The Braille Monitor                                                                                August/September, 2002

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National Federation of the Blind 2002 Resolutions

 

Resolution 2002-01

 

WHEREAS, access to educational materials and textbooks is the primary means to provide successful educational experiences to blind and visually impaired children; and

WHEREAS, inaccessibility to such materials denies blind and visually impaired children the opportunity to become successful and equal participants in school and careers after graduation; and

WHEREAS, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not prescribe relevant or specific accessibility standards or a means by which textbooks can be provided in the particular nonvisual format needed by a blind student; and

WHEREAS, schools do not presently have a legally enforceable or practical means of ensuring that publishers provide electronic files of textbooks in enough time for the books to be reproduced in alternate formats; and

WHEREAS, pending legislation in Congress, entitled the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA), developed in consultation with the Association of American Publishers, calls for a process to make instructional materials available to blind and visually impaired persons at the same time they are provided to other students; and

WHEREAS, once enacted, the IMAA will create a process for the development of an agreed-upon electronic file format and establish a repository for electronic files of educational materials from which all school districts in America can promptly access them; and

WHEREAS, the IMAA will also require publishers of instructional materials to provide the electronic files to the repository and will authorize grants for states to establish or augment their means of producing materials in alternative formats; and

WHEREAS, the implementation of IMAA will ensure equality and opportunity for blind and visually impaired children in elementary and secondary schools in America: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge Congress to pass the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) during its current session to insure henceforth that America's blind children will have access to instructional materials equal to that of their sighted peers.

 

 

Resolution 2002-02

 

WHEREAS, an increasing amount of instruction in schools is presented through electronic information systems, often with little or no thought given to their nonvisual accessibility; and

WHEREAS, as this trend continues, blind students will find themselves at a greater and greater educational disadvantage; and

WHEREAS, the State of Maryland recently passed a law requiring

compliance with accessibility standards in the purchase of instructional technology; and

WHEREAS, an effort is underway among a consortium of disability-related educational groups to include such a provision in legislation now before Congress to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon Congress and those state legislatures which have not yet done so to enact legislation requiring that all instructional technology purchased by schools ensure the availability of nonvisual access to both the technology and content by rigorously applying accessibility standards (including standards for nonvisual access) and by using audio description where appropriate and necessary to convey essential information.

 

 

Resolution 2002-03

Failed to Pass

 

 

Resolution 2002-04

 

WHEREAS, Braille, with all of its various codes, represents a viable and essential tool of literacy for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the current literary, math, and computer Braille codes used in the United States have been learned and used by more than a generation of blind persons and found to be extremely effective; and

WHEREAS, the relative stability of these codes has enabled the United States to accumulate a collection of math and science textbooks which rivals that of any other English-speaking country; and

WHEREAS, since 1992 the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and later the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) have been engaged in an effort to create a Unified English Braille Code (UEBC), which would combine the literary, math and science, and computer codes into one unified system to be used by all English-speaking countries; and

WHEREAS, the proposed UEBC would effectively destroy the mathematics, scientific, and technical codes used by Braille users in this country, not to mention making nontrivial changes to literary Braille; and

WHEREAS, the proposed UEBC does not address a particularly labor-intensive part of the process to convert printed material into literary Braille--specifically, it does not make it easier to produce properly formatted Braille from printed material originally prepared for visual presentation; and

WHEREAS, transition to a system as radically different as the UEBC would make obsolete the vast holdings of mathematics, scientific, and technical materials in the United States and require Braille teachers to be retrained, skilled Braille transcribers to be recertified, training materials to be rewritten, and computer software to be modified--all at a cost of millions of dollars; and

WHEREAS, the theory of an unambiguous, expandable, and unified Braille code for English-speaking countries seems attractive, but the inevitable sacrifices in brevity and quality--particularly in the areas of mathematics and science--far outweigh any gains that might be brought about by the adoption of an unproven, untested, and radically different system; and

WHEREAS, given the already relatively scarce resources available to the blindness community, a new Braille system in no way superior to the system currently in place cannot justify the great cost and effort required for its implementation; and

WHEREAS, with the imminent passage of a bill in Congress requiring textbooks to be made available in a predefined electronic format, Braille in the United States is poised to reach a new and exciting level of availability, making this a particularly poor time for radical changes in the Braille code; and

WHEREAS, there is no question that from time to time, in response to changes in print usage, Braille codes require alterations; and

WHEREAS, BANA has abrogated its responsibility for Braille code creation by allowing Committee II of ICEB to develop the Unified English Braille Code, which has not been adopted by other English-speaking countries: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express strong support for the continued use of all of the Braille codes used in this country today: the Literary Code, the Braille Code for Textbook Formats and Techniques, the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science, the Computer Braille Code, and the Braille Music Code--all of which, taken together, have enabled literally thousands of blind people to achieve literacy in our society; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that while acknowledging that minor changes in Braille codes will always be necessary for this system of literacy to flourish and adapt in a constantly changing world, this organization express its opposition to any drastic changes in Braille, particularly if such changes would eliminate or severely diminish any of the valuable Braille codes used today; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the Braille Authority of North America to retain its responsibilities for maintaining and improving current Braille codes in North America for Braille users in North America.

 

 

Resolution 2002-05

 

WHEREAS, the Braille Authority of North America and the International Council on English Braille have for the last decade worked on a project to unify all the English Braille codes into one single code; and

WHEREAS, proponents of this effort have expressed the mistaken belief that current Braille codes (particularly those related to math, science, and computer notation) are hard to learn, hard to teach, and hard to translate with computer software; and

WHEREAS, the only one of these three alleged flaws in Braille that has any validity is that Braille translation software has not achieved the sophistication that Braille advocates want; and

WHEREAS, with the imminent passage of a bill in Congress that would require textbooks to be made available in a predefined digital format, Braille in the United States is about to reach a new and exciting level of availability, making this a particularly poor time for radical changes in the Braille code; and

WHEREAS, the promise of much more widely available Braille throws into sharp relief a weakness of the Braille unification effort: it proposes to modify the code in vast and undesirable ways but does not in any way affect the greatest single challenge of computer Braille translation--specifically, properly formatting in Braille material that was originally prepared in print for visual presentation; and

