Volume 43 Spring, 2000 No. 1
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Published Quarterly by
The Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc.
P.O. Box 292
Topeka, Kansas 66601
An Affiliate of The American Council of the Blind
Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc.
P.O. Box 292
Topeka KS 66601
KANSAS ASSOCIATION FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED
Corporate Office, 924 S. Kansas Avenue,
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Telephone: 785-235-8990 or in Kansas only 1-800-799-1499
The purpose of the K.A.B.V.I. NEWS, the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc., is to promote the general welfare of the blind in Kansas.
K.A.B.V.I news shall reflect the philosophy and policies of the Association, report the activities of its members and include pertinent articles regarding visual impairment.
Any articles for publication should be forwarded to the editor by January 15, April 15, July 15 and October 15 of each year.
Editorial staff reserves the right to edit submitted materials.
EDITOR, Nancy Johnson
714 SW Wayne Avenue
Topeka KS 66606-1753
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, GraceAnn Heineger
1205 SW 29th Street #14G
Topeka KS 66611-1200
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD & PRESIDENT, Sanford J. Alexander, III
5321 Plaza Lane
Wichita KS 67208
SEND ADDRESS CHANGES TO:
Barbara Alexander, Membership Secretary
5321 Plaza Lane
Wichita KS 67208
PUBLICATION POLICY: Send us your news, views, articles and features. Materials in braille, on tape, on computer disk (Word Perfect 5.1 or ASCII) or print will be considered. Typewritten materials must be double spaced. When quoting from other published material, please include dates and sources. Unsigned material will not be considered for publication. If you send a stamped, self- addressed envelope, we will return original materials. Thank you for your cooperation.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE By Sanford Alexander
NOTIONS By Nancy Johnson
ONE PERSPECTIVE: An Internet Exchange
LETTER TO EDITORS GETS BROAD EXPOSURE by David Schwinn, Tom Roth,
and Michael Byington
REPORT FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS by Nancy Johnson
A LETTER TO A LEGISLATOR by Mike Rusk
A LETTER TO SENATOR KERR by Sanford J. Alexander, III
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE by Michael Byington
IS CYBERSPACE A "PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION?" By Carl S. Kaplan
CALLING FOR AWARDS NOMINATIONS by Joyce Lewis, Chair, Awards Committee
BITS AND PIECES
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL By Barbara Alexander, Membership Secretary
By Sanford J. Alexander, III
The year has rolled over and whether you consider it to be the
last year of the 20th century or the first of the New Millennium,
it will certainly be filled with excitement and challenges for
blind Kansans. At the Membership Luncheon, held during last year's
KABVI convention, I reported that the organization has achieved
several milestones for which we have striven for many years.
The list has grown since that report. We now have an
administrative office, a local telephone number and an 800 (toll
free) telephone number for Kansas. These have helped people
looking for information about blindness find us. We have purchased
our first complete accessible computer system, including a braille
embosser, giving us the ability to provide materials in large
print, braille and computer disk. We now own the domain site
address www.kabvi.org and will, by the time you read this, have our
web page on the Internet. This will open many new and exciting
avenues for educating the public, supporting each other and making
known our needs as blind and visually impaired Kansans.
On the legislative front, we have seen our hopes for improving
services to blind people take a major step forward with HB 2534,
the Commission for the Blind Bill. We have experienced genuine,
continued cooperation with the National Federation of the Blind of
Kansas to move this important issue forward. We have raised our
concerns as pedestrians and proposed several steps that can be
taken to improve safety for not only blind pedestrians but for all
who do not have the privilege, luxury or opportunity to drive
These achievements are exciting and we should rightfully feel
proud of what we have accomplished. In the tradition of those who
founded KABVI, we have once again demonstrated that the banding
together of blind and visually impaired individuals with common
needs and purposes is the most effective vehicle for voicing and
for achieving our common goals. We must, however, guard against
the euphoria our successes can produce and not allow ourselves to
be lulled into a state of complacency.
What lies ahead of us, if we are not to lose all of the gains
we are celebrating, is a road filled with much hard work and one
requiring continual vigilance. It has not been a dawning of an age
of recognition by any means. We are still looked upon with pity by
many and there are far too many who would be custodial and advocate
that it is easier and less expensive to take care of us than to
provide us with the tools of independence. The forces that fail to
understand or appreciate the necessity for specialized, categorical
services for the blind have not withdrawn from the battlefield.
Those who would rather tell us what we need and how much it should
cost are still quite near by. Many of us are getting slowed down
by age and its many attributes while the youth among us are still
being persuaded that they don't need to participate in and
contribute to the blindness system.
Some of these forces have directed KABVI down the road of
developing more service-related programming than we have
traditionally done. We will be sponsoring one day accessible
computer workshops throughout the Spring, designed to remove some
of the mystery of the computer so more of our blind community can
enjoy the benefits this new technology opens for us. We are able
to build computer systems and provide training in their use which
will ensure that our needs are not lost in a variety of budgetary,
philosophical or technical quagmires.
We will be looking for increased membership in order to hear
from as many as possible and to be able to share the work burden
more equitably. The efforts of our local affiliates to keep
membership renewal, retention and recruitment as a major focus of
their efforts is paramount, as is the necessity of developing a
structure for local groups around the state to be able to form and
join the efforts of KaBVI.
From my perspective, this is one of the most incredible
moments in the history of the blind and visually impaired. We have
tools which, but a few years ago, were not even dreamed of being
possible. We have needs that have emerged with the change of our
society from an industrial to an information structure. We have
challenges that have shifted with the pressure brought about by
governmental downsizing and a general pressure for reduced
taxation. We have more to gain and more to lose than any preceding
generation of blind and visually impaired persons. It's all out
there on the table and what we do with and about it is completely
up to each one of us.
by Nancy Johnson
When someone asks me, "Will you do this job?" I ask what the
job involves. I think about promises I've made and the time
they'll require of me. Then I decide whether or not to accept the
responsibility. I COMMIT my time and effort to that specific job
or I say, "No, thank you."
I don't understand vacillation. "Gee, that sounds
interesting, but ..." "I can do it if ..." "Let me think about
it. Ask me again next week and maybe I will." "If you do this,
then I'll do that. Don't consider my needs. You make your
To commit means to obligate, to pledge or to promise. It
means to do, to execute or to accomplish. From these words I infer
an attitude of commitment is an attitude of responsibility. The
committed person or organization assigns time and resources to
discharge its duties or to accomplish its goals.
A duty is not discharged through delegation unless the goal is
to see how many people can have the responsibility passed to them.
A goal is not accomplished by traveling in a circle around a single
position unless the goal is either to travel in a circle or to go
The Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
(KABVI) is committed to making certain Kansans with blindness and
visual impairment have available the services and training
necessary to achieve and maintain maximum independence and
employability. This means services needed to address the specific
areas impacted by loss of vision. KABVI understands the impact of
vision loss because it is an organization comprised of individuals
with that disability. Many have achieved their goals as a direct
result of the services they are now fighting to save.
When I read and hear news of what the State of Kansas is doing
to assure that blind and visually impaired Kansans continue to be
properly served, I have to wonder whether the goal is to see how
many people can have the responsibility passed to them, to travel
in a circle or to go nowhere fast.
With the recent announcement of the closing of Kansas
Industries for the Blind and SRS statement of commitment to fulfill
the intent and letter of the law, I pray for the sake of the
workers involved, their commitment is true and strong! Fore the
sake of the futures of Kansans who will lose their eyesight in
coming years, I pray SRS is committed to a strong facility based
program equivalent or better than that now housed at the fifty-
year-old Rehabilitation Center for the Blind! What we have may be
barely anything - but that is better than next-to-nothing or
nothing at all.
The editor has chosen to devote this issue of the newsletter
totally to the scary changes taking place in the Kansas Division of
Services for the Blind and KABVI's efforts to save services.
Perhaps by summer we'll see some direction in all this. Right now
it's imperative that KABVI members and all other interested persons
be well informed and can take immediate action as needed. The
reading isn't easy - BUT IT'S IMPORTANT! If you want information
about the latest situation, call 785-235-8990 or in Kansas only 1-
(editor's note: This was taken from an Internet exchange and,
although quite funny, does make some interesting observations.)
After experiencing outrage at everything from my credit
union's violation of ADA, to personal issues, to the stupidity of
our politicians, I have decided that rather than fighting about
silly things like NFB v. ACB, we need a blind militia. Although it
is highly unlikely that we'd hurt anyone, except at close range,
and unless we allowed our ranks to include high partials, we would
certainly put the fear of God into American society. Now, we would
not want to espouse any particular political agenda. In fact, we
would do well to call ourselves the Rainbow Coalition of
Militiadom. Moreover, in keeping with blindness-related
traditions, our weapons should not contain bullets, but rather
styluses. This would also have the effect of forging a
relationship with AFB and other suppliers of such projectiles.
Perhaps, in keeping with our nonpartisan nature, we
should hire ourselves out to the presidential candidate offering
the greatest remuneration for our services.
I think guide dog users would play an especially important
role in our militia, since I am unaware of any other militia that
would have a highly trained canine component. Jeff
So, you have had it up to here, eh, Jeff? And you just ain't
gonna take it anymore? You feel that a little bit of good ol'
fashion pioneer, frontier, California self-help vigilantism might
just be the recipe for us outraged blind folks, huh? Go for it!
Thomas Jefferson believed that the common citizenry should have the
right to bear arms so that they could take up those arms in
revolution against the established government every twenty years or
so as the ultimate way of keeping our elected officials honest, and
on the straight and narrow ethically. Best wishes, Charlie
LETTER TO EDITORS GETS BROAD EXPOSURE
by David Schwinn, Tom Roth, and Michael Byington
The following is a letter sent to 60 press outlets in Kansas.
It has been published by at least seven of them to date.
"BLIND SERVICES MOVE SQUANDERS
December 27, 1999
To the Editor:
Governor Graves; Secretary Schalansky, Kansas Department of
Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS); and Secretary Stanley,
Kansas Department of Administration, are making some decisions,
which defy logic, concerning the Kansas Division of Services for
the Blind. Their decisions are squandering taxpayers' money. Some
questions about what is happening behind the scenes need to be
The buildings housing State Services for the Blind in Kansas
are located at 6th and Mac Vicar on the corner of the Topeka State
Hospital grounds. The Legislature has defined these buildings as
being a part of Topeka State Hospital.
The Governor and Secretary Stanley propose to sell the
buildings at 6th and Mac Vicar to a rather obscure developer of
food vending operations called MRV Associates. They say MRV has
offered a fair market price, and State Budget Director Gossen has
said that such a price is $750,000.00. SRS officials originally
said that they were going to close Services for the Blind programs
as we know them and scatter the services throughout many State area
offices. Advocates for blind Kansans objected and convinced the
1999 Kansas Legislature to mandate that at least a part of the
programming currently located at 6th and Mac Vicar remain
operational. Estimates to move even that part of the programming
are running at about one and a half million dollars.
