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Words from Washington, January 31, 2003, Vol. 108 No. 2

In this issue. . .




IMAA Reintroduced in the 108th Congress

On January 29, Representative Thomas E. Petri (R-WI-6) introduced H.R. 490, the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA), a bill to improve access to printed instructional materials used by blind or other persons with print disabilities in elementary and secondary schools. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

FY2003 Appropriations Progress Report

... and there is progress. On January 24, the Senate completed its work on an omnibus appropriations bill. Rather than passing 11 separate bills, all of the unfunded programs were combined into one "omnibus" bill. The Senate funded the Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program at $28 million, an increase of $3 million over FY2002, and IDEA personnel preparation at $95 million. The Senate included the following statement in the Personal Preparation section of the Omnibus bill: "The Committee also urges the Department to use a portion of the increased appropriation for the preparation of personnel who serve children with low-incidence disabilities, particularly those with sensory disabilities such as low vision, blindness, and deafness."

The House funded the Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who Are Blind Program at $30 million and the personnel preparation programs at $90 million. The House has appointed conferees to work out the differences between the two bills; the Senate should follow shortly. In the meantime, passage of H.J.Res 13 will carry the government through February 7.

Rep. Boucher Reintroduces DMCA Bill

On January 7, 2003, Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA-9) introduced H.R. 107, the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act of 2002. The bill protects the right of access to information for individuals who are blind or visually impaired in three important ways:

  • it would assure that readers who are blind will be able to access copyright protected digital content such as a book using a text to speech reader. The reaffirmation of fair use contained in this bill assures that such a step would not be interpreted as circumvention of technological copyright protection.
  • the bill protects the right to manufacture, distribute hardware or software that would allow a "non-infringing" use of content such as listening in audio form to a book which had been purchased in electronic form;
  • it would enable researchers to address technological means to access digital content while not running afoul of the threat that such research could result in illegal circumvention of copyright law.

AFB also applauds the legislation's call for proper labeling of copy-protected digital media. It is important for people who are blind to know of any reduced functionality before purchasing such media. If this legislation is enacted, it will be important to convince the Federal Trade Commission to ensure that this labeling is accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

FCC Makes It Easier for Consumers to Submit Comments

The FCC has launched a new, simplified version of ITS Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), called ECFS Express. It is designed specifically with the consumer in mind. ECFS Express focuses on topics most likely to generate consumer interest. Brief comments can be filed by choosing a topic from a list rather than using docket numbers, and requires minimal input by consumers seeking to participate in the Commission's public rulemaking process. To view the current list of topics, go to http://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/ecfs/Upload/. Any comments filed using this system will be available to the public.

Bush Administration Launches Regulations.gov

Regulations.gov is the U.S. Government's new web site that makes it easier for you to participate in Federal rulemaking - an essential part of the American democratic process. On this site, you can find, review, and submit comments on Federal documents that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register, the Government's legal newspaper. As a member of the public, you can submit comments about these regulations, and have the Government take your views into account.


Paul Schroeder, Janina Sajka, Alan Dinsmore, Joy Relton and Barbara LeMoine are contributors to WFW.

WFW is published by the American Foundation for the Blind, Governmental Relations Group, 820 First Street, N.E., Suite 400 Washington, DC 20002, 202-408-0200, Fax: 202-289-7880, E-mail: afbgov@afb.net. Address questions regarding subscriptions or content to Barbara Jackson LeMoine.

This report focuses on the most significant issues currently being addressed by AFB's Governmental Relations Group, and is delivered to you periodically via the Topica "Words from Washington" list. WFW is archived at http://www.afb.org/gov.asp.


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