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Resolutions Adopted At the 2011 Annual Convention

Resolution A11-01

Regarding: Job Placement and Training at SSB

WHEREAS, preparing blind people for and helping them get competitive employment are the reasons why State Service for the Blind's (SSB's) Workforce Development unit exists; and

WHEREAS, one of the best ways to assure that blind people get competitive jobs at the end of the rehabilitation process is for them to get part-time and/or temporary jobs while they are attending community English Language Learner (ELL) classes, pursuing their GED, or enrolled in higher education or vocational training; and

WHEREAS, it has come to our attention that some Workforce Development staff believe that job placement and other rehabilitation services such as training are mutually exclusive, with customers forced to choose between one or the other, and that they must close an individual's file when the individual has obtained employment, regardless of whether other services are still needed; and

WHEREAS, federal law, regulations, and policy directives state clearly that an individual's file should not be closed rehabilitated until they achieve their employment objective, not when any form of employment happens to come along; and

WHEREAS, the above practice is particularly detrimental to blind immigrants, who cannot receive Supplemental Security Income and must support themselves by working; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to review SSB's policies and operational procedures, clarify that temporary job placement can be provided without having to close the individual's file, and take whatever action is necessary to inform all SSB supervisory and field staff of that fact; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to inform the President of the NFB of Minnesota on the actions taken and provide a complete report on it at the next NFB of Minnesota semiannual or annual convention.  

Resolution A11-03

Regarding: Filling policy vacancy at SSB

WHEREAS, State Services for the Blind (SSB) has a vacant “lead counselor” position in its Workforce Development unit that it is currently attempting to fill; and

WHEREAS, some of the policy interpretations that have come from the previous incumbent in the position have been incorrect, and have led to misunderstandings that were detrimental to customers; and

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act and regulations and the SSB Administrative Rule allow rehabilitation counselors the flexibility to work with their customers to make service decisions on an individualized basis; and

WHEREAS, it seems to us that it is the responsibility of SSB managers and supervisors, not field staff, to clarify and interpret policy, and that a better use of field staff would be to help blind people prepare for and secure employment, not add another layer to SSB's bureaucracy; and

WHEREAS, SSB has a comparatively low customer employment rate and comparatively high customer failure rate, indicating that the money currently spent on this position could be better spent on service delivery or hiring competent job development and placement staff; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we call upon the Director of SSB to either eliminate the position and use the money saved for service delivery, or reclassify it and hire a competent job development and placement person, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to inform the president of the NFB of Minnesota on the actions taken and provide a complete report on it at the next NFB of Minnesota semiannual or annual convention.

Resolution A11-04

Regarding: Wages for Workers with Disabilities

WHEREAS, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938 to provide workforce protections to American employees by establishing a federal minimum wage prohibiting employers from exploiting workers through the payment of wages below this specified minimum; and

WHEREAS, Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act permits the secretary of labor to grant special wage certificates allowing specified employers to pay workers with disabilities at rates that are lower than the federal minimum wage, eliminating those workforce protections granted to every other American citizen; and

WHEREAS, paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages stems from the public misperception that people with disabilities cannot be productive employees; moreover, this exploitive standard for employment is patronizingly considered a compassionate opportunity for people with disabilities to receive the "tangible and intangible benefits of work"; and

WHEREAS, when provided effective rehabilitation services, training, and support, employees with disabilities (even those with the most significant disabilities)  can be as productive as nondisabled workers, obtaining jobs paying the federal minimum wage or higher; and

WHEREAS, though some employers possessing special wage certificates claim to provide rehabilitation and training to their workers with disabilities to prepare them for competitive employment, the fact that such employers choose to pay their workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage demonstrates that they do not possess the skill to prepare those workers for integrated employment in the mainstream economy; and

WHEREAS, there are 104 facilities that possess a Special "Subminimum" Wage certificate in the state of Minnesota, which not only allows them to exploit the labor of people with disabilities through the payment of wages less than the federal minimum wage, it denies these same individuals the opportunity to receive the training and support to become competitively employed; and 

WHEREAS, the only way to discontinue this wage discrimination of workers with disabilities is to repeal Section 14(c) of the FLSA and to revoke every special wage certificate granted under that provision; Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that this organization call upon every entity  throughout Minnesota that currently possesses a Special Wage certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor to immediately surrender their Special Wage certificate, and to adopt a business model that values each of their employees with disabilities by paying them the federal minimum wage or higher; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon all entities that hold these certificates to join with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in our efforts to encourage the United States Congress to pass the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2011, which provides an incentive for employers to adopt a business model that pays employees with disabilities the federal minimum wage or higher by phasing out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and by revoking the certificates issued under that provision so that workers with disabilities are guaranteed the same workforce protections afforded nondisabled employees; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to co-sponsor H.R. 3086 to achieve this goal; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization condemn and deplore every entity that continues to exploit people with disabilities through the payment of subminimum wages.

