Braille Monitor                                                                    August/September 2006


2006 Resolutions of the National Federation of the Blind

Regarding Louis Braille Coin Literacy Campaign

WHEREAS, Congress has just passed legislation that will promote the use of Braille and also help to improve the shockingly low literacy rate of blind people through a nationwide Braille literacy campaign in conjunction with the minting of a commemorative coin honoring the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the inventor of the Braille system, Louis Braille; and

WHEREAS, this legislation was so widely supported and so well advocated that Congress completed its passage in barely over a year from its initial introduction in the House on June 13, 2005: H.R. 2872 passed the United States House of Representatives on February 28, 2006, and S. 2321 was passed by the United States Senate on June 29, within five months of its introduction; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind offers commendation to Congressmen Bob Ney of Ohio and Ben Cardin of Maryland in the House of Representatives and Senators Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Chris Dodd of Connecticut for their commitment to working with us to enact this fundamentally important legislation for all blind Americans; and

WHEREAS, we the blind recognize that Braille is among the most important alternative techniques we use, along with independent travel skills, adaptive technology, and daily living skills, in order to compete on a level playing field with our sighted neighbors; and

WHEREAS, the literacy campaign authorized by the coin legislation and made possible by its passage provides a stellar opportunity for blind people to educate the whole of society about the importance Braille plays in the lives of successful blind people but also to illustrate in a powerful way that, while blind people perform some tasks differently, this difference does not mean inferiority and therefore should be celebrated as a part of the diversity that characterizes the American experience: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization thank Congressmen Ney and Cardin and Senators Santorum and Dodd for their leadership on the Louis Braille commemorative coin legislation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization aggressively develop a nationwide Braille literacy campaign focused on making the gift of literacy more available to blind Americans, a gift recognized worldwide as an important component of taking one's place and exercising responsibility as citizens in society today; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization dedicate itself through the Louis Braille coin campaign to welcoming all blind and sighted citizens to a country in which differences in the way citizens perform tasks like reading are seen as irrelevant to competence and success and are celebrated as integral parts of our large and diverse American nation.

Regarding Participation of Blind Vendors in the Interstate Oasis Program

WHEREAS, what blind people know as the Kennelly Amendment was incorporated into the Surface Transportation Amendments of 1982 to create opportunities for licensed blind vendors to manage vending machines located on the interstate system's right-of-way, assuring that blind vendors are the exclusive purveyors of foods and beverages on the interstate highway system; and

WHEREAS, roadside rest-area vending has become an extremely important component of the business enterprise programs of virtually all states as well as an outstanding career opportunity for 20 percent of blind operators under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which provides a priority for blind merchants to operate food service on federal property; and

WHEREAS, since passage of the Kennelly Amendment numerous state governments through legislation or departments of transportation have attacked the exclusivity of this program with the intent to replace blind vendors with commercial firms in order to acquire new and lucrative revenue streams for state treasuries, although it is universally agreed that America's blind roadside food service managers do an outstanding job of providing service; and

WHEREAS, Section 1310 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Public Law 109-59, establishes a pilot program known as the Interstate Oasis Program for which the U.S. Department of Transportation published a notice of proposed rule making, which fails to offer any participation in the Oasis Program for licensed blind vendors; and

WHEREAS, although participants in the Interstate Oasis Program will not be located on interstate rights-of-way, but instead very near interstates, and because they are encouraged to offer a vast array of foods and beverages in diverse settings along with several other travel-related services, most of which blind vendors are not allowed to offer, the Oasis Program will directly compete with and sharply reduce the income earned by blind vendors on interstate rights-of-way; and

WHEREAS, to preserve the opportunities created by the Kennelly Amendment for blind operators, "direct competition" in this instance should be defined as an oasis within twenty-five miles of a roadside rest-area location of a licensed blind vendor to provide compensation as the Randolph-Sheppard Act mandates whenever direct competition occurs: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization publicly reaffirm its commitment to opportunities available to blind vendors in the rest areas along the interstate highway system by calling upon the United States Department of Transportation to facilitate participation of vendors licensed under the Randolph-Sheppard Act in the Interstate Oasis Program; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the U.S. Department of Transportation in its implementation of the oasis pilot program follow the Randolph-Sheppard Act by defining and enforcing direct-competition compensation rules in those instances in which blind vendors are not participants in the Oasis Program.

