Convention Resolutions 1994

At this year's convention nineteen resolutions were presented, and eighteen were passed. One was withdrawn. As usual, we provide here the full texts of all the resolutions passed in Detroit by the 1994 NFB Convention. First I will attempt to give a brief description of each:

Resolution 94-01 seeks appropriate certification of blind cane travel teachers by AER and calls upon RSA to review training programs for mobility teachers to see that they do not discriminate against the blind.

Resolution 94-02 seeks class-wide recognition of blind persons as socially disadvantaged when applying for loans and contracts through the Small Business Administration and commends Congressman John Lafalce and the other members of the House Small Business Committee and Congressman Jim Ramstad and the other ninety-three co-sponsors of the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act for the work they have done to improve business opportunities for the blind.

Resolution 94-03 seeks to maintain a continuum of choices in the educational placement of blind children.

Resolution 94-04 calls upon RSA to adopt regulations which prohibit use of funds for support groups that are controlled by agencies serving the blind rather than organizations of the blind themselves.

Resolution 94-05 calls upon the Department of Veterans Affairs to support the Randolph-Sheppard Act and to issue permits for vending facilities according to its provisions.

Resolution 94-06 calls upon the American Council on Education and the GED Testing Service to change their policies so that blind persons may use readers when taking GED examinations.

Resolution 94-07 expresses the interest of the blind in the modernization of U.S. currency and expresses our determination to educate the public to the fact that blind persons can and do handle their own money, no matter how it looks or feels.

Resolution 94-08 was withdrawn.

Resolution 94-09 calls upon Congress to increase the appropriation to NLS to maintain and improve library services to the blind, including the replacement of old and worn-out cassette and disc players.

Resolution 94-10 seeks national legislation providing for independent living services for the blind separate from independent living councils for groups with other disabilities.

Resolution 94-11 calls upon guide dog schools to stress to students the importance of learning and always using effective methods of picking up after guide dogs.

Resolution 94-12 condemns the Department of Transportation's insistence that detectable warnings must be installed on subway platforms and commends the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for resisting this requirement.

Resolution 94-13 calls upon the Department of Education to disapprove grant applications from schools and agencies that discriminate against the blind when hiring cane travel instructors.

Resolution 94-14 calls upon Congress and the Department of Education to include Braille literacy requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act amendments.

Resolution 94-15 calls on Congress to pass H.R. 3264 and S. 2161 to improve work incentives for SSI recipients.

Resolution 94-16 calls upon the Social Security Administration and Congress to move forward with the approval and implementation of re-engineering and streamlining a plan for the disability determination process.

Resolution 94-17 condemns sub-minimum wages in sheltered workshops and asks that NFB representatives be included when a new minimum wage proposal is developed.

Resolution 94-18 calls upon RSA and state rehabilitation agencies to adopt regulations that promote, not discourage, client choice in rehabilitation.

Resolution 94-19 opposes means testing for Social Security benefits paid to retirees and disabled persons.

RESOLUTION 94-01

WHEREAS, one of the major factors in the growing independence of blind persons in the Twentieth Century has been the development and skillful use of the long white cane; and

WHEREAS, a principal element in the process is proper instruction in the use of the cane; and

WHEREAS, from the earliest days many of the most successful mobility instructors of the blind have been blind themselves--others, of course, being sighted; and

WHEREAS, mobility instructors of the blind have traditionally been trained by state agencies and others who have employed them, and more recently by universities; and

WHEREAS, many of the university-trained mobility instructors have joined the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) and, particularly, its Division IX for Orientation and Mobility Instructors; and

WHEREAS, Division IX has proclaimed that it has the sole right to certify, or withhold certification from, those wishing to teach orientation and mobility to the blind; and

WHEREAS, despite the fact that many blind persons are competently working in state rehabilitation agencies for the blind and elsewhere as mobility instructors, Division IX refuses to certify such blind instructors, contending that they cannot successfully perform the duties of the job; and

