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The Braille Monitor,  August/September 2001 EditionThis is a line.

2001 Convention Resolutions Report

by Sharon Maneki

Jim Gashel, President Maurer, and Sharon Manecki sit at the Resolutions Committee meeting.
(left to right) Jim Gashel, President Maurer, and Sharon Maneki sit at the Resolutions Committee meeting. Pat Maurer and Doug Elliott can be seen in the background.

From the Editor: Sharon Maneki, President of the NFB of Maryland, chairs the Resolutions Committee. She and this year's committee secretary, Sharon Omvig, did an excellent job of keeping track of the committee's work during the convention. Here is Mrs. Maneki's summary of the resolutions considered by the Resolutions Committee and passed by the Convention:

At the change of the year Americans frequently talk about making resolutions for the coming year. We resolve to lose weight, get more exercise, or engage in other self-improving activities.

Statisticians tell us that by the end of January most people break or forget about the resolutions they made on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Federationists may make resolutions at the start of each new year, but we also think about resolutions at the start of each National Convention. Federation resolutions have a better track record then those made by many individuals. Our resolutions are policy statements which remain in effect until another convention changes the policy.

The language used in resolution-writing is formal and stilted: "Now, therefore, BE IT RESOLVED in convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2001, in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that ..." However, each resolution clearly announces our policy on a given subject. The recipient of a resolution has no doubt about our intentions after reading the document. We praise past action, offer condemnation of actions, and urge future action. The Resolutions Committee carefully considers and debates each issue because we recognize the impact of each resolution.

This year the Resolutions Committee considered twenty resolutions. Eighteen resolutions came to the convention floor. Resolution 2001-03, which called upon Federation leaders to communicate with the membership using accessible formats as much as possible, was withdrawn by the author after committee discussion. Ed Meskys, President of the NFB of New Hampshire and the author of this resolution, withdrew it because President Maurer explained that he already responds in Braille when it is clear that this would be the most convenient format and agreed to make an enhanced effort to communicate with members using their preferred medium, including e-mail. During the convention Dr. Maurer encouraged state presidents to provide his secretary with e-mail addresses for themselves and their chapter presidents and then keep the list updated.

Resolution 2001-08 was defeated in committee. The resolution called upon appropriate agencies to provide a slightly steeper slope on the approach from the sidewalk into the street instead of resorting to tactile warning strips.

The convention passed seventeen resolutions. Resolution 2001-19 called upon Michigan State University to lift its moratorium on admissions and enrollments in its vision-teacher training programs. Fred Wurtzel, President of the NFB of Michigan and the author of this resolution, withdrew it on the floor of the Convention, with the permission of the Convention, so that a broader resolution on all vision-teacher-training programs could be introduced next year. The Convention decided that vision teacher training is a national problem and needs a broader focus than that expressed in resolution 2001-19. The seventeen resolutions passed by the convention illustrate both our accomplishments and our future objectives.

The convention passed three resolutions in praise of past actions. Noel Nightingale, a member of the National Board of Directors and President of the NFB of Washington, introduced resolution 2001-01. In this resolution we commend the Honorable Roderick R. Paige, Secretary of Education, for upholding the rule that redefines an employment outcome in the vocational rehabilitation program. We also applaud Dr. Frederick K. Schroeder for his leadership in developing the new regulation on employment outcomes.

In resolution 2001-12 we commend those agencies which are undertaking significant efforts to implement section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in both the letter and the spirit of the law. We also call upon Congress and the Bush administration to demand the cooperation of all departments and agencies of the federal government in adopting policies and procedures to ensure the fair and uniform government-wide application of this important law. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all technology purchased, developed, or maintained by the Federal government be accessible to people with disabilities, including the blind. Gary Wunder, a member of the National Board of Directors and President of the NFB of Missouri, was the author of this resolution.

James Gashel, NFB Director of Governmental Affairs, introduced resolution 2001-18. In this resolution we praise the Association of American Publishers, the American Foundation for the Blind, the American Printing House for the Blind, RFB and D, and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for their efforts in working constructively with us to develop the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act.

We also urge Congress to pass this act before the adjournment of the current session so that blind students in elementary and secondary schools will have access to material at the same time as their sighted peers. The act will require textbook publishers to provide their products in a form of electronic text which could then be readily converted into Braille and other specialized formats.

The convention passed six resolutions opposing the actions of a variety of organizations. Peggy Elliott, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Iowa, introduced resolution 2001-05 which affirms our longstanding opposition to NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped--now Blind and Visually Impaired Persons). The resolution reads in part, "This organization declare[s] NAC to be an artifact of the past and not relevant to the needs of the blind in the twenty-first century."

James Omvig, a long time leader in the Federation, was the author of resolution 2001-11, which deals with certification of blindness specialists. The resolution outlines the reasons for our opposition to certification by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Educational Professionals, which has now replaced in name but not intention the certification provided by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). The National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) was established to serve as a positive, progressive alternative to AER/Academy certification. In this resolution we urge all state education and rehabilitation agencies to recognize performance-based certifying authorities such as the NBPCB.

