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 Each proposed resolution is read, spoken for by the authoring member, considered, and then ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the Convention.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 2019-01: Regarding Protecting the Civil Rights of Blind Parents
WHEREAS, protecting the rights of parents with disabilities is a notion that, incredibly, was rejected by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927), in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind”; and
WHEREAS, this insulting and unjustified view that people with disabilities, including blind people, are somehow “manifestly unfit” to be parents (or otherwise to live the lives they want and to participate as members of society with all rights and privileges associated therewith) has too often continued to prevail in the courts even as we move further into the twenty-first century; and
WHEREAS, this bias is reflected in matters involving adoption and guardianship and in contested child custody proceedings, because blind parents have been perceived by the courts, child protection agencies, guardians ad litem, hospital staff, and others as incapable of caring adequately for their children’s needs, which has resulted in blind people routinely being denied the right to be parents without unfair bias or unnecessary overreach by government entities; and
WHEREAS, for most people a fundamental aspect of living life to the fullest includes the joy of being a parent and sharing in the nurturing, growth, and development of a child; and
WHEREAS, being a parent and raising children is a fundamental right which is protected under the Constitution of the United States of America by the First and Ninth Amendments and under the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to the states; and
WHEREAS, in the case of blind parents, there is a need to protect this fundamental constitutional right; yet Pennsylvania has no laws at all to protect the right of blind citizens to be parents and raise their children without the fear of discriminatory treatment or unnecessary inquiries of fitness solely based on blindness; and
Whereas, fourteen states across the country have enacted legislation that specifically protects the rights of blind parents, and momentum toward the goal of equal rights for blind parents is growing: now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in Convention assembled this 3rd day of November, 2019, in the City of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, that this organization call upon the Pennsylvania Legislature to enact laws that establish procedural safeguards to protect the right of blind people to be parents and prohibit discriminatory presumptions of manifest unfitness solely because a parent (or prospective parent) happens to be blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Pennsylvania Attorney General, in protecting the best interest of children in court proceedings, to use his or her good office affirmatively to protect blind parents in the Commonwealth against discrimination and bias based solely upon blindness and to urge the courts, guardians ad litem, and officials of child protection agencies to base decisions about what is in the best interest of the child on the same criteria used for sighted parents.
Resolution 2019-02: Regarding Governor Tom Wolf
WHEREAS on March 10, 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed Executive Order 2016-03 – Establishing “Employment First” Policy and Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability; and
WHEREAS on June 19, 2018, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 1641, codifying the Employment First Policy; and,
WHEREAS on August 7, 2019, Governor Wolf personally met with students, teachers and volunteers from the NFB BELL Academy of PA Harrisburg, in his reception room at the Capitol; and,
WHEREAS on August 16, 2019, fulfilling Governor Wolf’s request to meet, his Deputy Secretary Kate Roberts met with members of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania: NOW, THEREFORE
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in Convention assembled this 3rd day of November, 2019, in the city of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, that this organization applauds and commends the actions of Governor Wolf in recognizing that Pennsylvanians with disabilities are valued members of society and deserve to have the opportunity to work; and,
Let it be further resolved, that workers with disabilities are valued contributors to the work place and making it such that competitive integrated employment is the first consideration and preferred outcome of publicly-funded education, training, employment and related services and long-term supports and services for working-age Pennsylvanians with disabilities; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization commend Governor Wolf’s active interest and outreach to the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania.
Resolution 2019-03: Regarding Congressman Michael Kelly
WHEREAS Michael Kelly, representing Pennsylvania’s 16th District in the United States House of Representatives has consistently met with constituents and/or representatives of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania during Washington Seminar; and
WHEREAS Representative Kelly and his staff including Lori Prater, Policy Director/Tax and Trade Counsel, have worked directly with Mike Thompson representing the 5th District of California and the National Federation of the Blind; and
WHEREAS on April 4, 2019, Congressman Kelly co-sponsored and helped introduce HR 2086, the Access Technology Affordability Act of 2019: Now, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in convention assembled on this 3rd day of November, 2019, in the city of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, that this organization applaud and commend Representative Mike Kelly for his continued dedication and friendship with the blind of Pennsylvania, supporting our legislative direction in the House of Representatives so we can further our mission of equality and living the lives that we want.
