Convention Resolutions 1997

by Ramona Walhof

From the Editor: Ramona Walhof is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho. She also serves as the Chairperson of the Resolutions Committee. Each year she presides over the receipt and handling of all resolutions until they are acted upon by the convention. This is what she has to say about the resolutions considered at the 1997 convention of the National Federation of the Blind:

For me in recent years it has been a thrill to pound the gavel and call the Resolutions Committee Meeting to order. The response is a mighty yell from the committee and the audience, friends and colleagues in the Federation. This occurred at 1:30 p.m., Monday, June 30, 1997. A committee of nearly fifty representatives considered resolutions brought by NFB members from across the country. We require that those who present resolutions attend the committee meeting.

As usual, there was an audience of several hundred people. Why do so many come? Because NFB resolutions are policy statements of the National Federation of the Blind, and NFB members take our policies seriously. After discussion by the committee, resolutions which receive affirmative action are brought to the floor of the convention for a final decision. There may or may not be much discussion on the floor, but conventioneers will have been thinking and talking about them all week long, especially if a particular resolution is at all controversial.

This year nineteen resolutions were sent to the chairman as required before the convention. Seventeen were passed by the committee and the convention. One resolution had no sponsor at the committee meeting and therefore was not considered. The Committee resoundingly voted not to recommend a second one to the Convention. Short descriptions of the resolutions that were adopted as well as their complete texts follow:

Resolution 97-01 thanks Senator John Chafee and other members of Congress for their affirmative action on the Copyright Act passed in September, 1996.

Resolution 97-02 expresses gratitude to Representative Barbara Kennelly, Senators John McCain and Christopher Dodd, and other co-sponsors of the legislation to restore the policy of work-incentive equity for blind people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance.

Resolution 97-03 calls upon the Walt Disney Company to abandon its plans to produce a movie featuring Mr. Magoo and calls upon Leslie Nielsen and other actors not to associate themselves with such a project.

Resolution 97-04 urges the Department of Veterans Affairs not to attempt to serve blind persons who are not veterans and not to seek payment for such service from other federal agencies.

Resolution 97-05 calls upon the Veterans Administration to abide by the decision of the Eighth Circuit Court stating that the Randolph-Sheppard Act applies to VA medical centers.

Resolution 97-06 urges Tektronix, Inc., to continue to improve its newly demonstrated system of tactile graphic images produced by its Phaser 600 printer and calls upon agencies of the federal government to assist in improving the accessibility to the blind of graphic images commonly used on computer screens and print-outs.

Resolution 97-07 calls upon the electronics industry to ensure that the needs of the blind are considered in the design of electronic devices intended for the general public.

Resolution 97-08 urges equal access for the blind when information is provided to the public through kiosks and other public-access sources of electronic information and calls upon those purchasing such equipment to keep this accessibility need in mind.

Resolution 97-09 calls for better Braille music instruction for blind children and their instructors and requests the National Library Service to develop a Braille music competency test for these instructors.

Resolution 97-10 deplores the proposed use of a means test by vocational rehabilitation programs and calls upon Congress to reject any proposal for a means test as a condition of receiving services.

Resolution 97-11 calls upon the Social Security Administration to establish within its teleservice system one or more positions to provide technical information about its work incentives.

Resolution 97-12 calls upon blood-glucose-meter manufacturers to make all of these devices accessible to the blind by providing voice output.

Resolution 97-13 praises Congress and the President for supporting Braille instruction to blind children and calls for parents, educators, and policymakers everywhere to see that the law is implemented.

Resolution 97-14 strongly urges the Social Security Administration to adopt revised standards and procedures for approving PASS applications based on encouraging rather than restricting recipients' efforts to achieve self-support and insists upon clear and objective standards in evaluating PASS applications which do not include governmental prejudgment on the recipients' chosen goals.

Resolution 97-15 was not passed by the committee.

Resolution 97-16 opposes the position of the Department of Defense which excludes Randolph-Sheppard vending facilities from most Department locations and calls upon the Department to open Defense food service sales facilities broadly to blind vendors.

Resolution 97-17 urges schools to provide access and instruction in the use of computers and the Internet for their blind students.

