Braille Monitor                  August/September 2021

(back) (contents) (next)

2021 Resolutions

Resolution 2021-01
Regarding the Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act, H.R. 4853

Proponent: Jennifer Bazer

WHEREAS, home-use medical devices are becoming more prevalent and less accessible to blind Americans; and

WHEREAS, most newer models of home-use medical devices such as glucose and blood pressure monitors as well as emerging in-home devices that offer medical care options such as chemotherapy treatments and dialysis require that consumers interact with digital displays or other visual interfaces; and

WHEREAS, the health, safety, and independence of blind Americans may be in imminent danger unless developers integrate nonvisual accessibility in the design phase; and

WHEREAS, accessibility is relatively easy and inexpensive to implement when it is incorporated into the design of a product from the outset; and

WHEREAS, the ability to operate all home-use medical devices nonvisually is essential to a blind person’s wellbeing, independence, and overall quality of life: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization urge the United States Congress swiftly to consider and pass the Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act, thereby ensuring and protecting the independence, safety, and health of blind Americans.

Resolution 2021-02
Regarding Suppression of the Rights of Voters with Disabilities

Proponent: Lou Ann Blake

WHEREAS, being able to cast a ballot privately and independently is the bedrock of our democracy; and

WHEREAS, the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) has enabled the majority of blind voters and many others with disabilities to exercise their right to vote privately and independently at polling places; and

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that voters with disabilities be provided the opportunity to exercise their right to vote equal to the opportunity provided voters without disabilities; and

WHEREAS, states that require voter identification or medical documentation or are limiting polling locations are restricting that right by creating barriers for individuals with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the time and expense in obtaining state issued ID or other forms of identification can be onerous and therefore create a barrier for voters with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, legislation requiring voter identification has been enacted or is currently before the legislature in Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia; and

WHEREAS, medical certification forms are frequently not available in an accessible format; require the signature of a medical or rehabilitation professional; and as a result are excessive and unnecessary hurdles for voters with disabilities to overcome, as well as a potential violation of privacy for disabled voters; and

WHEREAS, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas have enacted or have bills currently before their legislatures requiring medical documentation for voters with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, limiting the number and/or location of early voting and election day polling places may prevent some voters with disabilities from accessing a polling place due to a lack of transportation; and

WHEREAS, legislation limiting the number or location of early voting or election day polling places has been enacted by or is currently before the legislatures in Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization condemn and deplore all acts of suppression that make it difficult for blind and disabled voters to exercise their right to vote; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that state and local election officials protect the right of voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot, as required by HAVA and Title II of the ADA, without having to provide difficult-to-obtain state-issued identification and documentation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that all state and local governments implement legislation and election procedures necessary to expand the number of polling locations so that they are accessible to public transit routes and so voters need only travel a reasonable distance to cast their vote.

Resolution 2021-03
Regarding Advancing Employment of the Blind in Military Service

Proponent: Justin Salisbury and Vernon Humphrey

WHEREAS, blind people demonstrate our capabilities by performing many civilian jobs in the United States military, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, and related federal agencies; and

WHEREAS, participation in the defense of our nation through service in the Armed Forces is as important to qualified and capable blind individuals as it is to those who have sight, yet blind people who wish to serve in the United States military are currently disqualified based on blindness; and

WHEREAS, blind people successfully working in noncombat positions (e.g., cybersecurity, personnel, finance, supply) can serve as positive role models for veterans and civilians who become blind; and

WHEREAS, military service would teach blind people valuable skills that could be translated to the private sector after their military service and would provide the military with another pool of valuable talent; and

WHEREAS, service members who become blind are frequently forced into medical retirement instead of using their valuable experience and talent for the service’s mission; and

WHEREAS, The US Army has on occasion allowed service members, for example Major Scott Smiley and Master Sergeant Vernon Humphrey, to remain on active duty for a period of time after a diagnosis of blindness, but all military services should regularly adopt this practice: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization urge the United States military to amend its policies to allow blind people to enlist in military service and to provide more opportunities for service members who become blind to remain on active duty by reclassifying their positions.

