Below is the training video and the transcript of our 2022 Washington Seminar Issues.
The Training Video
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Hello, Federation family, this is John Pare, and this is our 2022 Washington seminar issue review. Washington Seminar is coming up in just a few weeks. It will begin on Monday, February 7th. Don't forget that we have The Great Gathering-In in Monday, February 7th, beginning at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, and then we'll be having our meetings the next Tuesday, Wednesday
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and Thursday all virtually. And I'm very excited about the four issues we have to talk to you today. So let's get right to it. Let's get to our first issue with Jeff Kaloc. Jeff's going to talk about the Access Technology Affordability Act. And here's Jeff.
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Oh, yes. We're going to talk about the Access Technology Affordability Act and the bill number will be H.R. 431 in the House and S 212 in the Senate. Let's first begin with the issue at hand, the issue at hand.
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Is that the unemployment and underemployment rate stands at nearly 70%, we're looking at ways to get that figure down. And one of the main obstacles that many blind Americans face is the high cost of access technology. As many of you know, many of these devices range anywhere from $1,000 to $6,000.
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With many of them being on the higher end of that scale. So what this bill would do, what the Access Technology Affordability Act would do is provide a $2,000 refundable tax credit over the course of three years and for the purposes of access technology.
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Now the bill itself would sunset after five years. And the reason we like the refundable tax credit is it allows the individual to use what works best for them. Everyone has their own goals, careers and objectives, and we believe that the individual know what will and what won't work for them.
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The bill has received bipartisan support in the House. We have 116 co-sponsors in the Senate. We have received 33 co-sponsors, but with the - with the tax credit and the goal of lowering the unemployment and underemployment rate. We believe that this bill will be beneficial in many ways.
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One As it gets people back to work, it will be growing the, the tax base that individuals be paying in as they go back to work, as well as it will also reduce the need of some of the federal services that many individuals may be utilizing as they go back to work as well.
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But we think this is a pretty straightforward piece of legislation that will that, will be advantageous for both blind Americans as well as the federal government. And John, I'll, I'll take it back to you.
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That was great, yeah, and I agree this, this is a jobs bill to help put our blind Americans to work. And by doing so will help, help it pay for itself because people will be paying into federal income tax instead of using Social Security, they'll be paying into Social Security. So it's and I think that's why we have so many co-sponsors.
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And if we really look forward to increasing the co-sponsor count at Washington Seminar. All right, our next bill also helps create independence and success for blind people, this being in the health area and Jesa is going to talk about The Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act.
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All right. Hi, everyone. So this is a medical device, Non-visual Accessibility Act H.R. 4853. So the issue is that inaccessible digital interfaces are preventing blind individuals from independently and safely operating medical devices that are essential to their daily health care needs.
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So medical devices with a digital interface are becoming more prevalent and therefore less accessible for blind Americans. Most new models of medical devices, such as glucose and blood pressure monitors, along with the emergence of other devices such as chemotherapy treatments and dialysis.
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These devices are readily requiring consumers to interact with a digital display and therefore it's not accessible. And as we know, in our current health crisis, telehealth currently makes up 20% of all medical devices, and more health care providers are looking to expand that number and expand their telemedicine services.
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And unfortunately, these visits do assume that a person has easy access to accessible medical devices, order to take their own vitals to even have the doctor's appointment move forward. But as a result of inaccessibility, blind and low vision Americans are at a distinct advantage when it comes to receiving the same health care as their sighted counterparts and
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having agency over their own health. Non-visual access is achievable. It's been demonstrated by a number of mainstream products. Apple has incorporated voiceover as well as MacBooks, Mac desktops, as well as virtually all ATMs manufactured in the United States are accessible because these manufacturers incorporate accessibility in the design phase, and unfortunately, current disability laws are not able
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to keep up with advancements in technology. Although we do have the ADA, unfortunately there are no laws that currently protect the blind consumer's right to access medical devices. And our solution is The Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act.
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It calls on the FDA to promulgate non-visual accessibility standards for Class II and Class III medical devices. It requires all manufacturers of Class II and Class III medical devices to incorporate accessibility in the design phase. And it authorizes the FDA to enforce non-visual access standards in our current world.
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It is more important than ever that blind Americans have the same access to the same health care that their sighted counterparts have. Excuse me. All people should be allowed. Should be able to go to their corner drugstore and pick up a device that they can use and take back home.
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And that's our goal to end unequal access to medical devices for blind Americans
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John Pare Terrific. Yeah, this is another really critical bill. As Jess has said, it's been introduced in the House. We are looking for a Senate sponsor. But in the meantime, the more we can build co-sponsor support in the House, the better.So we're really looking forward to moving this critical bill forward at Washington seminar also. All right, our third issue is something that also probably everyone encounters and that has to do with inaccessible websites. And here to talk about the 21st century website and application accessibility bill.