Regarding Access to Advanced Placement Testing and Practice Materials

WHEREAS, the College Board owns the Advanced Placement (AP) set of examinations given to high school students seeking admission into postsecondary educational institutions; and

WHEREAS, the College Board contracts with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to administer AP exams to tens of thousands of high school students each year; and

WHEREAS, these exams are offered in a wide range of subjects from U.S. history and English to mathematics and chemistry; and

WHEREAS, students who successfully take and pass these exams can secure college credit for their achievement before graduating from high school, saving these students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition; and

WHEREAS, an essential part of preparing for these exams is the use of practice materials and sample test forms available to teachers and students by download on the Internet from Web sites such as <>; and

WHEREAS, the downloadable versions of these study materials are available in image file formats only, rendering them virtually useless to the blind; and

WHEREAS, these materials are especially critical in advanced math- and science-related subjects, subjects historically hard for blind students to enter and for this very reason subjects now being especially emphasized for blind students; and

WHEREAS, the College Board and ETS have made only a minimal effort to make a few practice materials easily and quickly available to blind students in accessible formats such as Braille, leaving blind students with significantly less practice material with which to prepare as compared with their sighted peers; and

WHEREAS, the College Board has similarly failed to make a sufficient number of actual AP exams available in accessible formats, relegating some blind students to waiting lists and delaying the time between preparation and test administration: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization strongly urge the College Board and Educational Testing Service to work with the National Federation of the Blind to ensure greater nonvisual access to online AP practice materials and sample tests; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the College Board and ETS to work closely with the National Federation of the Blind to develop strategies for better estimating the need for accessible AP tests and for ensuring more timely delivery of AP test materials so that blind students experience no delays in test administration.

Regarding Elimination of the Minimum Wage Exemption

WHEREAS, America's blind citizens created our own organization in 1940 to work our way into our country's mainstream through our own efforts; and

WHEREAS, through our collective efforts our progress has been steady and positive over the last six and a half decades with both laws and social attitudes concerning the blind continuing to improve; and

WHEREAS, one law stands out in stark contrast to this steady progress, a law that brands every blind citizen as second-class and unequal; and

WHEREAS, this law is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a law which most Americans think is the guarantor of a minimum wage to Americans but which in reality guarantees that minimum wage only to able-bodied Americans; and

WHEREAS, even most blind Americans today do not know that the Fair Labor Standards Act authorizes payment of less than the minimum wage to any blind person, working in competitive contexts as well as sheltered ones, with the creation of such minimal and casually reviewed paperwork that the exemption from minimum wage can quite literally be applied to any blind person and not just to those working in sheltered employment; and

WHEREAS, social change brought about by the advocacy of the National Federation of the Blind has all but eliminated the actual use of subminimum wages for blind workers, providing the absolute proof that this exemption is not fair when applied to blind people, setting aside its insult to every blind person; and

WHEREAS, until the definition in federal law that specifically exempts blind people from the minimum wage is eliminated, all blind Americans are by federal law branded as noncompetitive and unequal, regardless of their actual life circumstances; and

WHEREAS, an organization that allocates federal contracts to sheltered workshops for the blind, National Industries for the Blind, has recently endorsed this change in federal law, reaching the same conclusion as blind citizens that the exemption is unfair and unnecessary: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization put the whole weight of its mighty nationwide volunteer corps to the task of righting once and for all the wrong embodied in federal law that defines blind men and women as second-class under the Fair Labor Standards Act, by achieving congressional amendment of the Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work closely with National Industries for the Blind to achieve this worthy goal for all of America's blind workers.

