Picture of the Resolutions committee meeting. Left to right are Peggy Elliott,

Dr. Maurer, Sharon Maneki, Sheryl Pickering and Jim Gashel.

Sheryl Pickering reads a resolution during the Resolutions Committee meeting Thursday, July 1. Left to right at the head table are Peggy Elliott, Dr. Maurer, Sharon Maneki, Sheryl Pickering, and Jim Gashel.

                                     Resolutions Adopted by the Annual Convention of

                                        National Federation of the Blind, July 6, 1999

                                                               by Sharon Maneki

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            By long-standing tradition the NFB Resolutions Committee meets on the first day of convention registration. This year the committee met on July 1. Since the committee is charged with the responsibility of determining which resolutions will be brought to the convention floor for consideration, the committee always has a large membership, representing all segments of our diverse Federation family. There were forty-two members of the committee this year. When Mrs. Walhof took on duties involving our capital campaign, President Maurer appointed me to chair this important committee. The experience was both challenging and fun.

 

            This year we had tremendous participation in the resolutions process. Resolutions were sponsored by students, division presidents, and leaders in many state affiliates. During its meeting the committee thoroughly discussed and debated the issues raised in the resolutions. The final session of the convention is traditionally reserved for discussion and voting on resolutions because these documents will become the policies of our organization. One resolution, 99-10 concerning non-valid standardized test scores, was debated for an entire hour during this convention session. Twenty-one people debated the pros and cons of this resolution. Ultimately the Convention voted to defeat 99-10. I feel confident that this subject will be back for discussion in another resolution next year.

 

            The committee considered nineteen resolutions. While some of the subjects were familiar: Social Security Disability, rehabilitation, education, and access to technology--they encouraged the organization to try new approaches to solve longstanding problems.

 

            Resolution 99-03, sponsored by Priscilla McKinley, a graduate student and leader in the NFB of Iowa, calls upon the 106th Congress to pass S 285 and HR 1601, which would allow blind recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance to earn the same amount of income as seniors receiving the Social Security retirement benefit because this is the best way to promote work opportunities for the blind.

 

            This year we passed six resolutions concerning rehabilitation. Resolution 99-02, sponsored by Edward Bell, who just graduated from college and is teaching at the Louisiana Center for the Blind summer program, reaffirms our commitment to maintain separate agencies for the blind by ensuring that all states follow the regulations in the Workforce Investment Act to maintain identifiable services for the blind.

 

            Two resolutions concerned the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Resolution 99-05, sponsored by Kristen Cox, a recent addition to the National Center Staff in the Governmental Affairs Department, demands that the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled remove any services provided through vending facilities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act from their procurement list and end its current practice of trying to destroy the Randolph-Sheppard program. Resolution 99-06, sponsored by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, concerns vending facilities.

 

            Resolution 99-07, sponsored by Noel Nightingale, a newly elected member of the NFB Board of Directors and President of the NFB of Washington, calls upon the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration to issue a policy directive to states to include the clear messages that barriers to informed choice such as erroneous calculations of costs are unacceptable and that states are required to provide information to consumers about alternative providers of rehabilitation services.

 

            Resolution 99-08, sponsored by Lynn Mattioli, First Vice President of the NFB of Maryland, urges state rehabilitation agencies to provide competent computer training with provisions to continue training to keep up with changing technology for blind clients. The resolution also stresses the need to provide appropriate hardware and software so that the client can maintain skills between the time of training and the time of actual employment.

 

            Resolution 99-09, sponsored by Christine Hall, President of the National Organization of the Senior Blind, urges Congress and the Administration to amend the Older Americans Act to include enabling legislation for programming and funding in increased amounts for rehabilitation services for older blind and visually impaired individuals.

 

            Three resolutions concerned education issues. Resolution 99-10, sponsored by Michael Bailiff, a tax attorney and frequent contributor of articles to the Braille Monitor, calls upon Congress to pass legislation requiring institutions who use standardized tests as part of their admission procedures to provide an alternative mechanism that does not rely on the use of non-validated test scores. This resolution was defeated by the convention. We have been wrestling for more than twenty years with the problem of testing authorities' insisting that tests taken by applicants who receive reasonable accommodations are not valid. I am sure that we will see future resolutions on this subject.

 

            Resolution 99-16, sponsored by Shawn Mayo, President of the National Association of Blind Students, petitions the U. S. Department of Justice to create a rule to change the definition of a qualified reader to allow the blind the option to choose their own readers and the right to decide whether they will bring a personal reader to a test site.

 

            Resolution 99-12, sponsored by Pam Dubel, the Director of Youth Services at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, calls upon the U. S. Department of Education to reconsider and revise its interpretation of the Braille services provision included in the 1997 amendments to IDEA. The proper interpretation of this law should require the school to provide Braille instruction to a student while waiting for a dispute among members of the IEP team to be resolved.

