The American Council of the Blind is the nation’s leading member-driven organization for individuals who are blind and experiencing vision loss. With over 65 state and special-interest affiliates across the country, ACB is committed to increasing the security, independence, quality of life, and economic opportunity for people who are blind and low vision in the United States, and ACB stands committed to advocacy that lifts up our values.
The following legislative imperatives represent several key issues in the 117th Congress that ACB believes will help us on our road to full independence and participation in our society.
The Exercise and Fitness for All Act (S. 2504/H.R. 4756)
For the 25 percent of Americans with a disability, equal access to fitness or exercise equipment and instruction remains elusive. As a result, people with disabilities are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
ACB urges Congress to pass the Exercise and Fitness for All Act, which was reintroduced in 2021, so people with disabilities can Get Up and Get Moving. This legislation would require exercise and fitness facilities to provide a base level of accessibility for disabled consumers, both in the equipment as well as the instruction they provide. Offices interested to support the Exercise and Fitness for All Act should contact Stephanie Deluca in the office of Sen. Duckworth (D-IL) in the Senate, and Sarah Jackson in the office of Rep. DeSaulnier (D-CA-11), or Kevin Swanson in the office of Rep. Young (R-AK-At Large) in the House.
The Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act (H.R. 4853)
The majority of home use medical devices and outpatient equipment utilizes digital display interfaces that are inaccessible to blind, low vision, and DeafBlind users. Class 2 and Class 3 medical devices such as glucose monitors, blood pressure readers, and at-home chemotherapy treatments do not have any non-visual accessibility features like text to speech output, tactile markings, or audible tones built in. As a result, people who are blind, low vision, and DeafBlind cannot independently manage their health from the privacy of their own homes in the same ways as people who are not disabled.
ACB calls on Congress to pass the Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act to ensure that medical equipment with a digital display is accessible and that people with disabilities can take back control of their health. This legislation would require the Food and Drug Administration to consider non-visual accessibility when approving Class 2 and Class 3 medical equipment and devices with a digital display to ensure access for patients with disabilities. Offices in the House of Representatives interested in cosponsoring the bipartisan Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act, H.R. 4853, should contact Kate Durkin in the office of Rep. Schakowsky (D-IL-9), and offices in the Senate should support introduction of a Senate companion bill to H.R. 4853.
The Website and Application Accessibility Act
Access to websites, applications and online services impacts most aspects of everyday life, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made digital inclusion more important than ever. However, the Department of Justice has not finalized enforcement standards that clearly state websites, applications, and online services must be accessible to people who are blind, low vision, and DeafBlind. As a result, people who are blind, low vision, and DeafBlind face countless barriers when accessing workplace portals, educational platforms, healthcare and public health information, transportation services, shopping, and entertainment over the Internet.
Congress must give clear guidance to the Department of Justice to finalize and implement enforceable online information access standards. These standards must include a strong functional definition of accessibility and should not require any person to exhaust administrative processes or notify website and application owners and operators that their online services are violating the rights of people with disabilities.
ACB calls on Congress to require the Department of Justice to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities online and provide clear guidance that websites, applications and online services must be accessible.
The Communications and Video Accessibility Amendments Act
The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) guaranteed access for people with disabilities to advanced communications services, telecommunications hardware and software, accessible video displays and user interfaces and digital apparatuses, and required the delivery of audio-described content. For more than ten years, ACB and its members have worked to implement and enforce the CVAA, and in several key aspects, we have reached the limits of what the CVAA is able to enforce.
It is time for Congress to update the accessible video and communications requirements of the CVAA. This legislation should ensure that everyone in the United States may receive audio-described content from their local broadcaster utilizing the technology already required to deliver accessible emergency alerts, and ensure that accessible user interface and audio-described content requirements are modernized to reflect the shifting landscape to Internet protocol and online delivered video content. And any legislation should require the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that all video communications services are accessible to people with disabilities.
ACB urges members of Congress to support a Communications and Video Accessibility Amendments Act when introduced.
For questions or further information on the 2022 ACB Legislative Imperatives, please contact Clark Rachfal, ACB’s Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, [email protected], or by calling (202) 467-5081.
The American Council of the Blind greatly appreciates your support on these critical issues for 2022, and we look forward to working with you during the remainder of the 117th Congress.