The Braille Monitor August/September 2005
2005 Resolutions of the National Federation of the Blind
Sharon Maneki, Resolutions Committee chair, and Sharon Omvig, committee secretary, are pictured seated on stage Friday afternoon.
WHEREAS, Hazel tenBroek, the first of the first ladies of the National Federation of the Blind, has given since the time of our beginning to the blind of the nation her talent, her loving spirit, and her skillful assistance; and
WHEREAS, Hazel tenBroek supported her husband, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, in all that he was and all that he did; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind could not have been built with the speed and determination that are a part of our history without this magnificent lady: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that we honor the first of our first ladies by transmitting to her an inscribed copy of the biography of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, entitled Blind Justice: Jacobus tenBroek and the Vision of Equality; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that with this volume we transmit to her our thoughts, our joy, and our love.
Regarding the devaluation of the RSA proposed by the Department of Education
WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) oversees the largest funding stream and program to prepare people with disabilities, including blindness, for independence and employment, with approximately two-thirds of those actually served achieving a successful employment outcome; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Education proposes to eliminate the division for the blind, a fundamental resource in the success of blind individuals because it provides guidance to federally legislated programs that serve blind vendors, blind seniors, and deaf-blind people and because it provides essential guidance to the twenty-four separate state agencies serving the blind as well as the general rehabilitation agencies lacking expertise regarding the unique services blind people need to become independent and self-confident; and
WHEREAS, the department also proposes to close all RSA regional offices and abolish nearly half of all RSA jobs, making effective federal monitoring of state rehabilitation programs difficult if not impossible; and
WHEREAS, in addition, as though these actions to reduce the role of the RSA were not enough, the department proposes to demote the RSA commissioner to a director, who is not appointed by the president or confirmed by the Senate, further diminishing the power of the RSA; and
WHEREAS, the department has been mute or even supportive of Department of Labor intentions to consolidate rehabilitation funds under a scheme referred to as WIA Plus, and all of these actions constitute systematic destruction of the RSA program, the only program that has demonstrated success in the rehabilitation of blind people, offering the skills and confidence that prepare us for employment: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the Department of Education for its systematic effort to devalue the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration, an action that is detrimental to the futures of thousands of blind people and others with disabilities; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Congress to enact language in legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which amends Section III of the Rehabilitation Act by directing the administration to preserve the division for the blind, RSA staff positions, and the RSA regional structure; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly encourage Congress to maintain language preserving existing law regarding the RSA commissioner.
Regarding commendation of original IMAA cosponsors and Congress generally
WHEREAS, blind students have been systemically denied access to an equal education in the classroom because textbooks have not been provided in accessible formats in a timely manner; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind, in partnership with the Association of American Publishers and other blindness organizations, sought congressional support of legislation to address the systemic problems that prevent blind children from receiving instructional materials in a timely fashion; and
WHEREAS, these organizations agreed on legislation titled the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act, which would require the development of a standardized electronic file format, a national repository to collect files provided by publishers using the standardized file format, a requirement that publishers provide files to the center using the standardized format, and the capacity to distribute those files to schools for processing in formats used by blind students; and
WHEREAS, Senators Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, and Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi, and Representatives Thomas Petri, Republican of Wisconsin, and George Miller, Democrat of California, demonstrated their commitment to insuring that blind children receive equal access to educational opportunities by cosponsoring the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act in the U.S. Senate and the U. S. House of Representatives; and
WHEREAS, on November 17, 2004, Congress included instructional materials access provisions in legislation to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Public Law 108-446, signed into law by President Bush shortly thereafter, on December 3, 2004: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization commend Senators Dodd and Cochran and Representatives Petri and Miller for their congressional leadership in the effort to ensure that blind children have equal access to educational materials in the classroom as original cosponsors of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization generally commend the United States Congress for inclusion of critical provisions of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act as part of the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Public Law 108-446, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004.