Regarding Quiet Cars

WHEREAS, electric vehicles operate on batteries and are marketed as having the advantage of operating without the sound and smell of standard internal combustion engines, and hybrid vehicles combine conventional gas-powered engines with battery-powered electric motors and, when in the electric mode, also operate without making sound; and

WHEREAS, all pedestrians use the sound of traffic in combination with other techniques to travel safely, as evidenced by the fact that commercial trucks emit a sound when backing up to alert pedestrians to their presence; and

WHEREAS, blind people depend on the sound of traffic to travel independently and safely; and

WHEREAS, action must be taken to ensure that all vehicles emit a sound while turned on, and such a sound from all vehicles must be loud enough to be heard over the din of other ambient noise and to be heard from far enough away to allow pedestrians to travel safely, must be emitted both while the vehicle is in motion and while motionless, must change with speed, must not easily be disabled, must not be annoying but still emit a unique sound distinguishable from other noises, and must be uniform from model to model: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization declare that the only solution to the quiet car emergency is a continuous sound emitted by the vehicle itself; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization raise an alarm with car manufacturers, federal executive agencies, and the United States Congress about this emergency and demand that they act to ensure the safe and free travel of the blind and all other pedestrians.

Regarding Reform of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act

WHEREAS, the program now known as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Program was established during the Depression to create jobs for blind people by allowing nonprofit agencies employing the blind to have priority in sales of products to the federal government as long as 75 percent of the labor hours worked directly on production of products at the agency were performed by blind persons; and

WHEREAS, JWOD was amended in 1971 to add those with other severe disabilities to the pool of workers and to add services in addition to products bought by the federal government as items eligible for priority, essentially the sole amendment in this nearly seventy-year-old law; and

WHEREAS, the priority and placement of contracts are administered by two central nonprofits, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH (formerly known as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped), mirroring the two separate systems of sheltered workshops employing the disabled, one for the blind and the other for those with other severe disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the two central nonprofits routinely decline to provide information about their programs and the agencies to which they allocate federal contracts on the ground that the central nonprofits are not arms of the federal government but are autonomous, making assessment of the program and accountability for the billions being spent almost impossible to perform; and

WHEREAS, the JWOD Program did for a time provide somewhat better employment opportunities to blind and otherwise severely disabled workers, but the law and practices under JWOD have not been fundamentally changed in nearly seventy years and have become outdated, not reflecting the growing complexity of federal procurement or vastly changed national policies on disability programming, which makes JWOD essentially a program from another era that urgently needs overhaul and oversight to eliminate abuses of the system; and

WHEREAS, some of these abuses include:

(1) to meet the 75 percent-hours-of-direct labor requirement, jobs may be split into three or four smaller jobs, generating more hours spent by blind or disabled workers, whose productivity is thus artificially capped;

(2) the resulting jobs are often paid as piece rate with the rates set so high that minimum wage can rarely be achieved;

(3) blind and disabled workers are kept on the shop floor and rarely advanced into management because they are more valuable in direct-labor jobs to qualify for the priority than they are as managers;

(4) the resulting jobs come and go, making employment of blind and disabled workers intermittent and present only to qualify for the federal priority; and

(5) the definition of people with other severe disabilities has been interpreted to be ridiculously elastic to qualify for the priority; and

WHEREAS, these practices have long been hidden behind a blizzard of paperwork through which it is almost impossible to learn the fundamental facts while program proponents routinely proclaim that they and their programs are dedicated to helping the disabled, all of which practices mean good jobs for some, but not for the blind and disabled workers; and