Resolution 97-18 supports the bill in Congress already passed by the House of Representatives to consolidate job training and employment programs, especially provisions to amend and extend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

RESOLUTION 97-01

WHEREAS, amendments to the Copyright Act of major and historic consequence for blind people were enacted and became law in September, 1996; and

WHEREAS, the amendments resulted from an agreement reached between the National Federation of the Blind and the Association of American Publishers with consultation and involvement by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress in the discussions leading to the agreement; and

WHEREAS, an enthusiastic and positive response by United States Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island to a request from the National Federation of the Blind brought about prompt enactment of the copyright amendments; and

WHEREAS, this legislation has had the immediate beneficial effect of providing blind persons the chance to obtain a greater degree of access to published works without the delay formerly caused by the necessity to secure permission from publishers, but the long-range benefits of the copyright amendments are likely to be of even greater consequence with the inevitable growth in creation and mass distribution of information by electronic means: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization convey its official thanks and commendation to Senator John H. Chafee for the understanding and commitment he has shown by providing the leadership necessary for enactment of the Copyright Act amendments during the first session of Congress in which this legislation was proposed.

RESOLUTION 97-02

WHEREAS, the Social Security Act contains provisions for determining the amount of exempt earnings used as a factor in eligibility for blind people in the disability insurance program; and

WHEREAS, the statutory exempt earnings guideline which applies to blind persons was established as a matter of law to reflect the fact that blindness, like retirement age, is a definable condition; and

WHEREAS, an identical, annually-adjusted, exempt amount was applicable to earnings of blind persons and age-sixty-five retirees from 1978 until the law for retirees was changed in 1996; and

WHEREAS, the 1996 changes made for retirees will result in an earnings exemption of $30,000 beginning in 2002, but the limit on earnings of the blind in that year will be less than half the amount allowed for seniors; and

WHEREAS, Representative Barbara Kennelly and Senators John McCain and Christopher Dodd are leading an effort in Congress to correct this inequity with a bill to provide the same annual changes in the exempt amount for blind people as those now approved for retirees: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this second day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization express its gratitude and appreciation to the members of Congress-- Representative Kennelly and Senators McCain and Dodd--as well as to the cosponsors of the legislation in the House of Representatives and the Senate who are leading the effort to restore the policy of work incentive equity for blind Americans; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge all members of Congress to join with the sponsors of this most significant work incentive legislation for the blind so that action to secure its prompt enactment will occur.

RESOLUTION 97-03

WHEREAS, for fifty-eight years the cartoon character Mr. Magoo has perpetuated the old myth that blind people are bumbling, unaware, helpless, and often crotchety; and

WHEREAS, two generations of blind children have already endured taunts in school and elsewhere with the belittling label "Mr. Magoo"; and

WHEREAS, the Magoo character has fortunately become such an anachronism that no studio has filmed any new Magoo movies or TV shows for thirty-two years; and

WHEREAS, until now the Walt Disney Company has never offended blind Americans by producing entertainment which included the inept and unaware Magoo character; and

WHEREAS, recent press reports indicate that the Walt Disney Company has bought the rights to Mr. Magoo in order to capitalize on Magoo's supposed nostalgia by filming a new feature-length, live-action Magoo movie expected to be released during the Christmas holiday of 1997; and

WHEREAS, the inescapable nature of Magoo is as offensive and stereotypical to us today as Little Black Sambo and Amos and Andy are to Americans of every race; and

WHEREAS, the Los Angeles Times has quoted the late Jim Backus, voice of Mr. Magoo, as saying of Magoo in 1976 that he'd "like to bury the old creep and get some good dramatic roles"; and

WHEREAS, a central element to the Magoo character is his so- called funny ineptness in activities of ordinary life because he can't see--an artless prejudice against the blind that the National Federation of the Blind has fought to change since 1940; and

WHEREAS, we believe that the multi-million dollar budget for Magoo--which exceeds the entire annual operating budget of the National Federation of the Blind--represents a colossal waste of resources toward an end unworthy of the Disney name; and

WHEREAS, the nation's largest organization of blind people finds it objectionable that the multi-billion-dollar Walt Disney Company has apparently chosen to make new profits at the expense of blind people; and

WHEREAS, we believe that the values of this year's holiday season (when this movie is projected to open) would be better served by portraying blind competence, not incompetence, blind alternative techniques rather than helplessness, blind fellowship rather than isolation, and blind inclusive humor rather than ridicule of us; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind stands ready immediately to assist the Walt Disney Company in developing movies and cartoons that show this positive, modern understanding of the normal abilities of blind people without resorting to ancient stereotypes: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this second day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization condemn and deplore Disney's attempt to raise Mr. Magoo from his deathbed; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Walt Disney Company to abandon production of this offensive project; to return to Disney's tradition of making films which celebrate people and their capacity to learn, adapt, and grow; and to let Quincy Magoo die a natural death; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon Leslie Nielsen and other actors and Disney staff associated with the Magoo project to stop working on this ill-conceived movie which will be an embarrassment to their careers and an insult to the millions of blind or visually-impaired Americans; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we take whatever action appropriate to protest the revival of the Mr. Magoo character.