 

            The convention passed three resolutions concerning access to print information. Resolution 99-01, sponsored by Brian Miller, a graduate student and leader in the NFB of Iowa, urges cooperation between the publishing industry and the Library of Congress to make digital editions of published texts widely available to the blind. The resolution also declares our firm intent to promote legislation that will bring about universal access to the printed word for the blind of this nation.

 

            Resolution 99-14, sponsored by Connie Leblond, President of the National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs, calls upon the Small Business Administration, its state partners, the American Banking Association, and other economic development centers to adopt a proactive approach by planning ahead for the provision of materials in Braille. The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs will supply the names and locations of Braille transcription services to these entities.

 

            Resolution 99-15, sponsored by Alpidio Rolon, President of the NFB of Puerto Rico, urges manufacturers of adaptive technology to provide their manuals and instructional materials in Spanish.

 

            The convention passed three resolutions concerning nonvisual access to technology. Resolution 99-17, sponsored by Christopher Danielsen, a leader in the NFB of South Carolina, who chairs its resolutions committee, calls upon the Access Board to adopt a proactive strategy promoting government-wide enforcement of standards to insure ready, unimpeded access by blind citizens and employees to information controlled and managed by the federal government. The resolution also calls on all departments and agencies in the federal government to adopt and implement procurement procedures that comply with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended in 1998.

 

            Resolution 99-18, sponsored by Gary Wunder, a member of the national Board of Directors and President of the NFB of Missouri, calls upon manufacturers of automated teller machines and the banking industry to incorporate speech output and universal discernible tactile keypads in their machines so that they are useable by the blind without the need for sighted assistance.

 

            Resolution 99-19, sponsored by Nathanael Wales, an engineering student and leader in the NFB of California, insists that blind persons have access to all new electronic voting machines and interfaces. The resolution also affirms the blind person's right to use another individual to assist with voting if he or she wishes to use that method of voting.

 

            Resolution 99-04, sponsored by Dr. Abraham Nemeth, a noted blind mathematician and author of the Nemeth Braille code, calls upon the Federation to reject the Unified Braille Code. The committee rejected this resolution, so it did not reach the convention floor.

 

            Resolution 99-11, sponsored by Scott LaBarre, President of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, reaffirms this organization's position that audible traffic signals should be pedestrian-activated and should be considered on a case-by-case basis with input from consumer organizations, particularly the National Federation of the Blind. The resolution also states that highway officials should not assume that the provision of federal funds for audible traffic signals means that such signals are automatically necessary.

 

            Resolution 99-13, sponsored by James Gashel, takes Western Michigan University to task for creating a certification program for mobility instructors without bothering to seek any input from blind consumers.

 

            The texts of the resolutions passed at the 1999 convention follow.

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                                                                 Resolution 99-01

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            WHEREAS, our American political, economic, educational, and social systems are rooted in timely access to published information, but timely access is exactly what the blind are consistently denied by the fact of not being able to read printed communications without assistance or technology to provide access; and

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            WHEREAS, timely access is crucial for the blind to be competitive, well-informed, engaged citizens; and

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            WHEREAS, the barriers to access resulting from exclusive use of print media need not exist in the future as advances in communications and publishing occur, particularly involving the use of digital text; and

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            WHEREAS, advancements in publishing technology are being planned and carried out largely without regard to access by the blind, resulting in the use of methods such as the "portable document format" which, although relying upon electronic communications technologies, is still not accessible to the blind; and

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            WHEREAS, The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) was established as a part of the Library of Congress in 1931 to provide blind persons with reading matter in Braille and audio recordings and could now extend its scope of service to include development and administration of standards for the preparation of digital text in formats suited to non-visual access; and

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            WHEREAS, achieving universal access to the printed word by the blind will require a Congressional enactment to compel production and provision to a central authority such as NLS of books in compliance with a universal standard along with safeguards that the central authority will allow the newly-available information to be used only by eligible blind persons and agencies providing them material in specialized formats: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization insist upon the prompt development and implementation of standards for non-visual access with the goal of cooperation between the publishing industry and the Library of Congress in order to make digital editions of published text widely available to the blind; and

                                                                    **********

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization declare its firm intent to seek appropriate legislation in the Congress to implement standards and procedures that will bring about universal access to the printed word for this country's blind citizens.

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                                                                Resolution 99-02

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            WHEREAS, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), enacted August 7, 1998, directs all state vocational rehabilitation agencies to make plans to coordinate their programs with generic job-training and employment services programs while maintaining identifiable services for the blind and disabled; and

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            WHEREAS, maintaining a strong link between service delivery agencies for the blind and general employment and training agencies can promote integration of the blind into the workplace; and

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            WHEREAS, long experience has shown that specialized training in the skills and confidence needed by the blind is essential for blind persons to succeed in competitive employment; and

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            WHEREAS, long, sad experience has also shown that specialized blindness training cannot and will not occur in generic job training programs that try to be all things to all people; and

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            WHEREAS, after passage of WIA, several states (such as Texas, North Carolina, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Minnesota) have misapplied its fundamental concepts by attempting to consolidate rather than coordinate programs, proposing various approaches to submerge services for the blind into larger agencies such as general vocational rehabilitation or human services agencies; and

