[Nfbnet-members-list] 2014 NFB Legislative Agenda and Fact Sheets

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Thu Jan 9 02:22:47 UTC 2014

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 113th Congress, SECOND Session

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the 
oldest and largest nationwide organization of 
blind people. As the voice of the nation’s blind, 
we represent the collective views of the 1.3 
million blind people throughout the United 
States. All of our leaders and the vast majority 
of our members are blind, but anyone can participate in our movement.

The NFB’s three legislative initiatives for 2014 are:

·        The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act (HR 831)
Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act 
allows employers to pay workers with disabilities 
less than the minimum wage because of the false 
assumption that they are less productive than 
non-disabled workers. This antiquated provision 
breeds low expectations and discourages disabled 
Americans from reaching their full potential. HR 
831 responsibly phases out the use of the 14(c) 
Special Wage Certificates, ending the era of segregated, subminimum wage work.
·        The Technology, Education and 
Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH) (HR 3505)
Electronic instructional materials have replaced 
traditional methods of learning in postsecondary 
education, but the overwhelming majority of 
e-books, courseware, web content, and other 
technology are inaccessible to students with 
print disabilities. The law mandates equal access 
in the classroom, but fails to provide a 
prescription to schools for how that applies to 
technology. The TEACH Act creates accessibility 
guidelines for electronic instructional materials 
that will guide the market, give clarity to 
schools, and protect blind students’ rights to critical course material.
·        The Air Carrier Technology Accessibility Act (ACTA)
Passenger interaction with technology is a 
central component of air travel. The Air Carrier 
Access Act prohibits discrimination on the basis 
of disability by airlines, but it was written 
before the emergence of web sites, kiosks, and 
mobile apps. These tools are all inaccessible to 
blind travelers despite readily-available 
solutions, resulting in segregation and 
substandard service. ACTA calls for all 
technology-based air travel services to be accessible to blind passengers.

The real problem of blindness is not the loss of 
eyesight; it is the misunderstanding and lack of 
information that exist. Given the proper training 
and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a 
physical nuisance. Americans have a strong 
philosophy of equality, but there are profound 
flaws in the application of our doctrine as it 
applies to people with disabilities. These bills 
help close the gaps. We urge Congress to protect 
our rights in the workplace, classroom, and air 
travel by supporting these legislative initiatives.

The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 (HR 831)

Current labor laws unjustly prohibit workers with disabilities
from reaching their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.

Written in 1938, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor 
Standards Act (FLSA) discriminates against people 
with disabilities. The provision allows the 
Secretary of Labor to grant Special Wage 
Certificates to employers, permitting them to pay 
workers with disabilities less than the minimum 
wage. This is based on the false assumption that 
disabled workers are less productive than 
nondisabled workers, but successful employment 
models have emerged in the last seventy-five 
years to assist people with significant 
disabilities in acquiring the job skills needed 
for competitive work. Section 14(c) sustains 
segregated subminimum wage workshops that exploit 
disabled workers, paying some only pennies an 
hour for mundane, repetitive tasks.

This discriminatory policy is not necessary for 
the successful operation of a disability-training 
program. In reality, the overwhelming majority of 
Goodwill Industries Affiliates, and all but one 
of the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) 
affiliates, operates successfully without paying 
subminimum wages. Countless entities have 
successfully transitioned their subminimum wage 
business model of low expectations to an 
innovative model of competitive integrated 
training and employment, meeting the growing 
needs of mainstream employers with the proven 
talents of employees with disabilities. Only 
outdated workshops argue they will be unable to 
manage worthwhile programs without the use of the Special Wage Certificate.

The subminimum wage model fails to provide 
adequate training or employment to disabled 
workers. Data shows that less than five percent 
of the 400,000 workers with disabilities in 
segregated subminimum wage workshops will 
transition into competitive integrated work. 
Moreover, research shows that the subminimum wage 
model costs more but actually produces less! In 
fact, workers must unlearn the useless skills 
they acquire in order to obtain meaningful 
employment. It is poor policy to reward such 
failed programs with wage exemptions, 
preferential federal contracts, and public and charitable contributions.

