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Braille Monitor - August/September 2000 Edition

 

Resolutions Adopted by the Annual Convention of the
National Federation of the Blind

July 8, 2000

 

Resolution 2000-01

WHEREAS, the passage of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 was intended to provide better access to employment services to all citizens, including access to vocational rehabilitation services; and

WHEREAS, some states have interpreted this law as authority to lump the funding streams for all employment services, including services for the blind, together with funds for other programs, setting aside requirements for funds to be spent only for the purposes originally authorized; and

WHEREAS, states such as Louisiana and Florida have also sought to implement the Workforce Investment Act by promoting privatization of services rather than maintaining the capacity of the state itself to provide certain essential services; and

WHEREAS, our experience has shown that efforts to lump services for the blind together with programs for the disabled or others who are unemployed or to privatize such services usually result in disregard for the specialized needs of blind persons; and

WHEREAS, in order to achieve full independence, blind persons must first acquire confidence in themselves and an understanding of prevailing social attitudes about blindness, along with the specialized skills needed to function efficiently without sight, none of which can be provided by generic disability and employment programs; and

WHEREAS, a program conducted through consolidated work force centers and privatized services is aimed at mass production, in which the needs of the majority are best understood and specialized needs are least understood, emphasizing fast placement of the easiest-to-place rather than comprehensive, individualized services, all of which will have the effect of excluding blind persons from receiving meaningful rehabilitation services; and

WHEREAS, the result of consolidating and privatizing services will be to relegate the blind to the end of the unemployment line, due to lack of proper training and the skills needed to compete on equal terms with others in the workplace: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization oppose any efforts to consolidate and privatize rehabilitation services that diminishes in any way the responsibility and authority of separate agencies designed to meet the needs of blind persons, whether through abolishing or lowering the status of such agencies or through privatizing rehabilitation services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization deplore the efforts made in the states of Florida and Louisiana to privatize rehabilitation services for blind persons and ask the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration to use all means at his disposal to prevent such privatization from occurring in these or any other states.

Resolution 2000-02

WHEREAS, a high-quality education is essential in order to compete for jobs, participate in community life, and sustain economic independence; and

WHEREAS, Congress recognized the right of individuals with disabilities to receive a free, appropriate public education by enacting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires individualized plans of instruction to meet the particular needs of each disabled student but does not always put in place efficient systems to meet those needs; and

WHEREAS, despite IDEA, the lack of accessible instructional materials is still a barrier to a high-quality education for blind students, largely due to the labor-intensive and costly process of converting texts and other materials into accessible formats such as Braille when the conversion must be done by hand; and

WHEREAS, this conversion process could be streamlined significantly to reduce the burdens of both time and cost currently placed on local school districts if publishers of textbooks would promptly furnish an electronic version of each textbook that could then be converted into specialized formats for blind children; and

WHEREAS, some states have enacted legislation to address this need by requiring publishers to provide an electronic version of materials to education agencies when such agencies purchase print editions for sighted students, but this state-by-state approach does not address the needs of all blind children covered by IDEA since publishers do not often furnish electronic texts in states not requiring them to do so; and

WHEREAS, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) acknowledges that providing electronic text to support conversion of instructional materials into specialized formats for the blind is part of the responsibility of publishers; however, in spite of expressed good intentions, this responsibility is not being met voluntarily: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon Congress to turn the promise of IDEA into the reality of books for our nation's blind children by enacting legislation to compel publishers to provide usable electronic versions of textbooks purchased for sighted children to school districts serving blind children.

Resolution 2000-03

WHEREAS, since its enactment in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act has contained an exemption from the minimum wage for persons who are visually impaired or blind, an exemption which insults every blind American and results in pay to blind workers as low as half the minimum wage; and

WHEREAS, section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act requires the Secretary of Labor to grant exemptions from the minimum wage to employers who hire workers whose productive capacity is claimed by the employer to be impaired by conditions, including impaired vision or blindness; and

WHEREAS, a legal wage below the minimum is supposed to be based on individual productivity of the impaired person as compared to standard productivity of unimpaired persons for essentially the same work and is justified only where there is a finding that sub-minimum wages are necessary to prevent curtailment of employment opportunities--a finding that has never been made regarding the blind; and

WHEREAS, this unfair and unjustified exemption from the minimum wage in the case of the blind allows employers to make wage determinations without any procedures for accountability whatsoever, leading to the kind of abuse and exploitation that the Fair Labor Standards Act seeks to curb; and

WHEREAS, blind persons have demonstrated that employers and not employees control virtually all of the factors which affect worker productivity, leading to the unfair situation of employers failing to manage correctly and then paying blind workers less than the minimum wage as a method of balancing the books while the managers receive manager-level salaries for this unseemly but perfectly legal practice; and

WHEREAS, legislation has been passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives that would increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15 per hour, which could lead to even greater disparity in pay between the blind and others; and

WHEREAS, blind persons in the United States have demonstrated their ability to produce on equal terms and earn equal pay in the workplace; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Johnny Isakson and Senator Christopher Dodd have introduced legislation in the form of H.R. 3540 and S. 2031, respectively, which would prohibit employers from using blindness as a basis for paying a sub-minimum wage: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization demand that wage equity for blind individuals be included in any changes to the federal minimum wage law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon every American to recognize and commend the firm and forthright stand taken by Congressman Johnny Isakson and Senator Christopher Dodd to insist that work to produce items sold in commerce should be recognized as the criterion for protection of the minimum wage and that the presence or absence of vision should be irrelevant in America's wage law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Congress to pass H.R. 3540 and S. 2031, during the present session so that impaired vision or blindness may not be used by any employer, including any sheltered workshop, as the basis for paying less than the minimum wage to anyone in America who is blind.

Resolution 2000-04 was not considered.

Resolution 2000-05

WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a rule requiring the four networks to offer descriptions of a minimum amount of entertainment programming per quarter, averaging approximately four hours of prime-time entertainment programming per week, provided through the Separate Audio Programming (SAP) audio channel; and

WHEREAS, the blind are routinely denied access to textual information flashed on the screen such as emergency weather updates, news bulletins scrolled along the bottom of the screen, sports scores, program guides, phone numbers in advertisements, the identities of speakers during news programs, and other data not otherwise read aloud; and

WHEREAS, making such textual information accessible to the blind in a standardized form through the secondary audio channel would be a relatively easy and inexpensive process to develop and automate if that specific outcome was firmly and universally required by the FCC; and

WHEREAS, it is doubtful that most networks will address the issue of access to on-screen textual information under the FCC's proposed mandate, which requires only that description be provided for entertainment programs; and

WHEREAS, the vast array of broadcast information currently printed and not voiced is information far more vital and valuable for America's television viewers than is the entertainment programming targeted by the FCC proposal; and

WHEREAS, the FCC should handle first things first and move to entertainment programming only after civic, safety, and health-related information including advertising is routinely provided to viewers without sight: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Federal Communications Commission to modify its currently proposed and narrowly focused mandate for descriptive video in favor of one that would prioritize making important on-screen textual information universally available to America's blind television viewers through a standardized audio format.