Resolution 2021-04
Regarding the Use of Overlays to Make Websites Accessible to the Blind

Proponent: Curtis Chong

WHEREAS, companies such as EqualWeb, Max Access, UserWay, TruAbilities, AudioEye, and accessiBe are deploying overlays as a strategy to automate the task of making websites accessible—i.e., compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and

WHEREAS, to make websites nonvisually accessible, overlays are intended among other things to identify unlabeled graphics and automatically attach readable text descriptions to them; to enable keyboard activation of links, buttons, expandable/collapsible menus, and other controls which have been incorrectly coded to be triggered only with a mouse; and to insert header tags (often used by the blind for quick and efficient navigation on web pages) where the print is highlighted or enlarged and not already marked as a heading; and

WHEREAS, in achieving nonvisual access, overlays today have their limitations; for example, they cannot determine when a picture that would be described generically as “two people standing in front of a building” should be described as “Sarah and George standing in front of Macy’s department store”; they cannot automatically add audio description to a video presentation; they can inappropriately apply headings to text that is not intended to function as a heading; they can misinterpret the layout of a table and improperly handle row or column headings; and they cannot accurately solve an inaccessible visual CAPTCHA; and

WHEREAS, the current inability of overlays to perform all of the tasks critical to nonvisual access means that, while they may help to make certain parts of a website nonvisually accessible, they alone cannot guarantee full nonvisual access to every website where they are deployed; and

WHEREAS, companies deploying overlays have attracted hundreds of thousands of customers by fostering the false idea that with one easy operation (e.g., inserting a small amount of code) their websites will be accessible and fully compliant with prevailing web content accessibility guidelines and, further, that they will be protected from lawsuits; and

WHEREAS, the companies deploying overlays have not, in any meaningful way, engaged with the accessibility community, not to mention the organized blind, to learn from a broad base of consumers whether or not overlays really improve the accessibility of websites; and

WHEREAS, as the use of overlays has grown, blind people have encountered an increasing number of websites where they have been prompted to turn on an accessibility or screen reader mode by pressing ALT+1, ALT+0, or some other key combination, but there is no readily-available information to tell them whose overlay is operating, how to report problems with the use of the overlay, whether or not the overlay is actually turned on, and how to disable the overlay if it isn’t working as expected; and

WHEREAS, some of the overlays which are supposed to improve the accessibility of the websites where they are installed present accessibility options (e.g., screen reader profile or anti-seizure profile) which are themselves not accessible to screen-reader users; and

WHEREAS, the lack of helpful information and the presence of inaccessible overlay controls leave people with disabilities without the means to provide feedback and suggestions, use the overlay effectively, or report problems related to the overlay; and

WHEREAS, given the large customer base which some overlay providers enjoy, it is certain that the blind will encounter more and more websites where overlays are employed, ostensibly to improve accessibility; consequently, there is a compelling need for us to obtain direct, hands-on experience with the various overlays on the market today in order to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each overlay product and to identify those overlay providers whose technology might actually offer real and sustainable nonvisual access to websites and web-based applications; and

WHEREAS, the blind continue to fall behind as the number of websites created and deployed far outpaces the number of websites which we can confidently declare to be usable and accessible, and thus any solution which gives the blind true nonvisual access is welcome: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization call upon overlay developers and their paying customers to engage with the National Federation of the Blind and the broader accessibility community to ensure that overlays are developed and implemented in ways that truly improve access to websites; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist that current and potential overlay customers recognize that complete and long-lasting accessibility requires more than a one-time installation of code; that accessibility should be a priority throughout the entire lifecycle of any product from design to full implementation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization condemn and deplore the unethical practices of overlay providers which attempt to convince website owners that overlays are the easiest and most affordable way to protect a website owner from lawsuits and make their websites accessible and compliant with the WCAG; and we demand that overlay providers stop making misleading, unproven, and unethical claims which falsely inflate the value and effectiveness of their technology; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that companies which develop and deploy overlays to improve accessibility design their overlays to enable users to:

Resolution 2021-05
Regarding Mail Problems that Interfere with NLS Services

Proponent: Dezman Jackson

WHEREAS, the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled, Library of Congress, and its cooperating network libraries provide books and magazines in specialized formats to blind and print-disabled children, working-age adults, and seniors losing vision; and

WHEREAS, this valuable service not only provides the major source of reading material for these people, but also fosters literacy skills for children, interaction in community life for adults, and hope and encouragement for the newly blind; and