RESOLUTION 97-04

WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs is pursuing an effort to obtain support from other agencies, including the federal/state vocational rehabilitation program, to underwrite the costs of its blind rehabilitation program; and

WHEREAS, this effort to expand its base of financial support includes recruitment of trainees who are not veterans and are actually not eligible to receive services from the Department of Veterans Affairs except under special agreements made to serve them; and

WHEREAS, the approach followed by the Department of Veterans Affairs in conducting its rehabilitation program for the blind has been designed as a medical model, with the emphasis placed on skill development and the provision of prosthetic aids and devices, rather than on teaching constructive views about blindness and building the confidence needed by each blind person to achieve full participation in society on terms of equality; and

WHEREAS, references to blind students as "patients" and the description of the training facility's capacity itself by report- ing the number of "beds," rather than the number of training slots available, completely misstate the mission and purpose of rehabilitation services for blind people but typify the medical- model approach of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and

WHEREAS, in training facilities outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs, use of the medical model for rehabilitation of the blind has been rejected as a failed approach because it tends to perpetuate the myth that blindness is a physical affliction; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs' announced policy against the employment or training of blind persons as orientation and mobility instructors is a further reason for rejecting the efforts of that agency to position itself as a service provider for the blind population in general: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization oppose the effort of the Department of Veterans Affairs to double-dip from the federal treasury by financing its tax-supported, hospital-based program for veterans with funds received by serving clients of other federally funded programs.

RESOLUTION 97-05

WHEREAS, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has issued a final and binding judgment in which the priority granted to blind people by the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act has been upheld as fully in effect in a medical center of the Department of Veterans Affairs; and

WHEREAS, the court's decision in this particular instance has brought to a final and satisfactory end more than a decade of legal proceedings in which the Department of Veterans Affairs has used every argument and legal strategy imaginable to no avail to obtain a court-approved exemption from the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

WHEREAS, in the spirit of the oath of office taken by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and other top officials of that Department faithfully to "execute the Constitution and laws of the United States," the Department should now accept the federal court's decision and take affirmative steps to abide by it at all of the Department's 172 medical centers; and

WHEREAS, rather than honoring the blind-vendor priority consistent with the Court's decision in the Eighth Circuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs appears to be embarked on a policy of attempting to defeat the priority by simply ignoring it and hoping that officials in the blind-vendor program will simply not notice their failure to comply with the law: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization condemn and deplore the take-no-prisoners posture of the Department of Veterans Affairs in its efforts to undermine the priority now confirmed by the courts in favor of the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization seek the assistance of those responsible in the Department of Education and the Department of Justice in order that the Court's decision in the Eighth Circuit may be honored as a matter of policy and law throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs medical center system.

RESOLUTION 97-06

WHEREAS, graphic images such as pictures, diagrams, maps, and graphs are becoming more prevalent in educational materials; and

WHEREAS, graphic images such as spreadsheets, diagrams, and graphs are being more widely used as a means of conveying information in the workplace; and

WHEREAS, there has until recently not been a system for rapidly producing tactile images on an as-needed basis; and

WHEREAS, Tektronix, Inc., the world's leading manufacturer of workgroup color printers, has recently demonstrated a usable system for producing tactile line drawings and graphs using the Phaser 600 printer: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization commend Tektronix, Inc., for its efforts in creating this outstanding contribution to the blindness community; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Tektro- nix, Inc., to continue the development of this technology by working in cooperation with interested companies and the National Federation of the Blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the appropriate agencies of the federal government such as the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the National Institute of Health, the Department of Education, the Veterans Administration, and the National Science Foundation to cooperate in funding further research and developments in this area.

