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By Sanford Alexander

The article appearing in the Spring KABVI News dealing with discussion regarding consideration of a name change for KABVI has prompted me to write this letter to point out several related issues that emerge from the name issue.

As was pointed out in the article, I raised strong opposition at the time when Dianne Hemphill, Administrator of the Topeka Center for the Blind, announced at an Advisory Committee meeting that the organization's name was being changed to Kansas Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. It was clear to me at the time that this was being done in an attempt to create confusion and I listed several important areas where this could have serious negative consequences for KABVI. I recommended that the State agency repeal its action but Dianne was firm in her position that it was being done the way she wanted and there was no room for compromise or reconsideration.

As we have been dealing with more recent examples of Ms. Hemphill's headstrong management style, which makes a cattle stampede look tame, this earlier episode can be instructive.

First of all, it is an earlier example of her executing a run around the Advisory Committee. She knew full well what she was doing and that coming to the Committee prior to executing the name change would produce strong opposition that might have dissuaded her superiors from allowing her to proceed. She came to the meeting with a done deal that upper management determined would be too costly to reverse.

In the present, the issue is different but the tactic is identical. On August 27, 2005, Ms. Hemphill did not come to the Advisory Committee to solicit input regarding to what degree we might support some elements of NFB philosophy being introduced into the Center's program; rather, she pronounced that starting on September 8, 2005, mandatory blindfold training would be the practice of the Center. She also attempted to make it appear that the Advisory Committee was aware of her actions and approved of them through the manner in which the issue was presented in meeting minutes that the Committee has subsequently rejected on two occasions. She also worked behind the Committee's back by presenting the program to SRS management prior to discussing it with the Committee, enlisting SRS support for the program without their having the benefit of knowing what the professional and consumer community thought about it.

Ms. Hemphill was wrong about the name change issue and she is wrong now.

With respect to the discussion in the article, I must point out several things. First of all, the damage is already done and corrective steps still need to be taken. As was true then, there are two tracks: either the KABVI must change its name or the KSBVI must change its.

History and justice would dictate the latter. If KABVI changes its name to KCBVI, little is accomplished: KCBVI and KSBVI are no less separated than KSBVI and KABVI. The argument regarding inclusion of the visually impaired, in my opinion, is weak. The organization's affiliation with the American Council of the Blind naturally includes individuals with low vision as several of ACB's interest groups are specifically targeted to this population. I propose consideration of the ACB of Kansas as the strongest choice if the organization, is forced to be the party who must move off the dime. In addition, I would suggest, prior to undertaking a process that will cause confusion, cost money and create a new public relations challenge, that efforts be made to approach SRS leadership with a request that their earlier ill-advised action be reversed.

This would result in the necessity of KSBVI changing its name to something else. Returning to Kansas Services for the Blind seems the most logical and raises several interesting points of its own.

The Rehabilitation Act defines the programs covered under Section 110 and establishes eligibility for them. Individuals with vision of 20/60 or less are eligible for KSB services. It is ironic that these individuals, eligible under Federal regulations, are being excluded from or subjected to mandatory blindfold programming that does not meet their legitimate needs. If Ms. Hemphill believed that mandatory blindfold training was the ultimate goal of her program, and there are reasons to believe she did, then her move to change the Center's name could have been for no other reason than to create confusion for KABVI. It would be hard to believe, given recent developments, that it was an effort on her part to make the program more inclusive! To be consistent, she would have logically wanted to retain the former name since it did not make a point of mentioning individuals with low vision, as her changed name does.

In conclusion, the issue of organizational names gives us great insight into the intentions of Ms. Hemphill and underscores the areas in which she is bucking Federal regulations in a fashion that may well be discriminatory under the provision of the Rehabilitation Act. The problem was caused by Ms. Hemphill and I believe the solution should come from action on her side of the equation, if not directly from her, then from those responsible for her actions.


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