The Braille Monitor                                                                               August/September, 2003

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National Federation of the Blind 2003 Resolutions

RESOLUTION 2003-01

Regarding: Commendation of RSA and Commissioner Wilson

WHEREAS, during the past year the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), under the leadership of its commissioner, Dr. Joanne Wilson, has provided opportunities for informed discussion and debate about methods of teaching travel and other independence skills to the blind; and

WHEREAS, November 13-15, 2002, the RSA sponsored the first-ever conference on residential training centers for blind adults--a conference hailed by the majority of participants as productive, positive, and exemplary; and

WHEREAS, through the Institute on Rehabilitation Issues, the RSA commissioned a monograph (to be completed this fall) to explore important issues in orientation and mobility training of the blind including the efficacy of blind orientation and mobility instructors and the structured-discovery method; and

WHEREAS, the RSA contracted with James Omvig, a leader in the field of work with the blind, to write the refreshingly straightforward book, Freedom for the Blind: The Secret Is Empowerment, which concisely articulates a positive approach to rehabilitation of the blind and emphasizes a positive, can-do philosophy of blindness; and

WHEREAS, because of RSA's recent leadership efforts, a broad-based discussion of alternative models of rehabilitation is now taking place: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization strongly commend the Rehabilitation Services Administration and its commissioner, Dr. Joanne Wilson, for outstanding leadership in the field of rehabilitation.

RESOLUTION 2003-02

Regarding: Parental Involvement in the Education of Blind Children

WHEREAS, H.R. 1350, the Improving Educational Results for Children with Disabilities Act of 2003, in part purports to re-establish trust between parents and local educational agencies by reducing litigation and also to reduce paperwork in the education process; and

WHEREAS, to reduce litigation, H.R. 1350 would establish limitations against all claims by parents against schools, permitting governors to set the amount of attorney fees payable by law to the lawyers of victorious parents, and establishing a voluntary binding arbitration procedure in addition to the due process procedure already in place for the resolution of disputes between parents and schools; and

WHEREAS, the measures being put into place in the Act to reduce litigation misfire because the measures actually construct barriers to parental pursuit of remedies under the Act; and

WHEREAS, to reduce paperwork, H.R. 1350 would establish an optional three-year Individualized Educational Program (IEP), do away with short-term written objectives used to measure educational progress, and replace short-term objectives with annual reports under the Leave No Child Behind Act; and

WHEREAS, the measures being put into place to reduce paperwork will result in less information being transmitted by schools to parents about their children and less opportunity for parental contact with educators of their children; and

WHEREAS, getting quality educational programs for blind children is already extremely difficult due to factors such as shortages of staff who know what they are doing and the lack of commitment by schools to Braille instruction, H.R. 1350 compounds the difficulty by shifting the balance from that of a shared commitment to one with diminished influence for parents and diminished accountability for local educational agencies; and

WHEREAS, these factors will aggravate parental frustration, lead to a more combative relationship between parents and schools, and drain resources away from education to resolve disputes--all of which are ironic impacts of a law intended to improve education; and

WHEREAS, H.R. 1350 would give schools a lopsided advantage over parents in the resolution of disputes because the Act permits governors to establish limits on attorney fees for victorious parents while providing no such limitation for schools: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Congress of the United States, in its adoption of legislation to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, to affirm the involvement of parents of blind children in the development and implementation of educational programs for their children and to refrain from constructing barriers to parental pursuit of remedies under the act and reducing measurable disability-based objectives for progress.

RESOLUTION 2003-03

Regarding: Vocational Rehabilitation and Workforce Centers

WHEREAS, one-stop centers created under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 are required to serve blind and disabled consumers and must be accessible to people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, programmatic and physical accessibility are basic principles of nondiscrimination regulations which apply to one-stop centers just as much as they do to all other federally assisted programs; and

WHEREAS, regardless of these requirements, members of the National Federation of the Blind still find that the commitment to accessibility of one-stop centers is more lip service than reality, with access technology either not available, not working, or not staffed with anyone aware of how to use it; and

WHEREAS, H.R. 1261, the Workforce Reinvestment and Adult Education Act of 2003, would further support the one-stop system, which is largely ineffective for blind people, by giving governors virtually unlimited authority to pay for one-stop costs out of federal funds awarded to one-stop partners, including vocational rehabilitation agencies; and

WHEREAS, enacting this authority would establish the unacceptable policy of placing federal vocational rehabilitation funds at the discretion of the governor, rather than being spent as originally intended by Congress: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge the Congress to appropriate funds directly to states for the specific purpose of paying the routine infrastructure costs of one-stop centers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly oppose broad discretion being provided to the governors to use funds from the vocational rehabilitation program to support the one-stop centers, especially since the centers themselves contribute little or nothing to improving training and employment services to blind people.

