Editor: Many blind children, particularly those with low vision, are not taught Braille. They are forced to use large print materials or electronic enlarging devices.
These methods do work for some, but not for most. Reading rates are too slow to be competitive and eye fatigue and headaches are common. Further, many persons with low vision lose their eyesight as adults.
This is exactly what happened to me two and a half years ago. Thankfully though, I also had good Braille skills so that I was able to continue on with my career without missing a day of work.
Your letter writers Mary E. Brady and David Poehlman say that the issue is not technology vs. Braille, but technology vs. no technology. I disagree. The issue is Braille vs. no Braille.
Your letter writers say that more research is needed. I say that this is hogwash. Blind and visually impaired persons simply need to know how to read and write. We do this by using Braille. Computers and tape recorders are important supplements and powerful tools in themselves but they are no substitute for reading. Reading is how you learn to spell and punctuate and how most of us study things in detail. This is true for the blind as well as for the sighted, and no research is necessary to tell me this.
Technology has its place in the lives of blind persons. Yes, it is opening up more jobs. But blind persons still need good basic competency, such as Braille and cane-travel skills, to take advantage of it. Further, technology in and of itself will not get blind person jobs. We must educate the public about our abilities and capabilities.
The writer is director of the National Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.
Editor: I worked at the Greater Homewood recycling center at Memorial Stadium off and on, and this past year started up the recycling program at Johns Hopkins University. I wonder how many businesses know how much savings there is in recycling. In the first year of the recycling program at Johns Hopkins University, we have recycled more than 130 tons, about 28 percent of the waste stream, which results in a savings of more than $15,000 a year. According to my analysis, JHU can recycle more than 60 percent of its waste stream next year. Isn't it nice when economic and environmental benefits coincide?
Many people have told me they think recycling is a big hassle, with so many little rules about what can be recycled and too few locations at inconvenient hours.
I agree. I'm frustrated too, but let's look at why recycling in Baltimore is the way it is. First, all the little rules: the whole idea behind recycling is the gathering together of bits and pieces of similar material so that industry can remake it into something else. Since each recycling program works with a variety of different companies which serve industry, there are many different ways they request that the material be sorted.
Remember, everything can be recycled, in some sense of the word, but unless you find someone who actually recycles it you have garbage. All those stupid little rules like "screw-top plastic containers only (without the lids)" are industry's way of getting the proper quality of material for their particular processing plant. If you mix the wrong materials in, someone, usually a recycling program volunteer, has to spend time cleaning up the mess before industry will accept the material.
As for the issue of too few locations and inconvenient hours, remember that most recycling in Baltimore is done by volunteer community groups. The solution lies not in demanding more from the volunteers, but to demand more from Baltimore City government.
Baltimore is way behind in its recycling. We should have curbside recycling almost everywhere by now, and because we don't many of the recycling programs are overwhelmed with so VTC much public demand to recycle more and more material. The next time you get frustrated with the lack of recycling options in Baltimore, don't holler at the recycling volunteer, go talk to the mayor or call up the city garbage department and tell them you want curbside recycling -- today.
Health: End 'Fractured' Care
Editor: The political parties are starting a new agenda on national health care. From the looks of it, both parties will favor a fractured form of care. Rather than looking out for all the population, I suspect they are concerned more with the protection of the insurance industry and the medical profession.
I admit to a certain amount of jealousy when I learned of the free health care given to President Bush while I and millions of others are denied that kind of free care and attention.
With a proper system, Medicaid for the poor and Medicare for the elderly could be eliminated, as well as health benefits in industry.
A single card, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, could combine Social Security with health care for every man, woman and child in America, funded by a combination of payments by government, industry and individuals.
Or, why cannot the politicians examine every nation's system of health care and combine the best features from each to form a better national health care system here?
Fun and Games
Editor: "That was fun. We wrote the check right here in my office. I knew they'd blown it."
That quotation from Joel McCord's article in The Sun June 12 angered me even more than the fact that another drunk driver is apparently about to go free on a legal technicality.
Since my son was killed by another drunk driver 12 years ago, I have grown accustomed to the reality that such actions seldom lead to appropriate punishment, at least for a first offense.