Resolution 2000-06

WHEREAS, according to the Social Security Administration 120,000 blind persons receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits since they do not have substantial earnings or are not currently working at all; and

WHEREAS, these benefits, including cash payments and coverage under Medicare, are a vital safety net for blind persons and their families when sight loss occurs or earnings stop; and

WHEREAS, this safety net often becomes a cruel trap for beneficiaries, since the earnings limit applied to the blind is currently less than $12,000 per year, forcing them to make the choice between receiving benefits on the one hand and accepting a job at a level of income that does not replace benefits on the other; and

WHEREAS, this cruel trap is the primary cause of the high unemployment rate among the blind, estimated to be 74 percent of the blind of working age; and

WHEREAS, until the law was changed, effective January 1, 2000, America's seniors aged sixty-five to seventy faced the same cruel dilemma even though they were penalized only by a reduction of $1 in benefits for every $3 of earnings while the blind still face an absolute limit resulting in the abrupt termination of benefits with no offset for earnings that exceed the limit; and

WHEREAS, the removal of the seniors' earnings limit was based on the view that persons of retirement age can still contribute to our nation's economy and have skills that are needed in the workforce, but this pro-work policy for seniors was deliberately not applied to blind people of working age; and

WHEREAS, in 1977 Congress recognized that the blind and seniors were situated similarly by creating an identical earnings limit for blind SSDI beneficiaries and age sixty-five retirees except for the offset provided to seniors for earnings above the limit; and

WHEREAS, bills now pending in Congress--H.R. 1601 and S. 285 with strong bipartisan support in both bodies--would eliminate the earnings limit for the blind just as Congress has now eliminated it for seniors: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization urgently call upon the 106th Congress to enact this legislation this year since this will remove the number one barrier to productive work by the blind and do more than any other single change in the law could do to reduce substantially the shocking unemployment rate suffered by the blind.

Resolution 2000-07

WHEREAS, the Act now known as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act, originally enacted in 1938, requires federal agencies to purchase products and services from non-profit agencies employing the blind on the basis of a non-competitive priority, a priority which was later extended to non-profit agencies that employ persons with severe disabilities as well; and

WHEREAS, these have been the most substantive (and essentially the only) changes to the Act since 1938; and

WHEREAS, the employment opportunities resulting for blind or disabled people are essentially direct labor, since the law excludes management and supervisory work and specifies that 75 percent of the direct labor hours devoted to government work must be performed by blind or disabled people; and

WHEREAS, this anachronistic requirement has enshrined in federal law an artificial limit on the advancement and promotion of blind and otherwise disabled persons, wrongly holding them in positions classified as direct labor as opposed to supervisory or management positions since the "direct labor" requirement cannot be met by blind or disabled persons serving as supervisors or working in management, resulting in an arbitrary ceiling on the advancement of blind and disabled persons in workplaces ostensibly created for their benefit; and

WHEREAS, requiring 75 percent of the direct labor to be performed by blind or disabled persons encourages such practices as job-stretching (giving a number of disabled persons a little piece of a job one could easily perform) which meets the direct labor requirement but depresses wages and also creates a sheltered and segregated work environment: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization strongly urge Congress to amend the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act to extend criteria for employment of blind persons to all classifications of positions within an agency eligible for the priority; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Congress to include criteria to require that the percentage of pay and fringe benefits distributed to blind and disabled individuals must equal or exceed the percentage of pay and fringe benefits distributed to employees who are not blind or disabled.

Resolution 2000-08

WHEREAS, traffic signals adapted to assist blind pedestrians are now known as accessible pedestrian signals; and

WHEREAS, accessible pedestrian signals now include tactile as well as audible signals; and

WHEREAS, one design uses arrows known as vibrotactile accessible pedestrian signals which can be felt pointing in the direction that the pedestrian should walk and which vibrate during the walk interval; and

WHEREAS, other possible design approaches have the potential for producing worthwhile tactile accessible pedestrian signals; and

WHEREAS, tactile accessible pedestrian signals can provide a way for blind and deaf-blind pedestrians to learn the state of the walk signal without disrupting the environment with extraneous and unnecessary noise; and

WHEREAS, in contrast to tactile accessible pedestrian signals, audible accessible pedestrian signals actually interfere with the safe travel of blind people by adding loud and distracting noise to the environment at locations where effective hearing is critical, while providing little useful direction-of-travel information to the blind, and none at all to the deaf-blind; and

WHEREAS, the costs and attitudinal disadvantages of all accessible pedestrian signals mean that they should be deployed only in situations where other methods of making the intersection more pedestrian-friendly are not adequate; and

WHEREAS, the United States Access Board is currently considering standards for accessible pedestrian signals; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization support the use of accessible pedestrian signals only where other methods of making the intersection pedestrian-friendly are not sufficient, and the use of tactile accessible pedestrian signals where accessible pedestrian signals are installed; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the United States Access Board to adopt standards that provide for accessible pedestrian signals only where unusual circumstances exist such as unusually wide streets, very high noise levels, very high speeds, or other peculiar circumstances and where other methods of making the intersection pedestrian-friendly are in use and are not sufficient; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist that traffic engineers and public officials employ all practical methods to make all intersections pedestrian-friendly and use tactile rather than audible signals where accessible pedestrian signals are installed.

