Braille Monitor                                                 August/September 2010

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National Convention Resolutions: A Thriving Tradition

by Sharon Maneki

Sharon ManekiFrom the Editor: For a number of years now Sharon Maneki has chaired the resolutions committee. She also writes an article briefly discussing the resolutions adopted. This year, in addition, she has provided some historical perspective. This is what she says:

In this article I will describe the twenty-five resolutions that the Convention considered and passed in Dallas on July 7, 2010, and, I hope, whet the reader’s appetite to read their full texts. Since this was the seventieth convention of the National Federation of the Blind, I am going to look at some of the traditions that surround resolutions. Special thanks go to Ed Morman, director of the tenBroek Library, and Anna Kresmer, archivist, for their research assistance.

The National Federation of the Blind has a long tradition of establishing its policies through resolutions passed by the national Convention. The resolutions process is governed by a tradition of openness and fairness. By longstanding practice any member of the Federation may introduce a resolution. The resolutions committee meets early in the convention, the day before the national board meeting, to consider resolutions. The committee may not bottle up a resolution to keep it from going to the Convention floor. It must vote each resolution up or down. The Convention follows the same procedure. Ramona Walhof, who was the chairman of the resolutions committee in 1991, stated, “In my memory of the previous twenty-five years, the Convention deferred action on a resolution only once.” Between 1991 and the present the Convention has taken action on every resolution that was presented to it.

The traditions of openness and fairness have been maintained, even though some alterations in the resolutions process were made in 1993. Beginning in that year and up to the present, any person who wishes to present a resolution for consideration by the committee must submit it to the chairman or the president two weeks before the committee meeting. Ramona Walhof, who was also chairman of the resolutions committee in 1993, noted that this process has several advantages. “It allows for the checking of facts. If more than one person introduces a resolution on the same subject, it is easier for them to consult and resolve differences than it would be during the crush of convention activities.”

This year the committee followed its tradition of meeting on the day before the board meeting, which meant meeting on July 4. As usual the committee was large and consisted of members from throughout the country. Marsha Dyer served as secretary to the committee and did an outstanding job. Also, as usual, the committee lived up to its tradition of careful thought and lively debate of each of the twenty-five resolutions it considered.

By tradition NFB resolutions leave no doubt in the reader’s mind about our stand on any given subject. Our resolutions demonstrate persistence and a pattern of consistency. The Convention’s enactment of twenty-five resolutions is on the high side. Between 1987 and 2010 the average number of resolutions enacted each year was nineteen. In 2000 the Convention passed thirty-four resolutions, which was the highest number during these years. The 2010 resolutions demonstrate our tradition of speaking for ourselves and of our determination to move forward toward security, equality, and opportunity for the blind.

The 1942 convention, our third, was the first to consider and pass resolutions. It was held in Des Moines, Iowa, in June. The country was in the middle of World War II, so the first resolution, not surprisingly, calls on the country to accept the assistance of blind people in the war effort. Federationists have a long history of patriotism and willingness to serve our country. The format was a bit different from the one we use today, but the resolution certainly made its point. The resolution reads:

 

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
RESOLUTION NO. 101

WHEREAS, this Federation is now assembled in Convention to consider among other things ways and means whereby the Blind men and women of America may contribute to national production for the prosecution of the present war by our country and its allies,

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind that we pledge to the President of the United States our best efforts, both individual and collective, for the increase of national production, the strengthening of national unity, and the maintenance of the four freedoms enumerated by our Chief Executive, and that we convey to the President of the United States the readiness of the Blind men and women of this country to serve their country in any way in which they may be called upon, and we do respectfully petition the President of the United States, and all other appropriate governmental officers, to consult with the Blind, and to ascertain and determine in what way and to what extent the Blind may contribute in this emergency.

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be communicated to the President of the United States and that it be further given to the press.

Adopted by the Third Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind assembled in the city of Des Moines, State of Iowa, this 26th day of June, 1942.

J. tenBroek President
J. DeBeer Secretary
2737 Forest Avenue Berkeley, California
108 Morgan Building, Bakersfield, California.

