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Mr. LEHMAN. Without objection.
Mr. GASHEL. Many of us who are blind use the services of Recording for the Blind. As a matter of fact, many members of the National Federation of the Blind have been the happy beneficiaries of the services provided by this fine agency, Recording for the Blind.
I, myself, as a college student, have used the services of Recording for the Blind and would certainly second everything Mr. Krents has said about the good work of the organization.
For many blind persons, children, students, adults, or senior citizens, immediate access to the great world of books remains a dream, a goal to be reached
We are giving in the National Federation of the Blind tremendous increased priority to trying to find ways of fulfilling this need.
During last spring, when we had the round of appropriations for legislative matters, I appeared in both the House and the Senate to support vigorously appropriations, additional appropriations, for the Library of Congress, the Division of the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and this year that division got its largest single budget increase, nearly $4 million over its fiscal 1975 appropriation. This we are very pleased about.
The National Federation of the Blind has recently created a committee to deal with the problems of library services which we face. The chairman of this committee is Mrs. Florence Grannis. Mrs. Grannis is director of the largest library for the blind in the entire world and is well-known by all librarians in the field of work with the blind for her advocacy on the part of consumers.
What we believe is simply this: We believe each and every blind person should have available to him library services which are at least as good as that which he could get if he were sighted and lived in a good library area.
As I have indicated, this is not yet a reality, but we are going to make it so, if we can.
Certainly, we are advocates for increased resources devoted to libraries, and we are also cognizant of the fact that the scarce resources devoted to libraries and recording services must be spent in the most cost effective manner possible.
Any unnecessary expenditures, any frivolous expenses, any wastage whatsoever, must be cut from the budget.
Mr. Chairman, today we are a bit concerned with some of the work of Recording for the Blind from that standpoint. Let me expand on that. While we reognize the need of Recording for the Blind, for adequate financing, and while we ourselves as blind people are the beneficiaries of Recording for the Blind's worthwhile services, our support for financing for Recording for the Blind as set forth in H.R. 10999 is of some necessity conditional,
RFB, we feel, if funded by the legislation, must agree to allocate its financial resources entirely to meeting the reading needs of the blind; that is, to putting books in the hands of the blind readers.
Specifically, Mr. Chairman, we object to continued expenditures on the part of RFB for accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind & Visually Handicapped, usually referred to by the blind as NAC.
We object to this because of a number of things, primarily because of the serious weaknesses within the accreditation body, NÄC itself. NAC has also served, in our judgment, as a force for maintaining traditionalism and a force for stifling change and improvement in the field of work with the blind.
NAC, in its operations, has failed to keep pace with the efforts of the subcommittee and of the Congress to insure that handicapped individuals will have all the rights and privileges available to sighted persons and the nonhandicapped in this society.
Let me give you just a couple examples of what I am talking about.
Let us take the field of education, which is a field over which this committee maintains oversight and jurisdiction.
The National Accreditation Council in 1965 prepared standards to deal with approval of educational services to blind children and youth attending residential secondary schools for the blind. The standards which were developed by NAC in 1965 are the standards which are still existent and still applied to the schools now nearly 11 years later.
Mr. Chairman, you and the members of this subcommittee know from a firsthand experience the tremendous changes which have occurred in the field of education of the handicapped because you all wrote a lot of those changes in this subcommittee.
Tremendous changes have occurred, but one Office of Education observer who recently observed NAC, in its onsight inspection process, has indicated in his findings that the NAC onsight review team at Oklahoma School for the Blind evidenced no knowledge whatsoever of the title VI (b), the Education of Handicapped Act amendments of 1974, at the time, until the passage of Public Law 94-142, the most significant legislation affecting education of the handicapped.
What we are saying is that the standards themselves are out of date. Let's move specifically to library services and the standards which apply to an organization such as Recording for the Blind.
Here, too, in the area of library srevices, the National Accreditation Council standards are woefully out of date. The southern librarians, in a conference held last spring, passed a resolution which I have attached to my statement, Mr. Chairman, and ask that it be printed as an attachment.
Mr. LEHMAN. Without objection, it will be included. Mr. GASILEL. Thank you. The resolution reads, in part: We do not feel that the existing NAC standards are relevant, to present day library services, which has advanced greatly since NAC standards were published about ten years ago.
Incidentally, Mr. Chairman, the resolution was passed without a dissenting vote.
It is, then, in our judgment that it is not in the best interests of the blind who get the service from organizations such as Recording for the Blind, for organizations such as Recording for the Blind to be accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped.
