Convention Resolutions 1998

by Ramona Walhof

As usual President Maurer appointed a large and diverse Resolutions Committee this year. There were forty-nine members from thirty states. Eleven committee members are attorneys, and twenty are state presidents. In addition, two individuals were appointed to advise the committee regarding technical matters. They were Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, and Curtis Chong, Director of the Technology Department, both staff members at the National Center for the Blind. I did not attempt further to categorize committee members, but it is a delightful and hard-working group.

Any member of the Federation may submit a resolution to the committee. These resolutions must be received by the President or the chairman no less than two weeks ahead of the committee meeting. The committee reads each resolution, discusses it, and votes either to recommend that the convention pass it or refuses to send it to the floor. Each resolution must have a sponsor at the committee meeting. After the resolution is read, the sponsor has the opportunity to speak about it as part of the committee discussion.

This year I received nineteen resolutions. One was withdrawn before the committee met. Two were withdrawn after discussion with the committee. Another was voted down. The other fifteen were passed by the committee and presented to the convention. This year most of the resolutions were discussed on the floor Friday afternoon. Each of the fifteen resolutions was voted on and passed by the convention. They now constitute policy of the National Federation of the Blind. Therefore, they will be printed in full later in this article. Here are brief summaries of our fifteen new policy statements.

Resolution 98-01 commends the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for honoring Dr. Jernigan and for its efforts to work more closely with the NFB in providing better services to blind people.

Resolution 98-02 calls upon the U.S. Congress to pass currently pending legislation on exempt earnings for blind people.

Resolution 98-03 states NFB's insistence on equal access to electronic information technology for the blind and calls upon governmental agencies to remember this when they procure, use, or regulate this technology.

Resolution 98-04 calls upon producers and developers of set-top boxes to confer with and respond to designated representatives of the NFB in order to provide equal access to the blind.

Resolution 98-05 calls upon the U.S. Congress to revise, re-enact, and improve the technology assistance act to provide better access to technology for the blind.

Resolution 98-06 calls upon those responsible for implementing the 1997 IDEA Amendments to be conscientious and firm.

Resolution 98-07 states that this organization opposes bill H.R. 3433 as passed by the House of Representatives because it could encourage minimal training and dead-end jobs for the disabled instead of real careers.

Resolution 98-08 calls upon the courts of Hawaii not to adopt the settlement offered in Crowder, et al. v. Nakatani, et al. (Civil No. 93-00213 DAE), which would restrict the freedom of blind people to use guide dogs in Hawaii at a time when it should be expanded.

Resolution 98-09 calls upon the U.S. Congress, especially the chairman and members of the House Committee on Resources, to include an amendment to S.1693 to insure that the provisions of the Randolph-Sheppard Act are acknowledged when the bill is considered by the House.

Resolution 98-10 condemns the position by the Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army regarding the Randolph-Sheppard Act and calls upon the Secretary of Education to defend and preserve the Randolph-Sheppard program.

Resolution 98-11 objects to the idea that the committee which administers sheltered workshops can appropriately have anything to do with assessing the Randolph-Sheppard program.

Resolution 98-12 calls upon all blood glucose monitor developers and manufacturers to shift from hanging-drop-of-blood systems to simpler and more accessible test strip types.

Resolution 98-13 calls upon the Social Security Administration to make work incentives a top priority pursuant to Executive Order 13078.

Resolution 98-14 opposes the inclusion of rehabilitation funds for the blind in block grants from the federal government to the states.

Resolution 98-15 commends the responsible leaders in Congress for including the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act in the workforce development program legislation and calls upon Congress for action immediately.