Regarding presumptive disability in Social Security Title II blindness cases
WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is presently undertaking a redesign of its disability determination process in an effort to simplify the process as well as to provide more prompt and accurate determinations of disability to those applying for benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs; and
WHEREAS, blindness is specifically defined by law in Section 216(i)(1)(B) of the Social Security Act and in implementing regulations and is readily determinable; and
WHEREAS, applications for Social Security disability based on blindness are often initially denied and far too often not properly resolved until the hearing stage before an administrative law judge, a process which is both frustrating to the applicant and costly to the Social Security system; and
WHEREAS, Section 1631(a)(4) of the Social Security Act allows the application taker in SSI cases to make a determination of presumptive disability when blindness is readily determinable and does not require the recipient to repay benefits even if the disability determination is later found to be incorrect (an event unlikely to occur); and
WHEREAS, the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, Public Law 106-170, establishes the concept of “expedited reinstatement,” which permits a beneficiary reinstatement to SSDI or SSI benefits within five years of the last month that individual was eligible to receive benefits if the disability for which benefits are sought is the same or similar to that of the prior application, and does not require repayment in the event the actual determination finds no disability: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration to establish presumptive disability for SSDI applicants who meet the statutory definition of blindness, permitting award of payments prior to completion of a disability determination by the disability determination service.
Regarding encouragement for a multi-sensory approach to learning
WHEREAS, very young children are driven by instinct to learn about the world around them; and
WHEREAS, exploration through sensory input is the only means through which children can acquire an understanding of their environment; and
WHEREAS, vision is the last of the senses to develop fully in humans (if it develops at all); and
WHEREAS, early childhood education programs typically place great emphasis on visual learning materials rather than incorporating a balance of tactile, auditory, oral, olfactory, and stereo gnostic materials into the standard curriculum; and
WHEREAS, publishers and creators of materials intended for use in America’s classrooms could easily plan to produce materials incorporating senses other than vision if they chose to do so and would thus speed and enhance the learning experience of all children; and
WHEREAS, blind children are very often excluded from classroom activities because most classroom materials require vision for their use; and
WHEREAS, blind children are often isolated from their classmates when they are given ancillary materials that have supposedly been adapted just for them; and
WHEREAS, the incorporation of multi-sensory stimuli in the learning process is proven to enhance both comprehension and retention of concepts and information for all young children; and
WHEREAS, this multi-sensory approach to the production of classroom materials would benefit all children and would have the beneficial side effect of including blind children in classroom activities with such materials because they would allow easy inclusion of the blind child: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the creators, manufacturers, and distributors of early childhood education materials to make available a wide range of multi-sensory learning apparatus to ensure better learning by all and better inclusion of blind children; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization encourage early childhood educators to incorporate multi-sensory learning materials as the foundation of their curriculum so as to provide a more successful learning environment for blind children as well as children with learning styles other than visual.