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Thank you, John. So as John mentioned, the bill that I'm here to talk about is the 21st Century Websites and Applications Accessibility Act. We know that websites and mobile applications are an essential part of modern living.
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It's difficult to get around or do just about anything without that, without first looking some information up online or something like that. And the issue is that these websites, for the most part, are required by law to be accessible.
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But without some implementing regulations, most businesses and retailers have little understanding of what accessibility actually means for this. The Department of Justice announced that a little over ten years ago its intention to publish accessible website regulations. But since then, nothing substantial has been done in that area.
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And because of that be. In recent years, we've seen a significant increase in the prevalence of what are frequently referred to as click by lawsuits, and that just means that patrons will go to a website. And if there's something that's not accessible, they can.
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Or they will try to sue the owner operator of that website under the Titl 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And because of that, because businesses don't have that really hard and fast framework of what accessibility actually means.
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Sometimes, I'm sorry - frequently that these will be settled out of court, so it doesn't solve the problem of fixing the inaccessible website, and it just makes the lawyers some quick money. And as I said, these types of lawsuits have been increasing steadily since 2013, when that figure was first tracked.
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So our solution to this is the 21st Century Websites and Applications Accessibility Act. The Act would create a regulatory framework for accessibility of websites and applications by directing the Access Board to create accessibility guidelines for websites and apps.
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Once the bill has been passed, the Access Board would have six months to create and publish a proposed rule and then an additional six months after the publication of that proposed rule to publish the final rule. Once the final rule has been published, the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will have one year to
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adopt accessibility standards based on the guidelines that the Access Report published, and we just have the Department of Justice and the Equal Opportunity Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will have the authority to investigate accessibility concerns and commence civil action if necessary, and the standards that are promulgated will apply to websites that are owned and operated by employers.
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Public accommodations and public entities and those definitions are all currently existing definitions within the law. We didn't add any new definitions or change anything within the ADA, so the definitions for employers, public accommodations and public entities are all already part of existing law.
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I think that's all I have on that. John, thank you.
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All right, our last issue is the transformation to a competitive integrated employment act, and I'm going to talk a little bit about that. It's wrong to pay people with disabilities less than the minimum minimum wage. It's wrong. It's discriminatory. It's unfair. Most people in America are unaware that it's actually legal and we need to change that. Section 14 see of the Fair Labor Standards Act is an exception that says that it is legal to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage, and it's that section of the law that we want to
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be repealed or sunset. We need to end this this discriminatory provision. In fact, virtually every disability group in America opposes Section 14 C and wants to see it repealed or sunset. The National Council on Disability, the group appointed to help advise the president and Congress on disability policy, has also issued a report urging that this section of
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the law be sunset. The United States Commission on Civil Rights has also done a year long study and came up with the same result that it's discriminatory and that the section should be sunset. So the transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, which is H.R. two, three, 73 and SE 3238 would do just that.
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And let me tell you a little bit how it's divided into five titles. Title one actually creates a grant program to make sure that the transition goes smoothly, that there isn't some collateral damage, so to speak, to people who are currently getting sub minimum wages that they're able to transition smoothly into competitive integrated employment, competitive being defined
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as getting at least the minimum wage, and integrated paying to work in a setting with other people without disabilities. Title two is the one that creates the actual phase out. It does this over a five year period. And so after year one, it says that you'd be getting folks would have to get at least 60% of the
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then current minimum wage. Note that this doesn't change the minimum wage, it just creates equality, saying that everyone would get the then current or at least 60% of the then current minimum wage. The next year, you would get 70% and 80%, 90% 100.
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So ahead by year five, you would be people with disabilities would be guaranteed to get the same minimum wage that other Americans receive. And in fact, at that point, section 14 C would be sunset to title three creates a technical advisory commission technical to help create.
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An area where people who are paying sub minimum wages can help get advice on how to transition smoothly. Title four requires that the Department of Labor help report how their transition is going to Congress, and Title five creates the authorization of an appropriation of the appropriation.
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This is really the one difference in the two bills between the House and the Senate is the appropriation in the House is $300 million and the appropriation in the Senate is one. It's an authorization is $1 billion. We're happy with either one.
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The key is that we start this transition, ten states, in fact, have started this transition already and are successfully moving away from subminimum wages. The number of people getting sub minimum wages has dramatically been reduced at the last over the last ten years as a result of of education about the fact that this is wrong and that
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we need to to change our model to to have high expectations for people with disabilities. So I think this package of bills from the Access Technology Affordability Act to help create tools in the hands of blind people to medical device to make sure that we have accessible medical devices to all the websites.
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Making sure that websites are accessible to to all people with disabilities and making sure that we're paid very fairly and can work in a competitive, integrated employment integrated environment. And that would again be for all people with disabilities.
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These are four great issues and we're looking forward to to moving each of them forward in the hundred and seven second session of the 17th Congress here in 2022, with the kick off of our 2020 to Washington seminar.
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