By Chris Hunsinger
We had three action packed days of meetings at the National midyear meetings of ACB, but I don’t want to just summarize the meetings because there were more than 30 hours of presentations during those three days. Suzanne Erb, Pam Shaw, Melissa Carney, Joe Sickora, and Bette Passanante-Rodriguez helped me with both the meetings and the virtual Congressional visits afterward. None of us could go to all of the presentations, but I, along with the rest of the Hill Warriors, broke the events into parts that each of us made notes on. You can listen to podcasts of most of the presentations eventually as ACB Podcasts. You will be able to get those podcasts in the same way you listen to other PCB podcasts.
ACB identified three legislative imperatives for this year, and we were all asked to request support from our congress members on these imperatives. We had no bill numbers, but that means that when the bills are actually introduced, we will be able to re-contact the legislators to ask for support of the particular bill. The imperatives are:
- Secure Independence for Seniors and Medicare Beneficiaries, otherwise referred to as the low vision Medicare demonstration bill. We have been asking Congress to pass this bill for several years.
- The Disability Access to Transportation Act (DATA). This bill would actually be a part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or (FAST) Act. We hope that this bill will make paratransit more flexible, create a national complaint system at the Department of Transportation, and give pedestrians more consideration in many aspects of transportation and infrastructure design.
- The Exercise and Fitness for All Act. This bill hopes to set a base line both for accessibility and instruction at fitness facilities so that the quarter of the population with disabilities can more easily stay healthy and avoid some of the perils of inactivity.
We will be asking for your help with your legislator once we actually have a bill number for all of these bills, so stay tuned to the
We had several other items to mention in our virtual legislative visits, but you usually only get about a half hour of someone’s time, so you can’t necessarily get to everything. We really tried, but if you talk too fast they stop listening.
We still wanted our legislators to be aware of the safeguards that we want built into any legislation regarding autonomous vehicles.
We still wanted Congress to pass legislation that will resemble the Cogswell-Macy Act from the past but might actually be a part of a bigger law for educating disabled children. IDEA has to be re-certified sometime soon so we need to keep Congress aware of the special considerations for children with sensory disabilities.
American Printing House for the Blind wanted us to ask Congress for more money for providing their services for students.
Prevent Blindness wanted us to ask for money for the CDC to keep better blindness statistics and do more glaucoma testing.
NFB wanted us to request support for a refundable tax credit after purchasing Assistive Technology.
A National Disability Coalition wanted us to ask for support for Stop The Wait which would remove the five-month waiting period for Social Security Disability and the twenty-four month wait after entitlement to disability for Medicare benefits.
The meetings were not all about legislation. There were informative discussions about service animals and airlines, Audio Description, elimination of the digital divide with subsidies for emergency broadband benefits, accessible voting, advocating for blind and visually impaired students, working with other organizations to advocate for the older blind, working with other disability groups to improve employment outcomes for disabled individuals, improving the usability of medical equipment for people with vision loss, and new ways to connect with people using all kinds of social media and other communications platforms.
We also talked about organizational activities like growing membership in affiliates and chapters, encouraging diversity in leadership through mentorship, finding new ways to raise money for our affiliates and chapters, using the ACB database as a tool for better management of affiliate membership, and collaborating with ACB in joint fundraising activities like the virtual Walk and the Monthly Monetary support (MMS) program.
We learned more about the upcoming ACB Convention which will be held from July 16 to July 23. It will be virtual again this year, but there will be some changes. We will actually be voting for elected positions in ACB. We will be using a flexible electronic voting system with both internet and phone voting, and the votes will be carried out throughout the week of general sessions. It is expected that ACB will run some kind of mock election so we can all see how it works. We will not be voting on resolutions, but the Board of Directors has a plan in place for discussion of and approval of resolutions after the Convention.
The exhibit hall may well have some way for us to interact with exhibiters if we want to do more than just listen to recorded presentations. There will be tours, special interest affiliate events, taskforce and committee events, as well as the much-anticipated ACB auction.
Now, in a few minutes, you have learned what I found out over three days. In some future year you may want to join those participating in the midyear meetings, and you might actually be able to enjoy some personal interaction with members from all over the country. I’m certainly ready for that.