Convention Resolutions 1996

by Ramona Walhof

From the Editor: Ramona Walhof is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho. She also serves as the Chairman of the Resolutions Committee. Each year she presides over the receipt and handling of all resolutions until they are acted upon by the convention. This is what she has to say about the resolutions considered at the 1996 convention of the National Federation of the Blind:

In 1996 the Resolutions Committee met at 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, as has become traditional. The committee consists of nearly fifty active Federationists from all parts of the country.

The 1996 convention passed nineteen resolutions. The National Federation of the Blind takes its resolutions seriously. These are policy statements of the organization, and we use them to let others know what our positions are.

Any member of the NFB may present a resolution to the committee for consideration. After reading and discussing it, the Resolutions Committee votes either "do pass" or "do not pass." In order to receive action, resolutions must be written clearly and presented to the NFB President or the committee chairman at least two weeks before the convention. The Board of Directors may also bring resolutions to the convention for action.

We know that NFB resolutions are taken seriously by Congress and others. At the time of this writing (less than one month after the convention) Congress has already acted affirmatively on legislation advocated by two of our resolutions: 96-101 and 96-03. The issues in the legislation (funding Books for the Blind at the Library of Congress and reducing copyright requirements for Books for the Blind) have been addressed by NFB representatives in various ways. All the resolutions are clear statements of our goals and are important tools in our work.

This year four resolutions were voted do not pass by the committee, so they never came to the convention floor for action. These resolutions are not printed here. One resolution was recommended do pass by the committee but defeated on the convention floor. As usual, we are providing full texts of all resolutions debated this year by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled. Here is a brief description of each:

Resolution 96-101, which was first considered by the Board of Directors, calls upon Congress to retain a rigid Books for the Blind appropriation for the Library of Congress.

Resolution 96-01 reaffirms the NFB's commitment to the link between blind SSDI recipients and retirees with respect to Social Security exempt earnings.

Resolution 96-02 urges the timely and orderly pursuit of the International Council on English Braille's Unified Braille Code project. The resolution was defeated.

Resolution 96-03 seeks quick action by Congress on copyright revisions.

Resolution 96-04 provides direction for services that make audio voice-overs to describe videos.

Resolution 96-05 urges Congress to act quickly to revise the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and to include requirements for Braille in that revision.

Resolution 96-08 charges the Congress to retain leadership by the federal government of specialized rehabilitation services for the blind in the states and public agencies.

Resolution 96-09 condemns the Department of Veterans Affairs policy which disqualifies blind persons as travel instructors.

Resolution 96-10 calls for continued federal support of public transportation and Amtrak.

Resolution 96-11 calls for equal access for the blind to telecommunications services and equipment.

Resolution 96-12 expresses extreme displeasure toward the Seeing Eye for its behavior and attitude at recent NFB conventions.

Resolution 96-14 protests the practice of the Post Office to contract with Coca Cola and other companies when they could and should provide food service under the Randolph-Sheppard program.

Resolution 96-15 urges Congress to retain the spirit of the Randolph-Sheppard Act when considering legislation to reform concessions policies in public land and national park areas.

Resolution 96-16 seeks to insure that organizations of the blind will be the dominant voice on advisory councils for state rehabilitation agencies serving blind citizens.

Resolution 96-17 condemns the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) statements that characterize separate agencies for the blind as providers of segregated services and reaffirms the long-standing NFB position that separate agencies for the blind are best.

Resolution 96-19 calls upon the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to establish a policy seeking to make computer technology accessible to the blind.

Resolution 96-20 calls upon the Social Security Administration to create work-report and benefit-adjustment procedures which will not needlessly penalize SSI and SSDI recipients when they go to work.

Resolution 96-21 seeks to preserve and strengthen specialized programs for the blind in the states which maintain accountability.

Resolution 96-22 urges the Social Security Administration to adopt a thirty-day requirement for approval of PASS applications.