WHEREAS, the state rehabilitation agencies for the blind, which are the primary employers of orientation and mobility specialists, have by resolution rejected the practice of disqualifying blind mobility instructors; and

WHEREAS, such disqualification is contrary to federal law, current practice in the field, traditional wisdom and experience, and the best interests of the profession and blind trainees; and

WHEREAS, there have been recent indications that Division IX and its parent organization, AER, may be considering a revision of their policy of rejecting blind applicants for certification as mobility instructors, but in a totally inappropriate manner since the proposed new standards presuppose the correctness of the techniques used by sighted instructors (merely seeking ways to accommodate to those techniques) instead of recognizing that the techniques of blind instructors are different but not inferior: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that we reject the notion that blind persons cannot competently function as mobility instructors of the blind or that their techniques are inferior to the techniques used by sighted instructors; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on Division IX of AER to reconsider its position concerning certification of mobility instructors and to bring its policies into conformity with current best practice in the field; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration to discourage violation of federal antidiscrimination statutes by reviewing university applications for funding of mobility training courses to see whether those universities qualify for future federal grants if they continue to discriminate unfairly and unreasonably against the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on all concerned parties in the blindness field to reconsider the current system of certification of mobility instructors of the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we commend the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for the resolution which it passed concerning this matter on May 13, 1994.

RESOLUTION 94-02

WHEREAS, legislation in the form of H. R. 4263, entitled the "Small Business and Minority Small Business Procurement Opportunities Act of 1994," is being considered by the Congress as part of a broader initiative to reform purchasing procedures of the federal government; and

WHEREAS, among other things this legislation proposes that annual contracting goals shall be established by the President, including a requirement that not less than 5 percent of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards for each fiscal year must go to small businesses which are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and

WHEREAS, the Committee on Small Business in the House of Representatives has included language in H.R. 4263 directing the Small Business Administration to consider persons with severe disabilities as socially disadvantaged for purposes of eligibility for minority set-aside contracts; and

WHEREAS, This legislation as now amended by the House Small Business Committee is a positive departure from existing law, which disregards the social disadvantage that often accompanies most disabilities, especially blindness; and

WHEREAS, this legislation represents an important new direction in policy for the minority small business program and underscores once again the need to enact a similar change in Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization commend chairman John Lafalce and the members of the House Small Business Committee for responding positively to the request of the National Federation of the Blind for acknowledgment of our right to participate in minority small business programs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization continue to insist upon adding persons with disabilities to the list of those who, for purposes of participating in the minority small business program, are acknowledged by law as socially disadvantaged; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT we commend the ninety-three members of the United States House of Representatives who, along with Congressman Jim Ramstad, have co-sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act and ask them to join us in requesting that, following the example set by H.R. 4263, all bills relating to the minority small business program include class-wide recognition for blind persons and others with disabilities when they are passed.

RESOLUTION 94-03

WHEREAS, an educational philosophy called "full inclusion," is, in its popular implementation, if not in its definition, being used to place all children in the regular school classroom at all times and for all forms of instruction without considering all of a student's needs for instruction and services relating to disability; and

WHEREAS, a desirable goal of the full inclusion movement is the elimination of artificial or discriminatory educational placements which have occurred for convenience and in many instances because of prejudice; and

WHEREAS, genuine inclusion of blind students in all aspects of integrated school settings is a desirable goal, but a mandate for full inclusion is not the most effective way to reach that goal for many students during at least some portion of the educational process; and

WHEREAS, blind students must have educational services which are unique to blindness, including mobility instruction, learning to read and write Braille, and opportunities to become proficient in other adaptive skills, each of which requires time, attention, and knowledge which of necessity are not part of the regular, daily classroom experience with full inclusion at all times; and

WHEREAS, a continuum of educational placements, combined with an expressed preference for the least restrictive setting appropriate to the needs of the individual child, is the best policy to promote the ultimate integration of blind students in school and society by directing that arrangements for specialized services be provided in an effective setting for the child: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization oppose policy changes in either legislation or regulations which would remove the continuum of educational placement alternatives which is now available to parents, educators, and students; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the current reassessment of special education policy which may lead to changes in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act we urge the Congress and the Clinton administration to maintain support for choices among educational placements for blind students.

