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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Our 2018 Legislative Memorandum & HB1104

Editor's Note: Below is the Legislative Memorandum we distributed on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 to all 65 members of the Colorado House and 35 members of the Colorado Senate. We hold a Day at the Capitol every year. This year's Valentine's Day at the Capitol focused on passing HB 18-1104, the Family Preservation Safeguards for Parents with Disability, sponsored by Rep. Jessie Danielson. The first hearing on HB 18-1104 will be held on Tuesday, February 20 at 1:30.

MEMORANDUM


To: The Members of the Colorado General Assembly
From: The Members of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Date: February 14, 2018
Re: Legislative Concerns of Blind Citizens

GENERAL BACKGROUND


The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the oldest and largest organization of the blind in the United States and in Colorado. The primary mission of the Federation is to allow the blind to live the lives they want in all areas of life from ensuring basic civil rights to securing employment and education for the blind. Founded officially in 1955, the NFB of Colorado engages in several programs specifically designed to create greater opportunities for the blind. For example, the Federation is the chief sponsor of the Colorado Center for the Blind. The Colorado Center provides training in the alternative skills blind people need to become fully participating members of society. Additionally, NFB offers national and statewide scholarships. We also provide a free talking newspaper called NFB-NEWSLINE® which allows the blind of our state to read the daily newspaper just as easily as their sighted peers. We advocate for the rights of the blind in all areas ranging from education to employment. Where positive changes are happening in the blindness field, there is a good chance that the Federation is involved.

2018 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA


First, we urge this Assembly to adopt H.B. 18-1104, The Family Preservation Safeguards for Parents With Disabilities Act, to create protections for parents who are blind or otherwise disabled from losing their right to parent based on their disability. Second, we strongly support increased state funding for NFB-NEWSLINE® which brings daily newspapers and other periodicals to the blind of Colorado in accessible formats. Third, we would like to make the Assembly aware of important programs of the Federation such as our Colorado Center for the Blind and our academic scholarships.

For further information contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com 

SUPPORT THE FAMILY PRESERVATION SAFEGUARDS FOR PARENTS
WITH DISABILITIES ACT, H.B. 18-1104


The United States Supreme Court has avowed continuously and with conviction that parents’ rights to the care and custody of their children are protected under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Beginning with the seminal 1923 decision in Meyer v. Nebraska. Far too often, however, this fundamental right has not been extended to the millions of parents who are blind and who have other disabilities. In Colorado, current law allows disability to be a factor on which important parental rights can be denied. That is why we urge you to adopt The Family Preservation Safeguards for Parents With Disabilities Act, H.B. 18-1104, introduced by Representative Jessie Danielson.

The problem with current Colorado law is that a parent’s disability can be used to limit important rights such as parenting time, the ability to serve as a foster parent, or to adopt. Additionally, disability can also be used to remove a child from a parent or to appoint burdensome guardianships when not truly necessary. This creates a situation where the parent must then prove that his or her disability does not negatively affect the parent’s ability to insure the best interest of the child. Often times, decisions limiting the right of parents with disabilities are founded on misconceptions and stereotypes about disability and such decisions do not take into account support services that can be offered and adaptive techniques that allow parents with disabilities to care for children safely and meaningfully as others without disabilities. This results in over thirteen percent of parents with disabilities reporting significant forms of discrimination like a child’s removal from the family.

H.B. 18-1104 protects against unfair and unlawful discrimination based on disability by reversing the legal burden necessary for making decisions limiting the right to parent and by requiring that courts and other decision makers consider support services and alternative parenting techniques before making the ultimate decision in all matters affecting parental rights. Because the right to parent is fundamental and afforded great protection, misconceptions and prejudice about a characteristic like disability should not be used to limit this Constitutional right. Under H.B. 18-1104, those arguing that a physical or mental disability does in fact negatively affect the welfare of the child must prove, through clear and convincing evidence, that a parent’s disability does in fact endanger the child’s welfare. In making such a decision, the availability of support services for the parent with a disability and the use of alternative parenting techniques must be considered. Nothing in this legislation will limit the ability of decision makers to protect a child’s safety and well-being if a disability is in fact threatening same. The bill merely creates an environment where the true effect of a parent’s disability will be determined as opposed to the current environment which too easily permits decisions to be made based on both explicit and implicit bias about disability.

For these reasons and others, the Members of the NFB of Colorado urge you to adopt H.B. 18-1104 without delay! Being a parent is one of the most significant and precious gifts that creation bestows upon us as humans. Now it is time to eradicate discrimination based on disability which unfairly interferes with the right to parent.

For further information regarding H.B.18-1104 contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com


INCREASE FUNDING FOR NFB-NEWSLINE® SERVICE


For more than a dozen years, the Colorado General Assembly has funded Colorado’s NFB-NEWSLINE®, providing blind Coloradans the same daily access to newspapers and magazines as their sighted neighbors and family members enjoy. This year, we request that the General Assembly increase its financial support, currently at $60,000.00 a year, of this project so that more publications can be offered and more blind people can access the service. Because NFB-NEWSLINE® is funded through the Disabled Telephone Users Fund (DTUF), Increased funding to NFB-NEWSLINE® does not impact general funds. The DTUF’s funding comes from a very small fee on Lan lines and cell phones in Colorado.