WHEREAS, the real problem with Braille is not its alleged ambiguity, but rather the lack of a sufficient quantity of material to make computer routines and protocols easy to write, test, and validate; and

WHEREAS, with huge new quantities of easily accessed material in a predefined digital format soon to be available, protocols supporting easier formatting and significantly improved translation of the more technical aspects of the Braille code are just over the horizon; and

WHEREAS, once a vast array of textbooks in a predefined digital format becomes available, it will take at least five years for Braille translation, formatting, and educational practices to benefit from the effects of having a virtually limitless supply of material that can be readily brailled; and

WHEREAS, this desirable outcome will be thwarted if time has to be wasted relearning a new code, teaching the new code, and rewriting all the computer programs for a new code that is actually more cumbersome and bulky than the current one while not in any way solving the true challenge of computerized Braille production--formatting; and

WHEREAS, stasis in the Braille code while the reading and translating communities assimilate the changes that will result from having available textbooks in a predefined digital format is highly desirable: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) to cease and desist all efforts to make radical changes in the Braille code while the new circumstance of having readily available electronic textbooks is assimilated and understood; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge BANA, the ICEB, and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the United States Department of Education to make wise use of this vast change in Braille availability to study its effects and to experiment with minor changes which enhance ease of computer translation, ease of formatting during translation, and Braille readability, while retaining the fundamentals of today's Braille codes--the most flexible and powerful reading and writing tools blind people have ever enjoyed.

 

 

Resolution 2002-06

 

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, provides federal financial assistance to rehabilitation agencies in every state designed to meet the needs of blind and disabled adults with services such as training for independent living, including independent travel, Braille literacy, and daily living skills; use of specialized aids and devices; and other goods or services needed for blind people to work and live independently; and

WHEREAS, the emphasis of this program is on assisting individuals to achieve an employment outcome, providing only a small amount of funding needed to serve seniors who may not have a goal of employment but still need services through a program based on the rehabilitation model in order to live independently with blindness; and

WHEREAS, more than six million Americans age fifty-five and older are blind or severely visually impaired, yet fewer than 5 percent of them can receive rehabilitation services at the current level of funding specifically targeted for older blind individuals under Chapter 2 of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and

WHEREAS, the void in quality rehabilitation services for the older blind creates huge costs, such as those reported by the Alliance on Aging Research, which disclosed that visual impairment is one of the top four reasons why seniors lose their independence, contributing to medical and long-term care costs of $26 billion annually; and

WHEREAS, without these services older blind individuals are often forced to exhaust their resources and live at public expense in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes, which, compared to living independently, results in significant expense for state and federal programs; and

WHEREAS, rehabilitation agencies have demonstrated expertise in providing services required to assist blind seniors to remain independent, active, and contributing members of society; and

WHEREAS, the Medicare program Title XVIII of the Social Security Act provides health insurance coverage and pays for reasonable and necessary services consistent with the goals of rehabilitation but delivered and supervised only in a medical model, with services provided by qualified medical rather than rehabilitation personnel; and

WHEREAS, while seniors losing vision often need treatment appropriately provided through a medical model, the reacquisition of independence for newly blind people requires professional expertise in rehabilitation and is not traditionally or effectively addressed as part of a medical discipline; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Martin Frost has introduced H.R. 2674, the Medicare Coverage Equity Act for the Blind, which amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to permit state rehabilitation agencies serving blind persons age fifty-five and older to serve as Medicare providers and obtain reimbursement for the cost of serving older blind beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicare; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Frost's proposal, using the rehabilitation model, will save billions in medical costs from injuries and unnecessary nursing home placements while saving the most important thing of all for seniors and those who love them: the dignity and independence of strong, able persons who happen to be blind due to aging; and

WHEREAS, an alternative proposal introduced in Congress as H.R. 2484 and S. 1967 calls for extending Medicare coverage to so-called "vision rehabilitation" services for Medicare beneficiaries of any age, when such services are provided or supervised by a physician, thereby allowing medical practitioners to be paid by Medicare for services that they are not trained to provide or qualified to supervise; and

WHEREAS, although the ability of medical doctors, ophthalmologists, and optometrists to help maintain, enhance, or restore sight is a necessary component in treating an individual's physical condition, learning to live as a blind person is not a medical condition but a confluence of skills and attitudes best learned from other blind people and qualified experts in rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, supporters of H.R. 2484 and S. 1967 recognize the need for support of the senior blind, but the approach of this bill would place private providers beyond the reach of state and federal rehabilitation accountability or accountability to consumers and legislators: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization commend Congressman Martin Frost for his leadership in promoting the Medicare Coverage Equity Act for the Blind, which will amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to include Medicare coverage for rehabilitation services provided to older blind individuals by funding rehabilitation services through qualified state agencies designated under the Rehabilitation Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress and the Bush administration to adopt this legislation during the current session of Congress and continue to advise Congress that H.R. 2484 and S. 1967 represent an ill-conceived and unacceptable approach of providing rehabilitation services based on a medical model rather than a rehabilitative model.

 

 

Resolution 2002-07

 

WHEREAS, the continuing development of the Internet creates the potential for direct access to information for blind people, thereby reducing the necessity for reliance on assistance from readers; and

WHEREAS, it is presently possible for a blind person to apply for Social Security benefits using the Internet; and

WHEREAS, in addition to submitting an initial application, members of the public, including the blind, should also be able to conduct other business with the Social Security Administration online, provided that this information is available in a secure environment; and

WHEREAS, if all forms were accessible to blind people, routine business such as reporting work activity, seeking reconsideration of unfavorable decisions, or submitting a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) could be done much more efficiently and independently by blind persons; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration makes the vast majority of its forms available in Adobe's portable document format, which is not accessible to many blind people; and

WHEREAS, the unfortunate result is that, while the promise of the Internet for fast, private, independent handling of business with the Social Security Administration is present, its reality is denied to blind people by Social Security's use of inaccessible forms, leading to the absurd situation that those most in need of alternative access to printed forms are not able to communicate with the Social Security Administration using the Internet; and

WHEREAS, the technology currently exists to make all of these forms available in a format that is fully accessible to all blind people with a minimum of time and effort: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration in a timely manner to make all electronic applications and forms accessible to the blind through nonvisual means.