RESOLUTION 2003-04

Regarding: Commendation of Al Diaz and the NASA Goddard Space Center

WHEREAS, knowledge of science and the universe contributes to the quality of life of both blind and sighted children as well as enhancing educational and career opportunities; and

WHEREAS, the NASA Goddard Space Center supported the development of the landmark tactile book, Touch the Universe, which helps blind children gain a more holistic understanding of the cosmos; and

WHEREAS, Goddard's director, Al Diaz, continues to be a friend of the National Federation of the Blind and to take a personal and active interest in our forward-looking activities; and

WHEREAS, with training and opportunity blind people can compete and have competed on an equal footing with sighted peers in scientific fields; and

WHEREAS, under the leadership of Al Diaz the Goddard Space Center is developing plans to work in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind to encourage blind youth in the fields of math and science; and

WHEREAS, Goddard is also interested in the transfer of technologies developed for the space program which may benefit the blind in our day-to-day lives on the planet Earth, providing staff time, talent, and expertise to that purpose; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization commend the NASA Goddard Space Center and its director, Al Diaz, for exemplary public service as demonstrated by their interest in and efforts toward a partnership with the National Federation of the Blind to improve the lives of the blind through greater understanding of science and to apply its principles more fully to the goals of opportunity and equality.

RESOLUTION 2003-05

Regarding: Quiet Cars

WHEREAS, blind people use the sound of traffic to travel independently and safely in the world; and

WHEREAS, in general sighted pedestrians also use the sound of traffic, in combination with other techniques, to travel safely as demonstrated by the use of a mandatory noise on large vehicles backing up; and

WHEREAS, vehicles have become increasingly quiet as greater emphasis has been placed on reducing air and noise pollution and as motor vehicle technology has evolved; and

WHEREAS, vehicles powered by batteries or fuel cells and vehicles powered by a combination of conventional gas engines and electricity, known as hybrid cars, are frequently not detectable by the human ear until the vehicle is within inches of the listener; and

WHEREAS, federal and state requirements based on environmental concerns are leading manufacturers to develop lowered and zero emission vehicles such as electric and hybrid cars that will likely be marketed and bought in greater and greater numbers; and

WHEREAS, as quiet vehicles reach a critical mass on the streets of America and throughout the world, action must be taken to ensure that they emit a noise while in operation or that other solutions are found so that all pedestrians can continue to move safely among such cars and so that such cars are detectable by blind pedestrians to ensure their ability to move safely and independently using nonvisual techniques; and

WHEREAS, audible pedestrian signals at intersections with traffic signals do not solve the problem of quiet cars and pedestrian safety for several reasons, among them that drivers do not always obey traffic signals and that blind pedestrians travel everywhere, including intersections that are not signalized, parking lots, and points where driveways cross pedestrian paths: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express its deep concern that the safe and free travel of blind pedestrians and all pedestrians may be significantly and increasingly impaired by quiet vehicles, a problem that will grow as such vehicles become more prevalent; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization call upon the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration within the Department of Transportation to initiate research to be performed with significant participation by the National Federation of the Blind to investigate the effect of quiet cars on blind pedestrians and all pedestrians, with the aim of proposing safety-based solutions to the problem.

RESOLUTION 2003-06 was withdrawn and replaced by Resolution 2003-101

RESOLUTION 2003-07

Regarding: Amtrak

WHEREAS, effective public transportation is essential for blind people to work, travel, and lead productive lives; and

WHEREAS, continued federal funding of Amtrak is essential to maintain it as a comprehensive national rail passenger system; and

WHEREAS, many regions throughout the country have initiated rail passenger service; and

WHEREAS, others are considering starting, improving, or expanding them; and

WHEREAS, these ongoing initiatives hold both the promise of improving passenger transportation and the threat of reducing or eliminating these essential services for everyone, including the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge Congress to continue funding Amtrak; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work with key officials and advocates to sustain and improve passenger train service.

