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 Claire Stanley or Clark Rachfal.
The Washington Connection is updated any time we have new information to share with you. The following articles are available as of June 26, 2020. Messages 1, 3, 7, and 8 are new.
- New! One Number, Two Mainstreams, Three Great Ways to Listen
- Information about the 2020 Census
- New! What You Can Do If You Didn’t Get Your Economic Impact Payment Yet
- Statement of Solidarity from the ACB Board of Directors and the Chair of the ACB Multicultural Affairs Committee
- Challenges with Telehealth and E-Learning Technology?
- Agreement Made for June Accessible Absentee Voting Program
- New! Congressional Hearings Open to the Public
- New! Survey on LabCorp’s Inaccessible Kiosks
Thank you for calling the Washington Connection.
For years, ACB has used a service called Audio Now to provide our content to you over the phone. We had two numbers — one for ACB Radio streams and the other for ACB publications, such as “The ACB Braille Forum.” Well, say good-bye to having to keep track of two numbers!
Audio Now has changed its name to Zeno Media. With this change, we are introducing one number for all of ACB’s content — both ACB Radio and publications. Call anytime, 24/7, and listen to your heart’s content. It’s as easy as using a telephone. The number is (518) 906-1820.
While we’re on the subject of change, we have implemented two versions of ACB Radio Mainstream — Mainstream East (all times Eastern) and Mainstream West (all times Pacific). This allows us to have more scheduling and listening flexibility on Mainstream. We have introduced many new shows with still more to come. Now, when you hear scheduled show times, they will apply to both time zones. For example: since Main Menu plays on Friday night at 9 p.m., you will hear it at 9 p.m. Eastern on Mainstream East and at 9 p.m. Pacific on Mainstream West. We hope this enhances your ability to tune in to the shows that may have been trickier to catch at a comfortable time.
Remember, there are three ways to tune in to ACB Radio:
- On the web at www.acbradio.org;
- Using ACB Link for Android and iOS, as well as Amazon Echo devices and various other radio listening options on these platforms;
- Your telephone by dialing (518) 906-1820.
The 2020 U.S. Census is underway! The decennial census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and is important to determine Congressional representation and federal funding for states and local governments.
This year, there are three ways that U.S. residents may respond: online, by phone, or by mail. To view and listen to a PSA about how to take the census, visit https://2020census.gov/en/partners/psa-toolkit/how-to-take.html?utm_campaign=20191203msc20s1ccallrs&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.
To fill out the census online, go to http://www.my2020census.gov. To take the census via phone, call toll-free 1-844-330-2020. The 12-digit code sent to your residence by U.S. mail is not necessary to complete the census by phone or online. The census is intended to be completed only once per person and once per household, so what you will need to complete the census by phone or online is the address of where you live the majority of the time.
To get a hard-copy braille version of the census information, contact Kim Charlson at Perkins, (617) 972-7249.
Most of us know that under the fourth stimulus package, also known as the CARES Act, Congress included a provision that gives Americans a recovery rebate of up to $1,200, as well as another $500 if that person has a dependent child. Such payments provide Americans financial assistance in a difficult time, especially those who have lost work as a result of the pandemic. However, many individuals have reported that they have not received the rebate, also known as the economic impact payment (EIP). If you received your 2018 or 2019 income tax refund via direct deposit, the payment should have been automatically deposited in the account on record. Similarly, if you receive Social Security benefits, the check should have been deposited into the related account. Checks began to go out in mid-April.
But if you still have not received your EIP, you may need to take additional steps. The United Way has created a hotline where people can do their best to help you determine what steps you need to take. United Way is only a nonprofit, not the federal government, so they cannot promise that they can fix the problem. However, they are working hard to assist people struggling with the process. You can contact the EIP hotline through your local 211 system. If you call 211, explain that you need to talk to someone involved with the EIP hotline. Or, to call the hotline directly, call 1-844-322-3639.
Statement of Solidarity from the ACB Board of Directors and the Chair of the ACB Multicultural Affairs Committee
The American Council of the Blind believes that every human deserves dignity and respect. During these times when our voices seem sequestered by the weight of social distance, we loudly affirm our core values, echoing the collective voice of like-minded organizations who labor daily to dismantle the structural barriers that stand in the way of equal opportunity and full inclusion in our society.
Our hearts cry out in pain for the family of George Floyd and for all those victims of social and racial injustice. ACB calls upon our leaders to exercise peace and justice in a manner that embraces our mutual connectedness and lifts up the voices of those silenced by the systemic barriers rooted in historic and blatant prejudice.
ACB was founded on the democratic principle that every individual deserves to have a voice. Taking our core values to heart, let us learn from these challenging times so that we may become stronger as a nation.
ACB’s core values are:
- Integrity & Honesty — That we may have justice for all;
- Respect — That we may all be treated equal;
- Collaboration — That we may work together wherever we may stand;
- Flexibility — That we are willing to change for the common good;
- Initiative — That we not give up, no matter how difficult the obstacles ahead may be.
Let us all be a voice for equality, and in the spirit of disability rights advocate Justin Dart, may we all “Lead on."
Advancements in technology now allow people to receive services remotely from almost anywhere. One does not need to travel to a doctor to receive health advice; one can talk to a doctor over the Internet. Similar technology is being used in a myriad of ways. For instance, universities now offer a plethora of classes online. Such entities use software to provide online lectures and chat programs to talk to students or patients.
