so to speak, of the 'Braille Monitor' and aligned, philosophically with today's NFB) and
the already differing philosophies that caused each to develop the way they did. Dr. Kudlick goes on to describe subsequent events, including the work of Helen Keller, the formation of NFB, and more.”

Anthony R. Candela (AERnet)

FROM ME: “Any other histories out there on the formation and/or interaction of groups of and/or for the blind?”

**11. “This one will get me in a lot of trouble. I don't think it does us any good to have two groups. It seems the two groups cannot agree on too much and therefore, we sometimes, I think, miss opportunities to get things done. We could get more done if we were one large number.
NFB conservative/ACB liberal. that's the way it is viewed.”

Tom Rash (Yucaipa, California USA)

FROM ME: “Are the blind and their various groups any more at odds and unwilling to work together than other groups?”

**12. “I feel that several groups is good. They are after all part of the one group itself, the visually impaired. What makes them most powerful is when they do work together and speak as one. Then all can see that all factions of the VI are thinking and acting together and all better listen.”

Marvin M. (Ohio USA)

FROM ME: “There can be two major types of groups out there, those ‘of’ the blind and those ‘for’ the blind. What is the difference? Second, there are consumer groups, social groups and what other kinds?”

other groups?”

**13. “Initially, I should like to have heard a little more about the proposed
legislation at issue so that I could have made a slightly more appropriate
or detailed response, but here goes. The big advantage to having more than
one group is that blind people, like everyone else who might be categorized
into a particular subculture or group of people with a similar characteristic, are not monolithic. We are black, white, Asian, Native American, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, even monarchist, gay,
straight, in-between, young, old, whatever. So too, we may have different ideas about our capabilities and we may have thoughts on a particular topic about blindness that may differ from group to group. One group may favor, as I've seen, warning strips near subway or train platforms while another
may not. (I myself as an individual confess to being neutral as it neither helps nor hinders me much). One group may be more widely known for favoring guide dogs while another might favor cane competency. The latter (cane usage) is frankly what I prefer. But we take what we can use from one group
and we very often eschew or reject the positions of other groups. Those groups, in any event, are works in progress like human beings themselves, or nation states, or empires, or civil rights movements. Even a group such as a political party does not necessarily have monolithic ideas. There are
northeastern liberal or moderate republicans, for instance, which support a pro choice position, while southern Republicans might generally support a pro life platform. There were at one point Northern populist Democrats such as FDR and Kennedy who supported civil rights proposals for blacks and other
minorities, while Governor Wallace, Senator Eastland and Strom Thurmond (once a Democrat) did not. Anyway, those are my thoughts for today. Cheers!”

John D. Coveleski (New York, New York USA

**14. “Which group is referred to as the Association? Of course, NFB was referred to as the Federation and ACB was referred to as the Council.

I don't think that one group is necessarily liberal and the other conservative, though I've found the Federation to be a bit more practical. This is not to say that ACB doesn't do some valuable work.”

Bill Outman (Daytona Beach, Florida)

FROM ME: “In explanation of my use of the group titles of Federation, Association and Counsel, I really didn’t mean to refer to the NFB or the ACB by name or super direct reference. But I did mean groups like them, in general, in principle, as it were. I needed to use terms we would all recognize,; the statement of the presidents being the bigger identifier of there being a difference in philosophy. But that is okay to see those two groups in your minds-eye when thinking through this THOUGHT PROVOKER; they are a case in point.”

**15. “I would explain that, in many ways, there is no such thing as a homogeneous group of people known as "the blind." What exist instead are blind individuals,
many of whom have different philosophies and beliefs about many things, one of which happens to be blindness. As with any sector of society, blind individuals
benefit from learning about different philosophies and beliefs about blindness. Being exposed to new ideas opens your mind to possibilities, which is a good thing. There are also bad things about factional representation of groups of blind persons. There is no organization that I have authorized to represent my views about blindness and what is (or might be) appropriate or helpful for me as a blind person; however, there are organizations that come close to representing some of my views some of the time. From time to time, I wish that we as blind people could come together organizationally to achieve common goals, instead of dealing with the social, political, and governmental world in factions. Imagine a meeting where a government agency is trying to figure out how best to design policies that respond to needs of blind persons: one organization purporting to represent most blind persons says there is a drastic need for such policies; another organization purporting to represent the majority of blind people says that no special policies are needed.