The NAC agencies, of which there are now 58, are almost without exception among the worst of the lot and, incidentally, Recording for the Blind is an exception.
NAC today is an accreditation body which is discredited and it tends to cast a shadow on the good work and good name of other organizations with which it is affiliated.
Mr. Chairman, Recording for the Blind is itself considering a withdrawal from the National Accreditation Council. At its May board meeting, the issue was discussed. Correspondence has ensued, which I am attaching to my statement and ask that it also be included in the record.
I would like to read to you the final paragraph from a letter from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, president of the National Federation of the Blind, which states very eloquently, I think our specific position with regard to NAC and Recording for the Blind.
He says, and I quote:
The blind of the Nation wish Recording for the Blind well and we think highly of its work, but we also wish it to get out of NAC since NAC does damage to the lives of blind people. Surely this is not an unreasonable attitude or one which is difficult to understand. You have the data and the evidence, and we know that you have it. Further, you know that we know that you have it.
Therefore, we await your decision, and we hope that you will work with us, not against us. After all, your avowed purpose is to help the blind, not fight us.
Mr. Chairman, therefore, today we have come to express our support for H.R. 10999 subject to an amendment being added. I would be pleased at a later time to work out the specific language of the amendment which we propose, but let me say that the intent of this amendment would be to say something like this:
During the period of Federal financial assistance, under this act, no funds from Recording for the Blind may be allocated to the purposes of the payment of dues, purchase of materials, or for meeting the expenses of onsight reviews, or for any other activities or purposes in connection with the accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. This is consistent with the cost effective plea, which I made to you in the early part of my statement.
We don't believe that any financial benefit whatsoever accrues to Recording for the Blind by its affiliation with NAS. In fact, we believe that this affiliation harms Recording for the Blind. Also, this is consistent with a growing trend in the field of work with the blind for agencies and organizations to withhold their financial support from NAC.
Recently, the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, the State directors of all programs serving the blind in rehabilitation, withheld its payment of annual dues pending reforms by NAC.
It has also been joined by several other organizations which have within the past year withdrawn only to have been added. Incidentally, this position is also consistent with the position taken by some persons from Recording for the Blind.
Both of the witnesses who join me here at the table this morning have indicated to one degree or another their support for our amendment, Mr. Chairman.
Specifically, Mr. Krents has indicated his support and has indicated his desire and commitment to see to it that RFB should get out of NAC.
Specifically, also, Mr. Carothers has stated to me before witnesses that the real problem is for RFB to find a graceful way to get out of NAC and that if the board were to make the decision again today it would probably have made a different decision than it did 5 years ago.
I would hope, then, therefore, and we have had discussions this morning and I would believe that we can arrive at an amendment which will be agreeable to all parties concerned. We have indicated to Recording for the Blind representatives that if such an amendment is adopted, we can give our unqualified and total and vigorous support for H.R. 10999, but failing such an amendment, we cannot in good conscience support this bill.
Mr. Chairman, I would hope that this makes clear our position and general support for the efforts of Recording for the Blind to upgrade its services, and we stand ready to answer any questions you
Thank you very much. .
PREPARED STATEMENT OF JAMES GASHEL, CHIEF, WASHINGTON OFFICE OF THE
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Mr. Chairman, my name is James Gashel, and my address is Suite 212, Dupont Circle Building, 1346 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. I serve as Chief of the Washington Office of the National Federation of the Blind.
We are, as you know, a membership organization of blind persons who come from all walks of life. Our interest is a consumer interest, since we are the consumers of services for the blind. In 1940 the National Federation of the Blind was organized to provide a vehicle through which the blind may speak for theinselves. Our publication, The Braille Monitor, says on its cover page: "The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blindit is the blind speaking for themselves.”
Mr. Chairman, we are particularly pleased to be here today to discuss with you and the subcommittee the request of Recording for the Blind for an authori. zation of federal funding to develop and further its various recording services. Many of the members of our Federation, especially those who are professionals or those who are studying at the university level, are very familiar with the work of Recording for the Blind and have used the textbooks it prepares on request. Without question, this is an important services. For any blind person-child, student, adult, or senior citizen-immediate access to the great world of books still remains a dream , a goal to be reached.
