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Europe and Africa, of South and Central America, as we have become better acquainted with blind people from many countries and every area of the world, there has grown in the National Federation of the Blind an increasing desire to assist these people, an increasing determination to share our experience as blind people, our good fortune as blind Americans, with the blind of other nations, that they may gain from our experience, that they may benefit from our good fortune.
Since 1964, Mr. Chairman, when the National Federation of the Blind began expanding the scope of its international activities, we have had more than two dozen leaders of the blind from nations scattered throughout the world attend and participate in our annual national convention, and they have spent time traveling about our country
They have become acquainted with blind people.
They have learned of the diversity of our employments and our activities, the extent to which we take part in all aspects of community and national life.
Our members, serving as hosts and guides, gained much from their association with these leaders of the blind from other lands, and, of course, our guests learned much during their stay with us.
In fact, Mr. Chairman, we believe the experiences that we of the National Federation of the Blind shared with our fellow blind from other nations were of much mutual benefit.
Each blind person, who has been with us, has been a leader of the blind in his own country, and actively engaged in seeking a better life for the blind of his own country.
Each blind person who has visited us, who has come from a foreign nation to be with us in the United States, has, by associating with blind Americans, learned about blind Americans, what we are able to do and what we are doing, and because of this time with us, each person has been better able to work in his own country for improved opportunities for his fellow blind citizens.
We of the National Federation of the Blind believe, Mr. Chairman, that by affording leading blind persons of other nations a chance to visit America, results of far-reaching significance are achieved -
Surely, Mr. Chairman, the people of the world have heard far too much of the wealth and the weapons of America, but, we believe, they have heard far too little of the deep and general concern in America for persons who are physically and mentally impaired-of the special helps and services provided to such people, of the educational and training programs available to them, of the gainful employments engaged in by them
They have heard far too little of the opportunities for normal, self-dependent living achievable and achieved by physically and mentally disabled persons in America.
Mr. Chairman, as American citizens, we of the National Federation of the Blind believe it is most important that this aspect of our national life and culture be better known throughout the world that the people of the world be informed that basic in our national philosophy and practice, there is the cornerstone belief of the worth of each individual; a belief so solidly rooted and so all-pervasive that it includes the blind, other physically impaired persons, and mentally impaired persons, within its scope.
Of course, blind persons who visit the United States as guests of the National Federation of the Blind are shown the schools, the libraries, and the other institutions and agencies which serve the needs of the blind in this Nation—but that isn't the reason we have them here.
We want them here to meet blind Americans.
For, as foreign blind people meet blind Americans, they discover that here in this country, as in theirs, there are adverse public attitudes toward the disabled, that there exists prejudices and discriminations, social and economic barriers, which bar the way of the impaired who seek to achieve self-dependent lives.
But Mr. Chairman, they also discover that much is being done to combat such attitudes, to eliminate such barriers.
The foreign blind who visit America discover it is the policy of our Government to afford full and fair opportunity to all citizens, and they discover that "all” includes the blind, the deaf, the crippled, the mentally defective—that it includes every American, that none are excluded because of physical defect or mental disability.
Blind leaders from other lands who spend a brief time in America discover that in our democracy, all citizens are guaranteed the right and assured the opportunity to work to change that which they deem unwise, unfair, or disadvantageous to their interests and beliefs, and they may work to achieve such change by individual petition, or in concert with others, by joint and organized action.
They become familiar with the organized efforts of blind Americans to improve their lot, to meet the challenges of sightlessness in a sightstructured society.
They are able to observe and learn our methods and techniques, and they are told of our accomplishments.
But most important of all, Mr. Chairman, we believe, blind persons who come from other lands to be with us, learn of the spirit—the American spirit-which is so well exemplified by blind Americans: Our determination to live normally, to function fully and independently.
They learn of our successful efforts to help ourselves.
And they gain by association with us the realization that their fellow blind, too, may strive and achieve just as we, American blind men and women, have striven and achieved; that the blind of other lands may accomplish much by working together and trying together, as we, the blind of the United States, have worked together, and tried together, and accomplished much together.
Leaders of the blind from foreign nations who meet and become acquainted with American blind persons a lso learn of the almost limitless number of occupations, businesses, and professions in which we are gainfully, competitively, and successfully engaged, and they return to their country with a strengthened belief in the potentialities available to their fellow blind, with a new knowledge of the economic possibilities available to their fellow blind.
They return to their country with a conviction that if the blind of America can aspire and attain economic self-sufficiency, can attain social equality, so too, can the blind of their own nation.
Mr. Chairman, the National Federation of the Blind has dealt too fully, perhaps, with what we believe are the real gains which result by enabling blind men and women, leaders of blind people of other lands, to spend a bit of time here in the United States among blind Americans.
But we have done so because we have found such an extensive explanation necessary, and even then, sometimes, our objectives have not been understood.
As you well know, Mr. Chairman, there are already great numbers of publicly and privately financed programs to bring persons from foreign nations to the United States.
However, when the National Federation of the Blind has investigated these programs, usually, we have found them categorical in approach.
We have found that if we wanted to bring teachers of the blind to America to learn how to become better teachers, vocational rehabilitation counsellors to become better vocational rehabilitation counsellors, for other technicians, other specialists in the field of the blind to come here to secure further training in their professional specialties, then funds would have been available to us.