RESOLUTION 96-101

WHEREAS, the Committee on Appropriations in the U. S. House of Representatives has approved funding for fiscal year 1997 for Books for the Blind from the Library of Congress in the amount of $44,964,000; and

WHEREAS, this sum is a portion of the total budget for the Library of Congress, and instructions in the Committee report on the Appropriations bill would allow the Librarian of Congress to shift money from one program to another, placing in jeopardy the appropriation for Books for the Blind; and

WHEREAS, the amount specified by Congress for Books for the Blind in the appropriations bill is presently protected against being used for other purposes of the Library of Congress, and this policy must be continued if blind people are to receive the reading matter which they need; and

WHEREAS, the Books for the Blind program is the principal source of Braille and recorded books and magazines for blind persons throughout the country, and the number of books and magazines is already far too few, which is why under no circumstances should money be taken from the Books for the Blind program: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization call upon the Congress to protect funding for the Books for the Blind program by prohibiting the Librarian of Congress from shifting funds for that program to any other activity of the Library of Congress.

RESOLUTION 96-01

WHEREAS, the Social Security Amendments of 1977 established an identical earnings exemption threshold for blind people and for individuals who retire at age sixty- five; and

WHEREAS, amendments to the Social Security Act which were included in legislation recently passed to raise the ceiling on the national debt have also raised the earnings exemption threshold for seniors but not for the blind; and

WHEREAS, while the Social Security Act limit on earnings for blind people remains at the level established in January, 1996 (subject to automatic annual adjustments), the senior citizens' exempt amount will be increased in seven mandated increments which far exceed inflation adjustments; and

WHEREAS, the mandated increases for seniors will result in an earnings exemption of $30,000 effective in 2002, while the earnings limit for blind people in the same year is expected to be $14,400; and

WHEREAS, the decision to separate the blind persons' and senior citizens' earnings exemptions reflects a pro-work policy for seniors but, by comparison, continues a far more restrictive work policy which blind people are still forced to endure; and

WHEREAS, the disability of blindness is not defined by the inability to work, and, therefore, blind people should be encouraged to become productive to the maximum extent possible by lifting the restriction on earnings: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization reaffirm its long-standing view that provisions of the Social Security Act which impose economic hardships on blind people who work must be changed; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we request prompt action by Congress at least to restore the earnings exemption policy by which blind people and seniors have had an identical exempt amount for almost twenty years.

RESOLUTION 96-02

WHEREAS, Standard English Braille is recognized throughout the English-speaking world as the basic code for literacy among blind persons; and

WHEREAS, the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) now seeks to enhance standard English Braille by adding new symbols necessary to writing in sciences and technology; and

WHEREAS, the ICEB is committed to extending the Braille code without significant changes to the basic literary code; and

WHEREAS, ICEB has established the Unified Braille Code Project Committee and various technical committees with representation from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States to accomplish the task of developing the Unified Braille Code; and

WHEREAS, the ICEB has contracted with the International Braille Research Center to conduct an extensive evaluation of the proposed Unified Braille Code through direct involvement of blind consumers, transcribers, and teachers of Braille in all participating countries; and

WHEREAS, this international effort has demonstrated great progress toward developing an enriched English Braille code that will serve blind people well into the next century: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization work to ensure timely and orderly pursuit of this project to its successful conclusion; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work to ensure that a unified Braille code be adopted and that after its adoption all blind students pursuing an academic course of study receive instruction in the Unified Braille Code and any other Braille codes, such as the Braille Music Code, that the student and/or the student's parent or parents deem necessary for a full and complete education.

RESOLUTION 96-03

WHEREAS, present provisions of the Copyright Act require approval by copyright holders before ink-print editions of published works may be transcribed or reproduced in Braille or sound-recorded formats; and

WHEREAS, imposition of the existing approval process does not serve the legitimate interests of publishers since there is no competition whatsoever resulting from the circulation of copyrighted matter in specialized formats for blind people who cannot use and generally do not purchase the ink-print editions; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind and the Association of American Publishers have successfully negotiated the terms of a revision to the Copyright Act which have been set forth in a detailed legislative proposal; and

WHEREAS, the copyright amendments which have now been recommended to the Congress would permit conversion of published works into specialized formats (including Braille, sound-recorded, or digital reproductions) without obtaining permission for the conversion or circulation of the material to blind persons or to other persons with disabilities as defined in the proposal; and

WHEREAS, enactment of this legislation would respond to an acknowledged need of blind people to have printed matter produced in usable formats without undue delay from the time of the original ink-print publication: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization request expedited consideration and passage by Congress of the proposed copyright revisions so that this legislation may be signed into law during the remaining weeks of the 104th Congress.

