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Thursday, March 4, 2021

The March is On. St. Patrick's Day Blind Coloradan-- March 4, 2021

 

National Federation of the Blind of Colorado logo including the tagline Live the Life You Want

Writer, Aggregator: Kevan Worley.
Contributors: Dan Burke & Erin Daley
Here is what you need to know-




"When Fortune knocks, open the door, they say. But why should one make fortune knock, by keeping the door shut?" A quote by Idries Shah, against a green background decorated with wooden shamrocks colored green.

 
It’s Open, It’s Open! Registration for the 2021 Virtual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind

It’s free for all! Plan to attend July 6 through 10. And we can all start dreaming of our 2022 convention in New Orleans. https://www.nfb.org/get-involved/national-convention

Anywhere and Everywhere #NFB21. 

 

KNOW! YOUR! RIGHTS! Thursday, March 11, Mountain Time at 5 P.M.

The second in our Mountain Time at 5 Know Your Rights Series will focus on the rights of blind travelers with canines or canes. We will talk about white cane laws, Americans with Disabilities Act, the most recent airline regulations with regard to guide dogs on airplanes, and much more. As always, Mountain Time at 5 will feature subject matter experts from Colorado and the nation, including Scott LaBarre, attorney and President, NFBCO, experts from our National Association of Guide Dog Users, TBA, and those from leading guide dog schools. More details coming soon, but please mark your calendars for our March 11 Know Your Rights Mountain Time at 5 Zoom! Closed captioning will be available.

    Here are your Zoom Coordinates:

    https://zoom.us/j/97417562247

    Meeting ID: 974 1756 2247

    One tap mobile

    +13462487799,,97417562247#

    Dial by your location:

    +1 346 248 7799

    Meeting ID: 974 1756 2247

Ginger Kutsch's dogs from the Seeing Eye, Easton, a yellow Lab, and Willow, a black Lab, curled up together on a plaid dog bed in front of a fire in a fireplace

Ginger Kutsch's dogs from The Seeing Eye®, Easton and Willow. 

THE 2020 ELECTION: HISTORIC YET DISAPPOINTING, By Scott C. LaBarre, President, National Federation of the Blind of Colorado

Anyone who reads the above title may be fearful that I am about to launch into some political rant about the 2020 General Election. Fear not! Instead, the title refers to the fact that the 2020 General Election was indeed historic for the blind of Colorado but also, in my view, quite disappointing.

For a couple of personal reasons, the election was quite significant. Individually, it was the first time that I could vote absentee in a Presidential election and do so privately and independently. This is because we, in 2019, successfully convinced the Colorado General Assembly to adopt S.B. 19-202, championed by our good friend Senator Jessie Danielson, which allows us to mark our ballot online using assistive technology, print it out, and then return it either through the mail or by dropping it off at an official ballot location. 

As I recall, there were 35 different items on my ballot on which I had to vote.  Many of them were ballot issues and local elections. Using my laptop and JAWS 2020, I was able to access the ballot and read every last word on it. Just like my sighted colleagues, family, friends, and neighbors who were voting by mail, I could look at the questions presented, go and study them, and then make my decision. It is an incredibly liberating experience to do this completely on my own and not rely on anyone else. After I had marked my ballot, I printed it out, placed it in the return envelope provided by my county, and then later dropped it off at a ballot box. 

The added bonus for this election was that it represented the first time our son, Alex, had ever voted. We were able to discuss all the issues and candidates, and voting became a family affair. Unfortunately, Emily could not vote yet because she is only sixteen, but she did help. After we had all filled out our ballots, we decided we would celebrate our democracy by going to dinner. First, we stopped by the local library and dropped off our ballots, and Emily was the one who carried them to the box and dropped them in. Afterward, we had a great family dinner at Rice Bistro, a great local pan-Asian restaurant that I highly recommend. 

I was quite cheerful about the election because we as blind Coloradans could use the vote by mail system as conveniently as our sighted peers. I had hoped that thousands of blind Coloradans would join me in taking advantage of the ease and convenience that comes with absentee voting. After all, the vast majority, some 94 percent in 2020, of non-disabled voters in Colorado did, in fact, vote absentee, and I assumed that it would be the same for us, especially during the pandemic where we could vote safely in our homes. 