Access to information from the newspapers and magazines of our nation and state play a critical role for each of us as informed and participating citizens. Recognizing this, the National Federation of the Blind created NFB-NEWSLINE® for the blind in the mid-1990s. With this revolutionary system, the blind are able to pick up their touch tone phone, call a toll-free number, open an app on their iOS or Android device and select from more than 450 different newspapers and magazines including the Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette, Fort Collins Coloradan, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and many other national newspapers. Today the phone-in option is still in place, but access via the NFB-NEWSLINE® mobile app has comparable usage statistics. Additional options include online on-demand reading with a web browser, email delivery and, remote content download via specialized devices used by the blind and others with print disabilities. Thus, subscribers have access to the three Colorado newspapers offered, national papers as well as 75 magazines – everything from AARP publications to Time and Wired. There are even accessible and locally-relevant television listings – something impossible to find in an accessible form for the blind otherwise. Additionally, the system provides current weather conditions as well as watches and warnings. Currently, over 1300 blind Coloradans have access to the 450-plus newspapers, 75 magazines, and other publications on the system. About every two minutes, a blind Coloradan is tapping into the vast wealth of information provided by NFB-NEWSLINE®.

With increased funding, the NFB of Colorado will both maintain the system and expand its reach. We will create even greater opportunities to share NFB-NEWSLINE® on additional web based and other technological platforms; expand the number of publications available; train more blind individuals to use the system; and work with the Audio Information Network of Colorado (AINC) to provide more information to the blind of Colorado. AINC is another service funded by the DTUF providing other timely publications and information to our state’s blind and the NFB of Colorado supports increased funding for AIN as well.

For further information regarding NFB-NEWSLINE® contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com

SUPPORT THE COLORADO CENTER FOR THE BLIND AND OTHER NFB PROGRAMS


In your packets, you will find brochures on the Colorado Center for the Blind and fliers for National Federation of the Blind national and local scholarships. These and other programs are of great importance and therefore deserve a specific mention.

Founded in 1988 by the NFB of Colorado, the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) offers world class rehabilitation and adjustment to blindness training to blind/visually impaired individuals in our state and from all over the world. The CCB believes that with the right kind of training and a positive attitude, blindness need not be a tragedy and should not artificially limit a person’s hopes and dreams. The program serves all ages from kids as young as elementary age to seniors. CCB teaches cane travel/orientation and mobility, Braille, technology, independent daily living skills, employment skills, and much, much more. Nearly all of the teaching staff is made up of blind instructors who serve as excellent role models. Please read the CCB brochure in your packet for more information or go to www.cocenter.org. Our Center is located in Littleton and you are always welcome and encouraged to visit.

SCHOLARSHIPS


The National Federation of the Blind, on a national basis, offers thirty scholarships to talented blind men and women attending a post-secondary institution. Over a hundred thousand dollars are awarded each year and provide real opportunity for deserving students. On a state level, the NFB of Colorado offers up to five scholarships to blind men and women attending a post-secondary institution and scholarships range from $1,500.00 to $5,000.00. More information on how to apply is contained in your legislative packet. Please inform your local high schools, colleges and universities as well as any blind/visually impaired post-secondary student you know about these valuable scholarship opportunities.

For further information on any of these issues contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President
National Federation of the Blind of Colorado
Phone: 303 504-5979
Fax: 303 757-3640
Email: slabarre@labarrelaw.com

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Press Release: Our Valentine's Day at the Capitol & HB1104


For Immediate Release

Blind Coloradans Valentine’s Day Visit to Capitol to
Emphasize equal Parenting rights


Contact:
Scott C. LaBarre, President, NFB of Colorado
303-5203584

Dan Burke, Legislative Coordinator, NFB of Colorado
406-546-8546

• Blind parents will meet all 100 state legislators Feb. 14 to share their stories and argue for a bill protecting their rights

• HB 18-1104 receives first hearing February 20

Denver, Colo. (February 13, 2018): Dozens of blind individuals will converge February 14 on the halls of Colorado's Capitol to meet with state legislators and advocate for the passage of a law protecting the rights of parents with disabilities in the Centennial State.

The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO) applauds Rep. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge for introducing HB 18-1104, the Family Preservation for Parents with Disability Act, and will mobilize individuals from around Colorado to work for its passage. Each legislator will receive a Valentine and hear stories of the love found in families headed by blind parents.

"Parenting is a fundamental right, and disability should in no way limit this right,” says NFBCO President Scott C. LaBarre, Esq. “Far too often fears and misconceptions about blindness and disability result in a child being taken away from a parent with a disability without any proof that the disability puts the child at risk. When my wife and I were bringing our children into the world, we were «email»forced to fend off several intrusive questions that parents without a disability never have to face."

The Valentine's Day activity is part of the NFB of Colorado's annual Day at the Capitol, a tradition dating back to the 1970s. Members of the Federation will gather at 11 a.m. in the Old Supreme Court Chambers, Room 220 on the Second Floor of the Capitol.

Colorado is among more than 40 states in which blindness or other disabilities alone could be the determining factor in decisions about parental rights, parenting time and adoption, foster care or guardianship proceedings. HB 18-1104 would protect those rights and further require That the benefits of providing supportive parenting services must be considered by a court in such proceedings. Similar bills are advancing this year in legislatures in Arizona, Hawaii and other states.

HB 18-1104 is slated for its first hearing at 1:30 p.m. February 20 before the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee in HCR 0107. More families headed by blind parents and other parents with disabilities will be at the hearing to speak about their triumphs.

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Note for assigning editors and news directors: The NFB of Colorado will gladly help put you in contact with blind parents around the state to talk with you about how they raise happy, healthy and active children. Potential visuals include any number of activities the families do as part of their lives - sports, scouting, going to parks, doing homework and more.

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About the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado


The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO) is the state's affiliate of the oldest, largest, and most influential nationwide membership organization of blind people. Founded in 1955, the NFBCO advocates for the civil rights and equality of blind Coloradans, and develops innovative education, technology, and training programs to provide the blind and those who are losing vision with the tools they need to become independent and successful. Learn more about the NFB of Colorado at nfbco.org or at theblindcoloradoan.blogspot.com

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About the National Federation of the Blind


The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. Learn more about our initiatives and programs at nfb.org.