Our first hand experience with the too often inadequate library services available to the blind has caused us to give priority to this critical area of concern. Accordingly, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan (President of the National Federation of the Blind) has established a national committee on library services for the blind, appointing as its chairman Mrs. Florence Grannis. Mrs. Grannis is recognized by all as the foremost librarian in this field, and she currently directs the largest library for the blind in the entire world. She is an outspoken advocate for policies and programs which will bring library services for the blind into line with those provided by public and university libraries for persons with sight. It has always been our position that each and every blind person should have available library service which is at least as good as that which he would have if he were sighted and lived in a good library area.
Particularly we recognize the necessity for allocating increased resources (financial and otherwise) to the task of placing more and better books into the hands of blind individuals. To accomplish this end we have attempted to assist the Library of Congress, Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, in obtaining funding and establishing priorities. In this effort we have repeatedly argued that the scarce resources must be spent in the most cost effective mannerwe simply cannot afford even the slightest waste. The emphasis, Mr. Chairman, must be on placing books into the hands of readers, and any unnecessary or frivolous expenditures must be discontinued at once.
Mr. Chairman, in this regard, we are frankly concerned about the activities of Recording for the Blind, Inc. While we recognize its need for adequate financing, and while we are the beneficiaries of its worthwhile services, our support for federal financial assistance for Recording for the Blind is of necessity conditional. If such assistance is provided, Mr. Chairman, we who use the services of Recording for the Blind, Inc., feel that R.F.B. must agree to allocate its financial resources entirely to meeting the reading needs of the blind. We specifically object to any expenditures on the part of R.F.B. for accreditation by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC). Recording for the Blind, Inc., is currently one of the NAC accredited members.
Volumes have been written documenting the extent to which NAC approves of and perpetuates the most inadequate services for the blind. Rather than serving as a force for upgrading and advancing these programs, NAC has been the stepchild of the status quo in this field. As such it has attempted to offer legitimacy to programs and policies which are not in keeping with the new effort of the Congress to ensure that handicapped individuals will have all of the rights and privileges available to others in our society.
A specific example of NAC's total disregard for the best interests of the blind, themselves, is its failure to update the standards it uses to accredit residential secondary schools for the blind. As with most of its standards in other areas, NAC's educational services standards were developed over ten years ago. Mr. Chairman, you and the members of this subcommittee know, firsthand, the tremendous changes which have occurred in federal legislation to assist in educating the handicapped. You know this because you and this subcommittee authored this landmark legislation. Even so, the standards of the National Accreditation Council have failed to recognize your efforts and the mandate of this Congress. In fact, an observer from the Office of Education who recently reviewed NAC's accreditation process found that not one member of a NAC on-site review team assigned to the Oklahoma School for the Blind had ever heard of Title VI B—the Education of the Handicapped Act amendments of 1974, at that time (until the passage of PL 94–142), the most significant piece of federal legislation in this field.
NAC's standards in other areas are similarly outmoded. The standards on library services for the blind are among the most inadequate. They are so much so that many librarians for the blind and physically handicapped have themselves called attention to the problem. Librarians for the blind from the southern states recently met and passed a resolution (copy attached) which reads in part : "We do not feel that the existing NAC standards are relevant to present day library service, which has advanced greatly since NAC standards were published about ten years ago." Incidentally, the resolution was adopted without a dissenting vote.
Under these circumstances we do not believe that it is in the best interest of blind students for the educational institutions, including libraries and recording services, which serve them to be accredited by NAC. In our judgment, the fiftyeight agencies which have applied for and been accredited by NAC are, almost without exception, among the worst of the lot. The National Accreditation Council as an accrediting body is, itself, discredited, and this tends to cast a shadow on the good name and reputation of any agency which associates itself with NAC. Nearly two years ago only fifty-six agencies had chosen to publicly identify with NAC in an accredited status. Today that number has only grown by two, while some have withdrawn and others are considering it.
One of these agencies considering a withdrawal from NAC accreditation is, in fact, Recording for the Blind. Mr. Chairman, I am attaching to this statement correspondence between the President of R.F.B.'s Board of Directors (Mr. John W. Castles III), and Dr. Kenneth Jernigan (President of the National Federation of the Blind), and I ask that it accompany my statement in the record. In his letter of May 23, 1975, Mr. Castles makes clear that Recording for the Blind, Inc., is undertaking an evaluation of its relationship with NAC. In his response, Dr. Jernigan states that “The blind of the Nation wish Recording for the Blind well and think highly of its work, but we also wish it to get out of NAC since NAC does damage to the lives of the blind. Surely this is not an unreasonable attitude, or one that is difficult to understand. You have the data and the evidence, and we know that you have it. Further, you know that we know that you have it. Therefore, we await your decision and hope that you will work