RESOLUTION 2003-08

Regarding: Preservation of the Randolph-Sheppard Priority

WHEREAS, the federal Randolph-Sheppard program provides significant entrepreneurial opportunities to blind Americans through a statutory priority to operate vending facilities on federal property; and

WHEREAS, another federal law, the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, gives nonprofit agencies a priority to sell products or services to the federal government when the products or services are placed on a statutorily mandated procurement list, provided that blind or severely disabled people perform at least 75 percent of the direct-labor hours used to produce the products or services, with agencies employing blind people represented by National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and agencies employing people with severe disabilities represented by NISH (formerly known as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped); and

WHEREAS, NISH has mounted an aggressive challenge to the Randolph-Sheppard priority by acquiring contracts to provide military troop dining services in direct conflict with the statutory priority for blind vendors and has recently convinced the United States Senate to pass a provision in a defense reauthorization bill, hoping eventually to make the Randolph-Sheppard Act inapplicable to troop dining services whenever such services at any particular military installation have been placed on the Javits-Wagner-O'Day procurement list; and

WHEREAS, changing the law to exclude blind vendors from becoming managers of military troop dining facilities would impose a serious and unwarranted restriction on opportunities for blind vendors in favor of low-wage jobs for disabled people, with high pay and substantial benefits going to their nondisabled managers and a percentage of each military troop dining contract being paid directly to NISH, as well: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge the Congress to uphold the blind vendor priority as expressed in the Randolph-Sheppard Act and as implemented at military troop dining facilities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly oppose any attempts by NISH and its member agencies to alter or dismantle the blind-vendor priority in any way whatsoever.

RESOLUTION 2003-09

Regarding: The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC)

WHEREAS, NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired) came to life in 1967 in an era when blindness professionals rather than the blind themselves drove the service system; and

WHEREAS, agencies serving the blind have largely abandoned this "standards-driven" approach and adopted a philosophy of partnerships and cooperative collaboration with blind consumers; and

WHEREAS, over time NAC withered away to a mere shadow of its former self, boasting fewer than 10 percent of the NAC member agencies it had once anticipated; and

WHEREAS, in late 2002 the National Federation of the Blind was invited to sit at the table with NAC leaders to negotiate a change of practices, only to find the same old tired excuses shrouding a flagrant unwillingness to recognize that as blind people we alone have the expertise to identify and access quality services, rendering NAC contra-indicated in its self-appointed capacity; and

WHEREAS, NAC further minimized the role of the NFB, its leaders, its members, and indeed all blind citizens by inviting reputable accrediting bodies to this so-called summit in a thinly veiled attempt to artificially bolster their own diminishing viability in the field; and

WHEREAS, this attempt failed to elicit support from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities or even enough interest from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to send a representative to the summit; and

WHEREAS, neither torrential downpours nor flooded sidewalks could quell the spirits or waylay the efforts of Federationists in their quest to educate the public about the hideous atrocities NAC had perpetrated on the blind for more than thirty-six years; and

WHEREAS, only forty-one American agencies now appear on NAC's member rolls, some of which are reported to be delinquent in their payment of fees, thus appearing in name only; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the divisive and reprehensible tactics of NAC, exemplified by its dying efforts to re-establish itself as a legitimate accrediting body; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon those few remaining misguided NAC agencies to put the final nail into the coffin by renouncing their membership and supporting our efforts to create a NAC-free world.

RESOLUTION 2003-10

Regarding: The Portrayal of Blind Characters and the Casting of Blind Actors

WHEREAS, the major problem faced by blind people in America is the fact that most members of the general public completely misunderstand the true nature of blindness and mistakenly assume that the blind as a class are virtually helpless and incompetent; and

WHEREAS, to remedy this problem, the National Federation of the Blind and its members individually work diligently and in various ways to provide true and accurate information about blindness and blind people; and

WHEREAS, the entertainment industry through motion pictures, theatrical productions, and television programs frequently features blind characters which, more often than not, because of the manner in which they are portrayed, tend to perpetuate the myths and misconceptions about blindness rather than constructively to replace the myths with accurate information; and

WHEREAS, this negative portrayal arises for two primary reasons: first, directors and production companies, who are responsible for composition and casting, have not seen the wisdom of consulting with the National Federation of the Blind to learn from the experts how blind characters should be portrayed; and, second, blind characters are virtually always played by sighted actors who lack knowledge of how blind people should be depicted; and

WHEREAS, since the accurate portrayal of blind characters would do much to improve the public image of blind people, the National Federation of the Blind stands ready to partner as consultants with the entertainment industry, specifically, directors and production companies; and

WHEREAS, many aspiring blind actors would be greatly encouraged to pursue acting careers if they knew that they might be seriously considered for or given priority in filling these roles; and

WHEREAS, various entities exist which currently hold résumés of blind actors who seek the opportunity to perform in motion pictures, theatrical productions, and television programs and serve as growing sources for talented blind actors: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge directors and production companies in the entertainment industry to consult with the National Federation of the Blind for expert assistance whenever a blind character is to be portrayed in a motion picture, theatrical production, or television program; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge directors and production companies in the entertainment industry to seek out blind actors, when appropriate, to portray blind characters, including those known to and available through the organizations that assist actors with disabilities in finding work, and to employ the talents of blind actors to the maximum extent possible in portraying all characters.