WHEREAS, the United States Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP Committee) has recently uncovered a whole second set of program abuses the Committee describes as "numerous examples of excessive executive compensation, lavish perquisites, conflicts of interest, and self-dealing" while media reports have fleshed out these findings as shockingly high salaries, manipulation of corporate shells for the personal benefit of able-bodied managers, and other financial shenanigans with the money intended to benefit disabled workers; and

WHEREAS, JWOD is now a program seriously out of control, blending antiquated language with no accountability, resulting in a situation in which $2 billion in sales to the federal government yields annual average wages to the blind and disabled employees of $8,000, a scandal recently exposed by the Senate HELP Committee, which demonstrates that the current JWOD Program is both financially and morally bankrupt, allowing some of its managers to grab millions of dollars while they pretend to care about the disabled and receive the plaudits of their communities for being so big-hearted; and

WHEREAS, it is time to end these abuses of worker opportunities and abuse of the American people's trust by amending JWOD in the following ways:

(1) remove the requirement that entities eligible for the priority in sales to the federal government be nonprofits, allowing both nonprofit and for-profit companies to establish eligibility;

(2) require that all entities seeking the priority agree specifically to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, both of which have been disputed in the past;

(3) replace the 75 percent-direct-labor requirement with a requirement that the entity qualify for priority sales only if at least 51 percent of all compensation and benefits throughout the entire entity is paid to blind or disabled workers, if at least 51 percent of all full-and part-time jobs are held by blind or disabled workers, and if blind and disabled workers receive actual preference for promotion within the entity as a stated and implemented policy;

(4) provide that the entire entity must meet the 51-percent rules, including all divisions, wholly-owned subsidiaries, and any other corporate shell created to avoid application of the 51-percent rules;

(5) prohibit buying products and services from nonqualified companies and then selling exactly those same products or services which have not been made or packaged by blind or disabled workers to the federal government along with prohibiting qualifying entities from dealing with other companies owned by officers, directors, top managers, or families of these individuals;

(6) eliminate the temptation to be creative with the definition of "blindness" or "other disability," by defining as blind or disabled solely those individuals who are currently receiving or are currently eligible (except for resource tests) to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a blind or otherwise disabled individual, placing the determination of disability outside JWOD and within a system that routinely makes such determinations for other unrelated and compelling interests, the Social Security Administration;

(7) eliminate the central nonprofits (NIB and NISH) from JWOD and replace them with administration of the JWOD Program by the Employment and Training Administration or another appropriate unit within the United States Department of Labor, achieving coordination with other employment programs and also vital public accountability;

(8) reconstitute the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, a small federal agency with current JWOD oversight and administrative responsibilities, as a program oversight and policy committee having a majority of public members, a majority of whom are blind or otherwise severely disabled; and

WHEREAS, these sweeping proposals are needed to end the abuses of JWOD that have arisen within the program, including those abuses recently brought to light by the HELP Committee, and also to synchronize the original intent of JWOD with its daily effect on the lives of blind and disabled people: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization energetically seek congressional amendment of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act to restore the original intent and mission of the Act and to make real the original promise of good work, good-paying work, respectable work for blind and disabled Americans by ending abuses that have arisen in this seventy-year-old program, which can once again be progressive.

Regarding Elimination of "Vision" to Describe Blindness Professionals and Training

WHEREAS, the terms "teacher of blind students," "Braille teacher," "travel instructor," "department for the blind," and "nonvisual access to technology seminar" accurately and straightforwardly describe their purposes just as "math teacher," "teacher of foreign language," "department of music," and "astronomy seminar" clearly and accurately describe in a straightforward manner their purposes; and

WHEREAS, the terms "vision teacher," "vision class," "vision department," and "vision seminar or summit," etc., are wholly inaccurate by definition for the purpose of describing teachers of blind students; instruction in the alternative techniques of blindness; administrative centers of services for blind children, students, or adults; or seminars, workshops, or summits concerned with equal access and integration of the blind into the worlds of education, employment, and society at large; and

