Ensuring access to digital information is a high priority of the NFB and the nation’s blind. For many years, the federal government has considered proposing a regulation that would clarify the requirements for accessibility of websites and online services provided by public entities. Such entities include state and local government websites, as well as those of public schools and colleges. In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice published a Supplemental Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking titled Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability; Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Government Entities (SANPRM) in the Federal Register.
Last week, Senator Heller from Nevada introduced an amendment to the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to include the same Space Available language that you already helped pass in the House NDAA last month. This is the first time we've ever been able to get an amendment for Space Available introduced in the Senate. This amendment currently has two cosponsors, Senators Tester from Montana and Ayotte from New Hampshire, but we need more support.
Please call your senators and urge them to cosponsor amendment S.A. 4235 to the Senate NDAA so that all veterans with disabilities rated as total can participate in the Space Available Program, not just those injured on or after September 23, 1996. We expect the Senate to begin debating the NDAA next week so time is of the essence for us to build support for our legislation. If we can get this amendment through the Senate, we will only need a signature from the President to end the disparate treatment of our courageous vets in the Space Available Program based on which war they fought in.
The US Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. The fact sheet is available at: https://nfb.org/equal-access-air-travel-service-disabled-veterans. If you have any questions, feel free to email or call Derek Manners, Advocacy and Policy Analyst, at DManners@nfb.org or (410) 659-9314, extension 2210.
Please share this message widely throughout the Federation.
Thank you for all that you do.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
There are two matters pending in the Senate that require our attention this week. First, we need to engage members of the Senate to make the Marrakesh Treaty a top priority in 2016. Please call your Senators and urge them to support the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty and help make more published works available to blind people.
Secondly, please urge your Senators to include the language of S. 2596 (our Space Available legislation in the Senate) in the base language of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
I am so thankful for the excellent work you do because no organization moves a legislative agenda like the National Federation of the Blind. Please call both of your Senators today! The number to the Capitol Switchboard is (202) 224-3121.
Thanks again for all you do to make sure blind Americans can live the lives we want.
The snow has stopped and a beautiful blue sky and bright sun now illuminates the two and a half feet of snow we have received in the Baltimore/Washington area. The shining sun is a great symbol of the hope and determination I continue to hear from Federationists who have traveled or are working to travel to Washington D.C.
There is good reason to be hopeful as all indications are that Congress will be in session and that our 2016 Washington Seminar will happen this week. Information is changing regularly and we will do our best to keep everyone updated.
For example, just moments ago we received reliable information that the House of Representatives has cancelled votes for this week but that Congressional staff will still be on the Hill for meetings. With all of the complexity of the situation, here is a breakdown of our revised plans.
Monday, January 25:
The tours of the NFB Jernigan Institute that were scheduled to leave from the Holiday Inn at 8:00 a.m. have been cancelled.
The seminars and meetings that were scheduled to take place at the Holiday Inn Capitol on Monday have all been cancelled with a few exceptions.
The Legislative Seminar scheduled for 2:00 p.m. has been rescheduled to 5:00 p.m. in the Capitol Ballroom. That seminar is expected to run until 6:30 p.m.
The Great Gathering In has been rescheduled to Tuesday morning and will be shortened to accommodate legislative appointments that are already scheduled.
The meeting of the NFB National Association of Blind Students has been moved to 7:30 p.m. in the Capitol Ballroom. Students who wish to have more information about activities of the student division and changes should contact President Sean Whalen at email@example.com or 262–309–1034.
Room 353, our Washington Seminar nerve center sometimes referred to as Mercury will be open for business beginning at 1:00 p.m. I encourage you to check in at 353 for updates and to give new information about your Hill appointments. You can call room 353 by dialing 410–216–3314.
Tuesday, January 26:
The Great Gathering In will take place at 8:30 a.m. in the Capitol Ballroom at the Holiday Inn. This year’s Gathering In will be a launch for hill appointments as we know that many individuals have Tuesday meetings on the hill in the late morning and into the afternoon. I expect the energy at the Gathering In to be as high as ever even despite the historic Blizzard of 2016.