Regarding opposition to graphical verification
WHEREAS, to protect themselves against malicious computer programs that in a matter of seconds can acquire thousands of screen names, email addresses, or account numbers, organizations have developed systems to ensure that whoever makes a request is in fact a human being; and
WHEREAS, the most basic implementation of this system, often referred to as a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) displays a picture of distorted text that the user is asked to copy before an account can be established or a service provided; and
WHEREAS, this implementation is based on the theory that no computer program can read the distorted text as accurately as a live person; and
WHEREAS, the graphical display of the distorted text cannot be interpreted by screen access technology for the blind, rendering the CAPTCHA inaccessible to the nonvisual user; and
WHEREAS, this graphical verification technique has been used by a growing number of well-known organizations, among them Ticketmaster, Yahoo, Earthlink, Google, Microsoft, America Online, and PayPal (to name only a few), and the services provided by these organizations are just as necessary and attractive to the blind as they are to the sighted; and
WHEREAS, the growing popularity of the graphical verification technique as a means of protection can hardly be justified in light of the fact that software already exists that can defeat many of the systems in use today; and
WHEREAS, a regrettably small number of organizations have enhanced their visually based CAPTCHAs by providing audible alternatives to the display of distorted text, and even this effort, helpful as it may be to some, fails to address the needs of computer users whose only means for using the computer is a refreshable Braille display; and
WHEREAS, others have attempted to provide nonvisual alternatives to their visually based graphical verification protection systems by directing users to an email address or toll free number, neither of which affords the same timeliness and responsiveness available to everybody else; and
WHEREAS, it is very probable that the graphical verification system employed by many Web sites to protect themselves against automated information acquisition software will be so widely used as to prevent blind computer users from signing on to specific Web sites or systems (such as those used on the job) without sighted assistance: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express its strong opposition to the use of graphically displayed text as the sole means of verifying one's humanity (the visual CAPTCHA) and declare this approach to be a significant barrier to accessibility for the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization commend companies such as America Online, Spam Arrest, and Microsoft for their efforts to provide audio files that can be used by nonvisual users as an alternative to copying graphically displayed text; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon any individual or organization contemplating the use of graphical verification as a means of proving one's humanity to work with the National Federation of the Blind to design, develop, and implement alternative approaches that are fully accessible to the blind (including users of refreshable Braille displays) by incorporating concepts of universal design and multi-sensory information presentation.
Regarding application of Randolph-Sheppard to military dining opportunities
WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act provides the blind opportunities to operate vending facilities on federal property, demonstrating the capacities of blind entrepreneurs; and
WHEREAS, military dining facilities often provide lucrative earnings potential, which makes them highly prized by many, including blind vendors under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and agencies associated with NISH that employ disabled people in low-wage, low-skill jobs while their nondisabled executives receive high-earning management jobs to oversee the disabled workforce under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act; and
WHEREAS, federal district courts and courts of appeal, when called upon to determine which priority prevails between Randolph-Sheppard and JWOD, consistently rule that Randolph-Sheppard prevails because the Randolph-Sheppard priority specifically refers to food service, while that of JWOD refers broadly to commodities and services; and
WHEREAS, therefore in each of the past three years JWOD agencies associated with NISH have pushed legislation designed to make Randolph-Sheppard inapplicable to military dining contracts, causing the organized blind to stand against this assault to create a stalemate, protecting the status quo for facilities held under the Randolph-Sheppard Act and those under the JWOD Act;
WHEREAS, legislation passed to reauthorize defense programs by both the Senate and House of Representatives (S 1042 and HR 1815) would continue this stalemate for another year, but House language would further require that the Department of Defense and the Department of Education issue a joint statement of policy to assure that the Randolph-Sheppard and JWOD programs can function together to meet their statutory purposes, and this language would require these agencies to consult with interested stakeholders of both statutes: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon conferees appointed to reconcile differences between legislation to reauthorize defense programs adopted by the Senate and House of Representatives to accept without change the House provision requiring the Department of Defense and the Department of Education to develop a joint statement of policy; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization publicly reaffirm our resolve to advocate for blind vendors with both agencies to ensure that the priority of the Randolph-Sheppard Act continues to enhance the creation of legitimate opportunities for blind people to operate dining facilities on this nation's military bases.