The current Services for the Blind facilities have had over
one and one quarter million spent on them over the past five years
to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to
upgrade wiring for computers. Thus, in the interest of saving
money for the tax payers at a time of budget shortfalls, Graves,
Schalansky, and Stanley are proposing to spend around three million
dollars in order to make $750,000.00. We wonder who MRV
Associates really are. They must be pretty powerful to impact the
way State officials do math to such an extent.
The current facilities are too small and should be expanded,
but the expansion needed would not cost any three million dollars,
or even a million and a half, if the facilities would just be left
where they are!
Graves, Schalansky, and Stanley are also contemplating closing
Kansas Industries for the Blind (KIB) which is part of the 6th and
Mac Vicar complex. Over the past several years, KIB has paid for
itself and cost Kansas taxpayers nothing, but its closure could put
24 people out of work, many of whom are multiply disabled blind.
Again, the math defies logic, and the human cost of
counterproductive decisions is great.
Also, because State officials put off working on the blind
services issues, they are now facing a June, 2000 deadline to
vacate current buildings, and nothing is decided about where
programs will be going. This means that probably two moves, a
temporary one and a permanent one, will have to be made if the
facilities are to be re-located.
The SRS officials recently assigned to work with the
re-location or closure of blind services have been working
cooperatively with the blindness community, but they do not have
the authority to decide that the move is ill conceived and should
not be done. They can not tell us so, but deep down,
they must realize that their bosses are acting irresponsibly.
The solution is simple. Sell the rest of Topeka State
Hospital, but leave the Blind Services operations where they have
been for the past 50 years. Provide needed expansions, and leave
KIB open. We are just three blind citizens, seen by the Executive
branch of Kansas Government as being about as significant as three
blind mice, but we have done our homework. We can prove that our
figures are correct and that the State's re-location plans for
blind services are bilking blind people and Kansas taxpayers in
order to support private developers. We wonder who is really
pulling the strings.
Michael Byington, Registered Kansas Lobbyist, 909 S. W.
College Ave, Topeka 66606, (785) 640-4500
David Schwinn, Consumer Representative, KIB, 614 S. W. Wayne.
Topeka 66606 (785) 235-0870
Tom Roth, Board Member, Kansas Association for the Blind and
Visually Impaired, 2101 S. W. Potomac, #7, Topeka 66611, (785)
KIB MAY BE CLOSING! RCB MAY LOSE DORMITORY AND MORE!
by Michael Byington
So much is happening with the future of blind services in
Kansas, it is hard to tell the entire story in a way that allows
the reader to follow all of the intricacies. What makes it harder
is that the move to dismantle the Kansas Division of Services for
the Blind is progressing so fast, much of it may have already
happened by the time you read this. Then again, we may have won
some points by then and things may not be as dismantled as State
At this writing, the Kansas Department of Social and
Rehabilitation Services (SRS) has announced it will close Kansas
Industries for the Blind (KIB) May 1, 2000. The dormitory program
of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind (RCB) will also be
closed and the training part of the program will be moved into a
roughly 9,000 square foot area, the location of which is yet to be
determined. All these changes are supposed to happen sometime
between May and June, 2000. These announcements have all been made
in writing with a press release to the same effect issued by SRS on
KABVI opposes all of these moves. The SRS press release was
filled with inaccuracies and incomplete information. On February
7, KABVI distributed widely to press outlets a press release
rebutting the SRS press statement. The press release follows.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Sanford Alexander, (316) 651-6349
Michael Byington, (785) 640-4500 or (785) 233-3839
BLIND ADVOCATES EXPRESS ANGER AT SRS ANNOUNCEMENT
Blind Kansans are expressing anger at decisions made by SRS
which will impact the lives and future services for Kansans with
On February 3rd, SRS Secretary Janet Schalansky announced that
Kansas Industries for the Blind (KIB) will be closed as of May 1,
2000, and other blind services located on the old Topeka Hospital
campus will be closed or downsized.
"Secretary Schalansky's press release is filled with
inaccuracies and incomplete information," said Sanford Alexander,
President, Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
"Schalansky's plans are not program improvements as she
claims. They will make programs ineffective. The residential unit
she plans to close is operating at 25% capacity because the State
Blind Services field program is failing to identify, recruit, and
refer people. The numbers of blind Kansans who need the services
are actually on the increase. SRS has never understood how KIB
helps blind workers gain skills so they can then either choose to
continue working at KIB or transfer to other jobs in State
employment or in the community. KIB is still very much needed and
should not close," Alexander said.
Michael Byington is Director of Governmental Affairs for
Envision, a not-for-profit services provider to blind Kansans.
According to Byington, there is some question as to whether SRS is
meeting the intent of Legislation which passed last year. The
Legislation says that if SRS moves Services for the Blind, they
have to provide facilities of equivalent usefulness or better.
"The law which passed also says that if they close KIB, they have
to make suitable arrangements including similar wages and benefits
for all KIB workers. I do not think the SRS plans meet these
provisions. I have never seen blind consumers so angry at the State
agency. If SRS goes through with their current plans, I imagine one
or both of the consumer groups will take legal action alleging that
the intent of law is not met," Byington said.
Byington said that there are other alternatives. "The
developer who has the option on the parts of Topeka State hospital
which adjoin the Blind services campus has told me they would be
willing to work with SRS on re-locating the blind services
programs, including KIB, to equivalent buildings which are nearby.
SRS, however, is so far refusing to talk with the developer or the
blindness community about alternative solutions. They talk at us,
but they do not consider our suggestions," Byington said."
The following paragraphs offer excerpts from two documents I
prepared in the past few weeks for advocates and legislators
concerning the plans of the State for KIB and the RCB. I wrote the
first of these documents just before SRS released the announcement
of the closing and downsizing, but after we were pretty sure that
such an announcement was forthcoming. The second document was
written immediately following the release of information from SRS
verifying our suspicions. Thanks to Lucille Parli, a member of the
KABVI Legislative Committee, and some Envision staff, both
documents were given to all 165 of the Kansas Legislators as well
as to some key Department of SRS and Department of Administration
Ellipses indicate omission or repetition of information which
most KABVI members already know. Summaries of some original
material are included. I want to thank Sanford Alexander, KABVI
President; Susan Stanzel, National Federation of the Blind of
Kansas (NFBK) President; Former Representative Richard Edlund, NFBK
Vice President; and David Schwinn, KIB Worker Representative, for
help in pulling together the information contained herein.
. . . In several pieces of Legislation adopted over the past
four Legislative sessions, the Kansas Legislature has defined the
Topeka State Hospital grounds as including the Kansas Division of
Services for the Blind buildings located on the northwest corner of
6th and Mac Vicar. . . This means that the blind services programs
will have to leave the corner of 6th and Mac Vicar as Topeka State
Hospital parcels of land are sold. The Kansas Division of Services
for the Blind has an eviction notice to be off of the property by
June of 2000.
SRS originally proposed to "re-invent" the blind services
operations. The blindness community rather quickly discovered that
this "re-invention" meant plans to scatter a thin veneer of
blindness services throughout SRS area offices and to essentially
not have a comprehensive rehabilitation facility for blind Kansans.
It was also announced, in writing, by former SRS Commissioner of
Rehabilitation Services, Joyce Cussimanio, that "Kansas Industries
for the Blind" would be closed." This would mean the loss of 24
jobs in Topeka, and a majority of the jobs in question are filled
by multiply disabled blind people. Kansas Industries for the Blind
has operated on a break even basis for the past five years. The
program costs the tax payers nothing, but it was slated for closure
essentially because Governor Graves has said he does not want to
bother with it any more.
A Future Design Team for Blind Services in Kansas was convened
by former Commissioner Cussimanio and met throughout 1999. SRS
officials, leaders of blindness consumer groups, and professionals
in the private, not for profit sector who serve the blind were
included among the membership of this group, but from the
beginning, and for the first several meetings, the agenda was set
totally by SRS. Only presentations about breaking up the existing
services and how this might be done were scheduled. Consumers
were absolutely prevented from talking about legislative advocacy
efforts or issues relating to maintaining any type of facility
based services to assist blind Kansans.
Blindness consumers and advocates thus pretty well gave up on
the future design team process because it was quite clearly a sham
intended to keep blindness advocates occupied while SRS made plans
to dismantle a fifty year history of categorically delivered,
facility based, blindness services. This sham, however, was
unsuccessful. Blindness consumers went to the 1999 Kansas
Legislature and explained that they were only attempting to
maintain the level of services to which blind citizens of Kansas
have been accustomed. If the programs have to be moved to a new
location, they explained that they felt some modest expansions are
in order, but most of these would be to restore services which had
at one time been available, and which have been cut because of a
lack of room in the facilities at 6th and Mac Vicar. The main
point was that a coalition of blindness advocates did not feel that
the re-invention proposals of SRS would work, and they wanted to
maintain the services which currently exist. A majority, in fact a
unanimous majority, of the Legislators in Kansas thought the
requests of the coalition of blindness citizens were reasonable.
The 1999 Legislature thus adopted the following Legislation via
House Bill 2548.
"LEGISLATION ADOPTED BY THE 1999 SESSION OF THE KANSAS LEGISLATURE
RELEVANT TO THE KANSAS DIVISION OF SERVICES FOR THE BLIND:
Chapter 75.--STATE DEPARTMENTS; PUBLIC OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES
Article 37.--DEPARTMENT OF ADMINISTRATION
75-37,123 (4) (d) If that portion of the Topeka state
hospital campus which includes the division of services for the
blind is sold or otherwise becomes unavailable for its current use,
ample time shall be allowed for the division of services for the
blind to acquire replacement facilities of equal or better
usefulness for services to the blind. If the Kansas industries for
the blind must be closed as a part of the sale of Topeka state
hospital property, the Kansas industries for the blind shall not be
closed until suitable alternatives, including similar wages and
benefits, for persons employed by Kansas industries for the blind
have been arranged."
Former Secretary of SRS, Rochelle Chronister, was perturbed
concerning the adoption of this Legislation. She told this author
in the hall of the Capitol, "I am not pleased. I do not like your
legislation. It takes too much flexibility away from me."
To the credit of many SRS officials, however, the timber of
the Future Design Team for Blind Services in Kansas changed
markedly after the adoption of the legislation. The meetings
through August 1999 led to the development of a viable plan
concerning how services based on both a facility based, categorical
structure as well as community based models, could be developed and
maintained. Overall, services were not just to be maintained,
they were to be improved.
The Design team never, however, was able to agree concerning
Kansas Industries for the Blind. SRS officials continued to state
that they felt that the facility should close. The blindness
consumers and not for profit representatives continued to State
that the facility serves a needed purpose and should continue to
A full copy of the Future Design Team report can be obtained
from Laura Howard, Chief of Staff, office of the Secretary, SRS.
As this report was concluded, however, virtually all personnel in
charge of SRS programs changed. Commissioner Cussimanio was
removed from her position, and Dennis Rogers became Director of
Rehabilitation Services, and was placed under the supervision of
Candace Shively, Deputy Secretary of Integrated Services. Both
Shively and Rogers have stated their intent to implement the Future
Design Team Report and to comply with the intent of the Legislation
here cited, but so far, these have proven to be hollow promises
having no substance. This is not to place blame on the new people
in charge of the programming. They may mean well, but it would
seem that they are being prevented from implementing the Design
Team Report, the input of the coalition of blindness consumers, and
the intent of the Kansas Legislature.