Resolution 2000-09

WHEREAS, standards-based reform has dramatically increased the prevalence of high-stakes proficiency and accountability tests in school systems across the country; and

WHEREAS, preparation for these tests consumes a significant portion of classroom instructional time; and

WHEREAS, results of these tests may determine the type of diploma a student receives upon graduation; and

WHEREAS, the loss of vision alone in no way impairs the capacity of a student to meet or exceed the academic standards set for his or her non-disabled peers; and

WHEREAS, if students who are blind or visually impaired are not present during test-preparation instructional time, they will not benefit from the knowledge gained during these instructional periods, an all-too-common practice since teachers send the blind student out for Braille or mobility lessons while other students study for the test; and

WHEREAS, equally unfortunate is the common failure to provide blind and visually impaired students with study materials, survey tests, and practice tests in the appropriate alternative medium so that these students can prepare for high-stakes tests on an equal basis with non-disabled peers; and

WHEREAS, without the educational or credentialed background that proper instruction and testing with appropriate alternative media and IEP-based accommodations could have provided for them, these students will transition into the workplace with enormous, if not insurmountable, disadvantages; and

WHEREAS, IDEA requires that students with disabilities must be included in all district and statewide assessments; and

WHEREAS, IDEA further requires that students with disabilities have access to the regular education curriculum; and

WHEREAS, state departments of education bear a significant responsibility for implementing policies in their states to assure that blind and visually impaired students receive a free and appropriate education under the provisions of IDEA; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization strongly urge state departments of education to adopt and implement statewide policies that will require blind and visually impaired students to receive the full range of instruction, support, and materials available to their sighted peers in the process of preparing for state-required, high-stakes proficiency or accountability tests; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge state departments of education to adopt policies which insure the right of blind and visually impaired students to pursue and earn a standard high school diploma, to the extent to which their abilities enable them.

Resolution 2000-10

WHEREAS, the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 promote increased responsibility for consumers to exercise informed choice and participate actively in developing and agreeing to the plan that outlines the vocational rehabilitation services they will receive, known as the Individualized Plan for Employment; and

WHEREAS, exercising informed choice allows an individual to make decisions relating to the selection of an employment outcome, appropriate vocational rehabilitation services, the entity charged with providing such services, and the methods by which such services will be procured; and

WHEREAS, in order for individuals to take full advantage of informed choice, they must be able to analyze current and relevant information regarding successful outcomes achieved by others and to compare outcome information of various service providers; and

WHEREAS, information concerning outcomes must be gathered and filed with the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States Department of Education by state vocational rehabilitation agencies along with information concerning agency performance, consumer demographics, standards and indicators, and other relevant data delineating the data by type of disability; and

WHEREAS, this vast and relevant information database now resides in the RSA bureaucracy and is not conveniently or readily available to be used by consumers or their advocates in a timely manner; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to publish on an accessible Web site the kind of detailed factual and comparative information that would assist consumers and advocates in exercising the right of informed choice as they develop their individualized plans for employment.

Resolution 2000-11

WHEREAS, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requires federal agencies to comply with accessibility standards for all electronic and information technology which is purchased, developed, used, or maintained by the federal government for federal employees and the public; and

WHEREAS, with the exception of limited application to state programs, to the extent specified in the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, the requirements of Section 508 apply only to federal agencies and do not apply to recipients of federal grants or contracts; and

WHEREAS, This is a glaring omission since federal grantees and contractors are often used to provide services with government support and supply products or services to the government, using hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to do so; and

WHEREAS, the combined activity of federal programs, grantees, and contractors accounts for a significant portion of the demand for electronic and information technology in use today, resulting in a vast economic significance in the technology market, which can and should be used to affect the design of technology for use by blind and disabled persons; and

WHEREAS, in the twenty-first century access to electronic and information technology is essential for participation on terms of equality in our society and particularly in employment, which now depends upon access to technology to compete effectively in most jobs; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon Congress to apply the accessibility requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to all recipients of federal grants and contracts.

Resolution 2000-12 was not considered

Resolution 2000-13

WHEREAS, performance on proficiency and accountability tests is often used to determine student placement and advancement, and the use and reliance on such tests for students in grades one through twelve is growing year by year around the country; and

WHEREAS, many students who are legally blind must by law participate in these examinations; and

WHEREAS, too often the materials on these tests, particularly the tests for students in lower grades, is highly visually oriented and extremely difficult, or sometimes impossible, to adapt to a nonvisual format for students who are legally blind; and

WHEREAS, the education, placement, and advancement of blind and visually impaired students is negatively affected when the test items on proficiency and accountability examinations are not susceptible of being properly adapted; and

WHEREAS, this problem could be avoided and test items perfected which are easily adapted to alternative formats if the tests were developed from the ground up with the idea that they will necessarily be administered in nonvisual formats to students without vision; and

WHEREAS, the lack of standards for production of visual graphs and charts in alternative, nonvisual formats can also negatively affect the performance of blind and visually impaired students on such exams; and

WHEREAS, state departments of education bear a significant responsibility for implementing policies in their states to assure that blind and visually impaired students receive a free and appropriate education under the provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization strongly urge state departments of education to adopt policies compelling all developers of standardized educational tests within their borders to consult with professionals in the field of blindness and persons who are blind in the development of proficiency and accountability tests so that any tests which are adopted for use by the state can be readily and appropriately adapted in nonvisual formats for blind and visually impaired students; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge state departments of education to consult with professionals and persons who are blind to establish standards for production of graphical material in alternative formats.

Resolution 2000-14

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind is an organization founded and governed by blind people for the purpose of achieving first-class status in our society, which includes ensuring that blind people receive high-quality vocational rehabilitation services as a foundation to enable them to compete with their sighted peers for employment; and

WHEREAS, reaching the top rung of the ladder of societal status means that blind people must be able to participate in society in the same way as their sighted peers, including employment in the competitive labor market; and

WHEREAS, the federal/state vocational rehabilitation program also has a goal of assisting blind people to secure employment which maximizes their potential and results in their integration into the competitive labor market; and

WHEREAS, sheltered employment, when used as a first step, can usefully serve as a springboard for some blind vocational rehabilitation program clients to master skills and gain needed work experience; and

WHEREAS, in any honest use of the English language, sheltered workshops are not integrated nor are they in the mainstream of society nor do they constitute settings in the competitive labor market; and

WHEREAS, placement of blind vocational rehabilitation clients in sheltered employment should not end the vocational rehabilitation services provided to them and should not be considered a final employment outcome; and

WHEREAS, vocational rehabilitation services should continue to be provided to blind people who want to receive them while they are employed in a sheltered setting: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, 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 establish a policy prohibiting state vocational rehabilitation agencies from counting blind people who work in sheltered employment as successfully rehabilitated and mandating continued vocational rehabilitation services for such blind people whenever they desire them.

