AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND

OF NEW YORK, INC.

AN AFFILIATE OF THE AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND, WASHINGTON, D.C.

A SELF-HELP ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO

IMPROVING THE LIFESTYLE AND INDEPENDENCE

OF THE BLIND

 

2016 ACBNY LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

The American Council of the Blind of New York (ACBNY) is a volunteer organization, any and all questions should be directed to:

Legislative Chair, Meghan Schoeffling: 914-417-8651 or meghanschoeffling@gmail.com

 

ACBNY strongly supports establishing licensing requirements for two categories of vision rehabilitation professionals: licensed orientation and mobility specialists and licensed rehabilitation therapists.            

 

·         As New Yorkers age, the number of persons with significant visual impairments is increasing.

·         There is also an increase in the number of babies surviving prematurity, low birth weight, congenital conditions or diseases. They often experience multiple disabilities including vision loss.

·         Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialists provide people of all ages who are blind or severely visually impaired with instruction in the use of their remaining senses along with a prescribed white and red cane to enable safe navigation and independent travel in their environment. O&M specialists prepare people who are blind to attain mobility skills to qualify for a dog guide.

·         Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRT) provide training in the reading and writing of Braille, safe cooking techniques, child care, medication management and other skills to manage independently at home, and instruction in keyboarding and the use of adaptive technology.

·         Licensure increases the number of qualified professionals who are specifically trained to meet the unique needs of people who are totally blind or legally blind.  Licensure assures the provision of quality services through regulation and examination of the professionals.  Licensure promotes consumer safety and ensures that individuals who are blind have access to trained professionals who have received specialized supervised training in working with people who are blind or visually impaired.

This bill was passed unanimously by the NYS Senate and Assembly in the 2015 legislative session but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo. A new version is being drafted to address the concerns outlined by the Executive.

 

ACBNY vehemently opposes the continued use of any voting system in municipal elections which are not fully accessible, including the use of paper ballots.

ACBNY advocated vigorously against the continued use of lever machines in local elections. As of December 31, 2015, lever machines are no longer allowed to be used in local elections. However, many local elections are being held using paper ballots. Paper ballots are no more accessible than lever machines. New York State must once and for all guarantee all people can vote in all elections!

 

In 2005, New York State passed its Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) in its attempt to provide equal access and independence to all voters throughout the state. However, since the passage of ERMA, the legislative body has continued to supersede access and independence for people with disabilities by allowing the use of inaccessible voting systems, including paper ballots, throughout the state. This ongoing disenfranchisement of voters with disabilities must stop.

According to the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and the Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005 (ERMA) and a report published by the New York State Board of Elections (BOE) on February 4, 2014, "Voting systems must be accessible to voters…" and both Title V (Section 504) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act require governmental entities to provide people with disabilities access to activities, programs and services provided by state and local governments. An accessible voting system falls within that purview and should be mandated under state law. 

 

ACBNY is seeking substantial changes to the "Electronic Information Act" which would provide additional funding to Newsline A369 (Pretlow) and S.1167 (Parker).

While ACBNY strongly supports Newsline as a useful and valuable service to all New Yorkers who are blind, deaf-blind and visually impaired, we cannot accept the proposed funding mechanism for this worthwhile service which is unlimited and lacks transparency and accountability to New York Taxpayers.
We strongly urge the sponsors of these bills to alter their legislation's language to include a limit to the amount of funding earmarked for the Newsline service directly related to the actual cost of procuring this
service from its national provider, which is currently approximately $80,000 per annum. We furthermore request that the language in this legislation concerning alternate funding streams include a provision that
uses any grants, bequests or other funding obtained to support Newsline to offset the funding received through the Targeted Accessibility fund and the NYS Commission for the blind. We also wish to
have clarification in the legislation concerning which commissioner would consult with the provider to determine levels of funding for Newsline from the Targeted Accessibility fund.






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