Resolutions

Resolutions for 2012

 RESOLUTION 2012-01

REGARDING ACCESSIBLE TRANSPORTATION IN TENNESSEE FOR THE BLIND

WHEREAS, in recent years rapid growth in counties throughout the state of Tennessee have left public and private transportation options struggling to catch up to the demands of larger cities; and

WHEREAS, Many rural regions of the state ofTennesseehave had growth spurts that haven’t been analyzed by transportation entities, leaving the blind unable to travel within these locations; and

WHEREAS, both city and rural locations of the state ofTennesseehave no connections that give the blind the ability to travel efficiently throughout the state; and

WHEREAS, the lack of accessible transportation hinders the blind from employment, daily tasks that sustain their families and inclusion into their communities; and

WHEREAS, If a blind person cannot gain meaningful employment, enhance their education or contribute to the sustainability of their families, the chance of them leading positive independent lives is greatly impacted; and

WHEREAS, the use of “park and ride”, “van share”, and other such programs has left an imbalance between the ability of the sighted and the blind to get to and use such services; and

WHEREAS, many cities throughout the state have transportation networks that do supply blind travelers with the independence they seek; and

WHEREAS, the deficit of equality when creating transportation systems within regions of the state have left an economic imbalance for blind travelers; and

WHEREAS, public supported transportation can be inexpensive to create for the city and utilized by the blind traveler; and

WHEREAS, crafting a unified transportation network throughout the state of Tennessee can not only facilitate an accessible meaningful life for the blind, but it can create a state that focuses enhancing the lowering of toxins and environmental risks of the ever growing vehicles on the road; and

WHEREAS, cities likeNashvillehave a fully working system that successfully links Paratransit with its transportation system; and

WHEREAS, despite the model used by these cities, the state ofTennesseedoes not work to create an accessible transportation system that gives blind travelers the ability to independently move throughout the state; and

WHEREAS, the lack of options for the blind traveler will only increase as the population of the state grows and accessible transportation for the blind is ignored: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this eleventh day of March, 2012, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, that we urge The Tennessee General Assembly to enact legislation that creates a unified, accessible transportation system throughout the state of Tennessee and to enforce county, city and other ordinances already in place that are intended to give blind travelers equal access to transportation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of The Blind of Tennessee strongly urges the Department of Transportation to work with The National Federation of The Blind of Tennessee to ensure any changes made to the transportation network throughout the state meet guidelines that ensure the independence of blind travelers.

 

RESOLUTION 2012-02

REGARDING RIGHTS OF THE BLIND TO ACCESS STATE EMPLOYMENT

WHEREAS, the unemployment rate among the Blind currently rests at a dismal 70%; and

WHEREAS, Civil Service rules and regulations require State agencies to hire off of a Civil Service register based on a point system heavily weighted towards work experience; and

WHEREAS, state agencies must hire one of the top five scoring applicants for a position; and

WHEREAS, qualified blind applicants are unfairly discriminated against and often denied the opportunity to gain work experience due to attitudes of employers, accessibility issues, transportation barriers; and

WHEREAS, the state ofTennesseeand the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation have a vested interest in the gainful employment of blind college graduates; and

WHEREAS, the Vocational Rehabilitation Program receives federal dollars linked to certain performance standards it must meet with respect to these clients becoming gainfully employed; and

WHEREAS,Tennesseehas failed to meet this standard eight out of the last 10 years; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has a successful model referred to as Schedule A, whereby federal agencies can hire people with disabilities on a noncompetitive basis; and

WHEREAS, the federal government has a much better record than the State in the area of employing the Blind and individuals with other disabilities: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this eleventh day of March, 2012, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, that this organization strongly urges the governor, the Tennessee General Assembly, and the Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources  to enact legislation, regulations, and/or policies that are comparable to the federal government’s Schedule A program, thus allowing qualified blind applicants to be hired on a noncompetitive basis; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that  the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee distributes this resolution to the Governor, members of the General Assembly, and the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization commits to help in any way possible the aforementioned in developing and implementing such laws, regulations, and/or policies.