Regarding Access to electronic information and technology in higher education
WHEREAS, ensuring access to electronic technology and information for blind higher education students is a growing problem in the digital age because of rapidly evolving technology, combined with lack of planning for nonvisual use when developing electronic technology and information resulting in lack of access for blind students; and
WHEREAS, the modern higher education environment is increasingly dependant on electronic technology and information for placing course materials, reference and library materials, and a variety of other documents online; rapidly developing distance education that is dramatically changing higher education for many, registering for courses, payment of tuition, books, and fees, and tracking loan and grant funds, all of which are most conveniently accomplished online; and
WHEREAS, access to printed instructional materials continues to pose significant challenges for blind students in higher education, a problem Congress finally addressed for blind elementary and high school students with inclusion of instructional materials access provisions in legislation enacted to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which include a national electronic file format standard and a national center for regulated collection and distribution of files; and
WHEREAS, the time has come to ensure that blind students in higher education have timely access to instructional materials, and the electronic file format standard and a national center can both play a valuable role in providing this critical access to textbooks for these blind students; and
WHEREAS, without clearly defined standards and systems to anticipate accessibility needs, nonvisual access is difficult to achieve, and the reasonable accommodations framework established under federal disability statutes applicable to institutions of higher education is poorly suited to address access to electronic information and technology: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon Congress to enact amendments to the Higher Education Act that promote nonvisual access in the procurement by postsecondary institutions of electronic technology and information by compelling postsecondary institutions that receive federal funds to ensure that procurement, modification, development, and use of electronic information technology for purposes of instruction or otherwise comply with federal accessibility standards to be established pursuant to the Higher Education Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Congress to support the designation of a national access center to receive electronic copies of books chosen for use in postsecondary education and require publishers to furnish electronic text additions to the center in accordance with the Department of Education’s National Instructional Materials Access Standard.
Resolution 2005-08 was defeated on the floor.
Regarding production of children’s television for all children
WHEREAS, television programming targeted to young children by public and commercial television producers routinely relies on visual images, cues, or effects to convey information to young viewers, overlooking the fact that almost all such information has or could have a parallel sound that would give a listener the same information the visible cues provide; and
WHEREAS, all young children learn by listening, touching, tasting, looking, observing, memorizing, comparing, and paying attention to all information in the environment and not to just one type, such as visible information; and
WHEREAS, research about how very young children learn strongly supports this multi-sensory approach as the foundation for the development of intellect; and
WHEREAS, more and more, the use of technology which blends both audible and visible information is used to supplement and support learning at home and in the classroom, even as early as the toddler and preschool years; and
WHEREAS, the development of each child is as diverse and varied as that of the whole human race, and it is important to plan programming for all children that allows each child to employ and explore different strategies to assist in obtaining information; and
WHEREAS, when blind children watch television, their only information comes audibly, leading some advocates for the blind to seek retrofitting of visible-only plots and information by means of a voice-over added track available only to the blind; and
WHEREAS, with forethought and commitment, it is obviously possible and helps all children and especially blind children when producers of television programs targeted to young children consciously use this multi-sensory approach by routinely integrating accessible audio narrative, sound effects, and dialogue in their television shows: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge all producers of public and commercial television programming for young children to include audible as well as visible cues in the original scripts of all such programs to ensure that all children, including those with visual impairments, benefit from the plots and messages of such shows.
Regarding proposed regulations to implement IDEA
WHEREAS, provisions for access to instructional materials were included in recently enacted legislation to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was signed by President Bush on December 3, 2004, but as often occurs, ambiguity exists in the meaning of these provisions; and
WHEREAS, the Office for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services within the U.S. Department of Education conducted public meetings to gauge the concerns of special education stakeholders regarding regulations for the newly enacted provisions of IDEA, in which the National Federation of the Blind, teachers of blind students, publishers, and other interested groups all articulated a consistent message about the nature of proposed regulations, the importance of defining “timely manner,” and the critical need for well-articulated requirements for the states that choose to opt out of coordination with the National Instructional Materials Access Center; and
WHEREAS, to ensure timely access to instructional materials for blind students, states that wish to opt out should be required to demonstrate their ability to provide materials to blind students in a timely manner without assistance from the center; and
WHEREAS, the notice of a proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on June 21, 2005, with a deadline for comments of September 6, and regulations proposed to give effect to the instructional materials access provisions are simply a restatement of the statutory language with all of its ambiguities left unresolved; and
WHEREAS, this gives the appearance if not the reality that blind children are being punished for the advocacy of blind adults who are striving to defend and maintain a critical rehabilitation system that has provided many of us the skills, confidence, and services we need to succeed: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore this attempt by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services within the Department of Education to establish watered-down regulations for access to instructional materials; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization take all possible action to achieve a final regulation on instructional materials access developed actually to provide blind students in elementary and secondary schools the timely access to instructional materials to which they are rightfully entitled.
