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National Federation of the Blind and Disability Advocates Charge Federal Health Agency with Civil Rights Violations





After forty years of the federal Rehabilitation Act and a new world of technology, blind people still forced to rely on others to read inaccessible materials
Springfield, Massachusetts (February 10, 2016): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and individual plaintiffs Juan Figueroa, Derek Manners, and Martti Mallinen announced the filing of a major federal lawsuit today in US District Court, District of Massachusetts, Western Division. The lawsuit charges the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through its sub-agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and its CMS sub-contractors, with systemically violating the civil rights of blind Medicare recipients.

The action seeks to require HHS to provide blind individuals meaningful and equally effective access to their Medicare information, as required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Section 504). CMS, a sub-agency of HHS, is the largest single payer for health care in the United States, providing health care coverage to nearly ninety million Americans through Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

CMS regularly communicates information to blind persons via inaccessible print and electronic formats which they cannot read. Mr. Figueroa, Mr. Manners, Mr. Mallinen, and many other NFB members have thus faced or been at risk for loss of benefits and healthcare disruption. For example, Mr. Mallinen has received information about denial of benefits and his right to appeal said denial that he could not read, potentially adversely affecting his appeal rights.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We are outraged that blind people do not have access to their personal Medicare and Medicaid information forty years after the passage of the Rehabilitation act and almost a year after CMS promised to implement a plan for equal access. Today blind people readily access information in more ways than ever before but even large print access, the simplest possible solution for those with sufficient residual vision, is not made available. This continued disregard for the privacy and civil rights of the blind is inexcusable, and blind Americans will not tolerate it.”

At a time when smart technology is presumed to be improving the lives of people with a variety of disabilities, blind Americans who rely on healthcare services provided through Medicare and Medicare contractors are forced to divulge personal and financial data to a sighted third-party when responding to CMS.  Electronic and online materials may not be any more accessible than printed ones. As a result, blind Medicare beneficiaries are often unnecessarily prevented from independently reading, filling out, signing and submitting online forms.

Appropriate auxiliary aids and services for blind individuals may include providing documents in alternative formats such as Braille, large print, audio CD, and digital navigable formats supported by computers and digital talking-book players, transmitted through data CD, e-mail, or other requested media.

The filing follows an investigation launched by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) to establish that there were widespread incidences of communication access barriers in CMS systems. In August 2014, in response to complaints filed with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in 2011 and 2012 under Section 504, CMS entered into an agreement with OCR. The complaints were filed on behalf of blind Medicare beneficiaries, and those similarly situated, who were not provided with notice of their rights or with effective communication under Section 504.  The agreement signed by CMS and OCR, entitled the “Commitment to Action to Resolve DREDF Section 504 Complaints” (Commitment to Action), established a timeframe within which CMS would take specified actions to ensure the agency’s compliance with Section 504 in the areas raised in OCR’s investigation of the complaints, found at

DREDF Senior Attorney, Silvia Yee, said, “CMS was required to complete a ‘Long-Term Action Plan’ by April 2015 that would ensure effective cross-disability communication access, as well as the timely provision of auxiliary aids and services to CMS beneficiaries and consumers. To date, we have not seen a Plan. People with disabilities have not been notified of any such plan. As a public entity that deals every day with people with disabilities and older Americans, CMS should lead the way to ensure compliance with disability civil rights laws, not lag behind by four decades.”

Plaintiffs are represented by DREDF; Brown, Goldstein & Levy; and Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen (SRBC).

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.

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Founded in 1979 by people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national law and policy center based in Berkeley, CA and is dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities.


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Scientists decode bed bug genome as pesticide resistance results in a resurgence

BY Christine Lepisto

bedbug mattress or street art

CC BY 2.0 Marta Kat

Recent reports highlight the growing pesticide resistance of bed bugs, a plague that was almost wiped out half a century ago, but which has crept back across the globe thanks to increased travel and exchange of pre-owned items.

Just in time, then, scientists have decoded the bed bug genome. The results of the corroboration of dozens of scientists around the world are published in a recent paper in Nature Communications.

For the most part, bed bug bites are harmless — except for the itching. And that insomnia-inducing sense that little monsters come out when the lights are off. There is evidence that bed bug bites can carry antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) and American trypanosomes, a parasite related to Chagas disease, but scientists report that “no evidence exists of disease transmission by bed bugs in the field.” Scientists will be looking at the genome and other bed bug characteristics to determine why they do not spread disease.

