[Jobs] Washington seminar/resolution idea

Michael Peterson itsmike2011 at gmail.com
Fri Aug 10 12:08:31 UTC 2018

                With AIRA where you might really need it I can see problems. I had issues as a rehab counselor needing handwritten documents read in a timely manner. Philadelphia refused to allow me to hire my own reader and I was forced to rely on my supervisor’s assistant who was often called away when I needed documents read to file reports, work in the downstairs filing room doing arranging and shredding or something else and it could take days for him to be available. I could have went to other counselors or the supervisor to read the documents but after a while people start getting irritated and I had to many clients to take the time required for them to decipher medical documents in the way I could using allotted time with my reader each day. In this instance,   AIra would have been helpful except I would not be surprised if the employer refused me the right to use it do to security concerns. While Aira  probably have a security agreement in place had I hired a reader the Commonwealth of PA would have made them sign confidentiality agreements protecting the documents and the reading would be limited to one or two at most trackable people a reader and maybe a backup. 


I remember in the day when I was doing teleservice my employer took it onhimself to control the hiring and firing of readers and it caused problems for the blind workers. In that case Aira seems like had it been available, a wonderful solution.


I do think if the employer will get on board and allow you to use AIRA and you can demonstrate that you are using it on the job that should be a allowable deduction from your gross or net income counted when considering how much you can earn. I suspect we don’t need a resolution to get the SSA to do this.  If they are made aware of such services and how they are used for work that should be sufficient and probably could be done by individual recipients then if SSA refused the NFB could step in. 


I am confused wit the subject line however. I thought the Washington seminar was set up to lobby for policies we all ready decided as an organization to support not to raise new ones.

The resolution would if passed not be put through a vote of the convention. I think basically theNFB’s National  administration could suggest this in to legislation if need be without a resolution  as a part of policies we all ready have in place but other than asking SSDI to allow it as a deduction I don’t see a way to do it.


Also if we support AIRA which is a service and another lower cost version comes along we are kind of locked in supporting a specific company and that could become problematic,Remember back when  jaws vs windoweyes?  

  what if for example down the line AIRA decides to seek NAC accreditation after we introduce a government mandate requiring the government to subsidize them for the service?

Better to suggest any qualified service like Aira than support one specific company.

Mike P

From: Jobs <jobs-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Steven Atkinson via Jobs
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2018 10:41 PM
To: 'Jobs for the Blind' <jobs at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Steven Atkinson <sm.atkinson at comcast.net>
Subject: Re: [Jobs] Washington seminar/resolution idea




I agree with you if I am hearing you correct.  It does not make too much sense to me to give up almost $2000.00 Social Security Disability Income a month to work a job making $2,500.00-$30,000.00 a year and then actualy end up with a less net amount of money each month after taxes to support a family.  I know this first hand since I saw it happen with my own two eyes!  I gave up 100% of my S.S.D.I. for a job and after a job lay-off I had $0.00 to live off of for way too long since I had to prove to the Social Security Administration that I was still blind in order to get my S.S.D.I. benefits re-instated.  I should have not given up my S.S.D.I. benefits and played the deduction game down to the very last penny and maybe a few extra pennys.  But, I not only lost my eyesight, I must have lost my brain when I gave up my S.S.D.I. benefits.  I am still blind, but Thank the Lord for giving me my brain back!From: Jobs [mailto:jobs-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Karen Rose via Jobs
Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2018 11:14 PM
To: Jobs for the Blind
Cc: Karen Rose
Subject: Re: [Jobs] Washington seminar/resolution idea


I think the problem here goes back to work disincentives. If people are working but want to keep their SSD only benefits, and therefore need to earn less than their potential, is that really what we want? Could we not structure blindness benefits in the way that they are structured in Germany for example? My understanding is that in Germany, if one is blind one receives an allowance of a certain amount of money from their government. This is not income dependent. A blind person can choose to live on this government allowance or can choose to invest this allowance in technology in order to work or can save it for vacation while working in a profession or whatever they wish. Karen

On Aug 9, 2018, at 8:09 PM, Jordan Gallacher via Jobs <jobs at nfbnet.org <mailto:jobs at nfbnet.org> > wrote:

I also do not think the Government should pay for a service.  Also, you have to think about all the jobs that pay in the mid to upper 1900 to about 2100 a month.  One can pretty easily set things up to where they can get below the cut off for SSDI and keep those benefits thus make more than they would otherwise.


Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 9, 2018, at 9:56 PM, Elizabeth Campbell via Jobs <jobs at nfbnet.org <mailto:jobs at nfbnet.org> > wrote:

Hello Jim, I think that your proposal is interesting. However, I don't think the government should be in  the business of paying for Aira subscriptions. I am employed and use Aira although I don't have the unlimited plan. Aira is a fantastic service, and the company is finding ways to provide services where users are not paying for minutes such as site access at a growing list of airports and with tasks related to finding a job. I think we should focus  on doing what we can to invest in the Aira service as the company is working to keep costs reasonable while expanding services such as having agents available 24 hours.. By investing, I mean that we pay for the service as Aira has a pricing plan in place. I think that shows people and the government if you will that we see Aira as a valuable tool. I will also say that Aira does not take the place of having good blindness skills. If someone uses Aira outside of a home or building, the agent will ask if the person is using a cane or a guide dog.

