Washington Connection

Welcome to the Washington Connection, the legislative and information service of the American Council of the Blind.  The Washington Connection is brought to you by the ACB National Office.  If you have any questions or comments on the information provided, don't hesitate to contact us and ask to speak with Tony Stephens.  The Washington Connection is updated any time we have new information to share with you.

ACB Radio by Phone, Forum by Phone Have New Phone Numbers

ACB Commends Congress on Legislation Authorizing LOC to Provide Braille E-Readers

American Council of the Blind Reaches Agreement with D.C. Taxi Companies to Enhance Accessibility of Street-Hail Service for Blind Individuals with Service Dogs

Nationwide Test of Emergency Alert System to Take Place Wednesday

ACB Takes Action on Currency Delays

American Council of the Blind Awards Apple for Accessibility Innovation

ACB’s Spotlight On Segment

Midyear Meeting Dates Announced

ACB Radio by Phone, Forum by Phone Have New Phone Numbers

AudioNow has given ACB Radio a new phone number. To listen to ACB Radio by telephone, dial (605) 475-8130.
 
To listen to “The ACB Braille Forum,” “E-Forum” and “ACB Reports,” dial (605) 475-8154.

ACB Commends Congress on Legislation Authorizing LOC to Provide Braille E-Readers

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (July 20, 2016) — The American Council of the Blind (ACB) commends Congress on passage of legislation that would allow for the use of refreshable braille e-readers by users of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), and thanks Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) for his leadership on shepherding this legislation in a bipartisan manner. 
 
“At a time when little is making its way through Congress, we’re deeply pleased that authorizing language for NLS expanding opportunity for Americans who read braille to use affordable e-reader technology more effectively has passed in such a unified measure,” said Kim Charlson, president of ACB.
 
On July 13th, Sen. Schumer introduced S. 3207 as an amendment to S. 2893, The Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2016. Responding to an April 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that identified the use of refreshable braille displays as a means to cut costs, S. 3207 authorizes the NLS to begin moving toward including this option for library users. 
 
“We’re excited to see this new technology be utilized by NLS,” said Eric Bridges, executive director of ACB. “The cost of these devices has decreased dramatically with the new braille-reading technology being put into play. This will be a win-win for both users and government.”
 
NLS currently allows library users access to e-books formatted for braille readers, though users are expected to purchase their own braille-reading devices. By providing braille e-readers to NLS consumers, access to library materials will be significantly expanded.

American Council of the Blind Reaches Agreement with D.C. Taxi Companies to Enhance Accessibility of Street-Hail Service for Blind Individuals with Service Dogs

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2016) — Four D.C. taxi companies: Yellow Cab Company of D.C., Inc., Grand Cab Company, Elite Cab Association, and Pleasant Taxi Club LLC have reached an agreement with the American Council of the Blind (“ACB”), a civil rights advocacy organization for the blind, to carry out an Accessibility Initiative to ensure that blind and visually impaired individuals accompanied by service animals have full and equal access to taxi services in the District of Columbia, including street-hailed taxicab services. Together, these four companies represent more than one-fifth of the taxicabs in D.C.
 
The Accessibility Initiative, pioneered by these four companies, is available for any D.C. taxicab company or driver wishing to voluntarily promote equal access for a contribution of only $15 per cab. As part of this Accessibility Initiative, the taxi companies have agreed to collaborate with ACB and contribute to a testing fund overseen and administered by ACB. ACB will monitor learning, education effectiveness, and compliance by associated drivers with their legal obligations to provide street-hail taxicab services in D.C. Contributions to the Accessibility Initiative will be used to fund this monitoring and a third-party testing program to ensure that blind and visually impaired individuals with service animals are successfully able to hail taxis on D.C. streets. Those contributing to this testing fund and agreeing to the Accessibility Initiative will be notified of any complaints and given feedback on their drivers’ performance. The Accessibility Initiative also protects signatory drivers and taxicab companies with a commitment to resolve complaints against participating taxicabs without formal litigation.
 
As part of their mutual goal of promoting equal access to taxicab services in D.C., all four companies have agreed to develop and implement a model Non-Discrimination Policy that accompanies the Accessibility Initiative. The Accessibility Initiative requires each signatory to incorporate such a policy into its association licensing agreements with its drivers when signing new drivers or renewing agreements, and to distribute the policy to all existing drivers. The Non-Discrimination Policy will make it clear that a driver may not assume that an animal accompanying a passenger is not a service animal. All drivers who do not have a valid medical exemption will be required to always stop to provide service to a passenger accompanied by a dog and hailing a taxi, or inquire whether the dog is a service animal where not obvious. The Non-Discrimination Policy also specifies that the taxicab company will promptly investigate any complaints it receives regarding any discriminatory conduct by its associated drivers, and discipline any associated driver who has proven to have engaged in a violation of the policy. Such discipline will include training of the driver on the Non-Discrimination Policy, suspension, reporting the driver to the D.C. Taxicab Commission (“DCTC”), and terminating the driver’s association with the company.
 