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            WHEREAS, history has amply demonstrated that absorption of specialized blindness training into larger bureaucratic structures will result in poor and inadequate training to prepare blind people to enter the workforce; and

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            WHEREAS, federal regulations set forth to implement WIA specify that programs such as those which serve the blind are authorized to continue their operations without threat of merger with larger programs because of WIA; and

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            WHEREAS, in order to address the 70 percent unemployment rate among blind persons of working age and to avoid that unemployment rate's rising even higher, the boundaries and lines of authority between blindness rehabilitation services and one-stop job training centers defined in WIA must be understood and emphasized by maintaining an identifiable service-delivery system designed to provide blind people with the specialized, blindness-related services that generic job training agencies are not set up to provide: Now, therefore,

                                                                    **********

            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that we call upon all states to implement WIA in a way that maintains separate identifiable services for the blind; and

                                                                    **********

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization reaffirm its determination to prevent adoption of legislation in the states which would result in a one-size-fits-all, one-stop shopping approach instead of providing essential, specialized services, since the failure to do so will ultimately bring to a halt the current progress toward full and equal integration of the blind into the workforce.

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                                                                 Resolution 99-03

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            WHEREAS, the blind face an unemployment rate that is in excess of 70 percent; and

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            WHEREAS, the single factor that contributes more to this unemployment rate than any other is the earnings limit in the Social Security Disability program which terminates eligibility for blind recipients who earn a gross wage of $1,110 per month, often resulting in a substantial loss of real income for beneficiaries who work and earn above the statutory limit; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the loss of income caused by working may also be coupled with substantially increased premiums just to maintain health insurance coverage under Medicare or another health insurance program; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, Congress in 1996 responded to the pleas of seniors who faced a similarly low earnings limit by raising the limit even though most seniors have worked for many years and lose only one dollar for every three dollars earned, unlike blind people, who face an abrupt loss of income due to work; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, Senator John McCain and Congressman Robert Ehrlich have introduced legislation to restore the policy of an identical earnings threshold for blind people and age-sixty-five retirees; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, this legislation would provide blind persons with the same exemption of earnings now provided to age-sixty-five retirees as a work incentive; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, a higher earnings exemption would bring forth a positive response from blind people and bring additional revenues to the Social Security Trust Funds and general revenues as the blind move into the work force in greater numbers than ever before: Now, therefore,

                                                                    **********

            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the 106th Congress, particularly the members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, to endorse this legislation--S. 285 and HR 1601--and approve its passage, since, as in the case of retirees, this is the best way to promote work opportunities for the blind.

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                                                                Resolution 99-05

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WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act provides a legally enforceable priority for blind persons to operate vending facilities on federal property; and

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WHEREAS, the Javitts-Wagner-O'Day Act (JWOD) promotes employment in direct-labor jobs for blind and disabled persons by awarding government procurement contracts to qualified non-profit agencies; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, federal administration of the JWOD Act is vested in an agency known as the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (the Committee), which publishes a list (referred to as the procurement list) of products and services that federal agencies must buy from eligible JWOD agencies; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, in publishing the procurement list under the JWOD Act, the Committee has complete discretion in deciding which products and services to include or exclude, but by contrast compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard priority for the blind is not discretionary with any federal agency and is required whenever vending facility services are provided on federal property; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, despite the unequivocal Congressional priority for the blind to provide vending facility services on federal property, the Committee has placed federal food vending services on the JWOD procurement list; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the Committee has persisted in making aggressive assaults upon the Randolph-Sheppard priority for the blind at the behest of NISH (formally known as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped) and its member agencies such as Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries International, the ARC, Jewish Vocational Services, United Cerebral Palsy Associations, and WORK­TECH; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, NISH and its member agencies can perform their mission of creating job opportunities for severely disabled persons by providing the federal government with all the many other products and services on the JWOD procurement list and do not need to add federal food services in contravention of the Randolph-Sheppard Act to achieve their goals; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, even without competition from NISH and its large member agencies, the Randolph-Sheppard Program already faces stiff obstacles in establishing large-scale food-service businesses on federal property which comes from wealthy and well-financed commercial food service operators willing to spend millions to acquire the locations accorded to blind vendors by the Randolph-Sheppard priority; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the Secretary of Education is charged in the Randolph-Sheppard Act with the responsibility of government-wide leadership to insure compliance with the act by all federal property managers and, in implementation of this duty, has adopted a policy which seeks to uphold the priority for blind vendors, while recognizing that the JWOD priority applies to the procurement of many other products and services that are unrelated to items sold at vending facilities: Now, therefore,

                                                                    **********

            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization commend the Secretary of Education for standing tall in support of the independent business opportunities provided to blind persons under and pursuant to the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

                                                                    **********

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the JWOD Committee exercise its discretion and forbearance by removing any services provided through vending facilities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act from the procurement list; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization register its fervent opposition to the efforts being made by NISH and its member agencies to destroy the Randolph-Sheppard Program and call upon these groups to use their creative energies to expand employment opportunities on behalf of persons with disabilities without resorting to a policy of jealous attacks upon opportunities already provided to the blind by law.

