Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 111th Congress, Second Session
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States. As the Voice of the Nation’s Blind, we represent 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. There are an estimated 1.3 million blind people in the United States, and every year approximately 75,000 Americans become blind. The social and economic consequences of blindness affect not only blind people, but also our families, our friends, and our coworkers.
Three legislative initiatives demand the immediate attention of the 111th Congress in its second session:
1. We urge Congress to ensure the safety of blind and other pedestrians by passing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. This legislation would require the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to:
- begin a study within ninety days of its enactment to determine the most practical means of assuring that blind and other pedestrians receive essentially similar information to that which they now receive from sound emitted by internal combustion engines;
- determine the minimum amount of sound necessary to offer sufficient information for blind pedestrians to make safe travel judgments, based on appropriate scientific research and consultation with blind Americans and other affected groups;
- within two years of beginning the study, promulgate a motor vehicle safety standard to address the needs of blind and other pedestrians by requiring either a minimum level of sound or an equally effective means of providing the same information as is available from hearing internal combustion engines; and
- apply the standard to all motor vehicles manufactured or sold in the United States beginning no later than two years after the date it is promulgated.
2. We urge Congress to work with blind Americans to create a Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind that mandates that consumer electronics, home appliances, kiosks, and electronic office technology provide user interfaces that are accessible through nonvisual means. This legislation should:
- mandate that all consumer electronics, home appliances, kiosks, and electronic office technology be designed so that blind people can access the same functions as sighted people through nonvisual means and with substantially equivalent ease of use;
- create a commission comprised of essential stakeholders to establish standards for nonvisual accessibility of electronic devices intended for use in the home or office;
- endow the Department of Justice with the authority to enforce the regulations promulgated by the commission established by this legislation; and
- authorize the commission to reexamine and rewrite standards periodically as consumer electronic technology continues to evolve.
3. We urge Congress to promote and facilitate the transition by blind Americans from recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits to income-earning, tax-paying, productive members of the American workforce by enacting legislation to:
- replace the monthly earnings penalty with a graduated three-for-one phase-out (i.e., a $1 reduction in benefits for each $3 earned above the limit);
- replace the monthly earnings test with an annualized earnings test in an amount equal to twelve times the Substantial Gainful Activity amount; and
- establish one standard impairment-related work expense deduction for blind SSDI beneficiaries equal to the average amount of these expenses incurred by eligible beneficiaries during the preceding taxable year, or 16.3 percent of earnings, whichever is greater.
For more information about these priorities, please consult the attached fact sheets.
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. In this time of national economic insecurity, these measures will contribute to increasing the tax base and encouraging the purchase of consumer goods.