What you have imagined does in fact exist today. In effect, the two major groups that purport to represent the interests of most blind persons often cancel each other out, detracting from each other's credibility and leaving policy decisions to be made in a vacuum by bureaucrats who, without an authoritative source upon which to rely, have no choice but to make a best guess about what might or might not be appropriate for blind people in general. Imagine then how much greater power and effect the community of blind persons might have if we could just get the groups that purport to represent our interests to work together on some basic common goals. I ask you: How well do the principal organizations of or for the blind represent your interests and beliefs on major issues?”

Jeanine Worden (Arlington, Virginia USA)

FROM ME: “Can any one group represent all of your beliefs? If not, how can you still belong and feel good about it?”

**16. “It's interesting how different consumer organizations serving the blind have differing opinions on certain issues. For example, a few months ago, I received a letter from the ACB, which said that certain
associations were protesting the FCC's ruling regarding video description for television which ordered that all major television networks must have descriptive video for a certain number of
primetime hours a week in place by April 2002 and that these associations had sent petitions of reconsideration to the FCC. One of these associations was the National Federation of the Blind. Why
would the NFB oppose descriptive video for television if it would be beneficial to people who are blind or visually impaired?”

Abbie Johnson (Sheridan, Wyoming, U.S.A.)

FROM ME: “Say the answer is yes to this ladies question (one group for the blind appears to be against what on the surface is a good thing for the blind in general). What then should the blind community do?”

**17. “Robert Leslie Newman writes- ‘>

I suppose you can also ask, "Are the sighted and their various groups any more at odds and unwilling to work together than other groups?" That should answer all the questions. Why should the blind be more alike as a class than the sighted?”

Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York USA)

**18. “I served as President of a support group made up of mostly elderly and newly blinded individuals. The name is: The northeast Tennessee council For The Visually Challenged.
Do I agree with that choice for a name? No, However, I am just one member, so Unless my vote could count fifty-five times, I don't think I could change the name. I have been
a member of both the major organizations, at some point or other, and still get the ACB magazine, but I am not associated with either one at present. I feel that they both have good and bad points, just as do
political parties, (which I don't belong too either, BTW)! I agree that an individual must only be a part of a group, if it truly helps them to learn and grow, but I also reserve the right, for
myself, to not be affiliated with any organization. I don't have to be a part of an organization to be effective, yet I can see where others might feel they do need that kind of support. I can write
letters, vote, call my congress person, or whatever, and be just as vocal whether I am part of a major organization or not. I think that being a member of each at one point, gave me good contacts, and also
helped me with socialization with other blind people, yet I also still gain that with email lists, and the internet today. I still read the literature, so I get the thinking from that, so don't feel at all bad
that I am not a member. I think certain people need more group support than do others, so they join. I don't like it, though, when I am told that I have to believe this or I can't be a good member, which
is why I am not currently in either organization. If they continue to promote against each other, I probably will never rejoin either again also. I feel very strongly that people should make decisions based on
facts and needs, and I never have been into political stuff too much, so I continue to do my best to promote the best for all blind people in the most effective way for myself. We all, in the end, must do
this. After all, I think most people know individual blind people, if at all, and the impression I give will be remembered by them. So the best thing to do is try your best to get your needs met in whatever
way that works, and if that means joining an organization such as ACB or NFB, or a support group in your area, then that's what you should do. I like my independence of thought, though, so will remain outside
the organized blind movements, at this time. I do agree, most of the time, with either one organization or another, but I simply dislike being involved to the extent that I am "forced" to walk their walk and
talk their talk! Hope this makes sense.”

Phyllis Stevens (Johnson city, Tennessee USA

FROM ME: “How much freedom of thought and action do you think should be allowed for members within a group?”

**19. “As one of the 3% of Americans who voted for a candidate not of the two large parties, and who is active in his relatively small political party, I don't think the comparison with political grouping is a good one. The late Jim "Vote early and often" Farley, Mayor of Boston in the thirties would have
said that politics is just a game, but I say as a member of one of the major blindness organizations that advocating by the blind is not a game. For this reason, I believe that we (the NFB, ACB and other interested parties) should work together as a unit or as a unit of autonomous organizations rather like
the AFL-CIO. I should disclose the fact that I am what I like to call an NFB *Liberal* and think that on balance that the earlier comment saying the ACB is liberal and the NFB largely conservative is correct. Lets stop bickering and start looking for constructive solutions.”