RESOLUTION 94-04

WHEREAS, the defined legal and legitimate mission of state vocational rehabilitation agencies is to provide the vocational rehabilitation services which are prescribed in each client's individualized written rehabilitation program; and

WHEREAS, there are a growing number of instances in which state vocational rehabilitation agencies have established and operated ongoing groups of agency clients and others for the purported purpose of providing support and self-help services; and

WHEREAS, chapters, affiliates, and divisions of the National Federation of the Blind not only conduct self-help and self-support activities but are themselves a self-help and self-support network throughout the United States; and

WHEREAS, chapters, affiliates, and divisions of the National Federation of the Blind are used as resources by vocational rehabilitation agencies in many instances; and

WHEREAS, support groups conducted under the auspices of the state vocational rehabilitation agency are in reality often a reaction to the organized blind movement, which is independent from the state agency; and

WHEREAS, rather than fostering support and self-help activities among blind persons, the organization, management, and oversight of support groups by the vocational rehabilitation agency undermines the expression of views which may not necessarily be in harmony with those of the state agency or its policies; and

WHEREAS, collaboration in good faith between organizations of the blind and vocational rehabilitation agencies serving the blind can be a constructive means of promoting self-support activities, but the outright conduct of support groups by agencies in ways which conflict with the organized blind movement is clearly an abuse of agency position and resources, smacking of custodialism and company unions: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization oppose the practice of conducting support groups which are controlled either directly or indirectly by state vocational rehabilitation agencies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we ask the Rehabilitation Services Administration to adopt clear regulations which prohibit use of funds for support groups that are controlled by agencies serving the blind rather than organizations of the blind themselves.

RESOLUTION 94-05

WHEREAS, the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act declares that priority must be given to blind persons in the operation of vending facilities which are under the control of departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States; and

WHEREAS, in a federal court challenge to the Randolph- Sheppard Act the Department of Veterans Affairs sought a ruling that the medical centers which it operates are exempt from providing priority to blind vendors; and

WHEREAS, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has now determined that the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Veterans Canteen Service must honor the priority for blind persons established by the Randolph- Sheppard Act; and

WHEREAS, in addition to the site at issue in the federal court challenge the Department of Veterans Affairs has 170 medical centers, and many of these sites would likely have sufficient business potential for a Randolph- Sheppard facility: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization request cooperation by the Department of Veterans Affairs in making good faith efforts to establish business opportunities for blind vendors throughout its medical center system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to cease and desist from further legal challenges to the priority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act and affirmatively demonstrate this policy by negotiating permits for blind vendors to operate facilities at the Department's medical centers nationwide.

RESOLUTION 94-06

WHEREAS, blind persons of all ages frequently use readers both to study for and to take tests at all levels of education from elementary school to post-graduate studies; and

WHEREAS, the use of a reader has proven to be a viable and successful alternative to the use of tapes, large print, and Braille for many blind persons who prefer to use this form of studying and test-taking or who do not possess the skills or training to use the other alternative techniques of blindness; and

WHEREAS, many other testing services, such as SAT, GRE, ACT, and NTE have always permitted blind persons to use readers to take their tests, and this has proven to be an effective method of examination; and

WHEREAS, the current policy of the American Council on Education, GED Testing Service, is not in compliance with Section 36.309 of the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and

WHEREAS, the ADA states that the methods used for teaching test materials must also be available for taking the examination; and

WHEREAS, the American Council on Education and the GED Testing Service do not allow the use of readers when taking the GED test, although many blind persons prefer to use readers to study the GED materials before taking the GED examination; and

WHEREAS, this antiquated and inconsistent policy is not in the spirit of the regulations for the ADA and is not consistent with the policies of other nationally known testing services or the preferences of many blind persons: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn and deplore the obsolete policy of the American Council on Education and the GED Testing Service for its intractable attitude toward the use of readers when blind persons take the GED examination; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization use its influence and whatever measures are necessary to persuade the American Council of Education and the GED Testing Service to change this outmoded policy and to allow blind persons to use readers when taking the GED examination.

