Educating the Public About Blind People

Educating the Public About Blind People

by Peggy Chong

Looking through the archives, I have found many flyers and promotional pieces done for the organization. I was struck by the use of white canes in all the materials. Obviously the white cane was an important and powerful symbol that the organization wanted to be associated with the blind.

When promotional materials for the Home and Center were done, photos were taken for them. Careful thought was given to preparing each picture. Blind persons with their white canes were prominent in the publications doing the everyday activities of living.

The focus of many publications was to communicate with blind Minnesotans throughout the state. The first newsletter of the organization was called Views and Reviews. It was started in August 1924, but did not seem to last very long. Then the organization relied on circulars at irregular intervals to inform the membership of the activities of the organization and the issues that were being addressed. The circulars dealt with one issue at a time and usually asked for a response from the member.

Before the Minnesota Bulletin, the organization also prepared a regular column for the Braille Minnesotan entitled "M.S.O.B. Activities." This magazine may have been the first Braille magazine published locally for the blind of the Metro Area. It was printed by the Minnesota Council of Social Agencies for the Blind.

The first Minnesota Bulletin was printed and mailed to members and interested blind and sighted persons throughout the state in August 1935. Richard Gustafson was the first editor. It came out once a month for a year and then went to a bimonthly basis. The entire cost of the first edition was less than $5.00. It ran such columns as "Board's Business," "Ands" and "News Briefs" as well as all committee reports and legislative updates. Editorials were encouraged in every issue.

In November 1946 the Minnesota Bulletin was first published in Braille. The response to a Braille edition was overwhelming. By March 1947 there was a notice that, because of the high demand, they needed donations right away to continue the service. There has been a Braille edition ever since.

At the August quarterly meeting in 1975, Tom Rhode from the Library for the Blind in Faribault offered to duplicate the Minnesota Bulletin on cassette tape for the organization. His offer was happily accepted and acted upon immediately. State Services for the Blind had offered to duplicate a recorded version of the Bulletin several times since 1958, but had also attached strings to their offer. Luther Meyer, a reader chosen by the organization, read the cassette edition until the summer of 1981. Since then, members have read the cassette edition, many of them from a Braille copy. The Minnesota Bulletin has always served as a tool to keep in touch with the membership as well as a way to reach and educate new members. But it also serves as a way to state our policies on issues to agencies and legislators. During the 1950's, the Minnesota Bulletin was read by many members of the North Dakota Association of the Blind. It became the unofficial newsletter for the North Dakota affiliate as well. Each issue included the North Dakota News as well.

Extra copies were printed of issues that were important to get into the hands of nonmembers. Sometimes these were sent to legislators to promote our cause in the state Legislature for the coming year. Another time, copies were sent to ophthalmologists so they could pass the message of the organized blind onto their patients. During our fiftieth year, numbers of copies of each issue were sent to community leaders and groups. Our Golden Jubilee editions, celebrating our 50th anniversary, were the only issues to have pictures in them. At the Board meeting on September 19, 1980, the Board of Directors voted to look at publishing another newsletter aimed at the public. The first Blindside came out during February 1981. This was a quarterly newsletter that was printed for over five years. Each of the 22 issues has provided us with a wealth of material easily understood by the public. Many articles were reprinted in other organizations' newsletters and newspapers throughout the state. It was very well received by every one who read it. In 1982 the Blindside won an award of excellence from the International Association of Business Communicators. Some members felt that it was not informative and a bit tame, but then it was not meant to replace the Minnesota Bulletin. In September 1981 the information sheet Why Minnesota's Blind Do Not Always See Eye to Eye was widely circulated. This was a factual piece that laid out in a chart format the differences between the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Society for the Blind. Because of its simplicity and straight forwardness, we could use it in many situations and for many different populations.

Throughout the years, a common thread of equality, opportunity and positive philosophy have dominated all the publications of our affiliate. These publications show the determination and forethought of the leadership and the members to maintain a statewide organization operated by the blind that can truly speak for the blind.