WHEREAS, NLS and its network libraries depend on the United States Postal Service (USPS) to distribute its materials and the digital players, Braille displays, and other equipment needed to listen to or read these books; and

WHEREAS, these libraries are permitted to use the Free Reading Matter provisions of the postal regulation and the USPS claims on its website that Free Reading Matter is “treated as First-Class Mail for purposes of processing, delivery and forwarding, and return if undeliverable”; and

WHEREAS, from June 2020 to the present, far too many library customers across the nation have experienced long delays or total absence in receiving their books and equipment, even though the libraries have sent them to the individual patron using the USPS; and

WHEREAS, this failure by the USPS not only has a detrimental effect on the lives of blind and print-disabled Americans, but is also creating a loss of taxpayer dollars since digital players, Braille displays, and other valuable equipment are stuck in the post office, never reaching the people who need it; and

WHEREAS, blind and print-disabled citizens cannot use the USPS Informed Delivery service for residential customers to see if they will be receiving library materials or equipment because it is inaccessible; and

WHEREAS, in Resolution 2018-19, the National Federation of the Blind urged USPS to make this service accessible and informed the agency that it was violating federal law, but the result was no action; and

WHEREAS, although Congress created and funded the Books for the Blind program under the Pratt-Smoot Act of 1931, neither the Library of Congress nor Congress itself demands any accountability from the USPS, which plays a vital role in the success or failure of the program: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization condemn and deplore the failure of the United States Postal Service to deliver materials and equipment to and from library patrons in a timely manner; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist that the Librarian of Congress annually issue a report card to USPS based on data from NLS and its cooperating network libraries on the timely delivery of materials and equipment; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the United States Congress to require the USPS to report to the Congress on steps that the USPS intends to take to improve timely delivery of library materials and equipment to ensure that these items are truly treated as First-Class Mail; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the USPS immediately end its discriminatory practices by making its Informed Delivery service accessible to blind and print-disabled citizens.

Resolution 2021-06
Regarding Due Process for Potential Applicants and Consumers of Guide Dog School Services

Proponents: Michael Hingson and Raul Gallegos

WHEREAS, a guide dog is not only an important vehicle for independence and freedom but also offers emotional support and companionship to its handler; and

WHEREAS, the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) has been contacted by guide dog users on a number of occasions concerning unwarranted and inappropriate repossession of their guide dogs by the guide dog training organization that provided the users with their guide dogs; and

WHEREAS, training schools often remove the guide dog without even bothering to consult the user in advance to identify whether the school’s information about problems is accurate, and even sometimes refuse to provide any justification at all; and

WHEREAS, if guide dog handlers ask to appeal the training program’s decision, they are frequently told that the supposed appeal was conducted internally, although there was never an opportunity for input from the handlers; and

WHEREAS, for example, in March 2021, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. in Florida took a dog that the handler had possessed for eight years without prior notice to the handler that there might be a problem and also refused to allow the handler to participate in the appeals process, leaving the handler distraught over the loss of the dog and coping with reduced travel independence; and

WHEREAS, guide dog schools further disregard consumer rights by refusing to provide accessible training materials, contracts, policies and procedures, and other information to consumers and potential applicants, even though knowledge about how to provide materials in specialized formats is readily available; and

WHEREAS, many guide dog training schools have engaged in this unlawful and paternalistic disregard of the handler’s rights for many years: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization condemn and deplore the seizure of any guide dog by any guide dog training program without proper due process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that all United-States-based guide dog training programs immediately revise their processes for repossessing guide dogs to incorporate a third party arbiter outside of the program’s influence to investigate whether a guide dog should be removed or returned to the handler or dog owner; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist that training schools’ policies and procedures for removing guide dogs must include an unbiased appeals process that is decided by a third party who is approved both by the guide dog handler and the guide dog training program and with the equal participation of all parties in this appeals process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge guide dog training programs to work with the National Federation of the Blind and NAGDU to ensure that prospective students and consumers of their services are provided with timely, accessible information about all policies, procedures, and practices.