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                                                                Resolution 99-06

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            WHEREAS, the most fundamental and overarching requirement of the Randolph-Sheppard Act is the priority granted to blind persons to operate vending facilities on federal property; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, regulations prescribed to implement the Act define the phrase "satisfactory site," for the purpose of reserving space for vending facilities in the acquisition and alteration of federal property; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the regulations, but not the law, provide an exemption from the satisfactory-site requirements when fewer than one hundred federal employees are on duty during normal working hours, or, in the case of buildings with less than fifteen thousand square feet where services are provided to the public; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, this exemption from the satisfactory-site requirements is being interpreted by some agencies (most notably the United States Postal Service) as an exemption from the rest of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and especially from the priority-for-the-blind provisions of the Act; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, these same agencies often provide for vending facility services by contracting with commercial firms rather than abiding by the blind vendor priority to meet the needs of their employees and the public, a practice which flagrantly violates the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the satisfactory-site exemption, which applies to buildings of low population and small size, is not an exemption from the Randolph-Sheppard Act altogether, and should not be interpreted as such: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization seek the cooperation of all federal property managing agencies in applying the blind priority provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act to all buildings and facilities; and

                                                                    **********

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the United States Department of Education is hereby requested to issue an interpretive-guidance memorandum to all federal agencies and state licensing agencies to clarify the coverage of the Randolph-Sheppard Act in regard to all federal property, regardless of building population or size.

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                                                                Resolution 99-07

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            WHEREAS, in the Rehabilitation Act, Congress explicitly recognized that disability generally and blindness specifically are natural parts of the human experience and in no way diminish the right of individuals to live independently, enjoy self-determination, make choices, contribute to society, pursue meaningful careers, and enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural, and educational mainstream of American society; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, in the light of years of experience in which rehabilitation professionals pretended partnership but exercised absolute control over all rehabilitation decisions by forcing clients to accept whatever the professional decided, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act in 1992 to provide that consumers of rehabilitation services have the right to informed choice throughout the rehabilitation process, including the right to make meaningful and informed choices about vocational goals, the means of achieving those goals, and the service providers to be used in reaching those goals; and

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            WHEREAS, through the informed-choice provisions Congress specifically intended to empower consumers in the rehabilitation process, resulting in consumers' self-sufficiency instead of dependency; and

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            WHEREAS, in addition to the increase in successful rehabilitations, a secondary benefit of the implementation of informed choice is the creation of a powerful incentive for service-providers to improve services by responding to consumers' demands; and

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            WHEREAS, historically, state-operated adjustment and training programs for the blind have not emphasized positive expectations for the capabilities of blind people and have largely provided ineffective adjustment and training as a result; and

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            WHEREAS, in response to blind consumers' demands for better training, alternative private nonprofit adjustment and training centers for the blind have been established which emphasize positive attitudes and graduate hundreds of clients who go on to complete their rehabilitation by finding competitive employment; and

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            WHEREAS, many state rehabilitation agencies thwart the informed choice of blind consumers by refusing to send them to alternative adjustment and training programs which they wrongly claim are more costly or by agreeing to pay per month only the equivalent of the agency's artificially reduced cost; and

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            WHEREAS, many state rehabilitation agencies significantly understate the actual cost to them of their adjustment and training programs by deliberately excluding the cost of administration and other overhead from their calculations of comparative costs and also by assuming that they will serve inflated numbers of clients, thus spreading the cost per student over a higher number and artificially reducing their per-student cost; and

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            WHEREAS, even where no financial barriers are erected to the selection of alternative services, many state rehabilitation agencies do not provide adequate information about the availability of alternatives to state-operated adjustment and training programs; and

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            WHEREAS, these barriers erected by many state rehabilitation agencies to the selection of alternative services deprive consumers of the opportunity to make a truly informed choice: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the United States Department of Education to issue a policy directive providing appropriate guidelines to states for implementing the informed-choice requirements of the Rehabilitation Act as they relate to the provision of pre-vocational adjustment and training programs, including adjustment and training programs for blind persons, and to include in such guidelines the clear messages that barriers to informed choice based on erroneous calculations of costs are not acceptable and that failure to provide consumers with accurate and complete information about alternative providers of rehabilitation services is likewise not acceptable.

