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Resolutions 2018

These are proposed drafts of resolutions to be brought before the 2018 Treasure State convention for their approval or denial. They will not become NFB of Montana resolutions unless they pass.

Resolution 2018-01 Regarding the Education of Blind Children

WHEREAS, far too many of Montana’s blind children are not receiving quality blindness education services due to a lack of qualified professional educators of the blind in the areas of Orientation and Mobility, Braille, and assistive technology, as well as other barriers to their Free and Appropriate Education; and

WHEREAS, 70 percent of Montana’s children are educated in only 7 of the state’s 400 plus school districts, a demography which clearly indicates that most Local Education Agencies in Montana are comprised of relatively small enrollments and resources; and

WHEREAS, most Montana Local Education Agencies, which according to federal and state laws carry the singular responsibility to assure a Free and Appropriate Public Education for blind students, struggle to meet special education requirements due to systemic problems of fiscal and human resource shortages and uncertainty regarding how to implement well-established practices to best educate each blind child; and

WHEREAS, most of Montana’s Local Education Agencies require statewide assistance to fulfill these responsibilities; and

WHEREAS, current statewide assistance for blind students is provided by the consultative services of the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind, as well as Orientation and Mobility Instructors contracted by the Montana Independent Living Project, each of which is a valiant yet inadequate attempt to satisfy both the spirit and the letter of federal and state laws and regulations which mandate minimal public education standards for every student; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Montana is committed to improving Montana’s blindness education services, including Braille literacy, use of the long white cane, and assistive technology, through progressive advocacy, alliances with parents of blind children, and collaboration with State and Local Education Agencies: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled this 23rd day of September, 2018, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization call on all parties to meet, plan, and collaborate to improve statewide education services for Montana’s blind children; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge Montana government, including the Governor, the Legislature, the Office of Public Instruction, the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind, and Local Education Agencies, to take all appropriate and necessary actions to comply with and strengthen existing laws, regulations, and policies to assure that quality Early Childhood and K-12 education is available to every blind student in Montana.

Resolution 2018-02 Regarding Shared O & M Services

WHEREAS It is well understood that early Orientation & Mobility (O&M) evaluation and instruction is critical; and

WHEREAS Research has proven, and O&M Specialists agree, that the benefits of social integration and inclusion in home communities and schools enables children to safely explore and interact with their world; and

WHEREAS When infants and children understand their environment, they feel safe, thus creating confidence, self-reliance, a sense of well-being, increased motivation, and independence; and

WHEREAS Those in need of specialized rehabilitation O&M skills require trained, qualified O&M instructors; and

WHEREAS The availability of O&M instructors in Montana is limited and not commonly available through the school system service delivery model; and

WHEREAS The state of Montana, the fourth largest state in the nation, covering over 147,000 square miles, is slightly larger than the entire country of Japan; and

WHEREAS This geographic vastness imposes further obstacles to providing cost efficient and available specialized rehabilitation O&M services; and

WHEREAS The availability to provide O&M services to students can be restricted by their agency’s program protocols and limited scope and scale of service, effectively rendering O&Ms unable to manage students residing within their own communities; and

WHEREAS Currently, Montana’s available O&M Specialists reside within three primary host agencies: the Montana School for the Deaf & the Blind (MSDB), the Montana Independent Living Project (mILp), and the Montana Blind & Low Vision Services (MBLVS), supplemented by a handful of independent O&M contractors; and

WHEREAS The solution is to foster a shared vision among the host agencies and independent contractors to work toward the same desired goals by partnering and problem-solving, thereby mitigating or eliminating obstacles to providing O&M instruction; and

WHEREAS mILp is open to be utilized as an administrative entity and become the employer on record for host agencies and independent contractor O&Ms; and

WHEREAS mILp brings its statewide employer status, administrative capacity, knowledge, skills, and presence to better provide O&M services to the residents of the state of Montana; and

Whereas An arrangement would be made through mILp where current state or independent O&M instructors previously restricted from providing services to those in their communities would actually be able to serve those in need by using mILp as a pass-through agency; and

WHEREAS If, during these pre-arranged and mutually agreed-upon cases, the O&M instructors would be paid for their time by mILp, the advantages would be numerous: resources will be leveled, travel time reduced, and most importantly, those in need can and will be served: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled on this 23rd day of September, 2018, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization endorse, encourage, and vow to participate in the development of a shared vision and goal for Montana’s blind and low vision students which will allow mILp to facilitate the necessary conversations, meetings, and discussions to bring this innovative proposal to fruition.