 

RESOLUTION 2012-03

REGARDING THE FAIR WAGES FOR WORKERS WITH DISABILITIES ACT OF 2011 (H.R. 3086)

WHEREAS, Disabled workers have been unfairly excluded from the federal minimum wage for 74 years, and today over 300,000 disabled workers

are working for subminimum wages; and

WHEREAS, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) discriminates against people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS,  this Section allows the Secretary of Labor to grant special wage certificates to employers, permitting them to pay their workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage, often in sheltered work environments; and

WHEREAS, This discrimination is rooted in low expectations based on misconceptions about the capabilities of people with disabilities, promoting the support of an outdated business model that fosters underemployment of workers with disabilities; and

WHEREAS,  subminimum-wage sheltered workshops have eroded into day custody centers, limiting opportunities for workers with disabilities ever to transition into integrated, competitive work; and

WHEREAS, these institutions instill a philosophy of incapacity, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy resulting in long-term underemployment; and

WHEREAS, the sheltered work system is a moneymaker for the subminimum wage employer, encouraging the perpetuation of subminimum wage employment and leaving workers with disabilities little to no choice for real employment: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this eleventh day of March, 2012, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, that we urge Congress to  enact The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011 (H.R. 3086)  that:

(1) Discontinues the practice of issuing special wage certificates by the Secretary of Labor to new applicants;

(2) Phases out all remaining special wage certificates over a 3-year period, with        private for-profit entities’ certificates being revoked after 1 year; public or governmental entities’ certificates being revoked after 2 years; and

non-profit entities’ certificates being revoked after 3 years; and

(3) Repeals Section14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act Three years after the law has been enacted, officially abolishing the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wage.

 

RESOLUTION 2012-04

REGARDING THE HOME APPLIANCE ACCESSIBILITY ACT

WHEREAS, Digital technology has improved the ease and efficiency of the way we live our lives but now blind people can no longer operate most fundamental home appliances; and

WHEREAS, home appliance manufacturers are constantly incorporating advanced technology into their products; and

WHEREAS,   most new stoves, dishwashers, washing machines, and other home appliances require interaction with digital displays, flat panels, touch screens, and other user interfaces that are inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision; and

WHEREAS, Technology exists to make home appliances accessible to blind people, and text-to-speech technology is inexpensive and more prevalent than it has ever been; and

WHEREAS, a simple audio output or vibrotactile feature can make a product fully accessible at minimal cost, as well as more dynamic and appealing for all users; and

WHEREAS, most manufacturers refuse to incorporate nonvisual access technology in their products because companies claim that adding accessibility features is too expensive, even though no public data support this claim; and

WHEREAS, it is proven to be more cost effective to include accessibility features during the design phase rather than after, but manufacturers generally do not invest in this approach; and

WHEREAS, the Americans with Disabilities Act and many other laws mandate physical accessibility for people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, No laws exist to require companies to make home appliances accessible, granting no protection to blind consumers’ right to access to fundamental home appliances; and

WHEREAS, This trend of inaccessibility will continue to grow as technology becomes more advanced and accessibility solutions are ignored: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this eleventh day of March, 2012, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, that we urge Congress to  enact The Home Appliance Accessibility Act that:

(1) Calls on the Access Board to conduct a study, generating a report with findings and recommendations for a minimum nonvisual access standard for home appliances and at-home medical equipment;

(2) Requires the Access Board after publishing its report to Begin a rule-making period that Establishes a minimum nonvisual access standard for home appliances that will go into effect three years after the rule is finalized;

(3) Gives the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authority to enforce the standard, by handling violations, conducting investigations, and levying civil penalties against manufacturers who fail to comply with the standard; and

(4) Provides flexibility by allowing the exclusion of manufacturers who demonstrate that meeting a minimum nonvisual access standard creates an undue burden and exempting those companies having gross annual sales less than $250,000.