Resolution 2021-07
Regarding AbilityOne-Approved Nonprofits That Deny Employment to Individuals Who Use Screen Reader Software

WHEREAS, more than five hundred nonprofit agencies participate in the AbilityOne Program to employ individuals with disabilities through federal product and service contracts; and

WHEREAS, these nonprofit agencies purport to provide employment opportunities and training, including work-from-home opportunities, to individuals with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, some of these nonprofits use inaccessible pre-employment assessment games, restrictive statements on their websites, or targeted interview questions to screen out applicants who require screen reader technology; and

WHEREAS, some of these same nonprofits refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who use screen reader software; and

WHEREAS, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) obligates covered entities to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with disabilities unless the accommodation would qualify as an undue hardship; and

WHEREAS, Title I of the ADA prohibits covered employers from denying employment opportunities to applicants or employees with disabilities based on their need for reasonable accommodations: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July 2021, that this organization hereby condemn and deplore all AbilityOne-approved nonprofits with discriminatory employment practices that deny reasonable accommodations and screen out applicants who use screen reader software; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that these nonprofits comply with the regulations implementing Title I of the ADA; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the AbilityOne Commission promptly to sanction or ban from participation in the AbilityOne Program any nonprofit that demonstrates discriminatory hiring and employment practices against blind individuals who use screen reader software.

Resolution 2021-08
Regarding the Unwillingness of Ophthalmologists and Other Medical Professionals to Inform Newly Blind People of the Benefits of Rehabilitation Services

Proponent: Ruth Sager

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future, but many members of the general public do not believe or understand this principle; and

WHEREAS, too many medical professionals, such as ophthalmologists, hold the same misconceptions about the capabilities of blind people as the rest of society; and

WHEREAS, newly blind people frequently become frustrated because they cannot find information about how to adjust to blindness and have not been exposed to the positive philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind; and

WHEREAS, since ophthalmologists are already treating newly blind people, they could provide such information but rarely do because they view blindness as a failure of their practice; and

WHEREAS, states such as Minnesota have addressed this problem by requiring ophthalmologists and optometrists to inform legally blind patients that services exist and, pending the consent of the blind patient, to report the names of legally blind adults to the rehabilitation agency, State Services for the Blind; and

WHEREAS, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults, and diabetes requires medical care from endocrinologists and other medical professionals, who could also improve the quality of life and independence of their patients by giving them information about rehabilitation services but frequently fail to do so; and

WHEREAS, the best way to change the attitudes of medical professionals towards blindness is to influence their training programs at a high level, such as reaching out to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which evaluates medical residency and internship programs, and other similar organizations: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization strongly urge the CEOs or governing bodies of medical professional organizations such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology, and the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists to work with the National Federation of the Blind to develop a resource list of rehabilitation services for blind patients and to encourage their membership to distribute this information so that newly blind people learn that they can live the lives they want; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the ACGME to work with the National Federation of the Blind to ensure that medical professionals know that they have an obligation to inform their patients about adjustment to blindness resources and the benefits of the positive philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon state legislatures to require that ophthalmologists, optometrists, and medical professionals concerned with diabetes inform legally blind patients of the availability of rehabilitation services and report the patient’s name to the appropriate state rehabilitation agency, pending consent.

Resolution 2021-09
Regarding Accessible Electronic Ballot Return

Proponent: Marcus Soulsby

WHEREAS, the ability to cast a secret ballot independently is a cornerstone of our democracy that enables citizens to vote their conscience without fear; and

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that voters with disabilities be afforded an opportunity to exercise the right to vote that is equivalent to the opportunity afforded to voters without disabilities; and

WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states that public entities that receive federal financial assistance may not discriminate against people with disabilities in their programs, services, or activities; and

WHEREAS, the percentage of voters who vote by mail has steadily increased since 1996, and, according to the MIT Election Data Science Lab report, about half of all voters voted by mail in the 2020 election;

WHEREAS, while accessible electronic ballot delivery was available to voters with disabilities in approximately twenty-five states, only five of these states permitted the marked ballot to be returned electronically, and the remaining states required that the ballot be printed, signed, and returned by mail or placed in a dropbox; and

WHEREAS, many blind voters do not own or have easy access to printers and as a result must rely on a friend, family member, or copy center to print their ballot and need sighted assistance to sign the ballot, which jeopardizes the secrecy of their ballot, or sign the return envelope, which jeopardizes their independence; and

