Braille Monitor                         January 2021

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2021 Washington Seminar Update from Government Affairs: The Issues

As we mentioned in the November issue of the Monitor, the 2021 Washington Seminar will be our first-ever virtual week on Capitol Hill. A virtual edition of the Great Gathering-In will still take place on Monday, February 8, 2021, at its typical time of 5:00 p.m. Eastern, and we are still planning to have our members meet with every member of Congress from Tuesday, February 9 through Thursday, February 11. The pandemic can’t stop us; it can barely slow us down!
Now that we’ve reviewed some of the overarching details, let’s talk a little about the legislative priorities we’ll be bringing to the 117th Congress. Keep in mind this isn’t intended to be a thorough breakdown of each topic, but more of a syllabus to give you a brief idea of what’s to come.

Issue One: Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA)

With the momentum we’ve built for ATAA over the past two sessions, we are very enthusiastic about this bill’s prospects in the 117th Congress. The specific details for the ATAA, a refundable tax credit of up to $2,000 over the course of three years for the purchase of qualified access technology, will remain unchanged for 2021. The goal of this legislation is to make it easier for blind Americans to purchase access technology, which we believe will in turn increase employment opportunities for the blind.

Issue Two: Streamlined Greater Access and Independence Through Nonvisual Access Technology (GAIN) Act

While we are excited by the support the GAIN Act has garnered, we also believe that a more streamlined approach might be necessary to ultimately gain some traction with this legislation. That’s why we are narrowing the focus of the bill to strictly home-use medical devices for the 117th Congress. With that in mind, the name of this legislation will likely change by the beginning of the next Congress, but the goal of requiring manufacturers to make home-use medical devices nonvisually accessible will remain the same.

Issue Three: Website Accessibility

While website accessibility has been a legislative priority for many years at NFB, for 2021 we have decided to elevate it to a Washington Seminar issue. This is due in part to the preponderance of so-called “click-by” lawsuits and the call from businesses for some kind of regulation. In our discussions with certain retail and business groups, we’ve learned that they generally want their websites to be accessible (which is already required by law), but they don’t have a firm grasp on what accessibility looks like. With the two most recent administrations effectively kicking this can down the road, the need for these regulations is long overdue. We’ve decided that if the Department of Justice isn’t going to initiate a rulemaking on its own, then we are going to work with Congress to pass a law that will make it happen.

Those are going to be our three marquee issues for the 2021 Washington Seminar, but we also want to bring up the issue of voting accessibility with certain members of Congress, especially members of the House Committee on House Administration and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. We believe it is of critical importance to create a nationwide regulation for accessible voting to ensure that blind Americans are afforded the same privacy, independence, and equivalent ease of use as sighted Americans in elections.

If this seems like a lot to take in, don’t worry; we plan to have multiple training sessions throughout the month of January to help you become more familiar with the intricacies of each issue mentioned above. We’ll also have our traditionally scheduled training on Monday, February 8, before the Great Gathering-In. We also have fact sheets for all four issues on our website in the Washington Seminar section.

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