 

The majority of the ten resolutions that the Convention passed in 1942 dealt with the creation of employment opportunities. We called on the U.S. Civil Service system to hire blind people and encouraged states to accept blind people as employment service workers so that we could place blind people in jobs. Of course there was a resolution about the Randolph-Sheppard program and one concerning sheltered workshops. It is encouraging to see how far we have come by comparing the 1942 Randolph-Sheppard resolution with the two Randolph-Sheppard resolutions that were passed in 2010. Here is the 1942 resolution:

 

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
RESOLUTION NO. 103

WHEREAS, it is recognized that the exclusion of soft drinks from the commodities permitted to be sold in stands in post offices and other federal buildings has proved to be a definite limitation in service to the employees and the public, as well as a decided economic disadvantage to the operator, and

WHEREAS, the sale of bottled soft drinks can and may be regulated in accordance with the business methods and practices as required by the United States office having jurisdiction over the installation and operation of such locations, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind that we recommend that the sale of bottled soft drinks be permitted in all stands conducted by Blind operators in post offices and other federal buildings.

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution be communicated to the appropriate federal agencies.

Adopted by the Third Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind assembled in the city of Des Moines, State of Iowa, this 26th day of June, 1942.

J. tenBroek President
J. DeBeer Secretary
2737 Forest Ave. Berkeley, Calif.
108 Morgan Bldg. Bakersfield, Calif.

 

In 2010 the two resolutions considered and passed by the Convention also dealt with the expansion of employment opportunities, but today many blind people are managing full-service cafeterias. Kevan Worley, a longtime leader in the NFB and an ardent advocate who currently serves as treasurer of the National Association of Blind Merchants and first vice president of the Colorado affiliate, proposed Resolution 2010-07 and 2010-16. The U.S. Postal Service entered into a nationwide contract with a private entity to provide cafeteria and vending services that are covered by the Randolph-Sheppard priority without seeking the input of state licensing agencies, the Rehabilitation Services Administration, or Randolph-Sheppard entrepreneurs. This arrangement and the subsequent behavior of both the Postal Service and the contractor have led to the diminishment of employment opportunities for blind entrepreneurs. In Resolution 2010-07 we condemn and deplore the failure of the Postal Service to comply with the Randolph-Sheppard Act and demand that the Postal Service cancel its cafeteria and vending contract.

In Resolution 2010-16 we condemn and deplore the actions of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled in continuing to place on the procurement list services that fall under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. In this resolution we also call upon Congress to require the Committee for Purchase to comply with the law.

The National Federation of the Blind has a long history of commitment to improving opportunities for workers in the sheltered workshop system. A 1942 resolution demonstrates this commitment and our concern for self-organization and conditions within the work place. Here is that resolution.

 

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
RESOLUTION NO. 110

RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind that we recommend that blind workers in all sheltered shops for the blind organize associations to which only blind workers in such shops shall be eligible for membership and that such associations be considered as representing the workers in such shops concerning wages, hours, and working conditions of the blind in such shops, and that a refusal on the part of management of such shops to deal with the representatives of such associations, or any discrimination by such management against any blind worker by reason of his activity in such association shall be deemed an unfair labor practice and an attack upon the integrity of the blind.

Adopted at the Third Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind held in Des Moines, State of Iowa, June 27, 1942.

J. tenBroek President
J. DeBeer Secretary
2737 Forest Ave. Berkeley, Calif.
108 Morgan Bldg. Bakersfield, Calif.

 

In 2010 our concern was to ensure that those who wish opportunities outside the workshop system be able to access such employment. In 2001 the Rehabilitation Services Administration defined an employment outcome as “an integrated setting.” State vocational rehabilitation counselors cannot count case closures unless the client has been placed in an integrated setting. National Industries for the Blind is trying to get the definition of employment outcome changed. In Resolution 2010-11, we express our strong opposition to any change in the definition of employment outcome. The vocational rehabilitation program must continue to emphasize employment in integrated settings rather than concentrating on support of National Industries for the Blind or easy case closures for state vocational rehabilitation counselors. Noel Nightingale, a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and a longtime leader in the Washington State affiliate, sponsored this resolution.

