By George S. Holliday, Chair
The 2014 Legislative Seminar of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) was held on Sunday, February 23, through Monday, February 24, and concluded on Tuesday, February 25, with visits to congressional offices by participants. Pennsylvania was represented by six individuals.
During the seminar, one imperative was the Anne Sullivan Macy Act, H.R. 4040. The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act will improve the delivery of appropriate special education and related services to all students who are blind or visually impaired, as well as students who are deaf or hard of hearing. (Note: Anne Sullivan Macy is fondly remembered as having been Helen Keller’s teacher, and Alice Cogswell was the first girl to be educated at a school for the deaf in the U.S.) You can read more about H.R. 4040 at: http://acb.org/node/1750.
The next imperative covered was the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2013, H.R. 3749. This bill would allow reimbursement for certain low vision devices that cost five-hundred dollars or more as durable medical equipment. You can read more about H.R.3749 at: http://acb.org/node/1657
In July, The PCB Advocacy & Governmental Affairs committee (AGAC) called upon you to assist with contacting legislators during a state-wide call-in, during the week of Monday, July 7 through Friday, July 11. We encouraged you to join us in contacting and encouraging our representatives to sponsor H.R. 4040, the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. The committee received several emails and telephone calls informing us of your responses. The response was great. Give yourself a large applause.
After the great response in July, we attempted another state-wide call in, during the week of Monday, September 22 through Friday, September 26. We invited you to join us in contacting and encouraging our representatives to sponsor H.R. 3749, the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2013. Well, I regret to mention, the responses significantly dropped. I am not sure what happened. We couldn’t blame the weather, because you didn’t have to go outside to make calls. Also, we designated five days to make calls. Don’t worry, the committee hasn’t given up on you. We will be back, so get ready.
During the past several months, several have asked, “What is TAG?” “Talking Advocacy and Government” or TAG, is a podcast from the PCB’s AGAC. We strive to present the issues of interest to people with vision loss in an interesting and sometimes entertaining way. This includes interviews with “experts” and often people who are directly impacted by the issue. One of the main components of TAG is the “Call to Action” segment where we suggest ways that chapters and individuals can advocate for a particular issue.
So, have you been listening to TAG? If not, below are the TAG episodes produced in 2014.
Episode 1: “Supporting Appropriate Education for Blind Children.”
This episode features a conversation with Mark Richert of the American Foundation for the Blind. He provides a great overview of H.R. 4040, The Cogswell Macy Act. And much more on how we can effectively advocate for the passing of this bill. Team TAG urges you all to listen to this episode for a great explanation of the bill and its importance. Plus hear what Mr. Richert has to say about how the advocacy here in Pennsylvania has impacted this bill.
Episode 2: “Focus On Low Vision.”
This episode zooms in on the topic of low vision. For many, the idea of low vision is a very difficult concept to understand. To the uninformed, people with low vision: Appear as though they can see just fine, aren’t blind, they don’t use canes or guide dogs, or should just get a better pair of glasses. In this installment of TAG, we get an explanation of low vision, hear some real-life experiences and learn about the available assistive technology. We learn more about H.R. 3749, The Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2013.
Episode 3: “Focal Matter.”
This final 2014 episode of Talking Advocacy and Government was recorded live during the PCB State Convention and Conference in Johnstown, Pa. It addresses the importance of advocacy, discussed through a fictitious talk show called “Focal Matter.” Thanks to the presenters: President Swartz as Wag Waffle, Thomas Reid as Normondo and Mary Ann Alexander as Maxine Doright. Let’s thank Mr. Will Grignon for writing this script.
You can access future and archived TAG episodes by visiting the AGAC page at http://pcb1.org/government/gov-index.html or by requesting a cassette copy from the PCB office. Continue listening, because this is a means to bring attention to advocacy issues that affect each of us.
During the 2013 PCB convention, a resolution on lighting in SEPTA stations was adopted. Here is an update. The Delaware Valley Council of Citizens with Low Vision (DVCCLV) is addressing the issue. The SEPTA train station lighting and signage project has identified areas to improve, so people with low vision may better navigate Market East, Suburban, and 30th Street Stations.
Installation of brighter lighting at Suburban Station is taking longer than expected due to necessary retrofitting of the fixtures. Due to the historic nature of the property, fixture upgrades must be done with great care. Brighter L.E.D. lighting has been installed at Jefferson Station (formerly Market East). DVCCLV has been invited to meet with a SEPTA representative to give feedback on the improvements.
In closing, we need to begin thinking about advocacy for 2015. By now, chapters have elected new officers and committee chairs. But did you appoint a chapter advocacy committee or chapter advocate? The primary responsibility of the chapter advocate or advocacy committee is to direct the chapter’s advocacy strategy and efforts and to assist the chapter in determining local issues. Once this is established, names and contact information should be sent to me. We need to continue establishing a working relationship with our local officials and state and federal legislators. Just remember, legislators heard from us in July and September. We need to continue pushing for legislation in 2015. Have a great holiday season from the PCB Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Committee.