Regarding U.S. Postal Service vending routes
WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act allows blind vendors the opportunity to operate vending machines on multiple federal properties combined to create a vending route; and
WHEREAS, the United States Postal Service has commendably begun to agree to vending routes consisting of vending machines in post offices; and
WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act explicitly provides that “no limitations shall be imposed on income from vending machines, combined to create a vending facility, which are maintained, serviced, or operated by a blind licensee”; and
WHEREAS, the United States Postal Service is violating the Randolph-Sheppard Act because it will issue Randolph-Sheppard permits to operate vending machines only if the state licensing agency agrees that the vendor shall pay commissions to the postal service; and
WHEREAS, this practice not only is illegal but also limits the income of the blind vendors who operate the vending routes: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization strongly urge state licensing agencies to insist that agreements to operate vending machines should not include payment of any commissions; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon state licensing agencies to take all necessary steps, including invoking their right to convene an arbitration proceeding, to obtain permits to operate vending machines in post offices without paying commissions.
Regarding access by the blind to touch-screen devices
WHEREAS, touch-screen devices, including point-of-sale terminals, self-service check-in and check-out visual display units, lottery machines, ticketing machines, and other kiosk-type devices present opportunities for speedy transactions, promise abbreviated wait times, and facilitate the growing cashless society; and
WHEREAS, touch-screen technology is currently not accessible to the blind because it does not support any method permitting use of nonvisual techniques for entering and acquiring the necessary information needed for the completion of a transaction; and
WHEREAS, blind people cannot access these services and must use employee assistance to complete actions that require touch-screen technology, which becomes increasingly difficult because facilities use these devices to perform jobs that once required human intervention, diminishing the need for staff; and
WHEREAS, blind people could easily access these individualized services independently if at the time of development manufacturers designed touch screens to permit nonvisual access; and
WHEREAS, if, as predicted, this trend of individualized electronic check-in/check-out continues in airports, convenience and retail stores, hotels, and other public facilities, blind people will find it more difficult or even impossible to change industry practices, resulting in many services becoming inaccessible without personal assistance; and
WHEREAS, it is critically important for manufacturers and purchasers of touch-screen point-of-sale devices to work with the NFB to establish access for the blind, but these groups have mostly been unwilling to enter into dialogue, compelling us to pursue legal means to motivate manufacturers and purchasers to embrace a workable solution because the blind have the same right to public facilities as our sighted peers: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge states to enact legislation to promote accessibility for the blind to touch-screen devices installed in public places; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist that the manufacturers and purchasers of non-accessible touch-screen devices move forward with development of technology both to manufacture new and to modify existing devices that are accessible to both the blind and sighted public, and that we offer our vast knowledge of what blind people need in order to achieve complete access to touch-screen technology and the devices that use it.
Regarding portrayal of blind people on television
WHEREAS, Jamie Dolan was blinded in a shooting in November of 2004; and
WHEREAS, the American Broadcasting Company broadcast two special editions of its program, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, about Jamie Dolan on May 1 and 2, 2005; and
WHEREAS, during these specials a new home was constructed for Mr. Dolan and his family, featuring special adaptations intended to help him cope with his blindness; and
WHEREAS, these adaptations included rounded corners on kitchen surfaces to prevent injury, textured walls to let him know which room he was standing in, carpet runners from room to room to allow him to find his way around the house, and voice-controlled light switches; and
WHEREAS, the programs also emphasized the Dolan family’s fear of what life would be like for Mr. Dolan now that he is blind; and
WHEREAS, program producers could have created a new home for a family in need that was efficient, attractive, and free of unnecessary gimmicks, thereby helping the Dolan family to embrace an accurate and positive attitude about blindness; and
WHEREAS, instead, the millions of viewers who watched these two programs were presented with a negative, damaging view of the capabilities of blind people; and
WHEREAS, one example of the potential damage of these broadcasts is the detrimental impact on the attitude of employers, who could easily conclude that they would have to provide rounded surfaces, textured walls, carpet runners, and voice-controlled light switches for future blind employees; and
WHEREAS, members of the National Federation of the Blind demonstrate every day that blind people live in normal homes without special accommodations and lead productive lives: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the actions of the American Broadcasting Company and the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition for their inaccurate depiction of the capabilities of blind people; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization communicate to ABC officials and the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition the damage they have unwittingly done to the Dolan family and all blind people with their well-meant but wrong-headed home modifications, and urge them to contact the National Federation of the Blind in the future for advice and guidance before producing any program that deals with blindness.