Resolution 2000-15

WHEREAS, since 1940 the National Federation of the Blind has been the voice of the blind speaking for themselves on issues concerning all aspects of their lives; and

WHEREAS, during the first session of the 106th Congress Representative Michael Capuano introduced the Medicare Vision Rehabilitation Coverage Act of 1999 (H.R. 2870), legislation which would affect the lives of blind people throughout the nation; and

WHEREAS, this bill would amend Title 18 of the Social Security Act to provide for coverage of rehabilitation services for the blind, described in the bill as "vision rehabilitation services," under the Medicare program; and

WHEREAS, this bill would allow Medicare to pay the cost of the same services currently available through the Vocational Rehabilitation system, resulting in a programmatic conflict which would force vocational rehabilitation agencies to deny services to blind persons on the basis that comparable services and benefits are available; and

WHEREAS, this legislation would have the ultimate consequence of replacing the coordinated and comprehensive approach envisioned in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, with a fragmented and bureaucratic rehabilitation-delivery system, governed more by the objectives of managed care than by the provision of services needed by and planned for the individual; and

WHEREAS, although the ability of medical doctors, ophthalmologists, and optometrists to help maintain, enhance, or restore sight is a component necessary in treating an individual's physical condition, learning to live as a blind person is not a medical condition, but is a confluence of skills and attitudes best learned from other blind people and qualified experts in rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, Section 2 of the proposed Medicare Vision Rehabilitation Coverage Act would give medical doctors the authority to prescribe "plans for care," undermining the responsibility and knowledge of blind people and rehabilitation professionals and allowing medical practitioners to assert jurisdiction in the field of rehabilitation, which is far beyond their scope of medical training; and

WHEREAS, another provision of this bill would require personnel employed to provide services to be licensed by the state or certified by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), if licensing is not required by the state; and

WHEREAS, this proposed requirement is particularly odious to the blind since AER has a well-documented history of excluding blind individuals from its certification processes by making visual observations of student performance a prerequisite for certification even though there are numerous blind professionals competently serving the blind today; and

WHEREAS, this attempt to exclude qualified blind professionals from the group authorized to serve the blind denies blind people the opportunity to teach and learn from one another and creates a climate which is counterproductive to the goals of vocational rehabilitation: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization vigorously and vehemently oppose the proposed Medicare Vision Rehabilitation Coverage Act of 1999 and promptly advise the Congress that this legislation represents an ill-conceived and unacceptable approach.

Resolution 2000-16

WHEREAS, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 includes the Universal Service Initiative to increase access to the Internet and availability of other telecommunications services through substantially discounted rates for public schools and libraries, significantly affecting the kind and quality of services they offer; and

WHEREAS, the selection of service providers made by schools and libraries can either support or limit access for persons who are blind, depending on the technology used by the service provider; and

WHEREAS, technology already exists that permits blind persons to take advantage of much of what the Internet has to offer with little or no modification required when selections are made with a little forethought; and

WHEREAS, some Internet service providers require that specific Web browsers and proprietary software be used to access fully their services, which in some cases have been developed in a way that makes it impossible for blind people to use their access technology; and

WHEREAS, most Internet service providers do not make their services dependent on specific Web browsers or software, allowing greater flexibility for everyone including blind persons; and

WHEREAS, although some of the information provided as a result of this initiative will be visual, certain choices can make even basic text difficult for blind persons to access: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Federal Communications Commission to develop rules insuring that discounts will be provided only for service and software configurations that permit use by blind people with the addition of appropriate access technology; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization make it clear that the requirement it seeks is not intended to mandate that the access technology itself be provided by this initiative.

Resolution 2000-17

WHEREAS, the federal/state vocational rehabilitation system is responsible for providing comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities, including those with legal blindness; and

WHEREAS, in some states the vocational rehabilitation agency serving the blind is currently using an order of selection process to determine which eligible consumers will be served in case of a budgetary shortfall; and

WHEREAS, vocational rehabilitation services should be provided as a top priority to eligible blind persons, since it is reasonable to classify blindness as among the most severe disabilities; and

WHEREAS, many legally blind persons in states where an order of selection is used are deprived of necessary and crucial vocational rehabilitation services because states claim that they are not the most severely disabled clients; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon Congress to eliminate the use of an order of selection process in the case of all legally blind, eligible consumers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the United States Department of Education to participate actively in seeking the elimination of the harmful restrictions imposed on blind people by the order of selection process.

Resolution 2000-18

WHEREAS, the Library of Congress National Digital Library Program (NDLP) is assembling a digital library of reproductions of primary source materials to support the study of the history and culture of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the NDLP is now in the process of digitizing selected collections of Library of Congress archival materials that chronicle the nation's rich cultural heritage, including books, pamphlets, motion pictures, manuscripts, and sound recordings; and

WHEREAS, the NDLP will substantially augment traditional libraries and research methods with significantly increased flexibility of access to materials, tremendous ease of use of materials and other library resources, and superior integration with software specializing in electronic document creation and presentation; and

WHEREAS, the NDLP is receiving millions of taxpayer dollars from Congress to create an effective interface between users and materials that should be designed to meet the needs of all end users, but the current design ignores nonvisual access and excludes the blind from the wealth of information the Digital Library offers; and

WHEREAS, nonvisual design methods are now widely available and their use would be most effective, most timely, and least costly during the design process rather than after a system has been designed and implemented: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon Congress immediately to require through regulation and budget obligation that nonvisual access be incorporated into all current and planned digitization of materials and the integration of the design and development of user interfaces and other related services provided by the National Digital Library Program.

Resolution 2000-19

WHEREAS, Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, stores, businesses, banks, private testing agencies, and other covered entities from discriminating against individuals with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Mark Foley and Congressman E. Clay Shaw have introduced H.R. 3590, the ADA Notification Act; and

WHEREAS, this legislation would require a potential plaintiff in Title III ADA cases to notify the owner of the public accommodation describing the violation and then to exhaust a ninety-day waiting period before a lawsuit can be filed; and

WHEREAS, the expressed justification for the legislation is that a flood of frivolous ADA suits is being filed by overly litigious attorneys; and

WHEREAS, the fact is that over 90 percent of ADA lawsuits are dismissed, causing the vast majority of attorneys to be very cautious about bringing ADA litigation; and

WHEREAS, the ADA itself and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure impose sanctions on attorneys who bring frivolous suits and allow defendants who have been sued frivolously to collect their attorneys' fees and costs; and

WHEREAS, the real effect of this proposed law would be that an owner of a public accommodation would be given statutory permission to discriminate against the blind and disabled until notified of the violation and for at least ninety days thereafter; and

WHEREAS, for the blind the effect of H.R. 3590 would be particularly odious because the mandatory ninety-day waiting period would very likely expire long after a blind person would need the goods or services provided by the public accommodation; and

WHEREAS, unlike almost all state and federal civil rights statutes, Title III of the ADA is comparatively weak because it does not allow for monetary damages to be awarded to plaintiffs, so that the only legal remedies people have under Title III are court-imposed orders to fix the problem and the possibility of recovering their attorneys' fees; and

WHEREAS, almost all other state and federal civil rights statutes do not require written notice and none allows for a ninety-day correction period: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization voice its strong opposition to H.R. 3590, the ADA Notification Act.