Resolution 98-01

WHEREAS, the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) has recognized Dr. Kenneth Jernigan with its first Lifetime Achievement Award; and

WHEREAS, this recognition by the NCSAB in particular is both a distinctive honor for Dr. Jernigan and an act of noteworthy importance in paying tribute to his service on behalf of all blind people as the principal leader of the organized blind movement and President and President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization officially express its appreciation to the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for honoring Dr. Kenneth Jernigan with the first Lifetime Achievement Award ever presented by that organization; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we particularly commend the leadership of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for the constructive efforts being made to work in harmony with the National Federation of the Blind on behalf of better programs and improved services for blind people throughout the United States.

Resolution 98-02

WHEREAS, Representative Barbara Kennelly and Senators John McCain and Christopher Dodd have sponsored legislation to restore the policy of an identical earnings exemption threshold for blind people and age-sixty-five retirees; and

WHEREAS, this legislation, introduced in the 105th Congress as H.R. 612 and S. 375, would reenact the statutory linkage approach for exempt earnings which existed for a continuous period of eighteen years before the policy was broken in favor of mandated adjustments in the earnings exemption for seniors but not the blind; and

WHEREAS, 191 members of the House of Representatives and 32 Senators (including the leaders of both the majority and the minority in the Senate) have placed their names on this legislation as cosponsors in the present Congress, demonstrating that substantial support now exists for correcting the injustice that was done by excluding blind people from the series of mandated adjustments in exempt earnings: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon the Congress to approve the pending legislation on exempt earnings for blind people since, as in the case of retirees, this is the best, most certain way to promote the opportunity to work.

Resolution 98-03

WHEREAS, developments in information technology now being used for communication by electronic means are changing the way in which ideas and knowledge are spread throughout our society and the world; and

WHEREAS, the new methods of information exchange resulting from these developments are affecting participation in society in a growing number of ways, including personal communications, provision of educational services, conduct of business, and interaction with entities of government for required filings, to obtain information and services, or to take part in the political process; and

WHEREAS, entities engaged in the design and use of electronic information technology have a responsibility to assure equal participation, especially when the technology or information content is intended for general use; and

WHEREAS, the new forms of communication by electronic means hold much promise for providing blind people with ready access and equal participation, but—except in the most unusual of cases—the design of both the technology and the content presented presumes that everyone who uses the technology or receives the information can see; and

WHEREAS, participation on equal terms requires equal access to the channels of communication and sources of information available: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization insist upon equal access to electronic information technology as fundamental to the right of equal participation throughout our society; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation seek the enforcement of existing laws and the enactment of new laws and standards for nonvisual access so that equal participation by means of equal (including nonvisual) access will be embraced as a fundamental right by all entities of government involved in the procurement, use, or regulation of electronic information technology.

Resolution 98-04

WHEREAS, digital set-top boxes and other electronic devices currently under development will enhance the conventional television by enabling it to be used as a focal point for access to a variety of information and interactive services such as the Internet, interactive cable and telephone services, and a host of other information offerings; and

WHEREAS, prototypes of such devices are currently being tested without the participation of blind consumers; and

WHEREAS, digital set-top boxes and similar devices are substantially inaccessible to blind persons; and

WHEREAS, the designers and manufacturers of these devices have not sought to obtain advice from experts on blindness and access technology in order to produce a product which complies with Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires that telecommunications equipment and services be made accessible to blind persons and which is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); and

WHEREAS, designers and manufacturers of set-top boxes such as IBM, Visual Information Services Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, Sony Corporation, Philips Corporation, and other companies have made no effort to work with the National Federation of the Blind, the largest and most influential organization of the blind in the country, in designing their equipment to be accessible and usable by blind persons; and

WHEREAS, within a few years digital interactive set-top boxes and similar digital technologies will be required in order to receive virtually all information services, and lack of access for blind persons will lead to isolation from the mainstream channels of communication open to every one else: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon designers and manufacturers of digital set-top boxes and similar equipment to design their products to be accessible to and usable by blind persons; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization declare its desire and willingness to consult with the industry on this important issue and take all necessary steps to ensure that set-top boxes and similar devices are accessible to and usable by the blind—including, but not limited to—consulting with designers and manufacturers of set-top boxes and similar technology; seeking administrative remedies available under the Telecommunications Act of 1996; and, as a last resort, litigation as may be necessary.