Regarding elimination of the marriage penalty under Supplemental Security Income
WHEREAS, a major Bush administration objective is elimination of the marriage penalty that many sections of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code impose on many Americans; and
WHEREAS, those who face this marriage penalty belong to the middle and upper classes although there is a more insidious marriage penalty in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program affecting people of more modest means, including approximately 80,000 blind people, which should be immediately abolished; and
WHEREAS, two blind or disabled individuals living together in marriage who are both eligible for benefits are commonly referred to under the SSI program as an “eligible couple,” receiving a benefit amount which is one-and-one-third times the amount of the single person’s federal benefit rate (FBR), and eligible couples are permitted only an additional $1,000 in resources and assets, totaling $3,000, but if two unmarried individuals were cohabiting, they would each receive their full FBR (minus applicable income deductions) as well as a $2,000 resource limit, for total resources between them of $4,000; and
WHEREAS, those eligible for SSI generally receive Medicaid and can maintain complete Medicaid coverage when work earnings eliminate their SSI monetary benefits; however, for eligible couples, the income of a newly working spouse (when both have not been working) can terminate the Medicaid coverage of the nonworking spouse, yet frequently the nonworking spouse is prevented from working because of severe health complications, making Medicaid essential; and
WHEREAS, the marriage penalty forces SSI recipients to make choices they find morally repugnant, including cohabitation without marriage, or to conceal their marital status because marriage results in significant disadvantage in income, possession of assets, and health coverage; and those who were uninformed of the penalty at the time of their marriage are often compelled to separate or to declare false information about their marital status to maintain health benefits: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon Congress to eliminate the marriage penalty that exists under the Supplemental Security Income program.
Regarding traveling with a guide dog on an airline
WHEREAS, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986 was passed by Congress to ensure accessible air travel for people with disabilities; and
WHEREAS, some blind people have chosen to work with guide dogs as their mobility aids; and
WHEREAS, the right to travel with a guide dog in the cabin is guaranteed by the ACAA; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Transportation in its Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) concerning the ACAA published in the Federal Register on November 4, 2004, contains provisions detrimental to this guaranteed right; and
WHEREAS, the recommendations contained in the NPRM suggest that if a service animal, including a guide dog, cannot fit within the floor space allocated to the disabled passenger, the airline may charge for a second seat, have the passenger ship the dog in cargo, or have the team take a later flight; and
WHEREAS, these three recommendations, if implemented by airlines, will make air travel virtually impossible for many blind travelers and their guide dogs; and
WHEREAS, these recommendations run counter to the intent of Congress and to all concepts of accessible air travel: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express its strong opposition and concern over the decrease in rights and equal access to air travel by blind people and their guide dogs as proposed in the Department of Transportation’s November 4, 2004, NPRM; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the Department of Transportation immediately revise its regulations, affirming the right of blind travelers to be accompanied in the cabin by their guide dogs, including the right to travel without additional charge for the guide dog, and the right to travel without restrictions other than those imposed on the general air-traveling population.
Resolution 2005-16 was defeated in committee.