RESOLUTION 2003-11

Regarding: Federal Funding of Audible Pedestrian Signals

WHEREAS, Section 1202 (G)(2) of the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-First Century (TEA-21) requires transportation planners to consider safety of bicyclists and pedestrians and further states that safety considerations "shall include the installation, where appropriate, of audible traffic signals and audible signs at street crossings"; and

WHEREAS, it is assumed, but unproven, that audible traffic signals and audible signs make crossing streets safer; and

WHEREAS, rather than demonstrating that safety is improved, proponents of these audible warnings rely upon the TEA-21 language as indicating a national mandate in favor of their use; and

WHEREAS, the TEA-21 language is not a mandate and is not even needed to authorize use of federal funds for the installation and maintenance of traffic signals, including audible signals; and

WHEREAS, decisions regarding use of audible traffic signals must be made by local transportation officials in consultation with representatives of blind people affected by such decisions; and

WHEREAS, the implication of a national mandate caused by the current TEA-21 language encourages inappropriate installation of audible traffic signals, resulting from the presumption that their use is favored by the federal government, which is not necessarily the case: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization acknowledge the pending reauthorization of surface transportation legislation and call upon the Congress to eliminate the unnecessary and misleading reference to audible traffic signals and audible signs placed in the law with enactment of TEA-21, since elimination of this reference will not alter the authority to use federal funds, and safety determinations should properly be made at the local level based on facts and not a misapplication of the law.

RESOLUTION 2003-12

Regarding: RSA Commissioner Appointment

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is the primary federal agency established to coordinate and fund training, employment, and independent living services for persons who are blind or disabled; and

WHEREAS, in recognition of the important responsibilities of this agency, the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration is appointed by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate, a process which encourages and works because of citizen involvement and the direct participation of those elected and accountable to these citizens; and

WHEREAS, in May of 2003 the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1261, the Workforce Reinvestment and Adult Education Act of 2003, which reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act and the Rehabilitation Act, including a provision in that bill to downgrade the position of commissioner of rehabilitation to a "director" to be appointed by the secretary of education and not by the president; and

WHEREAS, since the law establishing the position of commissioner to be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, only one commissioner has not been a person with a disability, a fact which stands in stark contrast to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), which have frequently had nondisabled agency heads; and

WHEREAS, downgrading the commissioner to a director in the Department of Education will also limit the scope of authority for the person in charge of rehabilitation, thus preventing the head of RSA from having direct access to the secretary of education and other federal leaders, including officials at the Office of Management and Budget, the White House, and other cabinet-level departments, depending solely on the assistant secretary of special education and rehabilitative services to speak for RSA both inside and outside the Department of Education; and

WHEREAS, virtually all other programs of significance to the Congress and the executive branch have their heads chosen through the political process namely, appointed by the president with confirmation by the Senate, a policy that should continue to apply to RSA: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge Congress to maintain the law (as established under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) regarding presidential appointment of the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration with the advice and consent of the Senate and to preserve the title of commissioner for the person charged with the federal effort to carry forward the hopes and aspirations of America's disabled citizens.

RESOLUTION 2003-13

Regarding: Mass Transit

WHEREAS, effective public transportation is essential for blind people to work, travel, and lead productive lives; and

WHEREAS, the Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-First Century (TEA-21) legislation to authorize federal transit funding will expire in 2003 unless Congress either reauthorizes or extends it; and

WHEREAS, the ongoing initiative holds both the promise of improving passenger transportation and the threat of reducing or eliminating this essential service for everyone, including the blind; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge Congress to support public transportation options in any reauthorization or extension of surface transportation funding; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work with key officials and advocates to sustain and improve local and regional mass transit service.

