Jessica Beecham jbeecham at cocenter.org
Tue Feb 26 20:41:45 UTC 2013

Hello Everyone

Due to a scheduling conflict with the house education committee, we will
NOT be meeting in the Old Supreme Court Chambers.  Instead, we will be
meeting in Room 0112 which is located on the floor with the cafe.  Please
meet at room 0112 by 8:00am.  We will discuss the legislative agenda that
is pasted below.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me
by e-mail at jbeecham at cocenter.org or by phone at 720-440-2632.  I look
forward to seeing you all at the Capitol!

* *


To:      The Members of the Colorado General Assembly

From:  The Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado

Date:   February 27, 2013

Re:       Legislative Concerns of Blind Citizens


The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the oldest and largest
organization of the blind in the United States and in Colorado.  The
primary mission of the Federation is to improve the lives of the blind in
all areas of life from insuring basic civil rights to securing employment
and education for the blind.  Founded officially in 1955, the NFB of
Colorado engages in a number of programs specifically designed to create
greater opportunities for the blind.  For example, the Federation is the
chief sponsor of the Colorado Center for the Blind.  The Colorado Center
provides training in the alternative skills blind people need to become
fully participating members of society.  Additionally, NFB offers national
and statewide scholarships.  We provide a free talking newspaper called
NFB-NEWSLINE® which allows the blind of our state to read the daily
newspaper just as easily as their sighted peers.  We advocate for the
rights of the blind in all areas ranging from education to employment.
Where positive changes are happening in the blindness field, there is a
good chance that the Federation is involved.


First, the Federation calls upon the General Assembly to require full and
complete accessibility by the blind and visually impaired to academic tests
and assessments for K-12 students.  Second, the NFB of Colorado also urges
the General Assembly to continue support of critical programs for the blind
such as NFB-NEWSLINE® and Audio Information Network of Colorado.  Third, we
recommend that this body conduct a thorough review of the status of public
transportation in the State due to serious problems to this extremely
important part of our infrastructure and adopt needed reforms.  Fourth, we
want the Assembly to know about two programs we run, the Colorado Center
for the Blind and NFB scholarships, programs that may assist your

For further information contact:

Scott C. LaBarre, President

National Federation of the Blind of Colorado

Phone: 303 504-5979

Fax: 303 757-3640

Email: slabarre at nfbco.org


Testing and various assessments have always been an important tool for
monitoring the achievement for our children as they navigate their way
through K-12 education.  As advanced technology becomes an increasingly
larger and larger part of our daily life, it is no wonder that paper and
pencil tests and assessments are being replaced by software and web based

With respect to paper and pencil tests and assessments for blind students,
same must be reproduced in a format that a blind or visually impaired
student can use.  This could include reproduction into Braille, large
print, or some type of audio recording.  Such transcription can be time
consuming and expensive.

With respect to electronic tests and assessments, the potential exists for
immediate access by the blind and visually impaired.  This is so because
specialized software used by the blind and visually impaired can take
electronic files and transcribe them into speech, larger print, or output
from refreshable Braille displays.  This can happen as long as the
underlying electronic files are compatible with the technology used by the
blind and visually impaired.  It is also possible for the electronic tests
and assessments to have accessibility built right into the test or
assessment itself.

The problem is that many of the tests and assessments used are not at all
compatible with the assistive technology used by the blind.  There are no
standards requiring providers of these tests and assessments to make their
products accessible.  It is true that the school districts and other
educational entities have a broad mandate to make their educational
programs accessible to the blind, but these entities do not require their
contractors and providers to offer such accessibility.

We urge the General Assembly to help us find a mechanism whereby standards
and regulations be adopted requiring full accessibility to state-wide and
local tests and assessments for blind and visually impaired children.  This
could be accomplished by standards adopted directly by the General Assembly
or, alternatively, the Assembly could establish a commission or working
group to develop standards and regulations which in turn could be
promulgated by the Colorado Department of Education.  The exact method does
not matter but full access to education for our blind children must be


The sighted enjoy immediate access to daily newspapers, and the printed
news has long been an important medium through which society keeps track of
and participates in the daily life of our country.  Until recently, the
blind and visually impaired had no immediate access to daily newspapers. If
they had any, it came through volunteers, family, or friends to read the
news.  Even then, only portions of the newspaper got read and often the
blind had no control over which portions were read.

In the mid 1990s the National Federation of the Blind created NFB-NEWSLINE® for
the blind.  With this revolutionary system, the blind are able to pick up
their touch tone phone, call a toll free number, and select from over 300
different newspapers and magazines including the Denver Post and the
Colorado Springs Gazette.  Each day the participating newspapers provide a
digital feed of their publication to the system, and then the system reads
the paper through a synthesized voice to the blind user.  By using
touch-tones, subscribers control which paper is read, which section and
articles are played, and how fast the voice speaks.  In other words, the
blind now have the ability to move through the paper much as the sighted
do.  Now, NEWSLINE® is also available through the web, email, and through a
mobile app for the iPhone.