Bed bugs reproduce prolifically — but in a strange and violent manner. The male bed bug pierces the abdomen of the female in what scientists call “traumatic insemination.” This method of reproduction exists in various apparently unrelated groups, so better genetic data may underpin an understanding of how this behavior evolved.

Scientists could see the genes that make bed bugs so effective: their ability to fit in small crevices, sense the location of their next meal (they live only on fresh blood), and evolution of a biting proboscis through which a small amount of anasthetic is injected to allow the parasites to feed without alerting their host all have fingerprints in the bed bug genome.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the scientists found a buildup of resistance to a broad range of pesticides, suggesting that it may not be so easy to develop new weapons against the resistant bed bugs. It seems that some of these genes have actually transferred from symbiotic bacteria carried by the bed bugs.

So if a better pesticide won’t be on the horizon to fight the resistant bugs, what can a person faced with bed bugs do? The first line has to be prevention. If you travel, check for bed bugs. Anything you bring home with you can be treated by washing at 45°C (or 115 °F) or by bagging the items and leaving it in the freezer for a week.

Larger items that cannot be washed or frozen can be bagged in plastic and left in a warm place in the sunlight. After a week, place the item in the middle of a sheet or tarp before opening the bag. Wait for the hungry pests to charge out of the bag towards you, then trap them in the sheet and immediately implement the hot wash or freezer treatment to kill the bugs.Take care with anything you buy at garage sales or second hand shops (checking these carefully for fecal spots, little black circles, provides a good clue).

if it is too late for prevention, start with a good mattress cover to minimize nighttime raids. You can check out which natural pesticides are most effective — but consider working with an exterminator because the proper application and assessment of the effectiveness of the treatment is essential to eliminating these fast-breeding bugs.

And if you do choose pesticides from the traditional spectrum — organochlorines, organophosphates and pyrethroids — be sure to hire a professional. Incorrect application and incomplete treatments help the bugs build resistance.

Tags: Bedrooms | Insects | Pesticides


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Brazilian Health Officials Add ‘No Kissing’ and ‘No Sex’ to List of Zika Virus Precautions

Brazilian health officials are warning pregnant women to seriously consider who they kiss and to use condoms if they have been in countries were the Zika virus is present.

“The flurry of recommendations began in Brazil, where a top health official warned pregnant women to be caution with their kisses,” the AP reported late on Friday,

This announcement came at the start of a five-day drunken Carnival festival “where kissing as many people as possible is a top pastime,” reported the AP.

The guidelines issued also suggested that men use condoms even if their female partner is not pregnant. They also suggested abstaining from sex entirely.

Paulo Gadelha, president of the Fiocruz research institute, told reporters at a press conference that scientists have found live virus in saliva and urine, and that the possibility that the Zika virus could be spread by these two body fluids requires further study.

He also said that pregnant women should take other precautions to protect themselves and their unborn child, including kissing only a regular partner, and not sharing the forks, knives, glasses, or plates of those who may have symptoms of the Zika virus.

Previous reports by Breitbart News confirmed that Brazilian scientists have detected the live Zika virus in human saliva and urine. Their fear is that a person can contract the virus by coming into contact with these fluids.

Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of the epidemiology department at Stony Brook University Hospital in New York was asked about these suggestions to pregnant women. She was reported to say, “I can understand the Brazilian Health Ministry being concerned about not leaving out any potential mechanism for transmission, even if it’s theoretical.” She added, “Brazil is in a particularly difficult position.”

Brazil is believed to be the country hardest hit by the Zika virus, and Brazil’s top health official said that the virus is proving worse than believed possible because most cases show no symptoms, Breitbart News reported. The country has launched a door-to-door campaign executed by 220,000 soldiers to combat the spread of the virus. Moreover, more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported and 200 or more cases are being diagnosed every week, reported Breitbart News.

U.N. officials are asking Catholic dominant countries in Latin America to allow pregnant women to have abortions if they fear their unborn child may be at risk for a Zika virus related birth defect such as microcephaly, as reported by the AP. Abortion is not legal in these countries unless a judge signs off on the procedure.

