We Need Your Voices to Present Our Message to Congress

by Tony Stephens

 
The 2018 midyear conference is coming soon, and ACB members are encouraged to take part in forming our future as we gather in Washington, D.C. Feb. 25th-27th to strengthen our base and have our voices heard on Capitol Hill. Registration is open for the conference, and we urge ACB affiliate leaders and advocates to join us at a time when it is critical to speak up on the programs and services that are most vital for Americans who are blind and visually impaired.
 
The current political climate in Congress continues to create significant uncertainty throughout all avenues of federal spending. Budget constraints still weigh heavily on the backs of lawmakers, which means every federally funded program is at risk of major spending cuts. Therefore, it is crucial that ACB members present a unified voice to protect the programs and services most important to Americans who are blind and visually impaired.
 
In 2017, we advocated successfully for protection of programs that provided accessible media to people who are blind, core independent living services for older adults, and continued research on ways to prevent blindness due to trauma. We called for reform of Medicare, pushing for coverage of vital low-vision independent living aids, and we echoed the importance of Americans with vision loss gaining full inclusion in our society.
 
I am pleased to say our voices have been heard. The programs we fought for were not cut, and in some cases spending was increased. Congress reintroduced the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act (H.R. 2050). And we created a drumbeat of messaging affirming our right for full and equal inclusion in all aspects of our society.
 
While Congress listened to and acted on our requests last February, it has become increasingly difficult to sustain our voice amidst the overwhelming chorus of competing interests on Capitol Hill. We need as many advocates as possible to come to Washington, D.C. While many things can change in Washington, including the weather, we know that fighting for critical programs and services will remain a top priority for the foreseeable future. We also have legislation like the Medicare demonstration bill in the House, and the newly introduced Senate version of the Cogswell-Macy Act (S. 2087), both of which will echo a key message on how government can gain a solid return on investments that sustain opportunity and independence.
 
As in past years, the midyear conference is a three-day event, with ACB affiliate presidents and leaders meeting on Sunday, Feb. 25th, followed by the legislative seminar on Monday, Feb. 26th. Then we take to Capitol Hill to meet with our members of Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 27th. The ACB board of directors meeting will be held Saturday, Feb. 24th.
 
For more information, visit the registration page at https://goo.gl/P1a2gb. If you have questions about scheduling meetings with your members of Congress, contact Tony Stephens, ACB’s director of advocacy and governmental affairs, at astephens@acb.org.