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                                                                Resolution 99-08

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            WHEREAS, approximately 70 percent of blind people are unemployed; and

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            WHEREAS, today the majority of jobs require or assume some degree of computer literacy or technology training; and

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            WHEREAS, timely, effective, and meaningful computer and adaptive-equipment training for blind persons is crucial for securing and maintaining employment; and

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            WHEREAS, too often blind people receive initial computer or technology training but have no provision in their plan for rehabilitation or means to keep their skills up to date once the training is complete, thus perpetuating their state of computer illiteracy in relation to the jobs for which they are competing; and

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            WHEREAS, those providing computer and adaptive-technology training are often not competent users of either the technology or the blindness-specific adaptations themselves: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon state rehabilitation agencies and other facilities with whom they contract for training to make timely, effective, and meaningful computer and technology training a priority when plans for rehabilitation are written and implemented, including provisions for subsequent client training as technology changes; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon agencies that provide funding and training to state rehabilitation clients to provide access to both hardware and software to trainees and those already trained, continuously from the time the individual begins training until he or she is successfully employed; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that training be provided by individuals who are competent in using all the relevant technology themselves and that compensation for persons hired to do the training be adequate to attract skilled people.

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                                                                Resolution 99-09

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            WHEREAS, the majority of blind and visually impaired individuals first experience severe vision loss at age fifty-five or older; and

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            WHEREAS, the population of seniors who are also blind or visually impaired is expected to double by the year 2020; and

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            WHEREAS, Congress currently recognizes the need for rehabilitation services for older blind Americans in Title VII, Chapter 2 of the Rehabilitation Act although the current funding level is only $11.2 million for services throughout the entire country; and

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            WHEREAS, No reliable statistics exist on the exact number of seniors who are blind although the figure is generally agreed to be in excess of one million and growing, making it clear that $11.2 million is only a tiny drop in this huge bucket of need; and

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            WHEREAS, more and more seniors every year become dependent on expensive nursing home care due to sight loss, a situation that could be remedied in most cases by simple rehabilitation training as soon as the need arises in the effective skills of daily living used routinely by hundreds of thousands of blind men and women throughout our country but unknown to a person just losing vision who believes that lack of sight means dependence upon others; and

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            WHEREAS, the Older Americans Act does not currently provide for the rehabilitation services desperately needed by many seniors experiencing sight loss, but rather provides services such as congregate dining, Meals on Wheels, transportation, and recreation to all seniors; and

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            WHEREAS, rehabilitation training is essential to allow blind and visually impaired seniors to continue living in their homes and to remain independent and contributing members of their communities; and

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            WHEREAS, a substantial increase in funding for Title VII, Chapter 2 services is desperately needed at this time in order to assure that a service-delivery system for older blind individuals will be maintained within each state; and

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            WHEREAS, an amendment to the Older Americans Act to provide rehabilitation services for older blind and visually impaired individuals would provide an additional source of funding for rehabilitation services; and

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            WHEREAS, funding could and should be provided to train personnel employed by rehabilitation agencies, senior programs, and other social service providers in cost-effective ways to assist blind seniors in making the adjustment to poor vision and blindness; and

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            WHEREAS, the need is so gigantic and will increase so rapidly that only a series of planned, substantial increases in funding to both these programs can even begin to address existing and future problems: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization urge Congress and the Administration to adopt a series of planned increases in funding levels for Title VII, Chapter 2, to begin bringing rehabilitation services for older blind Americans closer to the point where the need of this growing population is better addressed and met; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress and the Administration to amend the Older Americans Act to include enabling legislation for programming and also funding in increasing increments for rehabilitation services for older blind and visually impaired individuals to add more ways of reaching and teaching the members of this able and woefully under-served population.

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                                                                Resolution 99-11

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            WHEREAS, the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-First Century (T 21) authorizes matching federal funds for the installation of audible traffic signals throughout America; and

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            WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind is on record opposing the wholesale installation of these signals, as most recently set forth in Resolution 92-06; and

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            WHEREAS, good independent travel training enables the vast majority of blind people to negotiate safely and competently virtually all traffic intersections, a fact that would make wholesale installation of audible traffic signals a wasteful, unnecessary expenditure of scarce public funds; and

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            WHEREAS, massive deployment of audible signals will only create an unwise reliance on electronic devices by blind persons who must rely upon their own senses and skills for their own safety; and

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            WHEREAS, audible traffic signals can in fact make intersections more dangerous by masking the sound of traffic, which blind people rely upon to determine traffic patterns; and

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            WHEREAS, activation of the visual walk sign should not also be the means of activating an audible traffic signal since the interconnection of the two would make use of audible signals mandatory for everyone whenever the walk sign button is pressed; and

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            WHEREAS, audible traffic signals may in rare cases be helpful to some blind people at complicated intersections with con­fusing road patterns; and

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            WHEREAS, the only practical and effective audible signals are those which are pedestrian-activated and do not interfere with the sound of traffic; and

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            WHEREAS, pedestrian-activated audible traffic signals are the only kind of signal that should ever be installed to assist blind persons and should never be installed at the demand of one or a small number of blind persons but rather only after giving blind members of the community and organizations representing the blind a full opportunity to participate in the decision-making process; and

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            WHEREAS, many members of the sighted public mistakenly believe that all blind people must depend on other persons or electronic devices to cross streets safely and therefore believe they are helping the blind by putting audible traffic signals in the community: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization reaffirm its opposition to the wholesale installation of audible traffic signals by state and local governments; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon any governmental or other entity considering the installation of audible signals to consult extensively with elected representatives of local organizations of the blind, and particularly with the National Federation of the Blind, before any decision regarding audible traffic signals is made.