Resolution 2000-20

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

WHEREAS, blind vendors must be licensed by the state vocational rehabilitation agency serving the blind in order to benefit from this priority; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to the Randolph-Sheppard Act, the selection, assignment, and supervision of blind vendors is clearly the sole responsibility of the state licensing agency; and

WHEREAS, an agreement, normally called a permit for operation of a vending facility on federal property, is negotiated between the state licensing agency and the federal agency responsible for the property in question; and

WHEREAS, except for the United States Postal Service and the Department of Defense, both of which manage the federal property under their control, the General Services Administration (GSA) is the landlord for most federal agencies; and

WHEREAS, GSA is currently promoting a proposal to make each blind vendor's selection and continuation contingent upon approval by GSA officials even though the Randolph-Sheppard Act provides for selection of vendors to be made by the state licensing agency and prohibits suspension or termination unless, after affording the vendor an opportunity for a full evidentiary hearing, the agency finds that the vending facility is not being operated in accordance with the rules; and

WHEREAS, in addition to compliance with health codes, which already apply to blind vendors, GSA is also proposing to apply its own criteria to blind vendors, vending facility employees, and personnel of the state licensing agency, including the following: "Vendors will conduct themselves at all times both personally and in business in a first-class, professional, and businesslike manner with integrity consistent with reputable business standards and practices, and [so] that their behavior is also consistent with promoting a high reputation and positive image of GSA and the United States of America"; and

WHEREAS, criteria such as these are subject to whimsical interpretation and are legally unenforceable by GSA under the Randolph-Sheppard Act: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization condemn and deplore the proposal of the General Services Administration to apply performance criteria to blind vendors which are arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge all state licensing agencies to object to GSA's unilateral proposal and join with the National Federation of the Blind by insisting that GSA abide by the law and abandon the further consideration of performance criteria which are both outrageous and unacceptable.

Resolution 2000-21

WHEREAS, the World Wide Web is fast becoming the source of choice for people with information to publish and those needing that information; and

WHEREAS, this same technology is becoming an ever-increasing force in the world of commerce, allowing men and women to view, read about, and purchase items from the convenience of their homes; and

WHEREAS, when Web pages which make information and services available are correctly coded, blind people, using software known as screen readers, have access to the information contained on the World Wide Web and thus can fully access the resources that abound there; and

WHEREAS, two problems contribute to the creation of inaccessible Web pages, the first being the failure to consider that not all members of the audience will use vision to access the content of the Web page and the second being the failure of Web-authoring tools to include accessibility features which would, as a part of developing any Web page, prompt for the required information, ensuring that the page is usable by screen-reading software, and,

WHEREAS, laws such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act address accessibility needs but cannot be expected on their own to create widespread Internet access for the blind; and

WHEREAS, most Internet training and certification programs do not include nonvisual access as part of their curricula and requirements for Web certification; and

WHEREAS, incorporating the methodologies that successfully make Web pages accessible for people who are blind into the training and certification programs that now exist could go a long way toward building accessibility into Web sites from the ground up, rather than having such accessibility be an afterthought, requiring changes to an already existing site; and

WHEREAS, much of the foregoing difficulty can be addressed through vigorous advocacy and education on the part of the blind, capitalizing on the desire of Web-page developers and those for whom they work to include the largest possible audience for the products and services they offer: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon leaders in the computer industry to join with us in publicizing the need for Web-page accessibility and the solutions which currently exist to make this a reality; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon institutions providing training and certification in Web design to incorporate information about the accessibility needs of the blind into their curriculum and to make certification of Websites contingent on the implementation of coding practices which incorporate this accessibility; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call on developers of Web-authoring tools to work with us in designing their products so that required information to provide accessibility is sought and entered as the page is being written, thereby resulting in the creation of Web-based documents readily useable by the blind.

Resolution 2000-22

WHEREAS, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) establishes as the fundamental tool for guiding the education of a student receiving special services the IEP (Individualized Education Program), a document periodically prepared and updated by all those most familiar with and responsible for the education of the student (parents, teachers, administrators, and the student); and

WHEREAS, no special education or related services can be provided to such a student without a valid IEP in effect nor can any such services not specified in the IEP be provided to the student; and

WHEREAS, the accommodations and methods specified on the IEP have been determined to be the most appropriate for that particular blind or visually impaired student, a determination having the force of federal law since all special education and related services must be defined and delivered through the IEP process; and

WHEREAS, state-required proficiency or accountability tests are becoming increasingly common in school systems across the country; and

WHEREAS, these tests are often the deciding factor in determining whether a student may graduate and get a high school diploma or pass on to the next grade or educational level; and

WHEREAS, in some instances problems have arisen concerning the medium in which a test should be administered to a blind or visually impaired student when policies by state departments of education conflict with the IEP team's authority to determine appropriate test-taking methods and accommodations for that student; and

WHEREAS, instances have arisen in which a blind or visually impaired student is required to take a proficiency test in a medium (such as Braille) in which the student is not yet fluent due to recent sight loss--a situation which forces the student to take a high-stakes test without proper skills due to no fault of his or her own and contrary to the dictates of the student's IEP in effect at the time; and

WHEREAS, other instances have arisen in which state officials refuse to produce a test in Braille when the IEP team has provided for all instruction and testing in Braille, a situation in which the student is unfairly subjected to high-stakes testing in a medium contrary to the IEP and in which the student is not fluent; and

WHEREAS, state departments of education bear a significant responsibility for implementing policies in their states to assure that blind and visually impaired students receive a free and appropriate education under the provisions of IDEA: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization demand that state departments of education establish policies which acknowledge and defer to the authority of the blind or visually impaired student's IEP team in the selection of appropriate accommodations and methods for all tests, including all state-required proficiency and accountability examinations.

Resolution 2000-23

WHEREAS, the vast majority of working-age blind people receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, which are often their principal source of income; and

WHEREAS, beneficiaries who work must report their earnings to the Social Security Administration and be evaluated from time to time to determine their continued eligibility, often resulting in claims of overpayment being made against beneficiaries; and

WHEREAS, overpayment claims may be appealed and are often reversed, but the Social Security Administration is still permitted to suspend benefits during the appeal if the extent of a beneficiary's work activity is in dispute; and

WHEREAS, the suspension of benefits in work-activity disputes occurs without affording the beneficiary due process before needed benefits are completely withheld, and the unexpected and abrupt suspension of benefits can leave beneficiaries in financially devastating circumstances, compounded by an appeals process that is often prolonged and may take years to complete: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization insist that the Social Security Administration adopt regulations which would prohibit the suspension of benefits during an appeal; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Congress, if the Administration fails to adopt new regulations, to amend the Social Security Act to eliminate this unfair policy.