Paul Wick (Sacramento, California USA)

**20. “I suggest that it is inherently neither good nor bad to have several groups, and it is inherently neither good nor bad to have only one. What would be intrinsically bad, however, would be to have a system that interfered with a group's effort to form and be heard. My own view is
that we blind folks would be a lot better off by now if we'd had one group with essentially an NFB-style philosophy of blindness but without the abundant hierarchical nonsense that I believe has contaminated the
NFB. Others, of course, think we'd be better off united behind a different approach. The most important question, though, is not what notions of blindness ultimately prevail, but whether every blind person
who's willing to make the effort--whether individually or as a group member--is able to play a part in setting our course.

I think it would help a great deal, of course, if organizations would keep their disagreements substantive, and at the minimum that their different espoused viewpoints require. I've seen NFB leaders oppose ACB's position on an issue simply because it was ACB's position: they'd doubtless deny
it, at least in public, but the absence of logic in their opposition spoke succinctly for itself. (An excellent example was its response to the decision of Congress in the mid-1980s to cut funding for the NLS's
production of Playboy in Braille: ACB went to court and, I think, got the money restored; high-level NFB leaders argued that the budget cut had not been an act of censorship, though that cut had been specifically
targeted. I note that I've also seen the leadership treat an NFB member the same way when they got stupidly mad at him: they opposed a resolution he brought to the convention one year, then supported adoption of a virtually identical resolution, brought by another member, the next year.

But while I think NFB's political style lends itself more to idiotic partisanship than ACB's does, ACB has its share. It seems to me, for example, to dismiss illogically NFB's arguments about the importance and
effectiveness of greatly improved training in blindness techniques in the debate about audible traffic signals or tactile warnings on subway platform edges. Although I think the alleged need for these environmental
alterations is much exaggerated, I and others have pointed out in conversations about this stuff that you can logically believe in both top-notch training and environmental modifications. It didn't seem to
make an impression. If either group is generally unwilling to give credit openly to the other for the logical, fair components of its differing views, wasteful hostility is a logical result. ACB and NFB have worked
together from time to time, but my sense is that they could do it more often, and should do it gladly for all to see whenever they can.

I think that we humans will continue to be in for a lot of self-made trouble as long as we make needless partisanship a habit. Had the partisans on both sides of the bitter, post-election battle for the
U.S. presidency been more interested in doing the right thing and less interested in getting what they wanted for themselves, I suspect that some of the votes that the machines missed would have been counted, and there'd be no need to talk about healing our divisions. If we the people
(whether in blindness groups or in the nation) could force an end to political gamesmanship and payback, and focus fully on working out our logical differences with as much understanding of and respect for each other as we can muster, I bet we'd truck along at a pretty good clip to a
better world.”

Al Sten-Clanton

FROM ME: “Thinking of the emotional and operational characteristics of an individual verses that of a group of people, which one is easiest to mold, to change?”

**21. “Three groups all with a similar cause but all with diverse thoughts and opinions .... the one outstanding feature in this thought provoker is the intense diametrically opposition each group holds
each believing they are right ... the thing that stands out is the fact no where does there seem to be room for compromise considering the shared factors of each group ..... so what are the positives and negatives of
having more than one group???? .... well more than one group means a diversity of outlooks and imput most important as often groups can centered around a specific geographical area meaning that people outside these areas are not able to have a voice so to speak to put forward their views ....
also different groups mean more lobbying power ...the more groups we have
in a particular area the more intense obviously the interest and hence those in powers tend to sit up and take notice of a load of lobby groups as versus just one .... depending of course on the numbers within each group .... there is power in numbers as we all know ...this a sad fact ....
another advantage of different groups lies in the fact that each group can develop differing agendas all aimed at the improvement of areas of life which may have been overlooked in one large group ... there is also a sense of intimacy and closeness within a smaller organization too I have often
found with very devoted members who are dedicated to seeing growth and movement forward and are able to use their different talents to use larger groups this often does not happen and let's be honest here those that talk the loudest do tend to be the leaders and many follow and tend to
not have the same devotion as they feel one of the masses no one means for that to happen but when you are one of say a thousand members who really is going to remember your name or details ... I know for me that is very true of one of the groups I belong to where I feel like one of the masses
...whereas another group I am a member of I feel more a part of the group as it is smaller and I can drop in anytime ..they know my name they know on my 5 disabled kids they know on my family troubles and they support me in so many ways emotionally and with information ..... I spend a lot of time
on that group than the other as I feel truly a member of it .... and I can turn to them at any point and they know who I am at the end of the phone .... and as a group we are close we do lobby and we actually do achieve .... thanks to the members and fellowship involved and fostered .... that
is a real emotional positive in addition to the fact we can set small
objectives and achieve them because people are very involved in this group ...and eager to help ... probably in many groups you get a wider range of outlooks as I said, objectives, aims, opinions, membership types in areas of specialty, specific talents, etc but at what cost ??? I know of two
groups both to do with autism one is rabidly convinced that their outlook and views are the only and correct ones and that not only can autism can be cured like the common cold but it is a direct result of vaccinations anyone who does not follow this credo of thought is very quickly made to
feel not welcome and booted out ... the odd thing is that people suffering
from autism are NOT welcome in this group as it seems to personify all these people want to eradicate .... so to have members like that personifies for them personally the fact autism is not curable because if
you have a member with this very thing it is literally in your face and you cannot avoid the fact autism exists and that a lot of those people are happy with their lives and getting on with living ... the other group tends to be supportive comprising of parents with autistic children and in fact
people with autism themselves .... it is supportive ..offering suggestions
when members ask .... talking sharing ... thinking ...varying thoughts of
views as well which create discussion but never major dissension and flaming or fights but rather shared thoughts resulting in an alteration in ones thoughts to areas you had never till it was raised considered ....
then there is another group I post too and consider myself to be very blessed to be considered within the group as a 'cousin' mentally ill sorta helps as I can identify with what is being said ... in this group are only
members with autism .... the flow of thought is so different from the other groups with such excitement, depth, and quality in every post where it is to me just magical to watch this group which literally just started spring up and gain momentum with such a force over such a short period of time .... now this is a group that for me is 'me' is what I was looking for and is where I can be myself ...where I can share, help if wanted, listen and learn ... the ideas the thoughts the passion of the views is just pure
..just my thoughts or one and a quarter cents worth..... but a bigger group united can sure carry a lot of weight IF their agenda is united.

