Washington Connection

Washington Connection
Welcome to the Washington Connection, the legislative and information service of the American Council of the Blind.  The Washington Connection is brought to you by the ACB national office.  If you have any questions or comments on the information provided, don’t hesitate to contact us and ask to speak with Tony Stephens.
The Washington Connection is updated any time we have new information to share with you. The following articles are available as of February 24, 2017. Message 5 is new.
·     ACB Radio by Phone, Forum by Phone Have New Phone Numbers
·     NHTSA sets ‘Quiet Car’ safety standard to protect pedestrians
·     ACB Reaches Agreement with D.C. Taxi Companies to Enhance Accessibility of Street-Hail Service for Blind Individuals with Service Dogs
·     ACB’s 2017 Legislative Seminar Agenda
·     New! ACB’s Affiliate Presidents’ Meeting Agenda
·     SSI Recipients to Get Slight Increase in 2017
·     Seize the Moment: Apply to be a 2017 Leadership Fellow
·     2017 Midyear Meeting and Legislative Seminar Info
Thank you for calling the Washington Connection.
ACB Radio by Phone, Forum by Phone Have New Phone Numbers
AudioNow has given ACB Radio a new phone number. To listen to ACB Radio by telephone, dial (605) 475-8130.
To listen to “The ACB Braille Forum,” “E-Forum” and “ACB Reports,” dial (605) 475-8154.
NHTSA sets 'Quiet Car' safety standard to protect pedestrians 
New requirement of audible alert will help prevent 2,400 pedestrian injuries a year
To read this announcement online, go to http://www.nhtsa.gov/About-NHTSA/Press-Releases/nhtsa_quiet_car_final_rule_11142016.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that it is adding a sound requirement for all newly manufactured hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles to help protect pedestrians. The new federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision, and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped.
“We all depend on our senses to alert us to possible danger,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “With more, quieter hybrid and electrical cars on the road, the ability for all pedestrians to hear as well as see the cars becomes an important factor of reducing the risk of possible crashes and improving safety.”
Under the new rule, all hybrid and electric light vehicles with four wheels and a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less will be required to make audible noise when traveling in reverse or forward at speeds up to 30 kilometers per hour (about 19 miles per hour). At higher speeds, the sound alert is not required because other factors, such as tire and wind noise, provide adequate audible warning to pedestrians.
“This is a common-sense tool to help pedestrians — especially folks who are blind or have low vision — make their way safely,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “With pedestrian fatalities on the rise, it is vitally important we take every action to protect the most vulnerable road users.”
Manufacturers have until Sept. 1, 2019, to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.
“We commend NHTSA on bringing this process to completion,” said Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind. “This new safety standard moving forward will not just make our streets safer for blind and visually impaired Americans, but also serve as an additional safety cue for all pedestrians who share the streets with hybrid or electric vehicles.”
The new standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141, responds to Congress’ mandate in the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act that hybrid and electric vehicles meet minimum sound requirements to provide an audible alert for blind and visually impaired pedestrians.
“Having raised concerns on behalf of blind Americans about the dangers posed by silent hybrid and electric vehicles, the National Federation of the Blind is extremely pleased that technical specifications for a safe level of sound to be emitted by such vehicles have now been issued,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “The full implementation of the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 will protect all pedestrians, especially the blind, as well as cyclists. This regulation will ensure that blind Americans can continue to travel safely and independently as we work, learn, shop, and engage in all facets of community life.”
American Council of the Blind Reaches Agreement with D.C. Taxi Companies to Enhance Accessibility of Street-Hail Service for Blind Individuals with Service Dogs
Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation, Washington Lawyers’ Committee, matthew_handley@washlaw.org; (202) 319-1000
Eric Bridges, Executive Director, American Council of the Blind, ebridges@acb.org; (202) 467-5081
Matthew MacLean, Partner, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, matthew.maclean@pillsburylaw.com; (202) 663-8183
WASHINGTON (June 21, 2016) — Four DC taxi companies: Yellow Cab Company of D.C., Inc., Grand Cab Company, Elite Cab Association, and Pleasant Taxi Club LLC have reached an agreement with the American Council of the Blind (“ACB”), a civil rights advocacy organization for the blind, to carry out an Accessibility Initiative to ensure that blind and visually impaired individuals accompanied by service animals have full and equal access to taxi services in the District of Columbia, including street-hailed taxicab services. Together, these four companies represent more than one-fifth of the taxicabs in D.C.