WHEREAS, accessible electronic ballot return enables blind and low-vision voters to return an absentee or by mail ballot privately and independently using their own access technology without needing to print or sign the ballot; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization demand that all United States jurisdictions provide accessible electronic ballot delivery and return for all federal, state, and local elections starting with the 2022 election cycle so that all blind and low-vision voters who vote absentee or by mail can mark and return their ballot privately and independently as required by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Resolution 2021-10
Regarding the Department of Transportation’s Updated Air Carrier Access Act Regulations for Service Animals

Proponent: Albert Elia

WHEREAS, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) released new Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulations on the transportation of service animals, which went into effect on January 11, 2021; and
           
WHEREAS, pursuant to the new regulations, airlines now require travelers with service animals to fill out a DOT form to travel; and
           
WHEREAS, the new DOT regulations and guidance allow airlines to require that this form be completed in a PDF or HTML format, but some airlines are requiring both, creating a time-consuming process of entering substantially duplicative information in two different formats; and
           
WHEREAS, even though large guide dogs are trained to fit into small spaces, the new regulations state that, if airline personnel believe a service animal is too large to fit in a traveler's personal floor space, the traveler with the service animal must either purchase an additional seat for the service animal or allow the service animal to be transported in the cargo hold or wait for another flight with more room; and

WHEREAS, DOT presented no evidence that actual service animals were the cause of any problems in air travel; and

WHEREAS, other businesses, including entertainment venues and rental property management companies, have begun requiring similar forms for service animal users in contravention of the laws governing those businesses; and
           
WHEREAS, guide dog users are being burdened with these new regulations because of emotional support animals and pets that are fraudulently claimed as service animals: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization condemn and deplore the Department of Transportation for permitting airlines to require guide dog users to complete and submit burdensome, onerous, and duplicative forms, despite presenting no evidence that guide dogs are a direct threat to anyone; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization condemn and deplore the Department of Transportation for ruling that airlines may require blind guide dog users with large service animals to purchase an extra seat or risk being given the choice of having their guide dog placed in the cargo hold or their flight rescheduled; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the Department of Justice find landlords, businesses, and other non-airline entities that require any pre-approval or completion of any forms for blind people to be accompanied by a guide dog to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Secretary of Transportation to review and amend the DOT ACAA regulations to ensure that guide dog users do not continue to experience discrimination, including discrimination based on guide dog size; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the airlines, as well as the Department of Transportation, to work with the National Federation of the Blind to ensure that the amended ACAA regulations require no more than an oral attestation by a blind person that their guide dog is a service animal and that any misrepresentation of a pet as a service animal is a violation of federal law.

Resolution 2021-11
Regarding Accessible Technology for Federal Employees and Applicants

Proponent: Joe Orozco

WHEREAS, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government must be accessible to people with disabilities, including federal employees and the general public; and

WHEREAS, Section 508 requirements apply to all federal workplace technology, including time and attendance, issue tracking, training, and all other software, virtual meeting spaces, and other technologies; and

WHEREAS, Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal agencies from discriminating against employees and applicants based on disability and requires agencies to comply with diversity and inclusion processes designed to improve the recruitment, hiring, advancement, and retention of federal employees and applicants with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, many blind federal employees cannot perform essential functions of their jobs, are prohibited from advancing in their careers, or are not hired because of agencies’ use of inaccessible technology; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has engaged in litigation with the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, Office of Management and Budget, General Services Administration, and other federal agencies or offices to remedy Section 508 and 501 violations; and

WHEREAS, federal agencies continue to use technology that is inaccessible to employees with disabilities regardless of federal law and legal precedence: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization call on the United States Congress to convene a Section 508 Oversight Hearing to examine and evaluate failures of federal agencies to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge all federal agencies promptly to investigate and resolve Section 508 and 501 violations and revise agency procedures to prohibit the purchase or use of any technologies that do not comply with Section 508 requirements.

Resolution 2021-13
Regarding Urging the Department of Veterans Affairs to Accept Certifications Issued by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board

WHEREAS, veterans who have served their country in the military deserve high-quality rehabilitation that empowers and inspires them to live the lives they want; and

WHEREAS, in 2001 the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) was created and now offers certifications in orientation and mobility, rehabilitation teaching, literary Braille, and Unified English Braille and emphasizes a positive philosophy of blindness and the importance of blind role models; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not accept certifications issued by the NBPCB and recognizes certifications only by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) when hiring rehabilitation personnel; and

