AGA Update

By John Horst, Director of Community Affairs

At this time of year with the election dominating the news it is difficult to get action on legislation. The common response from legislators is to wait until after the election or talk to them next year. However, the Advocacy and Governmental Affairs (AGA) work group remains active. We continue to move ahead in calling attention to the issues that are vital to the blind community. A list of questions has been prepared that call attention to the legislation we support and the action that needs to be taken. These questions will be sent to congressmen who are seeking reelection and to their opponents. Hopefully we will get some commitments of support which will be useful to us after the election.

We want to thank all PCB members that followed the lead of ACB and AFB and the encouragement of PCB in making phone calls on call-in days and wrote letters and emails when requested. We hope to continue to make progress promoting the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act, the Medicare coverage of low-vision aids pilot study and regulatory guidelines on web accessibility.

Our work group is concerned about voting machine access. When those of us who use the accessible ballots to vote arrive at our poling site, the machines should be ready and operating. Sadly too often this has not been our experience. Machines have not been ready to use and sometimes there is no one present who knows how to operate the machine’s accessibility features. The AGA work group is planning action to make certain this does not occur. Perhaps one way to prevent this is to provide the blind or low vision voter with operating instructions to take with her or him to the voting site. If you have had difficulty in the past at your voting site please share that experience with us. We cannot emphasize too strongly how crucial this election is and how important it is that you are registered and ready to vote. If all persons with a disability would vote this could affect the outcome of the election. Please do your part to carefully evaluate the candidates and then make your choices.

You will be interested in knowing that the state legislature has passed a resolution to establish a study commission on voting machines in Pennsylvania. PCB was asked to provide a delegate to this commission. The PCB President has chosen Christine Hunsinger who is a member of this team as our delegate. The commission is scheduled to report its findings in the spring.

The AGA team is gathering information on para-transit and shared ride services across the state. Roberta Simmons has prepared a brief survey and sent it to the Centers for Independent Living, Pennsylvania Associations for the Blind, and PCB chapters. If your chapter has not responded to this survey to date, please do so promptly. Currently, eight chapters have appointed a member to serve on the shared ride advisory committee in their area. On August 23rd a teleconference call was held with these representatives. Experiences were shared and there was opportunity to learn from each other. Chapters who do not have a representative on their local committee are encouraged to consider an appointment.

The eight members of the AGA work group continue to meet each month to deal with currant advocacy issues. We are always open to hear from you on your concerns. You can reach me in the PCB office at 877-617-7407 or by email to jhorst@pcb1.org.

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