RESOLUTION 94-07

WHEREAS, the United States Department of the Treasury is examining alternatives to the present currency for the purposes of making counterfeiting more difficult and for making currency more compatible with modern technology; and

WHEREAS, revisions to the present currency may include variations in color, raised markings, bar coding, or other electronically readable formats; and

WHEREAS, it is a widespread misconception that blind people cannot handle their own money because they cannot see it; and

WHEREAS, it is beyond dispute that blind people can, in fact, handle their own money; however, bills which can be identified by other than conventional print could be more convenient for everyone, may be a necessity to safeguard against counterfeiting, and may be desirable to take the best advantage of evolving technology: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization express the interest of blind people in the discussion of a modernized form of currency so that any changes which may eventually be made will include methods of identifying money by other than strictly visual means; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation, notwithstanding its expressed interest in the ultimate decisions on currency changes, do all in its power correctly to inform the public that blind people can and do successfully handle money in its present form.

RESOLUTION 94-09

WHEREAS, the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) program is the primary source of reading matter for most blind people in the United States; and

WHEREAS, for both cost and copyright reasons the service includes provision of machines which are especially designed to play cassette tapes and flexible discs recorded in slow speed and multi-track formats for exclusive use in the NLS program; and

WHEREAS, the commercial availability of recorded or Braille reading matter is not a viable option either as a supplement to or as a replacement for the NLS service, since the choice of such materials from commercial sources is sparse, the reading matter is often abridged, and the prices charged are prohibitively expensive, far exceeding the cost of purchasing the same material produced in standard ink print; and

WHEREAS, funding is the single most urgent need of the NLS program to meet the demands of normally anticipated growth, to acquire needed titles for the collection, and especially to ensure an adequate supply of machines to replace thousands of aging ones still in use; and

WHEREAS, budgets presented by the Library of Congress and the President for fiscal years 1993, 1994, and 1995 have each sought funding to begin a phased schedule of replacing the specialized playback machines which have been in service beyond their useful lives; and

WHEREAS, the Congress has so far failed to appropriate sufficient funds to address the growing problem of aging playback machines in the NLS program: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization express top priority support for the NLS program to receive the highest possible appropriation, with special attention being given to replacing the growing number of outmoded and broken playback machines which must be supplied for readers to use the recorded media; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we alert all members of Congress to the urgent need for funds to ensure that quality library services for the blind remain available both now and in the future.

RESOLUTION 94-10

WHEREAS, the 1992 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act require each state to create a State Independent Living Council (SILC); and

WHEREAS, Rehabilitation Law has always provided that states may have separate agencies serving the blind; and

WHEREAS, the 1993 Rehabilitation amendments (in keeping with this practice) added the provision that state rehabilitation advisory councils be separate for blind agencies; and

WHEREAS, many of the needs for persons in the other disability groups are not needs of the blind and, likewise, the blind have needs that are not significant for persons with different disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the result of this emphasis on "cross disability services" is that most of what the SILCs are doing is useless and sometimes counterproductive and harmful for the blind, often causing valuable existing programs to be discontinued for lack of funds; and

WHEREAS, some states have preferred to form two SILCs or two independent living plans under one SILC, thus providing an appropriate plan and representation for and among the blind; and

WHEREAS, where there is only one SILC in a state, it has attempted to secure all of the independent living monies available through both the general and blind agencies, leaving no funds for meaningful independent living services for blind individuals in those states: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that we call upon the Congress of the United States to pass necessary legislation so that agencies for the blind can provide meaningful independent living services for the blind with independent living funds allocated to these agencies.