WHEREAS, the pathway to obtain the Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist certifications issued by ACVREP continue to be problematic for blind applicants, thus marginalizing blind people within the professional community affiliated with ACVREP; and

WHEREAS, the NBPCB was established to administer certifications for blindness rehabilitation professionals in a way that does not discriminate against blind instructors and thus treats blind and sighted instructors equally; and

WHEREAS, blind people holding certifications from the NBPCB have been successfully providing vocational rehabilitation services to blind adults through vocational rehabilitation programs funded by the United States Department of Education since 2001, demonstrating their capabilities for the last twenty years: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization strongly urge the Department of Veterans Affairs immediately to amend its human resource policies to accept certifications issued by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board so that they are recognized as valid and treated equally to certifications from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.

Resolution 2021-14
Regarding the Digital Accessibility of Conferences

Proponent: Jamal Mazrui

WHEREAS, in almost every professional field, conferences regularly occur in which presenters analyze or teach topics related to a subject of shared interest; and

WHEREAS, conferences are, in fact, so common as to be organized in furtherance of nearly any field of human endeavor, addressing academic, civic, recreational, or personal subjects; and

WHEREAS, over the many years that conferences have been organized around the world, solutions have been developed to implement principles of universal design, inclusive participation, and accessible use; and

WHEREAS, international standards for the accessibility of information and communication technology (ICT) have been established by broad consensus, following decades of experience with accessibility problems across government, corporate, and consumer sectors of society; and

WHEREAS, central to these standards are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium; and

WHEREAS, WCAG has been extended to be technology neutral, covering domains such as video presentations, online chats, and mobile apps, in addition to websites; and

WHEREAS, despite existing standards and solutions, blind people continue to encounter unnecessary barriers to full participation in conferences, including events within the field of accessibility; and

WHEREAS, problems frequently arise from a common practice in conferences where speakers show slides during their presentations, whether live or recorded; and

WHEREAS, slides enrich a presentation in multiple ways, such as giving an outline summary of the content that helps learners understand its hierarchy and highlights; and

WHEREAS, slides also share precise written information, including names, URLs, and email addresses, that would be tedious, time-consuming, or error-prone for presenters to speak and spell; and

WHEREAS, multiple techniques exist for making this content accessible to blind conference participants; and

WHEREAS, one technique requires presenters to submit an advanced electronic copy of their slides, conformant with accessibility guidelines; and

WHEREAS, such slide decks—in formats like PPTX, PDF, or HTML—are then made available for conference attendees to read in ways that work best for them, either with or without access technology; and

WHEREAS, it is equally important that presenters who are blind, not only attendees, are afforded a fully accessible process, from submitting a proposal to delivering a presentation, thereby enabling audiences to benefit from their expertise; and

WHEREAS, conferences about accessibility itself should serve as role models, but often they are not: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization strongly urge that conferences in all fields make their digital content and procedures nonvisually accessible based on international standards, applicable to experiences of both attendees and presenters; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon conferences in the field of accessibility in particular to model and promote best practices in digital accessibility, including among others, the following annual events: CSUN Assistive Technology Conference, Accessing Higher Ground, AccessU, and M-Enabling Summit.

Resolution 2021-15
Regarding Better Protection for Pedestrians when Crossing Bike Lanes to Reach Floating Bus Stops and Shared Cycle Track Stops

Proponent: Debbie Brown

WHEREAS, floating bus stops, protected bike lanes, and shared cycle track stops are becoming common in many urban and suburban areas; and

WHEREAS, a floating bus stop is a stop on an island in the middle of the street that allows the bus to stay in its travel lane rather than pulling up to the curb while allowing cyclists to continue their use of a bike lane situated along the curb; and

WHEREAS, a shared cycle track stop is a stop where a protected bike lane rises and runs along the boarding area, along the extended curb, rather than wrapping behind the boarding area, and bicyclists can ride through the boarding area when no transit vehicles are present but should yield the space to boarding passengers when a bus stops; and

WHEREAS, pedestrians are in danger because they must cross these bike lanes to get to a floating bus stop or shared cycle track stop, which could involve crossing in the middle of the block, where there are no traffic lights and in many cases no crosswalk markings; and

WHEREAS, traffic control devices would offer some protection to pedestrians by reducing the speed of bicycles, electric and low speed scooters, and other micro-mobility devices; and