Resolutions often follow a predictable pattern. Most year’s resolutions call for various reforms of the Social Security system, improvements in the education of blind children, an end to various forms of discrimination, and better library services. We also usually have resolutions about our current legislative agenda. In keeping with tradition, this year we had resolutions from all of these categories.

As I was perusing the resolutions from the last twenty-three years using the online editions of the Braille Monitor, I was struck by how much progress we have made in reforming the Social Security system. Today recipients are finally receiving notices in alternative formats; college students have a greater opportunity to gain work experience without losing their SSI benefits; and procedures have been improved for beneficiaries who wish to develop a plan for achieving self-support (PASS). However, our work on Social Security is far from finished.

Gary Wunder, the new editor of the Braille Monitor and president of the NFB of Missouri, introduced Resolution 2010-09. In this resolution we urge the U.S. Congress to enact a statute of limitations, not to exceed seven years, in which the Social Security Administration can attempt to retrieve alleged overpayments. The Social Security Administration should be required to share with the beneficiary any evidence concerning the overpayment.

Education reform was a dominant topic on the convention agenda this year. Because of this focus on education, it is no surprise that four resolutions called for various reforms. Our education resolutions clearly demonstrate our persistence. In 1988 Resolution 88-101 (which means it was introduced by the board of directors) reads in part:

Resolve that this organization call upon the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Education to work with the National Federation of the Blind to create model schools that will offer long-term and short-term education and training for blind children, outreach to local school districts, support and assistance to the parents of blind children, and student teacher field placements.

 

In 2007 Resolution 2007-01 resolves in part:

That this organization adopt policies to establish partnerships with educational institutions, governmental agencies, or other entities that are conducting research on effective educational models for blind students in such institutions as charter schools, public and private educational settings, or any other nonresidential or residential programs of an innovative, cutting-edge nature, provided that satisfactory arrangements can be made, and that this policy shall include, at the discretion of the president, investing our money, personnel, time, energy, and imagination, consistent with our organizational goal of enhancing the educational experience of all blind students in America.

 

On June 3, 2010, President Maurer convened an education summit at the National Center for the Blind. Resolution 2010-01 was one of the results of this summit. Resolution 2010-01 resolves:

That this organization pursue innovative and nontraditional models for teaching literacy and other blindness skills, including the investigation and establishment of a charter school for blind children and any other model at the discretion of the president; and that the resources of this organization be used to establish such models as will demonstrate the success that will be achieved by high expectations and the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind

Ron Gardner, president of the Utah affiliate, proposed Resolution 2010-01.

The remaining three resolutions on education deal with access issues. Jeannie Massay, secretary of the NFB of Oklahoma, introduced Resolution 2010-10. Jeannie also won a national NFB scholarship in 2009. On March 5, 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a draft National Educational Technology Plan. This lengthy plan devotes only a few paragraphs to accessibility for the blind. In this resolution we call upon the U.S. Department of Education to create standards for the development of accessible educational technologies.

A recent trend in education is to teach science online by using virtual laboratories. This method of instruction puts a blind student at a serious disadvantage because of the visual nature of the content. Resolution 2010-14 addresses our concern about this method of instruction. In this resolution we urge the U.S. Department of Education to mandate that all hands-on and virtual laboratory learning experiences be accessible to blind students. When Congress reauthorizes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it should include legal recourse for parents and students who are denied access to experiences in science. Chelsea Cook, a 2010 national scholarship winner who is also second vice president of the Writers’ Division, secretary of the Science and Engineering Division, and a board member of the Virginia Association of Blind Students, sponsored this resolution.

The last education resolution, 2010-17, which concerns online testing, was introduced by Gary Wunder. It resolves in part:

 

That until such time as electronically administered tests and study materials are as useable by the blind as they are by the sighted, this organization insist that all materials be made available in hard-copy Braille, large print, and such other alternative formats as may be necessary to ensure that preparation for and administration of tests are equally accessible to people who are blind.