RESOLUTION 96-04

WHEREAS, presentation of information by audio-visual means is now a vital part of modern life; and

WHEREAS, audio description of visual images is a service that adds oral description of visual images to television and movie programs; and

WHEREAS, audio description of visual images can be quite useful by adding to the entertainment value of the presentation for blind viewers; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission is considering the extent to which audio description should be required in television programming; and

WHEREAS, although audio description may at times make the presentation more enjoyable, this fact alone does not necessarily justify a requirement by the federal government that virtually all audio/visual programming must contain audio descriptions of visual images; and

WHEREAS, a requirement by the federal government for audio description in virtually all television programming would place an undue emphasis on entertainment as an issue for the blind and tend to draw public attention away from the real and cruel forms of economic discrimination and exclusion of blind people from normal integration into society which exist: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization support voluntary use of audio description in television programming but oppose the imposition of audio description as a federal mandate; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, to the extent that a mandate is justified, we urge the Federal Communications Commission to require both audio and visual presentation of essential information for the public such as warnings of hazardous weather or other emergency conditions.

RESOLUTION 96-05

WHEREAS, legislation to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and extend the funding authority for certain programs now conducted under the Act is being considered in the House of Representatives and the Senate; and

WHEREAS, these measures are an extensive revision of the Act and include some controversial changes such as allowing local education agencies to alter the placement of a child with a disability as a disciplinary measure; and

WHEREAS, despite the controversy over changes such as this, the legislation as passed by the House of Representatives contains an unambiguous endorsement of the need for Braille for a blind child, requiring that Braille instruction and services must be included in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of the blind child unless all members of the IEP team agree that Braille is not needed by the child; and

WHEREAS, this decisive approach toward Braille services for blind students represents the most positive statement on Braille services for children who are blind ever approved by a legislative body: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization urge the Congress to complete action this year on a bill to revise and extend programs conducted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon those responsible for negotiating the final bill in Congress to include in that bill the precise language as passed by the House on Braille instruction and the use of Braille to be included in the Individualized Education Program of any child who is blind.

Resolution 96-06 was submitted by Rami Rabby and was voted no pass during the Sunday Afternoon Resolution Committee meeting.

Resolution 96-07 was submitted by Linwood Gallagher and was voted no pass during the Sunday afternoon Resolutions Committee meeting.

RESOLUTION 96-08

WHEREAS, the authority for programs under title I and other important sections of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is presently scheduled to expire on September 30, 1997; and

WHEREAS, the upcoming reauthorization of programs under the Rehabilitation Act will be occurring at a time when the very existence of many federal programs has been called into question by a number of Congressional leaders; and

WHEREAS, during the first session of the 104th Congress the Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunity in the U. S. House of Representatives recommended a merger of the vocational rehabilitation program with job training, education, and other programs for unemployed people; and

WHEREAS, this proposal was turned back only at the last minute on the floor of the House of Representatives when an amendment to remove the vocational rehabilitation program from the consolidation requirements was approved against the express position taken by the responsible House committee leaders; and

WHEREAS, the impetus for consolidation of federal programs has been an effort to reduce federal spending under the guise of turning responsibility for program organization and management completely over to state and local governments; and

WHEREAS, reforming the vocational rehabilitation program so that consumer responsiveness and client choice can prevail over claims of bureaucratic necessity is long overdue, but submerging the program into the generic job training system would not achieve this goal and would sacrifice the identifiable service-delivery system which now exists: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization urge the Congress to reaffirm the commitment to specialized services by maintaining leadership within the federal government over statewide and identifiable public vocational rehabilitation agencies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization continue to serve as an advocate for an identifiable vocational rehabilitation service-delivery system throughout the coming debate over reauthorization of programs under the Rehabilitation Act.