WHEREAS, with increasing frequency it has become the practice for many institutions of higher education that prepare teachers of blind students, school systems, and special education departments throughout the United States to refer to the instruction of blind children as "vision classes," and teachers of the blind often refer to themselves as "vision teachers" and their departments as "vision departments" and specialized gatherings such as seminars, conventions, summits, and workshops as "vision…"; and

WHEREAS, in addition to being patently wrong, this terminology conveys misleading notions--such as the idea that blind children can be taught to see--that sight is the best and most effective way for all children to gather information, and that a child's ability to learn is directly related to what he or she can see and serves to undermine the value and effectiveness of alternative techniques, which these professionals also teach and which the departments and programs exist to promote; and

WHEREAS, the term "vision" focuses on what blind students lack, rather than on their capabilities and the potential they can fulfill through the use of alternative techniques, causing them falsely to internalize notions that their value and opportunity are related to the amount of eyesight they possess; and

WHEREAS, the term "vision" is used to avoid the use of the word "blind," contributing to the general discomfort surrounding use of the word "blind" and its erroneous use as a stigmatizing term and further hindering the progress of blind people toward equality and full participation in society: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization condemn and deplore use of the term "vision" to describe educators, programs, services, events, and institutions related to the instruction of blind children and adults; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that these individuals and institutions replace their use of the word "vision" in this context with the word "blind" to indicate to our blind children that no shame attaches to their being blind, that eyesight is not the sole link to success, that the value and potential of human beings are completely unrelated to the possession of sight, and to make clear to them that through mastery of alternative techniques they can succeed and that the blind will choose what we call ourselves, our programs, our education, and our services.

Regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation's Definition and Classification of Emotional Support Animals

WHEREAS, the United States Department of Transportation is the federal agency responsible for developing rules and regulations concerning people with disabilities' right to travel with their service animals on all forms of public transportation; and

WHEREAS, the right to travel with a service animal in the cabin is guaranteed by the Air Carrier Access Act, (ACAA); and

WHEREAS, the Department of Transportation has developed two different definitions of service animals; and

WHEREAS, emotional support or comfort animals are presently classified as service animals for air travel under the ACAA, but not as service animals for other modes of public transportation such as buses and trains; and

WHEREAS, many blind people are partnered with specially tasked, trained guide dogs, the most commonly found service animal; and

WHEREAS, designating emotional support or comfort animals, which are not trained to perform tasks to benefit their disabled partners, as service animals for certain modes of transportation can only lead to confusion for the public, providers of transportation, and service animal partners; and

WHEREAS, many people with emotional support or comfort animals falsely claim public access rights to all places of public accommodation, including restaurants, hotels, and land transportation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act because of the Department of Transportation's dual definitions of service animals; and

WHEREAS, animals that have not received training to perform tasks to mitigate their partners' disabilities may also not have had training for proper behavior in public places; and

WHEREAS, many guide dog handlers in the United States fear that their guaranteed public access rights will be jeopardized if this trend continues; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Transportation can, if it chooses, require carriage of emotional support animals on airlines under the ACAA and not require carriage by any other means of transportation, but this is bound to cause confusion for users of such animals and also in the public mind; and

WHEREAS, this confusion could easily be eliminated if the Department of Transportation used the well-known term "service animals" to refer to animals such as guide dogs that by law can be taken everywhere and a different term such as "support animals" for animals covered only by the ACAA and specifically addressed in the airline context: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon the Department of Transportation to remove emotional support or comfort animals from the service animal category in all official publications and notices and develop a separate term and classification for such animals.

