[Greater-Baltimore] Third Annapolis Issue

Sharon Maneki nfbmdsm at gmail.com
Fri Jan 15 15:26:17 UTC 2021

Hello all,
Read below for the third Annapolis issue. Thank you for all of your
efforts. Together we will convince the general assembly to enact these

*Subject:          Appropriation for the Center of Excellence in Nonvisual
Access (CENA) to Education, Public Information, and Commerce *

*To:                  Members of the Maryland General Assembly*

*From:             Members of the National Federation of the Blind of

*Contact:         Sharon Maneki, Director of Legislation and Advocacy*

*National Federation of the Blind of Maryland*

*9013 Nelson Way*

*Columbia, MD 21045*

*Phone: 410-715-9596*

*Email: **nfbmdsm at gmail.com* <nfbmdsm at gmail.com>

*Date:               January 2021*


The Maryland General Assembly should keep the $250,000 appropriation in the
Governor’s Budget for the CENA to Education, Public Information, and

In 2014, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) founded the NFB Center
of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA). The CENA is a center of
expertise, best practices, and resources that enables business, government,
and educational institutions to more effectively provide accessible
information and services to blind citizens. The State of Maryland, through
the Maryland Department of Disabilities (MDOD), partners with the CENA to
support a series of projects under the Nonvisual Accessibility Initiative
(NVAI) with an aim to establish Maryland as a leader in nonvisual

The public-private partnership between MDOD and the NFB has improved the
standard of accessibility throughout the state. Through the development and
implementation of a variety of projects within the following six focus
areas, we will continue to build a more accessible Maryland.

*I.               **Enhancing Access to Education Technology and Strategies*

Inaccessible instructional materials prevent blind and low-vision students
from accessing the fundamental tools of education, leaving them woefully
unprepared for their futures. Under the NVAI the NFB will continue to
address the lack of accessible digital publications and instructional
materials by conducting trainings on tools, strategies, and best practices
in the creation and dissemination of materials that are “born accessible.”
Through our continued partnership with the Maryland Open Source Textbook
initiative, the HathiTrust, the DAISY Consortium, major publishing
companies, and education technology developers, the NFB will continue to
assist in the development and implementation of innovative accessible
technologies and strategies.

*II.            **Enhance Access to Employment-Related Tools and Services*

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) sought to create system
change to address the significant unemployment of people with disabilities
by defining the relationship between state Departments of Labor and
Division of Rehabilitation Services. Yet, there remains a 70 percent
unemployment/underemployment rate for blind people in this country. One of
the contributing factors is that many employers are using online
applications, training tools, as well as workplace technology that is
inaccessible and makes it impossible for a blind or low-vision job seeker
to obtain, retain, or advance in employment. Under the NVAI, the NFB will
collaborate with the Maryland Department of Labor and the Maryland Division
of Rehabilitation Services, ensuring greater access to the American Job
Centers in an effort to improve access to employment systems and services.
In addition, the NFB will conduct outreach to employers in an effort to
provide them with the training and support required to eliminate the
employment barriers faced by blind and low-vision Maryland citizens.

*III.          **Offering Accessibility Boutiques and Other Training

The CENA will host informal accessibility-specific Accessibility Boutiques
and other training seminars. The Accessibility Boutiques are usually one or
two hours long, and are free and open to the public, and are designed to
create public awareness about accessibility and provide a brief orientation
about specific accessibility tools and strategies. Other larger trainings
will offer a more substantive exposure and training experience to the
participants and address major issues related to nonvisual accessibility.

*IV.          **Maintaining the Accessibility Switchboard and Community of
Practice  *

The NFB will continue to develop and market the Accessibility Switchboard,
a dynamic online portal consisting of an accessibility information resource
for consumers and a compliance information portal for organizations. This
work will be informed by the Accessibility Community of Practice, a
volunteer group of accessibility experts from educational institutions,
corporations, and the public sector.

*V.             **Assisting with the Integration of Smart Technologies for
Accessible Cities        *

In order to facilitate the integration of innovative technologies and
strategies toward the creation of an accessible city that will provide the
opportunity for blind people to have equal access to essential information,
resources, and services, the NFB will:

·       Continue to participate in partnerships with technology developers
and city planners in the evaluation and implementation of various
transportation and wayfinding strategies. We will host quarterly meetings
with our partners in order to share information across disciplines.

·       Continue to investigate and evaluate the various tools being used
for wayfinding and the strategies for creating accessible public spaces. A
summit will highlight the work being done to create more accessible public
and private programs and services by bringing representatives from
academic, public, and private organizations together to share best
practices and network.

*VI.          **Coordinating the Accessibility Inclusion Fellowship Program*

The “Final Report of the Study on Accessibility Concepts in Computer
Science, Information Systems and Information Technology Programs in Higher
Education” recommended that three annual fellowships be awarded to help
instructors begin to include accessibility concepts contained within the
minimum areas of instruction in at least one course offering in their
institution. The CENA will continue to recruit and support these fellows in
the coming year.


Access to information remains one of the greatest barriers faced by blind
persons. To reduce these barriers the National Federation of the Blind
established the CENA to provide information about best practices and to
develop innovative techniques for achieving nonvisual access. The Maryland
General Assembly should allow this state-of-the-art program to continue by
approving the $250,000 appropriation in the Governor’s Budget under the
Maryland Department of Disabilities.

*Sharon Maneki, Director of Legislation and Advocacy*
National Federation of the Blind of Maryland

The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland knows that blindness is
not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Everyday we raise
the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles
between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want;
blindness is not what holds you back.

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