WHEREAS, blind pedestrians face an additional danger because bicycles, electric and low-speed scooters, and similar micro-mobility devices are usually silent and therefore cannot be heard by blind pedestrians: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization urge county governments and local municipalities to make greater efforts to consider the needs of and gather input from pedestrians, including the blind, when designing bicycle lanes, floating bus stops, and shared cycle track stops to ensure that traffic-controlling devices are effective; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge cities and municipalities across the United States to mark crosswalks and provide other signage between curbs and floating bus or shared cycle track stops to warn bicyclists and users of electric and low-speed scooters and other micro-mobility devices about a pedestrian crossing zone; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge cities and municipalities across the United States to pass laws or ordinances mandating that pedestrians in these crosswalks always have the right of way.

Resolution 2021-16
Regarding the Accessibility of Kiosks in US Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Facilities

Proponent: Vernon Humphrey

WHEREAS, kiosks are increasingly used in Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and community-based outpatient facilities nationwide as a means to improve veterans’ access to their health information; and

WHEREAS, VA kiosks are used to conduct patient intake, update personal and insurance information, and complete other administrative tasks, with additional functions slated to be added; and

WHEREAS, these kiosks lack the necessary audio navigation prompts and are almost universally inaccessible to blind veterans; and

WHEREAS, blind veterans deserve the same privacy, respect, and independence afforded to sighted veterans, but blind veterans are often forced to rely on assistance from sighted patients or others and as a result risk sharing private health information simply to check in for appointments; and

WHEREAS, this can be a humiliating and degrading experience that compromises the privacy each veteran should be able to expect; and

WHEREAS, the VA facilities using these kiosks are covered by Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and using inaccessible technology; and

WHEREAS, existing technology allows accessibility features, including audio output, to be built into the operating systems used in kiosks; and

WHEREAS, the hardware of these kiosks is often already configured for audio output and keyboard or touch-screen input, and therefore there are no technological reasons why these kiosks cannot be made accessible to the blind, offering full equality of access: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization condemn and deplore the United States Department of Veterans Affairs use of inaccessible kiosks in VA medical facilities in violation of federal law and in disregard of the needs of many of the veterans who sacrificed so much for their country; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the Department of Veterans Affairs stop using inaccessible kiosks immediately; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the Department of Veterans Affairs purchase and use only kiosks that offer full and equal access for the blind.

Resolution 2021-17
Regarding accessiBe’s Disrespectful and Misleading Business Practices

Proponent: Anil Lewis, Jason Meddaugh, and Tai Tomasi

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind, the transformative membership and advocacy organization of blind Americans with affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, is the leader in advocating for nonvisual accessibility; and

WHEREAS, through the active participation of our network of members across the country, we engage in the development, testing, and implementation of a host of nonvisual access solutions, offering the lived experience and expertise of the blind; and

WHEREAS, as America’s civil rights organization of blind people, the National Federation of the Blind carries out the will of blind Americans as expressed through our National Convention and, between conventions, through the decisions of our elected officers and directors; and

WHEREAS, our movement values empowering individual members to influence organizations positively regarding concerns using the Federation’s philosophy and policy platform and to coordinate with our national leadership; and

WHEREAS, National Federation of the Blind members engaged with accessiBe, a company that develops a website overlay product, and after researching and interacting with the company representatives, determined that the marketing and business practices of accessiBe were disrespectful, misleading, and fallacious; and

WHEREAS, our members brought these actions to the attention of our national President and board of directors, who reviewed available information related to accessiBe’s business practices and came to agree that they currently engage in behavior that is harmful to the advancement of blind people in society; and

WHEREAS, in particular, it is the opinion of the board of directors that AccessiBe:

WHEREAS, as a result of this review, the board revoked accessiBe’s sponsorship of our national convention on June 22, 2021, stating: “We hope that the company will ultimately recognize and appreciate the experience and expertise that blind people can bring to improving its products and services and align its mission with the expressed will and true interests of the blind. Unless and until that happens, we decline to accept accessiBe’s participation in the 2021 National Convention or to allow it to use our convention platform to promote itself.”: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 2021, that this organization support and affirm the actions taken by our national board of directors to protect the interests of blind Americans by holding accessiBe accountable to the will of the nation’s blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization condemn and deplore accessiBe’s disrespectful and misleading marketing and business practices.

(back) (contents) (next)