Julie r in melb

**22. “I know there is a push by one of the major groups to be thought of as the voice of the blind. But I ask, can that be? Do we really want just one group? I don’t. That just isn’t real, isn’t us and isn’t. I as you, look around, is there only one group?

The importance of having more than one group is to fulfill the needs of the many, the many different classes of needs. Look at our society, look at the various special interest groups and know that the blind are people with other non-blind needs too.

Another importance of having more than one group (other have said this too) is that wen there is an issue that is of great importance to us all, we stand together and the numbers carry the day.

The down side is, of having more than one group is that sometimes wen we need to join, we don’t. also, when we publicly disagree, that can give the public the impression that we don’t and possibly can’t agree and work together. Fragmentation is not always a good image.

All in all, just getting people to join any group is good.”

Sherry Cellar (USA)

**23. “Could it be possible that these "national" groups have lost sight of the purpose of establishing groups; to better the lives of those individuals affected with visual impairment of all degrees? National, in quotes because they don't have a presence in my state (Montana) or in other nearby states. Instead, in general, from this distance, they seem to focus on their own agendas and self importance in the groups they represent. I was first diagnosed with r.p. while in Tucson (thank heavens) and they have a wonderful support organization; Tucson Association for the Blind. That is the only reason I know there should be more to life. I met a woman in Tucson, who is with the Federation. We were in a group in a casual setting and in the conversation I evidently said something she disagreed with because she started yelling at me and loudly told me off at length and how it "should" be. That was the first time I 'd heard of Federation for the Blind. Clearly, my initial experience with a Federation member left a lasting impression.
My state, also. does not have support groups of any kind. We are represented by a state agency which provides one counselor, mobility trainer and independent living specialist to oversee many counties and the Indian reservations which number about 13. Consequently, they are spread too thin and individuals are left with minimal input. It would be wonderful to have a support group which provides all those little joys in life like social interaction, counseling, training for new skills including arts, music, recreational activity, computer skills, information on research (or where to find it), transportation resources, and community information in general. This city has about 120,000 people and although our state does not have a large population, that should not influence
provision of support and opportunity. Things that the sighted take for granted but when you lose your sight in mid-life, someone needs to provide you with the map to continue on your way. We have none of that here. So while the "3" fight among themselves, how about sharing some info with me. I doubt there is a real record of the people in this area who have lost their sight. Maybe the doctors will provide that. Most are living in isolation with no idea of technology or job training...because no one has told them its there. My question is, how can I get a group going here that is dependable, provides leadership and counseling where needed and an atmosphere that invites people to step outside and join? A support organization in every sense.
I've already asked the state agency reps and they're too busy doing what they're doing....? I would welcome input from you who are experienced and understand how to begin and grow. Thanks and thank you for your patience as I have gotten off the main track of the discussion here. Support Group is a big priority for me!”