At least one Brazilian judge has declared he will approve abortions for women who have contracted Zika and can prove their unborn child has microcephaly or ancenephaly. In Brazil, abortions are only legal with judicial approval, reported Breitbart Texas.

As reported by Breitbart News, Planned Parenthood is taking advantage of Zika virus fears to push for the expansion of abortion-on-demand throughout Latin America.

Breitbart News has also reported that the fear of an unborn child developing microcephaly or other birth defects due to the Zika virus, has pushed women to get illegal abortions according to the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo.

The AP reported that the National Conference of Bishops in Brazil did not immediately comment on the U.N.’s suggestion to loosen abortion laws.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter@LanaShadwick2


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Those Days You Work From Home May End Up Wrecking the Planet

by Jessica Shankleman –

Why Working From Home Is Not So Green
More businesses than ever are asking employees to work remotely in a bid to cut rental costs for office space and take advantage of the growth of super-fast broadband, teleconferencing and smart phones.
But working from your kitchen can actually increase the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, since those who stay home usually turn up the thermostat. Home energy consumption increases 20 percent when people work where they live, according to a study by BT Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest broadband provider.
“The general view is home working is always a good thing, but it’s never as simple as it appears,” said Paul Swift, a consultant for Carbon Trust, a London-based research group that advises companies on sustainability. “You can have a very efficient building in a city where people are walking or using public transport. If employees working from home are switching on the heating across the entire house, it will be a negative.”

Swift and his team confirmed that working at home during the winter can quickly lead to an increase in emissions. A single hour of extra heating for most households cancels out the emissions saved by avoiding a commute, the Carbon Trust concluded in a 2014 report.
Only those home workers who live far from the office or who would otherwise drive to work contribute to an overall reduction in pollution. Employees whose daily car commute is at least eight miles, who take a bus for 14 miles or travel at least 32 miles by train can cut emissions, the report said. Those who walk or take public transport would increase their emissions by working from home.
Vodafone Libertel BV, a mobile phone provider, has acknowledged similar findings. Home working increases energy and heating use, offsetting the carbon savings from less commuting and smaller office space, according to its latest Environmental Profit and Loss Account.

More people than ever are working from home, and advocates say the practice can cut pollution. About 3.7 million employees in the U.S. do so for half their time on the job or more, double the level of 2005, according to the consultant Global Workplace Analytics.
That may contribute a reduction of 51 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year, the equivalent of taking all of New York’s commuters off the road, according to the research group that works to help businesses and communities understand the advantages of working from home.
“Barring a national disaster, we see the growth of half-time-plus telework staying at about 5 to 7 percent for the next few years,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “The bigger growth will be among less frequent telecommuters. There we predict growth of 10 percent a year for the next few years.”
There isn’t much data on global trends. A poll of more than 18,600 people in 26 countries published by Ipsos in 2012 named India, Indonesia and Mexico as the top countries for telecommuting, followed by South Africa, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ten percent to 35 percent of the world’s workforce worked remotely at least once or twice per week, the report found.

Of course, companies have a role to play too by ensuring their offices are as efficient as possible, using smart buildings controls and other green technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings project intends to double American productivity by 2030 by improving energy efficiency. Last week, it unveiled a two new programs to collect more data on the way buildings work.
Among environmentalists, there’s some suspicion that companies have their own finances in mind when they push employees out of the office.
“Companies are interested in reducing office space for financial reasons,” said Swift of the Carbon Trust. “The environmental side is not the highest priority.”
Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.


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Goodbye Gorebulbs!

by Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter)

Hillary CLinton

On sister site MNN, Matt Hickman describes how Ahead of Valentine’s Day, GE calls it quits with the CFL bulb. Matt notes that it isn’t much of a loss, as LEDs “continue to emerge as a more viable, in terms of both cost and lighting quality, incandescent alternative.”