Resolution 98-05

WHEREAS, authorizations for programs conducted under the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (known popularly as the "Tech Act") will expire at the end of September, 1998, unless Congress approves legislation to continue or recreate these programs in some form; and

WHEREAS, programs conducted under the Tech Act have been spread across the entire spectrum of disability needs with the result that their impact in bringing resources to bear upon the access needs of blind people has been minimal; and

WHEREAS, Congress is considering proposals to continue a state-grant technology-assistance program and to revise the policy approach and program emphasis of the Tech Act in positive and relevant ways which may include assistance to promote leadership by consumers in the evaluation of technology and expanded support for low-interest loans and loan-guarantee programs to assist individuals in obtaining needed technology; and

WHEREAS, provisions in the revised version of the Tech Act must especially affirm the right of access, including nonvisual access, to information technology when such technology is marketed for sale to the public or is generally available for public use, especially when such technology is used for communications or for any course of instruction in the case of any tax-supported program; and

WHEREAS, elements such as these would improve the policy direction and program emphasis of the Tech Act by addressing present-day concerns of blind people who could otherwise be excluded from the benefits of the modern communications technology now evolving in the information age: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization encourage the Congress to revise and re-enact the technology assistance program prior to the expiration of the current Tech Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we support a redirection in the policy and program emphasis of the technology assistance law so that the goals of access—including access to financial assistance for technology acquisition and access in the use or modification of technology for nonvisual use—will be supported as a top priority and can be achieved through this program.

Resolution 98-06

WHEREAS, landmark legislation to improve the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in June, 1997; and

WHEREAS, the IDEA Amendments of 1997 contain important new provisions on the content of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) required to be used for each child eligible for special education services; and

WHEREAS, the law specifies that Braille instruction and the use of Braille must be included in the IEP of each blind child unless the IEP team—including the child's parents—determines that Braille services are not necessary based on evaluations of reading and writing performance and consideration of the child's future literacy needs; and

WHEREAS, provisions of the new law—including the specifications for content to be addressed in each child's IEP— are now under serious and sustained attack by organizations representing school boards, school administrators, and general education professionals who originally opposed the IDEA amendments but eventually agreed to the compromise legislation which was negotiated in good faith in 1997; and

WHEREAS, the organized opposition to the IDEA Amendments of 1997 is likely to result in efforts to change the law by way of amendments placed on annual appropriations bills or other legislation expected to be passed before the end of the present Congress; and

WHEREAS, the efforts to change the law by creating an atmosphere of controversy and angry opposition in the Congress have placed all of the new provisions—including Braille instruction for blind children—in jeopardy while plans are made to promote amendments which will not be disclosed in their full scope and content until the time for presentation and voting is at hand: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization urge the Congress to stand firm in upholding the IDEA amendments which were finally passed in 1997 after several years of controversy; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the officials and professionals responsible for implementing the law to honor the commitments made in the passage of the 1997 amendments.

Resolution 98-07

WHEREAS, the beneficiary rehabilitation program of the Social Security Administration allows for payment of costs for training and employment assistance provided to a beneficiary who becomes employed and leaves the rolls; and

WHEREAS, with the limited exception of services obtained from only a few so-called "alternate providers," the beneficiary rehabilitation program pays for services from state vocational rehabilitation agencies and not from any other source; and

WHEREAS, legislation passed by the House of Representatives as H.R. 3433 now pending in the Senate would expand the beneficiary rehabilitation program to allow for virtually any agency of the beneficiary's choice to be reimbursed for services provided, but only after successful employment is achieved; and

WHEREAS, this approach, while well-intentioned in its emphasis on beneficiary choice, is essentially a way of using revenues from the Social Security Administration to subsidize programs otherwise known as sheltered workshops that both train and then employ the persons served; and

WHEREAS, provisions for a milestone payment system as an alternative to the reimbursement system are so far ill-defined, making it unlikely that beneficiaries with significant adjustment and training needs such as the blind would have a choice of providers other than state agencies under the existing program: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization oppose H.R. 3433 as passed by the House of Representatives on the basis that this legislation would promote the expediency of short-term training and quick-fix jobs instead of providing resources for extensive services and quality jobs.