It is at this point where my disappointment creeps into the picture. According to information from the Secretary of State’s Office, less than 100 of us returned our ballots by using our accessible vote by mail system. We also have evidence that many more individuals attempted to use the system but did not actually complete the process. For example, in Denver, 202 individuals accessed the online ballot marking tool, but only 14 of them actually returned their ballot after using the tool, a staggeringly low 6.9 percent. Now, I suspect that the vast majority of blind voters did vote absentee, but instead of using the accessible ballot marking tool, they relied on someone to fill out the ballot for them. 

This leads us to wonder why the accessible and private system is so underused, and I think we know the answer. The current approach requires us to print out a hard copy of our ballot and then return that ballot like our non-disabled colleagues. We have learned that the major obstacle is that very few folks have either their own or easy access to a printer.  

When we ran our bill two years ago, I never imagined that lack of a printer would become such an issue. Personally, I have always had one or more printers ever since law school – in other words, for over 30 years. I guess, however, I am kind of old-fashioned. Most people don’t own printers any longer and rely on their smart technology to do pretty much everything. It appears to be no different for our community. 

What are we going to do about this problem? Well, we intend to persuade our friends in the General Assembly to revise the law we got passed two years ago to allow for electronic return as well as electronic ballot delivery. We have learned that military and other citizens who live overseas but are still Colorado citizens are able to not only receive their ballot electronically, but also return it electronically via fax, email, or a secure online portal. It should be no different for us. 

Our good friend Senator Danielson is carrying a bill that would allow us to return our ballots electronically. As of the time I am writing this, she has not officially dropped the bill, but I expect it to be introduced the week of March 1st. Once that happens, you can count on the fact that we will be urging all of you to call and email your Senators and Representatives and request that they support the bill.  Stay tuned to the usual NFBCO channels. 

The right to vote privately and independently is fundamental to our democracy.  Because of our advocacy, it is possible for us to exercise that right on terms of equality with our non-disabled colleagues whether we are doing so in person or absentee. We will strengthen our right to vote by revising our law to permit electronic return. Once we make this legislative fix, I urge all of you to vote using the accessible system. In my opinion, it is the most effective and convenient way to fulfill our civic duty and therefore protect our rights. Until we changed the law in 2019, I never realized how rewarding and liberating it is to vote via absentee ballot and to do so entirely on my own.

 

Calling Congress – Is There Anybody Home? By Dan Burke

This year, the Washington Seminar, the annual event of the National Federation of the Blind that sees more than 500 blind Americans traverse the halls of our nation’s Capital with white canes and guide dogs, was instead a Zoom event. Rather than the thrilling sounds of dozens of white canes tapping across the marble floors of Congressional office buildings well-mixed with the jingling of dog harnesses, the most common sounds may have been, “Sorry, can you hear me now?” But that is not to say that there were not many positives. 

First and foremost, our four legislative priorities for 2021 were presented to nearly every one of the 535 members of Congress, or at least their aides. The Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA) was reintroduced in both the House and the Senate, and cosponsors to those bills, H.R. 431 and S. 212, were already being added. At this writing, there are 41 cosponsors on the House bill, and eight on the Senate version. Of Colorado’s delegation, Reps. DeGette and Crow are listed again as cosponsors, and both cosponsored the ATAA in the last session of Congress. Along with the ATAA, we brought forth proposed legislation on accessibility for home-use medical devices, for creating federal regulations on web and app accessibility, and for voting access across the United States. 

In Colorado, the seven appointments we had over the week of February 8 on Zoom meant that 30 to 40 Colorado Federationists were on each of those calls, including staff and students from the Colorado Center for the Blind. Of course, to keep things manageable only a handful of us were able to talk at each meeting, but more Coloradans were able to participate than ever before. That also meant that a number of members who might not have otherwise been able to attend in-person or who had never had the opportunity were able to talk about bills close to their hearts. No question, this all makes the NFB of Colorado stronger. 

The downside was that the Washington Seminar week, February 8 to 11, was when the Senate scheduled the impeachment trial. Immediately, we knew our chances were limited of meeting with either Senator. Reps. DeGette and Neguse were named as managers for the House, limiting our chances to meet with either of them, too. In the end, we met with legislative aides in seven of the nine Colorado offices, but not a single actual member of Congress. That was more than disappointing. As for our two new delegation members, Senator Hickenlooper and Congresswoman Boebert, they couldn’t get it together enough to schedule even an aide to meet with us. In the 20 years I’ve been making appointments for Washington Seminar, first for Montana and now Colorado, I’ve never had this happen before. Can you say, “Unprecedented”? 