After 75 years of demonstrated failure, it is 
time to invest in proven, effective models for 
employment. This discriminatory model sustains 
the same segregated subminimum wage environments 
that existed in 1938. Section 14(c) has proven to 
be extremely ineffective and offers no incentive 
for mainstream employers to hire people with 
disabilities. The Employment First Movement 
promotes new concepts such as “supported” or 
“customized” employment that are successful at 
producing competitive integrated employment 
outcomes for individuals with significant 
disabilities that were previously thought to be unemployable.
The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013:

Discontinues the issuance of new Special Wage 
Certificates. The Secretary of Labor will no 
longer issue Special Wage Certificates to new applicants.

Phases out the use of Special Wage Certificates 
over a three-year period. Using the following 
schedule, entities will be able to transition to 
the proven-model of competitive integrated employment:
·        Private for-profit entities will have one year to transition;
·        Public or governmental entities will 
have two years to transition; and
·        Nonprofit entities will have three years 
to transition. (These entities make up 
ninety-five percent of the Special Wage Certificate holders.)

Repeals Section 14(c) of the FLSA. Three years 
after the law is enacted, this practice of paying 
disabled workers subminimum wages will be 
officially abolished. This will result in the 
elimination of segregated, subminimum wage 
workshops and in the development of integrated 
environments that encourage people with 
disabilities to reach their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.


Cosponsor HR 831: Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act.

For more information contact:

National Federation of the Blind
Anil Lewis, Director of Advocacy and Policy
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2374. Email: 
<mailto:alewis at nfb.org>alewis at nfb.org
Rose Sloan, Government Affairs Specialist
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2441. Email: 
<mailto:rsloan at nfb.org>rsloan at nfb.org

To co-sponsor contact:

Scot Malvaney, Legislative Director
Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS)
Phone: (202)-225-5031.      Email: 
<mailto:scot.malvaney at mail.house.gov>scot.malvaney at mail.house.gov

HR831 is supported by over sixty organizations of 
people with disabilities and employers of workers 
with disabilities. For more information visit: www.nfb.org/fair-wages

Technology, Education, and Accessibility in 
College and Higher Education Act (TEACH Act) H.R. 3505

Colleges and universities need an education about accessibility.
Students with disabilities need accessibility to get an education.

Technology has fundamentally changed the 
education system. The scope of instructional 
materials used to facilitate the teaching and 
learning process at institutions of higher 
education has expanded. Curricular content comes 
in the form of digital books, PDFs, webpages, 
etc.; and most of this content is delivered 
through digital databases, learning management 
systems, and applications. Traditional print 
materials are inherently inaccessible to disabled 
students, but technology creates opportunities to 
expand the circle of participation. These 
opportunities are missed when the majority of 
these materials are inaccessible to students with disabilities.

The use of inaccessible technology by 
institutions of higher education is a violation 
of law. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and 
Titles II and III of the Americans with 
Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination on the 
basis of disability, but these laws were written 
before technology permeated the classroom. In 
2010, the U.S. Departments of Justice and 
Education issued guidance to institutions of 
higher education clarifying that the use of 
inaccessible technology is a form of 
discrimination. In the four years since, several 
of the country’s leading institutions have faced 
legal action for continuing to use inaccessible technology.

Accessibility solutions are widely available, but 
schools and manufacturers are resisting. A 2009 
Congressionally-authorized study found that, 
despite innovations in text-to-speech, 
refreshable Braille, and other accessibility 
features that create promise for equal access, 
there is still persistent unmet need. Developers 
claim there is not enough demand to justify 
making accessible products, and schools claim to 
have limited options and a lack of knowledge 
about accessibility to properly guide 
procurement. Because of this blame-game, 
developers are moving too slowly and schools are openly violating the law.

Guidelines are sorely needed to guide the market 
and lift burdens off of disabled students. While 
schools and manufacturers are waiting for the 
other to take action, blind students are facing 
insurmountable barriers to their education. No 
student can be expected to succeed in college if 
he or she is denied access to course material, 
and yet the solutions available to remedy this 
discrimination are ignored! Universally-accepted 
accessibility guidelines will give direction to 
manufacturers, clarity to schools about how to 
meet their legal obligations regarding 
technology, and long-overdue equal access for disabled students.
Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education Act:

Develops accessibility guidelines for 
instructional materials and related information 
technology. The Access Board will consult experts 
and stakeholders to develop functional 
performance criteria for electronic instructional 
materials and related information technologies so 
that those materials are usable by individuals 
with disabilities. The guidelines will serve as a 
flexible prescription for accessibility for both 
developers and institutions of higher education.