RESOLUTION 94-11

WHEREAS, guide dog training includes teaching students to take responsibility for complete maintenance and control of a guide dog; and

WHEREAS, many guide dog schools do not teach their students efficient methods for relieving and picking up after their dogs; and

WHEREAS, many guide dog schools do not stress the importance of learning and maintaining these methods both during and after training; and

WHEREAS, these omissions on the part of many guide dog schools have resulted in the graduation of guide dog users who are unable and/or unwilling to pick up after their dogs; and

WHEREAS, the problem is compounded by ordinances in many cities which exempt blind persons from the requirement that these citizens pick up after their dogs--a permission for blind persons to skip this responsibility of citizenship which blind people should reject and which the guide dog schools should also reject by their training; and

WHEREAS, the irresponsible conduct of guide dog users who do not pick up after their dogs reinforces negative attitudes about blind people in the mind of the public and undermines the efforts of responsible guide dog users to demonstrate the effective use of guide dogs for independent travel: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization call upon all guide dog schools to stress the importance of learning and always using effective methods for picking up after a guide dog both during and after training.

RESOLUTION 94-12

WHEREAS, the United States Department of Transportation has now decided to impose a requirement for detectable warnings to be placed on the edges of passenger boarding platforms at key-rail stations; and

WHEREAS, this approach is at odds with the more enlightened position of the Department of Justice and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, both of which have suspended detectable warnings requirements during a period of further study, including a review of the need for the requirements; and

WHEREAS, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has decided not to install the detectable warnings on subway platform edges after being ordered to do so by the Secretary of Transportation, citing safety reasons as the basis for challenging the detectable warnings requirement; and

WHEREAS, the Washington area Metro system, which serves Washington, D. C., the national capital area, and the surrounding suburbs, is among the safest and most used rail facilities in the United States, with platform edges which have recessed flashing lights and are detectable by cane or dog guide; and

WHEREAS, the platform-edge-warning features of the Washington Metro system were designed for the safety of all riders and demonstrably fulfill that purpose; and

WHEREAS, there is not a scintilla of evidence that the installation of detectable warnings would make travel on the Washington Metro system safer for blind people or for anyone else, and compared to the present platform edge warnings there is ample reason to believe that the system would in fact be less safe with detectable warnings: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn and deplore the Department of Transportation's irrational insistence upon imposing detectable warnings on transit providers and users of rail systems; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization commend the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for standing tall on behalf of the safety of all transit users, including riders who are blind.

RESOLUTION 94-13

WHEREAS, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) has established criteria for certifying orientation and mobility instructors for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the certification criteria which have been used for many years presume that sight is essential to perform the duties of an instructor in orientation and mobility; and

WHEREAS, professional preparation programs, rehabilitation programs, and education programs often rely upon AER certification in both their admission policies and their employment practices; and

WHEREAS, use of the AER certification criteria in any way leads to artificial and discriminatory barriers, resulting in exclusion of blind people from orientation and mobility instructor certification; and

WHEREAS, agencies and schools which hire orientation and mobility instructors will often require AER certification as a condition for employment, and the institutions which train such instructors will almost without exception not admit blind people to their programs because they would not eventually become certified; and

WHEREAS, the agencies and schools serving the blind and the professional preparation programs for instructors are all federally funded but the Federal government has followed a hands-off policy and permitted discrimination against the blind in these programs for many years; and

WHEREAS, methods of proven effectiveness exist for blind people to teach other blind people how to travel both safely and independently: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn and deplore the discriminatory practice of excluding blind people from training, certification, and employment in the orientation and mobility profession; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we petition the United States Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and the Rehabilitation Services Administration to institute a policy of disapproving any future grant applications for programs which in their admission or employment policies follow the discriminatory certification criteria of AER.