Nobody was very happy with compact fluorescent light bulbs, because they were really just squiggly little fluorescent tubes, with their crappy color rendition, fragile construction and mercury vapor. They were also so very political, a favorite target of right wing writers when George Bush signed the energy bill that was to eventually phase out most incandescent bulbs.

gore money

There was Michelle Malkin who back in 2007 labeled them Gorebulbs, and others who called President George Bush part of “the Greenie Left who claim jurisdiction over any activity of your life that affects the environment.” Of course they should have been called Bushbulbs, he’s the President who signed the legislation, but no matter. Malkin wrote:

What happened to keeping government out of our bedroom? And our bathroom? And our utility closets? The Gore-ing of America continues…


Then there is Fox News, which as Brian Merchant puts it, claimed Energy efficient light bulbs will kill us all! Oh, those were the days.


Then of course there was our absolute favorite leglislation, Michele Bachmann’s Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act (don’t read the comments!)

This is an issue of science over fads and fashions,” she told an interviewer, and called any human connection to global warming “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.” She continued: “Fluorescent bulbs are more polluting because of their mercury content. We are working on a light bulb bill. If the Democrats can hose up a light bulb, don’t trust them with the country.

None of which is true, of course; it is a tiny amount of mercury, you did not need a hazmat suit and thousands of dollars to clean it up, and the energy saving bulbsactually reduced mercury pollution.

As late as 2011, Republicans were still complaining about the bulbs, with Rand Paul going on about environmental standards in general, quoted in Politco:

“Lightbulbs, refrigerators, toilets, you name it. You can’t go around your house without being told what to buy,” Paul said in 2011 while chastising an Energy Department higher-up. “You restrict my purchases. You don’t care about my choices. You don’t care about the consumer.”

In turn, Obama has openly mocked conservatives’ obsession with the bulb rules. “We’ve actually been criticized that it’s a socialist plot to restrict your freedom for us to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs. I never understood that,” the president said.

Now incandescent bulbs are pretty much gone and the compact fluorescent bulbs are following closely (I converted my home to 100% LED lighting and you should too) and there is not a peep out of the former defenders of the incandescent bulb. This should not be a surprise; the LED bulbs are pretty good, they last a long time and live up to their billing, and they save a lot of money. They are even made in America.

George Bush© JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/ Signing the lightbulb bill

On signing the Energy independence and Security Act in 2007, President Bush noted:

Today we make a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations of our country a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure.

Not all of that came true. But if anyone thinks for a second that we would have ever got the LEDs we have today without that legislation, whether we would have seen close to a decade of really exciting research and developments where every week it seemed Mike was covering a newer, cheaper or better LED bulb, they are dreaming. We can happily say goodbye to our Bushbulbs and Gorebulbs and all the stupid politics because they led to the development of something far better, no thanks to Michelle or Michele.

But thank you, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and George W. Bush. We really owe this milestone to you.

Tags: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs | George W. Bush | LEDs


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Michael Moore says only sending water to Flint won’t work. Here are 3 things to do also.

Bottled water is a Band-Aid. Flint is hemorrhaging — it’s going to take more.
Angie Aker By Angie Aker

flint-water-aid_0Why wouldn’t Michael Moore want us sending water to Flint, Michigan?
The documentary-maker wrote an open letter imploring people to think deeper than just the surface-level solution of sending bottled water when it comes to helping the city, which is in the middle of a public water crisis.

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The short story of what happened in Flint in case you don’t know: An emergency manager appointed by the governor chose to switch Flint’s water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. They didn’t treat the water correctly, which meant just about everyone was exposed to lead in their drinking water for over a year, and officials sat on this information until it was truly a health crisis of epic proportions.

river-5287091eeae4d2f188ab8f6e49b26d6eThe people of Flint used to get their water from clean, delicious Lake Huron. Then it changed to Flint River’s polluted water. Image by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers/Wikimedia Commons.

“I was hysterical. I cried when they gave me my first lead report,” LeeAnne Walters, whose children all tested positive for lead poisoning after the Flint River switchover, told the Detroit Free Press about the heart-wrenching moment she learned they’d been affected.

“I pushed them to drink water — ‘Put down that juice, go get some water.’ [Now] lead is in our blood,” Melissa Mays, another Flint mom, also told the Free Press, expressing her regret at having her teen boys drink the water. She says now she will be plagued with worries and doubts whenever something goes wrong with them in the future, not knowing if it’s from the lead or not.

Essentially, the Flint water crisis is a complex, gargantuan-level disaster that will take various phases and layers of work to address. The first phase of response has been to establish that the poisoning has occurred, ring the alarm loud and clear for the whole country, and to immediately get some clean water to the citizens. That’s a necessary short-term reaction and definitely something that was needed.