Regarding Speech for Managing Vending Machines

WHEREAS, for over twelve years the top manufacturers of automatic vending machines in the United States have offered for sale an interface device allowing a speech synthesizer to be connected to key operating elements of some vending machines, enabling blind vendors using this interface to perform key management operations independently that previously necessitated a human reader, such as setting prices within vending machines, keeping track of sales data, and correcting problems through the reading of diagnostic messages, because the machine can voice this key information through the interface; and

WHEREAS, Automatic Products International (API) has for many years been one company that has supported this concept and engineered its snack machines to work well with speech synthesizers; and

WHEREAS, when API released a new top-of-the line coffee machine that did not allow connection of speech synthesizers a few years ago, the company promised that the next version of the control board for its high-quality coffee machine would support speech; and

WHEREAS, when the new top-of-the-line API coffee machine was released earlier this year, it did not allow connection of speech synthesizers; and

WHEREAS, when asked why the promised upgrade was not provided, API officials stated that they probably wouldn't go ahead with plans for adding speech capability since so few speech-enabled machines were being purchased, thus making justification of the additional engineering expense impossible; and

WHEREAS, most state licensing agencies, responsible for administering a program creating job opportunities in food service and vending for blind merchants in a state-federal partnership program known as the Randolph-Sheppard program, do not seem to be aware of the interface device which can empower blind managers or, even worse, are saying that they will not consider purchasing the speech interface device because of the cost; and

WHEREAS, this short-sighted and penny-pinching attitude on the part of state licensing agencies overlooks two important factors: first, the cost they seek to avoid is in many cases $25 for a cable to connect vending machines to a speech synthesizer already owned by the blind manager and, second, many blind managers would be happy to pay the cost personally if they were aware of the availability of such devices, including the difference, if any, in cost of machines if the state licensing agency would order the right machines; and

WHEREAS, state licensing agencies should aggressively pursue all opportunities to improve earnings for every blind manager and foster independence along with a less costly (ongoing cost to employees compared to cost of equipment) method of completing management tasks by blind managers should be at the top of that list; and

WHEREAS, the current solution to accessing information in vending machines is neither perfect nor universal, but it has achieved a long step in the right direction, potentially moving the field of vending machine manufacture toward the goal of routinely engineering into all machines complete access through speech for every machine made in America; and

WHEREAS, the ignorance of state licensing agencies about this speech access along with their insistence on doing things on the cheap has nearly achieved elimination from the market of an important access device for blind vending machine managers; and

WHEREAS, individual blind managers and forward-looking state licensing agencies must immediately inform all blind managers of the opportunity for speech access to vending machines and begin spending money on such devices to preserve the current level of partial access and to move the market forward to complete access in time; and

WHEREAS, state licensing agencies manage millions of dollars to support this program and should be deliberately allocating funds to achieve this goal; and

WHEREAS, individual blind managers can improve their job performance and their bottom lines by insisting on having and using the speech devices as part of their strategies to improve themselves as managers and business owners: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization work with Automatic Products International and any other vending manufacturers to promote making vending equipment accessible to blind vendors by offering engineering and other assistance to accomplish this goal; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon all state licensing agencies systematically to use their power of large-dollar expenditures in the vending-machine market to promote speech access to the information needed by blind vending machine managers by including in their bid specifications for vending machines the information that speech access is strongly preferred and will be a deciding factor in vending-machine purchase and also make purchases of interface cables for each machine a standard accessory for the blind managers they serve.

Regarding the Budget for the Books for the Blind Program

WHEREAS, Congress will specifically allocate about $54 million for fiscal year 2007 to the Books for the Blind program within the budget of the Library of Congress; and

WHEREAS, under long-standing and present law, funds allocated to the Books for the Blind program cannot be transferred and used for any other purpose within the Library of Congress, a wise protection for the funds that produce a tiny fraction of print books each year in alternative media for blind readers; and

WHEREAS, this sum is a modest portion of the overall budget allocated to the entire Library of Congress, but the Librarian of Congress has long sought authority to poach on the funding for this vital program to blind people and has unfortunately succeeded this year in convincing the House of Representatives to include such authority in the instructions it has appended to its version of the appropriations bill, which would allow expenditure of Books-for-the-Blind money for library-wide training, technology, and other initiatives, instructions fortunately not included in the Senate version of the same bill, which is now in conference; and