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                                                                Resolution 99-12

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            WHEREAS, literacy is now viewed as a fundamental right for all Americans in addition to its crucial roles in independence, employment, and citizenship, and literacy for blind and visually impaired persons means the ability to read and to write Braille efficiently; and

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            WHEREAS, failure to provide Braille instruction on a consistent basis is detrimental to the development of literacy, future academic success, and employment prospects of blind and visually impaired children; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, statistics from the American Printing House for the Blind indicate that only 10 percent of children who are blind or visually impaired use Braille while in contrast recent research reveals that 80 percent of successful blind/visually impaired adults who are employed use Braille every day; and

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            WHEREAS, these statistics suggest that America's schools are creating a generation of illiterate, unemployable future blind adults; and

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            WHEREAS, the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) require that schools must provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille in the case of each blind and visually impaired child unless the team responsible for choosing special services for the child determines that such instruction or use of Braille is not appropriate for the child; and

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            WHEREAS, the 1997 amendments to IDEA recognize the critical need for Braille services by placing an affirmative obligation on the team responsible under the law for planning special services to provide for Braille, absent a specific determination of the team to the contrary; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, when disputes arise between the parents and school personnel on the individualized education plan team about Braille services, any of the parties involved may submit the dispute to due process procedures (including a hearing) to achieve a resolution; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, resolution of these disputes can consume several years, the same critical learning years during which other children are acquiring and perfecting literacy skills; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, until the dispute is settled, the Braille services must be provided under the law as amended in 1997 since the IEP team has not determined that such services would be inappropriate for the child; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the U. S. Department of Education has incorrectly interpreted the 1997 law to permit exclusion of Braille services from the IEP in the event of a dispute, an interpretation which turns the law on its head and essentially nullifies the 1997 amendment: Now, therefore,

                                                                    **********

             BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Department of Education to reconsider and revise its interpretation of the Braille services provision included in the 1997 amendments to IDEA to the end that Braille services will be provided to blind and visually impaired children to the fullest extent prescribed by law.

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                                                                 Resolution 99-13

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            WHEREAS, efforts to develop certification criteria and procedures in the field of services for the blind have largely failed in the United States because those involved in designing and implementing the programs have not involved elected representatives of the blind in their efforts, the most notable of these failures being NAC--the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the latest effort to create a standards and certification program for professionals in the field of blindness has been announced by Western Michigan University, proposing to establish standards and a curriculum for instructors in independent travel; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the Western Michigan announcement also indicates that the standards and curriculum will be developed in conjunction with a number of disability service agencies, but says nothing about the involvement of consumer organizations of blind people and their elected representatives; and

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            WHEREAS, the choice of an alliance with disability service agencies rather than consumers is inexcusable and cannot be attributed to an oversight, since the architects of this latest certification scheme are well informed about the blind consumer movement and have therefore chosen to ignore it; and

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            WHEREAS, this latest attempt to promote standards and certification in the name of quality service is essentially a self-serving plan to promote the vision of travel instruction according to Western Michigan University and to perpetuate that vision without regard to benefits for blind people: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization condemn and deplore the Western Michigan standards and certification initiative, while recognizing that the plan itself is an acknowledgement of the other failed efforts in this area; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we advise authorities of Western Michigan University and any other potential sources of financial support for this effort that a project such as independent travel standards for the blind must first pass muster with the blind themselves before funds are approved to underwrite the effort.

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                                                                Resolution 99-14

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            WHEREAS, entities such as the Small Business Administration, Economic Development Centers, and banking institutions provide cascades of printed information for the aspiring small business owner to use in preparing business plans, seeking financing, and guiding early development of a budding small business; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, these same sources of information and financing for small businesses are rarely prepared to furnish blind entrepreneurs with Braille copies of their informational brochures, applications, and other materials; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, aspiring blind entrepreneurs need the same information and need it in Braille for the same reason sighted persons need the information in print--for the opportunity to study and compare and refer again to important sections; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, most small business development entities do not provide their vital information in Braille and do not know how to respond to requests for Braille when such requests are made; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has consistently supported and encouraged the production of Braille and access to information; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, was established to encourage and assist blind people in seeking self-employment opportunities; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, in the past ten years numerous for-profit Braille transcription services have been established, often owned and operated by blind entrepreneurs with the skill and sound business sense that could assist in the timely distribution of Braille information; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, these Braille transcription services work by receiving printed material and turning it into Braille upon order of entities with the need to provide Braille to customers; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs is compiling a list of Braille transcription services throughout the country to be made available to the American Banking Association, the Small Business Administration and its state partners, and any other business development entity that needs to locate a Braille transcription service: Now, therefore,

                                                                    **********

            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization urge that the Small Business Administration, the Administration's state partners, the American Banking Association, and other economic development centers work with the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs to make available the information about the existence of and the locations of Braille transcription services in order to serve all their blind customers better; and

                                                                    **********

            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge these entities to adopt a proactive approach by planning ahead for the provision of materials in Braille, rather than having to scramble to respond to requests made by blind persons who are seeking to enter the world of competitive business.