Sheila Andren (Billings, Montana USA)

FROM ME: “Who else is in Montana? I have written her with my thoughts on how to find or to develop a group. How about anyone else?”

**24. “Having multiple groups is a privilege and a blessing. This democratic society is founded in part on encouragement of individual rights, freedom of speech, representative governing bodies, and so on. There are differing needs out here and we need to have our collective voices heard. We all get along well, not on all topics, but when we need to pull together, we do it well. There is no big negative to having more than one group.”

Maxine Wilson (Michigan USA)

**25. "“Well its all about philosophy...isn't it? I do not have a problem with there
being 2 groups to accommodate the needs and interests and aspirations of the
blind...not a problem with 3 or even more . However, if part of the
justification for multi groups is difference of perspective, then that's
fine too. but there is and must be more to it than that . While one can
choose among the different groups based on philosophy and maintain civility
if not respect, the outcome or "fruit" if you will is very important to me.
Not so much what the group says, but does about issues; and also what the
group does and what that says about blind people, blindness, etc. How does
one's philosophy translate into employment, independence and confidence and
a positive attitude about blindness is what I look for. Not just the words
spoken, but how the group's philosophy turns out good legislation, increases
equal opportunity and most of all how the members carry themselves. When I
encounter a member of a group, what they do and don't do and how they do
things tells me about their philosophy and even about the organization.

One other note, I do not hold with the earlier comment about all of the
different groups being a part of one group "the visually impaired". I still
cannot understand why some of us have such a difficult time with the "B
word" and would rather refer to ourselves as "impaired" or "low..." However,
I am now crossing over into another topic and a very sensitive one to some
at that. I hope the slogan "changing what it means to be blind" never comes
to include that kind of political correctness.”
Edwin Kunz (Austin, Texas USA)

**26. I agree with Sue Ellen when she says that both blindness organizations need to work together. I think they need to reunite like they were before
the parting of the ways. Without giving too much away here, I should mention to people who haven't done this yet, to read the book "People of Vision: A
History of the American Council of the Blind." It is available from .
One thing which I've never understood, and to this day I still don't understand, is why the one group says that accepting assistance from fully-sighted
people is to be looked down upon. I'm not saying that blind or visually-impaired people are bad at providing assistance when needed. As a matter of fact
I've known visually-impaired people to give me assistance and it has always been very good. I learned how to use JAWS from somebody who is blind, and he
couldn't have done a better job. This person works at The Hadley School for the Blind. He was very friendly, and very patient with me. Most important of
all he was a JAWS user, and was and still is very knowledgeable. I learned a lot from him. I have on the same token accepted assistance at times from fully-sighted
people and it always worked out very well. The volunteer who dictated articles to me at a former job, while physically disabled, did a wonderful job reading
things off and on the computer screen for me when I didn't have JAWS or Window-Eyes or another screen-reader to rely on. I guess what I am saying is this.
What exactly is the thinking behind those who say that people who are blind or visually-impaired are better at helping others than people who are fully-sighted.
In some situations, such as crossing streets, students would need sighted assistance to ensure everyone's safety. I don't want to step on anyone's toes
necessarily, but this philosophy embraced by the one blindness organization seems to be somewhat flawed.

Jake Joehl, Chicago USA

**27. I totally agree with Ms. Stevens in Response 7. I can't help but wonder how this one blindness organization expects people to succeed in life, if the organization
in question always advocates against accommodations such as paratransit, (however good or bad),audible pedestrian signals, audio-described TV and movies,
and the list goes on. Or, to look at this in a similar way, how do these people expect to "change what it means to be blind," if they won't even allow
for differing views on employment. A person might not be capable of anything other than working in a sheltered workshop due to his or her disability, income,
or any other given scenario could exist. My uncle, who is fully sighted, volunteers his time running a summer employment program for visually-impaired
people in the Seattle area. I was recently told that he is being personally attacked for running this program. Not everybody is the same person, and therefore
a one-size-fits-all approach does not cut it.
The situation in which I find myself regarding employment is very similar. My new VR counselor recently picked me up and we drove to the Epilepsy Foundation
of Greater Chicago to meet with the one and only employment counselor. She said that I would be the first blind client they ever had, if I wanted to go
through that agency for my job search. When I told my VR people about some employment agencies I had found on my own that actually deal with blind people,
they turned a deaf ear and to this day they have never even attempted to find out anything more about these other agencies. So clearly what is good for
one person, just may not and probably will not work for the next person. The same thing is true for people with other disabilities, and for non-disabled

Jake Joehl, Chicago Illinois