2019 Legislative Imperatives

We are excited to welcome ACB members to the Legislative Seminar in February. There are several issues that blind and visually impaired Americans continue to experience in 2019. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss these issues with their representatives and senators. To make an appointment with your representative, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Interestingly, all of the major issues flagged this year touch in some way the continuing growth of technology in our society. The issues show both the positive benefits of accessible technology and the negative ramifications of failing to include accessibility from the beginning. This connection to technology should be noted and mentioned to your members of Congress.

Listed below are the three issues we will discuss during the seminar, and that we encourage you to talk to your senators and representatives about. These topics will be discussed in greater detail at the conference. You will also receive background papers with more detailed summaries of the issues. Other issues will be highlighted that continue to reappear in the national discussion.

Imperative 1: Autonomous Vehicles

We are now at an exciting technological place regarding transportation. The potential for the use of autonomous vehicles for people who are blind is closer than ever. Such vehicles are already being tested in multiple cities. However, it is critical that these cars remain fully accessible, and that individuals who have the most to gain through such technology are not forgotten.

In the last Congress, blindness organizations and the auto industry supported legislation that would establish working groups to focus on accessibility and prevent discrimination in operating such vehicles based on disability. ACB calls on Congress to move forward with similar legislation that will continue to drive this technology forward.

Imperative 2 — Accessible Durable Medical Equipment

Advancements in health technology have resulted in a watershed of durable medical equipment (DME) that monitors vital health activity and conditions such as diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. However, a failure by the DME industry to make devices accessible has raised serious health concerns by those living with such conditions who are blind and visually impaired. For instance, devices such as glucometers have notoriously been a challenge for diabetics who are blind. This can all change through the development of accessible DME interfaces like smartphone apps and other devices capable of using nanotechnology that can incorporate simple accessibility solutions. Congress can play a role in ensuring that such technology adheres to the latest software technology standards, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide assurances that accessible DME devices make their ways into the hands of individuals who are blind and visually impaired.

Imperative 3: Low Vision Aid Exclusion

In November of 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) promulgated a regulation that has had a detrimental impact on the lives of countless individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) Competitive Acquisition Rule contains a provision entitled “Low Vision Aid Exclusion” which states that all devices, “irrespective of their size, form, or technological features that use one or more lens to aid vision or provide magnification of images for impaired vision” are excluded from Medicare coverage based on the statutory “eyeglass” exclusion. ACB is well aware that this extremely restrictive reading of the “eyeglass” exclusion has resulted in the denial of vital assistive devices for seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries who may have disabilities. The expansion of the eyeglass exclusion has prevented access to devices such as handheld magnifiers, video monitors, and other technologies that utilize lenses to enhance vision.

Attendees should discuss this issue with their representatives. Be sure to stress the importance of these materials to older individuals’ ability to continue to live independently.

You are encouraged to bring additional concerns to your Congress members that you experience back home. The list provided consists of issues ACB has heard about frequently that need to be acknowledged and discussed by Congress.

If you have any questions on the issues listed above, please come ready to discuss them at the Legislative Seminar. Or contact Claire Stanley, Advocacy and Outreach Specialist, at (202) 467-5081, or at cstanley@acb.org.

To register for ACB’s 2019 Leadership Meetings, please visit: https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E144393&id=49. Be sure to register by February 15th.  

We look forward to interacting with all attendees this year. The 2019 Leadership Meetings will be held at the Crowne Plaza Alexandria, 901 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Room rates are $120 per night, plus tax. You can reserve your room by calling the hotel directly at (703) 683-6000, by calling Crowne Plaza’s toll-free number, 1-877-227-6963, or online by clicking on this link: Crowne Plaza Alexandria Website.