Summer Advocacy Efforts: Get Involved

By George S. Holliday, Chair

Again, we are approaching another summer season. For some of us, we are watching our youth accomplish another year in school, teens graduate from high school and young adults get their college degrees. At this time, I want to congratulate you on your continuing advocacy efforts and for being a member of a great organization, the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind.

In the spring issue of The PCB Advocate, you read about the two Imperatives discussed during the ACB Legislative Seminar: H.R. 729, Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015 and The Reintroduction of the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. As of June 1, there are ten co-sponsors for H.R.729. Unfortunately, The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act has not been assigned a number at this time. We have plenty of work to do in order to get these into law. These should be very important to each and every one of us.

Later this month, during the week of June 22 through 26, the PCB Advocacy and Governmental Affairs committee will call upon you to assist with contacting legislators during a state-wide call-in effort. We encourage you to join us in contacting and encouraging our representatives to sponsor H.R. 729, Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act of 2015. Further information will be posted to the PCB list and other media about your representative’s contact information and additional instructions. In reference to H.R. 729, here are some important talking points:

• Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York is the sponsor and out of the eleven co-sponsors, Rep. Robert Brady is the only co-sponsor from PA.
• The Durable Medical Equipment Acquisition Rule provides an exclusion for low-vision aids under the “eyeglass exclusion” provision. Simply put, currently, all aids, no matter their size, form or technological complexity, are excluded from Medicare coverage if they use one or more lens to provide magnification.
• Seniors and others challenged by vision loss depend on these highly specified devices to remain independent and in their homes, accomplishing such tasks as reading mail, identifying food, household products, and medications, and even to shop independently.
• These exclusions have prevented seniors and others with low vision from obtaining these devices because they are cost prohibitive to those on limited incomes. These devices often cost hundreds of dollars and more and include video monitors, hand held electronic magnifiers, and other technologies which enhance vision.
• We as advocates for this legislation are simply asking congress to study the fiscal impact of paying for such devices for a five-year period and then to report their findings and make changes based on these statistics.

We have a long way to go. Let us attempt to get all PA representatives to sponsor these bills. I know you are up to the challenge. The PCB AGAC is up to the challenge, but we cannot do it without your assistance. So, let us continue working together for a better tomorrow, one step at a time.

Switching gears, the AGAC has created a Chapter Advocacy Challenge for PCB affiliates. This is an opportunity to put your money where your advocacy is. The game is very simple. Below, there are fifteen advocacy activities. If a PCB chapter performs all fifteen activities by September 15, 2015, that chapter will receive a perfect score of 150; otherwise, each activity will hold a value of ten points.

Chapter presidents will hand out a game card to each member (in accessible format, of course), then collaborate as a team to accomplish as many of the tasks as possible. The chapter with the highest score will win $150 and the second place chapter will receive $100 at the state conference. In the event of a tie, there will be a tie breaker mechanism, which is only known to the Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Results must be submitted to the Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Committee by September 15, 2015 in preparation for the AGAC’s Saturday morning session at the convention. The challenge officially began on May 1, 2015. Good luck!

LIST OF CHALLENGES

• Request your prescription with accessible instructions, such as braille, large print or a talking prescription bottle;
• Obtain a free talking bill identifier;
• Inquire about audio description from your media provider;
• Request your Social Security correspondences in accessible format;
• Request a bank statement or utility bill in accessible format;
• Attend a public hearing, council meeting or other such event within your community;
• Participate in an advocacy event sponsored by your chapter or affiliate such as White Cane Safety Day, or an educational event such as a visit to a school or a senior expo;
• Participate in a PCB-scheduled Call-in Day;
• Write a letter or an email to a public official regarding an issue of concern to persons with vision loss in your home town, your county, or your state or just introduce your chapter;
• Request accommodation in a restaurant allowing you to read or have the menu read to you, i.e. a braille/large print menu or ask your server to read it to you;
• Identify and obtain contact information for your local state and federal representatives;
• Locate your nearest accessible polling place, inquire about accessible voting machines, and, if they have them, participate in a training session;
• Add five blindness-related organizations or services to your web browsers “Favorites” folder;
• Add two new blindness-related resources to your telephone contact list;
• Join at least one blindness-related email list serve.

If there are any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at 215-796-9813 or george.holliday@comcast.net.

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