RESOLUTION 97-07

WHEREAS, the use of digital controls and computer technology in today's consumer electronic appliances has resulted in devices which are difficult if not impossible for blind persons to use independently; and

WHEREAS, examples of some features that cause problems for blind consumers include but are by no means limited to:

1. Buttons that cannot be located by touch but which all too often require only a light touch to be pressed,

2. Buttons which can be located by touch but which provide no indication, either by touch or by sound, that they have been pressed,

3. Continuously rotating knobs whose settings cannot be determined by touch but which are displayed on a screen, and

4. On-screen menus--particularly the more complex menus used on more sophisticated devices--which tend to change with no warning after a pre-determined amount of inactive time has passed; and

WHEREAS, these features can be found not only in the home, where a blind person has a certain amount of choice about which appliance to purchase, but in the office--on telephones, fax machines, copiers, and other devices--which often are essential for an employed blind person to use in order to keep his or her job; and

WHEREAS, the difficulties imposed on the blind by the increased digitization of electronic devices can be attributed to the lack of understanding and good information on the part of designers and developers, who often do not even imagine that their products are likely to be used by the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization work with the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers' Association, CEMA, and other major organizations within the electronics industry to ensure that the needs of the blind are considered in the design of electronic devices intended for the general public.

RESOLUTION 97-08

WHEREAS, communication by electronic means is becoming a widespread method for conducting business with government agen- cies and obtaining essential public services; and

WHEREAS, employment opportunities are also becoming dependent upon the ability to acquire and manipulate data presented by electronic means and stored in electronic files; and

WHEREAS, the benefits of information technology (including the use of public-kiosk systems and other methods to access information presented in electronic form) are readily apparent for employees and members of the general public who can see, but for blind people the same benefits are being denied because of lack of accessible equipment and features and lack of planning to obtain such features at the time of procurement of information technology; and

WHEREAS, adoption of model legislation for information technology access prepared by the National Federation of the Blind is essential to remove the barriers resulting from the lack of specific non-visual access standards for use as procurement specifications: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization insist upon a policy of equal access to information technology in those instances when such technology is purchased and deployed for public or employee use; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization vigorously promote the passage of laws with specific requirements for non- visual use so that the growing reliance upon information technology throughout the United States becomes a means of access rather than a source of discrimination against the blind.

RESOLUTION 97-09

WHEREAS, goal 5 of the National Education Goals declares that by the year 2000 every adult American will be literate; and

WHEREAS, the National Literacy Act of 1991 states in part that literacy is "an individual's ability to read and write . . . and to develop one's knowledge and potential"; and

WHEREAS, when a blind person decides to become literate in music, one of the tools for acquiring this knowledge is the Braille Music Code; and

WHEREAS, the second purpose of the National Federation of the Blind Music Division is to develop and improve methods for transcribing music into large print and Braille: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization strongly urge the use and teaching of the Braille Music Code whenever appropriate; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge all entities preparing instructors of blind students to offer courses in the Braille Music Code; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind call upon the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to create an additional test for the Braille Music Code to assure parents of blind children and music students that these instructors are competent in Braille music.

RESOLUTION 97-10

WHEREAS, a federally mandated means test was eliminated from the vocational rehabilitation program more than thirty years ago, providing each state with the discretion to establish a financial-need policy, including the policy of not applying a financial-need standard for any vocational rehabilitation service at all; and

WHEREAS, amid the consideration of amendments to the Rehabilitation Act now occurring in the United States Senate, a proposal to restore "means testing" as a federal mandate is under review with the concept that many services, other than eligibility and plan development, could be subject to some form of means testing under certain, as-yet-to-be-determined circumstances; and

WHEREAS, a means test by its very nature creates a signifi- cant disincentive to the use of vocational rehabilitation services, since individuals who need such services are often forced to live on public benefits and exhaust family resources (including savings belonging to themselves and others) just to survive financially, let alone taking on the burden of paying the costs of rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, a policy of means testing would be particularly onerous for blind people, since service costs--such as the costs of personal adjustment and training--are high enough that payment by individuals is an unrealistic expectation, even though the services are necessary for lifelong success following rehabilitation: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization deplore the notion that a means test required by the federal government should become a part of the vocational rehabilitation program; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the members of Congress and the President to reject any proposal for a federally mandated means test as a condition for an eligible person to receive services under the Rehabilitation Act.

