Hawaii Association of the Blind Logo that has a colorful flower lei surrounding the letters HAB with a cane through the center

The Founder of the Hawaii Association of the Blind

The Hawaii Association of the Blind was the brainchild of Warren Toyama; his ideas and efforts brought it into being. He was its first president, and has been its most dedicated member as well as an important leader.

Warren M. Toyama was born in Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii, in the small community of Hawi. After attending elementary school for a few years, he was forced by State law to attend the Territorial School for the Deaf and Blind on Oahu, at the tender age of eight. There he learned many skills, most notably reading and writing in braille. He then attended Kawananakoa Intermediate School, and went on to McKinley High School for one semester. Eventually, Warren graduated from Kohala High School, and continued on to the University of Hawaii. In 1959 he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology.

Upon graduating, this ambitious scholar began working for Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, publishers of the World Book Encyclopedia, where he soon rose to the position of District Sales Manager. In 1962, he became part of a corporation of ten blind stockholders who successfully won the bid to operate the Honolulu International Airport Newsstand Concession. During its eight years in business, Warren served as the president and general manager.

In 1971, he purchased and operated a cocktail lounge, and in 1982 he entered the Blind Vending Facility program. In 1985, Warren was the recipient of the Eva H. Smyth Award. This coveted award is presented by the Hawaii Association of the Blind to an individual who has made distinguished contributions to the welfare and well-being of the blind people of Hawaii. Finally in 1986, the Hawaii Blind Vendors Association presented Warren Toyama with the very first Blind Vendor of the Year Award.

Warren Toyama has always been involved in helping others. In his early twenties, he taught Sunday school classes, and he headed the junior high level Christian Endeavor program at his church. He also helped organize bowling leagues for the blind, and later helped form a bowling club for the blind.

This intelligent, ambitious, and hard-working man has been available at all times of the day or night to assist blind individuals with their problems. He has put his personal reputation and job security on the line many times in order to further the cause of the blind in Hawaii.

Warren Toyama and his wife, Julia, have one daughter, Joy Nami.

The basic philosophy that drives this leader of the blind is that blind people ought to have equal access and equal opportunity to succeed in life with the sighted. No man-made barriers, such as discrimination, prejudice, custodialism, or overprotection, should thwart a blind person's quest for happiness in our society.

A History of the Hawaii Association of the Blind

Charter members of the Hawaii Association of the Blind were all individually selected in order to provide a stable foundation for this new organization. During the first few years of the movement, new members were carefully screened. Once the organization grew in strength and number, membership was open to all blind people in Hawaii. Membership into this new organization was also attained by a few sighted individuals.

The constitution of this group was adopted at its first meeting in August, 1967. Two months later, the organization, then known as the Hawaii Federation of the Blind, received a charter of affiliation to represent Hawaii in the National Federation of the Blind. This new affiliation provides avenues for communication concerning many blind related issues. Now the blind in Hawaii would be able to learn about national legislation that was being introduced, and they could develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of national programs for the blind. Hawaii's blind community could now look to programs or individuals in other states and use their examples as models. With national affiliation, the blind in Hawaii could now ask for assistance from this national body to help resolve specific local needs.

As a state affiliate, Hawaii participated diligently in the various activities of the National Federation of the Blind. These activities included regular attendance at their annual national conventions, aiding with fund raising, supporting national legislation, and responding when called upon for assistance.

In 1983, Hawaii seceded from the National Federation of the Blind due to irreconcilable differences over national policies dealing with state affiliates. The organization then changed its name to the Hawaii Association of the Blind (H.A.B.). The H.A.B. functioned without national affiliation from 1983 to 1985. In the summer of 1985, the H.A.B. became affiliated with the American Council of the Blind.

Warren Toyama, the organization's founder, served as president from 1967 to 1972. The other presidents, in succession, included: Donald Thomson (1972-1975), Warren Toyama (1975-1983), Filo Tu (1983-1988), Warren Toyama (1988-1991), Filo Tu (1991-1996), and finally Warren Toyama (1996-present).