I hope this helps.

Best regards


On Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 8:24 PM, Jim Reed via Jobs <jobs at nfbnet.org <mailto:jobs at nfbnet.org> > wrote:

Hello all,

For those that don’t know, AIRA is a human-powered, remote- assistant  software program from google to help the blind with almost anything they might need or want using smartphone cameraphone technology, and other powerful google tools such as GPS, google transit, the internet, and so on. It cost $300 per month for unlimited use. I got to experience AIRA a few weeks ago navigating a crowded festival; it was seamless, perfect, and easy,  and my response to my friend was “with this service, it is like we are not even blind.” Why not make it available free to every blind person in America? This is what I am proposing in this email. If you really want to impact the lives of the every-day/ordinary blind person, I can think of no better way to do it that give everyone free AIRA.  Unfortunatly, it is just too expensive for the average blind person to afford—I work 40 hours a week in a professional position, and I can’t/won’t get it due to cost. So what is the unemployed blind person on $1,00 per monthof SSA benefits supposed to do? Obviously they cant afford it either.


Here is my rough math; it would take someone with more reliable statistics and modeling software to see if this would be worth it or pay for itself.

If I were on disability benefits instead of working, my check would be about $2,000/mont plus health insurance, plus food stamps, plus possible public housing assistance, and so on. Just focusing on the SSA cash benefit, 2000 per month times 12 months equals 24000 per year in cash benefits the federal government just paid. A full year of unlimited AIRA cost $3600 at $300/month. If AIRA were to get someone like me a job they would not have otherwise had, the government just saved $21,000 per year. At 3600 per year for AIRA, the money saved from this 1 person getting a job would be able to pay for an additional 5.8 people to get AIRA for a year. If 1 of those 5.8 people gets a job, and get off benefits, now the cash benefits not paid to person #1 and #2  can pay for 12 people to get AIRA.  If 2 of those 12 get a job, now you have 4 people off benefits saving the government about  96000 per year then you minus full-year AIRA cost for these 4 people (3600 x 4=14,400)  for a total cost savings of 81600. This is now enough to buy  22.6 AIRA subscriptions, which might result in 4 jobs, And this snowball will just get bigger and bigger (and be able to pay for more AIRA subscriptions) the longer it rolls downhill.  Theoretically, this would be an exponentially increasing feedback loop with constantly increasing numbers of subscriptions, followed by more employed blind persons,  and increasingly large SSA and public assistance savings, which lead to more subscriptions and more jobs, until every blind person in America has AIRA and all blind persons desiring to work are employed. And if we all think about it realistically, government subsidy of this type of service is all-but-inevitable and guaranteed 30-50 years in the future—just think of the money being currently spend on all blindness services combined; it will be impossible for the government not to provide this service in the future, especially when a nation’s worth of blind people are demanding access to it. I’m just proposing we jump the gun by about 20 years and get right to it.  


This very simple model doesn’t account for lots of other variables such as the number of students who are more able to finish college or trade school, thus are more qualified to get and keep a job;   less emergency room visits from the blind due to things like taking the wrong medication; less nursing home care from the elder blind who are now better able to manage their own personal care;  less use of food stamps and public housing because these people are self-sufficent.  Less students in private and public blind  training centers (at $40,000 each for 9 months), less mental health issues, less depression, less suicides, and less  drug and alcohol use—all problems and cost avoided due to a higher quality of life, a greater involvement in society,  a greater sense of self-worth, and a greater ability to do something positive with someone’s life.

This model also doesn’t account for the fact that the cost of AIRA will come down with automation, improved efficiency, more people using the service, and a fat, long-term government contract.


I absolutely think the NFB should use some Washington Seminar resources to advocate that Congress give every blind person free AIRA for life.   $1 million from congress would pay for 277 people to have AIRA for 1 year—and that is just a straight up appropriation not accounting for any of the cost savings described above that would multiply this number. Want to guess how much it would cost to send each of these 277 people to training for 9-months at an NFB training center?  Over $11 million. Like I said, the math, statistics, modeling, and etc are way over my head, but I think this would be worth pursuing. 



P.S. before the folks on the NFB jobs list start complaining about being off topic, think about how many more people would be working, and how many possible jobs/profession types  that would be made available to us if we had 24/7, reliable sighted assistance?   I’m trying to think of the most extreme blind-unfriendly occupations such as secretary, gas station clerk,  cook, executive chef, courier/delivery, event planner, inspector, and so on…without AIRA most of these jobs would be impossible as an independent blind person with no support; most of these positions would be very do-able with AIRA.  And…one problem a lot of blind people have is that the low/no-skill entry-level positions (such as bartender, janitor, cook)  that would be available to sighted students and those without degrees are not available or do able by the blind, leaving us perpetually unemployed and unable to gain experience, while the vast majority of positions blind people can do involve using their intellect which all requires education and degrees which means that most blind people are flat-out excluded from the entry-level, no-skill type positions, and face a huge hurdel called “college” before they are considered “qualified” for the entry-level type of jobs most blind people are suited for. It is almost like if you are blind you need a college degree to qualify for your first job, while all a sighted person needs is a strong back and a work ethic; AIRA would change this. 


Just something to think about…



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Elizabeth Campbell

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