Resolution 2018-03 Regarding Parental Rights for the Blind

WHEREAS Blind individuals continue to face unfair, preconceived, and unnecessary societal biases as well as antiquated attitudes regarding their ability to successfully parent their children; and

WHEREAS Blind individuals face these biases and preconceived attitudes in family and dependency law proceedings where custody and visitation are at stake and in public and private adoption, guardianship, and foster care proceedings; and

WHEREAS Because of these societal biases and antiquated attitudes, children of blind parents are unnecessarily being removed from their parents’ care or being restricted from enjoying meaningful time with their parents; and

WHEREAS as a result children are being denied the opportunity to enjoy the experience of living in loving homes with blind parents or other blind caregivers; and

WHEREAS it has been demonstrated that the effective use of non-visual techniques and other alternative methods enable a blind parent or prospective blind parent to discharge parental responsibilities as successfully as a parent who is not blind; and

WHEREAS the National Federation of the Blind of Montana believes strongly that no child should be removed from the custody and care of a blind parent or caregiver based solely on their blindness: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled on this 23rd day of September, 2018, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization affirm that a parent’s blindness shall not serve as the sole basis for denial or restriction of visitation or custody in family or dependency law cases, when the visitation or custody is determined to be otherwise in the best interest of the child; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work diligently to pass a law protecting the parental rights of blind parents in Montana through the establishment of procedural safeguards that require adherence to the ADA and respect for the due process and equal protection rights of blind parents or prospective blind parents in the context of child welfare, foster care, family law and adoption.

Resolution 2018-04 Regarding BLVS Instructional Staff

WHEREAS, due to significant budget cuts, Montana Blind and Low Vision Services is operating under a hiring freeze expected to last until July, 2019; and

WHEREAS, the hiring freeze applies to the instructional staff positions of Blind and Low Vision Services, positions critical to providing vocational rehabilitation and independent living services for blind clients of the agency; and

WHEREAS, blind Montanans have no options for instructional services other than those provided by the Orientation and Mobility Instructors and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists of Blind and Low Vision Services; Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled this 23rd day of September, 2018, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization call on Blind and Low Vision Services to fill vacant instructional staff positions immediately and without delay.

Resolution 2018-05 Regarding the payment of subminimum wages to Workers with Disabilities

WHEREAS, Being employed and earning a living wage give social and economic stability, dignity, and purpose to the life of the worker; and

WHEREAS, Being employed and earning a subminimum wage is demeaning, demoralizing, and discriminatory, and keeps a worker from reaching his or her full potential; and

WHEREAS, In 1938, policy makers, acting on a laudable desire to integrate people with disabilities into the work force, enacted Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act>, authorizing the U.S. Department of Labor to issue special wage certificates to employers of people with disabilities, permitting them to pay these workers less than the federal minimum wage, based on the erroneous belief, long since disproved, that workers with disabilities cannot be productive employees; and

WHEREAS, The payment of subminimum wages has even been promoted as an opportunity for the disabled worker to experience the tangible and intangible benefits of work, and has been masked as a compassionate offering of a work opportunity that would otherwise not be available; and

WHEREAS, Although some entities have claimed that the special minimum wage certificates are an essential stepping stone to competitive, gainful employment in the general workforce, studies have shown that 95% of workers with disabilities employed in facilities paying subminimum wages do not transition to competitive, gainful employment and therefore spend their whole lives working for subminimum wages; and

WHEREAS, The subminimum wage of a disabled worker is determined by a periodic “time study”, which compares the time it takes for a disabled worker to complete a certain task with that of a mythical nondisabled worker; and

WHEREAS, This practice is discriminatory due to differing work and equipment conditions beyond the worker’s control, the lack of oversight and enforcement for the special subminimum wage certificates by the Wage and Hour Division , the lack of consistency in the time study tests done by employers, and the singling out of disabled workers for this minimum wage determination, since the general workforce is not held to the same standards; and

WHEREAS, Policy developments regarding transitioning disabled youth from school to work through the use of additional support services, individualized employment plans and training, and the prioritization of competitive integrated employment as the preferred outcome as outlined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) are consistent with the goals of this resolution and the intent to shift away from the employment of workers with disabilities in subminimum wage environments; and

Whereas, the National Federation of the Blind of Montana believes that a person with a disability is just as valuable as any other person and, although employing that person may require the use of nontraditional training and employment strategies, a person with a disability is not inherently less productive than a nondisabled person and, with proper education and training opportunities, we can obtain competitive, integrated employment, turn our dreams into reality, and live the lives we want: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled on this 23rd day of September, 2018, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization call on the Montana Legislature and the Governor to prohibit the use of Special Minimum Wage Certificates and to enact legislation protecting the rights of workers with disabilities to obtain competitive, integrated employment in Montana.

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I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

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