Legislative Achievements

From its inception, the Hawaii Association of the Blind has been actively involved in the legislative arena. They have sponsored and supported various legislative actions dealing with the blind, and they firmly opposed many disturbing bills in the legislature. The following are highlights of the organization's legislative accomplishments:

    • 1969: Passage of a State House Resolution called for a team from the National Federation of the Blind to survey all State services to the blind in Hawaii.

    • 1972: Passage of the Hawaii Model White Cane Law which deals with the right of the blind to travel freely with a cane or guide dog, and it secures civil service employment rights for the blind.

    • 1972 and 1975: Successfully opposed proposed legislation which would have opened the Vending Stand Program for the Blind to all other physically handicapped persons.

    • 1974-1975: Successfully thwarted efforts by the State Administration to change the name of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, to the Library for the Handicapped. The blind would have lost it's identity with this institution which projects a positive image in society.

    • 1976: Passage of Civil Rights for the Handicapped legislation. This legislation parallels all existing statutes eliminating race and sex discrimination.

    • 1976: Successfully amended insurance industry regulation, forbidding insurance companies from discriminating against the blind in the issuance of life insurance policies.

    • 1979: Passage of the Adoption Bill. This legislation eliminates discrimination against blind and physically handicapped applicants by public agencies in the adoption of children.

    • 1981: Passage of Mini Randolph-Sheppard Vending Stand legislation. This law enlarged and strengthened the Hawaii Blind Vending Stand Program.

    • 1982: Successfully opposed legislation to repeal Mini Randolph-Sheppard Act.

    • 1982-1991: Successfully opposed repeated attempts to exempt guide dogs from Hawaii's Quarantine Laws.

    • 1991: Passage of Section 347-12.5 Hawaii Revised Statutes ("Randolph-Sheppard Revolving Account").

    • 1992 and 1993: Successfully opposed attempts to amend Mini Randolph-Sheppard Act to permit non-profit corporations to quality.


      White Cane Safety Day - 1969


      Blind Americans Equality Day - 2011

Scholarships and Grants

The Hawaii Association of the Blind has played an active role in helping the well-being of blind people in Hawaii by educating and aiding blind people in promoting self-development, emphasizing positive attitudes, and furthering higher education and training. The following are examples of the many endeavors this organization is involved in:

    • Reader service for blind college students;

    • Pre-school scholarship;

    • Tutorial scholarships;

    • Rehabilitation training grant;

    • Voice lessons scholarship;

    • On-the-job training grant;

    • Library services for the blind grant;

    • Hawaii School for the Blind student activity grant;

    • Rehabilitation for the Blind client activity grant;

    • Ho'opono Workshop Employee Fund grant;

    • Friends of Ho'opono grant;

    • Kokua Program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa; and

    • Department of Education Special Education.

Other Important Activities

The Hawaii Association of the Blind has also been active in educating the general public on the subject of having a positive attitude about blindness. The following is a brief list of activities carried out by the organization:

    • Provided speakers at Lions and Civitan Club meetings;

    • Provided speakers at the Young Buddhist Assocation State Youth Conference;

    • Manned an educational booth on blindness at the 50th State Fair;

    • Many radio and television appearances regarding blindness;

    • Provided speakers for classes at Leeward Community College and the University of Hawaii at Manoa;

    • Sponsored seminars for the blind regarding vocational rehabilitation regulations;

    • Sponsored seminars for the Blind regarding Randolph-Sheppard Act regulations;

    • Served as consultants and advisors to individuals and groups when deemed necessary;

    • Provided speakers at public and private schools to make sighted students more aware as to the abilities of blind persons.