RESOLUTION 2003-14

Regarding: Access by Blind Children to Textbooks

WHEREAS, the opportunity to obtain a quality education is essential for future success in the job market, and;

WHEREAS, in order to obtain this quality education, students must have access to educational materials, and;

WHEREAS, too often blind children are not provided materials at the same time as their sighted classmates--putting them at a significant educational disadvantage, and;

WHEREAS, textbook conversion into accessible formats can often be a cumbersome process without a standard file format which can be quickly and easily converted into Braille or other media, and;

WHEREAS, a bill pending in Congress titled the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) would require textbook publishers to make all textbooks routinely available in a standard electronic file format in order to ensure that blind children receive materials in alternative formats at the same time as their sighted peers receive them in print, and;

WHEREAS, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1350, its version of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reauthorization legislation, which includes some provisions of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) but does not define the file standard or clearly require that blind students receive their textbooks at the same time as their sighted classmates: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind, in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge Congress to pass, as part of its IDEA reauthorization, provisions of the IMAA that require publishers to provide electronic files of textbooks to schools according to the standards which will be outlined by the Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST); and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization urge Congress to include the wording, "at the same time as sighted peers," in the IDEA reauthorization, in order to ensure that no blind child will be left behind in any classroom simply because of lack of access to instructional materials that all other students have.

RESOLUTION 2003-15 was withdrawn

RESOLUTION 2003-16 was withdrawn

RESOLUTION 2003-17

Regarding: The Ticket to Work

WHEREAS, a program called "Ticket to Work" is being implemented by the Social Security Administration pursuant to the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999; and

WHEREAS, the expressed purpose of this program is to provide blind and disabled beneficiaries with training and employment services, with the goal that they will be able to achieve gainful employment and thereby leave the rolls; and

WHEREAS, agencies called Employment Networks may provide services to beneficiaries who choose them, or beneficiaries can still receive services through state vocational rehabilitation agencies and not participate in this ticket program at all; and

WHEREAS, unlike state vocational rehabilitation agencies which have funds to pay the actual cost of services provided and may then be reimbursed by the Social Security Administration, Employment Networks are paid a fixed fee based on a percentage of average Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits, whichever is applicable to the beneficiary served, with the proviso that payments to an Employment Network are due only for the months during a five-year period when the beneficiary works enough to be off the roles, and payments are not due whenever the beneficiary goes back on the rolls for any reason whatsoever; and

WHEREAS, the relatively small amount of money payable to Employment Networks, the uncertainty over the beneficiary's continued employment prospects spread out over five years, and the overpowering complexity of the ticket program's procedures all combine to produce a rehabilitation-on-the-cheap model, favoring quantity over quality and little or no service over at least some service; and

WHEREAS, rather than encouraging low expectations and quick placements, the National Federation of the Blind supports the philosophy declared by Congress as expressed in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to assist each person served in achieving employment consistent with the individual's "strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice": Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the bounty-hunter mentality of the Social Security Administration's Ticket to Work program as compared to the more positive and enlightened policy direction of the Rehabilitation Act, which promotes quality over quantity in jobs for blind and disabled people; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization actively alert blind people to the dangerous implications of the Ticket to Work program's cheap-and-quick placement strategy and encourage them not to accept this approach.

RESOLUTION 2003-18

Regarding: Text on TV Screens Being Voiced

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has long maintained that the key barrier to full use of television by blind people is the failure to voice the growing number and variety of words printed on the screen, ranging from weather and news warnings scrolled across the bottom of the screen to static text used to identify speakers in news shows or phone numbers displayed as part of commercials--all forms of information needed and used by television viewers for health, safety, civic, commercial, and other important information; and

WHEREAS, several years ago the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a rule ignoring the Federation’s efforts to eliminate this barrier and, instead, imposed a requirement to describe visible elements of entertainment programming; and

WHEREAS, challenges to the FCC rule resulted in a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit invalidating the rule because the FCC does not have the statutory authority to enact such a rule; and

WHEREAS, the same court decision made it clear that the FCC currently has the authority to require the universal voicing of printed text in an analogy to the FCC's authority to require closed captioning for deaf viewers, since both are mere renderings in an alternative medium of what is already there; and

WHEREAS, the United States Congress is now considering amendments to the FCC's enabling legislation, including possible amendments affecting provision of material for blind viewers; and

WHEREAS, universal voicing of text printed on the screen is far more important to achieve than describing visible elements of program action, and any congressional action regarding access to television for the blind must not apply exclusively to describing entertainment while leaving the key barrier to blind viewers in place: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization insist that Congress and the FCC, if either takes up the subject of access for blind viewers, mandate universal voicing of text printed on television screens, regardless of other requirements, such as describing entertainment, that may be included in the law.