 

 

Resolution 2002-08

 

WHEREAS, on May 29, 2002, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published "Program Memorandum to Intermediaries/Carriers Transmittal AB-02-078," which permits approved Medicare Providers, including occupational and physical therapists supervised by a physician, to supply rehabilitation services to a blind person under a written treatment plan; and

WHEREAS, this approach clearly imposes the medical rather than the rehabilitative model on services to blind persons; and

WHEREAS, training in the essential attitudes and skills needed for effective adjustment to blindness is not part of either the occupational or physical therapy disciplines, and neither profession currently has access to information which would allow its practitioners to be effective providers of self-sufficiency training to this specialized population suddenly placed on the list of reimbursable services; and

WHEREAS, occupational and physical therapy are both general health and medical rehabilitation professions serving a vast array of varied disabilities, while the firsthand experience of the National Federation of the Blind demonstrates that blind people achieve their greatest independence when they receive specific training in the skills of blindness designed to foster a constructive and realistic understanding of blindness aimed at building self-confidence; and

WHEREAS, all blind Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of age, are potentially eligible for rehabilitation services authorized by the transmittal referred to above although the overwhelming need for such services exists in the community of older blind people; and

WHEREAS, the services older blind people require need not be of extended duration, but must be sufficiently intensive to enable them to remain in their homes and communities and may in some cases be consistent with the practices of and be offered by trained occupational and physical therapy professionals; and

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States Department of Education has funds that could be made available to offer training and study opportunities to occupational and physical therapists for the purpose of learning how to provide effective services to older blind Americans: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States Department of Education to take a proactive role by funding at least one significant project having a specific priority to establish an on-going training program on blindness for occupational and physical therapists so that these practitioners will be equipped to provide effective and high-quality independent living services to older blind people; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization offer to the American Physical Therapy Association and to the American Occupational Therapy Association our firsthand knowledge of the development of positive training programs for the blind learned through our more than sixty years of practice; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon these organizations to collaborate with the National Federation of the Blind to develop model programs to serve older blind people.

 

 

Resolution 2002-09

 

WHEREAS, the right to vote independently, privately, and without interference should be the right and responsibility of every citizen, whether blind or sighted; and

WHEREAS, blind voters in the past have not enjoyed this privilege but now can enjoy it with the correct and timely implementation of modern voting equipment, using accessible technology properly configured; and

WHEREAS, direct recording equipment makes it possible for blind people to vote independently and in private, but this equipment can be configured to achieve this goal or to frustrate it, depending on the knowledge of election officials; and

WHEREAS, direct recording equipment can be configured to provide blind voters with the same ability to navigate within a ballot that sighted voters enjoy by enabling functions such as the ability to skip between election contests, the ability to return and confirm previous choices audibly, and the ability to interrupt audio presentations to move to the next or previous race at the direction of the blind voter through the pressing of keys, providing the exact same freedom and confirmation of choices in the voting process as that exercised by sighted citizens; and

WHEREAS, direct recording equipment can also be configured to force the blind voter to listen to items and whole races exactly as presented sequentially on the ballot, thus making listening to the ballot much less efficient and more time-consuming than reading the ballot in print; and

WHEREAS, a Joint Conference Committee in Congress is now considering legislation that recognizes the importance of nonvisual access to electronic voting by the blind, and this legislation is likely to become law; and

WHEREAS, the primary responsibility for conducting and overseeing elections and deploying election equipment rests with the individual states and local governments; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) recognizes that state and local election officials are the experts in conducting fair and equitable elections but also recognizes that these officials lack expertise in serving blind voters while the NFB, a nationwide organization of blind people with affiliated organizations and members in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, knows by experience what works for the blind and has the technical expertise necessary to advise on the configuration of electronic voting equipment to ensure the most efficient and effective access to voting by the blind; and

WHEREAS, the implementation of federal voting access legislation by state and local governments is critical to ensuring true access to independent and confidential voting for the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the appropriate state or local legislative or regulatory bodies within each state to pass legislation implementing nonvisual access standards for voting; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist upon consultation with the National Federation of the Blind by state and local election officials when configuring electronic voting systems to ensure that access for blind people is efficient and equivalent to access for the sighted.

 

 

Resolution 2002-10

 

WHEREAS, electronic books that can be read using a standard desktop or laptop computer can now be purchased through a variety of retail outlets; and

WHEREAS, if these books could be read on computers with text-to-speech technology, an unprecedented opportunity would exist for the blind to have access to more literature than we have ever had; and

WHEREAS, a sighted computer user must read an electronic book using proprietary book-reading software tailored to a specific electronic book format; and

WHEREAS, typically the proprietary book-reading programs now available are not compatible with screen-access technology for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the publishers of electronic books have apparently decided not to allow unfettered access to synthetic speech presentations of electronic books, particularly those books which make money for them; and

WHEREAS, in pursuit of this goal electronic book publishers have secured an agreement with Microsoft preventing the Microsoft Reader from presenting a spoken-word version of the content when the book has been tagged with a "premium" security level; and

WHEREAS, Adobe Systems, another provider of electronic book-reading software, has already incorporated a setting in its electronic books which, when activated, is used to prohibit any access to the content with synthetic speech; and

WHEREAS, blind customers are eager and willing to pay for electronic books when they can be used by the blind but are even more determined that the electronic book (which is potentially far more accessible than a traditional printed book) not be perverted into inaccessibility because of ill-advised decisions made by the publishers; and

WHEREAS, the blind are confident that the interests of electronic book publishers to maintain security can be protected while still providing access for people unable to use the material in a standard printed format: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge electronic book publishers to develop policies and procedures through which the blind can obtain access to electronic books while satisfying the reasonable concerns that publishers may have regarding electronic book security and profitability.