RESOLUTION 96-09

WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides skills training, and other adjustment services to blinded veterans through specialized centers which are located in Tucson, Arizona; Birmingham, Alabama; West Haven, Connecticut; Palo Alto, California; Hines, Illinois; and San Juan, Puerto Rico; and

WHEREAS, orientation and mobility training is a significant adjustment service provided to those attending the centers in almost every case; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans Affairs has made a conscious policy determination that, regardless of ability or qualifications, all totally blind individuals must be excluded from teaching orientation and mobility to the blind, whether as full instructors or as interns-in- training; and

WHEREAS, the general counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a memorandum under date of October 23, 1995, which attempts to justify the Department's position by concluding that "... totally blind `O and M' instructors pose a significant risk of harm to their students due to their inability to correct improper techniques, to monitor and accurately report events, and to react quickly enough to events and situations so as to avoid placing the blind student in dangerous situations"; and

WHEREAS, the general counsel's conclusions are purportedly based on facts but are actually nothing more than a prejudicial restatement of the position taken by certain sighted professionals who feel the need to be superior and cannot accept the fact that blind people can teach other blind people to travel with independence and safety: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization condemn and deplore the Department of Veterans Affairs' policy of excluding totally blind people from employment or internship training as instructors in orientation and mobility for the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in view of the cabinet- level status of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this organization bring the Department's policy against blind mobility instructors to the attention of President Clinton and others responsible for coordination of federal, domestic, and civil rights policies with the request that the policy against blind mobility instructors be withdrawn.

RESOLUTION 96-10

WHEREAS, public transportation provides thousands of blind Americans the freedom of movement essential to lead active, productive lives; and

WHEREAS, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) consolidates federal assistance for highway and public transportation, giving states and localities greater responsibility and flexibility to use federal funds for road and/or transit projects; and

WHEREAS, federal transit support includes capital grants based on local matching funds, as well as operating assistance for all modes--"fixed-route" bus, rail, paratransit, and subsidized taxi service; and

WHEREAS, Amtrak operates long-distance, regional, and corridor train service and has contractual arrangements to operate commuter train service for several transit systems throughout the country; and

WHEREAS, Amtrak already has curtailed daily service to tri-weekly on several routes and has eliminated portions of other routes, while raising fares; and

WHEREAS, Amtrak expects federal operating assistance to phase out by the year 2,000 but projects the need for ongoing capital assistance: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization strongly support the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, calling for continued federal capital and operating assistance, while maintaining state and local responsibility and flexibility to determine transportation projects and allocate federal funds accordingly; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call for continued federal assistance to Amtrak.

RESOLUTION 96-11

WHEREAS, Congress has enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which includes provisions that require telecommunications services and equipment to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, guidelines which define access by persons with disabilities in the context of telecommunications will initially be developed by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board and will be subject to final review and enforcement by the Federal Communications Commission; and

WHEREAS, ready access to telecommunications services and equipment is a matter of pivotal concern to blind individuals since information necessary for work, entertainment, and social interaction is rapidly becoming available for distribution only through various telecommunications networks; and

WHEREAS, exclusion from the means of communication which is widely available to and in general use by most people would lead to intolerable forms of isolation and segregation of blind people from the rest of our modern society; and

WHEREAS, the guidelines and standards issued must avoid these conditions by requiring the use of effective access alternatives, including alternatives in which vision is not needed to navigate through or control elements in the telecommunications system in order to identify, retrieve, or benefit from the information available: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization insist upon a policy of equal access to telecommunications services and equipment which must, because of the nature of the technology involved, include requirements for equivalent, parallel access for non-visual use whenever access is otherwise achieved primarily by visual means; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we invite leaders in the telecommunications industry to work directly with the National Federation of the Blind in order to implement the equal access--including parallel access--standards established.

RESOLUTION 96-12

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind promotes security, equality, and opportunity for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the Federation promotes gatherings of blind persons including blind children, parents of blind children, and sighted supporters of the blind at local, state, and national conventions in order to increase positive attitudes toward blindness and blind people both in the blind community and throughout society as a whole; and

WHEREAS, one of the means by which the Federation increases positive attitudes toward blindness and blind people is by promoting respect for blind people; and

WHEREAS, the Seeing Eye, Inc., has been attending Federation conventions for the past twenty-five years, and has for the past twenty-three years availed itself of Federation convention facilities to hold an annual breakfast for its graduates, at no cost to the graduates; and