Regarding choice in rehabilitation for veterans
WHEREAS, the conflict in Iraq reminds all Americans of the sacrifices that members of the American armed services make in defense of the freedoms we often take for granted; and
WHEREAS, among these sacrifices is a heightened risk of loss of life or serious injury that may include blindness; and
WHEREAS, veterans who become disabled either from an injury directly related to their service or from other disabling conditions are rightly awarded an array of benefits, those with service-connected disabilities receiving more due to their being injured in the service of their country; and
WHEREAS, among the benefits to which blind veterans are entitled are rehabilitation, training in the skills of blindness, and the opportunity to learn to do the things once accomplished with sight by alternative methods so that the blind veteran can live safely and can work if desired; and
WHEREAS, rehabilitation is provided to blind veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at one of several blind rehabilitation centers scattered throughout the country so that a blind veteran attends the center nearest to his or her home, and all VA centers use an identical model for rehabilitation training of the blind; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has evolved an approach to training blind people that results in confident, independent blind people and has established residential training centers that use this approach in their training, and many state programs have adopted these methods, but this model of rehabilitation is unavailable to blind veterans because no VA center uses this model; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has been instrumental in the development and implementation of the principle of informed choice in the civilian rehabilitation system for blind people and in advocating that this principle guide choice of services, service providers, vocational goals, and the entire relationship between consumer and agency in the civilian rehabilitation program; and
WHEREAS, veterans are rightly excluded from receiving funding from the civilian rehabilitation program because of the existence of the Department of Veterans Affairs program, but this produces the unfortunate result that America’s civilian blind population has choice among approaches, providers, and outcomes, including the ability to travel to a state other than the client’s state of residence to effectuate this choice, while America’s veterans who encounter blindness are consigned to a single approach, provider, and outcome, provided in the center nearest to their homes; and
WHEREAS, the VA will pay to send a blind veteran to the civilian rehabilitation program in his or her state of residence, but this does not afford the blind veteran the choice of public or private centers, the choice of models, and the choice of attending a center in any state that civilian blind rehabilitation consumers have; and
WHEREAS, our country should offer its blind veterans, especially those blinded in the service of their country, the widest array of options and the most choices possible, but the current situation results in civilians having far wider options than service men and women injured while serving their country in dangerous places: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon Congress to enact legislation that expressly instructs the Department of Veterans Affairs to afford the widest choice among approaches, providers, and outcomes to America’s blind veterans by contracting with rehabilitation providers outside of its own system, including contracts with public and private providers of rehabilitation services in any state.
Regarding opposition to existing legislation to reinstate the FCC video description rule
WHEREAS, on February 17, 2005, Congressman Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, introduced the Video Description Restoration Act of 2005 H.R. 951, and on April 26 Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, introduced the Television Information-Enhancement for the Visually Impaired (TIVI) Act, companion pieces of legislation to mandate reinstatement of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule that required four hours of video-described television in the top twenty-five markets based on population as well as stations in other markets with the capacity to do so; and
WHEREAS, these bills call on the FCC to convene a proceeding to consider making written information on the screen accessible, but nothing in the legislation actually requires the FCC to conduct a rule-making to establish a protocol for voicing this information; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has consistently and unambiguously stated our position on video description, which is that the text information written to the screen must be made accessible because of its value in emergencies and its news worthiness, but that we would prefer for the television industry to offer described television voluntarily; and
WHEREAS, the Federation has negotiated with Senator McCain’s office to strengthen the provision that requires the FCC to convene a proceeding relating to the voicing of text information written to the screen with only minimal results; and
WHEREAS, staff in Senator McCain’s office express concerns about getting support of Congress to mandate the voicing of information displayed on the screen while at the same time showing no apparent concern for mandating the overturning of a federal court opinion; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind would support this legislation if it put in place a procedure to assure that information written to the screen would be made accessible through speech, which is a significant compromise when we have always opposed mandating that television broadcasters be forced to offer described television: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2005, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization actively oppose H.R. 951, and S. 900 unless these bills are amended to require a process that will lead to the voicing of text printed to the screen; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization negotiate to improve this legislation in order that we need not oppose it.