[Nfbmo] Jefferson City Legislative Seminar Fact Sheet

Shelia Wright sbwright95 at att.net
Thu Feb 6 20:13:26 UTC 2014

Hello Fellow Federationist 


As our Legislative Seminar will be early next week, I want to be sure that
everyone has access to the fact sheet which addresses our legislative
priorities for the 2014 legislative session. 


It would make excellent material for upcoming chapter meetings to spur
discussion and help strengthen our presentation on the issues. Even if your
chapter meeting is after the legislative seminar, the discussions among
ourselves will still be very relevant as phone calls and other follow-up
will still be necessary. Also, if you can't make it next week, know we will
miss you and hope you will let your representative and senators here for you
in support of the work we are doing.


Shelia Wright

First Vice President

Legislative Director and Governmental Affairs Chair

Email: sbwright95 at att.net <mailto:sbwright95 at att.net> 

Phone: 816-741-6402

Mobile: 816-679-5258


From: Shelia Wright [mailto:sbwright95 at att.net] 
Sent: Tuesday, February 04, 2014 3:06 PM
To: Rita Lynch <ralynch1950 at embarqmail.com>
Cc: Dacia Luck
Subject: Jeff City Legislative Seminar Fact Sheet







From: The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri


Date: February 10 & 11, 2014




The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri appreciates the opportunity
to work with members of our Missouri General Assembly to collaborate and
recommend solutions to meet the needs of blind citizens. We are committed to
increasing opportunity for blind and visually impaired individuals and are
pleased to be a resource to you when legislation affecting the blind is
before the legislature or when you may need information about programs and
services to answer constituent inquiries.


The National Federation of the Blind is a membership organization of and for
the blind. As a grassroots organization we are blind people speaking on
behalf of blind people. We come together on the local, state, and national
level to address issues of importance to our fellow blind citizens and the
community we live in. We promote programs that encourage self-determination,
independence, and equality of opportunity. 






What you are doing now is second nature; you are reading, and the skill is
considered so essential that your formal instruction began at six and
informal instruction before that. Changing shapes into letters, words, and
deriving meaning from them is critical to what you do, so the desirability
of learning to read efficiently has never been a question in your education.
Not so if one is blind. The equivalent of print for the sighted is Braille
for the blind, and this is recognized in the education laws of Missouri in
RSMo 167.225. Though the law says that no blind person shall be denied
instruction in Braille, it does allow school districts to conduct
evaluations to determine whether print or Braille is the most appropriate
method for reading and writing for a given student. It is telling that the
first action taken by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
following the passage of SB 740 was to develop boilerplate language school
districts could use to say that they had considered Braille as the primary
learning media and had concluded print would be more appropriate. Far too
often print is determined to be the most appropriate reading medium because
the process used in making evaluations is flawed and because the strong
preference of teachers and school administrators is to teach what they know
and use the resources easily available to them.


The consequences for blind students are devastating. Blind people who can
see enough to read some print require that it be enlarged. In the early
grades this is how it is presented, but when learning to read is replaced by
reading to learn, the print gets smaller and the amount of it that one must
read gets larger.


It is common practice for students with visual impairments to hold reading
materials very close to their faces, and/or to hunch their bodies over the
materials when reading. In addition to the posture and other health concerns
these reading positions raise, years of field practice and experience have
demonstrated that youth who read print materials at very close distances
suffer eye strain, headache, neck and back pain, fatigue, and diminished
concentration, reading speed, and comprehension. Consequently, any valid
assessment should ensure that children are evaluated when sitting up
straight and with materials held or placed at standardized distances.


We must modify Missouri's statutes so that Section 167.225 mandates the use
of the National Reading Media Assessment. Our state must have a clear
standard to use in determining who will be taught print and who will be
taught Braille. Bringing blind people into the workforce demands this
change, and we urge the Missouri General Assembly to embrace literacy for
the blind with the same vigor that our society embraces literacy for the





The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) recognizes the right of the blind to vote
privately and independently by requiring nonvisual access for the blind
through the use of accessible voting systems in all federal elections.
Electronic voting technologies, designed and properly configured with
nonvisual access, provide blind voters with the ability to cast their votes
privately and independently and to verify, without sighted assistance, that
their ballots accurately reflect their voting choices. Electronic voting
systems were certified and purchased, and each polling place has at least
one accessible voting machine. All certified machines in Missouri provide a
paper trail.


Many of us felt a new sense of pride when, just a few years ago, we cast the
first independent and truly secret ballot of our lives. Unfortunately, these
machines are not offered to voters unless federal races are also occurring.
This may vary from state to state and in Missouri from one area of the state
to another, since Election Boards throughout the state govern the elections
in their area.


On behalf of the blind and disabled, the National Federation of the Blind
asks state officials to pass legislation that would require that accessible
voting machines, which are already available, be used in all state and local
elections in Missouri. We take our responsibilities to our community, state,
and nation seriously and believe that equal rights, including the right to a
secret ballot, should apply to voting in all elections. Please help pass HB
1278 and help disabled voters to have the same rights in every election as
you have. 




Currently, under RSMo 209.040, all recipients of Blind Pension are required
to have an eye examination every five years. Among those required to have
the examinations are persons having little or no usable vision including
those with prosthetic eyes. These exams are paid for entirely out of state
funds because there is no federal match for this program. 


While it is reasonable to require a vision examination for those whose
vision may change or barely meet eligibility requirements, it is a waste of
limited state resources to fund these exams for persons with permanent eye
conditions that result in them having only light perception or no vision at
all. We are asking the legislature to add a sentence to RSMo 209.040
providing a waiver of the periodic vision re-examination for those persons
who are deemed by a physician skilled in diseases of the eye to have no
usable vision, thus saving the state treasury an unnecessary expenditure. 


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