WHEREAS, Seeing Eye representatives have been able to reduce their hotel costs by at least two-thirds by taking advantage of Federation hotel rates, even though many Seeing Eye staff members have consistently been unwilling to pay the nominal registration fee (currently ten dollars) paid by all who attend Federation conventions; and

WHEREAS, because of rising convention costs the Federation finds it necessary to charge vendors, agencies, and all other non-member groups a fee for the use of meeting rooms for their activities at Federation conventions; and

WHEREAS, the Seeing Eye has refused to pay the fee and has refused to deal with the Federation directly but instead has begun the practice of holding its breakfasts for Seeing Eye graduates and guests at a neighboring hotel, this despite the fact that the Seeing Eye is the richest guide dog school in the United States, having millions of dollars at its disposal; and

WHEREAS, at the 1995 NFB Convention in Chicago the Seeing Eye attempted to undermine the Federation by engaging in subterfuge in planning and holding its breakfast outside the hotel, in that it singled out its graduates and surreptitiously provided them with information about the time and location of its breakfast, thereby attempting to create a schism between its graduates and other members of the National Federation of the Blind; and

WHEREAS, in the Spring/Summer, 1996, issue of Harness Up!, a publication of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the National Federation of the Blind, the Seeing Eye was warned that the Federation would no longer tolerate such behavior and that the Federation would no longer announce or sanction Seeing Eye breakfasts if they were to be held secretly and outside Federation convention premises; and

WHEREAS, during the registration period at the 1996 annual meeting of the National Association of Guide Dog Users at the NFB Convention, the Seeing Eye again engaged in subterfuge and trickery, handing out Braille information concerning the location of its breakfast in such a way as to take advantage of the fact that the majority of the members of the Division, being blind, would not be able to see what Seeing Eye staff members were doing; and

WHEREAS, the breakfast was held the following day at the Marriott Hotel, causing discomfort to Seeing Eye graduates and others who attended, because it was clear that the Seeing Eye was attempting to disrupt Federation activities by trying to isolate its graduates from the other members of the Federation; and

WHEREAS, these reprehensible practices of the Seeing Eye are an insult to the organized blind of this country and a calculated act of hostility toward the Federation: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that the National Federation of the Blind express its extreme displeasure with the behavior of the Seeing Eye and its staff members; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, if this situation cannot be amicably resolved, the President of the National Federation of the Blind be authorized and instructed to call for and organize picketing of Seeing Eye headquarters in order to inform the general public that, while the Seeing Eye trains and provides guide dogs and instruction in their use, its attitude toward blind people and the organized blind movement of the nation is characterized by contempt and disrespect; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, if no resolution of this problem can be achieved, we give the broadest possible publicity to this cavalier behavior toward the blind by the Seeing Eye; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Seeing Eye.

Resolution 96-13 was submitted by Peter Donahue and was voted no pass by the Resolutions Committee during its Sunday afternoon meeting.

RESOLUTION 96-14

WHEREAS, the Randolph-Sheppard Act declares that an unambiguous priority is legally in effect to give blind persons the right to operate vending facilities on federal property; and

WHEREAS, property under the control of the United States Postal Service is specifically identified as falling within the priority assigned by law to blind vendors; and

WHEREAS, in spite of these provisions of federal law, officials of the Postal Service have acknowledged that a new initiative (described as "experimental") is underway in which, as a departure from existing Postal Service policy, vending machines dispensing Coca-Cola products have been installed in customer lobbies of some Postal Service facilities; and

WHEREAS, a memorandum marked "Highly Confidential" sent to U. S. bottlers of Coca-Cola products from a Coca-Cola USA Operations office in Atlanta, Georgia, confirms the initiative occurring at Postal Service sites, describing the project as a "strategic alliance which is expected to result in a ten-year agreement to provide Postal Service customers with Coca-Cola products through full-service vending"; and

WHEREAS, the strategic alliance envisioned by Congress in enacting the Randolph-Sheppard Act was to result in opportunities for blind people to serve the food and beverage needs of Postal Service customers and employees, in preference to a direct relationship between the Postal Service and any particular bottler of soft drinks: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization file an official protest with the United States Postal Service concerning its use of full-service vending through Coca-Cola or any other commercial bottler of soft-drinks in lieu of first making plans to provide sales opportunities to blind vendors; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization enlist the active support of members of Congress and officials in the executive branch who have oversight responsibilities to ensure that the priority for blind persons to operate vending facilities (including vending machines) at Postal Service sites is strictly enforced.