In resolution 2001-14 we condemn and deplore opposition by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities to the legislative priorities of blind Americans such as the elimination of the sub-minimum wage. The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities portrays itself as the representative voice of all people with disabilities. It does not speak for the organized blind. The authors of this resolution were Brook Sexton, the newly elected treasurer of the National Association of Blind Students and a 2000 TenBroek Fellow, and Matt Lyles, a 2001 scholarship winner.

Scott LaBarre, President of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, sponsored two resolutions concerning recommendations by the Public Rights of Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB). In both resolutions we demand that the ATBCB order the PROWAAC to halt the drafting of technical guidance until final regulations have been promulgated. In both resolutions we also urge the ATBCB to adopt the minority report filed by the National Federation of the Blind as its final regulations. Resolution 2001-09 outlines our objections to the PROWAAC requirements for installation of detectable warnings. Resolution 2001-13 outlines our opposition to the PROWAAC standard which would call for the installation of accessible pedestrian signals at every intersection that has a traffic-control device.

The civil rights of blind people who carry a white cane or use a guide dog are guaranteed by law. These protections include the right to use the streets, public accommodations, and public facilities. Suzanne Whalen, President; Eugenia Firth, Secretary; and Karla Westjohn, member, of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, sponsored resolution 2001

17. As the resolution states, experiments such as those being conducted by the Guide Horse Foundation in Kittrell, North Carolina, are not only demeaning and dangerous but could also jeopardize our civil rights.

The remaining eight resolutions urge numerous entities to take immediate action on various issues of concern to the organized blind. Two resolutions expand on the work that we began during our Washington seminar on Capitol Hill last February. In resolution 2001-02, sponsored by Jim Marks, a strong Federation leader from Montana, we urge Congress to expand Medicare coverage to include rehabilitation services for older blind Americans by passing the bill to be introduced by Congressman Towns and Congressman Frost. The resolution also describes our opposition to Congressman Capuano's bill, which treats rehabilitation of older blind people as a medical problem to be managed by physicians, rather than allowing these services to be "furnished or supervised by a designated state vocational rehabilitation agency to an older blind individual under Chapter Two of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act."

Kristen Cox, Assistant Director of the NFB's Department of Governmental Affairs, sponsored resolution 2001-04. In this resolution we call upon Congress "to require that voting technology provide for both visual and nonvisual output as a condition for the receipt of any federal funds appropriated for the purchase of such technology." We also urge state legislators to ensure that voting technology is accessible to both the blind and the sighted.

Two resolutions called for improvements in the system for funding the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Carlos Servan, President of the NFB of Nebraska and the Deputy Director of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind, sponsored resolution 2001-06 to address problems with reimbursements to state vocational rehabilitation agencies by the Social Security Administration for services to blind beneficiaries who become employed and leave the Social Security rolls. Current Social Security Administration policies can result in excluding some of the state agency's administrative costs for services. This reimbursement problem frequently occurs when clients exercise their right to choose a service provider that is not part of the state agency. In this resolution we call upon the Social Security Administration and the Rehabilitation Services Administration to develop policies and guidelines to ensure total reimbursement for vocational rehabilitation services.

Allen Harris, Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind, and Mrs. Cox sponsored resolution 2001-10. In the current funding formula for vocational rehabilitation services, Congress provided for a cost-of-living increase. In practice some states end up losing money because of this formula. In this resolution we called upon Congress to make sure that every state receives the cost-of-living increase. Further, we call upon Congress "to appropriate an additional 10 percent above the cost of living for fiscal year 2002 in order to support new and needed vocational rehabilitation services."

Mr. Gashel sponsored two resolutions about medical issues of concern to the blind. In resolution 2001-07 we condemn insurance companies who refuse to sell long-term care coverage to blind people. We intend to bring this growing form of discrimination to the attention of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and to the states so that they may take immediate corrective action. In resolution 2001-20 we call upon the Food and Drug Administration to require drug manufacturers to provide tactile labels on prescription drugs.

The remaining two resolutions call upon various entities to work with the National Federation of the Blind to solve access problems. A long-time leader in the Federation, Harold Snider, introduced resolution 2001-15. In this resolution we call upon the Federal Communications Commission, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the U.S. Department of Education, and the broadcast industry "to develop a simple and cost-effective process for voicing all health, safety, education, and civic information printed to the television screen."

Deborah Brown, First Vice President of the National Association of Blind Musicians, sponsored resolution 2001-16. In this resolution we request support and assistance from members of the music publishing industry to secure a means of expedited approval of copyright whenever Braille transcription of musical scores is needed.

This information is merely an introductory description of the resolutions considered and passed by the convention. Readers should examine the complete text of each resolution to understand fully our policy on these subjects.

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