Resolution 2000-24

WHEREAS, successful academic progress in fields of science and engineering requires reading current scientific periodicals in a timely manner; and

WHEREAS, employment as a scientist requires the same access to scientific publications; and

WHEREAS, the 1972 Revision of the Nemeth Braille Code is a standard system for Braille mathematics notation for the blind; and

WHEREAS, Braille transcribers certified in the Nemeth Braille Code are in short supply; and

WHEREAS, preparing a scientific article in the Nemeth Braille Code takes significant time and effort, usually six months or longer; and

WHEREAS, MathML is an electronic markup language for displaying and reusing mathematical and scientific notation; and

WHEREAS, MathML is in the process of being adopted by the World Wide Web Consortium, a standards body with wide industry support as shaper of the World Wide Web; and

WHEREAS, the MathML format offers the possibility of automatic and accurate translation into the Nemeth Braille Code; and

WHEREAS, publishers of standards and academic journals provide databases of publications via the World Wide Web in formats inaccessible to the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call on publishers who offer publications via the World Wide Web, including I.E.E.E. Press, to offer scientific Web publications in the MathML format, to publish materials in MathML at the same time as publishing these materials in inaccessible formats, and to work with standards bodies that include the organized blind before adopting new formats for publishing via the Web; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call on developers of Braille translation software to develop software that provides Braille translation of MathML documents into the Nemeth Braille Code.

Resolution 2000-25

WHEREAS, the certificate of General Educational Development (GED) is offered in all fifty states as the alternative path to high school completion, essential for vocational preparation and success; and

WHEREAS, one-half million people per year achieve this important goal by passing a five-part standardized test; and

WHEREAS, among these test-takers are blind men and women seeking a high-school equivalency certificate along their personal path to growth and development; and

WHEREAS, the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education produces this test and issues the regulations for its administration, including regulations that provide for use of large-print, Braille, and taped versions of the test and for use of a live scribe to write down answers during administration of the test to blind test-takers; and

WHEREAS, the GED regulations puzzlingly and illegally prohibit the use of a live reader to read the questions even though this is a standard method for taking tests by the blind, used in the administration of every other standardized test in this country; and

WHEREAS, this prohibition is totally unacceptable, placing an unnecessary and unlawful stumbling block in the path of blind persons taking the personal responsibility of doing their best to better their condition and is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and its implementing regulations; and

WHEREAS, the next revision of the test (projected for the year 2001) is expected to rely much more on graphics than the current version does, making it more likely that more blind test-takers will wish to choose live readers since providing effective graphics in Braille and on tape is an inexact science; and

WHEREAS, despite the fact that modern technology has made Braille easy to produce, there is some indication that the test will not continue to be provided in Braille: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the American Council on Education to administer the GED in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the amendment of its regulations where necessary, to ensure that all blind test-takers have and continue to have their choice among all of the four standard media routinely used by blind persons to access standardized tests: large print, Braille, tape, and live reader.

Resolution 2000-26

WHEREAS, blind and visually impaired consumers of assistive technology have, at the national level, a limited number of vendors from whom to purchase such equipment; and

WHEREAS, for the typical blind consumer this means that the vendor of a particular product cannot be found in the local area; and

WHEREAS, in response to this problem manufacturers of assistive technology for the blind often establish dealer networks to provide a more local presence; and

WHEREAS, the ability to purchase technology from a dealer who is closer geographically than a national vendor of technology in effect affords the blind consumer with a better opportunity to shop for assistive technology--similar to the way everyone shops for goods and services by going to a retail store; and

WHEREAS, some vendors of assistive technology have adopted the practice of permitting only one person or entity to sell their products in a given geographic area or prohibiting local dealers of their technology from selling competing products; and

WHEREAS, these practices have the effect of restricting competition in a free and open market and forcing blind consumers to buy from dealers who may not be providing the highest level of service in a given area; and

WHEREAS, the right of the consumer to purchase goods and services from competing retailers in a given geographic area has been firmly established in the general market; and

WHEREAS, it is commonplace for local retailers of goods and services in the general commercial market to offer consumers a choice of competing brands: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon manufacturers of assistive technology for the blind to eliminate practices which stifle competition and limit consumer choice--particularly those practices which limit the number of dealers of a specific technology in a given geographic area and which prohibit dealers from selling competing technologies.

Resolution 2000-27

WHEREAS, it is the role of the federal/state vocational rehabilitation system to provide comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services to people with disabilities, including those who are legally blind; and

WHEREAS, the central focus of vocational rehabilitation services is employment; and

WHEREAS, adaptive electronic technology frequently enables legally blind people to perform essential job functions; and

WHEREAS, adaptive electronic technology is often sufficiently costly that prospective employers frequently consider the provision of this accommodation unreasonable; and

WHEREAS, there has been no appreciable increase in the employment rate of legally blind persons since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 and its provisions for employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, state vocational rehabilitation agencies continue to use the reasonable-accommodation provision of the ADA to shirk their responsibilities by insisting that employers pay for adaptive technology, ignoring policy guidance from the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and

WHEREAS, the practice of the vocational rehabilitation system to request employer participation in the provision of reasonable accommodations to legally blind employees is inadvertently causing employment discrimination: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, 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 strengthen and reissue policy guidance ordering state vocational rehabilitation agencies to refrain from the practice of asking employers of legally blind people to participate in the provision of costly accommodations and to provide these accommodations themselves.

Resolution 2000-28

WHEREAS, in a misguided effort to make the voting process more accessible to the blind, various election boards have developed a system using tactilely-marked plastic overlays which are placed over the printed ballot; and

WHEREAS, in theory this system permits the blind voter to place the appropriate mark on the ballot next to the name of the preferred candidate or a "yes" or "no" choice; and

WHEREAS, a unique plastic overlay and an accompanying audiocassette must be custom-made for each local election, meaning that for each election hundreds of different overlays and audiocassettes must be created; and

WHEREAS, there is no way, using the tactile overlay, for the blind voter to verify without sighted assistance that the ballot has been marked correctly; and

WHEREAS, the tactile overlay system represents a costly logistical nightmare for state and local election officials and a false promise of independence for the blind; and

WHEREAS, for the blind working with a sighted assistant or reader of the voter's choice has been and continues to be a viable method for full participation in the electoral process; and

WHEREAS, new electronic voting technologies, designed with nonvisual access, offer the best long term hope for providing the blind with another way to cast their votes independently and the ability to verify without sighted assistance that the correct votes have been cast: Now, Therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization express its strong opposition to the use of tactile overlays and audiocassettes as a means of providing blind voters with the ability to cast their votes in a so-called independent manner; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon national, state, and local election officials to abandon their misguided efforts to develop tactile-overlay schemes and to concentrate instead upon providing full nonvisual access to electronic voting technologies which permit the blind to cast and verify their votes without sighted assistance.

