Future Reflections Convention 1999, Vol. 18 No. 4


A Summary of The 1999 National Federation of the Blind Resolutions

by Sharon Maneki

Reprinted from the August/September, 1999, issue of the Braille Monitor.

By long-standing tradition the NFB Resolutions Committee meets on the first day of convention registration. This year the committee met on July 1. Since the committee is charged with the responsibility of determining which resolutions will be brought to the convention floor for consideration, the committee always has a large membership, representing all segments of our diverse Federation family. There were forty-two members of the committee this year. When Mrs. Walhof took on duties involving our capital campaign, President Maurer appointed me to chair this important committee. The experience was both challenging and fun.

This year we had tremendous participation in the resolutions process. Resolutions were sponsored by students, division presidents, and leaders in many state affiliates. During its meeting the committee thoroughly discussed and debated the issues raised in the resolutions. The final session of the convention is traditionally reserved for discussion and voting on resolutions because these documents will become the policies of our organization. One resolution, 99-10 concerning non-valid standardized test scores, was debated for an entire hour during this convention session. Twenty-one people debated the pros and cons of this resolution. Ultimately the Convention voted to defeat 99-10. I feel confident that this subject will be back for discussion in another resolution next year.

The committee considered nineteen resolutions. While some of the subjects were familiar: Social Security Disability, rehabilitation, education, and access to technology—they encouraged the organization to try new approaches to solve longstanding problems.

Resolution 99-03, sponsored by Priscilla McKinley, a graduate student and leader in the NFB of Iowa, calls upon the 106th Congress to pass S 285 and HR 1601, which would allow blind recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance to earn the same amount of income as seniors receiving the Social Security retirement benefit because this is the best way to promote work opportunities for the blind.

This year we passed six resolutions concerning rehabilitation. Resolution 99-02, sponsored by Edward Bell, who just graduated from college and is teaching at the Louisiana Center for the Blind summer program, reaffirms our commitment to maintain separate agencies for the blind by ensuring that all states follow the regulations in the Workforce Investment Act to maintain identifiable services for the blind.

Two resolutions concerned the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Resolution 99-05, sponsored by Kristen Cox, a recent addition to the National Center Staff in the Governmental Affairs Department, demands that the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled remove any services provided through vending facilities under the Randolph-Sheppard Act from their procurement list and end its current practice of trying to destroy the Randolph-Sheppard program. Resolution 99-06, sponsored by James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, concerns vending facilities.

Resolution 99-07, sponsored by Noel Nightingale, a newly elected member of the NFB Board of Directors and President of the NFB of Washington, calls upon the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration to issue a policy directive to states to include the clear messages that barriers to informed choice such as erroneous calculations of costs are unacceptable and that states are required to provide information to consumers about alternative providers of rehabilitation services.

Resolution 99-08, sponsored by Lynn Mattioli, First Vice President of the NFB of Maryland, urges state rehabilitation agencies to provide competent computer training with provisions to continue training to keep up with changing technology for blind clients. The resolution also stresses the need to provide appropriate hardware and software so that the client can maintain skills between the time of training and the time of actual employment.

Resolution 99-09, sponsored by Christine Hall, President of the National Organization of the Senior Blind, urges Congress and the Administration to amend the Older Americans Act to include enabling legislation for programming and funding in increased amounts for rehabilitation services for older blind and visually impaired individuals.

Three resolutions concerned education issues. Resolution 99-10, sponsored by Michael Bailiff, a tax attorney and frequent contributor of articles to the Braille Monitor, calls upon Congress to pass legislation requiring institutions who use standardized tests as part of their admission procedures to provide an alternative mechanism that does not rely on the use of non-validated test scores. This resolution was defeated by the convention. We have been wrestling for more than twenty years with the problem of testing authorities’ insisting that tests taken by applicants who receive reasonable accommodations are not valid. I am sure that we will see future resolutions on this subject.

Resolution 99-16, sponsored by Shawn Mayo, President of the National Association of Blind Students, petitions the U. S. Department of Justice to create a rule to change the definition of a qualified reader to allow the blind the option to choose their own readers and the right to decide whether they will bring a personal reader to a test site.

Resolution 99-12, sponsored by Pam Dubel, the Director of Youth Services at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, calls upon the U. S. Department of Education to reconsider and revise its interpretation of the Braille services provision included in the 1997 amendments to IDEA. The proper interpretation of this law should require the school to provide Braille instruction to a student while waiting for a dispute among members of the IEP team to be resolved.

The convention passed three resolutions concerning access to print information. Resolution 99-01, sponsored by Brian Miller, a graduate student and leader in the NFB of Iowa, urges cooperation between the publishing industry and the Library of Congress to make digital editions of published texts widely available to the blind. The resolution also declares our firm intent to promote legislation that will bring about universal access to the printed word for the blind of this nation.

Resolution 99-14, sponsored by Connie Leblond, President of the National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs, calls upon the Small Business Administration, its state partners, the American Banking Association, and other economic development centers to adopt a proactive approach by planning ahead for the provision of materials in Braille. The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs will supply the names and locations of Braille transcription services to these entities.

Resolution 99-15, sponsored by Alpidio Rolon, President of the NFB of Puerto Rico, urges manufacturers of adaptive technology to provide their manuals and instructional materials in Spanish.

The convention passed three resolutions concerning nonvisual access to technology. Resolution 99-17, sponsored by Christopher Danielsen, a leader in the NFB of South Carolina, who chairs its resolutions committee, calls upon the Access Board to adopt a proactive strategy promoting government-wide enforcement of standards to insure ready, unimpeded access by blind citizens and employees to information controlled and managed by the federal government. The resolution also calls on all departments and agencies in the federal government to adopt and implement procurement procedures that comply with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended in 1998.

Resolution 99-18, sponsored by Gary Wunder, a member of the national Board of Directors and President of the NFB of Missouri, calls upon manufacturers of automated teller machines and the banking industry to incorporate speech output and universal discernible tactile keypads in their machines so that they are useable by the blind without the need for sighted assistance.

Resolution 99-19, sponsored by Nathanael Wales, an engineering student and leader in the NFB of California, insists that blind persons have access to all new electronic voting machines and interfaces. The resolution also affirms the blind person’s right to use another individual to assist with voting if he or she wishes to use that method of voting.

Resolution 99-04, sponsored by Dr. Abraham Nemeth, a noted blind mathematician and author of the Nemeth Braille code, calls upon the Federation to reject the Unified Braille Code. The committee rejected this resolution, so it did not reach the convention floor.

Resolution 99-11, sponsored by Scott LaBarre, President of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, reaffirms this organization’s position that audible traffic signals should be pedestrian-activated and should be considered on a case-by-case basis with input from consumer organizations, particularly the National Federation of the Blind. The resolution also states that highway officials should not assume that the provision of federal funds for audible traffic signals means that such signals are automatically necessary.

Resolution 99-13, sponsored by James Gashel, takes Western Michigan University to task for creating a certification program for mobility instructors without bothering to seek any input from blind consumers.