WHEREAS, giving the Librarian of Congress authority to seize funding dedicated to the Books for the Blind program makes such seizure a certainty, sentencing blind people to fewer books because, as is obvious from his request, the Librarian wants newer, faster computers more than he wants to insure wide availability of books in alternative media for America's blind citizens; and

WHEREAS, though blind people derive some benefit from increased access to materials as a result of the information age, the Books for the Blind program remains the principal source of Braille, recorded, and soon-to-be-available digital books and magazines for blind readers nationwide; and

WHEREAS, the United States Senate can and should protect the Books for the Blind program from any and all attempts to reduce it, and the House of Representatives should recede from its ill-considered grant of authority to the Librarian of Congress: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization passionately urge the Senate to stand firm in the conference committee and the House of Representatives to abandon its position so that current law prohibiting the requisitioning of funds designated to the Books for the Blind program will remain in force and effect.

Regarding the Inaccessibility of BlackBerry Personal Digital Assistants to the Blind

WHEREAS, the BlackBerry personal digital assistant (PDA), manufactured by Research In Motion, is the de facto PDA used in all government agencies; and

WHEREAS, in Congress BlackBerries are the sole PDA option for all House of Representatives and Senate staff members because the Blackberry is the only PDA supported by the House and Senate servers; and

WHEREAS, in 1998 Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, which though not applicable to Congress and its agencies, nevertheless serves as a guideline; and

WHEREAS, several options make existing off-the-shelf PDAs accessible to blind people using screen-reading technology, but none of these existing PDA screen readers support BlackBerry products; and

WHEREAS, because the BlackBerry is the only PDA supported by the U.S. Congress's computer server and because of the unique functionality of BlackBerry products, there is no functionally equivalent alternative that blind congressional staffers or employees can use in government agencies that use BlackBerry products: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization offer our expertise on blindness and access technology for the blind to Research In Motion and call upon Research In Motion and leading assistive technology developers to collaborate on an effective access solution that provides blind government employees the same access to mobile information as their sighted colleagues; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Congress to urge Research In Motion to make BlackBerry products accessible promptly; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist that the federal government take a leading role in enforcement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act by requiring Research In Motion to make BlackBerry products accessible to all federal employees, including the blind.

Regarding the Conversion to a Digital Talking Book Program

WHEREAS, since 1931 books in Braille and sound recordings have been provided to blind and disabled people through a program of the Library of Congress known as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS); and

WHEREAS, each person eligible for this service in the U.S. is issued an audio playback machine capable of reproducing the books and magazines which are recorded in a specialized reduced-speed, four-track format unique to the NLS program; and

WHEREAS, analog technology using audio cassette tapes has been used to store and deliver sound recordings to blind and physically handicapped readers in the NLS program for more than thirty-five years, but this technology is now becoming obsolete and must be replaced to capture the considerable advantages made possible with digital technology; and

WHEREAS, a digital Talking Book conversion plan has been underway at the Library of Congress for several years, with 2008 firmly established as the year in which the digital audio service will begin; and

WHEREAS, the Library's conversion to the digital Talking Book technology has been based on a plan developed with participation by affected network libraries and by blind and physically handicapped readers; and

WHEREAS, the specific design of the Library's digital Talking Book technology has been guided by data obtained through substantial user testing with significant leadership provided by the National Federation of the Blind; and

WHEREAS, apart from the absolute necessity to convert to digital Talking Book technology, the competent planning of the conversion and opportunities for widespread involvement of all affected parties reflects great credit on officials of the Library of Congress responsible for serving blind and physically handicapped readers; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization declare strong support for the digital Talking Book conversion program as planned and carried out by the Library of Congress; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Congress to approve appropriations needed by the Library of Congress in order to accomplish the conversion to digital technology as currently scheduled to begin in 2008.