Well, I know what Kevan Worley would say, and I agree with him, “Forward, always forward!” And that’s how we will continue with the issues that matter most to us as blind people. Thanks to all of you who joined a call and those of you who spoke in a meeting. In the National Federation of the Blind, we take on things that are hard because they are important to us. We never slump back in our chairs and decide they are too hard. Shoulder to shoulder, we continue to press forward, to make progress, and in the process we grow stronger as a movement and as individuals, because we are determined to live the lives we want. 

You can read more about our four 2021 Legislative priorities on the Washington Seminar page. Below is the list. 

Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA) (H.R. 431, S. 212)

 

Medical Device Nonvisual Accessibility Act

 

Twenty-First Century Mobile Apps and Website Accessibility Act

 

Americans with Disabilities Voting Rights Act

 

Walking While Blind in Manhattan During the Pandemic, by Peter Slatin

From the aggregator: If one would really like to delve into the philosophy, policies, activities, innovation, and empowerment found in the National Federation of the Blind? I urge the reading of our national flagship publication, The Braille Monitor. March Monitor features a wonderful article from Peter Slatin. Peter is a 2015 graduate of our Colorado Center for the Blind. He also serves with distinction on the Center’s Board of Directors. Here’s how Monitor editor Gary Wunder introduces the article. Then, click that link and enjoy all that the March Monitor has to offer you.


Peter Slatin standing outside the Loews Regency Hotel at 540 Park Avenue in New York City


From the Editor: Peter Slatin is the founder and president of Slatin Group, a New York City-based firm that provides education and training to the hospitality and tourism industry on service to people with disabilities. He is also an award-winning journalist and a 2020-2021 Encore.org Public Voices Fellow. We are fortunate that he is a frequent contributor to this magazine and chooses to lend his talents to the National Federation of the Blind. Here is what he says about dealing with the pandemic as a traveler in New York City.

 

COVID Vaccine Websites Violate Disability Laws, Create Inequity for the Blind

From the aggregator: When the National Federation of the Blind advocates for completely equal accessibility, there can be lives at stake. Making medical devices completely accessible or insisting on website and app accessibility can be about life and death. This is particularly true during this pandemic, as you will see if you read this story from Kaiser Health News. It is not just about living the life you want; in many cases, it’s about life itself.

Many COVID vaccination registration and information websites at the federal, state, and local levels violate disability rights laws, hindering the ability of blind people to sign up for a potentially lifesaving vaccine, a KHN investigation has found. …

 

National Federation of the Blind of Colorado Organization of Parents of Blind Children Celebrates Learning Box Program Early Success, Seeks More Families to Participate!

Our first two learning box activities were hugely successful!

 

A student making a self-portrait using different shapes (sparkly blue circle for head, brown rectangle for body)

Your first learning box activity lesson is on us!

Subscription Prices and Options:

$25 for a month to month subscription

$125 for a 6-month subscription

$250 for a 12-month subscription

Note: Scholarships are available. We don’t want any family left out!

We will continue to have learning boxes on the fourth Sunday of each month for students. Here is a tentative list of upcoming learning box activities:

March: Science (fun experiments)

April: Literacy (create your own story)

May: Science (exploring plant life)                                                                          

To join in the fun for our March learning box activity, contact us at coloradoparentsofblindchildren@gmail.com. 

Any donations are greatly appreciated.

We are indebted to the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults and the Colorado Center for the Blind for their vast knowledge, inspiration, and support for our emerging dynamic education initiatives.

Sincerely,

Amira Lucas-President, Colorado Organization Parents of Blind Children, a proud division of NFBCO.

Michelle Chacon, Teacher of blind students and Chairperson, NFBCO Children’s Education Initiative.

Martin Becerra-Miranda, Director of Youth Services, Colorado Center for the Blind.

 

And, For, You, Older Kids. It’s National Federation of the Blind State and National Scholarship Time! Apply Now!

NFB national scholar deadline is March 31. Many Colorado students have found support and success through our National Program. The state scholarship deadline is April 15. The NFBCO scholarship committee will be hosting an information seminar on increasing scholarship opportunities for blind students in late March. Be sure to check Colorado Talk for further information. In the meantime, apply! And spread the word about our, “robust!” scholarship programs.

 

Don’t Miss Your Next Chapter Meeting!

For a list of chapter meetings, dates, times, and Zoom links, email assistance@nfbco.org, or leave a message on the hotline 303-778-1130 ext. 219. This email address and phone number is one of the best ways to communicate when you have questions about the programs and services we offer for members and non-members. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.

 

That’s It for This Edition of the Blind Coloradan.

Forward, always Forward!

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