Provides incentive for institutions of higher 
education to follow the guidelines. Institutions 
of higher education that use technology that 
conforms with the guidelines will be deemed in 
compliance with the provisions of Section 504 of 
the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of 
the Americans with Disabilities Act that pertain to schools’ use of technology.
Establishes a minimum usability standard for all 
technology in the classroom. Institutions of 
higher education may only use materials that do 
not conform to the guidelines if that material 
allows disabled students to enjoy the same 
educational benefits in an equally integrated and 
equally effective manner, with substantially 
equivalent ease of use as nondisabled students.


Cosponsor the Technology, Education, and Accessibility
  in College and Higher Education Act (TEACH Act) HR 3505.

For more information contact:
Lauren McLarney, Government Affairs Specialist, 
National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2207. Email: 
<mailto:lmclarney at nfb.org>lmclarney at nfb.org

To cosponsor contact:

Kevin James, Legislative Assistant, Congressman Tom Petri (R-WI)
Phone: (202) 225-2476. Email: 
<mailto:kevin.james at mail.house.gov>kevin.james at mail.house.gov

The TEACH Act is the result of collaboration 
between the NFB and the Association of American 
Publishers, the leading trade association of the U.S. publishing industry.

Air Carrier Technology Accessibility Act

To allow blind and low vision individuals equal access
to technology used in all phases of air travel.

Despite anti-discrimination laws, airlines 
continue to deny access to blind passengers.  In 
1986 Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act 
(ACAA) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of 
disability during all phases of air travel, 
including purchasing a ticket, checking-in, 
boarding and deplaning, receiving in-flight 
services, and assistance getting around the 
airport. Air travel has changed significantly 
since 1986, and most services now require 
interaction with technology; however airlines 
have failed to honor the ACAA by ensuring that 
those services are usable by blind travelers. The 
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also 
prohibits discrimination on the basis of 
disability in public transportation, but because 
of unique security issues in air travel, airlines 
were explicitly excluded from the law, 
compounding the problems facing blind air 
travelers. Technology creates opportunity to 
expand the circle of participation, so the law 
needs to be updated to capture the prospect and ensure equal access.

Passenger interaction with technology is a 
fundamental requirement of air travel. Passengers 
have multiple options of accessing flight 
information that replace endless phone calls and 
check-in lines. For booking and accessing 
boarding passes, flyers use web sites, mobile 
apps, or kiosks. Mobile apps provide real-time 
updates on departure and arrival information, and 
even make it possible to scan a digital boarding 
pass at security check points. On board, 
passengers can make in-flight purchases of 
movies, drinks, or Wi-Fi by using consoles on the 
seatback in front of them. Technology enhances 
the flying experience, and who knows what 
innovative tools might emerge in the future? 
Blind passengers pay the same price to fly the 
friendly skies as everyone else, and yet cannot use any of these services.

Airlines should stop this discrimination by 
embracing readily available solutions. Technical 
criteria for accessible web content and best 
practices for mobile apps were released back in 
2008, and accessibility standards for ATMs and 
usable kiosks have been on the market for years. 
Rather than utilize these options and deploy 
accessible technology, airlines “meet the needs” 
of their disabled passengers by offering internet 
rates over the phone to those who self-identify 
as blind and giving priority access to blind 
flyers in line. Technology can meet the 
unfulfilled promise of equal access, yet airlines 
choose to use an ineffective method of “access” 
that relegates blind passengers to antiquated methods of service.

The Air Carrier Technology Accessibility Act:

Provides equal access throughout the air travel 
process by requiring that all methods of booking 
flights, checking-in, obtaining boarding passes 
and making in-flight purchases are accessible to 
blind passengers. All newly-created or purchased 
web content, airport kiosks, mobile apps and 
other technology-based services operated by air 
carriers will be usable by the blind.
Establishes a complaint mechanism to resolve 
issues of non-compliance with the Air Carrier Technology Accessibility Act.


Sponsor the Air Carrier Technology Accessibility Act

For more information contact:
Jesse Hartle
Government Affairs Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
Phone: (410) 659-9314, Extension 2233. E-mail: 
<mailto:jhartle at nfb.org>jhartle at nfb.org

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