The Braille Monitor                                                                              August/September, 2003

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Goals for the Future:
A Report on 2003 Convention Resolutions

by Sharon Maneki

Sharon Maneki reads a resolution to the committee on Sunday afternoon.
Sharon Maneki reads a resolution to the committee on Sunday afternoon.

Many organizations devote significant amounts of time to writing a mission statement and to developing a strategic plan with goals and objectives. Sometimes these exercises are useful because they help the organization clarify its purpose. Many times, however, they spend so much time on the development of plans that little time is left for implementation. The National Federation of the Blind has a mission and a strategic plan, but we devote the majority of our time to action.

The National Federation of the Blind has had a clear mission statement for many years: to change what it means to be blind by promoting security, equality, and opportunity for the blind. Although this mission statement is short in words, it represents an enormous undertaking.

Many of the resolutions passed during annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind serve as the strategic plan for the organization. These policy statements demonstrate the ways in which we intend to carry out our mission of changing what it means to be blind. The policies in these resolutions may be the subject of future articles in the Braille Monitor or may be outlines for our work during future Washington seminars. As the reader will observe from the description of resolutions considered at this 2003 convention, many represent our strategic plan, while others represent the organization's position on existing programs.

The resolutions committee always meets early in the convention. This year the meeting took place on Sunday, June 29. Once again this year Sharon Omvig ably served as secretary to the resolutions committee. The meeting is always interesting and exciting because resolutions come from people in all walks of life and from all over the nation. The committee considered resolutions on such diverse subjects as employment programs, transportation, the casting of blind actors, and the problem of quiet cars. With thirty-three committee members debating the issues, the chairman can never predict the outcome on the various resolutions.

This year the committee considered twenty resolutions. Nineteen resolutions came to the convention floor. Resolution 2003-16, which urged Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D) to improve methods of labeling book containers and cassettes, was withdrawn by the author. The author and the National Association of Blind Students will work with RFB&D to clarify procedures and to solve problems.

Committee consideration is just the first step in the process. Each resolution must be considered by the full Convention. The Convention must vote up or down on each resolution. The national board of directors may also bring resolutions to the Convention for consideration. This year two authors asked the Convention to withdraw their resolutions. Resolution 2003-15, concerning consumer representation on the board of directors of Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc., was withdrawn by the authors with the permission of the Convention to give the NFB of Florida Guide Dog Division and the NFB of Florida the opportunity to work on this issue.

Resolution 2003-06 was also withdrawn by the authors with the permission of the Convention. The national board of directors then clarified the language of Resolution 2003-06 and brought Resolution 2003-101 to the Convention for consideration. This procedure was necessary because by longstanding practice resolutions are not changed or rewritten by the resolutions committee. In Resolution 2003-101 we "reaffirm its support for informed choice to be exercised as a matter of right by participants in the vocational rehabilitation programs." This resolution came about because "a few misguided persons who oppose approaches such as required use of sleepshades and no use of guide dogs during training have propounded the view that informed choice gives trainees the right to alter programs and prescribe instructional methods, in a mistaken application of the mandate of informed choice to justify the notion that individuals should be free to dictate the details of program design. . . in enacting the informed choice right as part of the Rehabilitation Act, Congress intended that individuals would be able to select among programs and not that they would be granted legal standing to alter programs to suit individual demands, any more than higher education students have the right to control the curriculum at a public or private university."

In addition to Resolution 2003-101, the Convention passed six other resolutions concerning vocational rehabilitation. In Resolution 2003-01, introduced by Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, we commend the Rehabilitation Services Administration and its commissioner, Dr. Joanne Wilson, for outstanding leadership in the field of rehabilitation.

Resolution 2003-12 was sponsored by Gary Wunder, a member of the national board and president of the NFB of Missouri. In this resolution we urge Congress to leave the law intact regarding presidential appointment of the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration with the advice and consent of the Senate. H.R. 1261, the Workforce Reinvestment and Adult Education Act of 2003, includes a provision to downgrade the position of commissioner of rehabilitation to a director, who would be appointed by the secretary of education.

Resolution 2003-03 addresses a second concern with H.R. 1261, the Workforce Reinvestment and Adult Education Act of 2003. We strongly oppose the plan in this legislation to place federal vocational rehabilitation funds at the discretion of state governors. This legislation would also allow governors to use vocational rehabilitation funding for one-stop centers. These centers are largely ineffective for blind people because they are inaccessible. Carlos Serván, a member of the national board and president of the NFB of Nebraska, was the author of this resolution.