Resolution 98-08

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind opposes application of animal quarantine procedures by the state of Hawaii in the case of blind persons who use guide dogs; and

WHEREAS, Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano has been a champion of removing the procedures for blind residents of the state and in fact assisted in the preparation of a provisional rule to that effect; and

WHEREAS, in a lawsuit entitled Crowder, et. al. v. Nakatani, et. al. (Civil No. 93-00213 DAE), brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and supported by the United States Department of Justice, various plaintiffs, including persons and organizations claiming to represent the blind, challenged application of the quarantine to blind guide dog users but have decided instead to ask for a court-approved settlement; and

WHEREAS, concessions agreed to in the proposed settlement include the following:

(1) that each guide dog user must abide by extensive procedures for testing and rabies-free certification of the dog with no assurance that the quarantine will not be imposed even though the procedures have been followed and the dog is rabies-free;

(2) that the procedures for testing and rabies-free certification are as onerous for Hawaiians with guide dogs as they are for non-residents who may visit the state with their guide dogs;

(3) that guide dogs trained by owners or by any source other than a school on a state-approved list are subject to the quarantine even if they are rabies-free;

(4) that guide dog users who must visit the state of Hawaii for emergencies must have their dogs quarantined and, when leaving the quarantine station, must be accompanied by a sighted person at all times and can only go to places related to the emergency;

(5) that guide dog users may stay only in state-approved hotels or in homes of residents of the state that are specifically pre-approved by the state;

(6) that the use of a guide dog means the waiver of the right to privacy since a record of each user's travel to the state will be kept and routinely furnished both to the plaintiffs and to the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, the proposed settlement with the terms just described is a compromise of civil rights for expediency and as such will enshrine in the law the principle that the use of a guide dog is a valid reason for such rights to be abridged when a case can be made to do so; and

WHEREAS, for residents of Hawaii, the proposed settlement concessions would roll back the clock and impose onerous restrictions which Governor Cayetano had worked cooperatively with the blind of the state to remove: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization condemn and deplore the compromise of civil rights for expediency as proposed in Crowder v. Nakatani and declare the proposed settlement itself to be an express denial of civil rights affecting not only the blind who use guide dogs but all blind persons as well; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno, to withdraw the Justice Department's agreement to the proposed settlement on the basis that the very terms of the settlement impose discriminatory restrictions upon blind persons in contravention of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii to reject the proposed settlement in Crowder v. Nakatani on the basis that the terms which it would impose upon both the residents and non-residents of Hawaii are contrary to the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Resolution 98-09

WHEREAS, Title IV of S.1693, as recently approved by the United States Senate and now pending in the House, is entitled "The National Park Service Management Improvement Act of 1998"; and

WHEREAS, the provisions of this legislation are essentially designed to ensure that virtually all contracts for concession services in national parks are awarded through a competitive process with the offer of a franchise fee paid by the concessionaire to be considered as one of four principal factors when the Secretary of the Interior evaluates proposals and awards such contracts; and

WHEREAS, by the plain terms of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, the priority established for the placement and operation of vending facilities by the blind on federal property applies to national parks and public land areas to precisely the same extent that it applies to federal buildings; and

WHEREAS, although the Secretary of the Interior would be authorized to set aside the use of the competitive process for limited commercial use authorizations or in "extraordinary circumstances where compelling and equitable considerations require the award of a concession contract to a particular party in the public interest," these provisions do not specify that the competitive process must be set aside for compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act, and in fact the provisions of title IV of S.1693 fail to acknowledge or even mention the priority required by law for blind vendors; and

WHEREAS, failure to cite compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act as a specific requirement is likely to create a statutory conflict and will certainly reduce the likelihood that blind vendors would be awarded concessions opportunities in national parks: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call for a clarifying amendment to the concessions-management provisions of S.1693 when this legislation is considered in the House of Representatives; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Chairman, Representative Don Young of Alaska, and members of the House Committee on Resources to specify compliance with the priority for blind persons under the Randolph-Sheppard Act as an essential requirement in the bill before it is reported to the House.