Now, in light of the coronavirus, such technology is more appealing than ever. Universities, for example, have completely shut down and classes are only being offered online. If someone needs healthcare, instead of going to a doctor’s office where he might be at risk of contracting the disease, he can utilize telehealth services.
However, many of these online programs are inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired community. Commonly used software programs cannot properly interact with screen-reading software such as JAWS or VoiceOver.
ACB is watching closely to find out about such challenges. Please let Claire Stanley and Clark Rachfal know if you have experienced such inaccessibility. You can call the office at (202) 467-5081, or email them at email@example.com. They will reach out to such providers and investigate how to make such services accessible to blind and visually impaired users.
June 3, 2020 – New York, NY – A federal court has approved an agreement between the New York State Board of Elections (NYSBOE) and disability groups that provides voters a more accessible absentee ballot for the upcoming June 23 Primary Election. Following a lawsuit filed on May 22 by a disability rights coalition, the NYSBOE has agreed to email accessible absentee ballots to qualified voters with disabilities. Voters can access an Accessible Absentee Ballot Request Form on the Board of Elections’ website, located at https://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/Voting/NYAccessibleElectronicAbsBallotApp.pdf.
“We are encouraged by the steps taken to ensure that people with disabilities have the opportunity to protect both their safety and their vote, via absentee ballot, in the upcoming June primary. However, there is still more to be done before the general election in November for the system to be fully accessible,” says the coalition, which includes Disability Rights New York, the American Council of the Blind—New York, Inc., Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Disability Rights Advocates, National Federation of the Blind of New York State, Inc., represented by Eve L. Hill of Brown Goldstein & Levy LLP and several New York voters with disabilities, including Rasheta Bunting, Karen Gourgey, Keith Gurgui, and Jose Hernandez.
The terms of the agreement, which only applies to the June 23, 2020 Primary Election, include the following:
- A voter with a print disability can request an accessible absentee ballot using the accessible request form available online.
- The voter must send via email their completed request form to their county BOE on or before June 16. Voters can sign the form with text input or e-signature.
- The county BOE will send the accessible absentee ballot to the voter by email as soon as possible after it receives the voter’s request form. The county BOE also mails a postage paid return envelope and oath envelope to the voter.
- The voter will receive an email with the accessible ballot, and the voter can mark their selections on the computer and print it out at home.
- The voter must sign the oath envelope anywhere on the envelope, then put the ballot in the oath envelope. The voter must put the oath envelope in the larger envelope provided with paid postage by the county BOE. A voter must get the ballot in the mail by June 22, or hand-deliver it to the county BOE by June 23, 2020.
This agreement does not provide an online ballot submission option, and only applies to the upcoming June election. Plaintiffs will continue their pursuit for a fully accessible absentee ballot for the November 2020 General Election and all subsequent elections.
One significant opportunity Americans have is the ability to sit in on most Congressional hearings, both in the Senate and House of Representatives. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. ACB staff, although doing it virtually, have recently had the opportunity to listen in on several Congressional hearings in the last month or so on topics related to what our legislature plans to do to remedy issues that have arisen from the coronavirus. And, after attending the hearings, Americans then have the right to submit comments that will be included in the record. What a great opportunity to engage in our government.
Congress includes a myriad of different committees and subcommittees that discuss all kinds of different topics, such as transportation, employment, the military, education, and commerce. Both houses of the government have their own separate committees that work on drafting legislation in their given areas of expertise.
So, ACB has engaged in the process in a few recent hearings. One of these hearings, held by the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, known as the HELP committee, talked about the growing use of telehealth services by doctors across the country. But more importantly, ACB staff had the ability to write comments about the positive and negative impact such services will have on the blind and low vision community. ACB got to express our concerns to Congress. What happens when the telehealth platform used is not JAWS-compatible? What if my doctor insists that, unlike other patients, I have to come in in person because of the inaccessibility of the software?
Similarly, the same committee held two hearings on what educational services for both universities and K-12 providers will look like in the fall in spite of COVID-19. Again, ACB had the ability to voice the concerns of the blind and low vision community. Will online learning platforms be JAWS-accessible? Will elementary students get the needed time with teachers of the visually impaired? ACB is excited to participate in these hearings and voice our community’s concerns. And remember, any American can do this too. Please listen to the hearings online and let ACB staff know your thoughts and concerns.
Dear ACB members:
In March of this year, ACB joined existing litigation against Quest Diagnostics, a lab company widely located across the U.S., related to the inaccessibility of Quest’s e-kiosk check-in system that patients must use to sign in when they visit the lab. Since that time, another concern with a similar lab provider, LabCorp, has been recognized. To determine how widespread the issues are with this comparable lab provider, we would like those who have used LabCorp to fill out the following survey. The collected data will be invaluable in determining how we might move forward with the issue.
- Have you attempted to access LabCorp’s facilities through the use of the e-kiosk check-in system in the past three years?
- How many times have you attempted to access LabCorp’s e-kiosk check-in system in the past three years?
- How many times have you attempted to access LabCorp’s e-kiosk check-in system in the past three years and were unable to do so independently?
- Have you attempted to access LabCorp’s e-kiosk check-in system and were forced to disclose private information to another person to get help signing in?
- Where are the LabCorp locations that you have attempted to access an e-kiosk check-in system in the past three years?
Please get your responses to Claire Stanley by July 3. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.