 

 

Resolution 2002-11

 

WHEREAS, important responsibilities of the Social Security Administration (SSA) include all aspects of claims processing, such as initial determinations, reopening and revising decisions, and conducting an administrative appeals process; and

WHEREAS, while the Social Security Act and regulations impose certain rigid time limits on applicants or beneficiaries to respond or file reports within a specified number of days, such as sixty days for an appeal, or ten days to submit information about work and earnings during a standard disability evaluation, but few if any time limits are placed on the SSA to respond to documents submitted or even to decide on initial applications within a reasonable amount of time; and

WHEREAS, under present conditions claimants often wait a minimum of many months and often several years for the SSA to begin examination of an issue, not to mention the time it takes to achieve a resolution of the dispute, during which benefits although needed are denied; and

WHEREAS, claimants who inquire about the time taken for resolution often discover that the SSA alleges to have no record of a request or claims to have lost the file, all resulting in a further delay; and

WHEREAS, even if the SSA accepts a claimant's representations of timely filing, the claimant still bears the burden and suffers the consequences of the agency's inaction, while the SSA remains completely unaccountable to anyone; and

WHEREAS, providing specific time limits for the SSA to make administrative decisions would force the agency to address pending issues or suffer the consequences of a failure to act: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the United States Congress to amend the Social Security Act to provide specific time limits for the SSA to resolve disputes at all stages of the administrative process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress to include a provision stating that failure to meet the prescribed time limits shall result in a favorable resolution for the claimant.

 

 

Resolution 2002-12

 

WHEREAS, the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) issued a report called "Building a True Community," which proposed new standards and regulations to govern the building and rebuilding of public rights-of-way such as streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor public areas so that individuals with disabilities can access them; and

WHEREAS, this report contained recommendations in the form of a definition and also a set of requirements for installation of detectable warnings, describing them as raised truncated domes in a strip two feet deep and spanning the entire width of the curb ramp and painted bright yellow or otherwise highly contrasting in color with the surrounding surface; and

WHEREAS, these raised truncated domes are thought by some to give the blind pedestrian a tactile warning underfoot that something hazardous lies ahead; and

WHEREAS, on June 17, 2002, the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) published draft guidelines for public rights-of-way, substantially adopting the PROWAAC report regarding detectable warnings; and

WHEREAS, the ATBCB's draft requirement for a detectable warning surface two feet deep where the ramp, landing, or blended transition connects to a crosswalk and in other areas rests on the fallacy that public rights-of-way without such brightly colored tactile markings are unsafe for blind people and that taxpayer dollars must be devoted to universal installation of these strips of colored domes; and

WHEREAS, rather than being supported by a demonstrated and factual need, the ATBCB's draft guideline is based on nothing more than fear of blindness and lack of knowledge about how blind people travel independently and safely and could bring the entire regulation, if enacted, under fire in the courts and city halls of America; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to Federation policy as set forth by previous resolutions, the National Federation of the Blind filed a minority report advocating that detectable warnings be placed only at intersections at which the approach to the street is at a slope of one inch downward for every fifteen inches of sidewalk, commonly called a slope of 1:15 or flatter, since intersections with an approach to the street of 1:15 or less are virtually flat and are the only places where it may arguably be difficult for a blind person to determine when the sidewalk ends and the street begins; and

WHEREAS, intersections with street approaches which slope at an angle steeper than 1:15 are readily detectable underfoot whether the blind person is using a cane, a dog, or no mobility tool whatsoever, and therefore do not require the installation of expensive truncated dome strips to ensure that blind people detect the street; and

WHEREAS, the ATBCB's draft guideline is now subject to public comment and will not become a final and enforceable rule if the facts about blindness and independent travel are presented and understood, but previously suspended requirements for detectable warnings which differ from the current draft guidelines are technically now in effect, the suspension having lapsed, making a resolution of this issue inevitable: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization vigorously oppose the ATBCB's draft guidelines calling for the universal installation of detectable warnings; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization petition the ATBCB to reinstate the suspension on guidelines for detectable warnings while further consideration is given to the draft guideline on public rights-of-way, in order to avoid confusion and needless installation of warning strips that are apt to be inconsistent with the eventual guideline regardless of the result; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the ATBCB to adopt a final guideline based on facts rather than fear and which may include installation of detectable warnings only when the slope of the curb ramp at an intersection equals 1:15 or less.

 

 

Resolution 2002-13

Failed to Pass

 

 

Resolution 2002-14

 

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has a keen interest in promoting high quality educational and vocational rehabilitation professionals in work with the blind (because of the dismal past performance of far too many service providers, between 70 and 80 percent of all blind persons in America of working age are unemployed, and of those who have jobs, far too many are underemployed); and

WHEREAS, the reason for this distressing statistic is that many professionals in work with the blind have historically failed to understand blindness accurately and have also failed to learn and embrace those modern educational and training techniques which have been developed by the blind themselves and which offer a proven formula for successful empowerment of the blind; and

WHEREAS, these failures by blindness professionals exist in spite of the fact that a continuous professional certifying mechanism has been in place in work with the blind since 1966: first offered through the American Association of Workers for the Blind, then by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and now by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals; and

WHEREAS, this longtime certification mechanism has failed the blind miserably in two ways--first, the certification itself has been no predictor of competence and has had no positive impact whatsoever on the caliber of blindness professionals working in the field, and, second, until very recently, the old certifying entity has practiced open and flagrant discrimination against the blind; and

WHEREAS, as an alternative to the failed old system, a new certification, the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC), has been established--the federal grant which authorized this new process requires that it be nondiscriminatory; and

WHEREAS, NOMC certification is performance-based--that is, in addition to demonstrating positive attitudes about blindness, the candidate for NOMC certification must also demonstrate his or her personal abilities by actually performing the techniques and skills to be taught to blind consumers; if the candidate is sighted or partially blind, then blindness skills are demonstrated using sleep shades; and

WHEREAS, this new certifying strategy holds the promise of being a superior predictor of professional competence; and

WHEREAS, this progressive NOMC certification, together with other performance-based certifications which will be developed, is administered by a new corporate entity, the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB); and

WHEREAS, Mr. James Omvig, who serves as the president of the NBPCB, is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind and a man known, trusted, and respected by blind people throughout the nation for his personal and professional commitment to expanding opportunities for blind people, thereby giving the NBPCB credibility as the only certification body in the field of blindness that is led by blind people who share the National Federation of the Blind's positive philosophy of blindness: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express its wholehearted support for this new nondiscriminatory, performance-based certifying body, since the NFB has a long-standing interest in identifying and promoting competent blindness professionals who have a commitment to excellence in outcomes.