The Accessibility Initiative, pioneered by these four companies, is available for any DC taxicab company or driver wishing to voluntarily promote equal access for a contribution of only $15 per cab. As part of this Accessibility Initiative, the taxi companies have agreed to collaborate with ACB and contribute to a testing fund overseen and administered by ACB. ACB will monitor learning, education effectiveness, and compliance by associated drivers with their legal obligations to provide street-hail taxicab services in D.C. Contributions to the Accessibility Initiative will be used to fund this monitoring and a third-party testing program to ensure that blind and visually-impaired individuals with service animals are successfully able to hail taxis on D.C. streets. Those contributing to this testing fund and agreeing to the Accessibility Initiative will be notified of any complaints and given feedback on their drivers’ performance. The Accessibility Initiative also protects signatory drivers and taxicab companies with a commitment to resolve complaints against participating taxicabs without formal litigation.
As part of their mutual goal of promoting equal access to taxicab services in D.C., all four companies have agreed to develop and implement a model Non-Discrimination Policy that accompanies the Accessibility Initiative. The Accessibility Initiative requires each signatory to incorporate such a policy into its association licensing agreements with its drivers when signing new drivers or renewing agreements, and to distribute the policy to all existing drivers. The Non-Discrimination Policy will make it clear that a driver may not assume that an animal accompanying a passenger is not a service animal. All drivers who do not have a valid medical exemption will be required to always stop to provide service to a passenger accompanied by a dog and hailing a taxi, or inquire whether the dog is a service animal where not obvious. The Non-Discrimination Policy also specifies that the taxicab company will promptly investigate any complaints it receives regarding any discriminatory conduct by its associated drivers, and discipline any associated driver who has proven to have engaged in a violation of the policy. Such discipline will include training of the driver on the Non-Discrimination Policy, suspension, reporting the driver to the D.C. Taxicab Commission (“DCTC”), and terminating the driver’s association with the company.
Additionally, in a joint letter, Grand Cab, Yellow Cab, Elite Cab, and Pleasant Taxi recommended needed changes to DCTC policies and rules to promote and safely provide street-hail taxi services in D.C. to the visually impaired. DCTC will now provide disability sensitivity training to new and renewing licensed taxicab vehicle operators and has implemented a disability sensitivity training module.
Eric Bridges, executive director of the ACB, stated: “We are encouraged that these four taxi companies are willing to work with us to promote equal access to taxicab services in the District of Columbia. We hope that other cab companies in the District will join this Accessibility Initiative and contribute to the testing fund in order to become the gold standard for taxi service in DC, including street-hailed taxis.”
Matthew Handley, Director of Litigation at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, said: “Public transportation, including taxi services, should be available and accessible to everyone, including persons with disabilities who use service dogs. We are pleased that we were able to come together to implement this Accessibility Initiative in the District of Columbia. We are also pleased with the jointly recommended changes to the Taxi Commission’s policies and regulations, which will apply to all DC taxicab companies and set the standard for equal access.”
Matthew MacLean, Partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, added: “Launching the Accessibility Initiative through the American Council of the Blind is a great accomplishment. This program has the tools to create meaningful change in the accessibility policies of taxicab providers in D.C., and is an opportunity for companies to engage in a constructive program to ensure the rights of taxi passengers relying on service animals are understood and respected.”
American Council of the Blind
2017 Legislative Seminar Agenda
Monday, February 27, 2017
9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
9:00 – 9:30 a.m. 
Introductions and Charting our Legislative Course
Kim Charlson, President, American Council of the Blind (ACB)
9:30 – 9:35 a.m. 
Special Thanks and Sponsors Welcome
Eric Bridges, Executive Director, ACB
9:35 – 9:55 a.m. 
Capitol Hill Update: Parsing DC’s Political Landscape
Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs, ACB
10:00 – 11:15 a.m. 
Gaining Ground: Moving the Ball for the Short- and Long-Term Agenda around Blindness Issues
Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs, ACB
Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)
Sandy Neuzil, Co-Chair, Reston VIP
John Cox, Co-Chair, Vienna VIP
11:15 – 11:30 a.m.  
11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 
Access in the Skies: U.S. Transportation Update
Livaughn Chapman Jr., Chief, Aviation Civil Rights Compliance Branch, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Department of Transportation
12:00 – 12:15 p.m.
12:15 – 1:30 p.m. 
