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Resolutions Adopted by the 2017 Annual Convention

Resolution A2017-01: Regarding paratransit services provided by Metro Mobility

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act defines paratransit as “public transit that is comparable to regular route public transit for people whose disability or health condition creates undue barriers to using regular route transit;” and 

WHEREAS, Metro Mobility is a paratransit service that provides door-to- door service to 20,000 active, certified customers with disabilities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area; and

WHEREAS, although the National Federation of the Blind continues to promote the view that blindness in and of itself does not restrict a person's ability to use regular route transit, we recognize that some who are blind may use Metro Mobility because of additional disabilities, other health conditions, limited English skills, or other factors; and 

WHEREAS, Metro Mobility’s service manual states that the length of a shared ride “will be comparable to a trip taken using regular route transit,” but blind customers frequently report that rides last more than two hours, much longer than a trip on regular, fixed routes would take; and 

WHEREAS, although Metro Mobility’s service manual also states that if a customer specifies an appointment time when booking a reservation, Metro Mobility guarantees timely arrival, customers report arriving excessively early or late to their places of employment, medical appointments, blindness skills training, or other time-sensitive activities, which creates barriers to independence; and 

WHEREAS, Metro Mobility trip providers are trained to enter a customer’s pickup point and alert them of their arrival, but blindness training professionals and other service providers have observed inconsistencies in both service delivery and recovery that often result in unwarranted “no shows” on a customer’s account, which can lead to suspension of necessary transportation: Now, therefore, 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the Metropolitan Council to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to commission an independent audit of the Metro Mobility service to identify existing gaps between written policy and service delivery.

Resolution A2017-02: Regarding Medical Assistance

WHEREAS, Medical Assistance (MA) is Minnesota’s Medicaid program for people with low income, administered through offices of the Department of Human Services at the county level; and 

WHEREAS, under Minnesota's Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, governmental services must be accessible to people who are blind or have other disabilities; and 

WHEREAS, in order to maintain eligibility for MA, beneficiaries are required to complete, in handwriting, a paper form each month, which presents an access barrier for the blind; and 

WHEREAS, a number of blind individuals who receive MA have endeavored to work with the Hennepin, Ramsey, and other county offices to find alternate methods of completing the monthly form, but these individuals have often received little to no cooperation (and sometimes disrespectful treatment) from the county agencies as they attempted to meet their obligations; and 

WHEREAS, the refusal of county office workers to assist with the completion of these forms has, on more than one occasion, resulted in an individual losing vital medical assistance for that month; Now, therefore: 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, in convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the county human services offices throughout the state to ensure that all of their staff fully understand their obligations under state and federal law to provide reasonable accommodations so that blind Medical Assistance recipients can access this and other programs of the Department of Human Services; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the county Human Services offices to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop an alternative solution that does not involve handwriting and protects the privacy of blind people for the completion of Medical Assistance and other related paperwork.

Resolution A2017-03: Regarding the preservation and protection of the rights of people with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act

WHEREAS, beginning in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Congress worked to codify the rights of people with disabilities by ensuring equal access to education, employment, and community-based opportunities; and 

WHEREAS, the ultimate expression of this effort was the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a comprehensive civil rights law that revolutionized the inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in the United States in all aspects of American life by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a disability; and 

WHEREAS, over the last twenty-six years of the ADA’s existence, public and private entities have had access to substantial resources to assist them in complying with the law, but despite this Americans with disabilities still confront persistent physical and, increasingly, digital access barriers; and 

WHEREAS, to assist Americans with disabilities in asserting our rights under the ADA, Congress included a private right of action under this law, which has assisted Americans with disabilities to secure landmark victories that have opened doors to employment, education, commerce, and other arenas; and 

WHEREAS, this private right of action is now being jeopardized by a small group of attorneys and plaintiffs who are abusing this provision of the law, emboldening restaurant, commerce, and lodging special interest associations to attack this provision by backing federal legislation that will hinder the rights of Americans with disabilities to file suit against businesses that are violating the ADA; and 