Resolution 2000-29

WHEREAS, federal law has long recognized the special needs of blind persons as demonstrated in Chapter 2 of Title 7 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, which provides authority for funds to support a targeted program of services to older blind individuals; and

WHEREAS, regardless of the age of onset of blindness, a person can acquire a set of specific and sensible skills and attitudes that allow the newly-blinded person to continue to live a full and productive life; and

WHEREAS, long experience has shown that many workers in generalized agencies which handle a variety of disabilities unconsciously reflect the myths and misconceptions about blindness held by society in general and lack the knowledge of positive attitudes and adaptive skills and equipment that enable blind persons to live full, active, and productive lives; and

WHEREAS, national statistics show that, among all those who become blind, the onset of blindness occurs after age sixty in over half the cases, and common sense indicates that newly blinded older persons have lived most of their lives with the public perception of the blind as helpless and dependent, a situation which can lead to the newly-blinded person's accepting a philosophy of dependence; and

WHEREAS, without the right information and services, the newly-blinded person may give up personal dignity and independence rather than learning the specialized alternative techniques of blindness; and

WHEREAS, to overcome this difficulty requires skilled professionals in work with the blind who believe in the capabilities of blind persons and have knowledge of the specialized skills and techniques of living with blindness and are capable of providing support and encouragement because of this knowledge and belief; and

WHEREAS, federal and university-based studies have clearly shown that blind people are best served in specialized agencies for the blind; and

WHEREAS, federal law requires that funds for community-based independent living centers can be provided only to centers that serve all disabilities, a requirement which results in overlooking the specialized needs of blind people in favor of a general disability approach: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization seek amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to provide federal support for centers for independent living which are established and operated to serve the blind, as long as all other requirements pertaining to independent living centers are met.

Resolution 2000-30

WHEREAS, the use of desktop personal computers and other devices which use current computing technology is increasingly an essential part of modern life, both in the workplace and in leisure activities; and

WHEREAS, the blind, like their sighted colleagues, use computer technology for many purposes, including the gathering of information available on the Internet and the World Wide Web; and

WHEREAS, while an abundance of information is available on the Internet, the World Wide Web itself has become less user-friendly for blind computer users as Web developers rely increasingly on graphical images, which cannot be read or reproduced by adaptive technology used by the blind; and

WHEREAS, this increased use of a graphically-oriented interface on the Web is rendering many Web sites essentially useless to blind computer users; and

WHEREAS, the blind benefit from the presentation of information on the Web in a text-based format; and

WHEREAS, the increased use of personal digital assistants (PDA's), which have small screens and are unable to present graphic images, has meant that the computer industry in general and the PDA industry in particular must seek ways to present information on the Web in textual formats that can easily be presented and read on small screens; and

WHEREAS, PDA manufacturers and service providers have used specially encoded electronic files, sometimes called Web clippings, which provide text versions of information available on Internet Web sites in a format designed to be compatible with the PDA technology and small screens used on PDA's; and

WHEREAS, it is the opinion of the National Federation of the Blind that this method of presenting Web-based information could also be used effectively by blind users of desktop computers and other access devices especially designed for the blind, including accessible PDA's: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization work with representatives of the PDA industry to explore whether the methods used to present information from the Web on PDA's might be used to deliver information from the Web to desktop computers and other access devices, thus allowing the blind to use readily available adaptive software and devices to read the information in a text-based format.

Resolution 2000-31

WHEREAS, history demonstrates that blind students in higher education achieve success through self-reliance and mastery of the alternative skills and techniques of blindness; and

WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, has been misinterpreted to overemphasize the universally accessible learning environment and institutional management of legal liabilities, causing colleges to do for blind students what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves; and

WHEREAS, in yet another misinterpretation of the ADA, state rehabilitation agencies for the blind dump many of their rehabilitative responsibilities on colleges in the mistaken assumption that the law requires colleges to be fully responsible for blind students, thus taking on aspects of rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, the purpose of higher education is to provide an education and the purpose of rehabilitation agencies is to provide rehabilitation, which includes training as well as auxiliary aids and services such as funding for readers, purchasing adaptive equipment, and providing training in the alternative techniques of blindness; and

WHEREAS, no comprehensive guideline or best-practices model for accommodating blind students in higher education is available as a reference for colleges, rehabilitation agencies for the blind, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, and blind students, leading to overaccommodation and college imposition of unnecessary and unwanted custodial restrictions on blind students simply because the disability service staff are untrained and unaware of the capabilities of the blind, including their need to learn independence; and

WHEREAS, the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), an organization of disability service providers in post-secondary education, has the ability and duty to participate in the publication and distribution of guidelines and best-practice models on how to accommodate blind college students: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call on state rehabilitation agencies for the blind to perform their duties of preparing blind students for college study and providing the necessary services for study in college; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge colleges to refrain from doing for blind students what blind students are capable of doing for themselves and to refrain from assuming responsibilities correctly borne by state rehabilitation agencies for the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Association on Higher Education and Disability and the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to join with it in developing and publishing a guideline and best-practice model for accommodating blind students in higher education to maximize learning and eliminate the unnecessary, unintentional, and widespread fostering of dependency now occurring on America's college campuses.

Resolution 2000-32

WHEREAS, for many blind people the cell phone is an appliance they use every day and for some is a necessity; and

WHEREAS, a number of cell-phone service providers such as AT&T and Cellular One have recently eliminated mechanisms which have enabled blind customers to keep track of the number of minutes used during cell phone calls without sighted assistance; and

WHEREAS, customers who want to track the number of minutes used for their cell phone calls are now being told to use their cell phone minute counters, which are inherently visual and not accessible to the blind; and

WHEREAS, the lack of nonvisual access to the cell phone minute counter is symptomatic of a broader problem with today's cell phone technology, which to an increasing extent requires the customer to use a visual display, inaccessible to the blind, to exercise all of the features of this ubiquitous appliance: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon AT&T, CellularOne, and other cell phone service providers to maintain, restore, or create a means through which all customers, including the blind, can call a toll-free number to determine the number of minutes that have been used on their personal accounts; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon AT&T, CellularOne, and other cell-phone service providers to work with the National Federation of the Blind, the largest and most effective consumer organization of the blind, to develop technologies, procedures, and practices designed to enable the blind to use, without sighted assistance, all features incorporated into the cell phones of today and tomorrow.