The eviction date is this coming June. To date, no facilities
have been identified in to which the blind services programs might
move. The few facilities shown to the Site Committee appointed by
the Advisory Committee to the Kansas Division of Services for the
Blind have absolutely not met the conditions of the legislation in
that they could not be made of equal or better usefulness for
serving the blind no matter how much money might be spent on them.
They were too isolated and simply not practical.
A request for proposal has been drafted to meet the
replacement needs for the rehabilitation components located at 6th
and MacVicar, and this RFP, which proposes a lock-in of facilities
for at least five years, again proposes a facility which in no way
meets legislative intent of being as useful or of better usefulness
for serving blind Kansans. It reduces a program occupying roughly
22,000 square feet to around 9,000 square feet. It features no
residential component and only 48 square feet for doing independent
living training in areas such as cooking and housekeeping. It
spends more paper addressing the needs of the parking lot than it
does the needs of newly blind Kansans who would be taking training
at the facility. Needless to say, this document was developed by
SRS officials in secret. Consumer and not for profit advocates
were told that their input had been valuable in the development,
but that their participation would no longer be needed or
The document then summarizes the fact that, at the time of its
writing, we did not know the future of KIB. Now we know SRS is
attempting to close it as of May 1, 2000.
The leaders in the blindness community mentioned at the
beginning of this document are lividly angry. Their organizations
strongly back the anger. We thought that getting the Legislature
to say facilities of equal or better usefulness in serving the
blind had to replace the current facilities would be sufficient. It
now appears that SRS officials never had any intention of
implementing the advice of the blindness community. They did not
think the blindness community would go so far as to get the Kansas
Legislature to adopt language, but they seem to have pretty well
decided to ignore the intent of the Legislature along with anything
else the blindness consumers have recommended.
The latest insult was the article in the January 17, 2000,
Topeka Capital Journal. Marilyn Jacobson, and an SRS official who
never attended any of the Future Design Team meetings, and who was
never mentioned to leaders in the blindness community, was quoted
as stating that the blind services at 6th and Mac Vicar would not
necessarily be remaining in Topeka.
Dr. Jim Wann, who has been put in charge of the blind services
move by SRS officials, in fact has told several advocates, "Whether
we are meeting legislative intent will be determined by SRS. We
are meeting it if we say we are unless someone bigger than SRS says
we are not."
The coalition of blindness advocates is therefore looking for
the entities or combination of entities which are "bigger than
SRS." We are not looking for a fight or a court battle. We are
simply looking to maintain and hopefully improve, services for
If necessary, however, the blindness community appears to be
quite united in plans to take at least the following actions to
attempt to see that legislative intent is met with regard to
rehabilitation services for blind Kansans, and to see that Kansas
Industries for the Blind employees maintain employment.
1. Frequent reports to Kansas Legislators about failure of SRS
to meet legislative intent.
2. Opposition to zoning changes necessary for sale of the 6th
and Mac Vicar property at Topeka Planning Commission and Topeka
3. Requesting the Kansas Rehabilitation Council to decline to
sign off on next year's State Plan for Rehabilitation. This would
result in with holding of federal funding. The logic here is that
the Council can not be certain that SRS will meet the intent of the
Rehabilitation Plan if SRS officials are currently willfully
obfuscating Kansas Legislative intent.
4. Approaching the State Finance Council concerning the lack
of financial wisdom in the deals which have been struck. Estimates
to move the 6th and Mac Vicar operations elsewhere, and not
including the Kansas Industries for the Blind portion, are running
about one point five million dollars. The current Services for the
Blind facilities have had over one and one quarter million spent on
them over the past five years to comply with the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA) and to upgrade wiring for computers. The
purchase price which the land developer, MRV, Inc. has agreed to
pay for the corner of 6th and Mac Vicar is $900,000.00. Thus, in
the interest of saving money for the tax payers at a time of budget
shortfalls, the proposal is to spend around three million dollars
in order to make $900,000.00.
5. Attempting to negotiate arrangements directly with MRV Inc.
for the Services for the Blind buildings, and then attempting to
get the State and MRV, Inc to seriously consider any arrangements
which MRV and the coalition of blind citizens have tentatively
6. Frequent contacts with the press.
7. Although this author is not aware of specific plans, he is
aware that the two major consumer groups of blind citizens in
Kansas have discussed legal action to insure that legislative
intent is observed."
The second document was done for Legislators, but in response
to the SRS closure plan. The SRS closure plan, released to the
Presidents and Vice Presidents of both blindness consumer groups on
February 1, 2000, is not printed here as its impact has been
summarized, and the nature of the misstatements and half truths SRS
has used in support of its plan are made clear by the context of
The second document started with the following as a headline
in about 35 point print, "SRS HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THEY WILL
ABSOLUTELY CLOSE KANSAS INDUSTRIES FOR THE BLIND (KIB) AS OF MAY 1,
2000. THEY ARE DOWNSIZING OTHER BLIND SERVICES PROGRAMS AS WELL.
ONLY ACTION BY THE KANSAS LEGISLATURE WILL SAVE PROGRAMS FOR
PRESENT AND FUTURE BLIND KANSANS. PLEASE HELP NOW!"
The second document was then done in a question and answer
format so Legislators could scan the document and get the answers
to questions which particularly interested them.
WHAT IS KIB? KIB is an employment program for people who are
blind. It used to be much larger, but the State has continuously
downsized the program over the past ten to 15 years. Now, the
program employs about 22 people, 15 of whom are totally blind or
multiply disabled blind. Many other blind Kansans have expressed
the desire to work at KIB, but State Blind Services have
purposefully set up a complicated bureaucracy which a prospective
blind worker has had to go through to be considered to work there.
This has purposefully kept the number of workers at a declining
level, apparently with the goal of closing the program. All KIB
employees receive at least minimum wage and State employee
WHY DOES SRS PLAN TO CLOSE KIB? . . . In summary, the KIB
facilities have been declared to be a part of Topeka State Hospital
grounds. These grounds have been transferred from SRS to the
Department of Administration and the Department of Administration
has been directed to sell the grounds and return them to the tax
roles. SRS is using this situation as an excuse to justify closing
KIB rather than moving it. It is also proposing to massively
downsize other blind services programming as it is moved from the
6th and Mac Vicar location.
DO CURRENT STATE LAWS PROTECT KIB?? No, not completely. KIB
is mentioned in several State laws concerning blindness and blind
services, but nothing says it has to continue operating.
DO CURRENT LAWS MENTION CLOSURE OF KIB? The same legislation
quoted verbatim in the first document is listed again. The issues
about what has to happen for KIB workers before KIB can closed is
underlined for emphasis in the second document.
The question remains unresolved as to whether the announced
plans of SRS can and will meet the intent of this Legislation.
Note, however, that the Legislation states, "if the Kansas
Industries for the Blind MUST be closed . . . " If alternatives
exist to re-locate the facility instead, then it is certainly a
valid question whether the facility MUST be closed. This document
will show that alternatives to keep KIB open do exist and should be
opted for instead by SRS.
SRS more or less misquotes K.S.A. 75-37,123. Their use of the
ellipses between the words "blind" and "the" leaves out the "if
MUST be closed phrase. This changes the seeming meaning of the
Legislation. This was not an ethical use of ellipses.
WHY DO MANY BLIND KANSANS FEEL KIB SHOULD CONTINUE TO OPERATE?
Unemployment among working aged Kansans who are blind or legally
blind remains at around 74%. Blind Kansans do not feel any
employment opportunities for blind people to
be able to work should be squandered .
In the early 1980s, several Kansas blind citizens fought long
and hard in meeting after meeting to gain full transfer rights to
other State jobs for KIB blind employees. The blindness advocates
felt that this could be a tremendous employment placement tool for
blind services job placement professionals. A blind worker could
get into the system through KIB, but have the opportunity once
skills and work habits were gained, to transfer to other State jobs
in the competitive, integrated environment. SRS officials opposed
this change in personnel status for KIB workers when the consumer
groups proposed it, and they have refused to use this upward
mobility provision extensively in order to help blind KIB workers
get jobs. Blind Services placement professionals have also been
prevented by administrative rules and regulations imposed by SRS
officials, from starting workers at KIB with the specific goal of
helping them gain skills and then transferring to other State
positions. The transfer rights, and KIB as a starting point for
blind workers, should not be given up. KIB should be better used
for such transitional employment purposes, although workers there
should not be forced to transition out against their will or better
DOES KIB COST KANSAS TAX PAYERS A LOT OF MONEY? No. KIB costs
Kansas tax payers virtually nothing. The SRS materials say KIB has
operated at a loss for three of the past five years. They fail to
tell you that the losses were only a few thousand dollars and were
off set by the years KIB made money.
SRS also says that profitability was computed without
consideration of indirect costs. They do not mention that many of
the indirect costs considered are a result of State required
reports or rules.
SRS also has suddenly changed their analysis of KIB financials
now that they are looking for every possible excuse to close the
program. The SRS current web page, a print out from which is
attached, reports that KIB receives no subsidies. In their
February 1, document, however, they attempt to trump up a less
positive financial picture.
In the 1980s KIB indeed lost a lot of money during some years.
At that time top SRS and Blind Services officials were attempting
to micro manage KIB, and were treating it as a government agency
rather than as a business. When top management backed off and let
the people directly supervising KIB actually operate it, KIB
stopped losing money.
The bottom line is that KIB has been paying its own way.
Moving KIB off of its current corner, and certainly closing it, is
an experiment in social engineering on the part of SRS policy
makers. KIB does not need to shut down to be fair to Kansas
WHY COULD NOT THE BLIND SERVICES DESIGN TEAM REACH CONSENSUS
CONCERNING KIB? SRS does not tell the reader that 100% of the SRS
officials on the Design Team wanted to shut KIB down. One hundred
percent of Kansas blind consumers on the Design Team felt KIB still
has a vital role to play and must remain open.
WHY WAS PRIVATIZATION OF KIB UNSUCCESSFUL IN 1996?
Privatization might have been successful had SRS stuck with it.
SRS withdrew from the negotiations to privatize. The potential
privatizer did not withdraw. SRS sighted a new interpretation of
a provision of the 1996 Omnibus bill as preventing them from
It is probably true that, at this time, no vendor would
express interest in KIB. This includes Envision, who did express
interest in 1996. The issue, in part, however, is that SRS's past
inability to negotiate a fair and workable agreement for
privatization of KIB is well known among potential vendors.
Nonetheless. SRS out and out lies about KIB on their current,
but out of date web page. The page states that privatization will
be revisited in 1999. This did not happen.