On Tuesday evening at 5:00 p.m. we have a Congressional Reception planned to take place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building (Constitution Avenue and 1st Street NE) in Room G50.
This will be a nice way to welcome members of Congress and staff back to the Hill and get our issues in front of them in a dynamic way. Everyone should plan to participate in the reception and invite members of Congress to the event.
Our student division promises a sweet ending to a long day with the NABS CafÃ© at 8 PM through midnight on Tuesday. This fundraiser for our student division should not be missed simply because two feet of snow is on the ground.
The students say, Buy a wristband from any member of the NABS Board for $5 prior to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, or pay $7 at the door. Either way, the cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and other tasty treats will satisfy your sweet tooth
Music and auction items are promised for the NABS CafÃ© as well.
After Tuesday, January 26:
We expect our Washington Seminar operation to continue as planned through the rest of the week. Room 353 will continue to be open and our staff will continue to work with members to manage key Hill visits. As needed, we may ask members to drop packets off at offices that will be missed this year because local constituents could not get into DC. As long as NFB members have appointments on the Hill and until all offices have received a packet, our team will be in Washington to get the job done.
Diane McGeorge is at the Holiday Inn and can help you with problems you might encounter at the hotel. Again, the number for room 353 is 410–216–3314.
I spoke with Diane this morning and she assured me that there are a number of rooms still available at the end of the week and that hotel stays could be extended at the #NFBWS16 rate.
If your arrival or departure dates at the hotel have changed, I encourage you to call the hotel to adjust your reservation. Even if you are just cancelling one night, please make it easy on the hotel by calling them to cancel the evening you will miss.
Please continue to keep Parnell Diggs firstname.lastname@example.org or 843–267–2018 in the loop regarding changes in your plans for Washington. It is important that we have a good list of who is going to be on the Hill so we can adjust our plans appropriately.
Please continue to follow the hashtag #NFBWS16 in social media in order to keep up on seminar happenings and the work of other Federation members. We will continue to share information about changes in Washington and adjustments to our plans as quickly as possible.
Thank you for your commitment to the work of the National Federation of the Blind. The hope and determination that Federationists across the country have demonstrated during the past week is a significant part of what makes our organization unique and effective.
For those who simply have not been able to get to Washington because of the lack of seats on rescheduled flights, thank you for the effort you have put in to Washington Seminar 2016. While there is nothing quite as effective as being on the ground and in a Congressional office, please remember that there is a lot you can do to let your members of Congress know that our issues are important to you as one of their constituents.
Finally, I know that the rescheduling of appointments and the uncertainty over the past couple of days has been frustrating for all of us. The effort is definitely worth it. I would encourage you to continue to be flexible and reschedule appointments to Wednesday and Thursday if you have members on the ground in Washington. Remember, together with love, hope, and determination, we transform dreams into reality.
Mark A. Riccobono
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
On July 26, 2010, the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) addressing the obligation of public accommodations to provide websites that are accessible to individuals with disabilities was issued by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). At the time, President Obama correctly observed that these proposed rules would be “the most important updates to the ADA since its original enactment.” Yet the release date of the actual rule proposal for revising the Title III regulations of the ADA, originally scheduled for January of 2012, has been extended until sometime in 2018, eight years beyond the issuance of the original ANPRM and at least a year after the end of his administration. Having originally taken a strong stance on the importance of these regulations, it now seems like the Obama administration is wishing to wash its hands of them entirely.
As blind Americans, we know first-hand that equal access to the internet is paramount for education, to obtain and retain employment, and for everyday tasks such as paying bills, online shopping, booking travel, etc. We will not sit idly by as the administration attempts to sideline this critical access issue, so we have launched a petition demanding, in the strongest terms possible, that the administration issue these regulations immediately.
Upon reaching 100,000 signatures, the Obama administration is required to respond, so in addition to sharing our we the people petition via Email and your social media outlets, please personally ask 10 family members, friends, and colleagues to sign it and share it as well. A little personal contact goes a long way!
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me; with your help, we will bring this critical issue for blind Americans to the forefront of the Obama administration’s list of priorities. Let’s go build the Federation!
Government Affairs Specialist
National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street
At Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230
P: 410-659-9314 Ext. 2206