Litigation Against the State of Hawaii to Preserve the Vending Facility Program for the Blind

With the financial and leadership support of the Hawaii Association of the Blind, the Hawaii Blind Vendors Association and ten individual blind vendors sued the Department of Human Services, State of Hawaii (DHS) and the Department of Transportation, State of Hawaii (DOT) to enforce s'102-14, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

This case, filed on January 23, 1984 in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii is legally known as Hawaii Blind Vendors Association, et al. V. DHS, et al. (Haw. 1st Cir. Civ. No. 81236). This action challenged the awarding of the vending facility contracts at the Honolulu International Airport (HIA) to Makaala, Inc., a non-profit corporation which was designed to primarily benefit the Physically handicapped. The original organizers of Makaala, Inc. were three State government officials from the DOT and the DHS, and Makaala, Inc. had no other business other than the HIA contracts.

The trial court judge in the 1984 lawsuit ruled against the blind vendors. The case was appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court. In May of 1990, the Hawaii Supreme Court unanimously reversed the trial court and remanded the case to the Circuit Court and the DHS for futher proceedings. See Hawaii Blind Vendors Association, et al. V. DHS, et al., 71 Haw. 367, 791 P.2d 1261 (1990).

The parties agreed to utilize the services of the Center of Alternative Dispute Resolution to settle the problem. In January of 1991 the first of many meetings was held in the State Supreme Court Building. The blind was represented by Warren Toyama (Chairman), Filo Tu, Donald Thomson, Clyde Ota, and our attorneys Evan Shirley and Stanley Levin. The State defendants were represented by the Attorney General's Office, DHS, and DOT.

As a result of our negotiations, Winona E. Rubin, DHS Director, notified Makaala, Inc. on June 20, 1991 that the State of Hawaii was not going to renew its contracts at HIA because the vision for the future provided that the HIA contracts would be awareded to individual blind vendors under permits isued pursuant to s'102-14, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

In July, 1993 a settlement agreement was signed covering the Newsstand concession at HIA. Subsequently three blind vendors were selected by DHS, according to the terms of the Agreement. The three vendors adhered to the Settlement Agreement by forming a corporation named Blind Vendors Ohana, Inc.

Blind Vendors Ohana, Inc. has existed now for nearly three years. From its very inception, Ohana has far exceeded the business productivity of the former Newsstand operation at HIA.

The steadfast members of the Hawaii Association of the Blind and the Hawaii Blind Vendors Association are to be congratulated and commended for their outstanding effort put forth in this case.

The return of the HIA Newsstand concession to the blind of Hawaii is the greatest victory in the annals of the organizaed blind movement in Hawaii.

This great victory was achieved as a result of the faith and financial contributions by the members of HAB and Hawaii Blind Vendors Assocation. Special recognition goes out to the blind negotiating team of Warren Toyama, Donald Thomson, Filo Tu, and Clyde Ota, our attorneys who provided their indispensable expertise, Robert Humphreys, a Washington D.C. attorney who advised our attorneys, and to the late Durward K. McDaniel, whose amazing knowledge and support greatly aided the victory.

The Hawaii Association of the Blind has always believed there are individuals in society who have performed outstanding service to the blind of Hawaii.

In recognition and appreciation of their efforts, an award was established in 1969 in the name of Eva H. Smyth, a blind teacher who served the blind of Hawaii for over fifty years. This award is presented at the Annual Convention of the Hawaii Association of the Blind only in those years that a person is deemed deserving.

The Eva H. Smyth Award

The following are the recipients of the Eva H. Smyth Award:

    • 1969 - Floyd Matson

    • 1970 - Howard Y. Miyake

    • 1972 - Albert Auyong

    • 1973 - Richard S. H. Wong

    • 1974 - Amelia Cetrone

    • 1977 - Arnold Steinbeck

    • 1978 - Helen Nawaa

    • 1981 - Roseanne Gilbert

    • 1983 - Fred King

    • 1984 - Neil Abercrombie

    • 1985 - Warren Toyama

    • 1986 - Lydia Ranger

    • 1992 - Evan R. Shirley

    • 1993 - Stanley Levin, Donald Thomson, and Filo Tu

    • 1994 - Rey Graulty

    • 1995 - Julia Toyama

    • 1997 - Melvin Kuwamoto

Hawaii Association of the Blind

"advocating independence, equality and opportunity for the blind"