Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 110th Congress, First Session
The National Federation
of the Blind (NFB) is the Voice of the Nation's Blind. We present the collective
views of blind people throughout society. All of our leaders and the vast majority
of our members are blind, but anyone can participate in our movement. Every
year approximately 75,000 people become blind in America, and there are an estimated
1.3 million blind people in the U.S. The social and economic consequences of
blindness affect not only the blind, but also our families, our friends, and
our coworkers. Three legislative initiatives require the immediate attention
of the 110th Congress. These urgent action items include:
1. We urge
Congress to require higher education textbook publishers to produce electronic
editions for blind students in an accessible standard format. This can be accomplished
by enacting legislation that will:
six months of enactment require the secretary of education to establish a
national nonvisual access standard for higher education textbooks and supplemental
reading materials. This standard should be based on the national access standard
used in elementary and secondary education, with appropriate modifications
made for use in higher education.
one year of enactment designate a National Higher Education Textbook Access
Center to receive electronic text editions from publishers and provide them
to qualified blind students and instructors upon request. The Center should
determine student eligibility based on criteria and procedures currently used
by government entities and nonprofit organizations that produce books and
other materials for blind readers.
two years of enactment require publishers to provide the Center with at least
one electronic copy of each edition of every textbook published, which must
be prepared in accordance with the national access standard. This obligation
should apply to textbooks and supplemental reading materials intended for
use by students or faculty in a higher education course and should take effect
at the time the textbook or supplemental reading material is first available.
2. We urge
Congress, in considering amendments to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), to
affirm the right of the blind to vote independently and in private. Enacted
blind voters access to the entire voting system, including any mechanism for
that ballots of voters using accessibility features are not segregated from
ballots of voters who do not use such features;
- make federal
funds available to reimburse jurisdictions for the cost of upgrading existing
voting systems or purchasing new ones in order to meet accessibility requirements;
voters the ability to individually seek redress of grievances that may arise
in the voting process.
3. We urge Congress to amend
Title II of the Social Security Act to mandate a schedule of increases in the
level of earnings allowed for blind individuals before applying a work penalty,
- for 2008 $21,600
- for 2009 $26,400
- for 2010 $30,000
- for 2011 $34,200
- for 2012 the amount
applicable to individuals who attain Full Retirement Age in that year.
information about these priorities, please consult the attached fact sheets.
that may present opportunities for legislative action in this session of Congress
that blindness cannot be a factor to justify payment of less than minimum
wage under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act;
congressional oversight to bear on the threat posed to the safety of blind
pedestrians by electric, hybrid, and other increasingly prevalent types of
vehicles that minimize the use of combustion engines, making them too quiet
to be heard;
the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the
Library of Congress to provide a means for rapid dissemination of electronic
versions of national and local newspapers and periodicals to registered blind
persons on a nationwide basis through use of high-speed computers and telecommunications
full funding for the transition of the Talking Books program of the National
Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of
Congress from analog to digital technology;
the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, as part of the Workforce Investment
Act to increase consumer empowerment and enhance informed choice;
the electronic and information technology procurement standards contained
in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to institutions of higher education
and government grantees to improve access for blind employees and members
of the public who use the technology;
the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act to allow blind and disabled persons to receive
competitive compensation and opportunities for career advancement, as well
as to prevent fraud and abuse in the program established under this Act; and
and enhancing opportunities available under the Randolph-Sheppard Act for
blind men and women to operate vending businesses on federal property.
For more information
on any of these priorities, please contact James McCarthy, director of governmental
affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, (410) 659-9314, ext. 2207,
or visit us online at <www.nfb.org>.
Blind Americans need your help to achieve our goals of economic security, increased
opportunity, and full integration into American society on a basis of equality.
Enactment of these legislative proposals will represent important steps toward
reaching these goals. We need the help and support of each member of Congress.
Our success benefits not only us, but the whole of America as well.