WHAT DOES SRS MEAN ABOUT "THE PHILOSOPHY OF AN INDUSTRY FOR
THE BLIND? SRS says the "philosophy of an industry for the blind
is not consistent with an emphasis on competitive, integrated
employment. SRS has shown an unwillingness to understand how KIB
can work to bring about competitive, integrated employment. This
is evidenced by their under utilization of the transfer provisions
to other positions which blind consumers labored so hard to
Blind workers at KIB are making better than minimum wage.
Their economic production allows them to live an adequate quality
of life in the integrated community. SRS admits in their paper
that, "High cost of subsidizing KIB is not due to the disabilities
of its employees, but is due to the essential unprofitability of
producing labor intensive low technology products."
Perhaps SRS prefers to see the State of Kansas purchase such
products from abusive sweat shops in other countries, but if their
statement is true, then KIB is doing quite well to pay what they do
and essentially break even. This is in fact an indicator that KIB
IS COMPETITIVE. Some of the SRS social engineers apparently
believe that blind workers are not really as good as sighted
workers, so it is thus better to work with a sighted worker at
one's side. The blind workers at KIB do not have such unrealistic
hang-ups. They know that they are quality workers and quite
competitive and productive whether they have sighted people working
at the station beside them or not.
CAN SRS REALLY FIND "suitable alternatives, including similar
wages and benefits" FOR KIB BLIND WORKERS? As has been stated
earlier, even in our good economy, unemployment among persons who
are legally or totally blind is extremely high. The KIB workers
are excellent, productive workers, but most of them are multiply
disabled blind causing even greater placement complications. The
SRS officials who have designed the KIB closure plan, and who by
the way are bureaucrats who have never worked in direct placement
of blind workers, say that because of their generic expertise, they
can place the blind KIB workers in other jobs in a period of three
months. Most of the workers in question have at some point in
their lives, been compelled to work with a specialist in blindness
employment for over a year, and yet have not been placed in
employment outside of KIB. The SRS officials think their plans are
realistic, but they are unqualified and not competent to make
realistic judgments concerning such matters.
HOW HARD IS SRS TRYING TO HELP THE KIB WORKERS FIND JOBS?
When Topeka State Hospital closed, all kinds of special
arrangements were made concerning right of first refusal of any
position which came open in Topeka, severance package benefits,
etc. No such accommodations have been offered to help the KIB
Also, most of the people at KIB are multiply disabled blind.
If they are to work in our competitive economy at tasks which the
authors of the SRS closure report find to be more efficient and
cost effective for them, they are going to need expensive adaptive
equipment which allows them to compensate for their lack of site.
Talking computers and specially marked and audible tools are
examples. To qualify for assistance with such equipment through
the Kansas Division of Services for the Blind, one must have a very
low income. SRS has ruled that the current income of the KIB
workers prevents them from qualifying for such highly technical
adaptive equipment and has told the workers that they will have to
purchase such equipment for themselves if they need to use it on
their new jobs.
WHAT PROGRAMS DOES SRS PROPOSE TO DOWNSIZE? The
Rehabilitation Center for the Blind (RCB) has been at the corner of
6th and MacVicar for over 50 years. It provides training and
dormitory space for newly blinded Kansans who come to the program
to comprehensively study the skills of blindness so that they can
return to Kansas communities to live, and often work,
independently. The program has over 22,000 square feet of space
used for both training and dormitory purposes. SRS has announced
that with the move from 6th and Mac Vicar, the dormitory
program will be closed down. Less than 10,000 square feet of
training space will be provided for the program in a facility yet
to be named, although SRS officials mentioned and strongly
recommended the White Lakes Mall.
DOES THE RCB PROGRAM REALLY NEED DORMITORY SPACE? People come
to the program from all over Kansas. They stay anywhere from a week
to a year depending on what they need. SRS says that the dormitory
operates at about 25% capacity currently so it should be
discontinued. What SRS does not tell in its report is that the 25%
usage varies a great deal. Sometimes the 22 person capacity
dormitory is absolutely overflowing. At other times it is
completely empty. It is thus probably true that less overall
dormitory space is needed, and there is a need to be able to vary
the amount of space available. Some newly blinded people, however,
especially those who may be multiply disabled blind, need to be
very close to the training facility. Some dormitory space is thus
quite clearly essential. Also, consumer groups have suggested
that, if the facility is moving, dormitory spaces need to be
re-designed to be more like apartment living with newly blinded
clients having the opportunity to work on cooking and maintaining
their residence. Some such apartments could indeed be off site and
rented in variable numbers. Some dormitory and apartment housing
quite clearly need to be on site, however, to make the program
viable. Motel accommodations are not practical for newly blinded
clients coming to study at the RCB. The fact that the designers of
the closure plan think so demonstrates their lack of qualification.
Navigating parking lots is one of the most advanced mobility
techniques a newly blinded person learns. It is not what they can
start out doing from their first day of arrival at the program.
Most area hotels are on the drive up, walk out of the room into a
parking lot design. The White Lakes mall location also is
in the middle of a several block large sea of parking lot. One of
the first skills a blind person at the current program learns is
how to independently navigate from the training building to the
dormitory. This independent teaching tool is not available when
one must travel across the White Lakes parking lot and across the
parking lot of a motel.
The SRS closure plan shows an unfortunate lack of knowledge of
longitudinal demographics. SRS has done a reasonably good job of
analyzing its own statistics, but it has failed to look at what
trends are occurring in the blindness population. A longitudinal
study done by the American Foundation for the Blind 1942-1992
revealed that in 1942, about 42% of all children who are born blind
had other severe disabilities as well. That same figure in 1992
was 87%. This is happening because we are now able to save the
lives of many more babies who used to simply die shortly after
birth. Many of the children saved, however, have multiple
disabilities including blindness. These populations are proving to
be able to benefit from blindness skills training, but the training
often has to start at a much more basic level. A greater
percentage of the future clientele will need dormitory or very
close by housing. The same demographics are true of the adult
population who lose vision. Medical science can save the lives of
more and more severely injured people, but many who experience
accidents survive, but do so not only with blindness but other
disabilities as well. These future trends were not considered in
the plans made.
SO WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? The blindness community realizes
that it is probably futile to suggest that Blind Services be left
just where they are and as they are. The forfeiture of the 6th and
Mac Vicar corner for commercial uses was probably not a wise move
for the State to make from either financial or programmatic
perspectives, but it has already progressed too far to be stopped.
THE SOLUTIONS THUS BECOME:
1. Do not close KIB. Re-locate it.
2. Re-locate the RCB to facilities where some dormitory and
on-grounds apartment space will be available and other housing is
close by in the same community and neighborhood.
ARE THESE SOLUTIONS REALISTIC? YES! Land and buildings are
available, and with no overall greater budget impacts than the SRS
plan. One option, and undoubtedly not the only one, but a workable
one, lies with the concept of moving both the KIB and RCB
facilities just a few yards further northwest to a building or
buildings which were a part of the housing and programming units
for the former Topeka State Hospital. The blindness community has
objected to going too far into the center of the Topeka State
Hospital grounds because the clientele who work at KIB, and who are
studying at the RCB need access to public transportation, busy
streets to practice street crossings, local retail, etc. After
all, one of the main purposes of the RCB is to help newly blinded
individuals learn the skills they need to function in the greater
community. In order to do so, the greater community needs to be in
reasonable proximity. The buildings just northwest of the current
facilities would meet these needs. The developer of the corner of
6th and Mac Vicar, MRV, Inc. intends to put a grocery store and
possibly other retail at that corner. This would place retail near
the buildings just northwest of this site and give the necessary
community features near the new RCB facilities. Additionally, the
buildings into which the Blind Services functions would move have
the potential to house limited apartment and dormitory living space
while apartments to be constructed by MRV in the immediate area
would work for additional housing when needed. The buildings in
question also feature the necessary shipping docks and industrial
features to make them workable for KIB. Space would not be a
problem. There is plenty. This would allow for some modest
program enhancements which have been requested by the blindness
community. MRV Inc. has the option on the land and buildings
proposed for the re-location of the blind services functions. They
have expressed interest in this proposal.
SO WHY DOESN'T SRS EXPLORE A PROPOSAL WITH MRV? The blindness
community fervently believes that SRS should do so, but SRS
officials refuse to talk with MRV. They allege that buildings
within the MRV options on the Topeka State Hospital grounds can not
be considered because only the Kansas Department of Administration
is empowered to negotiate with MRV concerning the Topeka State
Hospital grounds. SRS says that the very limited (less than 10,000
square foot) facilities which they intend to provide for the blind
services functions they are willing to continue must be put out for
bid. They report that they could not negotiate with MRV Inc. prior
to the bid even if the Department of Administration would allow it,
but they assure that the Department of Administration will permit
no contact between SRS and MRV.
Advocates in the field of blindness find this rhetoric to be
confounding. It is obvious to anyone who reads it that the closure
plan SRS has promulgated has the White Lakes Mall facilities in
mind. SRS officials have provided advocates in the blindness
community with a plethora of statistics and promotional statements
concerning the advantages of a downsized facility at White Lakes.
If SRS can procure all of the information they seem to have in
advance of the bid process from White Lakes, then certainly they
could have some communications with MRV Inc. were they so inclined.
The more likely truth is that SRS is using the forced move by
the Department of Administration as an excuse to downsize and cut
services for blind Kansans. They are doing so in spite of attempts
on the part of the Legislature to see that blind services do not
suffer because of the move.
There may also be a problem with unadulterated governmental
ego here. The Department of Administration and the Department of
SRS are taking a hands off approach with each other and refusing to
have communications at productive levels about the plight of
current programs which are being forced to leave the Topeka State
Hospital grounds. From the SRS perspective at least, it would
appear that SRS refuses to consider or move forward with
negotiations with MRV Inc., and with consideration of moving
the blind services functions to buildings which are a part of MRV's
option, simply because blind consumers, and not SRS officials, came
up with the idea and made the contacts. The counterproductive
impact of the SRS ego needs to be sharply curtailed.
WHAT PROGRAM ENHANCEMENTS ARE REQUESTED?
Blind Kansans are not making unreasonable requests. They are
essentially attempting to keep the quality and quantity of services
When it is mentioned that some modest program enhancements
might be possible if more space were available, the blindness
consumer groups are referring to services which, until recently,
were available to blind Kansans. The Kansas Division of Services
for the Blind discontinued manual skills/industrial arts training
at the RCB when they needed room to put in a computer training
section and a vocational evaluation section. The blind citizens of
Kansas feel that teaching blind persons to work with their hands
is still a very basic part of the rehabilitation process. Most
respected rehabilitation programs for the blind around the country
continue to offer this training. Any new facilities to which the
RCB is moved should have the necessary space to offer it.
Also several years ago, the Kansas Adult Braille Library was
closed down. Blind Kansans believe this was a mistake and they
would like to have the space necessary to begin to re-build this
Further, most quality rehabilitation programs for newly blind
persons throughout America feature physical fitness/exercise space
and programming. People who are newly blinded tend not to move
around or exercise as much as they did when they were sighted. The
reasons behind this are obvious, but the health impacts of
transitioning to a less active, more stationary life style are
tremendous. Again in this area, competent staff to operate such
programming is already on board. What is missing is the necessary
The requests of the blindness community are reasonable and
rational. The goal is to maintain current levels of programming,
and perhaps recover some program pieces which have been lost, but
which used to exist. It is only the reactions of SRS, and more
recently, officials within the Department of Administration, which
have seemed unreasonable and irrational.