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                                                                 Resolution 99-15

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            WHEREAS, more and more devices are being adapted to include speech and Braille output for use by the blind, enabling blind people to be more competitive in education, employment, and recreation; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, a growing number of Hispanics with little or no knowledge of English see assistive technology as a means to further their integration into society; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, most manuals for adaptive devices for use by the blind have not been made available in Spanish at all; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, a few companies have already made available Spanish versions of their product manuals, but most of these are poorly translated and badly written; and

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            WHEREAS, this limits the possibilities for employment and advancement for Hispanic people: Now, therefore,

                                                                    **********

            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon manufacturers of assistive technology equipment for the blind to make available more and better Spanish versions of their product manuals.

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                                                                Resolution 99-16

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            WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, provides that blind people are entitled to reasonable accommodation in situations covered by the Act; and

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            WHEREAS, Title II and Title III of the ADA and their implementing regulations do not define "qualified reader"; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, one cause of trouble for blind persons prior to the ADA has not been resolved by the Act, whose provisions have actually made situations harder for blind persons: the area of readers for standardized tests; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, prior to the ADA blind people could often negotiate with testing authorities for permission to bring their own personally trained readers to standardized tests, the taking of which was then proctored by the testing authority to preserve test security; and

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            WHEREAS, since passage of the ADA, every large testing authority in the United States has interpreted the term "qualified reader," a reasonable accommodation for the blind under the ADA, to mean that the testing authority both provides and pays for the reader; and

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            WHEREAS, there is no national standard for reading to the blind similar to the national standards for interpreting for the deaf and hearing-impaired; and

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            WHEREAS, this lack of definition of "qualified reader" and the myth that there is such a thing as a set of qualified readers just as there are qualified interpreters for the deaf has led testing authorities and other entities to appoint anyone they choose, while pretending the reader meets some non-existent standard, to serve as a reader for a blind person in the highly charged testing context; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, each blind person trains his or her readers to suit his or her own personal style since the method of using a human reader is identical in concept to using one's own eyes and brain with the addition of another person to do the seeing and vocalizing; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the vast differences among human beings result in different styles by different blind people for this very person­al task such as the development of unverbalized instructions and expectations as the team of blind person and human reader work together; and

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            WHEREAS, imposing an unknown or very new reader on a blind person in the stressful context of standardized testing does not permit the blind person's ability to succeed in the test to be accurately assessed since the blind person is training a reader while taking the test, resulting in a test score that measures the blind person's ability to train a new reader under stress rather than the blind person's ability to pass the test; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the blind person is harmed and put at a disadvantage through the failure to have necessary and relevant information communicated when the person serving as a reader has not been trained specifically by that blind individual; and

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            WHEREAS, blind persons choosing to bring their own readers must (or must be prepared to) pay for the reader's time since the testing authority will (or may wish to) hire a person to proctor the test for security reasons; and

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            WHEREAS, the two key elements missing in the current definition of "qualified reader" are (1) that the term "qualified reader" means that a blind person must be able to bring his or her own reader, and (2) that the blind person and no one else is the person entitled to decide whether to bring a personal reader or to use one appointed by the testing authority: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization petition the United States Department of Justice to initiate a rule-making procedure to change the definition of "qualified reader" to allow the blind the option to choose their own readers and the right to decide for themselves whether they will bring a personal reader or will accept one appointed by someone else.

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                                                                 Resolution 99-17

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            WHEREAS, electronic and information technology is increasingly prevalent in the gathering, management, and dissemination of information by departments and agencies of the federal government, but much of this technology is visually oriented and therefore difficult or impossible to access by persons who are blind; and

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            WHEREAS, as the result of forceful and persistent advocacy by the blind, and particularly by the National Federation of the Blind, the 1998 Amendments to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 were designed to strengthen the law to ensure that the blind and other people with disabilities will have access to electronic and information technology; and

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            WHEREAS, Section 508 now requires that when federal departments or agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic or information technology, they will insure that the technology allows federal employees who are blind to have access to and use of information and data comparable to that provided to sighted federal employees; and

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            WHEREAS, the statute further requires that blind members of the public seeking information services from a federal department or agency must have access to information or data comparable to that provided to sighted members of the public; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, all federal departments and agencies are required to be in compliance with the requirements of Section 508 on and after August 7, 2000; and

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            WHEREAS, in order to promulgate clear, strong, enforceable regulations to be followed by federal agencies and departments in complying with these requirements, the 1998 Amendments to Section 508 directed the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (commonly known as the Access Board) to develop and publish federal standards for accessible electronic and information technology by February 7, 2000, including a definition of "electronic and information technology" and setting forth technical and functional standards to ensure that such technology is accessible to the blind; and

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            WHEREAS, the Access Board created the Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee to develop the required standards and submit its recommendations to the Access Board; and

