Volume 43 Spring, 2000 No. 1

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Click here to learn more about the K A B V I Newsletter

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


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

1205 SW 29th Street #14G
Topeka KS 66611-1200

5321 Plaza Lane
Wichita KS 67208


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.



NOTIONS By Nancy Johnson

ONE PERSPECTIVE: An Internet Exchange


and Michael Byington



A LETTER TO SENATOR KERR by Sanford J. Alexander, III

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE by Michael Byington


CALLING FOR AWARDS NOMINATIONS by Joyce Lewis, Chair, Awards Committee




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

decision first."

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

nowhere fast.

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

Hi, 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



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.


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)




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

officials plan.

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

February 3.

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.




Sanford Alexander, (316) 651-6349

Michael Byington, (785) 640-4500 or (785) 233-3839



Blind Kansans are expressing anger at decisions made by SRS

which will impact the lives and future services for Kansans with

vision loss.

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.





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

blind Kansans.

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

City Council.

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 responses.

The second document started with the following as a headline

in about 35 point print, "SRS HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THEY WILL





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.


is mentioned in several State laws concerning blindness and blind

services, but nothing says it has to continue operating.


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.


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



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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Blind Kansans are not making unreasonable requests. They are

essentially attempting to keep the quality and quantity of services

they have.

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.


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.


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.



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

neighborhood councils.

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

blind people.

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

eastern Kansas.

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

and content.

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




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

when proven).

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

state hospitals;

4. The legislature needs to hold the SRS FEET to the fire,

they seem to think that they can ignore you folks, "CAREFUL THEY


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




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.

Sincerely Yours,

Sanford J. Alexander, III, President

cc: All Kansas Legislators



By Michael Byington



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



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

on through.


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

become involved.

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.



by Carl S. Kaplan

acb-l Message from Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.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

or expensive.

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,

Masinter said.

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.


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

welcoming arrangements.

Send your nominations before August 1, 2000, in any format to:

Joyce Lewis, Chair; Awards Committee; 3509 E. 2nd Street North;

Wichita, Kansas 67208.




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.


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





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,

785-234-6990 (V/TDD)

* 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

office, 202-467-5081.

* 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


In Memoriam


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.


The End

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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

email: mail@kabvi.org