RESOLUTION 94-14

WHEREAS, the decline in literacy skills among blind youth of school age is so pronounced as to constitute a national crisis--of the legally blind children reported to the American Printing House for the Blind in its 1993 annual child count, fewer than 9 percent used Braille, 27 percent used print, and 40 percent, the largest group, read neither Braille nor print; and

WHEREAS, comparative figures for prior years show a steady downward trend in literacy skills among blind children in America; and

WHEREAS, the federal government through the United States Department of Education provides significant financial aid to both state and local education agencies and conditions eligibility for these funds upon meeting certain federal requirements; and

WHEREAS, the unmet literacy needs of blind children are not currently addressed in the federal requirements, although blind adults who do not receive Braille instruction as children will often become dependent upon financial support and services from federal programs; and

WHEREAS, amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are being considered by the Clinton administration and the Congress in anticipation of legislation to reauthorize or modify certain provisions of IDEA: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization call upon responsible leaders in the Congress and officials of policy rank in the Department of Education to approve strong Braille literacy provisions as part of the IDEA reauthorization bill; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation declare its firm and continuing commitment to secure the right to receive Braille literacy services for all students who are blind or visually impaired.

RESOLUTION 94-15

WHEREAS, assistance paid in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is intended to meet the basic food, clothing, and shelter needs of recipients but is often insufficient even to achieve these purposes; and

WHEREAS, recipients who have the ability to work or to engage in training with the goal of self-support must be given opportunities to do so without suffering the loss of SSI benefits to meet their basic needs; and

WHEREAS, amendments to title XVI of the Social Security Act (H.R. 3264 and S. 2161) have been proposed in the Congress for the purpose of strengthening the SSI work incentive provisions; and

WHEREAS, changes made by this legislation would include the following: (1) acceptance of a Plan for Achieving Self- Support (PASS) unless it has been disapproved by the Social Security Administration within thirty days of submission by a recipient; (2) greater flexibility in the time allowed for fulfillment of a PASS, including a period of longer than four years if required by the recipient's goal; (3) allowing recipients to accumulate resources under a PASS for the purpose of buying a home; (4) clarifying that unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, and sick pay are considered to be "earned income" rather than "unearned income" for purposes of determining eligibility and payment amounts in the SSI program; and (5) specification that grants, scholarships, and fellowships not otherwise excluded from a recipient's income are "earned," not "unearned," income; and

WHEREAS, approval of these changes would promote self- support efforts among recipients and eventually lead to complete independence from SSI for many: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization call for enactment by the Congress of the SSI work incentive amendments proposed in H.R. 3264 and S. 2161; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in requesting the prompt approval of this legislation this Federation remind the Congress that investment in work incentives for SSI recipients makes good sense and fulfills sound economic principles.

RESOLUTION 94-16

WHEREAS, a proposal to re-engineer the process used for determining disability is being considered by the Social Security Administration; and

WHEREAS, in its major thrust the plan would streamline and simplify the procedures now in place to evaluate medical and other evidence relating to disability and blindness determinations affecting applicants for benefits in both the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs; and

WHEREAS, the conditions for determining blindness and eligibility for benefits in both programs are clearly prescribed in the Social Security Act, including a defined exemption of earnings used to measure "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) in the SSDI program and no consideration of SGA whatsoever for blind applicants in the SSI program; and

WHEREAS, in light of these provisions the eligibility process for blind individuals should be completed in a matter of days rather than consuming several months as is now the ordinary case; and

WHEREAS, if a blind applicant presents all of the appropriate information which is sufficient for an examiner to make a "presumptive eligibility" determination in either the SSDI or the SSI program, benefits due could be paid on time and the process would be further streamlined: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization urge the Social Security Administration and the Congress to move forward promptly with approval and implementation of a re- engineering plan for the disability determination process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the development of the final plan, and especially in its implementation, the unique status of blind applicants be considered in ways that will achieve both quick and accurate determinations; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as a further streamlining to the process, we urge the Social Security Administration and the Congress to include provisions for presumptive eligibility determinations to be made in the SSDI program as is now the case in the SSI program whenever a blind applicant supplies information sufficient for such a determination.