Resolution 98-10

WHEREAS, leadership for government-wide compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act is vested in the office of the Secretary of Education and is further delegated to officials within the Department of Education, such as the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and

WHEREAS, the lead agency authority for government-wide compliance includes the authority to interpret the law and to issue regulations which are binding on all other departments and agencies of the Federal government; and

WHEREAS, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition of the United States Army has notified Army procurement officers of his interpretation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and instructed them not to award contracts for food service in military mess halls to state licensing agencies under the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

WHEREAS, this action is a knowing and calculated assault upon the Randolph-Sheppard Act and particularly upon the authority of the Secretary of Education to interpret it in regard to the types of facilities covered on all federal property; and

WHEREAS, allowing this action to stand would nullify the Secretary of Education's authority to interpret and coordinate government-wide compliance with the Randolph-Sheppard Act and would thereby lead to further erosion of the blind vendor priority: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization condemn and deplore the arrogant disregard for the law shown by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition of the United States Army in his issuance of instructions which he knew to be contrary to the express position of the Department of Education; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation support and insist upon a vigorous response from the Secretary of Education in asserting the authority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act whenever it is under attack by the U.S. Army or by any other Federal department or agency.

Resolution 98-11

WHEREAS, on March 13, 1998, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13078 for the purpose of increasing employment of adults with disabilities to a rate that is as close as possible to the employment rate of the general adult population; and

WHEREAS, although laudable in its goals, the Executive Order in section 2© specifies that the Committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled is to have a role in assessing the impact of the Randolph-Sheppard vending program on employment and small business opportunities for people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the vagueness of the language in section 2© leads to the troubling conclusion that the drafters of this Executive Order are calling into question the mission of the Randolph- Sheppard Act and suggesting that the Committee, which only administers an employment-in-sheltered-workshops program, has some sort of special knowledge about businesses operated by the blind, which it does not; and

WHEREAS, rather than serving as a constructive force for entrepreneurial opportunities for blind or disabled people, the Committee's narrow view and statutory purpose is to promote direct labor jobs for blind and disabled people in sheltered work programs, making it completely unqualified to provide any assessment whatsoever of business-opportunity programs such as the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and

WHEREAS, in a consistent pattern of conflicts with the U.S. Department of Education, the Committee has established a record of promoting employment for disabled people in sheltered work over business opportunities for blind people under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, leaving no question as to the Committee's narrow orientation: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization advise the task force responsible for implementing Executive Order 13078 of its profound objection to the notion that the Committee that administers the employment-in-sheltered-work programs can play a constructive role in assessing the impact of the Randolph-Sheppard Act on small business opportunities based on the Committee's record of promoting sheltered work over any other form of employment.

Resolution 98-12

WHEREAS, The Center for Disease Control estimates 15.7 million Americans have diabetes and calls diabetes "the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults twenty to seventy-four years old," making this an issue of great interest to the National Federation of the Blind; and

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

WHEREAS, many of the common and popular types of home blood glucose monitors available today require a hanging drop of blood for correct measurement, a complex, vision-intensive move which is difficult for many sighted diabetics and an unnecessary burden to blind diabetics or those losing vision; and

WHEREAS, other, simpler means of depositing blood onto the test strip already exist, but most have yet to be integrated into glucose meters with speech output for the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, this organization call upon all blood-glucose-monitor developers and manufacturers to shift from hanging-drop-of-blood systems to simpler and more accessible test-strip types.