RESOLUTION 97-11

WHEREAS, attempts to work while receiving cash benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income programs will eventually result in overpayment allegations being made against beneficiaries by the Social Security Administration in virtually every case; and

WHEREAS, although the work-incentive provisions that may apply to any particular claim and the unique circumstances of that claim may be complex and difficult for employees of the Social Security Administration to understand, this is not an acceptable excuse for failing to implement the law and certainly not an acceptable excuse for threatening beneficiaries with allegations of overpayment without developing a complete record of the facts; and

WHEREAS, beneficiaries, who cannot obtain correct information about the status of their claims and the effect of using particular work incentive provisions, will often choose not to attempt working at all, since this is still their safest, most secure option; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has invested substantial resources in creating and maintaining a toll-free, telephone-access network for use in scheduling appointments, responding to personal inquiries, or providing general information about Social Security programs, but competent and personalized help or counseling in the use of work incentives is not provided through this network: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration to establish within its nationwide teleservice system one or more positions with the exclusive responsibility of providing work incentive technical assistance for the purpose of responding to questions about the use of work incentives and for giving beneficiaries a prompt and convenient means of access to their work-activity information on file; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the particular, number one, responsibility of each work incentive technical assistant should be to help beneficiaries overcome the uncertainties caused by working by accurately informing them on matters such as the record of their trial work months used, if any, and the method used to decide whether a particular month should count against the trial work period; the length of time remaining for extended eligibility and the importance of knowing when this period will expire; the expected expiration date for the individual's Medicare eligibility; and the facts on file concerning work expense and impairment-related work expense deductions presently being allowed.

RESOLUTION 97-12

WHEREAS, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults; and

WHEREAS, the Center for Disease Control estimates that up to 39,000 Americans become blind from diabetes each year; and

WHEREAS, each year thousands of diabetic senior citizens become blind due to other causes; and

WHEREAS, all diabetics need to monitor blood glucose levels accurately in order to maintain their health and reduce their risk of further complications; and

WHEREAS, vision loss from diabetes is often gradual and fluctuates dramatically, making it difficult for diabetics to read accurately the results from conventional blood glucose meters; and

WHEREAS, the experience of the National Federation of the Blind proves that blind diabetics can successfully manage their blood glucose levels if given the appropriate training and voice technology; and

WHEREAS, adding voice feedback to electronic devices is now simple and cost-effective, especially when voice access is added during product design and development phases: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization call upon all blood glucose meter developers and manufacturers to make all future blood glucose meters directly accessible via voice for diabetics who are blind or losing vision; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work directly with developers and manufacturers to find cost-effective and workable solutions for making new meters accessible.

RESOLUTION 97-13

WHEREAS, early acquisition of literacy skills to the extent of each individual's ability is essential for lifelong success in our information age; and

WHEREAS, amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) recently enacted can provide the impetus necessary to secure literacy instruction in Braille for every blind child in America; and

WHEREAS, with the enactment of the IDEA amendments, the focus of responsibility now shifts to nationwide implementation so that the individualized education program of each blind child actually includes Braille instruction and services of sufficient scope and quality necessary for each child to learn and achieve at the highest level possible; and

WHEREAS, the new law provides an opportunity for educators, parents, and blind students themselves to join with the National Federation of the Blind in efforts to achieve excellence in the design and implementation of Braille literacy programs for blind youth: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization acknowledge with praise and thanks the efforts of those in Congress and the Clinton administration who have demonstrated a strong commitment to Braille literacy services for blind children as a matter of national policy and law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon educators, parents, and policy makers at all levels to cooperate in assuring that the clear intent of the law--that each blind child receive high quality instruction in Braille reading and writing--is fulfilled in schools throughout our land.

RESOLUTION 97-14

WHEREAS, provisions in title XVI of the Social Security Act permit the exemption of income and resources in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program if the SSI recipient's use of the funds is restricted to approved expenses under a plan for achieving self-support (PASS); and

WHEREAS, the reported failure of the Social Security Administration to monitor the use of the PASS provisions, coupled with allegations of program abuse, have led to long delays in the approval of PASS applications and to an actual curtailment in the type of applications approved; and

WHEREAS, the procedures now in use have vested in employees of the Social Security Administration the power to determine the feasibility of each applicant's vocational goal, even though the persons responsible for making such judgments are not acquainted with and, in fact, have never met the individuals being judged; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration's reported practice of disapproving any application for a PASS that calls for education or training beyond that necessary to obtain employment at the entry level is in itself an abuse of administrative discretion; and