 

 

Resolution 2002-15

 

WHEREAS, Freedom Scientific, Inc., offers a Spanish-language version of its note takers (Braille Lite and Braille 'n Speak), and of its print-reading software (The OpenBook); and

WHEREAS, Freedom Scientific, Inc., advertises to Spanish-speaking customers that the Spanish version of these products is functionally equivalent to the English-language version of the corresponding products; and

WHEREAS, in reality many of the features available in the English-language version such as a spell-checking program in the note takers and a dictionary in the print-reading software do not exist in the Spanish-language version of these products; and

WHEREAS, many existing features in the Spanish-language version of these products, such as the file compression program in the note takers, the capability to transfer Spanish Braille files from or to note takers, and the help files in all products, are so poorly designed and poorly implemented that they are useless to Spanish-speaking customers; and

WHEREAS, for the past few years customers of the Spanish-language version have informed Freedom Scientific, Inc., of the problems and shortcomings in its Spanish-language products, resulting in neither positive responses nor promises of improvements from Freedom Scientific, Inc.; and

WHEREAS, Freedom Scientific, Inc.'s failure to respond positively is inconsistent with its mission of meeting the information technology needs of all blind and visually impaired people; and

WHEREAS, providing functionally equivalent Spanish products should not pose serious technical difficulties since Microsoft and other key players in the information technology marketplace have provided functionally equivalent products in all of the languages, including Spanish, which they support: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the second-class and discriminatory treatment by Freedom Scientific, Inc., towards customers of its Spanish-language products; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that Freedom Scientific, Inc., undertake positive measures to provide the functional equivalence that it advertises for its Spanish-language products.

 

 

Resolution 2002-16

 

WHEREAS, the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) issued a report called "Building a True Community" which proposed new standards and regulations to govern the building and rebuilding of public rights-of-way such as streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor public areas so that individuals with disabilities can access them; and

WHEREAS, this report contained recommendations regarding Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APSs), which are electronic devices that alert the blind pedestrian in an audible or vibrotactile manner when the traffic signal has changed so that it is safe to walk; and

WHEREAS, the report recommended that an APS shall be provided at any intersection where the timing of a pedestrian signal is altered by push button actuation and where the signal includes a leading pedestrian interval, a period of time during which the pedestrian is allowed to start crossing before vehicular traffic is allowed to move; and

WHEREAS, the report further recommended that APSs with an optional-use feature be installed at intersections where pedestrian crossing intervals are pretimed and not affected by the push of a button; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to resolutions adopted by this organization, the Federation submitted a minority report urging that the ATBCB mandate APSs in situations only where the built environment did not provide sufficient nonvisual clues for a blind pedestrian to know when it was safe to cross and that all APSs be vibrotactile so that unneeded and distracting noise not be emitted into intersections; and

WHEREAS, on June 17, 2002, the ATBCB published a draft guideline based on the PROWAAC report, essentially disregarding both the PROWAAC report and the Federation's recommendations and calling instead for APSs with locator tones to be installed at every intersection with a pedestrian signal; and

WHEREAS, the PROWAAC report proposed installing APS in an overly broad number of places but at least limited the installation to some degree and further provided for an optional activation feature, thereby giving each pedestrian the choice of using or not using the APS; and

WHEREAS, the board's draft guidelines will force installation and use of APSs at every signalized intersection in America while costing tax payers many billions of dollars; and

WHEREAS, at the majority of intersections the existing environment and traffic pattern provide sufficient nonvisual cues for blind persons to cross the street safely without APSs, and blind people do so every day: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the ATBCB's narrow-minded and uninformed view of blindness as expressed in the draft guideline proposing to require the installation of APSs at all signalized intersections in America; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the ATBCB to reconsider and reject the extreme position taken on APSs in its June 17, 2002, draft guidelines and adopt a position on the placement and use of APSs that is more realistic and consistent with the prevailing view among the blind themselves.

 

 

Resolution 2002-17

 

WHEREAS, the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (PL 106-170) has resulted in many changes that will eventually affect all persons who receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits; and

WHEREAS, all beneficiaries, including blind beneficiaries, need to have the ability to receive prompt notice of planned actions and must also be able to access all Social Security information in a timely manner, including information pertaining to changes to their benefits and information concerning expansion or reduction of program services; and

WHEREAS, this information is necessary so that the beneficiaries, including blind beneficiaries, may comply with all requirements of the Social Security Administration and fully benefit from the work incentive provisions in the law; and

WHEREAS, for several years, the Social Security Administration has had instructions in place to make Braille notices available only in the Disability Insurance program and not until this year in the Supplemental Security Income program, but in either case notices in Braille have not been routine and were supposed to be provided only upon the request of a blind beneficiary to have a Braille transcription of a notice, a cumbersome and necessarily lengthy process at best and now apparently abandoned by the Social Security Administration altogether; and

WHEREAS, the only options currently available to blind beneficiaries in which to receive their notices are by regular mail in printed form, by certified mail in printed form, or read orally over the phone by a Social Security representative; and

WHEREAS, notices sent in print by regular mail to blind beneficiaries may not be reviewed by them promptly through no fault of the blind persons and due solely to lack of access to someone who can read print, but the failure to have prompt access to these notices can result in the loss of valuable time for taking action according to Social Security rules; and

WHEREAS, the same is true for those individuals who need Braille notices if the Braille notice is sent only after the print notice is received and the Braille notice is then requested; and

WHEREAS, choosing certified mail can alert the beneficiary that the mail may be from the Social Security Administration, but working recipients who are blind are not available to sign and receive certified mail and must make a special trip to the post office to collect the mail and still confront the reader problem when the printed notice is acquired; and

WHEREAS, phone contact fails as an effective alternative because there is no system to ensure that the staff person actually reaches the recipient; and

WHEREAS, the use of technology could allow many blind beneficiaries to access electronic information through on-line resources independently, promptly, and efficiently, but this choice is not currently offered by the Social Security Administration: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration to provide notices and other pertinent information in alternate formats most accessible to blind beneficiaries, including audio cassette, Braille, computer disk, and on-line by means of a secure server; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that this information be provided in a timely manner comparable to that of the corresponding printed information.

