The official policies of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania are established every year with annual resolutions adopted at the state convention.
The resolutions committee meets early during the convention. Each proposed resolution is read, spoken for by the authoring member, considered, and then ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the Convention.
Resolution 2004-01: Regarding Product labels in grocery stores
Whereas, sighted people are able to visually access product labels in grocery stores, thereby knowing the cost of an item before selecting it for purchase; and Whereas, sighted persons also have visual access to these labels once the products are in there homes, making product identification possible without assistance from another individual or modification of the product label; and Whereas, blind people have no way of independently accessing information on product labels, either in grocery stores or at home, without assistance from a sighted individual or modification of the label itself; and Whereas, The number of blind shoppers continues to increase as the population ages; and Whereas, all customers who shop deserve the same access to product information labels and price tags; and Whereas, It is a responsible business practice for product manufacturers to provide this reasonable accommodation to all of their customers, both blind and sighted; and Whereas, the technology exists to place Braille on such items as Tupperware, soda pop cans and McDonald’s products; and Whereas, the technology also exists to make product bar-codes, including price information, verbally accessible to blind persons through a hand-held electronic scanner; and Whereas, despite the availability of this technology and its relatively low cost, neither product manufacturers nor distributors have acted responsibly in providing accessible product labels to their consumers who are blind; NOW, THEREFORE
BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, in Convention assembled, this 7th day of November 2004, in the city of Pittsburgh, That this Organization call upon the US Food and Drug Administration to promulgate regulations mandating that product manufacturers make all product labels accessible to blind persons within the next five (5) years; and
Be it further resolved that we call upon the U.S. Congress and/or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to dedicate appropriate funding, oversight and monitoring to this project in order to ensure its timely and effective completion; and
Be it further resolved that, after January 20, 2005, copies of this Resolution be sent to the Secretary of the Food and Drug Administration, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, and the President of the United States Senate for their appropriate and prompt response and action.
Resolution 2004-02: Regarding Illegal Activity and Services for the Blind in Pennsylvania
Whereas, the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania promotes higher education for blind students; and Whereas, the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, and many other organizations offer merit scholarships to blind students who have achieved academic excellence; and Whereas, The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation chooses to use these merit scholarships as a means of reducing agency contributions to education; and Whereas, Section 101(a)(8) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended in 1998, under the title “Comparable Services & Benefits” (A) (ii) Awards and scholarships, plainly states that: “For purposes of clause (i), comparable benefits do not include awards and scholarships based on merit.”; and Whereas, this language clearly prohibits the use of merit scholarships in the calculation of agencies’ financial contributions and Whereas, the Congressional Record covering the debate on these amendments to the Rehabilitation Act contains specific reference to the intent of Congress that students with disabilities not be penalized for their academic excellence by forfeiting public rehabilitation benefits as a result of hard-earned scholarship funds based on merit; and Whereas, Section 34 CFR Sec. 361.54(b)(3)(ii) of the Regulations implementing the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act states that no student may participate in any costs relating to his/her vocational rehabilitation services if that person has been determined to be eligible to receive benefits under Titles II or XVI of the Social Security Act; meaning that anyone who is eligible for SSI or SSDI payments may not contribute financially to the cost of their vocational rehabilitation program whether or not such person actually claims or utilizes those Social Security benefits; and Whereas, despite the clear, unmistakable, indisputable and non-negotiable language of the Congress of the United States, and despite the fact that the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation continues to receive nearly 80% of its annual funding from the Federal Government (Specifically from the Department of Education), the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation continues to violate Federal law and Regulations by counting awards and scholarships based on merit as comparable benefits, deducting them from the amount of money paid by OVR to its eligible customers attending college; and Whereas, the continued application of this illegal college policy will discourage blind students from seeking merit scholarships and
Whereas the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation is thereby denying its customers the financial benefits of any scholarships earned on the basis of academic excellence; and
Whereas the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, a part of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation has been Impotent in enforcing the law or advocating for the rights of blind students in Pennsylvania; NOW, THEREFORE
BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, in Convention assembled, this 6th day of November, 2004 in the city of Pittsburgh; that the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, Condemns and deplores the illegal actions and cavalier attitudes of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization will continue to energetically publicize the illegal, oppressive arrogant behavior of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services throughout Pennsylvania and throughout the National public rehabilitation community; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania hereby calls upon all Pennsylvanians to express their outrage and displeasure, vocally and in writing, throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with respect to the implementation of illegal policies by the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Labor & Industry and the Rendell Administration; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Resolution be distributed to appropriate print media publications in the state for publication on the Editorial page.