Resolution 2019-04: Regarding Senator Robert Casey
WHEREAS Robert Casey, Jr. representing Pennsylvania in the United States Senate, his staff, including Michael Gamel-McCormick, have consistently met with our delegation during Washington Seminar; and
WHEREAS on January 29, 2019, Senator Casey introduced S. 260, the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act of 2019; And
Whereas, this bill will eliminate Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act which allows for the payment of subminimum wages to disabled workers: Now, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in convention assembled on this 3rd day of November, 2019, in the city of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, that this organization applaud and commend Senator Robert Casey for his unwavering support of equality for individuals with disabilities and his introduction of a key piece of legislation advocated for years to begin the removal of Section 14c of the Fair Labors Standards Act of 1938.
Resolution 2019-05: Regarding the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation
WHEREAS in November 2012, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) adopted the Unified English Braille Code(UEB) to replace the current English Braille American Edition in the United States while maintaining the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, the music Braille code, and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) code; and
WHEREAS the official braille codes for the United States starting in January 2016 would be UEB, the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, the music Braille code, and the IPA code; and
WHEREAS of November 2019, this BANA resolution was never rescinded; and
WHEREAS of November 2019, Thirty-seven states have declared that Nemeth Code is their math code of choice; And
WHEREAS as of November 2019, there is NO National certification for UEB math transcription; and
Whereas, there is NO proof that UEB math is a more efficient effective code for reading and writing math and scientific notations; and
WHEREAS the Nemeth Code has been proven for Forty-seven years to be effective and efficient for scores of American scientists and doctors who are blind; and
WHEREAS the Nemeth Code can be used for the highest levels of math and technical notations, while UEB math can be used no further than a proficiency level comparable to fourth grade math: Now, therefore
Be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in convention assembled on this 3rd day of November, 2019, in the city of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, that this organization vigorously maintain its support for the Nemeth Code through advocacy and education; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania declare the Nemeth Code as the official math code; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demands the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Bureau of Special Education, and any and all other state agencies participating in the education of the blind utilize the proven Nemeth Code, thus guaranteeing quality assurance in all brailled materials and the best placement for students desiring employment in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Resolution 2019-06: Regarding the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services
Whereas the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) was created by an act of legislation as early as 1929, and has been upheld as much throughout the years including when the bureau was moved under the Department of Labor and Industry in 1999; and
Whereas with the help of our board, Steve Pennington of the Client Assistance Program, has crafted a position paper outlining the necessity of validation of the separate bureau for blind services within the Commonwealth. Now, therefore
Be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in convention assembled on this 3rd day of November, 2019, in the city of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, that this organization accept and support the position paper, and continue our defense of BBVS being a separate and distinct agency providing specialized services for the blind.
Resolution 2019-07: Regarding the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
whereas The acting secretary of labor and industry Gerard “Jerry” Olecksiac and acting director of the office of vocational rehabilitation have failed in a level of transparency demanded by their positions; and
whereas the secretary and acting Executive Director routinely attempted to threaten and intimidate members of the board of vocational rehabilitation with closing or merging the bureau of blindness and visual services; and
whereas the secretary and acting Executive director misrepresented financial information to the board and elected officials within the Pennsylvania Legislature with regards to the funding of their programs; and
whereas the secretary and acting Executive director failed to advocate to the Pennsylvania Legislature in not requesting adequate funding for the required program and increased client numbers; and
Whereas members of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania contacted elected officials of both political parties on the appropriations committees of both the House and Senate determining that neither committee was made aware of the financial need and the possibility of closing of BBVS or the Order of Selection; and
whereas the secretary and acting Executive director conducted a vote of the board and closed the order of selection with Joseph Drenth being the only nay vote; and
whereas in the September meeting the OVR board was made aware of a receipt of $27 million in reallocation funds from the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and,
Whereas, the secretary of labor had no plan to reopen the order of selection and presented no plan in how this award was to be spent; and
whereas there are now more than 4000 customers on the waiting list for services. Now, therefore
Be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania in convention assembled on this 3rd day of November, 2019, in the city of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, that this organization condemn and deplore the actions of the secretary of labor and acting Executive director in advocating for the stoppage of services; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that their actions of removing stakeholders from advocating for their own rights to their elected officials with the lack of transparency, which led to the closing of the order of selection with no short-term or long-term plan to fund and restore services; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the secretary of labor and industry, the acting Executive director of the office of vocational rehabilitation, and the OVR board to re-open the order of selection along with creating short-term and long-term plans to fund and restore services with input from all relevant stakeholders as soon as possible.