WHEREAS, without clear policies and objective standards for the evaluation of PASS applications, the Social Security Administration is itself creating a disincentive to fulfillment of self-support goals that recipients would otherwise pursue if given the opportunity to do so: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization strongly urge the Social Security Administration to adopt revised standards and procedures for the approval of PASS applications that are based on encouraging rather than restricting the efforts of recipients to achieve self-support; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist upon clear and objective standards to be used in evaluating pass applications which do not include the power of governmental prejudgment of the goals chosen by recipients.

RESOLUTION 97-16

WHEREAS, amendments to the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act, passed more than twenty years ago, were specifically designed to expand the quality and scope of business opportunities made possible for blind persons on federal property; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Defense has recently requested support by the Clinton administration for an exemption from the Randolph-Sheppard Act to apply in the case of military food service facilities which, according to the Department of Defense, should not be considered as vending facilities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act since meals are paid for from appropriated funds and are not purchased individually by the troops; and

WHEREAS, regardless of the manner of payment, the food service provided to members of the armed forces can lead to business opportunities of significant size, thus providing a means of expanding the blind-vendor program while fulfilling an important government need: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization strongly oppose the position of the Department of Defense that food services which are paid for by the taxpayers rather than the troops should be excluded from the priority for the blind granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Department of Defense to do its duty as required by law and assure that opportunities for vending facilities of all kinds are provided on a consistent and widespread basis under the auspices of the blind vendor program.

RESOLUTION 97-17

WHEREAS, efforts by federal, state, and local agencies are now being made to fulfill the commitment by President Clinton, that each child by the age of twelve should be able to log on to and use the Internet in school; and

WHEREAS, the capacity for children at an early age to have access to the Internet is unquestionably just as important for blind children as it is for sighted children; and

WHEREAS, regardless of this undisputed fact, the investment in equipment and software needed for schools to go online has, in almost every instance, not included access by speech or Braille output for children who cannot see the computer screen; and

WHEREAS, matters of access, such as speech and Braille output in the use of computers, tend to be viewed as the exclusive responsibility of special education when in fact the general education program is required by law to provide the same opportunities for participation and learning by disabled and non- disabled students alike, including instruction in the use of computers and access to the Internet; and

WHEREAS, the failure to provide for securing the appropriate technology for Internet access by non-visual means in all but a few exceptional situations has shown a shocking disregard for the educational needs of blind students, not to mention that this disregard is a flagrant violation of the laws which prohibit discrimination against such students: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization insist upon a policy of strict observance of the rights of blind students to instruction in the use of computer technology and access to the Internet as part of the general education program to the same extent that such instruction and access are provided to students who are not blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the position expressed in this resolution shall be communicated to responsible officials, teachers, and parents involved at all levels of the education system so that corrective action will be made.

RESOLUTION 97-18

WHEREAS, legislation to consolidate federally assisted employment and training programs is being considered once again in Congress; and

WHEREAS, the measure, presently in the form of H.R. 1385, proposes to extend existing programs for blind persons and others with disabilities which are authorized in title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and would not result in the consolidation of these programs with generic job training and employment services intended for use by the general population; and

WHEREAS, amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which have been included in H.R. 1385 as passed by the House of Representatives, would significantly strengthen and improve upon the language now in the law pertaining to informed choice of employment goals, services, and service providers by individuals eligible for vocational rehabilitation services; and

WHEREAS, the amendments as passed by the House would also acknowledge the right of each eligible individual to develop and submit for approval by the state agency an individually prepared employment plan, rather than relying solely upon evaluation and planning activities directed by the rehabilitation counselor; and

WHEREAS, these features of the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act would continue the constructive policy redirection of the vocational rehabilitation program toward a more client-centered approach long advocated by the National Federation of the Blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1997, in the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, that this organization express strong support for the present proposal to consolidate job training and employment programs, especially in regard to the provisions of that bill as passed by the House of Representatives to amend and extend programs now authorized by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Senate of the United States and the leaders responsible for employment and training legislation to place the consolidation bill as passed by the House on a fast track for consideration so that final passage of amendments to title I of the Rehabilitation Act may be achieved before the expiration of the current authority for this important program.