James Gashel, director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, sponsored Resolution 2003-19. This resolution addresses a third concern with H.R. 1261. In this resolution we oppose the exclusion of separate state agencies for the blind from appointment to statewide workforce boards, which help to make policies for one-stop centers.

In Resolution 2003-08 we express our strong opposition to attempts by NISH to alter the blind vendor priority in the Randolph-Sheppard program. Kevan Worley, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, sponsored this resolution.

The Ticket to Work program, implemented by the Social Security Administration, is supposed to provide blind and disabled beneficiaries with training and employment services. However, this program encourages low expectations and quick placements. In Resolution 2003-17 we alert blind people to the dangerous implications of the Ticket to Work program. James McCarthy, assistant director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, was the author of this resolution.

The Convention passed two resolutions concerning education. Jim Marks, a longtime leader in the NFB's Montana affiliate, introduced Resolution 2003-02. In this resolution we express opposition to certain provisions in H.R.1350, the Improving Educational Results for Children with Disabilities Act, which will reduce parental rights and involvement in the development of their child's individualized educational program.

In Resolution 2003-14 we urge Congress to pass the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA), which would require textbook publishers "to make all textbooks routinely available in a standard electronic file format in order to ensure that blind children receive materials in alternative formats at the same time as their sighted peers receive them in print." Although the House of Representatives included some provisions of the IMAA in its version of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it omitted such important concepts as the requirement for blind students to receive their textbooks at the same time as their sighted classmates. Allison Hilliker, secretary of the National Association of Blind Students, sponsored this resolution.

In light of the opening of the NFB Research and Training Institute for the Blind, the Convention passed two resolutions concerning research. Dan Burke, a leader in the NFB's Montana affiliate, introduced Resolution 2003-04. In this resolution we commend the NASA Goddard Space Center and its director, Al Diaz, for developing plans to work in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind to encourage blind youth in the fields of math and science.

Noel Nightingale, a member of the national board and president of the NFB of Washington, introduced Resolution 2003-05. In this resolution we call upon the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to initiate research to investigate the effect of quiet cars on blind pedestrians and all pedestrians.

Steve Hastalis, a longtime leader in the NFB of Illinois and an expert on mass transit, introduced two resolutions concerning public transportation. In Resolution 2003-07 we urge Congress to continue to fund Amtrak and to improve passenger train service throughout the nation. In Resolution 2003-13 we also urge Congress to support public transportation options when it reauthorizes surface transportation funding.

Another topic currently under consideration by the Congress is Medicare reform. James Gashel proposed Resolution 2003-20, which commends Senators John McCain and Christopher Dodd for their leadership in promoting accessibility for blind people to the information and instructions on prescription drug labels. The resolution reads in part: Congress is urged to approve "accessibility provisions as part of the final legislation for the Medicare program so that accessible information for the blind is provided on the first day that this historic Medicare expansion takes effect."

This year the convention passed resolutions on three familiar subjects: NAC, APS, and audio description. Carla McQuillan, a member of the national board of directors and president of the NFB of Oregon, sponsored Resolution 2003-09. In this resolution we express our opposition to the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC). We also "call upon those few remaining, misguided NAC agencies to put the final nail into the coffin by renouncing their membership and supporting our efforts to create a NAC-free world."

James McCarthy was the sponsor of Resolution 2003-11, concerning audible pedestrian signals (APS). In this resolution we call upon the Congress to eliminate references to audible traffic signals and audible signs when it reauthorizes surface transportation legislation. "Decisions regarding the use of audible traffic signals must be made by local transportation officials in consultation with representatives of blind people affected by such decisions."

"The National Federation of the Blind has long maintained that the key barrier to full use of television by blind people is the failure to voice the growing number and variety of words printed on the screen." In Resolution 2003-18 we insist that, if either Congress or the Federal Communications Commission takes up the subject of access for blind viewers, they "mandate universal voicing of text printed to television screens." Peggy Elliott, second vice president of the NFB and president of the NFB of Iowa, and James Gashel were the authors of this resolution.

The Convention passed a second resolution about entertainment. Jason Ewell, first vice president of the National Association of Blind Students, sponsored Resolution 2003-10. We urge directors and production companies in the entertainment industry to consult with the National Federation of the Blind for expert assistance whenever a blind character is to be portrayed in motion pictures, theatrical productions, or television programs.

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. The complete text of all resolutions approved by the Convention follows.

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