WHEREAS, in the first session of the 115th Congress, Representative Ted Poe from Texas introduced H.R. 620, the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017,” which seeks to amend the ADA to require Americans with disabilities first to send a letter to the business in question informing it of the specific title and section of the ADA it is violating, next to give the business sixty days upon receipt of the letter to acknowledge it, and subsequently another 120 days to “remedy” the violation, after which—should the business not comply—only then can a person with a disability file suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act; and 

WHEREAS, this approach wrongly shifts the burden of compliance with the ADA from the business sector to the people the law is intended to benefit, while creating a greater incentive for businesses engaging in new construction or renovation to ignore the requirements of the ADA, since they would have to comply with the law only if and when a specific person with a disability attempts to access their facility or service; and 

WHEREAS, Rep. Jason Lewis (MN-02) and Tom Emmer (MN-06), two members of Congress from Minnesota, have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization condemn and deplore Rep. Jason Lewis' (MN-02) and Tom Emmer’s (MN-06) co-sponsorship of H.R. 620, the “ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017,” and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Representative Jason Lewis and Representative Tom Emmer to withdraw their co-sponsorship of this bill and work instead to encourage the business interests who are pushing this legislative initiative to meet with and listen to the concerns of people with disabilities and to identify any common ground that may exist, while simultaneously eliminating the adverse consequences the bill, as currently drafted, has on the majority of disabled Americans who are not abusing the law.

Resolution A2017-04: Regarding the alarming shortage of qualified teachers of blind students and orientation and mobility professionals

WHEREAS, the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division has responsibility to monitor and ensure that blind students who attend public schools or the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind that work with teachers of the blind/visually impaired (TBVI) and/or certified orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists receive the appropriate level and amount of services as determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams; and 

WHEREAS, blind students often rely on these individualized, specialized services in order to fully benefit from a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that is comparable to their sighted peers; and 

WHEREAS, currently, Minnesota TBVI and O&M instructors serve an estimated 1,650 students on their caseload, according to the “Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired Fiscal Year 2016 Report to the Legislature;” and 

WHEREAS, the legislative report further finds that TBVIs represent the highest percentage of shortages among teachers in Minnesota; and 

WHEREAS, this TBVI/O&M specialist shortages in Minnesota prevents blind/low-vision students from receiving the frequency of instruction required to advance academically and gain the independence skills needed to compete; and 

WHEREAS, one-third of current TBVIs are expected to retire in the next two to three years without the needed number of professionals to replace these retirees, causing a critical shortage of TBVI/O&M specialists in Minnesota that will have a devastating impact on the education of blind students; and 

WHEREAS, no university training program exists within Minnesota to train qualified professionals to enter this ever-diminishing workforce; and 

WHEREAS, even if a university program is established in-state, several years will be required to develop and begin the program, followed by several more years before graduates of the program will be available to provide services to blind students; and 

WHEREAS, professionals who hold the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) have the expertise using proven methods of instruction to teach blind/low-vision students the skills needed to achieve age-appropriate independence in cane travel, but this certification is not consistently accepted in this state as a qualification for teaching blind/low-vision students: Now, therefore, 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division to recognize the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) as an accepted certification that qualifies professionals to teach orientation and mobility to blind/low-vision preschool through school-age students in Minnesota; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the MDE Special Education Division to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop new and/or partner with available TBVI and O&M university training programs to provide high-quality, flexible programming that will enable Minnesota to immediately address the alarming shortage of professionals with expertise needed to provide crucial instruction to blind/low-vision students in Minnesota; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division and Minnesota school districts to develop partnerships with training centers and qualified contract staff who can provide instruction to blind/low-vision students during the school year and through Extended School Year (ESY) services in order to meet the instructional needs of students as outlined in their annual Individualized Education Programs.

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