AFB strives to keep people who are blind or who have low vision and their families up to date on the policy issues that affect us all. Here are a few recent news stories we found particularly noteworthy.
After Months Of Special Education Turmoil, Families Say Schools Owe Them—NPR, June 16, 2021
"Roughly 7 million children in the U.S. receive special education services under a decades-old federal law — or did, until the pandemic began. Many of those services slowed or stopped when schools physically shut down in spring 2020." Families have had to advocate aggressively for compensatory services — or pay someone else to do it. "The results are deeply inequitable, with income, language and knowledge barriers preventing many families from fighting for their child's rights."
AFB Director of Research, Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum notes, "Like the parents who shared their experiences in the article, family members who shared their experiences in the two Access & Engagement studies are not blaming teachers for the challenges their children experienced, lack of services, or failure of their children to progress in their learning. They too view the challenges as a result of a virtual model that was hastily put together with no or little consideration given to the needs of children who are blind or have low vision, especially those who also have additional disabilities. Children who experienced a significant vision loss prior to the pandemic often needed specialized services that meet their unique needs due to their visual impairment to be able to obtain a free and appropriate education under IDEA. With the gap widened by the pandemic, it is imperative these children receive compensatory services when necessary. However, the services need to come from highly qualified professionals who understand their unique needs."
AFB's research into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education for students who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision continues. There's still time for you to share your story.
G.O.P. Bills Rattle Disabled Voters: ‘We Don’t Have a Voice Anymore’—The New York Times, June 14, 2021
"Legislation across the country would restrict voting methods and accommodations that people with disabilities are disproportionately likely to rely on."
AFB strongly supports efforts to expand voting rights for people with disabilities, including and especially people who are blind or have low vision. The Senate is currently considering the For the People Act (S.1), which would seek to improve voter registration, expand vote-by-mail and absentee voting systems, and enact other reforms that would remove barriers to voting. However, AFB stands in solidarity with the National Coalition for Accessible Voting in expressing concern about any effort that restricts blind and low vision voters’ access to an independent, private ballot. Read AFB's Statement on Introduction of S.1, 'For the People Act', authored by AFB's Chief Public Policy and Research Officer Stephanie Enyart.
Disability Groups' Open letter to all New York City Candidates: Make Your Campaigns Accessible—Center for Disability Rights, April 28, 2021
Says Sarah Malaier, AFB's Senior Advisor, Public Policy & Research, "It is important to encourage local campaigns to be accessible, just like the national ones, and this year will primarily see state and local contests. It's part of building the pipeline. Local politics has a very real impact on our day-to-day life, and as people move up in their political careers, they should bring these practices along with them."
- AFB's tips on making your campaign accessible
- National Council on Independent Living's Including People with Disabilities in Your Political Campaign: A Guide for Campaign Staff