ResolutionA11-05

Regarding: Technology and SSB

WHEREAS, computer technology is an integral part of our lives today, especially in higher education and employment, and blind people need access to that technology in order to compete successfully in both; and  

WHEREAS, the federal Rehabilitation Act and regulations recognize this fact by requiring that assistive technology and training be provided to customers throughout the rehabilitation process, including during adjustment to blindness training, going so far as to exempt them from comparable services and benefits requirements; and

WHEREAS, it has come to our attention that some rehabilitation counselors in State Services for the Blind's Workforce Development unit still consider public library computers a "comparable service", and refer rehabilitation customers to Eye-Link and other programs, instead of buying them the assistive technology they need; and

WHEREAS, these same counselors often require customers to jump through hoops, such as waiting until they get a letter of acceptance from a college or university, or requiring them to prove that a specific job requires the use of a computer, instead of logically assuming that it will; and

WHEREAS, these stingy and shortsighted practices not only violate the Rehabilitation Act and Regulations as laid out in Rehabilitation Services Administration Technical Assistance Circular 98-04, but also harm SSB's blind customers by denying them the equipment and in depth training they need to compete in higher education and employment; and

WHEREAS, preparing blind people for, and helping them get, competitive employment are the reasons why SSB's Workforce Development unit exists, and such practices no doubt have contributed to SSB's comparatively low customer employment rate and comparatively high customer failure rate; now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that this organization condemn and deplore the practice of denying blind customers the assistive technology they need to succeed in higher education and employment; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to take immediate action to fix this problem through written communication, staff training, individual counseling, disciplinary action, and whatever other means are necessary to assure compliance with federal law and regulations; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota call upon the Director of SSB and its Director of Workforce Development to inform the president of the NFB of Minnesota on the actions taken and provide a complete report on such actions at the next NFB of Minnesota semiannual or annual convention.

Resolution A11-06

Regarding: Accessible Pedestrian Signals

WHEREAS, for over ten years, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota has worked with city, county, and state transportation officials to develop standards for the installation of accessible pedestrian signals (APS), requiring that they be installed only in those intersections which are difficult or potentially hazardous for blind persons to navigate because of their complexity, unusual shape, or degree of computer control; and

WHEREAS, the City of Minneapolis has abided by those standards, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT), other cities, and the county jurisdictions have opted instead to follow the "best practices" guidelines issued by the federal Public Right of Way Access Committee, even though they are only guidelines, not regulations; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota has testified orally and in written comment against the plans adopted by MNDOT, and earlier this year, by Hennepin County, with no apparent effect; and

WHEREAS, it has come to the attention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota that APS are being installed at a rapid rate in newly constructed or updated intersections throughout the state, including many locations where blind persons are extremely unlikely to travel; and

WHEREAS, it is our opinion that the wholesale installation of APS at every intersection is a waste of federal, state, county, and city money at the same time that those bodies are facing budget shortfalls and cutting necessary services which really can benefit blind people; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we condemn and deplore the wholesale installation of APS at new and updated intersections, and call upon MNDOT, counties, and cities that are doing so to cease this wholesale waste of public money, and work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop more reasonable guidelines for APS installation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota will distribute this resolution to the members of the Minnesota Congressional delegation, Governor, MNDOT commissioner, and county and city officials, and call the attention of the media to this blatant example of government waste.

Resolution A11-07

Regarding: State fiscal system

WHEREAS, Minnesota Management and Budget recently unveiled the new Statewide Integrated Financial Tools (SWIFT) system, which governs all the State's fiscal transactions, including those with private service vendors; and 

WHEREAS, attempts by blind persons to use the SWIFT system have been unsuccessful because parts of its design, including the vendor training manuals and the ability to create a new password, are inaccessible by nonvisual means; and

WHEREAS, Section 16C.145, Minnesota Statutes 2006 requires that "nonvisual technology access standards ... must be included in all contracts for the procurement of information technology by, or for the use of, agencies, political subdivisions, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities", and that "nonvisual access technology must be integrated into networks used to share communications among employees, program participants, and the public"; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 9th day of October, 2011, in the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, that we call upon the State of Minnesota to correct these problems and others in the SWIFT system that may need fixing immediately, so that blind people can use the system and the State is in compliance with the law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if this is not done, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota intends to take whatever action is necessary, including entering into litigation, to compel the State of Minnesota to make it accessible.

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