An Employee Shares His Special View

by Kenneth Silberman

Copyright © 1995
National Federation of the Blind

          From the Editor: Ken Silberman is an active Federationist and a rising employee with NASA's National Space Science Data Center. We recently received the following letter from him:

Greenbelt, Maryland
October 15, 1991

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

          Shortly after I started working at the National Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) my supervisor asked me to write an article about myself for the NSSDC News, the newsletter of the Data Center. Since the News is distributed to Data Center staff, NSSDC users, and other interested parties around the world, he thought that this was a good way to introduce me to the staff and the patrons of our electronic library. On the other hand, I saw this as not only an opportunity to introduce myself but as a good way to promote our philosophy and our Federation.

          My article is entitled "An Employee Shares His Special View" (I did not choose this title) and appears on page thirteen of the Spring, 1991, issue of the News. In the article I describe the JOB seminar that was held in conjunction with our 1990 state convention in Annapolis; my work at that time; how my training and experience, including my Federation experience, helped and continues to help me on the job; and about blindness and the Federation. Bear in mind, this article was written late last year, and my duties have changed since that time.

          I am sending my article to you because it carries our message to the worldwide scientific community in such countries as the USSR, Germany, France, Italy, and Switzerland. It is a small audience but a sophisticated and influential one.

          This is what Ken Silberman said to me, and it demonstrates once again why our movement continues to increase in vitality and momentum. Federationists take every opportunity they can to tell others about our philosophy and spread the word. I thought Monitor readers might like to see Ken's article, so here it is:

          On Friday, November 9, 1990, the National Federation of the Blind held a Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) seminar in conjunction with the twenty-fourth annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Annapolis. This seminar was directed toward both blind applicants and prospective employers. Speakers talked about conducting job searches, working for a blind supervisor, reasonable accommodation, and the blind and technology.

          Many blind people described their professions, which ranged from secretarial work to engineering to molecular biology. I talked about my role with the National Space Science Data Center and described its mission (to archive and disseminate publicly all data obtained from NASA space flights, as well as some other spacecraft, and to develop computer systems that facilitate this job).

          At the data center my two primary tasks consist of providing customer support for the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) and developing and managing a data base for the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). These jobs require expertise in four areas: computer science, astronomy, writing, and management.

          To fulfill NSSDC's requirements, my work experience, a master's degree in aerospace engineering, a bachelor's degree in astronomy, and my Federation experience serve me well. My Federation work has taught me about leadership, organization, and financial management. My service as a programmer with the Navy enabled me to sharpen my skills in computer science to a razor's edge. While a graduate at Cornell University, I enjoyed a wide variety of experiences and studied everything from physics to folklore. An examination of my combined education, real-world experience, and service as a programmer with the Navy makes it apparent why NSSDC found me to be the right person for the job.

          Employers, being part of the general public, must come to understand that blindness is simply a characteristic and that it can be reduced to the level of a mere physical nuisance, limiting us only to that extent--no more and no less. Once people understand this simple truth, blind people will have finally freed themselves from the bonds of discrimination and prejudice. The array of talented blind people speaking last fall on the seminar's panels clearly demonstrates the reality of this philosophy. The blind in America are changing what it means to be blind through a vehicle for collective action. For the past half century that vehicle has been, and continues to be, the National Federation of the Blind.

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