 

RESOLUTION 2012-05

REGARDING THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES BUSINESSOPPORTUNITYACT

WHEREAS, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two-thirds of

Americans with disabilities are unemployed or vastly underemployed; and

WHEREAS, it has long been the policy of the United States to promote the economic well-being of traditionally disadvantaged groups by creating a variety of business incentive programs that allow these groups to participate in the mainstream of the nation’s economy; and

WHEREAS, the Small Business Act (SBA) is meant to promote an entrepreneurial spirit; and

WHEREAS, Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act is a powerful program allowing businesses owned by racial, cultural, and ethnic minorities or women to secure federal contracts; and

WHEREAS, this program has not been extended to Americans with disabilities: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this eleventh day of March, 2012, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, that we urge Congress to  enact The Americans with Disabilities Business Opportunity Act that:

(1) Amends section 8(a), adding People with disabilities to the list of those who are presumed to be socially disadvantaged, and extending the opportunity to secure federal contracts to people with disabilities; and

(2) Changes federal procurement practices, allowing For-profit businesses attempting to secure large federal contracts to satisfy procurement requirements by subcontracting with businesses owned by individuals with disabilities.

 

Resolutions for 2011

RESOLUTION  2011-01

REGARDING A TECHNOLOGY BILL OF RIGHTS FOR THE BLIND

WHEREAS, in recent years rapid advances in microchip and digital technology have led to increasingly complex user interfaces for everyday products such as consumer electronics, home appliances, kiosks, and electronic office technology; and

WHEREAS, many new devices in these categories require interaction with visual displays, on-screen menus, touch screens, software, and other user interfaces that are inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision; and

WHEREAS, settings on the stove, dishwasher, or home entertainment system are no longer controlled by knobs, switches, and buttons that can be easily discerned and readily identified; and

WHEREAS, inaccessibility of these devices is a major barrier to a blind person’s independence and productivity; and

WHEREAS, if a blind person cannot operate the interfaces of basic office equipment or software such as copiers, fax machines, and basic word processing programs, that person’s opportunity to join the workforce or maintain an existing job is in great jeopardy; and

WHEREAS, many popular, cost-effective mechanisms are available for manufacturers to create interfaces usable through nonvisual means; and

WHEREAS, text-to-speech technology is inexpensive and more prevalent than it has ever been; and

WHEREAS, text-to-speech is used in everything from automated telephone systems to the weather forecasting service broadcast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and

WHEREAS, Apple has incorporated VoiceOver (a text-to-speech function) into the touch-screen iPhone, making it the only fully accessible wireless handset on the market; and

WHEREAS, despite these available accessibility solutions, the majority of manufacturers have continued to design interfaces that do not include nonvisual means of use;   and

WHEREAS, this trend of inaccessibility will continue to grow as technology becomes more advanced and accessibility solutions are ignored: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this thirteenth day of March, 2011, in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, that we urge Congress to  enact a Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind that:

  • Mandates that all consumer electronics, home appliances, kiosks, and electronic office technology be designed so that blind people are able to access the same functions as sighted people by nonvisual means and with substantially equivalent ease of use;
  • Creates a commission within the Department of Commerce to establish standards for nonvisual accessibility of electronic devices intended for use in the home or office.  Such a commission should represent all stakeholders, including: organizations of the blind; manufacturers of consumer electronics, home appliances, kiosks, and electronic office technology and software, or associations representing such manufacturers; and experts on universal design, electronic engineering, and related fields;
  • Establishes within the Department of Justice the authority to enforce the regulations promulgated by the commission established by this legislation; and
  • Authorizes the commission to reexamine and rewrite standards periodically as consumer electronic technology continues to evolve.

RESOLUTION 2011-02

REGARDING ENSURING EQUAL EDUCATION FOR BLIND CHILDREN:
SETTING STANDARDS THAT PROMOTE EXCELLENCE

WHEREAS, blind students have been integrated into America’s public schools since the 1960s, but educators have never made an attempt to quantify or measure the quality of their education consistently and effectively; and

WHEREAS, school districts are required by law to provide a “free, appropriate public education” to all students with disabilities; AND

WHEREAS, current regulations and practices only establish what services and accommodations blind students will receive individually and do not measure or attempt to measure the effectiveness of these services and accommodations; and

WHEREAS, all too often this means that blind students are burdened with low expectations and inferior educational services; and

WHEREAS, to the extent that a blind child’s performance is poor, too many educators incorrectly believe that this occurs because of the child’s incapacity due to blindness rather than because of the inadequacy of the services and accommodations provided; and