WHAT CAN THE LEGISLATURE DO?
1. Introduce and adopt legislation which clarifies the need to
continue the operation of KIB, and which makes it even more clear
than K.S.A. 75-37,123 that blind services are not to suffer because
they have to be moved from the corner of 6th and Mac Vicar.
2. Examine whether legislative intent of K.S.A. 75-37,123 is
being met by the current SRS closure plan.
OTHER LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS WHICH COULD HELP: Senate Bill 507
and House Bill 2787 would reserve the monies from the actual worth
of KIB for seed money to start a private, not for profit employment
facility for the blind in Topeka. It would give preference to a
not-for-profit corporation operated by current KIB workers. We
hope that KIB will continue to operate and that this Bill will not
be necessary, but given the fervor and relish with which SRS is
going about dismantling a 50 year history of blind services in
Kansas, we think this contingency bill is necessary.
A word of warning, however, concerning the current wording of
507 and 2787 - SRS has now reported suddenly finding yet
undisclosed hidden costs which SRS officials are claiming have not
been considered in looking at the overall profit and loss with
regard to KIB. One SRS official has told one KIB employee that, if
507 or 2787 pass, SRS will capture most of the KIB current worth to
make up for costs previously not charged. This seems to perhaps be
a slight breach of ethics, but given SRS's recent treatment of
the concerns of the blindness community, such actions are not out
of character and should bee seen as serious considerations. 507 or
2787 Might need to be amended slightly to address this situation.
Also, when the rest of the Topeka State Hospital campus was
emptied of State employees, quite a number of right of first
refusal and severance provisions were provided to make certain that
Topeka State employees were treated fairly as they sought other
jobs either with the State or outside of it. SRS has ruled that
the provisions of this legislation do not apply to KIB employees.
The Legislature could change this by specifically adopting the
Topeka State package for KIB employees.
Last year, prior to the letting of the options on the 6th
Street frontage of the Topeka State Hospital grounds to MRV, Senate
Bills 274 and 289 were introduced. These bills would allow the
blind services function to remain at 6th and Mac Vicar. Remaining
at this location is not a complete fix for the problems the State
Blind Services are experiencing, but if the alternative is
one third of a program at White Lakes Mall, then we would ask the
Legislature to reconsider 274 or 289 as possible options.
REPORT FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
by Nancy Johnson
The Meeting of the Board Of Directors of KANSAS ASSOCIATION
FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED, INC. was held at the corporate
office at 10:00 a.m., January 29, 2000.
Role was taken. Eight Directors were present.
Sanford called for approval of the pre- and post-convention
minutes of October 22 and October 24, 1999. They were approved as
The Treasurer's report was accepted as presented.
Newsletter deadlines are January 15, April 15, July 15 and
October 15, as printed in the inside cover of the newsletter. The
Editor requested that items be considered important by the sender.
Limited space unfortunately prevents using many items for the sake
of interest only. Items cannot be used if they are out-dated or if
they will be too out-dated before the newsletter is printed. She
said the newsletter should not focus on one area above others but
should be well-rounded. A place for an E-mail service is planned
as a part of the Web page. Also being considered is the
possibility of a telephone news line for those who do not use
computers. The Web page and the phone line can supplement the
Use of the total spectrum of technology and possible training
for individuals to use all types of technology was discussed.
Technology is a tool, and all types are important - telephone
through computer - so no portion of the population is left out.
Consensus was that a telephone news line has value and should be
Work is being done to amend the State Use Law to make it more
enforceable. Because of the recent growth of the office marketing
business, office products companies have targeted the agencies who
would buy through the sole-source contracts. One hundred twenty
five persons who are blind statewide depend upon a combination of
JWOD and State Use contracts for continued employment. The
introduced law sets up a system of fines and a requirement that the
State Department of Purchasing provides staff to monitor state
purchases and see that items are properly bought under the Use Law.
The law would require the rewriting of contracts to conform to it.
The bill is now in the Appropriations Committee but may be moved.
Hearings are expected soon.
Work is being done to create a more pedestrian-friendly
environment. The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is working to
have the pedestrian infra-structure maintained and improved. Model
legislation, written by ACB, modifies rules and regulations already
in existence for planning of roads and highways and requires state
offices be set up to handle this planning. Standards for such
items as audible signals, vibro-tactile signals in areas where such
are needed, and detectable warnings would be developed. Provisions
in the law would say cities have to have a plan for pedestrian
access to comply with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities
Act. In T21, the latest federal transportation enabling act,
permissive legislation for the states to do these things exists.
The legislation has been introduced in Kansas. A Pedestrian Bill
of Rights bill soon will be published.
Kansas Industries for the Blind (KIB) has some operating
worth. Both raw materials and finished products on hand at the
time of closure will have monetary value. A cash fee fund,
capital equipment and the land on which the building sets all have
value. Estimated net value of the business is approximately
$800,000. Permissive legislation is being developed to set up a
contingency fund allowing a private not-for-profit organization if
such should want to continue operation of KIB. The Director of
Services for the Blind would hold that money until an organization
that has experience in working with the blind comes forward.
Preference would be given to an organization of former KIB
employees if such were developed. The bill to provide possible
funding for continuation of industries for the Blind will be
attached to the bill providing for perpetual care of the cemetery
for those who died while at the State Hospital.
Because of a resolution from years ago, KABVI is working to
support the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas (NFBK) in
its efforts to bring the braille library back to Kansas. House
Bill 2534, the Commission Bill, is expected to have hearings this
year and is slowly moving forward.
Sanford reported that Dennis Rogers, Director of Kansas
Rehabilitation Services, has been far more receptive to hearing and
understanding what the blind community is saying than was his
predecessor. He also has clarified some of his limitations. The
major problem in the relocation process is not the relocation
itself. Rather, the problem is understanding the whole program and
getting it moved some place so that it is, as the legislation KABVI
got passed last year requires, as useful or better than it now is.
A letter outlining the problems faced by the Division of
Services for the Blind and signed by "The Three Blind Mice" was
sent to several newspapers across the state. A copy of the "Blind
Mice" letter reportedly reached the office of the governor. He
apparently was not particularly concerned because he believed a
split between the consumer organizations had occurred. Sanford
sent a letter to Director of SRS Integrated Services Candy Shively
suggesting Advisory Committee and staff get together to work out
the plans. A letter was sent to employees of the Division of
Services for the Blind, including Dr. Wann, with a copy of Bill
number 2548. This bill specifically talks about what the
legislature wants to see done. Included in the letter was a copy
of the Kansas "Whistle Blowers" Law. The letter invited employees
to bring information to their legislators if they felt compelled to
do so. At the State Rehabilitation Council Meeting, chaired by
President Susie Stanzel of the NFBK,) the rationale behind the
"Three Blind Mice" letter was explained. Sanford was invited to
attend a meeting with Secretary of SRS Janet Schalansky and Senator
David Kerr to discuss the future of the Division of Services for
the Blind on February 1, 2000.
the Legislative Committee delivered to legislators copies of
Sanford's letter to Ms. Shively and the letter that was sent to DSB
employees plus a cover letter from Sanford and Susie explaining
they need to be hearing from people because the intent of the
legislation is not being met. Also delivered to all legislators
was a condensed revision of a position paper prepared for the
Rehabilitation Council with the history of events to date. On the
front cover the report said in large, bold print, "SRS is violating
legislative intent to the detriment of blind people." Twelve
directly contacted legislators took time to discuss the situation.
Michael Byington was invited to a meeting of the Topeka State
Hospital Transition Committee. There he learned of MRV's proposal
saying they have the option on all the Sixth Street frontage of
Topeka State Hospital, but they are going to exercise the option at
the Sixth and MacVicar corner to put a grocery store there as soon
as approval of the finance council is received, when the traffic
work is done and when the blind people are moved. Included in
MRV's option is all the Sixth Street frontage except the section
that was bought by the 501 School District. Within that are
several Topeka State Hospital buildings that were built in the
1960s and have been renovated and brought up to codes several
times, are not on the underground heating and cooling system and
were not shown as possibilities for RCB because they were a part of
the MRV option. Some were housing for Topeka State Hospital
residents. MRV's only contact had been with the Department of
Administration, who is actually selling the land. MRV expressed
interest in talking with representatives of Services for the Blind
because there are buildings that might be appropriate for their
use. From these discussions a meeting was scheduled on February 4,
2000, with the vice-president of MRV and Michael Byington. At the
time of the report, no one else had agreed to come. Dennis Rogers
was invited. He conferred with Candy Shively, who said the policy
is that SRS was considered the tenant on the Topeka State Hospital
grounds; the Department of Administration was considered both the
realtor and the seller; and there was an unwritten rule that SRS
would have nothing to do with the people who were buying that land.
KABVI's position as advocates for the blind community is that
the organization does not expect to be involved in the
negotiations, but it does expect to be a part of making up the RFP
in the first place. And it does expect afterwards to be able to
look at the agreement to determine that SRS has not sold everything
out on the blind community in the negotiations. The question
remains whether SRS wants to work with the consumers or whether
they are going to tell us decisions have been made and blind people
will have to accept them. Discussion was had with Susie Stanzel
and Dick Edlund of NFBK regarding legal action enjoining the state
to stop them from proceeding or to be able to provide some kind of
legal counsel for state employees who came forth, etc. Mr. Edlund
knows legal representation the consumer groups could use.
Two additional groups before which consumers might be heard
are the Zoning Commission and the Finance Council. Other avenues
consumers might follow are to alert the property owners in the area
along MacVicar, whose street might need widening, as well as
The Commission bill on which KABVI and NFBK are working is
dependent upon there being something in Services for the Blind that
is worth transferring out of SRS and becoming the headquarters of
the commission. KABVI is fighting to save the structure behind the
Commission bill if and when it passes. If the down-sizing
continues as it appears it might, the Commission could not happen.
What services exist now will not be picked up by not-for-profit
organizations in the foreseeable future.
The KABVI Board authorized expenditure of funds in conjunction
with a similar commitment from NFBK to pursue legal action as
deemed necessary to prevent the State of Kansas SRS from executing
plans that would be detrimental to the provision of services to
Committee appointments were reviewed and approved.
The last check received in 1999 from the Vehicle Donation
Program brought the year's total to $16,000, lower than the $18,000
budgeted. But it was better than KABVI have done in the past.
KABVI is getting more and better cars to auction. Although nothing
is guaranteed with this program, it is expected to continue to grow
and do very well. The Wichita market is due for development in the
very near future. A new cost center will be developed for Wichita
and will operate independently of the existing cost center for
Public Relations training for KABVI officers and Directors
would be beneficial to make everyone aware of, and familiar with,
the process of press releases, press contacts, press discussion,
etc. The committee suggested the training be a part of the Focus
Day 2 activities in April on the Friday afternoon.