Working Lunch: Feeding the Echo Chamber
Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs, ACB
Sponsor Spotlight – Kelly Egan, Sprint
1:30 – 2:00 p.m.
CVAA Successes and Shortcomings: FCC Update
Will Schell, Attorney Advisor, Disability Rights Office, Federal Communications Commission
2:00 – 2:15 p.m.
2:15 – 3:30 p.m.  
Perfecting Policy Points: 2017 Imperatives Overview
Kim Charlson, President, ACB
Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs, ACB
3:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Logistics for Hill Visits and Wrap-Up
ACB Staff
American Council of the Blind
2017 Presidents' Meeting Agenda
Sunday, February 26
President’s Ballroom
8:00 AM: Registration
9:00 AM: Opening Remarks – Kim Charlson, ACB President, Watertown, MA; & Meeting Logistics: Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Alexandria, VA
9:10 AM: Self-Introduction of Attendees
9:30 AM: ACB Communication Channels: Spreading the Word to Our Members and Leadership
Live on ACB Radio: Larry Turnbull, Managing Director, ACB Radio, Springfield, IL
www.acbradio.org or (605) 475-8130
ACB Social Media:
Twitter: John McCann, ACB Second Vice President and Twitter Team Leader, Tucson, AZ
Facebook: Carla Ruschival, ACB Treasurer and Facebook Team Leader, Louisville, KY
Board of Publications Update: Overview of 2017 Key BOP Initiatives, Awards, Convention Activities and Planned Large Print Reader Survey -- Paul Edwards, Miami, FL, and Doug Powell, Falls Church, VA, Board of Publications Elected Members
ACB Link 1.2: ACB’s iPhone App
Jeff Bishop, ACB Board of Directors, Tucson, AZ
10:15 AM: Break
10:30 AM: The Future of ACB: Utilizing the Power of Youth and Mentoring and Networking: Minh Ha, President ACB Students (ACBS), Brighton, MA; Sarah Wiles, First Vice President, ACBS, Longmeadow, MA; Tamara Lomax, Second Vice President, ACBS, Plainville, NJ; and Abby Edwards, Secretary, ACBS, Vandalia, OH
11:10 AM: Midwest Leadership Conference and Young Professionals Seminar: August 4-6, 2017, Omaha, Nebraska – Ray Campbell, ACB Secretary, Glen Ellyn, IL
11:15 AM: AMMS Pointers and Keeping Your Affiliate Healthy: Nancy Becker, Senior Accountant, American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services, Brooklyn Center, MN
11:40 AM: ACB Remote Voting Update: Potential Practice and Pilot Process: Mitch Pomerantz, Immediate Past President and Member, Voting Task Force, Pasadena, CA; and Jeff Thom, ACB First Vice President and Chair, ACB Voting Task Force, Sacramento, CA
11:55 AM: Convention Update for 2017, 2018 and 2019; and Overview of New Convention Shortened Schedule: Janet Dickelman, ACB Convention Coordinator, St. Paul, MN
12:15 PM: Lunch
Lunch Presentation: Adaptive Challenges: Exercising Leadership
Moira Shea, Vice-Chair, Usher Syndrome Coalition, Washington, DC
1:30 PM: ACB Affiliate Sharing Fund Raising Opportunities Overview: Dan Dillon, Co-Chair, ACB Resource Development Committee and ACB Board of Directors, Hermitage, TN
ACB Mini Mall: Carla Ruschival, ACB Treasurer, Louisville, KY -- 877-630-7190
MMS (Monthly Monetary Support) and Affiliate Sharing: George Holliday, ACB Board of Directors, and Member, MMS Committee, Philadelphia, PA
ACB Walk and Affiliate Teams: Donna Brown, Chair, Walk Committee, Romney, WV
Annual Giving Societies: Tom Tobin, ACB Director of Development, Cleveland, OH
Angel Memorial Tribute Program, Volunteer Hours, ACB Braille Forum Raffle, and Wrap-Up: Dan Spoone, Co-Chair, ACB Resource Development Committee and ACB Board of Directors, Orlando, FL
2:20 PM: Joint Affiliate Conventions: A New Approach: Panel Moderator: Katie Frederick, ACB of Ohio Executive Director and Member of the ACB Board of Directors, Worthington, OH; Vicky Prahin, President, ACB of Ohio, Columbus, OH; Barbara Salisbury, Vice President, ACB of Indiana, Bloomington, IN; George Holliday, Pennsylvania Council of the Blind and ACB Board Member, Philadelphia, PA; and Cindy LaBon, President, ACB of Maryland, Gaithersburg, MD
3:00 PM: ACB’s Updated Strategic Planning Process: Direction and Outcomes for the Future – Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Alexandria, VA
3:15 PM: Break
3:30 PM: DKM First-Timers Program and Leadership Fellows Awards for 2017: Kenneth Semien, Chair, DKM First-Timers Committee, Beaumont, TX
3:45 PM: Open Forum: Attendees Opportunity to Ask ACB Officers and Directors Questions – Kim Charlson, ACB President, Watertown, MA; Ray Campbell, ACB Secretary, Glen Ellyn, IL; David Trott, ACB Director, Talladega, AL; Denise Colley, ACB Director, Lacey, WA; Allan Peterson, ACB Director, Horace, ND; and Pat Sheehan, ACB Director, Silver Spring, MD