WHEREAS, the low expectations of educators for blind children become self-fulfilling prophecies when blind students receive inadequate Braille instruction; are not provided textbooks and other educational materials in specialized formats on time; or are not given adequate instruction in the skills of blindness including the use of access technology; and

WHEREAS, materials supporting the Common Core State Standards recently developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers state that students with disabilities “must be challenged to excel within the general curriculum and be prepared for success in their post-school lives, including college and/or careers” and must receive appropriate accommodations to achieve academic excellence; and

WHEREAS, in order for this goal to become a reality, however, uniform national standards are needed to ensure that blind students have the skills they need to perform at age- and grade-appropriate levels throughout their educations; and

WHEREAS, such standards will finally put an end to the vicious circle of low expectations and inadequate services that has condemned far too many blind children to lives of frustration, illiteracy, and ultimately poverty; and

WHEREAS, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other existing laws and regulations do not currently provide objective standards to measure the effectiveness of the education of blind students against accepted standards like the Common Core State Standards; and

WHEREAS, such standards must be set by a regulatory body that consists of and receives input from all stakeholders, including educators, blind Americans, and parents of blind children: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this thirteenth day of March, 2011, in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, that we urge Congress to enact legislation that creates a commission within the Department of Education, to ensure representation of all stakeholders in order to set educational standards for blind children and to promulgate regulations providing for the enforcement of the standards throughout the United States.

RESOLUTION 2011-03

REGARDING AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY ACT

WHEREAS, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than two-thirds of Americans with disabilities are unemployed or vastly under-employed; and

WHEREAS, strong and innovative initiatives are necessary to remedy this problem and put Americans with disabilities to work; and

WHEREAS, to a substantial degree America’s economic success is tied to the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial activity and create one’s own wealth; and

WHEREAS, it has long been the policy of the United States to promote the economic well-being of traditionally disadvantaged groups by creating a variety of business incentive programs that allow these groups to participate in the mainstream of the nation’s economy; and

WHEREAS, these programs have not, however, been extended to Americans with disabilities: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this thirteenth day of March, 2011, in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, that we urge Congress
to enact The Americans with Disabilities Business Opportunity Act (ADBOA), greatly expanding the ability of Americans with disabilities to secure entrepreneurial opportunities by:

  •  Authorizing tax credits to for-profit businesses that purchase goods or services from businesses owned by individuals with disabilities (including from businesses operated under the federal Randolph-Sheppard program);
  • Amending Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act to include people with disabilities as presumptively socially disadvantaged;
  • Changing federal procurement law to provide that businesses owned by individuals with disabilities (including businesses operated under the federal Randolph-Sheppard program) are included on the list of preferred small businesses to which subcontracts must be awarded; and
  • Creating training and technical assistance programs to prepare individuals with disabilities to operate businesses capable of securing federal and private contracts.

RESOLUTION 2011-04

REGARDING RIGHTS OF BLIND PARENTS FOR CUSTODY

WHEREAS, thousands of blind parents have employed alternative techniques to successfully accomplish activities of daily living to rear happy and healthy children who have grown into responsible and productive adults; and

WHEREAS, although no studies or statistics show abnormalities of children reared by blind parents, blind parents are scrutinized more closely and more frequently judged to be unfit than sighted parents in similar circumstances; and

WHEREAS, intervention occurs more frequently, not because of documented problems, but because judges and social workers fear problems may arise in the future; and

WHEREAS, blindness has been used as a ground for wrongfully terminating parental rights in custody cases and children in need of assistance (CINA) cases; and

WHEREAS, suitable candidates seeking to adopt children are frequently denied placements due to blindness; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Children’s Services is responsible for protecting children and determining the ability of an adult to care for a child; and

WHEREAS, blindness must not be equated with incapacity when judges make decisions regarding a child’s welfare: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee in convention assembled this thirteenth day of March, 2011, in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, that this organization strongly urges the Tennessee General Assembly to enact legislation limiting the court’s consideration of a parent’s or caretaker’s disability unless the record contains evidence that the disability will negatively impact a child’s best interest; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urges the Department of Children’s services of Tennessee to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee so that personnel who are involved in investigating the suitability of individuals to parent receive information and training about the capabilities and rights of blind persons.