Focus Day 2 is scheduled for April 28 and 29, 2000. The Lions
screening bus will be available on Friday, April 28, from 10:00
a.m. until 3:00 p.m. A presentation by Lori Michaels discussing
the Service Dog Program and differences between service and guide
dogs will be given on Friday afternoon after the opportunity to
visit the Sight bus.
The theme for the program Saturday, April 29, is "Orientation
and Mobility: The Cane Or The Dog." Mike Renner and Karen Acree
of Kansas Specialty Dog Services will present from the dog user's
point of view. Jadwiga Plesniar of the Rehabilitation Center for
the Blind and an instructor from the School for the Blind will
present from the perspective of the cane user. The program will
include open discussion from both sides and a clinic for people who
want to work on specific problems and a chance for those who wish
to "test drive" dogs. The formal presentations about mobility are
planned for Saturday morning from 10:00 until noon to include the
Get REAL competitors. Then the Get REAL finalists will be
revealed. After lunch, students' interviews will occur
concurrently with other program elements which will include an
opportunity to discuss development of future KABVI goals. The day
will be capped off with the announcement of the Get REAL winners.
Focus Day and Get REAL will be anchored annually in the last
week end in April. Consensus was to put it on the calendar for the
last week end in April of 2001.
Twelve Get REAL applications were sent. The essay topic is
"Define the term 'reasonable accommodations.' Using your visual
abilities and limitations, describe the reasonable accommodations
you would need in a job setting and how you would use those
accommodations." Requirements are that the essay be not more than
two pages double-space typed (approximately five hundred words);
grammatically correct, properly spelled, and done on a printer that
has good ink and clear printing. They will be graded on neatness
Chuck Tyrell of the School for the Blind wanted to clarify
that the cycle we ran this year was because of its being the first
year of the Get REAL program. This cycle worked against us because
the students did not get their application materials until they got
to school in September. Mr. Tyrell thinks it would be best to get
information to the vision teachers in April so it will reach the
students before the summer break.
Mr. Tyrell also wanted to clarify that, for students to
qualify for the SWEATS Program to which Get REAL is attached, they
need to be in school. A graduating senior who applies in January
and gets selected in April and graduates in June is not eligible.
Our information needs to indicate that students need to be enrolled
over the summer and not have graduated that spring.
Recently, KABVI has worked with the School for the Blind and
the Department of Education. They brought in Sally Mangold, a
noted developer of children's braille curriculum. She is now
working on a grant to develop an interactive teaching device
primarily for children, which also has possible applications for
the teaching of adults. It can provide immediate feedback and has
several positive features. Several meetings have been held
relative to NLS competency testing. NFB is making literacy packets
available. AER will sponsor a conference on braille literacy to
be held in Philadelphia in November, 2001.
Legislation was passed last year requiring a survey to
determine a base line for literacy of students who are blind. It
was not restricted to braille literacy. The survey was to address
the degree of literacy being developed by blind students from first
grade through high school, whatever media are being used, and to
address whether they are using the reading medium that gives them
the best chance for success. The survey is an attempt to get
educators to implement the braille bill that was passed some years
ago. According to the Kansas Constitution, the legislature cannot
order the Department of Education to survey anything. The
legislature can recommend policy to go with the provided funding
and designate funding for certain areas. But the Board of
Education must decide whether or not it will follow the recommended
policy. The Department of Education decided the survey needed to
be done and the survey is underway. The braille bill says the
competency of teachers for reading and writing braille would be
measured by the National Library Services for the Blind. The NLS
test does not measure how well an individual can teach braille and
is not a valid measure of teaching competency. The Department of
Education wants to establish a way to get at the validation
instrument. Both Texas and Florida have developed measurements for
braille teaching competencies to be used within their individual
states. A test that is valid in one state is not necessarily valid
when moved to another state. Each geographic area must validate
its own instrument. Recommendations have been made that Kansas
develop and validate its own teacher competency test for the
teaching of braille. People from Kansas Special Education and a
group of consumer advisers will look at the Texas and Florida tests
as well as the NLS test and develop and validate competency testing
for Kansas teachers of braille. This is the first step in the
implementation of the braille bill.
Meetings have been held with the University of Kansas
Affiliated Programs and vision education teachers relative to the
feasibility of long range interactive teaching of blind students
and teachers of braille. A major problem in the distance learning
process is the difficulty of teaching all the details involved with
the correct reading and writing of braille. The Mangold device
could have special benefit in this area because of its potential
for giving immediate feedback to learners. The device will be made
available on loan to the Kansas School for the Blind in June. The
device is not available for general use. It is touch screen
Robert Chaffin was appointed to chair the nominations
committee to be assisted by Michael Byington and Regina Henderson.
Board positions that will come up for election in October are
currently filled by Nancy Johnson, Beulah Carrington, Barbara
Alexander and Janelle Edwards.
The Mary T. Adams Seminar is scheduled for October 19, 2000.
The convention will follow October 20 through 22, 2000, at the
Holiday Inn, Great Bend. Room rates are again $55 per night. The
Blind Veterans Association is planning to meet in conjunction with
KABVI. The Kansas AER Chapter is also looking at a proposal to
have their convention in conjunction with KABVI. A seminar for
Lions in the area is being discussed. The program for the Mary T.
Adams Seminar was read. Suggested honoraria are within the
proposed budget. Low vision is the theme for this first program.
Next year's suggested topic might be "When Low Vision Aids Aren't
Enough." An attempt is being made to get CEUs for seminar
Exhibitors can be invited to be present for the Mary T. Adams
Seminar as well as for the convention. The policy is that all
exhibitors pay the decided rate for their space. No exceptions
will be made. Not-for-profit organizations pay the same rate as
all others. Consensus was that there is no policy change.
KABVI has grown into a serious organization that must operate
in a business-like manner. KABVI has secured an office and a
telephone. The telephone makes the organization accessible to
everyone outside the organization. KABVI is getting ready to put
a computer on line with a WWW address. It is being designed to be
highly accessible through the major search engines. The
organization will be available for contact by everyone. Its need
for responsiveness is, and will continue to be, more critical than
it has ever been.
KABVI has a technology center. The ability to mobilize forces
depends upon accessibility and communication. Work is in progress
to develop a system to channel phone calls to the proper persons.
The Web Page will go on line in the near future. Also soon to be
instituted is a KABVI News Line by telephone, for people who
neither have nor want to have computers. KABVI does not have a
physical technology center. It has a virtual center that has the
ability to evaluate, assess, design and build or create technology
for those who need it. These abilities are critical so people will
see KABVI as a place to go for guidance on technology. KABVI is an
organization with no axes to grind. The organization wants people
to use what works, and that makes it an objective organization.
KABVI needs to be able to communicate in every form possible and to
do so quickly to keep up with the pace at which things are
The technology budget was increased to $1,500 to cover the
cost of setting up the quality web page KABVI wants and to leave
room to grow. For those who do not have and use the Internet or
computers, the telephone News Line will be available. Some costs
are associated with it. The Technology and Communication Committee
is a new committee with growing projects.
The needs of people who have computers and do not know how to
use them need to be addressed. A series of one-day workshops
around the state is being explored. They would cover how to use a
computer as well as some of the other technology. Cost would
include cost for a meal plus meeting room to make it available to
Guidelines for using the computer system were reviewed. The
purpose of the computer system is to conduct KABVI business.
The computer system and web page were demonstrated with the
help of Diana Adams, the Web Designer. Adjournment followed the
A LETTER TO A LEGISLATOR
by Mike Rusk
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mr. Rusk wrote this letter to his State
Representative. It approaches the Kansas Industries for the Blind
(KIB) closure from an interesting and unique perception. Mr. Rusk
has given permission to publish the letter.
February 5, 2000
Dear Representative Kirk,
I am writing this letter because I find it easier to write
what I think than to say it. I would like to introduce myself, I
am Mike Rusk, an employee of Kansas Industries for the Blind,
(Laser department). Some of what I will be writing will probably
not seem to agree with the position taken by some of my co-workers
but I want to assure you and others that I do agree with the
position that the work shop should not be closed.
In the first place, I came to be employed at the Kansas
Industries for the Blind, (KIB), as much by challenge as desire.
I had been a fairly successful manager in the Business Enterprises
Program, another employment situation for blind people, when I was
forced to leave in December 1997. I was unemployed for the first
three months of 1998 when my friend and former colleague Debra
Brummer asked me to work in her facility as she needed some
temporary help. I was fortunate to reach full time status
rather quickly but then the harassment of both my friends the
Brummers and me started. I heard that a position was opening in
the laser department at KIB and I applied. I felt that if I could
get the position that the harassment would stop, I believe it has.
It was stated that no blind person could walk in off the street and
get a job at KIB, but I did. I successfully interviewed for the
position of Toner room technician. I took a $1.35 per hour cut in
pay to take this job, but I gained the benefits afforded state
employees. These benefits are very important to me. The position
means that I have to do a lot of dirty work but I like working in
this area and I really like working with people who believe that I
can do the job, but I do think that the job does not reflect my
I began working at KIB in October of 1998 and almost from the
beginning I have heard that SRS wishes to close the shop. I have
been told over and over that we would be placed in some other type
of employment if this happens. I believe that the legislature
passed a bill which intended that we employees would be placed in
jobs with similar wages and benefits. Having been employed for
over twenty years as a vendor, possessing a college degree and
computer skills, I have never stopped trying to get a "real" job
outside of the KIB shop. During the three months which I was
unemployed I interviewed twice with Child Abuse hot-line and once
with Health and Environment. Before I was actually forced out of
the Business Enterprises Program, I interviewed for a position in
KAN-Sail, (a program to work with senior citizens who are losing or
have already lost their sight to maintain their independence).
Since my employment at KIB, I have interviewed four more times with
Kan-sail, once for rehabilitation teacher, another position
with Division of Services for the blind, (a position which works
with all ages of blind people) and once at KNI for a clerical
position, (and a main telephone operator for SRS which my state
employment summary qualifies me for). I used to save my rejection
notices, but I don't any more.
I mentioned the interviews, I also applied for other
positions, one which really stands out is for a position which was
created for blind people in SRS with their legal department in the
area of Fraud hot-line. Myself, my wife and a friend of mine
applied for the position and much to our surprise my wife was told
that she did not have enough education and that my friend
and I weren't selected to interview because we were to qualified.
My wife has a high school diploma, just what the job description
called for and she also had computer training in word processing,
(she's alright though, she got a job as store manager/assistive
tech specialist for Envision), my friend and I applied a second
time a few months later when the hand picked employee for that
position, (a non blind person) left, but once again i was turned
down. I met the person that got the position, she has a master's
degree in social work and had applied for the position to get the
benefits that she didn't have working part time for the Child Abuse
hot-line, (she isn't blind either).
The last thing I will say, I think, on a personal note is that
I have a temper, it flares when people assume that my abilities are
connected to my (non-working eyes) because I know that were they
working I could probably work circles around those who judge me and
if given the chance I can still do a better job than most of them.
Now, let's talk about the KIB work shop.
