These resolutions were passed at the NFB of Montana Treasure State Convention in Helena on September 22, 2018.
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% 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 on this 22nd 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 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 did not pass.
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 the care of their parents 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 22nd 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 on this 22nd 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 www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/14c/>, 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 22nd 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.
Resolution 2018-06 Regarding Accessible Vote by Mail
WHEREAS, Vote by mail is a voting system in which local boards of elections mail a paper ballot to every registered voter and consolidate local polling places into remote voting centers; and
WHEREAS, The reduced costs to local boards of elections, increased convenience to voters, and increased voter turnout that result when a state or local jurisdiction changes its voting system to all vote by mail will likely mean that the trend of states converting to all vote by mail will continue; and
WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) require that jurisdictions that implement vote by mail must provide voters with print disabilities an opportunity to mark their ballot privately and independently at home that is equal to the opportunity provided voters without disabilities; and
WHEREAS, Accessible electronic ballot delivery systems that comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA would enable blind, low vision, deaf-blind, or other print-disabled voters to mark their ballot privately and independently at home or work using a computer and their own access technology: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in Convention assembled on this 22nd day of September, 2018, in the City of Helena, Montana, that this organization demand that Montana state, county, and local jurisdictions include an accessible electronic ballot delivery system that conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA) when they convert to all vote by mail, so that voters with print disabilities can mark their ballot privately and independently at home with the same convenience afforded voters without disabilities.
Resolution 2018-07 Regarding Accessible Ballot-Marking Devices and the Ability to Cast a Secret Ballot
WHEREAS, The ability to cast a secret and anonymous ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy that enables citizens to vote their conscience without fear; and
WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) require that voters with disabilities be afforded an opportunity to exercise their right to vote equivalent to the opportunity afforded to voters without disabilities; and
WHEREAS, Election technology developers, such as Elections Systems and Software (ES&S), Dominion Voting Systems, and Unisyn Voting Solutions have designed accessible ballot-marking devices (BMDs) that produce ballots that are different in size and/or content from the ballot that is hand-marked by the majority of voters; and
WHEREAS, Because the BMD ballots cast by voters with disabilities are different in size and/or content from the hand-marked ballots cast by the majority of voters, the BMD ballots can be identified as having been cast by a voter with a disability and are, as a result, not secret ballots; and
WHEREAS, A state or local board of elections is in violation of Title II of the ADA when it does not provide voters with disabilities the same opportunity to cast a secret ballot that it provides voters without disabilities: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Montana in Convention assembled on this 22nd day of September, 2018, in the City of Helena, Montana, that this organization demand that Montana procure election technology that produces ballots which are the same size and have the same content as hand-marked ballots; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that state and local boards of elections that have procured BMDs which produce ballots that are different in size and content from hand-marked ballots implement procedures that will ensure voters with disabilities have the same opportunity to cast a secret ballot as voters without disabilities.
Resolution 2018-08 Regarding the Establishment of Legislation for Penalties and Restitution for Harming A Guide, Signal, or Service Dog
WHEREAS, Guide, signal, or service dogs are used by many people in Montana; and
WHEREAS, It takes time, patience, and money to breed a guide or service dog, to train a guide or service dog and train a handler, to match a guide or service dog with a handler, and to let their special partnership mature into an experienced working team which may be called upon to face life-and-death situations; and
WHEREAS, Every guide or service dog partnership does not result in a good working team, and about sixty percent of dogs bred to be guide dogs do not make it through the training program, thus becoming "career change" dogs; and
WHEREAS, Data from guide dog schools has shown that 44% of guide dogs have experienced at least one dog attack, and that 89% of guide dog users have experienced interference with or injury of their guide dog from an unleashed loose or aggressive dog while in the performance of its duties in a public space, and
WHEREAS, Statistics from guide dog schools have shown that, although the frequency of dog attacks has remained relatively constant over the past five years, there has been an escalation in the severity of dog attacks and the need for emergency veterinary care for the injured guide or service dog, perhaps due to the increasing popularity of more aggressive breed dogs, and
WHEREAS, Any harm done to a guide, signal, or service dog by any person or any dog owned, harbored, or controlled by any person can have a very devastating and detrimental lifelong impact for both the guide or service dog and the handler, including injury or death to the guide or service dog, the cost of veterinary care, retraining or replacing the guide or service dog, emotional trauma for both the guide or service dog and the handler, and loss wages for the handler; and
WHEREAS, Although Montana law affirms the right of a person with a disability to use a guide, signal, or service dog, it does not establish legal penalties or restitution for the tragic and costly consequences of intentional or unintentional harm done to such a dog by any person or any dog owned, harbored, or controlled by any person; and
WHEREAS, 36 states have adopted laws which provide for civil and criminal penalties and restitution for the theft, injury or death of a guide, signal, or service dog by any person or by a loose or aggressive dog: NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National federation of the Blind of Montana in convention assembled on this 22nd day of September, 2018, in the city of Helena, Montana, that this organization educate law enforcement officers and animal control personnel about the detrimental effects of an attack on a guide, signal, or service dog ; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call for the adoption of a law in Montana which establishes civil and criminal penalties for any person who causes -- or owns a dog which causes -- intentional or unintentional harm to a guide, signal, or service dog, and provides for restitution to the owner of a guide, signal, or service dog.
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.