What is apparent from his statement is that the defense lawyer sees the legal process as some sort of game between himself and the prosecutor, one in which serving the ends of justice is only incidental. I should hate to think that such an attitude is typical of lawyers in general. Perhaps I'm naive.
Leight M. Johnson.
Editor: HIV/AIDS is more than a disease, it is a cultural phenomenon. Addressing "Who and How To Test For AIDS?" (editorial June 1), is secondary to addressing why HIV testing is unique. The fear and discrimination surrounding HIV have brought social and legal concerns into an area that was previously thought of as medicine and public health.
Testing for HIV is different than testing for all other medical conditions.
Prior to HIV, a physician would evaluate a patient and order appropriate lab tests. In Maryland, when a physician orders an HIV test, the law requires that the patient be counseled and sign an informed consent. A law which places limitations around a physician's ability to order appropriate lab tests does not emphasize good medical care. The law feeds into the fear surrounding HIV testing.
The State of Maryland has been very active in addressing HIV/AIDS concerns. The Governor's AIDS Advisory Council was a sponsor of Senate Bill 203 that passed this year. The bill directs the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty, the Maryland Hospital Association and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control, to develop a practice protocol for physicians who are infected with HIV. The protocol is to be presented to the General Assembly on Dec. 2.
The 1990s represents the second decade of experience with HIV/AIDS. There are incredible amounts of research and hope in caring for this illness.
As the politics of HIV/AIDS decreases, the principles of medicine and public health will best handle the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The writer is director of the Division of AIDS Services of the Baltimore County Department of Health.
Could George Will Remoralize the Poor?
Editor: George F. Will's recent Opinion * Commentary page piece, "The poor need uplift, not excuse," homogenizes the poor and works on the assumption that most poor people are morally bankrupt.
Mr. Will endorses a crusade to remoralize the poor. With their moral standards uplifted, he is sure, the poor will emerge from their passive cocoons as lovely butterflies, ready to size the opportunities society has to offer.
What are those opportunities, may I ask?
Notice the health-care system. A system that is geared to embrace the rich and abandon the poor, it is in a vast disarray.
Is the health-care system ready to take on the arduous task of remoralizing the poor by providing for them the benefits of healthy bodies and minds?
How can the poor snap out of apathy, if they are not vaccinated against preventable diseases? If they cannot receive prenatal care, if Medicaid covers only pre-selected, prioritized conditions?
Individuals who are not mentally and physically healthy do not have the vitality or the incentive to grab opportunities.
It is easy to preach patience to the poor from affluent neighborhoods. Poor men, women and children are victims of despair because they are rapidly discovering they don't matter in America.
Surely Mr. Will is aware that recent statistics have revealed that black men on the job-hunt trail are not received with open arms by white employers. The job hunters don't necessarily have to be poor to suffer discrimination, they just have to be black. How much worse if one is poor and black.
Mr. Will repeatedly makes the error of comparing Asian immigrants to America's poor.
They, too, are discriminated against and they, too, can be unemployed. Asian immigrants who successfully flood the job market are often better educated and less debilitated than the indigenous poor of America. And Asians who are out there, climbing the opportunity ladder, are frequently first- or second-generation immigrants. Their psyche has been shaped by experiences far different from the experiences of the poor who live in America's ghettos.
If demoralization is the reason the poor remain poor, remoralization should not be engendered through authoritarian contempt for their so-called passivity.
Ironically Mr. Will, who usually celebrates free-market economy with a vengeance, advocates paternalistic policies for the poor. He insists that the government should take on the "depressed but dutiful poor."
What a laugh! Government enforcing moral values! Who in government? The president whose vice-presidential days are being scrutinized for smudges of the Iran-Contra affair? John Sununu, who hitches rides on Air Force planes? Senators who were investigated for the savings and loan debacle?
It is obvious that immorality is not a monopoly of the poor. It seems to me that the rich need uplift, not excuse.
For poverty to be solved, a multipronged approach is essential. Compassion should be the thread that connects all approaches, liberal or conservative. While those among us who are virtuous conduct campaigns to remoralize the poor, liberal programs started to help the poor should be strengthened and not be subjected to cuts.
By the way, George Will is most of the time dull by virtue of being predictable. Couldn't he surprise us by becoming liberal for a day?