Dear colleagues in the disability community interested in structured negotiations:

As 2008 begins, we are writing to update everyone on the current status of various structured negotiations initiatives and, most of all, to say "thank you." Thank you to the ACB, AFB, the CCB, to the Bay State Council of the Blind, Illinois Council of the Blind, and other ACB state and local affiliates, to the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, to the leadership, staff, boards and membership of these organizations, and to other individual blind advocates around the country for active participation in and support of the structured negotiations process in 2007.

Everyone who is receiving this letter helped make 2007 another successful year for using structured negotiations to increase the accessibility of information and information technology throughout the United States. Some of you helped during negotiations by testing and providing valuable feedback on accessible pedestrian signals (APS), tactile point-of-sale (POS) devices, braille financial information, and accessible web pages. Others of you have met with corporate training staff to ensure that our agreements are successfully implemented, and with business staff of some of the world's largest corporations to convince them of the need for, and importance of, accessible information and information technology.

Still others have given us critical feedback from the field: telling us about Talking ATMs that are broken, inaccessible elements on web pages, braille financial statements that are late, staff who need re-training, APS that need maintenance or POS devices that are not where they should be. Without this feedback, settlement agreements would be words on paper, and not accessibility in our daily lives.

Equally important, many of you have brought new issues to our attention, issues we hope to report on favorably in next year's annual message. For all this and so much more, we express our deep gratitude.

Below is a sampling of our work in 2007. Please don't hesitate to contact either of us if you have any questions about anything in this message, or if you have issues you think would benefit from structured negotiations. We look forward to further collaboration in 2008, and wish you and yours a year full of peace, joy, and accessibility.

Lainey and Linda

(We can be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 1-800-332-6177.)

Structured Negotiations Highlights, 2007

(1) Agreements Signed: In 2007, three new agreements were signed using structured negotiations instead of litigation. This brings the total number of agreements signed to 28. (The first settlement agreement using structured negotiations was signed in 1999 with Citibank on the issue of Talking ATMs.)

APS Agreement with the City and County of San Francisco: The California Council of the Blind (CCB), The San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, and blind advocate Damien Pickering signed a landmark agreement with San Francisco in 2007 requiring the city to spend at least $1.6 million over two and a half years equipping all crosswalks of at least 80 intersections with accessible pedestrian signals (APS). Approximately 500 APS have already been installed. Further information about the APS agreement can be found on the LightHouse's web site at www.lighthouse-sf.org/AccessiblePedestrianSignals.php.

Radio Shack Web and POS Agreement: In 2007 Radio Shack signed an agreement with ACB, the CCB, and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) addressing the company's web site and retail stores. Radio Shack became the first non-bank national retailer to sign an agreement as a result of structured negotiations requiring that www.radioshack.com comply with Level AA (Priorities 1 and 2) of WCAG 1.0. The company is actively working toward that goal. The agreement also requires installation of at least one tactile point-of-sale device at every Radio Shack store in the United States. The devices have already been installed in over 5,000 stores.

7-Eleven POS Agreement: The AFB, ACB and CCB also used structured negotiations to reach an agreement with 7-Eleven requiring installation of POS devices in over 6,000 7-Eleven stores across the country. Over the next 18 months, all flat-screen POS units in all U.S. 7-Eleven stores will be replaced with units that have tactile keypads to allow private and independent entry of PINs and other confidential information.

(2) Agreements Monitored: We continue to monitor the settlement agreements that have been negotiated in past years, and encourage each of you to let us know about any issues with any of the companies mentioned below. This year, monitoring highlights include the following.

Talking ATMs: Banks continue to install Talking ATMs pursuant to agreements reached as a result of structured negotiations. As of December 2007, every Wells Fargo ATM in the country is now a Talking ATM, and Bank of America has already installed over 11,000 Talking ATMs. Other banks and retailers that have signed Talking ATM agreements as a result of the structured negotiations process are Citibank, Washington Mutual, Citizens Bank, Sovereign Bank, Union Bank of California, LaSalle Bank, Bank One (now Chase), Fleet (now Bank of America), First Union (now Wachovia) and 7- Eleven. The advocacy efforts of the American Council of the Blind, California Council of the Blind, the Bay State Council of the Blind, and other ACB affiliates in Utah, Iowa, North Carolina, Illinois and Florida and individual blind advocates across the country have made these agreements possible. The Disability Law Center in Massachusetts and Equip for Equality in Illinois are integrally involved in monitoring efforts with the banks in those states.

Accessible Web Sites: As a result of structured negotiations, many banks have agreed to bring their web sites into compliance with Priorities 1 and 2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and there is widespread agreement that the banking industry is at the forefront of on-line accessibility in the private sector. Bank of America, Sovereign Bank, LaSalle Bank and Washington Mutual are among the banks whose web sites we continue to monitor, working with the institutions as issues arise. This year, for example, thanks to efforts by the Bay State Council of the Blind and blind advocates in Massachusetts, Citizens Bank agreed to remove a visual captcha on www.citizensbank.com that had been placed on the site after accessibility improvements had been made. We are using structured negotiations to work with other financial institutions and retailers to make their web sites accessible and to eliminate visual captchas, and hope to be announcing additional agreements on these issues over the next 12 months.

Tactile Point-of-Sale Devices: As a result of structured negotiations advocacy by the AFB, ACB and CCB, five national retailers have so far agreed to replace flat-screen point-of-sale devices at certain cash registers in each store with units that have tactile keypads. Without these keypads, blind customers must disclose their PIN, and other confidential information, in order to use a debit card or other PIN-based payment cards. This year, in addition to signing new agreements with Radio Shack and 7-Eleven, we continued to monitor earlier agreements with Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Trader Joe's. Tens of thousands of tactile devices have already been installed pursuant to these agreements, and thousands more will be installed in 2008. (Trader Joe's tactile units were delayed due to software and hardware problems that the company is working diligently to fix. We hope very soon to be announcing that the tactile units are up and running in Trader Joe's stores across the country.) We also continue to monitor our point of sale agreements with Wal-Mart and Safeway negotiated on behalf of the ACB, the CCB and AFB. Positive negotiations with several other national retailers on POS devices are ongoing.

Braille and Other Alternate Formats: Accessible financial information is a guaranteed right under federal and state law, and we continue to monitor settlement agreements providing for alternate formats. As a result of structured negotiations, the following institutions are providing monthly statements in braille and other formats: Bank of America, American Express, Wells Fargo, Sovereign Bank, LaSalle Bank, Union Bank of California, Citizens Bank, and Washington Mutual. Positive negotiations with other financial service providers are ongoing.

As with all issues, feedback from the community is critical in our efforts to monitor the effectiveness of our agreements and company implementation. This year, thanks to steadfast commitment by individual blind advocates in Massachusetts and Tennessee, American Express improved the delivery time for braille statements. If you are reading this and not receiving your financial information in a timely manner in a format that is effective, we hope you will call your financial institution today and ask for what you need.

(3) Ongoing Negotiations: We are in ongoing structured negotiations with the following companies: Rite Aid, CVS, Target, UCSF Medical Center, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. These companies are working in good faith with us and representatives of the blind community, including AFB, ACB, CCB and individual blind advocates, and we hope to be able to announce additional agreements in the coming year. Finally, we have approached several other companies who have not yet committed to the structured negotiations process, and hope to have positive news soon on that front as well.

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