RESOLUTION 96-15

WHEREAS, the priority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act to blind persons for the operation of vending facilities applies to any building, land, or other real property which is owned, leased, or occupied by any department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States; and

WHEREAS, the priority under the plain language of the law applies to public land areas of the United States, including national parks and other recreation, tourist, or other public-use facilities; and

WHEREAS, proposals pending in Congress would promote the competitive awarding of business opportunities in national parks and public land areas as a means of raising revenues for the federal government; and

WHEREAS, changes in federal laws and regulations regarding concessions policies must protect and promote application of the Randolph-Sheppard Act priority for blind vendors: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization urge the Congress to include fulfillment of the priority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act as an affirmative duty in legislation to reform concessions policies in public land and national park areas; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the responsible officials and agencies of the executive branch to adopt regulations which will expand opportunities for blind vendors in national parks and public land areas.

RESOLUTION 96-16

WHEREAS, the 1992 amendments to the federal Rehabilitation Act created a new federal mandate for state rehabilitation agencies to have advisory councils, directing that the membership of such advisory councils must consist of at least one person representing the following: (a) the statewide independent living council, (b) parent training and information centers, (c) the client assistance program, (d) vocational rehabilitation counselors, (e) community rehabilitation program service providers, (f) a parent of an individual with a disability, (g) representatives from business, industry, and labor, (h) a current or former client of the agency, and (i) representation from blind consumers; and

WHEREAS, advisory councils, which existed in many states prior to the 1992 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, have included requirements for a significant number of the council members to be selected from organized consumer groups; and

WHEREAS, the 1992 federal requirements have resulted in diminishing opportunities for elected representatives from consumer organizations to serve on advisory councils; and

WHEREAS, this situation is best exemplified by changes made in the advisory councils in Washington state and Mississippi, where organized blind consumers have lost their majority representation on the advisory councils in favor of the selection of individuals who, in most instances, actually represent no one but themselves and are not accountable to the blind in the state: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization condemn and deplore requirements for advisory councils which have undermined the voice of the blind in agencies for the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Congress of the United States to amend the Rehabilitation Act to ensure that representatives of organizations of the blind are the majority voice on advisory councils of state rehabilitation agencies serving the blind.

RESOLUTION 96-17

WHEREAS, in a letter sent to the National Federation of the Blind under date of June 3, 1996, the President of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) referred to specialized programs which serve the blind as "segregated services" and programs which serve a general disability clientele without specialization as "integrated programs"; and

WHEREAS, use of the term "integrated setting" in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is meant to express the goal of integrating persons with disabilities into employment and other programs open to all, regardless of disability; and WHEREAS, the goal of achieving integration into society can best be advanced by programs which meet the relevant, specialized needs of blind people; and

WHEREAS, "integrated setting" as used in the Rehabilitation Act does not imply that independent living centers are necessarily more integrated than other rehabilitation programs and, in fact, they are not; and

WHEREAS, the characterization of specialized services for the blind as "segregated" and general programs as "integrated" is a value judgment by NCIL which only reflects that particular organization's avowed bias against specialized programs for the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization condemn and deplore the view of the National Council on Independent Living that specialization of services constitutes any form of segregation, harmful or otherwise; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we reaffirm the longstanding policy of this organization to preserve and create wherever possible a specialized approach to services for the blind provided by identifiable and consumer- responsive agencies.

Resolution 96-18 was submitted by Linwood Gallagher and was voted no pass by the committee at its Sunday afternoon meeting.