Resolution 98-13

WHEREAS, provisions to allow work while continuing the payment of benefits are part of the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs and are supposed to operate as work incentives; and

WHEREAS, these work-incentive provisions are complicated enough as written in the law, but the lack of clarity in the approach used by the Social Security Administration in regard to work incentives is even more baffling both for beneficiaries and for employees of the Social Security Administration, as well; and

WHEREAS, the failure of the Social Security Administration to create and apply rational standards and reasonably workable procedures to implement the work incentive provisions nullifies the value of the provisions by creating an atmosphere of uncertainty, confusion, and mistrust; and

WHEREAS, efforts to promote rehabilitation and self-sufficiency among beneficiaries are worthy but will end up with disappointing results if beneficiaries who respond to the encouragement are then caught up in allegations of overpayments and the quagmire of rules and standards used to resolve them; and

WHEREAS, the use of clear and workable procedures for work incentives is unquestionably possible and should be particularly beneficial in the case of blind people whose eligibility is governed by more precise statutory criteria as compared to the regulations which in other cases define disability and eligibility for benefits: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization promote the resolution of the work-incentive quagmire as a top-priority objective for the Social Security Administration in its administration of the Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we insist upon the adoption of a clear, fair, and rational approach for the administration of the work-incentive provisions as an immediate initiative to be made by the Social Security Administration in responding to Executive Order 13078 pertaining to employment of people with disabilities.

Resolution 98-14

WHEREAS, distribution of federal dollars by means of a block-grant, no-strings-attached approach is promoted as a panacea for the alleged inefficiency of more targeted or categorical federal programs; and

WHEREAS, the approach for federal block grants for programs such as education and workforce development was recently proposed by the National Governors' Association at its winter, 1998, meeting in an attempt to convince the Congress to provide funds to the states in broad categories for discretionary spending at the state level rather than to enact or reauthorize specific federal programs, such as state grants for vocational rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, Senator Slade Gorton of Washington State sponsored an education block-grant amendment which included funds to be removed from the Vocational Rehabilitation program and which passed the Senate last fall on a vote of fifty-one to forty-nine; and

WHEREAS, although Senator Gorton said after the vote that he had not intended to include funds from Vocational Rehabilitation in the block grant, the threat resulting from this amendment was very real and could reoccur at any moment on the floor of the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, rather than being a panacea for the improvement of programs, approval of a block-grant approach as advocated by the National Governors' Association and Senator Gorton would create a melee of competition for a shrinking pot of federal dollars, with the result that programs serving the blind (which are comparatively small) would often be overtaken by others in the scramble to survive: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization reaffirm its vigorous opposition to the use of the block-grant approach in which funds for services for the blind would be included; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge all members of Congress to give block-grant proposals a strict-scrutiny test in order to insure that targeted and categorical programs that meet a defined need, such as services for the blind, are not swept away in the rush to make a political statement.

Resolution 98-15

WHEREAS, legislation to consolidate federal vocational education, training, and employment assistance programs into a single workforce-development system has been passed in different forms by the House of Representatives and the Senate; and

WHEREAS, in passing their respective versions of the workforce-development bills both the Senate and the House of Representatives have kept faith with their express commitment to continue programs in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 under funding authorities and statutory provisions that are separate and distinct from the consolidated workforce-development system; and

WHEREAS, provisions included in both bills are similar in important respects and promise to improve the public vocational rehabilitation program, particularly in regard to responsiveness to consumers; and

WHEREAS, the changes expected in the Rehabilitation Act, such as strengthened client-choice language, presumed eligibility for disability insurance beneficiaries or SSI recipients, and new requirements for procurement of accessible information technology for employee and public use, fulfill important objectives of the National Federation of the Blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1998, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization express strong support for the present effort underway in Congress to enact a final bill on the consolidation of workforce-development programs; and