 

 

Resolution 2002-18

 

WHEREAS, informed choice has for ten years been enshrined in federal law as a key component of vocational rehabilitation services for recipients of services in this federal-state partnership program; and

WHEREAS, the 1998 Rehabilitation Act Amendments and the 2001 federal regulations require the informed choice of vocational rehabilitation recipients in selecting an employment outcome, the services needed to achieve that employment outcome, and the providers of those services; and

WHEREAS, a number of states continue to interfere with this federally required exercise of informed choice through imposition of state-level mandates that service providers be on "approved provider lists" or meet state-imposed certification requirements; and

WHEREAS, these states persist in making the false claim that certification standards set by the state supersede the federally required informed choice of the recipient who is selecting a training center by actively discouraging or even prohibiting individuals from attending the training center of the recipient's choice, a choice which is often to attend one of the National Federation of the Blind's training centers; and

WHEREAS, the state vocational rehabilitation agency in Ohio is claiming that service providers with which they contract for the provision of training services for blind persons, regardless of the location of the service provider, must be accredited by one of the organizations on Ohio's approved list of accrediters such as the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC) or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and state agencies in other states are considering adopting similar policies imposing state-level accreditation requirements; and

WHEREAS, Section 361.50(a) of the federal vocational rehabilitation regulations prohibits a vocational rehabilitation agency from establishing any arbitrary limits on the nature and scope of VR services; and

WHEREAS, Section 361.50(b)(2) of those same regulations prohibits VR agencies from establishing policies that effectively prohibit the provision of out-of-state services; and

WHEREAS, under the federal regulatory provision found in Section 361.52(B)(3), states are required to develop and implement flexible procurement policies and methods that facilitate the provision of vocational rehabilitation services and that afford eligible individuals meaningful choices among the methods used to procure vocational rehabilitation services while they exercise informed choice; and

WHEREAS, these regulations are administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the United States Department of Education, which has also issued RSA Policy Directive 01-03 further declaring that the exercise of informed choice must not be limited arbitrarily by factors such as out-of-state location, time, or cost; and

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act prohibits state VR agencies from preselecting services and service providers that must be used by any eligible individual: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the United States Congress to amend the Rehabilitation Act during reauthorization specifically to prohibit state-level accreditation and certification requirements, approved provider lists, in-state training preferences, and other practices to the extent that they circumvent the informed choice of eligible individuals in selecting rehabilitation programs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration to join in this effort for the purpose of fully effectuating the express intent of Congress to endow rehabilitation clients with informed choice and to prohibit state-level frustration of that intent; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization deplore the policies in place in Ohio and efforts in any other states attempting to do likewise when such policies limit informed choice and, by their effect on such choice, discourage or prohibit clients from choosing services provided in a different state.

 

 

Resolution 2002-19

 

WHEREAS, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB), an agency of Alabama state government, has promoted the introduction of a bill in the United States Congress entitled "National Junior College for Deaf and Blind at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Act" (now designated H.R. 3252 and S. 1654), which would authorize the United States Secretary of Education to establish a junior college at the headquarters of AIDB in Talladega, Alabama; and

WHEREAS, the approach to educating blind people taken by the promoters of this bill is an archaic and outmoded one, long since abandoned by both educators and rehabilitation professionals in the United States who, along with their blind students and consumers, have for decades used the appropriate model of integration and full participation by blind persons in all walks of life, also enshrined in federal law in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

WHEREAS, founding of a segregated junior college for the blind would be a significant departure from current and universally accepted principles of education and rehabilitation by emphasizing isolation rather than the integration which has come to be accepted as the standard for serving blind people and by ignoring the preferences and capacities of blind people; and

WHEREAS, modern strategies of educating the blind recognize the capacity of blind people to learn in classroom settings along with their peers who can see and, in fact, demand that blind students meet the same standards and challenges as their sighted peers to ready them for integrated employment in America's work force; and

WHEREAS, the proposed junior college would exactly reverse this model, creating an unnecessary artificial and sheltered learning environment, designed to shield and protect blind students who, in the minds of the proponents, must be delicate and fragile to need such protection, and designed to cater to the needs of the blind as perceived by AIDB and not by the blind themselves; and

WHEREAS, AIDB's separate programmatic approach ignores the fact that tens of thousands of blind people have successfully completed college courses in existing colleges and universities designed without reference to their unique needs and thousands more do so every year, equipping these blind men and women to work in today's work environments alongside the same sighted peers with whom they competed and earned post-secondary degrees; and

WHEREAS, blind people who learn the alternative skills of blindness such as Braille, independent cane travel, use of computers, problem-solving skills, self-confidence, and a positive philosophy of blindness are more likely to succeed alongside students who can see than those educated in an artificial and segregated environment; and

WHEREAS, these truths have been so long understood and so long embedded in federal law that the only two possible explanations for AIDB's proposal are that AIDB simply does not believe in the abilities of blind people even though they are demonstrated every day or that AIDB does not care about the abilities of blind people and only cares about getting federal dollars: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge the United States Congress to take no action to promote or fund this counterproductive and outmoded legislation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Board of Trustees of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind to withdraw its proposal to found a National Junior College through federal legislation and to work instead for programs that are of a progressive and mainstream nature for blind people.