RESOLUTION 2003-19

Regarding: Appointments to Statewide Workforce Boards

WHEREAS, legislation is pending in Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, originally enacted in 1998, and including the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998; and

WHEREAS, a provision in the reauthorization legislation says that the director of the state vocational rehabilitation agency must be appointed to the statewide workforce board used for planning and coordination of services; and

WHEREAS, this same provision also specifies that in states which have separate vocational rehabilitation agencies for the blind, the agency represented on the statewide workforce board will be the one that serves the largest number of individuals; and

WHEREAS, this standard, that only the larger of the two rehabilitation agencies must be represented, leads to the foregone conclusion that agencies for the blind will always be excluded in favor of general agencies; and

WHEREAS, this fact was either known or should have been known by people in the Bush administration and the Congress who proposed and have so far approved this provision, indicating their obvious lack of regard and respect for agencies serving the blind; and

WHEREAS, statewide workforce boards are responsible for initiating decisions and advising the governor on matters which affect agencies for the blind just as much as they affect general agencies, and beyond that the exclusion of agencies for the blind virtually assures that particular needs, such as technology access for the blind in the state's workforce system, will continue to be overlooked due to lack of representation on statewide workforce boards: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization strongly oppose exclusion of separate state agencies for the blind from statewide workforce boards as presently proposed in federal legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.

RESOLUTION 2003-20

Regarding: Accessible Medicare Information

WHEREAS, Congress has embarked on an effort to make far-reaching changes in the Medicare program, including partial reimbursement to beneficiaries for the cost of prescription drugs; and

WHEREAS, S. 1, the Senate's version of this legislation, now includes an amendment requiring the secretary of health and human services to conduct an eighteen-month study and report back to Congress on ways to make prescription drug labels and instructions accessible to blind people, this amendment sponsored by Senator John McCain and Senator Christopher Dodd and approved by the Senate by unanimous consent; and

WHEREAS, this provision is an important first step in recognizing the need for blind people to have accessible prescription drug information, and Congress should also express the goal of having standards for accessibility in place by the time the prescription drug benefit is actually implemented; and

WHEREAS, information about insurance plans, benefits, and options available under Medicare must also be accessible to blind people, and, to the extent that this is not already done, this new legislation must assure that it is done: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization commend Senator John McCain and Senator Christopher Dodd for standing up to make accessibility for blind people an important issue to be resolved in the current Medicare debate; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Congress to approve accessibility provisions as part of the final legislation for the Medicare program so that accessible information for the blind is provided on the first day that this historic Medicare expansion takes effect.

Resolution 2003-101

Regarding: Informed Choice

WHEREAS, participants in the vocational rehabilitation program have the right to exercise informed choice in determining their goals, the services they need, and the service providers they want to use; and

WHEREAS, the right of informed choice is clearly stated in Section 102 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended in 1998, changing the long-standing practice of giving agency and counselor determinations more weight than choices made by those receiving service; and

WHEREAS, this right to informed choice in vocational rehabilitation is similar to the right that postsecondary students have to choose the program they want to pursue, without being limited by receipt of student financial aid; and

WHEREAS, taken as a whole, state vocational rehabilitation agencies and private agencies offer adjustment-to-blindness services based on a variety of service models, making it possible for individuals to select the program having the approach they prefer; and

WHEREAS, a few misguided persons who oppose approaches such as required use of sleepshades and no use of guide dogs during training have propounded the view that informed choice gives trainees the right to alter programs and prescribe instructional methods, in a mistaken application of the mandate of informed choice to justify the notion that individuals should be free to dictate the details of program design; and

WHEREAS, this interpretation is a perversion of the policy of informed choice and is fundamentally at odds with modern practices of proven effectiveness in adjustment to blindness now gaining widespread acceptance and use; and

WHEREAS, charging programs centered on cane-travel training with discrimination against guide dog users is an actual example of this perversion, leading to the absurd analogy that students in higher education should have veto power over the faculty in choosing the curriculum and designing courses; and

WHEREAS, in enacting the informed choice right as part of the Rehabilitation Act, Congress intended that individuals would be able to select among programs and not that they would be granted legal standing to alter programs to suit individual demands, any more than higher education students have the right to control the curriculum at a public or private university: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fourth day of July, 2003, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization reaffirm its support for informed choice to be exercised as a matter of right by participants in vocational rehabilitation programs and insist that this right not be endangered by misinterpretation for the purpose of furthering a political agenda.

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