Braille Monitor                                     May 2017

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A Legislative Update and a Call to Action

by Parnell Diggs

From the Editor: In the March 2017 issue of this magazine we ran the legislative fact sheets distributed at the Washington Seminar. At the time of our visit some of the legislation was still being drafted, but we now have bill numbers and are requesting action. In this letter, which was circulated to members on our listservs, Parnell Diggs, director of governmental affairs, provides bill numbers and asks for our action. Here is his letter:

Dear Federation Family,

The purpose of this update is to bring you up-to-speed on legislative developments since we left the Washington Seminar two months ago and to ask you to activate on several crucial issues. Please use this information as a good reason to reach out to your two senators and your congressman or congresswoman and update them on developments since your visit to their offices. The summary of legislative developments will be followed by the call to action on three bills:

The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act, also known as “AIM HIGH,” H.R. 1772

Congressman Phil Roe (Republican, Tennessee) and Congressman Joe Courtney (Democrat, Connecticut) introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives. H.R. 1772 will promote instructional technology and content that are accessible to the blind and other students with print disabilities.

The Access Technology Affordability Act of 2017 (ATAA) H.R. 1734 and S. 732

These companion bills were introduced by Representatives David Young (Republican, Iowa) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (Democrat, California) in the House and by Senators John Boozman (Republican, Arkansas) and Benjamin L. Cardin (Democrat, Maryland) in the Senate on March 28, 2017. Please remind your senators and representative that this legislation will establish a per-person individual refundable tax credit to be used over a multi-year period to offset the cost of access technology for blind people.

The Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act of 2017 H.R. 1377

As President Riccobono indicated, the TIME Act is still a priority of the National Federation of the Blind. It just wasn't front and center at the 2017 Washington Seminar. The bill was introduced by Representative Gregg Harper (Republican, Mississippi) on March 8, 2017, to remove barriers to employment opportunities for people with disabilities by phasing out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and facilitating the transitioning of people with disabilities now working in segregated employment settings into competitive employment opportunities in their communities. There is low hanging fruit we can secure from cosponsors of previous iterations of the TIME Act. Please see if your senators and representative will cosponsor this bill in the 115th Congress, especially members of the House of Representatives who have done so before.

Call to Action

Please call both of your senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 732, the Access Technology Affordability Act. Also, please call your congressman or congresswoman and ask him or her to cosponsor the AIM HIGH Act (H.R. 1772), the Access Technology Affordability Act (H.R. 1734), and the TIME Act (H.R. 1377).

This is an excellent opportunity to circle back with your senators and representative to provide them with updates on legislation that will help blind Americans live the lives we want. The number to the Capitol switchboard is (202) 224-3121. From there, the operator can transfer you to your desired contact. Let me thank you for the groundwork you laid at the Washington Seminar, which has led to the introduction of this legislation. Let’s build on that momentum as we turn our focus toward Orlando.

As always, thanks for all you do.

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