Additionally, in a joint letter, Grand Cab, Yellow Cab, Elite Cab, and Pleasant Taxi recommended needed changes to DCTC policies and rules to promote and safely provide street-hail taxi services in D.C. to the visually impaired. DCTC will now provide disability sensitivity training to new and renewing licensed taxicab vehicle operators and has implemented a disability sensitivity training module.
 
Eric Bridges, executive director of the ACB, stated: “We are encouraged that these four taxi companies are willing to work with us to promote equal access to taxicab services in the District of Columbia. We hope that other cab companies in the District will join this Accessibility Initiative and contribute to the testing fund in order to become the gold standard for taxi service in D.C., including street-hailed taxis.”
 
Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, said: “Public transportation, including taxi services, should be available and accessible to everyone, including persons with disabilities who use service dogs. We are pleased that we were able to come together to implement this Accessibility Initiative in the District of Columbia. We are also pleased with the jointly recommended changes to the Taxi Commission’s policies and regulations, which will apply to all D.C. taxicab companies and set the standard for equal access.”
 
Matthew MacLean, Partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, added: “Launching the Accessibility Initiative through the American Council of the Blind is a great accomplishment. This program has the tools to create meaningful change in the accessibility policies of taxicab providers in D.C., and is an opportunity for companies to engage in a constructive program to ensure the rights of taxi passengers relying on service animals are understood and respected.”

Nationwide Test of Emergency Alert System to Take Place Wednesday

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in partnership with the FCC, will conduct a nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) tomorrow, September 28, 2016, at 2:20 p.m. Eastern time. If rescheduling is necessary, the alternate test date will take place on October 5, 2016.  The purpose of this test is to assess the reliability, accessibility, and effectiveness of the EAS.
 
The EAS test is going to be transmitted through:

  • Radio broadcast stations;
  • Television broadcast stations:
  • Cable systems;
  • Wireline video systems;
  • Direct broadcast satellite service providers; and
  • Digital audio radio service providers.

The EAS test message will read as follows:

  • “This is a National Test of the Emergency Alert System.  This is only a test.  Broadcast and cable operators in your area have developed this system in voluntary cooperation with FEMA, the FCC and local authorities to keep you informed in the event of an emergency.  If this had been an actual emergency an official message would have followed the alert tone. This concludes this National Test of the Emergency Alert System.”

The EAS test will address accessibility in the following ways:

  • The emergency test message will be transmitted in English and Spanish via audio and text, so that individuals with disabilities will have options in reading the message. 
  • In addition to the EAS visual message being displayed in a manner that is consistent with the FCC’s current rules (that is, at the top of the TV screen, or where it will not interfere with other visual messages), the message will be displayed in a size, color, contrast, location, and speed that is “readily readable and understandable
  • The EAS message will not contain overlapping lines of EAS text, and will not extend beyond the viewable display, except for crawls that intentionally scroll on and off the screen.

The FCC Public Safety Support Center welcomes your feedback on the accessibility of this test.  If you observe any problems about this test, or have feedback about the test, please submit your comments at:   https://www.fcc.gov/general/public-safety-support-center.     
 
For more information, please contact Austin Randazzo, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, at (202) 418-1462 or Austin.Randazzo@fcc.gov.  For those using videophones and fluent in American Sign Language, you may call the ASL Consumer Support Line at 1-844‐432‐2275. 
 
Links to the Public Notice:
Web: https://www.fcc.gov/document/pshsb-announces-nationwide-eas-test-september-28-2016
Word: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-16-803A1.docx
PDF: http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2016/db0718/DA-16-803A1.pdf
Text:  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-16-803A1.txt
 
Links to the EAS Sixth R&O:
Word:  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-15-60A1.docx
PDF:  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-15-60A1.pdf

ACB Takes Action on Currency Delays

To read this press release online, go to http://www.acb.org/action-on-currency-delays.
 