 

 

Resolution 2002-20

Development of Rehabilitative Services

for Older Blind Americans

 

WHEREAS, attention must be paid to a deplorable and wholly preventable tragedy affecting over six million blind and visually impaired Americans age 55 and older, a tragedy in which many of these millions lose their independence due to utterly inadequate rehabilitation services for older blind Americans; and

WHEREAS, the void in rehabilitation services for the older blind forces many unnecessarily into nursing homes and home-bound lifestyles, all for lack of a delivery service system for providing to the growing number of seniors losing vision the training in alternative techniques for living safely without sight, such as learning safe travel, daily living skills, and the use of assistive aids and appliances; and

WHEREAS, vocational rehabilitation programs serve those striving for career development and therefore do not address the unique issues of older blind Americans, many of whom are no longer interested in employment and the kinds of activity related to finding and holding a job; and

WHEREAS, each state receives what can only be termed a token and paltry effort to address rehabilitation services for older blind Americans, money through Chapter 2 of Title VII Independent Living Services for the Older Blind of the Rehabilitation Act, which serves a mere 5 percent of those who could benefit from such programs; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind, the voice of the organized blind of all ages, deplores the preventable loss of independence and dignity through the absence of quality rehabilitative services for older blind Americans and consequently acts on this tragedy by calling for improved funding and innovative programming such as Medicare coverage of rehabilitative services for the older blind; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind advocates for the passage of H.R. 2674, the Medicare Coverage Equity for the Blind Act, which addresses a portion of the need and also advocates for development of new and exemplary service methods and models designed and implemented for the particular barriers faced by older blind Americans, services worthy of the Federation can-do spirit; and

WHEREAS, rehabilitative services expressly developed for the older blind will permit seniors who become blind to regain self-reliance and self-worth and to live independently in their own homes and communities for as long as possible; and

WHEREAS, this preservation of dignity and independence is of course the most important issue for older blind Americans as for all blind Americans, but it should be noted that the failure to provide effective service to blind seniors is also exorbitantly expensive and unjustified, leading to massive outlays of personal earnings and also Medicare trust fund expenditures for injuries and for expensive assisted living or nursing home placement when many if not most seniors could remain safely and happily in their own homes after the onset of blindness with simple, inexpensive rehabilitative training and the restoration of their can-do spirit: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration and other rehabilitative agencies serving the blind to design and implement high-quality and demonstrably effective rehabilitation service-delivery methods and models specifically geared for older blind Americans; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the United States Congress and the various state legislatures to recognize the savings in human dignity, in pain and suffering, and in medical costs to be realized by serving instead of ignoring the growing population of Americans who are strong, able seniors losing vision without access to the simple, inexpensive training they need to be safe and independent.

 

 

Resolution 2002-21

 

WHEREAS, from infancy sighted children are exposed to pictorial information; and

WHEREAS, educational materials increasingly rely on pictorial information to convey information at every level from infancy through college and adult education; and

WHEREAS, the use of pictorial information makes it more difficult for blind children to acquire the same knowledge as their sighted peers unless they are provided with nonvisual alternatives; and

WHEREAS, technologies exist for the production of both tactile graphics (maps and diagrams) and three-dimensional models; and

WHEREAS, tactile graphics and three-dimensional models can provide an effective and efficient means for blind students to access the pictorial information available to their sighted peers: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express strong support for the development of techniques, technologies, and practices designed to improve the availability of tactile graphics and three-dimensional models as a means of providing access for the blind to pictorial information; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Braille textbook producers to include more tactile graphics in the material they produce and to work with the National Federation of the Blind to make the use of tactile graphics more prevalent; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon research funding agencies, including but not limited to the federal Office of Special Education, the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research, and the National Science Foundation, to establish funding priorities to support research into the use of tactile graphics and three-dimensional models as an educational learning medium for blind students, including an investigation of the feasibility and usefulness of a lending library of electronic and tactile models for this purpose.

 

 

Resolution 2002-22

 

WHEREAS, the federal Rehabilitation Act seeks to help eligible blind and disabled people reach their full potential in independent living and employment; and

WHEREAS, Section 102(d) of the act promises that consumers of vocational rehabilitation services shall take an active part in selecting the providers of goods and services they need; and

WHEREAS, Congress has recognized that the choice of a provider of goods and services can make a fundamental difference in the outcome achieved and has specifically declared that informed choice means the choice of providers as well as the goods and services themselves; and

WHEREAS, in the experience of blind people distinct differences exist among providers of adjustment-to-blindness and other vocational-rehabilitation services with respect to expectations that different providers have for blind consumers and in their knowledge of the blindness skills needed to be competitively employed, with the result that, in the opinion of knowledgeable blind consumers, such providers range in quality from those which are excellent to those which can do more harm than good; and

WHEREAS, when blind rehabilitation consumers do not have a range of choices among providers of goods and services, they are often led into poor decisions actually made by someone else, such as a rehabilitation counselor or supervisor, with the predictable consequence that a poor outcome is apt to result; and

WHEREAS, the promise of a choice of providers stated in Section 102(d) is impaired by regulations of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration at 34 C.F.R. 361.50, which permit state vocational rehabilitation agencies to limit the amount they will spend on specific goods and services through the use of bureaucratic tools including fee schedules or payment of costs up to an in-state limit, requiring consumers to pay the cost difference for the provider of their choice; and

WHEREAS, this regulation is defective because it does not require state agencies to recognize factors leading to successful outcomes such as employment rates of graduates from various training programs; the reputation of programs in specialized areas of education and training; the efficacy of short-term (quick-fix) versus long-term, intensive programs; and, with respect to the purchase of goods, the quality of the technical support available; and

WHEREAS, as a result of this regulation and regardless of the statutory commitment to informed choice, consumers still find that state vocational rehabilitation agencies prefer certain providers over others and inflict their preferences by setting the amounts they will pay for specific goods and services based on the charges of their favored providers without regard to either the quality or efficacy of the expected outcome; and

WHEREAS, even where state agencies purport to compare the costs of several providers in setting the amount they will pay for certain goods and services, the comparisons are often not based on comparable goods or services, which prevents a fair comparison and leads to the agency's predetermined outcome, regardless of the consumer's choice; and

WHEREAS, the problem is exacerbated when the provider preferred by the state agency is a program operated by that same agency and the agency either hides or fails to take into account all of the costs associated with operating that program, further distorting the facts and creating an unfair comparison to third-party providers' charges; and

WHEREAS, this system places the consumer in the position of having to select a program the consumer knows to be an unfit or inappropriate provider (unless that consumer can afford to pay the cost difference); and

WHEREAS, the federal vocational rehabilitation regulations should not undercut the statutory commitment to informed choice by embracing state policies deliberately designed to favor predetermined selections of providers rather than genuine choices being made by consumers as the law intends: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to revise the vocational rehabilitation regulations by adopting a clear and unequivocal stance in favor of informed choice and against policies and practices of state vocational rehabilitation agencies which undercut it; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress to amend Section 102(d) of the Rehabilitation Act to prohibit policies and practices such as fee schedules and preferred in-state providers which continue to be used by state vocational rehabilitation agencies to limit the exercise of informed choice.

