ACB's Legislative Priorities for 2014, by Melanie Brunson

By the time you read this, ACB will have concluded its 2014 legislative seminar, and many of your fellow ACB members will have made visits to the Washington offices of their senators and representatives to talk with them about legislative priorities for the new year.  Because we are aware that not everyone has the opportunity to come to Washington in February, but many of you do have the opportunity to contact the local offices of your members of Congress, I'd like to give you an overview of the issues and priorities presented at this year's legislative seminar.
I begin with a brief disclaimer. This article is being written three weeks before the legislative seminar will actually take place, so the possibility still exists that issues could be added to the list of topics we will actually cover. Issues have a way of popping up and starting to move around here just when you least expect it. You are encouraged to check for more details, including copies of the handouts on this year's legislative priorities.
During the year ahead, ACB will have a minimum of two legislative priorities. Our primary goals will be to work toward passage of H.R. 3749, The Medicare Demonstration of Low Vision Devices Coverage Act of 2013, which provides for Medicare coverage of certain low-vision devices, and to seek introduction and eventual passage of the Anne Sullivan Macy Act, a piece of comprehensive special-education legislation that will insure blind students receive the full complement of academic and other essential skills to allow them to become successful and independent adults.  Both of these legislative proposals have been described in greater detail in previous issues of the magazine, and additional information about them is available on our web site.
We are also planning to give attendees of the 2014 legislative seminar updates regarding other hot topics, including: Congressional movement on the reauthorization of the vocational rehabilitation program, how individuals can give input concerning transportation funding, implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the latest on the international treaty for the visually impaired, legislative proposals to eliminate sub-minimum wage payments to people with disabilities, the TEACH Act, and other late-breaking or significant issues.
It is our hope that whether you actually attend the ACB legislative seminar in Washington or not, many of you will look into these issues and help ACB make its positions known to members of Congress.  Members of both the House and Senate look first to their constituents when determining whether to support a particular bill. The views of people back home take precedence over the views of lobbyists, so when it comes to legislation that impacts people with visual impairments, or disabilities in general, your phone calls, e-mails, or visits to Congressional offices can really make a difference. If you have questions, please contact me, or Eric Bridges, in the Arlington office. Then, make that contact. These goals are very achievable, but only if we all work together to reach them.