Resolution 2000-33

WHEREAS, blind people successfully use a wide variety of alternative techniques in order to function independently; and

WHEREAS, blind people who have mastered alternative techniques and who have a positive philosophy about blindness can tackle most challenges in education, career, and daily life; and

WHEREAS, sadly, not all persons providing training as professionals in the field of work with the blind have achieved the deep sense of the capabilities of the blind and of the wide horizons open to blind people that more and more blind people have actually achieved for themselves; and

WHEREAS, proper training in alternative techniques and exposure to a positive philosophy of blindness are essential in the rehabilitation and education of blind people; and

WHEREAS, members of the blind community who practice these techniques and this philosophy are in an excellent position to judge the adequacy of professionals who teach blind people; and

WHEREAS, the Academy for the Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (the Academy) was incorporated in January, 2000, for the following purposes: 1) to develop, implement, and administer evaluative standards for the certification and recertification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals; 2 ) to grant recognition to individuals who meet the standards; and 3) to monitor and take action to revoke, suspend, or continue certification based on adherence to the standards by certificants; and

WHEREAS, this certification process, dressed up in the form of a new academy is simply the replacement for certification conducted by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), having essentially the same criteria and characteristics as the AER approach; and

WHEREAS, in keeping with the practice of AER, the Academy has never sought the participation of organized blind consumers and has actually established itself without input either regarding the need for such a body in the first place or meaningful input in the form of ongoing participation in its governance by persons genuinely representative of the modern view of blindness; and

WHEREAS, representatives of blind consumers, chosen by the blind themselves, have special expertise in the alternative techniques and positive philosophy of blindness and have a deep and abiding commitment to insure the best possible rehabilitation and education for blind people; and

WHEREAS, in this day and age it is unthinkable for a certifying body such as the Academy to be established without input from the National Federation of the Blind; and

WHEREAS, the only explanation that fits the facts is that blind people were deliberately excluded from the determination of need and are being deliberately excluded from the ongoing operation of this organization purely and simply because the founders do not value the knowledge and experience which capable blind persons could offer, apparently not being capable themselves of imagining that blind people have anything whatsoever to contribute, with the result that must remain dependents rather than peers: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the Academy first to admit that representatives of the NFB chosen by the blind themselves are their peers in knowledge and professional commitment to the growth of blind persons and, second, to recognize that blind persons must be meaningfully involved in ongoing governance of the Academy; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization declare its intention to oppose the Academy and all its works if the Academy fails to demonstrate its ability to value capable blind professionals by way of commitment to training the blind for real independence rather than the dependence to which so many blind persons have been sentenced by professionals of the old school.

Resolution 2000-34

WHEREAS, The National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and the largest organization of blind consumers in the United States; and

WHEREAS, blind people enjoy television as much as others in our society; and

WHEREAS, there is an ever-growing array of program choices available through cable and satellite-dish program providers; and

WHEREAS, it is difficult for blind, visually impaired, and print-handicapped subscribers of these services to access on-screen program schedules and ordering information; and

WHEREAS, both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Telecommunications Act mandate media accessibility; and

WHEREAS, creative solutions to seemingly unsolvable access issues have been developed through partnerships between the organized blind and industries; and

WHEREAS, NEWSLINE(r) for the Blind, a partnership between the National Federation of the Blind and newspaper publishers that provides the blind with access to newspapers by telephone, is proof of what can be accomplished through such partnerships: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the cable and satellite-dish industry to work with the National Federation of the Blind to develop an effective, convenient, and inexpensive method to make all on-screen programming information available to blind consumers.

Resolution 2000-35

WHEREAS, in today's increasingly globalized world, it is incumbent upon the international community to ensure the full human rights and fundamental freedoms of people with disabilities and their equal opportunity to participate in all spheres of human activity, no matter where they may happen to be in the global village; and

WHEREAS, the UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities is the principal international instrument specifically addressing the civil, political, economic, and social status of disabled persons, even though it is not legally binding under international law; and

WHEREAS, on the other hand, the UN has adopted international conventions, which are legally binding upon their states' parties, covering the human rights and fundamental freedoms of other historically disadvantaged populations, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and

WHEREAS, the fact that the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability was appointed in 1994 and twice re-appointed since then by the UN's Commission for Social Development rather than by its Commission on Human Rights indicates that the UN still views the problems of people with disabilities primarily in social-welfare terms rather than as a human-rights issue; and

WHEREAS, in March 2000 the five major world organizations in the disability field including the World Blind Union, at their meeting in Beijing, China, called for the formulation of an international convention on the rights of people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, in April, 2000 at its fifty-sixth annual session in Geneva, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted a consensus resolution in which it "invites the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission for Social Development, to examine measures to strengthen the protection and monitoring of the human rights of persons with disabilities and to solicit input and proposals from interested parties"; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Department of State has expressed its opposition to the concept of an international convention on the rights of people with disabilities, arguing that the rights of disabled persons are already sufficiently protected under existing international legal instruments and that the need to define disability in a new convention would pose extremely difficult problems: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon the White House, the Department of State, and the Congress to adopt a policy fully supportive of the formulation by the UN of an international convention on the rights of people with disabilities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Administration and Congress to assume the leadership in marshalling broad international backing for such a convention, leadership no less bold and determined than that which they demonstrated a decade ago in promoting, promulgating, and implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Resolution 2000-36

WHEREAS, the 1997 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) added orientation and mobility to the list of related services available to students with disabilities; and WHEREAS, orientation and mobility services must be provided by qualified personnel as determined by state and local education agencies; and

WHEREAS, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) is actively encouraging state education agencies to include AER certification in its definition of who is qualified to provide orientation and mobility services and has been successful to this end in some states; and

WHEREAS, the AER certification process may provide instructors with the functional knowledge of cane travel techniques, but it does not provide either a constructive or an enlightened view of the capacity of the blind, which is the essential ingredient to successful and independent travel for the blind; and

WHEREAS, without a deep and firm understanding of the capacities of blind individuals, AER-certified instructors often convey a negative and limiting attitude about blindness to young blind students receiving orientation and mobility instruction under IDEA at a time when the child's beliefs are being formed that will have lifelong consequences; and

WHEREAS, methods and standards are available to determine qualified orientation and mobility instructors other than AER certification which contain not only the functional knowledge of cane travel technique, but the important positive attitude about blindness: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this eighth day of July, 2000, in the City of Atlanta, Georgia, that this organization call upon all state and local education agencies to refrain from recognizing certification by AER or that of its successor organization--the Academy for the Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals--in determining qualifications for orientation and mobility instructors; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon state education agencies to consult with the National Federation of the Blind when developing and implementing standards and requirements that will be applied to orientation and mobility instructors.

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