 

Resolution 2002-23

 

WHEREAS, point-of-sale machines, ranging from ticket machines in transportation centers to debit card machines in retail establishments, are more and more electronic, requiring the customer to enter numbers including personal identification numbers and to select and confirm types of transactions and amounts; and

WHEREAS, point-of-sale machines are not now required to present a standardized keypad that is tactilely discernible by blind users, with the result that keypads may or may not be discernible by touch and may in fact be touch-screen only, which is not discernible at all by blind people; and

WHEREAS, more and more of these electronic point-of-sale machines, like their better-known predecessor, the automated teller machine, are handling interactive transactions requiring the customer to make and confirm selections and confirm numbers, an impossible task when the point-of-sale machine does not have a voice component like the ones now required in automated teller machines; and

WHEREAS, without tactilely discernible keypads and voiced responses for interactive functions, these machines are unusable by blind people; and

WHEREAS, without accessible technology, assistance from a sighted person is required to use an electronic payment system; and

WHEREAS, disclosure of this critical and highly confidential piece of information to a third party in a public setting exposes the blind or visually impaired customer to extreme security risks, including, but not limited to, robbery, personal injury, credit card fraud, and identity theft; and

WHEREAS, the limited and initial phase of this issue has now been addressed by the United States Access Board, which has issued specific regulations for nonvisual access to automated teller machines, but the board has failed thus far to address the broader issues of tactile discernibility and of voiced interactivity: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the United States Access Board to face and successfully regulate the point-of-sale machine market to achieve the goal that all point-of-sale machines in use in the United States be fully accessible and secure for all customers, including the blind.

 

 

Resolution 2002-24

 

WHEREAS, the 1998 amendments to Section 102 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, provide for a presumption of eligibility for blind individuals who receive benefits under Titles II or XVI of the Social Security Act; and

WHEREAS, this presumption of eligibility for beneficiaries was a congressional acknowledgement of the need of blind beneficiaries for services in order to obtain gainful employment, resulting in their leaving the benefit rolls; and

WHEREAS, blind beneficiaries currently face the distinct potential of being denied services when a state vocational rehabilitation agency institutes an order of selection; and

WHEREAS, an order of selection, with criteria established by each state vocational rehabilitation agency, is instituted in times of fiscal shortfall as a predefined method of choosing which clients will be served first; and

WHEREAS, in theory an order of selection places individuals with the most significant disabling conditions as predefined by the agency at the head of the line for the provision of services, but being blind or disabled as determined by the Social Security Administration is not currently considered significant enough to assure services, regardless of the order of selection, leading to the absurd outcome that Social Security beneficiaries, obviously in urgent need of employment, can be placed at the end of the line and designated not to receive services; and

WHEREAS, the denial of rehabilitation services to eligible beneficiaries is inconsistent with and contrary to the very nature of positive rehabilitation services and counterproductive of potential gainful employment for men and women who urgently need and want that employment; and

WHEREAS, to deny such services to eligible beneficiaries raises serious questions regarding the correct focus of governmental programs and fiscal accountability: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Congress to amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to exempt blind individuals who receive benefits under Titles II and XVI from any limitation of service imposed by an order of selection since assuring services to blind beneficiaries without delay due to an order of selection will increase employment potential and thereby better achieve the purposes of the Rehabilitation Act.

 

 

Resolution 2002-25

 

WHEREAS, on May 2, 2002, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and two individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the secretary of the treasury of the United States and the treasurer of the United States alleging that the federal government is in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, 29 U.S.C. Section 794, by issuing all U.S. currency in an identical size, color, and texture, which renders various denominations indistinguishable by touch, alleging that the blind are thus largely excluded from enjoying the benefits of monetary transactions and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief by requiring the Department of the Treasury to implement design changes in the currency to make the various denominations distinguishable by touch and color; and

WHEREAS, this lawsuit is based on a false and misleading assumption that the inability to distinguish banknote denominations by touch largely excludes the blind from participating in commerce and other ordinary activities of life; and

WHEREAS, the theory of this suit is disproved by the lives of tens of thousands of blind persons who live normal lives and participate in commerce every day without difficulty; and

WHEREAS, more than having difficulty with money, blind people are apt to suffer great harm from the attendant publicity surrounding this suit, fostering and reinforcing the notion that the blind cannot easily handle currency as it now exists and, for example, needlessly creating an albatross around the neck of any blind person seeking employment in any position involving handling money; and

WHEREAS, to the extent that currency identification is truly a problem for individual blind people, various technological devices capable of identifying banknotes and audibly announcing their denomination are available for sale, and in fact giving every blind person in the country such a device would be simpler and cheaper than re-engineering the nation's cash-handling capacity; and

WHEREAS, in view of its false premise and lack of merit, there is little likelihood that the relief sought by this lawsuit will ever be granted, thus using the blind in a publicity stunt and showing little regard for the genuine needs and concerns of blind people; and

WHEREAS, more than the adverse publicity resulting from the filing of this suit itself, there is a substantial risk of a ruling that could nullify the potential benefits of Section 504 by narrowing its scope and coverage or over-turning the law altogether, as has happened with other recent court decisions in the area of disability: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization take all appropriate and legally available steps to advise the court that the failure to have U.S. currency issued as sought by the plaintiffs in this suit is not an act of discrimination against the blind and in such a fashion that the accompanying ruling does not harm current and future efforts to achieve genuinely needed and desirable accommodations for the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization take steps to counter the adverse effects of the harmful publicity arising from this particular lawsuit and renew efforts to educate the public that the blind can participate in commerce on equal terms and fully enjoy the benefits of U.S. currency as it now exists.

 

 

Resolution 2002-26

Failed to Pass

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