Resolution 2004-03: Regarding Accessibility of Commonwealth Electronic Data Management Systems
Whereas, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania employs thousands of persons in order that the state may conduct its everyday business on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania; and
Whereas, a small percentage of these state employees are blind or visually impaired thus requiring the provision of job accommodations in order that they may perform the essential functions and responsibilities of the positions they hold in the particular state agencies in which they work; and
Whereas, these services, which are provided on behalf of the citizens of Pennsylvania, must be equally accessible to all customers as well as employees of the state, in conformance with both State and Federal law; and
Whereas, significant opportunities for advancement, and the ability to independently perform certain job functions, (including but not limited to documentation of personal leave, other payroll and personnel matters, purchasing and fiscal management, and mandatory approval of a myriad of documents by all supervisory employees), which are dependent upon electronic data management systems have been taken away from blind or visually impaired state employees as a result of technologies recently implemented by the Commonwealth; and
Whereas, the purported conveniences of electronic data management systems such as Imagine PA , have in reality created more hardship for all employees of the commonwealth, and have severely limited a blind employee’s ability to independently work with electronically available records and other materials which are readily available to all other commonwealth employees; and
Whereas, some of the materials which are now only accessible to employees through the use of “Imagine PA”, pertain to payroll matters and are of a personal nature that only the blind employee should be viewing; and
Whereas, It is now necessary for blind and visually impaired employees to access this information through the use of readers or other staff persons, thereby violating the confidentiality of these employees in violation of Commonwealth Personnel rules; and
Whereas, the financial dollars wasted on the provision of such readers as well as the time lost by other state employees who choose to assist blind co-workers in carrying out their own employment responsibilities is not beneficial to the long-term relationship between the blind employee and his/her coworkers; and
Whereas, The implementation of “Imagine PA, and the resulting limited access afforded by the system to employees who are blind or visually impaired, may lead to the commonwealth inadvertently discriminating against the hiring of blind and visually impaired persons as a result of their inability to independently carry out those daily functions of their jobs which require the use of the electronic data management system; and
Whereas, the Commonwealth’s failure to require that current and future software applications that must be used by its employees in the performance of their jobs be fully accessible to all state employees, should be viewed as potentially limiting to equal employment opportunities within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; NOW, THEREFORE
BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, in convention assembled this seventh day of November 2004 in the city of Pittsburgh, that This Organization call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly to sponsor and implement a technology bill which would mirror Federal legislation prohibiting state agencies from purchasing software applications that are not accessible to blind or visually impaired employees; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we respectfully ask the Pennsylvania General Assembly to investigate the reasons why the Imagine PA program was purchased without verifying its accessibility capabilities, and that the findings of that investigation be released to the citizens of Pennsylvania; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Organization call upon the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to include members of consumer organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania on planning groups and task-forces charged with decisions of this magnitude regarding computer software purchasing in the hope that accessibility matters can be resolved in advance thus saving large numbers of tax payer dollars and improving efficiency throughout this Commonwealth.
Resolution 2004-04: Regarding Office of Vocational Rehabilitation College Policy
Whereas, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) has provided financial assistance to blind and visually impaired Pennsylvanians seeking college training; and
Whereas, OVR has until recently provided $8,150 per academic year for blind students to pursue the college training required by their vocational goals as specified in their Individualized Program for Employment (IPE); and
Whereas, OVR’s actions in changing these caps to be the same throughout all Bureaus within the Agency, has created the scenario where blind and visually impaired customers will be receiving less financial assistance as a result of new college policies about to be implemented by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation state board; and
Whereas, blind customers were reassured at the time of the merger between OVR and the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) back in 1999 that services would not be affected, and would only be improved for consumers who are blind and visually impaired; and
Whereas, these proposed tuition spending reductions cannot be perceived by any blind or visually impaired customer as an improvement in the quality of services received from OVR; and
Whereas, this reduction in financial assistance received by blind and visually impaired customers of OVR can be viewed as a detriment in the blind consumer’s ability to achieve their vocational goals and to secure subsequent, appropriate, competitive employment; and
Whereas, Within the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services, less than 25% of its annual Vocational Rehabilitation customer service dollars is spent on college training, as compared with over 35% of the annual Vocational Rehabilitation customer service dollars spent on college training by the Bureau serving persons with other disabilities; NOW, THEREFORE
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in convention assembled this seventh day of November 2004 in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that this organization condemn and deplore OVR’s implementation of new college policies that would reduce the amount of financial assistance currently being received by blind and visually impaired customers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand justification from OVR as to why the agency does not feel it can spend more than $15,000,000 annually agency-wide on college training, which is proven to be the most successful link to employment for customers who are blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NFB of PA ask the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) for an explanation of absolute caps, and a determination as to whether or not the OVR proposed new college policy is legal under the terms of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended.
Resolution 2004-05: Regarding Public Transportation
Whereas, People who are blind do not drive, and must rely upon public transportation or hired drivers in order to travel any significant distance; and Whereas, within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, only a small minority of cities and towns offer public transit systems which run with a sufficient degree of frequency and reliability, to enable blind residents to use those systems in commuting to work or traveling to other engagements in a timely manner; and Whereas, throughout most of our State, public transportation is either non-existent, or runs with such infrequency as to render itself useless in traveling to and from regular employment or scheduled appointments; and Whereas, The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), uses State and Federal dollars for the purpose of maintaining Pennsylvania’s highways so that they may be traveled safely by sighted motorists; and Whereas, PennDOT also receives State and Federal funds for the purpose of operating trains, buses and other effective modes of public transit; and Whereas, in the greater part of Pennsylvania, public transportation does not exist, or is not practical because of its inefficiency; and Whereas, Consequently, the majority of blind persons living in our State do not benefit from any of the afore-mentioned State and Federal transportation funding which continues to be allotted to PennDOT; NOW, THEREFORE,
Be It Resolved, by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in Convention assembled this 7th day of November in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that we formally request that the Governor, the General Assembly and PennDOT allocate an increased and appropriate amount of funding to the improvement of existing public transit programs, and that these improvements include greater frequency of operation and greater coverage of the areas they serve; and
Be It Further Resolved, that this organization call upon PennDOT to establish appropriate forms of public conveyance in areas where no public transportation services presently exist.