The shop employees 27 people, 12 of whom are sighted. Four of
these are Chinese women who do the bulk of the sewing for the
production department. Two of the sighted folks are assistants,
one in the warehouse and one in the laser department. Five of the
remaining sighted employees are supervisors, (team management),
they are to make sure the shop runs and that we meet our contracts.
Of the remaining employees, one is sighted and works part time in
the laser department. That leaves 15 blind employees, (this
includes totally blind and partially sighted). Of these 6 are
part time employees. Now we are down to 9 full time employees, 3
of us in the laser department, 5 in the production department. The
production do the production of pillow cases, mops, laundry bags
and safety vests. There are other products which they make or
handle for various state and federal contracts. Two of the three in
the laser department are builders of the re-manufactured
cartridges, leaving me, I work to take the cartridges apart,
clean them up and help start the building process. I believe the
Laser Department is very competitive employment in the KIB work
environment as we are in direct and unfair competition with
Cartridge King and State Purchasing. Unfair because our quality is
never supported by SRS legal or State Department Heads, (even
The production floor experiences dead lines and sometimes the
laser department helps to get an order out on time, this has given
me an opportunity to work on the production floor and gain
experience in mop trimming, laying material, clipping threads,
folding pillow cases, packing boxes and once even stamping products
with the required stamp before packing. I feel that I have a very
objective view of the situation. I have heard of a couple possible
jobs if the shop closes and I am pretty sure that I can get a job
somewhere, but again, is it the job I want? There are some of the
14 blind employees who will take retirement rather than look for
another job. At least one and maybe 3 of these people are with in
one year of eligibility for KPERS retirement, what a shame. Many of
these employees have multiple handicaps or appear to have. Several
of these employees have never held another job in their lives. Some
of them do not want another job.
Here is my real fear, If the Chinese workers left tomorrow
there are a couple of the blind workers who can sew some but would
they allow them or others to do it, thus the shop would close or if
the other sighted people get other jobs, either case could force
closure and might force some of these people in to nursing homes or
in to situations which is not healthy for them Some of the blind
people who work at this shop have reached a level of self esteem
and self worth and to force them to go in to a nursing home or in
to "retarded employment" away from their blind co-workers could
cause immeasurable problems for their psyche.
Another aspect to consider is that of the reasonable
accommodations. One of the builders started out working in the
office of KIB but the agency or the management of the shop would
not provide the necessary equipment for her to continue working in
the office and thus she became a laborer. She does a very good job
in the laser department but if she would have received the office
training, how much easier would it be to place her in another job?
Would this be her fault or the agency's for failing to promote
training for other types of work. If the management team has a
meeting where they are required to have some one else watch the
telephones, they never ask a blind employee it is always a sighted,
does this reflect on our abilities or on their perception that none
of us could do this simple task, although one of our part time
employees spends her mornings taking calls and filing reports.
This letter is much longer than I intended so let me summarize,
1. I have personally applied for 12 positions in SRS and
Division of Services for the Blind and interviewed for 8 of these.
2. It will be fairly easy to place a majority of the
employees as the majority of those wanting to get another job are
3. There needs to be the same or better provisions made for
the blind employees in this closure as there was in closing the
4. The legislature needs to hold the SRS FEET to the fire,
they seem to think that they can ignore you folks, "CAREFUL THEY
DON'T CLOSE YOUR DOORS!"
5. Is our shop being closed because SRS and the Division of
Services for the Blind failed to rehabilitate these blind people.
Mike Rusk Blind worker/constituent
A LETTER TO SENATOR DAVID KERR
February 9, 2000
Dear Senator Kerr:
I wanted first to thank you for your presence at the meeting
with SRS Secretary Janet Schalansky last Tuesday. Your ongoing
interest in and concern for the blind community is appreciated and
perhaps never needed more than it is at this time.
You will have received a communication from Michael Byington
that addresses in detail some of the concerns, fears and
perspectives of the blind community with respect to the issue of
the KIB program as well as the balance of DSB services. I will,
therefore, only point to several of these for emphasis but assure
you that substantial background is available on each of these and
many other points.
The RCB dormitory is operating at 25% capacity due to a
protracted plan to reduce it in order to justify its closure.
Although it is true there are weeks when the census is low, it is
equally true the opposite occurs. It is also necessary to look at
reasons why field staff have not used this resource to the degree
they could, which gets to the question of under utilization as
opposed to over capacity.
The Future Design Team advocated reduced capacity, not
discontinuation of dormitory facilities,recognizing that we are
serving a population that includes a portion who will require close
medical supervision and significant assistance in the early stages
of training. It is my understanding that a blind diabetic died in
the dorm on January 29, 2000 and I wonder if the question of how
much medical supervision she was receiving has been looked into?
I also wonder if the fact that the dorm food service was
discontinued contributed in any way to this unfortunate event?
On the question of relocation to White Lakes Mall, it should
be noted that when I proposed this as a possible alternative it was
with the stipulation that this be clearly announced as a temporary
move, enabling sufficient time to be created during which a
permanent site could be developed. I said that White Lakes, as an
example, would be a place known not to be interested in a long-term
arrangement, making it believable in the blind community that it
was a temporary placement. It was, in addition, sufficiently
suitable to serve the needs of the RCB Program over a short period
of time but was also sufficiently inadequate to be considered as a
permanent placement. You saw how this was twisted into a proposal
of seeing how it worked out with the intention of making it
permanent and perhaps expanding it if space proved suitable. This
never addressed the orientation and mobility issues of the parking
lot, the absence of dormitory facilities, and the general
inaccessibility of "community" housing.
We are also to believe that 22,000 square feet can be
compressed into 9100 (or 9500, maybe 9600) without considering that
program components advocated for some years were eliminated from
the present space because of inadequate room for them.
The issue of whether KIB employment meets the Federal
standards for "integrated and competitive employment" has long been
resolved with clarification from RSA, and the inference that KIB
employment is less than this is offensive to the employees who work
there. The reality is that a model tool for developing employment
options through the use of the State Transfer opportunity has been
badly mismanaged. The best thing would be to improve this program,
not eliminate it with KIB's closure.
It is also interesting to note how KIB is said to include
large indirect costs or hardly any at all, depending on the desired
conclusion for the given issue at hand.
The SRS officials with whom you met have demonstrated a
profound lack of understanding and knowledge in the field of blind
rehabilitation and a persistent reluctance to listen to the blind
community which includes many individuals who possess rich
professional and experiential backgrounds in the field. The lack
of SRS officials' knowledge, or perhaps of their care in
discharging their responsibilities to the blind community, could
not be better pointed out than by the cavalier manner with which
Ms. Shively dismissed the need for contingent planning for the KIB
closure by saying that the blind workers would meet with staff next
week and they'd help find them jobs by May 1st. If she sincerely
meant this, she demonstrates a profound ignorance and if she
didn't, a tremendous degree of contempt for the blind people to
whom she was referring. In either case, she and anyone who
subscribes to her thinking, has no right working in a position that
can impact on this population.
The problems the blind community has experienced with SRS are
long and well known; the solution is simple. The time has arrived,
in fact is well overdue, for the Division of Services for the Blind
to be removed from SRS and for a free-standing Commission for the
Blind to be established as provided for in HB 2534. According to
the fiscal note prepared for this bill by Budget Director Gossen,
there is no cost for this move. It would, once and for all,
eliminate the problems that have plagued us to date and enable the
Commission staff to develop and provide services that truly meet
the needs of the blind population they served.
Thank you for your considered attention in this matter.
Sanford J. Alexander, III, President
cc: All Kansas Legislators
By Michael Byington
STATE USE LAW AMENDMENTS STALLED: The Kansas Division of
Purchases, which is in charge of purchasing the State Use items
made and sold to the state by industries for the blind or severely
disabled in Kansas, has entered into several sole source contracts
which do not include such industries. What purchasing officials
are doing in letting these contracts is just as illegal as breaking
the speed limit, murdering someone, or going nude in public. The
difference is that all laws about those other things have
enforcement provisions. The State Use Law has no enforcement
provisions in it. The result is that State and school officials, in
this time of heavy, cut throat, commercial marketing on the part of
national, for-profit office supply and janitorial chains, are
feeling more and more bold about willfully and openly violating the
Kansas Use law and essentially saying, "Na Na Na Na Na what are you
going to do about it?"
Envision introduced Legislation last year which would at least
begin to put some enforcement teeth into the Use Law. KABVI also
is on record as supporting the legislation. This Legislation is
still alive, but it is not moving. It got stuck in the House
Appropriations Committee, which got so mired in budget
controversies last year that its Chairman, Representative
Phill Kline, refused to have hearings on any non-budget related
measures. This is a risk for bills which are shunted to this
Committee. The budget measures always come first.
This year, the House Appropriations Committee has a new
Chairman, Representative David Adkins. Representative Adkins has
been asked to either hold hearings on our State Use bill or refer
it to another Committee where there is a chance for hearings to be
held. The measure is House Bill 2396, the State Use Strengthening
UTILITY BILLS IN BRAILLE AND LARGE PRINT: House Bill 2322,
which requires that electric, gas, water, and telephone utilities
provide billings, upon request, in accessible format, just made it
through final conference committee. This is a process which
happens when the Senate and the House both pass a bill but do not
pass it with exactly the same wording. We were able to get this
Bill through the conference committee and this is very good news.
Had the conference committee not agreed on wording, the whole issue
would have died and we would have had to start over again. Now the
bill appears to be ready for final action in both Houses. By the
time you read this, the Bill may be law. The Governor is expected
to sign it.
We particularly want to thank Representative Carl Holmes,
Representative Laura McClure, and Senator Pat Ranson. Holmes and
McClure did a lot of work to get this Bill through. It almost died
several times in the process, but they kept bringing it back to
life. Senator Ranson agreed to the House wording in conference
committee, and this was the magic capitulation which moved the Bill
PEDESTRIAN RIGHTS BILL INTRODUCED: Last Session, legislation
was introduced which would make it illegal for a mall or shopping
center to bar a bus or other public transportation vehicle from
entering its parking lot. The Simon Malls barring buses from
entering mall parking lots has been a noted problem in Wichita.
The Senate Transportation Committee asked us to attempt to resolve
this issue city by city rather than make it a State issue. We are
attempting to do this, and Senator Ben Vidricksen, who Chairs the
Senate Transportation an Tourism Committee, has agreed to not kill
the bill as an encouragement to the Cities, such as Wichita, to
resolve the issue at local levels so the State will not have to
The advocacy, however, has been expanded a bit with regard to
pedestrian safety issues. The American Council of the Blind has
published model State Legislation concerning a pedestrian Bill of
Rights. A version of this national model has been adapted to fit
the manner in which Legislation is introduced in Kansas, and this
has been introduced under the bill number of Senate Bill 522.
Senator Vidricksen has agreed to hold hearings on the Bill this
The issues in the bill are complex. It will be a surprise if
the Bill makes it out of the Senate Transportation Committee this
year. The hearings this year will probably be for the purpose of
getting input and feedback so we can figure out how much of a
pedestrian rights bill really has a chance of passing in Kansas in
the near future. Still, Senator Vidricksen's willingness to hold
hearings so quickly on the issue is quite encouraging.