And people rushed to fill that need.

Like when Cher got Icelandic Glacial to partner with her to donate trucks full of water:
And many other celebrities and regular citizens followed suit.

But what comes next? And does Moore really want us to stop sending water to residents in need?
The city’s immediate need for bottled water is far from over, but the larger point he’s trying to make is right on. We can only solve the problem if we focus on more than just fixing one symptom of it. Here’s how we can do that.

A kind of second phase of recovery requires moving on to doing things to fix Flint’s water systems for the medium- and long-terms and to rectify the faulty system that allowed this lead poisoning to occur in the first place. It’d be foolish to let the decision-makers responsible for such bad oversight just promise they’ll have really good oversight this time, they swear, in order to fix the mess.

Here are three things all Americans should be doing right now (no matter your political affiliation) in order to help Flint move forward for the long term:

1. Call for Gov. Rick Snyder’s resignation.

Snyder speaks to the media about the Flint water crisis on Jan. 27, 2016. Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images.

This isn’t about partisan politics; it’s just a good idea for how to move on from this crisis. A neutral party is needed in Michigan to assess the situation clearly, not from the vantage point of someone who has a clear reason to minimize his role in the disaster. In his open letter, Moore explains why this is so important:

“Whether it’s via resignation, recall or prosecution, this must happen now because he is still refusing to take the aggressive and immediate action needed. His office, as recently as this past Thursday, was claiming the EPA had no legal authority to tell him what to do.”
You can sign the petition here.

2. Insist the state of Michigan be held financially responsible for its role in Flint’s poisoning.
Snyder is trying to have Flint declared a federal disaster zone, which will likely at some point be appropriate and necessary. But the significance of this is that it will take the state off the hook for having to cough up the funds it should be providing to clean the mess it pretty much willfully made.

Here’s the financial breakdown from Moore:

“This year the state treasury posted nearly a $600 million surplus. There is also another $600 million in the state’s ‘rainy day fund.’ That’s $1.2 billion – just about what Flint’s congressman, Dan Kildee, estimates it will cost to replace the water infrastructure and care for the thousands of poisoned children throughout their growing years.”

Fred the handyman explains a new water filter to a resident of Shiloh Commons, a low-income housing area in Flint. Citizens have been given water testing jugs, filters, and clean water by the National Guard. Photo by Sarah Rice/Getty Images.

Once the state pays its share of the clean up, the federal funds should be a next step, but the state’s responsibility for the crisis should not be ignored or overlooked.

Remember the mom beating herself up for having her sons drink the tap water? Chances are she and everyone like her are going to need a lot of services to help their children achieve the best cognitive abilities possible. It’s gonna require funding — every penny of assistance Flint can get will be needed — and that includes state money.

How do you insist on this? Contact your local paper and write a letter to your editor or just send lots of tweets (to news sources and elected officials), no matter where you live.

3. As soon as the state has earmarked their share of payment for Flint, the recovery operations need to be placed into the hands of the federal government. STAT.

National Guard members distribute free water to Flint citizens on Jan. 23, 2016. Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images.

Moore has pointed out that the water replacement efforts must be bigger in scope than just providing bottled water. He’s right. The federal government can send in help on a level the state just can’t. Here’s what he proposes:

“The State government cannot be trusted to get this right. So, instead of declaring a federal disaster zone, President Obama must declare the same version of martial law that Governor Snyder declared over the cities of Flint and Detroit. He must step in and appoint a federal emergency manager in the state capitol to direct the resources of both the state and federal government in saving Flint. This means immediately sending in FEMA in full force. It means sending in the CDC to determine the true extent of not just the lead poisoning in the water, but also the latest outbreak that has been discovered in Flint – a tenfold increase in the number of Flint people who’ve contracted Legionnaires Disease. There have now been 87 cases since the switch to the Flint River water, and ten people have died. The local hospital has also noted sharp increases in a half-dozen other toxins found in people’s bodies. We need the CDC. The EPA must take over the testing of the water, and the Army Corps of Engineers must be sent in to begin replacing the underground pipes. Like the levees in New Orleans, this will be a massive undertaking. If it is turned over to for-profit businesses, it will take a decade and cost billions. This needs to happen right now and Obama must be in charge.”
Again, you can call for this by writing letters to the editor, signing Moore’s petition, and calling your elected officials and asking them to take a stand together for Flint on your (their constituent’s) behalf.