This year the Convention passed two resolutions calling for an end to discrimination. Both came from people who are active in NFB divisions. Vincent Chaney, a board member of the Diabetes Action Network and a leader who also holds several offices in the New Jersey affiliate, sponsored Resolution 2010-13. In this resolution we urge both federal and state officials to require government insurance programs and private insurance companies to end discrimination by covering accessible equipment for diabetics.

Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, proposed Resolution 2010-25, which describes why state laws prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations need to be strengthened. We urge states to ensure that their laws conform with the Americans with Disabilities Act. We also urge state legislatures to enact criminal penalties for acts of discrimination against guide dog users.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has provided invaluable service to blind people. In 2008 NLS discontinued interlibrary loan of digital audio materials from foreign producers. Since this policy reduces our access to books, in Resolution 2010-19 we urge NLS to remedy this situation immediately. David Hyde, chairman of the NFB library committee, which holds a meeting at every convention, and a member of the board of directors of the Wisconsin affiliate, was the proponent of this resolution.

During the 2010 Washington Seminar we discussed three issues with members of Congress. The Convention passed resolutions regarding these issues. For many years we have been warning various government officials of the dangers of quiet cars. As Resolution 2010-02 indicates, we have made significant progress on this issue. House and Senate committees have completed work on the 2010 Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which will mandate the U.S. Department of Transportation to promulgate regulations to require that electric and hybrid vehicles sold in the U.S. be equipped with an alert sound to allow blind pedestrians to maintain the right to safe and independent travel. We hope that both houses of Congress will pass this legislation by the time you are reading this article. Debbie Stein, chair of the committee on automobile and pedestrian safety, editor of Future Reflections, and first vice president of the Illinois affiliate, sponsored this resolution.

Corbb O’Connor, a tenBroek Fellow who won national scholarships in 2006 and 2009 and is president of the Virginia Association of Blind Students, sponsored Resolution 2010-06. In this resolution we urge Congress to pass the Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind, H.R. 4533.

The Social Security Disability Insurance Program must be reformed so that blind recipients can return to work without losing all of their benefits. To remind Congress of the need for this reform, Kim Williams, president of the NFB of Tennessee and first vice president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, sponsored Resolution 2010-18. In this resolution we urge the U.S. Senate to include provisions of the Blind Persons Return to Work Act of 2010 in the Senate jobs bill.

Rising expectations by the blind to participate in all aspects of community life led Ronza Othman, a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and a leader in the Maryland affiliate who also won a national scholarship in 2006, to propose Resolution 2010-05. In today’s society, in which forms of communication abound, the U.S. Census Bureau is still using paper forms as its major way to collect data. As stated in this resolution, the Census Bureau should develop mechanisms to allow blind persons to participate independently in all of its data-collection programs by April 2011.

A newer subject, which has become a traditional one for resolutions, is access. The first resolution regarding access to technology was passed by the Convention in 1988. In Resolution 1988-13 we call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to recognize adaptive computer technology for the blind as an essential educational and rehabilitative tool for blind clients and urge state agencies to purchase this technology and computers for the blind. We have come a long way since 1988.

The next access resolution passed by the Convention came in 1992. I have included this resolution to demonstrate the progress that we have made since 1992.

RESOLUTION 92-05

WHEREAS, Windows and other computer programs incorporating the Graphical User Interface (GUI) are being used by public and private employers; and

WHEREAS, these programs cannot be accessed by blind people using current screen-access products: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 1992, in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, that we call upon public and private employers to provide equal access for the blind to all computer programs using the Graphical User Interface with the understanding that equal access may vary for different programs and applications; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we request all commercial software developers to work with the organized blind and with developers of screen-access technology to insure that all Graphical User Interface applications are accessible to the blind.

 

While access to computers is greater than it was in 1992, we face many more complex challenges to gaining access to many more products and services. We have a tradition in the NFB of taking on hard challenges and sticking with them until we resolve them. Access as it is reflected in our resolutions is a great example of this tradition.