IS CYBERSPACE A "PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION?"
by Carl S. Kaplan
acb-l Message from Kelly Ford <email@example.com
From the web page:
November 12, 1999
Is Cyberspace a 'Public Accommodation?'
At the heart of the path-breaking discrimination lawsuit filed
last week against America On line Inc. by a major organization
representing the blind is a legal question that is simple to pose
but difficult to answer: Is AOL's service a "place of public
accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a key law
protecting the rights of the disabled?
The question is an important one for the Internet industry,
because if the answer is yes, then AOL -- and possibly other
Internet service providers and Web sites -- would be subject to the
strict rules of the ADA, which applies to places of public
On line companies would then have to make their offerings
reasonably accessible to blind people and others who are disabled,
in the same way that concert halls or restaurants must do. The cost
of achieving such compliance is unclear, although some disability
rights advocates say that the fixes are not technically difficult
The hitch, of course, is that AOL's services are not provided
in a physical structure like a store. Does that make a difference?
Lawyers who are experts in disability law tend to disagree on the
answers. And so far no court has decided this exact question as it
relates to the Internet.
Lawyers on each side of the issue can, however, point to some
One 1994 case concerned a lawsuit brought under the ADA
against a private association that operated a health plan. The
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston
considered whether "establishments of public accommodations" are
limited to actual physical structures. The court
found that "they are not so limited," and went on to say that an
insurer who provides services over the telephone or by mail could
be considered a place of public accommodation under the ADA.
"It would be irrational to conclude that persons who enter an
office to purchase services are protected by the ADA, but persons
who purchase the same services over the telephone or by mail are
not," wrote a three-judge panel in the case, Carparts v. Automotive
Wholesaler's Association of New England. "Congress could not have
intended such an absurd result."
Michael R. Masinter, a law professor who is an expert on the
ADA and who teaches at Nova Southeastern University in Fort
Lauderdale, Fla., said the Carparts ruling is the main reason that
the National Federation of the Blind sued AOL in federal district
court in Boston, which is bound by the First Circuit's decision in
the case. "The wind is certainly not at [AOL's] back" in Boston,
Offerings are almost impossible for blind people to use
because AOL's software is largely incompatible with screen access
But two other federal appeals courts have recently criticized
the Carparts decision, interpreting the term "public accommodation"
in the ADA to be limited to actual physical structures, Masinter
Daniel F. Goldstein, a lawyer for the federation, agreed that
certain court decisions in the First Circuit made Boston "a good
place" to file the lawsuit, but also said his clients opted for a
Massachusetts battleground because the courts there were familiar
with high-tech issues. Also, some of his blind clients who lived in
the area were upset about AOL's lack of accessibility, he said.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 generally requires
employers, state and local governments and places of public
accommodation to offer reasonable services or tools to insure that
people are not discriminated against on the basis of disability.
Title III of the law, which pertains to public accommodations,
defines the phrase "public accommodation" by way of illustration.
It provides a list of "private entities" that the law applies to,
including hotels, movie theaters, stadiums, laundromats, banks,
barber shops and travel services. The act groups its many examples
into 12 broad categories like "place of lodging," "place of
exhibition or entertainment" and "service establishment."
In the lawsuit against AOL, lawyers for the National
Federation of the Blind and the other plaintiffs argued that the
AOL service is a public accommodation as defined by title III of
the ADA in that it is "a place of exhibition and entertainment, a
place of public gathering, a sales and rental establishment, a
service establishment, a place of public display, a place of
education, and a place of recreation."
The AOL service, the federation said, provides millions of AOL
customers with simple access to the Web, along with e-mail, "buddy
lists," public bulletin boards and so on. But the offerings are
almost impossible for blind people to use because AOL's software is
largely incompatible with "screen access programs," which convert
text on a screen into synthesized speech or Braille and are used by
the blind, according to the complaint.
Professor Masinter, who has represented disabled individuals
in lawsuits, said in an interview that he believes AOL is not a
place of public accommodation, notwithstanding the Carparts ruling.
"To operate a place of public accommodation, you have to
operate a physical location in which some percentage of your
clientele comes in to do business with you," he said. "The examples
that appear in the law -- everything from an inn to a barber shop
-- all have a physical location," he said.
The stakes in the lawsuit are high because if the courts agree
with the viewpoint of the federation, then everyone who offers
goods or services or ideas in cyberspace "potentially becomes a
defendant" in an ADA lawsuit, Masinter said.
"I think it would be kind of a mess," he said. He added,
however, that although he believes the ADA does not require AOL to
make its services fully accessible to blind people, they should do
so because "it's the right thing to do."
Goldstein, the lawyer for the federation, defended his view
that AOL is legally obligated to conform to the ADA.
"Congress clearly intended to be as comprehensive as it could
be in Title III [of the ADA], and there is nothing physical that is
implied by the words 'public accommodation,' either the adjective
or the noun," he said. "Within the common understanding of a
private entity that offers services to the public, [the AOL
service] is a public accommodation," he said.
Goldstein added that other legal concepts that involve
"places" are not necessarily restricted to a physical location. In
First Amendment law, for example, the concept of a "public forum"
where debate cannot be unreasonably restricted by government is not
limited to a brick-and-mortar forum or auditorium, but can include
other intangible venues, including cyberspace, he said.
A spokesman for AOL declined to comment on the merits of the
lawsuit, beyond saying that the company is committed to developing
a new generation of software that will help the blind access its
AOL has 20 days from the date of receipt of the complaint in
which to file a formal answer. It was served with the complaint on
Wednesday, Goldstein said.
2000 AWARDS NOMINATIONS
by Joyce Lewis, Chair, KABVI Awards Committee
We are now accepting nominations for one or two outstanding
individuals to be recognized state-wide by the Extra Step Award or
the Eleanor A. Wilson Award. Winners will be honored at the annual
meeting and convention in Great Bend in October.
"THE EXTRA STEP AWARD is presented to a visually impaired
individual for unique courage and successful personal
rehabilitation. He or she shall have exhibited initiative and
ingenuity in meeting the unique challenges in his or her life, and
shall have contributed to society in an outstanding manner. He or
she shall be at least legally blind and shall be selected without
regard to affiliation with any organization for or of the blind,
and must be a Kansas resident."
"THE ELEANOR A. WILSON AWARD shall be presented to a sighted
or visually impaired individual who demonstrates outstanding
service to the visually handicapped in Kansas. He or she should,
through personal characteristics or activities, promote public
acceptance and understanding of visually impaired persons as
capable and productive members of the community. The Eleanor A.
Wilson Award emphasizes contributions beyond those achieved in the
course of one's regular employment. Selection is without regard to
affiliation with organizations for or of the blind. He or she must
be a Kansas resident."
The award winners shall be invited to attend the 2000 KABVI
annual convention in Great Bend this fall.
In addition to the award itself, travel, registration and one
night of hotel expenses for the award winners may be covered, if
desired and when funds are available. We in KABVI wish the award
ceremonies to be a genuine expression of appreciation for what
these extraordinary individuals have contributed to the benefit of
visually impaired people in Kansas.
Although since 1992 members of the KABVI Board of Directors
have become eligible for the awards, no member of the Awards
Committee or his or her immediate family is eligible for these
Your letter of nomination for either award should include
personal knowledge of the nominee and his or her specific
contributions. Nominations shall be evaluated and selected by the
Awards Committee, and the names of the winners shall be kept
confidential from the public until the time of the annual meeting.
The award recipients, on the other hand, shall be notified of their
selections to assure that they can attend the annual meeting (which
is required) and for the Awards Committee to make appropriate
Send your nominations before August 1, 2000, in any format to:
Joyce Lewis, Chair; Awards Committee; 3509 E. 2nd Street North;
Wichita, Kansas 67208.
BITS AND PIECES
TALKING CHECK BOOK: (acb-l Message from Charles Crawford
<cCrawford@ACB.org>) the Talking checkbook is a checkbook and
savings account manager that was written with blind folks in mind.
It can get input on checks and saving and credit cards and track
income and outflow of dollars and print the checks and all of that.
it does it all. the best thing is that it is written with speech
synthesis in mind and it also gives the user the ability to get
instant balance reports and the rest. We even wrote two games into
the code, some pretty nifty other features too.
INBOARD SPEECH-COMPRESSION RECORDER Sony's TCM, a palm-sized,
Walkman-like four track standard cassette recorder with built-in
speech compression capability is a must for the avid reader. every
feature imaginable is packed onto the small surface of this machine
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Mark your calendars for the following events of importance
to blind and visually impaired Kansans. For more information,
contact the relevant organization directly.
* March 18-20, 2000 ACB Legislative Seminar, Doubletree Hotel,
Washington DC. Contact: ACB National Office, 202-467-5081.
* April 29, 2000 KABVI Focus Day II, KSDS, Washington KS.
Topic: O&M, the Cane and the Guide Dog. Contact: Mike
Renner, KSDS 785-325-2256.
* May 1-3, 2000 Statewide Independent Living
Council Summit, Kansas City. Contact: SILCK, 700 SW
Jackson, Suite 212, Topeka, KS 66603, 785-234-6990 (V/TDD)
* May 19, 2000 SILCK Board meeting, Topeka
Contact: SILCK, 700 SW Jackson, Suite 212, Topeka, KS 66603,
* June 3-4, 2000 State Rehabilitation Council meeting, Topeka.
Contact Peg Spencer, 785-267-5301.
* July 2-8, 2000 ACB Convention, Louisville, KY. Contact: ACB
* September 18-20, 2000 Assistive Technology conference:
Topeka Expo Center. Contact: Assistive Technology for
Kansans Project, Sheila Simmons, 2601 Gabriel, Parsons KS 67357,
316- 421-8367 or 1-800-526-3648, e-mail:
* October 19, 2000 Inaugural Mary T. Adams Seminar, Holiday Inn,
Great Bend, KS. Contact Dr. Kendall Krug, 785-625-3937
* October 20-22, 1999 KABVI convention: Great Bend Holiday Inn.
Contact: Regina Henderson, Convention Coordinator, 1010
Inverness, Wichita KS 67218, 316-687-0113
Bachand, Francis, Val, 55, retired truck driver, died Tuesday,
February 22, 2000. No local service.
Survivors: sister, Verneda Breckheimer of Alsea, Oregon. Memorial
has been established with Muscular Dystrophy Association. DeVorss
Flanagan Hunt Mortuary.
By Barbara Alexander, Membership Secretary
I would like to thank everyone who responded to the KABVI
renewal mailing sent out in January. In addition to keeping our
membership numbers as high as possible, it gives us a good
opportunity to make corrections and changes in our information.
If you haven't sent in your KABVI dues for 2000, yet, you
still can do so. You may also have a friend, neighbor or family
member who can help us by joining, too.
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Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc.
924 S. Kansas Ave. Topeka, KS 66612
phone: 785-235-8990 toll free in KS: (800)-799-1499