But when we have talked of blind persons coming to the United States to learn by association with American blind persons, when we have talked about blind foreign leaders of the blind visiting the United States that they might learn how blind Americans have worked together in their "self-help" organizations to secure improved status for blind people, then, Mr. Chairman, then we have found that that which we wanted to do just didn't fit in any established category in the various international exchange programs.
There was one exception to this, however-the Educational and Cultural Exchange Program of the State Department.
The personnel of this agency with whom we have dealt have understood the international goals of the National Federation of the Blind, and they have enthusiastically cooperated with us in our efforts to secure financial support for our foreign blind applicants.
But, Mr. Chairman, only seven of our requests to this agency have been approved since 1964-for it has very meager funds, and such funds as it has are disposed of by our embassy people.
And we have usually found that travel grants for blind people to come to the United States are far down on embassy priority lists.
It is our hope, therefore, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, that S. 1779 will be promptly approved by you, that it will be promptly passed by Congress.
For we believe the kind of international program that would be established by S. 1779 is the very kind that we have looked for in vain—the kind of program that would be administered by personnel who would understand what we are trying to do, who would be responsive to what we are trying to do for the blind of other nations.
We believe the international program established by S. 1779 would offer the National Federation of the Blind the possibility of help in our determined efforts to help the blind of other lands, that they will then be better able to help themselves.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for this opportunity of appearing.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Thank you, Mr. Nagle, for a very forceful statement, a very forceful presentation.
I hope with you that this bill passes, and that the scientific developments, and the improved methods of instruction for the blind, will be made available through these international health and educational programs to the people of the world.
I was very much interested in seeing the new walking stick for the blind that was exhibited. Is that one with those laser rays in it that
Mr. NagLE. No. This is just an aluminum one with a rubber core in it.
Senator YARBOROUGH. There was a new one exhibited on television this week with beams that shoot out from it. I guess you are familiar with that one. They shoot out in front, one downward and one upward.
Mr. NAGLE. Yes.
Senator YARBOROUGH. And the beams are reflected to the man's hands. The vibrations tell him about objects above him that would hit him in the face; and if there is a hole in the ground before him, the beams tell him that.
You see this walking stick and other research, grants made under recent laws, and I think we are only at the beginning of breakthroughs that will enable the blind to have a much fuller life than they have had in the past.
I want to thank the National Federation of the Blind for what they have done.
We are very glad to have this fine presentation. Thank you.
Senator YARBOROUGH. The next witness is Mr. Joaquin F. Otero, assistant director, International Affairs Department, Brotherhood of Railway, Airline, and Steamship Clerks, affiliated with Railway Labor Executives Association, Washington. Come around, Vr. Otero; and, if you have an assistant with you, introduce him.
STATEMENT OF JOAQUIN F. OTERO, RAILWAY LABOR EXECUTIVES'
ASSOCIATION; ACCOMPANIED BY MANUEL J. MEDRANO, REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR LATIN AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN AREA, INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' FEDERATION
Mr. OTERO. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Accompanying me this morning is Mr. Manuel Medrano, regional director, Latin America and the Caribbean area, for the International Transport Workers' Federation.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Does Puerto Rico come under the continental United States?
Mr. OTERO. Puerto Rico comes under the continental United States.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Well, the prices are high enough there for the continental United States. I was down there last year in Puerto Rico. It has a very affluent society now with all those hotels they are building. They are about to take it away from Florida, and they have got the trade that used to go to Cuba, and I think they are competing with Miami Beach.
Mr. OTEYO. Mr. Medrano is of Peruvian nationality, and he makes his home in Lima, Peru.
Senator YARBOROUGH. You are welcome here. I have been in your beautiful city and great country and hope to go back there next September as a delegate to a meeting. We welcome you here.
In my State, I live in Texas, we have a thousand mile border with Mexico.
I think we have studied the great advance of civilization in Latin America, perhaps. more than people do up on the Canadian border, and we have long admired the great history of Peru, the pre-Colombian people, the post-Colombian, the site of one of the two vice royalties of Spain, Mexico City and Lima, so we have a special welcome for you.
Will you proceed, please, Mr. Otero.
I am appearing today on behalf of the Railway Labor Executives' Association, with headquarters at 400 First Street NW., Washington, D.C. This association speaks for 23 standard railway labor organizations representing nearly all of the Nation's railroad employees. A list of the RLEA affiliates is attached to the end of my statement.
At this point, Mr. Chairman, I would like to request that my statement be entered into the record in its entirety so that I may summarize its contents and submit to any questions the committee may have.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Your statement will be printed in the record.
Mr. OTERO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My testimony this morning is in support and endorsement of S. 1779.
My present position is assistant director, International Affairs Department of the Brotherhood of Railway, Airline and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees, an affiliate of the Railway Labor Executives' Association.
From the period of 1961 through 1966 I was on a leave of absence from my union in the United States to work for the International Transport Workers Federation in Latin America as director for the region encompassing Latin America and the Caribbean area.
During this period of time, Mr. Chairman, I have traveled and worked in almost every country in Latin America and the Caribbean area.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Pardon me one moment, Mr. Otero. When you asked for the printing of the statement did you want the list of the organizations printed also?
Mr. OTERO. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. OTERO. Therefore, my testimony this morning is based on my personal experience in this field, as well as on the active affiliation of the RLÉA to the International Transport Workers Federation since 1946.
Senator YARBOROUGH. Where did you live in Brazil while you were residing there?