Since 1991, Audio Information Network (AIN) of Colorado is another
important source of daily newspapers and publications for the blind of the
state.  It operates through an additional digital channel of Rocky Mountain
PBS, the web, and over the phone.  It provides access to many local news
papers not currently available on NFB-NEWSLINE ®.

Both of these critical programs which provide a wealth of information to
the State’s blind and visually impaired are funded through the Disabled
Telephone Users Fund (DTUF).  DTUF receives its funding from a very small
tax placed on all phone lines in Colorado.  Therefore, these programs have
absolutely no impact on state general funds.

We thank the General Assembly for supporting these programs and urge the
Assembly to continue allocations to NFB-NEWSLINE® and AIN Colorado for the
upcoming fiscal year.  Lack of accessible information is one of the
greatest barriers faced by the blind, and these programs provide important
information to the blind and visually impaired that allows us to
participate in the main stream of society.


* *

A key for establishing a high quality community in which to live is public
transportation.  For the blind, public transportation plays an even larger
role because it is very frequently the only realistic and affordable way in
which the blind can travel throughout the community independently.  In
recent times, public transit in Colorado has been under great threat and
has suffered severe degradation.

For example, the bus system in Colorado Springs has been eviscerated to the
point where routes run infrequently and there is no service in the
evenings, extremely limited service on Saturdays, and no service at all on
Sundays.  Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) last year
implemented the single largest cut in service in its history.  A weak
economy is cited as the reason for these drastic cuts.  Although lack of
revenue has certainly played its part, it is not the only reason why our
public transportation system faces such challenges.  The lack of strategic
planning and irresponsible choices represent another significant factor for
causing this erosion.  For example, in the fall of 2011, RTD’s publicly
elected Board of Directors voted to cut nearly eleven million dollars worth
of service at the same time it voted to place some nineteen million dollars
into a reserve account.  All this took place even though the public
overwhelmingly opposed RTD’s cuts and in 2004 voted for a tax hike to fund
the Fast Tracks plan which carried with it a guaranty from RTD that it
would continue to expand public transit in the metro area.

These cuts have resulted in the wholesale elimination of several bus routes
and are correspondingly making it impossible for people to get to work and
school.  Last year, the Federation’s Colorado Center for the Blind was
forced to move where its students reside because key routes in the former
area were eliminated or cut to the point of practical uselessness.

Colorado prides itself on protecting the environment and natural resources
through use of alternative energies and more fuel efficient
transportation.  Encouraging use of public transportation is a key
component to accomplishing more responsible use of energy resources yet
these drastic cuts to public transit are making it far more difficult and
less attractive for the public to use the existing systems.

The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado believes that is high time
for this General Assembly to intervene into this increasingly critical
problem facing Colorado.  A state-wide strategic public transportation plan
is necessary to use resources most efficiently and to hold local public
transportation agencies accountable.  To maintain its standing as a world
class place to live, Colorado must invest in public transportation so that
businesses are attracted to moving and staying in our beautiful state.  It
is also important, of course, to build a strong public transportation
system so that the blind and other with disabilities can independently get
to school and work, allowing them to be fully participating tax payers and
not unemployed dependents of public welfare.  These problems are even more
acute for the blind in rural areas.  We urge the General Assembly to
establish some kind of Commission or Taskforce with representation from all
appropriate stake holders and to do so during this year’s session.


In your packets, you will find brochures on the Colorado Center for the
Blind and National Federation of the Blind scholarships.  These and other
programs are of great importance and therefore deserve a specific mention.

Founded in 1988 by the NFB of Colorado, the Colorado Center for the Blind
(CCB) offers world class rehabilitation and adjustment to blindness
training to blind/visually impaired individuals in our state and from all
over the world.  The CCB believes that with the right kind of training and
a positive attitude, blindness need not be a tragedy and should not
artificially limit a person’s hopes and dreams.  The program serves all
ages from kids as young as elementary age to seniors.  CCB teaches cane
travel/orientation and mobility, Braille, technology, independent daily
living, employment skills, and much, much more.  The vast majority of the
teaching staff is made up of blind instructors who serve as excellent role
models.  Please read the CCB brochure in your packet for more information
or go to www.cocenter.org.  Our Center is located in Littleton and you are
always welcome and encouraged to visit.  This is the year of our
Twenty-Fifth Anniversary and we will be inviting you to celebrate with us
at special events later this year.


The National Federation of the Blind, on a national basis, offers thirty
scholarships to talented blind men and women attending a post secondary
institution.  Over a hundred thousand dollars are awarded each year and
provide real opportunity for deserving students.  On a state level, the NFB
of Colorado offers up to five scholarships to blind men and women attending
a post secondary institution and scholarships range from $1,500.00 to
$5,000.00.  More information on how to apply is contained in your
legislative packet.  Please inform your local high schools, colleges and
universities as well as any blind/visually impaired post secondary student
you know about these valuable scholarship opportunities.

For further information on any of these issues contact:

Scott C. LaBarre, President

National Federation of the Blind of Colorado

Phone: 303 504-5979

Fax: 303 757-3640

Email: slabarre at nfbco.org

Jessica Beecham
Chapter and Community Development Coordinator
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
2233 West Shepperd Ave.
Littleton, CO 80210
jbeecham at cocenter.org

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