[nfbmi-talk] SSA told to modernize for nation's blind!!!
goodfolks at charter.net
Wed Oct 21 07:23:53 CDT 2009
Social Security told to modernize for the blind
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
(10-20) 17:17 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- The Social Security
give the nation's 3 million blind or visually impaired recipients
of receiving benefit notices in braille or by audio computer
disc, a federal
judge in San Francisco said Tuesday.
Ruling in a nationwide class-action suit, U.S. District Judge
said that by sending notices only by mail and phone calls, the
a law that guarantees the disabled equal access to its programs.
the government to make the additional choices available by April
The case involves some of the 100 million notices the Social
Administration sends each year to its 61 million beneficiaries,
them of scheduled
appointments, program changes, tax filings and possible benefit
About 250,000 Americans receive benefits because of blindness,
2.7 million blind or sight-impaired people get Social Security
Under rules authorized by Congress in 1988 and 1990, they can
choose to be
notified of agency actions by mail, with a follow-up phone call,
mail with a return receipt. Those who make no choice are
contacted by mail
without a phone call.
Alsup said the current system may have been effective 20 years
ago, but no
longer provides the "meaningful access" the law requires, in
Little evidence was presented that blind people had lost benefits
inadequate notice, Alsup said, but the current system is
ineffective for at
least some recipients.
For example, he said, a blind person who needs to respond to a
notice must wait until someone is available to read it aloud, and
meeting government deadlines.
Alsup said the Social Security Administration refused to
acknowledge that it
was even covered by the anti-discrimination law until after the
in 2005, and "has been quick to find lame excuses for
The agency must inform all blind and visually impaired recipients
by Dec. 31
that they will have the choice of getting notices in braille or
Word CD in mid-April, Alsup said. He said those who want another
such as notification by e-mail, must be allowed to request it and
"This is a huge benefit," said attorney Silvia Yee of the
Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, a lawyer for the
the ruling will allow many recipients "to have an independence in
with the (Social Security Administration) that they've never had
Many sight-impaired recipients, particularly the young and those
blind later in life, can't read braille, Yee said, "but for
people who do
braille, it's their first choice." She said the CD option would
help younger recipients.
Lowell Kepke, spokesman for the Social Security Administration's
office in Richmond, said the agency "will review the order and
E-mail Bob Egelko at
begelko at sfchronicle.com.
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