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (June 9, 2016) — The American Council of the Blind (ACB) filed a motion this week in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to require the U.S. Department of the Treasury to act judiciously and expeditiously in order to release accessible currency by December 31, 2020. The petition to the court comes following a recent Treasury update that it would not have accessible currency until as late as 2026, thirteen years past the initial timeline set forth by the court in ACB v. Paulson.
 
“Our motion to the judge who upheld the 2008 decision that the U.S. must make currency meaningfully accessible affirms our great displeasure that the Treasury is taking entirely too long to bring accessible currency online,” said Eric Bridges, ACB’s executive director.  “When the court ruled in 2008 to uphold our right to equal access, the expectations were that it would take three to five years, not almost two decades.”
 
The Department of the Treasury claims that the delay is not due to making currency accessible, but rather over concerns about counterfeiting advancements. The court ruled in 2008 that the next currency design should be made accessible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which asserts all federal government programs and practices must be accessible to people with disabilities.
 
“Historically speaking, the government tries to address counterfeiting by redesigning currency every seven to ten years,” added Bridges.  “The court took this into consideration when establishing its timeline, which makes the delay even more disconcerting on so many levels.”
 
Follow this link to read the motion filed by ACB.

American Council of the Blind Awards Apple for Accessibility Innovation

MINNEAPOLIS — The American Council of the Blind (ACB) will present Apple with the Robert S. Bray Award for their continued accessibility innovation on July 4, during ACB’s annual conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Minneapolis, MN. The Bray Award is given to a person or a company that has improved communication technology or devices, or expanded access to such devices for all blind people.
 
“The American Council of the Blind applauds Apple for its innovative approach to product accessibility, giving people who are blind equal access to mainstream technology,” said Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind.
 
ACB will award Apple for the company’s accessibility innovations that open up the world to people with vision loss by giving them access to the same products their sighted friends, family, and colleagues use. Intuitive by design, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV come with assistive features built-in, such as VoiceOver, Zoom and Dynamic Type, making them powerful and affordable assistive devices.
 
“We put great effort into making our products accessible because we believe technology should serve everyone,” said Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Manager for Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives at Apple. “We build accessibility into the core of our operating systems and continually innovate new ideas and features to create a great experience for all users.”
 
During the annual conference and convention, July 1-9, attendees have the opportunity to hear presentations from mainstream and assistive technology companies, network with others who are blind or visually impaired, and attend many informative workshops and seminars. For more information about activities taking place during the 2016 ACB conference and convention, visit www.acb.org/2016convention.

ACB’s Spotlight On Segment

Far too often in the media, people who are blind or visually impaired are portrayed in two ways. Either we are shown as heroes who have overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers, or characterized as helpless victims who have been taken advantage of by scam artists and thieves. There seems to be very little middle ground in coverage. In an effort to show a more complete depiction of who we are as a community, ACB embarked on a project. In July of 2015, “BlindAbility: Willing, Able, and Seeking Opportunity” was created to highlight the abilities of blind individuals. This video has been adapted to air as part of the PBS “Spotlight On” series. All PBS affiliates currently have access to the segment and will begin rotating it as appropriate in their broadcasting schedule. ACB extends a special thanks to JPMorgan Chase for their continued financial support of this project. We have been able to produce both the BlindAbility video and the “Spotlight On” segment through JPMorgan Chase’s funding.
 
To view the Spotlight On segment, visit: https://youtu.be/UJrlNuPcbyk
 
To view the described version of the Spotlight On segment, visit: https://youtu.be/uSAYiPiYouU. To view on our website, please visit: www.acb.org/Spotlight-On.

Midyear Meeting Dates Announced

Good morning all,
 
Things have been quite busy at the national office since the midyear meetings ended.
 
Staff received very positive feedback from participants concerning the hotel layout, level of customer service, and the overall location. It is worth noting that the hotel management was quite responsive and easy to work with before and during the event.  
 
I am pleased to report that we have signed a 3-year contract with the Crowne Plaza Old Town! I am happy with the end result of our negotiations with hotel management.
 
The pretax room rates over the next three years are as follows:
2017 – $114
2018 – $117
2019 – $120  
 
The meetings will be held during the same weekend as this year. Dates are as follows:
 
For 2017, meetings will start Thursday, February 23 and run through Wednesday, March 1.
In 2018, the dates are Thursday, February 22 through Wednesday, February 28.
And for 2019, dates are Thursday, February 21 through Wednesday, February 27.
 
We were very pleased with the attendance levels and look forward to increasing participation in 2017! Thank you very much for the feedback regarding the content of the meetings!  It is appreciated.

* * *

This web page was last updated September 27, 2016.