By John Horst, PCB Director of Community Affairs
The Advocacy and Governmental Affairs (AGA) Team is well organized for 2017. We are pleased to welcome Patricia Russell, President of the Philadelphia Regional chapter to our team. Patricia is affiliated with several organizations related to disability in the Philadelphia area and will be an asset to the AGA work group. We are glad to finally have representation from the southeastern part of the state. The other members of this hard-working group are: Mary Ann Cowfer (newly appointed to the PA Rehabilitation Council), Mary Ann Grignon (our ACB liaison and note-taker), John Horst, PCB’s Director of Community Affairs and board member of the PA Association for the Blind), Chris Hunsinger (representative to Disability Voter Coalition and the taskforce studying voting machine functionality), Bobbie Simmons (coordinator of our paratransit/shared ride data collection), Rodger Simmons (member of the Transportation Alliance), Joe Wassermann (member of Advisory Committee for the Blind of PA overseeing BBVS), and Jackie Wissinger (member of the Clearfield-Jefferson shared ride committee).
Among the issues and activities the AGA Team is working on are:
• Contacting U.S. Senators and Representatives to express concerns over political appointees, proposed legislation, and policy changes that we believe would negatively impact people who are blind or visually impaired.
• Educating transit companies on meeting the needs of customers who are blind including audible indication of bus numbers, calling out stops, and general best practices.
• Working to improve PCB member involvement on local transit and shared ride advisory committees.
• Collaborating with voting-related groups to insure accessible voting machines and poling locations are a priority.
• Advocating for improved services through the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services on issues including: cuts to services for older adults losing vision, unreasonably long waiting lists for services, and on-going personnel vacancies.
• Promoting American Council of the Blind (ACB) priorities for action in PCB such as ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, safeguarding of blindness-related federal programs, passage of the Cogswell Macy Act (HR 1120), and establishment of a Medicare demonstration project for low-vision devices.
As you can see, AGA members participate in the work of other disability related groups and organizations. They provide information and recommendations that the AGA group considers for action. Similarly, the group reviews the policy positions of the American Foundation for the Blind and ACB for action alerts. Without a doubt, we will be asking the members of PCB to assist with contacting legislators as issues arise in 2017. We trust we can depend on you for action.