RESOLUTION 94-17

WHEREAS, the Clinton administration has voiced its intention to present a proposal to the Congress for raising the federal minimum wage; and

WHEREAS, an exemption from the minimum wage affecting blind employees allows for exploitation of workers with pay rates that are far below the minimum wage and falling far short of the amount required even to meet basic subsistence needs; and

WHEREAS, this exemption affects blind people who work in segregated factories which are often referred to as sheltered workshops; and

WHEREAS, evidence presented to the Congress in a hearing on March 16, 1994, established that procedures now in place to protect subminimum wage employees against management abuses do not work and cannot work to achieve fair pay practices; and

WHEREAS, any system such as the present minimum wage exemption, which benefits employers, is largely employer- executed, and is mostly employer-policed, will never safeguard the interests of the workers: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn the substandard pay practices which still exploit the labor of capable blind workers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we insist upon a place at the table in working with the Clinton administration as the next proposal for raising and modifying the minimum wage is developed.

RESOLUTION 94-18

WHEREAS, by virtue of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, individuals eligible for vocational rehabilitation services are to be given "choice and increased control" over decisions made concerning the selection of vocational rehabilitation goals, services, and service providers; and

WHEREAS, this mandate for consumer choice runs counter to the philosophy and practices historically followed by vocational rehabilitation agencies and personnel who in all too many instances have asserted so-called professionalism in preference to the expressed wishes and priorities of clients; and

WHEREAS, the acknowledged anti-choice bias which has been prevalent among rehabilitation agencies and professionals makes it imperative that clear regulatory direction concerning the choice mandate must be given from the federal level; and

WHEREAS, draft regulations for the vocational rehabilitation program which were recently circulated tend to send mixed signals by mentioning choice but also allowing state agencies the freedom to conduct business essentially in the usual manner, with perhaps a nod in the direction of consumer choice; and

WHEREAS, the law now requires that rehabilitation agencies and their personnel must abandon practices of exercising control over their clients, and therefore regulations to implement the law must provide the direction which is necessary to achieve this change: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization insist upon an unambiguous mandate for consumer choice in the federal vocational rehabilitation regulations; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation call for cooperation by all state vocational rehabilitation agencies in establishing policies to make consumer choice the guiding principle in the rehabilitation program of each individual served.

RESOLUTION 94-19

WHEREAS, a national commission has been appointed to develop a plan for addressing the growth of entitlement spending as a portion of the federal budget; and

WHEREAS, virtually the entire discussion of entitlement reform portrays many of the programs involved as wasteful and out of control; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security system, the largest of the entitlement programs, includes two special trust funds known as the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, from which monthly cash benefits are paid to individuals and their qualifying dependents based on work performed and contributions to the trust funds resulting from earnings; and

WHEREAS, eligibility rules for receipt of cash benefits are clearly prescribed so that wage-earners and their dependents can qualify only in the event of retirement, death, or disability; and

WHEREAS, proposals being considered by the entitlement reform commission include means testing of Social Security benefits, in other words reducing future Social Security benefits based on financial circumstances; and

WHEREAS, the insurance concept which underlies the Social Security system is one of its fundamental strengths, providing an incentive for all Americans to work and earn coverage and assuring that all who do work will be treated equally in receiving the benefits which they have earned as a percentage of their lifetime earnings; and

WHEREAS, the benefits paid and payable to thousands of blind Americans could eventually be affected significantly by a decision to means test Social Security in any way: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization state its firm opposition to means testing of benefits paid from either the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund or the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund both now and in the future; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the position expressed in this resolution be communicated promptly to the entitlement reform commission with the reminder that rather than reflecting a program that is out of control, the costs of the Social Security system demonstrate the continuing need for a viable social insurance program in the United States.