4:30 PM: Audio Description Project Update and More! Joel Snyder, Director, ACB Audio Description Project, Takoma Park, MD; Dan Spoone, Chair, Audio Description Steering Committee, Orlando, FL; Eric Bridges, ACB Executive Director, Alexandria, VA; and Tony Stephens, ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, Alexandria, VA
5:20 PM: Wrap-Up – Kim Charlson, ACB President, Watertown, MA
5:30 PM: Adjournment
SSI Recipients to Get Slight Increase in 2017
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 65 million Americans will increase 0.3 percent in 2017, the Social Security Administration announced today.
Under SSDI, the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level goes up to $1,950 a month for blind individuals, $1,170 for non-blind workers. The Trial Work Period (TWP) amount goes up to $840 per month.
The 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin in January 2017.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2016.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $127,200.
For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
Seize the Moment: Apply to be a 2017 Leadership Fellow
Why wait? Begin expanding your horizons this year. In partnership with JPMorgan Chase, ACB has created a path to leadership which provides an opportunity for 5 ACB members with recognized leadership potential to participate in the 56th annual conference and convention in Reno. Join the previous Leadership Fellows on a quest to meet with other leaders around the nation.
In its second year, the Leadership Fellows Award will introduce additional leadership development modules that are sure to prepare you to serve well in future leadership roles within ACB, your local chapter, as well as, your state or special interest affiliate.
Applicants must be 18 years of age or older; blind or visually impaired; and members in good standing of ACB. Eligible applicants must be recommended by the president of their respective affiliates. The application process for this award also consists of submitting two letters and participating in a telephone interview with DKM committee members. The applicant’s letter will include the objectives in applying for the leadership award; a brief summary of the applicant’s education and relevant experience; number of years of membership in ACB as well as previous conventions attended, if any; description of one’s role as a leader; and an assessment of what one brings to ACB. The affiliate president’s letter of recommendation should address the applicant’s contributions to the affiliate, ACB and community organizations; and describe the applicant’s demonstrated leadership skills and leadership potential. Telephone interviews will be scheduled for mid-April.
All recipients receive round-trip transportation; hotel accommodation (double occupancy), per diem stipend for meals and incidentals, convention registration fee and reception and banquet tickets. Recipients are expected to attend the convention from the opening meeting, Saturday evening, July 1, through the Thursday evening banquet, July 6, and to participate actively in convention activities including the daily general sessions, special-interest presentations, seminars and workshops. 
Application documents should be forwarded to Kelly Gasque in the ACB national office, kgasque@acb.org. Deadline for receipt is April 3rd. Questions regarding the application process and required documentation should be directed to DKM Chair, Kenneth Semien Sr., semien@sbcglobal.net.
2017 Midyear Meeting and Legislative Seminar Info
The American Council of the Blind’s annual midyear meeting and legislative seminar will take place from Saturday, February 25, 2017 to Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. The last day to register for midyear is tomorrow, February 10th! To register, visit http://tinyurl.com/grwhdm8. If you need assistance, contact the national office.
2017 Schedule of Events:
Saturday, February 25: Board meeting
Sunday, February 26: Affiliate presidents’ meeting
Monday, February 27: Legislative seminar
Tuesday, February 28: Meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill
Hotel Information:
Crowne Plaza Alexandria
Room rates: $114/night plus tax
Address: 901 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone number: (703) 683-6000
More information about the meetings and agendas will be available soon. 

Updated 2/27/2017