From 1992 to the present access resolutions have become more dominant in the list of subjects considered by the Convention. This year the Convention passed ten resolutions on various types of access. Many of these resolutions state our views on hot topics for all Americans. One such example is healthcare reform. Mike Freeman, a national board member, president of the Diabetes Action Network, and president of the Washington affiliate, sponsored Resolution 2010-21. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is currently promulgating regulations for health information technology programs that were mandated by the 2010 Healthcare Reform Act. In this resolution we urge the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to include requirements for the manufacture of accessible diabetic devices in these regulations.

The Convention passed two resolutions regarding the interaction between assistive technologies and other computer applications. Curtis Chong, president of the NFB in Computer Science Division and treasurer of the Iowa affiliate, introduced Resolution 2010-12. In this resolution we call upon the manufacturers of screen-access technologies to provide information to make it easier for software developers of mainstream applications to design their applications to be accessible.

Jennifer Dunnam serves as president of the NFB of Minnesota and also represents the Federation on the Braille Authority of North America. She sponsored Resolution 2010-20. In this resolution we urge manufacturers and designers of notetakers with refreshable Braille displays to provide better integration with mainstream devices, applications, and data. We also urge local school districts to provide blind students with refreshable Braille displays and to consider the need for integration with mainstream devices, applications, and data when making purchasing decisions.

This year the Convention passed two resolutions concerning access to transportation information and services. Two longtime transportation advocates in the NFB of Illinois, Jemal Powell and Steve Hastalis, proposed Resolution 2010-04. When designing Websites, fare cards, and other information technologies and services, too many mass transit systems either totally overlook or provide minimal nonvisual access. The remedy that we call for in this resolution is to urge the Federal Transit Administration and the American Public Transportation Association to work with the National Federation of the Blind to develop best practices that will result in greater nonvisual access to their information technologies and services.

Shawn Whalen, second vice president of the National Association of Blind Students and a scholarship winner in 2006, introduced Resolution 2010-15 because too many airline Websites are inaccessible to the blind. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued regulations requiring airlines to offer people with disabilities the same deals and discounts if they had to use the phone because the Website was not accessible. Airlines do not follow these regulations. Resolution 2010-15 states that a better approach would be for the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue new regulations requiring airlines to maintain accessible Websites.

The right to read and to have access to print information was the subject of two resolutions this year. In Resolution 2010-08 we urge all eBook-reader developers and content providers to allow equal access by the blind to the interfaces of their eReaders and to the content of eBooks. Arielle Silverman, president of the National Association of Blind Students and a scholarship winner in 2003, sponsored this resolution.

It is not surprising that a lawyer introduced Resolution 2010-24 because it deals with international copyright questions. Scott LaBarre, president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and president of the NFB of Colorado, sponsored this resolution. International copyright law does not currently permit the sharing of accessible texts across international borders, which has resulted in a worldwide famine of accessible books for the blind. To address this problem, the Federation worked with the World Blind Union to draft a proposed treaty that would legalize the cross-border sharing of accessible books. In Resolution 2010-24 we reaffirm our commitment to this treaty and urge all other parties to join with us to make the treaty a reality.

The last three resolutions that I will describe in this article deal with access to products. Everette Bacon, a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Utah and president of the Salt Lake City Chapter, introduced Resolution 2010-03. In this resolution we demand that Google make a tangible commitment to accessibility in all of its products and services.

In Resolution 2010-22 we condemn and deplore the release of inaccessible basic cell phones and smart phones by manufacturers. We also demand that manufacturers follow the lead of Apple and immediately take steps to provide equal access for the blind to all current and future basic cell phones and smart phones. Michael Barber, president of the Assistive Technology Trainers Division and president of the NFB of Iowa, introduced this resolution.

Ben Prows, second vice president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and a board member of the NFB of Washington State, sponsored Resolution 2010-23. Although Sirius XM is a radio service, the units the subscribers must purchase in order to receive the service have visual displays to convey information to the listener, such as the title and artist of the current song being played. In this resolution, we urge Sirius XM Radio, Inc., to make its receivers fully accessible to blind subscribers.

This article is merely an introductory discussion of the resolutions considered by the Convention. By longstanding tradition the complete text of each resolution is reprinted below. Readers should study the text of each resolution to understand fully our policy on these subjects.


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