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            WHEREAS, the Committee has completed its work and filed its report, which is now pending before the Access Board and awaiting final approval; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind believes that the recommendations of the Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee hold great promise for providing access to electronic and information technology by nonvisual means, comparable to access by visual means: Now, therefore,

                                                                    **********

            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization strongly urge the Access Board to adopt the proposed standards set forth by the Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee and not diminish or weaken in any way these clear, strong, enforceable provisions; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Access Board to adopt a proactive strategy in promoting government-wide enforcement of these standards to insure ready, unimpeded access by citizens and employees to the wealth of information controlled and managed by the federal government; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon all departments and agencies of the federal government promptly to adopt and implement procurement policies and procedures which assure their full compliance with the law.

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                                                                 Resolution 99-18

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            WHEREAS, the interaction between customer and bank is increasingly conducted by means of electronic devices rather than by a live bank teller; and

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            WHEREAS, the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) can handle deposits, transfers, and cash withdrawals at lower cost to the bank and can afford to the consumer a greater level of convenience because of its twenty-four-hour availability; and

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            WHEREAS, in an effort to encourage the increased use of these devices, many banks are now charging customers when those customers use the services of a live teller; and

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            WHEREAS, Automated Teller Machines communicate with the customer using a screen to display questions, prompts, and other necessary information; and

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            WHEREAS, these machines are generally not equipped with alternative displays which can be used by people who are blind, though speech technology has been available in many consumer products for more than a decade; and

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            WHEREAS, more and more ATM's are operated by touching the screen as opposed to using tactilely discernible buttons although a keypad usable by touch can be installed on every model; and

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            WHEREAS, local banks have argued that no Automated Teller Machines are marketed which are capable of generating speech output, while ATM manufacturers claim that speaking ATM's do not exist because the banking industry has demonstrated no demand for them: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the manufacturers of Automated Teller Machines to incorporate speech output and universal tactilely discernible keypads in their machines so they are usable by the blind without the need for sighted assistance; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the banking industry to demand such change in order that it may comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other statutes created to ensure full access to technology by the blind; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization declare its firm and unalterable intent to remedy this situation by legislative or judicial means if cooperation by the manufacturers and the banking industry is not forthcoming.

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                                                                Resolution 99-19

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            WHEREAS, the right of all persons to participate fully in society and their communities as equal, independent, first-class citizens as guaranteed by the United States Constitution includes the right to vote, and this right is guaranteed to blind persons just as it is guaranteed to their sighted fellow citizens; and

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            WHEREAS, the Voting Rights Act of 1982 provides that the use by a blind voter of another individual of the voter's choice as a personal assistant is a right guaranteed by federal law for all federal elections; and

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            WHEREAS, this method of voting by blind persons remains a viable and fully independent method for voting by the blind which should not be altered or limited by any subsequent enactments intended to broaden voting opportunities for the blind; and

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            WHEREAS, new electronic technology is transforming the voting process for all voters; and

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            WHEREAS, access to new electronic interfaces is desirable as an additional option for independent voting by blind persons; and

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            WHEREAS, truly independent use of electronic voting machines by blind voters can never be achieved by retrofitting existing machines as easily and completely as it can be achieved at the design stage; and

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            WHEREAS, implementation of any such design requirement by the federal government could be fashioned to apply only to new machines being ordered by a jurisdiction, avoiding the cost and inefficiency of retrofitting and the burden on jurisdictions still using paper or mechanical voting while insuring that, over time and as a part of any jurisdictions' improvements to voting methods, electronic access for the blind will be required; and

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            WHEREAS, Senate Bill 511 provides for the right of disabled voters to vote in a Federal election independently, where independently is defined to be "without the assistance of another individual"; and

                                                                    **********

            WHEREAS, for blind persons defining independence must continue to include the personal assistant as defined in the Voting Rights Act of 1982 and must also include a provision requiring design of accessible electronic machines whenever jurisdictions purchase new ones; and

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            WHEREAS, S. 511 contains other positive proposals such as election material in alternative media, although the current wording may be so broad as to require production of materials even though they are not wanted and will not be used; and

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            WHEREAS, the types of alternative media as well as the exact method of implementing accessible design for new voting machines are matters of such detail and potential costliness if done wrong that they might more wisely be included in the topics to be settled by regulation after broad statutory language sets the framework: Now, therefore,

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            BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this sixth day of July, 1999, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization strongly urge supporters of S. 511 to assure that the protections for blind voters in the Voting Rights Act of 1982 be re-affirmed and integrated into any future enactment on the subject of voting accessibility for the disabled; and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist upon full access to all new electronic voting machines and interfaces used in the voting process, including media and interfaces involving the Internet and electronic kiosks (and in particular, flat-screen kiosks); and

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            BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, during the consideration of changes in voting methods and the technology to be used in voting by any political jurisdiction, this organization advocate for the use of voting methods and materials which support full participation by the blind in the voting process both with and without assistance as determined by the individual voter.

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