Resolutions Passed at the Annual Convention
Resolutions Passed at the Annual Convention
These are the resolutions passed at the Annual Convention on October 2, 2016.
Regarding the #HowEyeSeeIt Challenge
WHEREAS, the Foundation Fighting Blindness has recently launched a nation-wide fund-raising campaign known as the #HowEyeSeeIt challenge, in which people who are not blind are asked to make videos of themselves trying to accomplish everyday tasks while blindfolded; and
WHEREAS, this campaign is intended to draw financial contributions for medical research by tapping into fear of blindness, with no acknowledgment of the millions of blind people of all ages who are living full lives every day because they have learned non-visual techniques to accomplish everyday tasks with independence and safety; and
WHEREAS, research has shown that when people who are not blind participate in brief experiences of simulated blindness without opportunity to learn techniques for functioning without sight, they come away from the experience viewing blind people as less capable than do those not participating in blindness simulations; and
WHEREAS, with the rapidly increasing population of seniors losing vision in this state and throughout the country, the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota has received calls from individuals considering selling their houses and move into nursing homes simply because they are losing sight and do not know what else to do; and
WHEREAS, although many thousands of parents who are blind are successfully raising children every day, we know of parents who had experienced the threat of having their children removed from their custody solely on the basis of blindness; and
WHEREAS, these two examples, along with the countless lived experiences of blind people of all ages, illustrate the low expectations in society about blindness which have created barriers to employment, education, and more; and
WHEREAS, for many decades, the National Federation of the Blind, an organization of blind people speaking for ourselves, has been engaged in advocacy and public education to raise these low expectations—even starting our own adjustment-to-blindness training center; and
WHEREAS, although medical research for preservation of sight has an important role, a fund-raiser that plays upon fear and lack of understanding will serve to set back the progress that has been made and will do long-lasting harm to the lives of people who are blind; now therefore
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 2nd day of October, 2016, in the city of Rochester, Minnesota that this organization call upon the Foundation Fighting Blindness in Minnesota to disavow the irresponsible, offensive, and dangerous #HowEyeSeeIt challenge and, instead, to help counteract the devastation that comes not from blindness itself, but from lack of knowledge of the truth about blindness; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Foundation Fighting Blindness of Minnesota to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and with our consumer-directed training center, BLIND, Incorporated, to spread the word that with the right training and the right opportunity, people of all ages who become blind can still live the lives they want.
Regarding Protecting the Civil Rights of Blind Parents
WHEREAS, protecting the rights of parents with disabilities is a notion that, incredibly, was rejected by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927), in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind"; and
WHEREAS, this insulting and unjustified view that people with disabilities, including blind people, are somehow "manifestly unfit" to be parents (or otherwise to live the lives they want and to participate as members of society with all rights and privileges associated therewith) has too often continued to prevail in the courts even as we move further into the twenty-first century; and
WHEREAS, this bias is reflected in matters involving adoption and guardianship and in contested child custody proceedings, because blind parents have been perceived by the courts, child protection agencies, guardians ad litem, hospital staff, and others as incapable of caring adequately for their children's needs, which has resulted in blind parents routinely being denied the right to be parents without unfair bias or unnecessary overreach by government entities; and
WHEREAS, for most people a fundamental aspect of living life to the fullest includes the joy of being a parent and sharing in the nurturing, growth, and development of a child; and
WHEREAS, being a parent and raising children is a fundamental right which is protected under the Constitution of the United States of America by the First and Ninth Amendments thereto and under the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to the states; and
WHEREAS, in the case of blind parents, there is a need to protect this fundamental constitutional right; yet nearly forty states have no laws at all to protect the right of blind citizens to be parents and raise their children without being fearful of discriminatory treatment or unnecessary inquiries of fitness solely based on blindness: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this Second day of October, 2016, in the City of Rochester, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the Minnesota state legislature to strengthen and zealously enforce laws that establish procedural safeguards to protect the right of blind people to be parents and prohibit discriminatory presumptions of manifest unfitness solely because a parent (or prospective parent) happens to be blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Minnesota attorney general, in protecting the best interest of the child(ren) in each proceeding, to use their good office affirmatively to protect blind parents in Minnesota against discrimination and bias based solely upon blindness and to urge the courts, guardians ad litem, and officials of child protection agencies to base decisions about what is in the best interest of the child on issues regarding fitness to parent, not on blindness.
Regarding Accessibility of Minnesota State Technology
WHEREAS, in 2009, the Minnesota Legislature passed legislation expanding the requirement that the state of Minnesota purchase software and establish processes that could be readily used by blind persons and other persons with disabilities as well as requiring the adoption of standards for such accessibility; and
Whereas, state and federal laws and regulations were in place much earlier than 2009 requiring that accessibility be a part of at least some of the processes used by the state of Minnesota; and
Whereas, the implementation of the SWIFT accounting package, the roll-out of SharePoint, and the implementation last year of the new Recruiting Solutions system for applying for state jobs all had significant accessibility shortcomings that were not addressed until after implementation and that still remain unresolved in many instances; and
Whereas, a recent communication from MN.IT proudly announced a “New & Improved Service Desk Ticketing Tool - COMING SOON” that would allow state employees to get help from MN.IT but also flatly stated that the software does not work with the current version of the JAWS screen reader and Internet Explorer; and
Whereas, the fact that the Remedy help desk software is not actually new but has been in some state agencies for some time now only makes the lack of planning for better means of accessing the software even harder to understand; and
Whereas, to our knowledge, the specific reasons have never been provided describing why SWIFT, SharePoint, Recruiting Solutions, and this latest software were the best choices even with their accessibility inadequacies, nor do we know if improvements to accessibility were required before purchasing; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, in convention assembled this second day of October in the City of Rochester, Minnesota, that we call upon MN.IT to explain to the public and to the affected state employees: (1) why, seven years after the enactment of legislation requiring the state to procure technology that is accessible, a help desk solution that is not accessible was chosen; (2) what discussions regarding accessibility took place before this option was chosen, and (3) what procedures are being developed to insure blind employees equal access to the help desk; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if this pattern of addressing accessibility after the fact continues that this organization take appropriate legal action.
Regarding computer instruction for blind seniors
WHEREAS, the use of electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablet computers is increasing exponentially, guaranteeing that those who wish to remain independent must have knowledge of such devices in order to do so; and
WHEREAS, the technical capabilities of such devices have expanded opportunities for people who are blind, but only with specialized knowledge such as how to operate screen readers and built-in magnifiers; and
WHEREAS, seniors proficient in the use of mobile phones and internet-capable computers are able to stay connected within their communities and families, schedule medical appointments, secure volunteer opportunities, and generally obtain a greater level of independence, and
WHEREAS, State Services for the BLIND (SSB) only provides for a maximum of ten hours per case during which seniors can learn from assistive technology vendors of their choice outside of SSB’s staff; and
WHEREAS, given the complexity of some of these devices and their increasing importance for obtaining one’s independence, ten hours is often an insufficient amount of time for those wishing to learn to operate them; and
WHEREAS, SSB’s senior program, through the help of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, was recently awarded an additional million dollars for this fiscal year and five hundred thousand additional dollars (half of which must be spent on training) for each succeeding year, drastically expanding the pool of available funds to conduct senior training: now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled this 2nd day of October in the city of Rochester Minnesota, that we call upon State Services for the blind (SSB) to remove the ten hour limit for technology training for seniors from external vendors; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SSB work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure that blind seniors have the technology skills they need to be independent, contributing members of society.