These are the things we can all do to help the people of Flint beyond just sending bottled water.
It’s not that bottled water isn’t appreciated. It is. It’s just that it only goes so far for so long. And bottled water treats the symptom, not the problem. At this point, Flint needs people to roll up their sleeves and help get them back on track by holding the people who caused the problem in the first place accountable.


Matt Hopper comforts 5-year-old Nyla Hopper after she has blood taken for a free lead testing. Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images.

The people of Flint need to know that even though their state failed them, America has not forsaken them — or the possibility for their futures. Flint can rise again, in time, with our help.
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Obama administration to delay issuing new regulations under the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)



Dear Federationists:

The following op-ed by President Riccobono appeared last week on the Congress Blog of the influential Washington newspaper The Hill. The text is pasted below. You can also access the article by browsing to

Please consider sharing the above link with your contacts. Also, please sign and share our petition to President Obama to release the regulations referenced in President Riccobono’s piece. The petition is located here:

By Mark A. Riccobono

The recent decision by the Obama administration to delay issuing new regulations under the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is outrageous. The regulations would have provided guidance on how businesses can meet their legal obligation to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. These regulations have been in the works for over five years, but the Obama administration now proposes further delaying them until 2018, effectively washing its hands of the matter. This move is particularly shocking in light of the president’s correct observation, made when he first announced his intention to issue the regulations in 2010, that such rules are “the most important updates to the ADA since its original enactment.” The urgent need for these regulations has only increased, so why has the administration’s position inexplicably changed?

Thanks to today’s technology, people with all kinds of disabilities can access computer information, including websites, with tools such as text-to-speech screen readers that verbalize what the computer is displaying, connected devices that can display the content in Braille, and alternative input devices for people who can’t physically use a mouse or keyboard. Despite this advanced technology, however, most of us, especially blind people like me, struggle every day to perform routine internet-based tasks, including paying our bills, examining electronic health records, and making hotel reservations. That’s
because improperly designed websites can block our ability to effectively access all of the information. For example, if a website uses images to convey important information without also providing “alt tags” that a screen reader can read, then the screen reader will spit out gibberish because it can’t “read” a picture in the way it can read text. And the inability to access websites is not merely an inconvenience; it is a barrier to education and employment. For example, the college graduation rate for people with disabilities is just thirty-four percent; inaccessible online technology used by today’s colleges and universities undoubtedly contributes to this dismal statistic.

All of this is not due to hostility towards Americans with disabilities. While a few businesses simply refuse to provide equal access to their websites until a legal settlement or court order forces them to do so, many others simply don’t know where to turn for guidance on how to make their websites accessible. Organizations like the National Federation of the Blind are doing all we can to educate business leaders and programmers, but by issuing clear and legally binding guidelines, the Obama administration could quickly bring reluctant businesses to the table and show other well-intentioned but uninformed players a clear path to providing equal service to their clients and customers with disabilities. The administration’s continued refusal to do this is irresponsible. Its failure to act not only leaves disabled computer users on the wrong side of a real digital divide, but ensures that litigation, which is costly both for disability advocates and businesses, will continue for the foreseeable future.

Recently, the National Federation of the Blind and several other organizations representing Americans with all types of disabilities urged the immediate issuance of the proposed regulations in a letter sent directly to President Obama. From the business perspective, Microsoft and other business leaders have also written to the president calling for the release of the regulations. If the president ignores these requests, the inescapable conclusion will be that he is indifferent to the inequality that is part of everyday life for me and millions of other Americans. This indifference has an intolerably high cost: we are denied equal access to services that are readily available to everyone else, denied educational and employment opportunities, and denied first-class citizenship in twenty-first-century America. If the president is serious about the civil rights of all Americans, a recurring theme in his rhetoric, then he must not renege on the commitment to equal Internet access for Americans with disabilities that he made in 2010. Fortunately, he still has time to honor that commitment. I, along with millions of other people with disabilities, fervently hope that the president will do so immediately.

Mark A. Riccobono is president of the National Federation of the Blind.  He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife and three children.

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