RESOLUTION 96-19

WHEREAS, title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of disability; and

WHEREAS, employers who are covered by the Act are required and expected to provide equal opportunities for persons with disabilities in regard to matters such as hiring, work assignments, promotions, training, career development, and other conditions of employment; and

WHEREAS, use of modern computer technology has become the norm in the American workplace to such an extent that competitive performance of employees often depends upon their ability to receive and process information provided solely by electronic means; and

WHEREAS, computer technology provided to blind people in the workplace is often substandard and is frequently not equipped to integrate into the networks or systems that sighted employees use, resulting in time and opportunities lost due to artificial barriers; and

WHEREAS, the limitations imposed upon blind employees by technology barriers have not been addressed as discriminatory employment practices, although lack of opportunity can clearly be documented as a systemic problem affecting a significant percentage of blind people who work: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization petition the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to establish a clear and non-discriminatory employment policy to address the widespread condition of technology barriers that adversely affect equal employment opportunities for people who are blind.

RESOLUTION 96-20

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has an avowed goal of encouraging Disability Insurance beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients to attempt to work and eventually leave the rolls due to work activity; and

WHEREAS, officials of the Social Security Administration continue to voice great frustration about the fact that less than one percent of the beneficiaries actually leave the rolls annually due to work activity; and

WHEREAS, procedures used by the Social Security Administration reflect a non-work presumption and rely almost exclusively on after-the-fact corrections if beneficiaries report work; and

WHEREAS, the after-the-fact procedures for reconciling work activity issues leave beneficiaries in considerable confusion and doubt as to their status in regard to continued eligibility or the possibility of liability for an overpayment caused by working; and

WHEREAS, uncertainty and the fear of consequences lead beneficiaries to mistrust work incentives and not to use them as a result: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization reaffirm its position that use of work incentives by persons who receive Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits largely depends upon creating work report and benefit adjustment procedures that anticipate work activity and seek to minimize the after-the-fact consequences that can be caused by earnings; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we enlist the cooperation of the Social Security Administration in jointly planning a work reporting system that assists beneficiaries by providing them with workable and responsive procedures to maximize, not penalize, their productive efforts.

RESOLUTION 96-21

WHEREAS, a planned and orchestrated effort has been underway in the United States to give states and governors more discretion in the organization of many tax-supported programs; and

WHEREAS, the exercise of greater discretion in organizing service-delivery systems at the state level frequently means program consolidation, which can often occur with very little regard or forethought given to the specific mission of particular agencies; and

WHEREAS, programs which serve target populations, such as the relatively small programs that provide vocational rehabilitation and other essential services to the blind, are predictably placed at great risk when the tide of program consolidation begins to rise within a state; and

WHEREAS, examples of the consolidation efforts underway can be seen in the states of Georgia and Kentucky, where in both instances plans were quietly made administratively to merge identifiable service-delivery structures so that personnel and programs exclusively devoted to serving the blind would be shared and merged with other, more general disability-related services for alleged reasons of efficiency; and

WHEREAS, combining agencies which have the focused responsibility of serving blind people with programs with a far less precise mission and a far more diverse clientele defeats the purpose of efficiency and results in growing dependency caused by lack of relevant service: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization call upon political leaders in the states to preserve and strengthen a service-delivery structure for blind people which provides both personnel and programs with clear lines of accountability for serving their identified, specialized needs.

RESOLUTION 96-22

WHEREAS, the Plan for Achieving Self Support (PASS) is an important feature of the Supplemental Security Income program, allowing SSI recipients to designate a portion of their income or resources for use in achieving self-support goals; and

WHEREAS, fulfilling the PASS often involves participation in education or training opportunities which begin at fixed times with enrollment dependent on the fixed schedule, rather than waiting for the Social Security Administration to complete the evaluation of a PASS; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration has recently established centralized procedures for evaluating and approving all PASS applications, rather than allowing personnel in the local Social Security offices to approve PASS applications; and

WHEREAS, submission of all PASS applications to approval through a centralized process in all instances is bureaucratically rigid and, at a minimum, is likely to result in substantial delays with training opportunities postponed for the sole reason that the paperwork is not yet finished so that the PASS can begin: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this fifth day of July, 1996, in the City of Anaheim, California, that this organization urge the Social Security Administration to adopt expedited procedures for obtaining approval of PASS applications in critical cases; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, whether the processing of PASS applications continues to be centralized or not, we reaffirm and communicate to the Social Security Administration the position of this organization that a thirty-day prompt approval standard should be in effect for PASS applications, with the presumption that the PASS is approved if the application has not been acted upon within that time.