WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 19, 2020)—On May 28, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden released his campaign’s disability plan. The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) applauds the Biden campaign for a thorough and holistic approach to inclusivity throughout the disability plan, including and especially provisions that would lead to a more equitable society for people who are blind or low vision.
The plan as laid out would ensure that “people with disabilities have a voice in their government” and are included throughout the policy development and implementation process. Among the provisions that would positively affect people who are blind or low vision include:
Paratransit reform. Per the plan: “Biden will create a pilot program with transit agencies that will address transportation challenges in paratransit services as called for in the Disability Access to Transportation Act. Biden will also work to end long wait times in processing applicants for paratransit services and ensure that riders who receive paratransit services in one jurisdiction can be eligible for the services in another jurisdiction.”
AFB has been active in lobbying for the expansion of transportation options for people with disabilities, as evident in this October 2019 blog post outlining our work in this area, especially in how transportation affects employment for people who are blind or low vision. AFB also issued a statement in March 2020 applauding Representative Jim Langevin, along with co-sponsors Representative Dina Titus and Representative John Katko, for their introduction of the Disability Access to Transportation Act, which would expand and improve transportation, especially paratransit programs, for people with disabilities. AFB worked closely with Representative Jim Langevin to provide information and feedback on one of the bill’s major provisions, the establishment of a one-stop paratransit pilot program, and hopes to see this provision become law.
Seeking passage of the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, and expansion of competitive, integrated employment opportunities. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, would provide states, service providers, subminimum wage certificate holders, and other agencies with the resources to help workers with disabilities transition into competitive, integrated employment. This legislation is designed to strengthen and enhance the disability employment service delivery systems throughout states, while subminimum wages, currently allowed under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, are to be phased out over a six-year period. AFB supports this legislation.
Medicare coverage of vision rehabilitation services. Services to older people with vision loss and other people who don’t qualify for vision rehabilitation services is currently sorely lacking, so expanding such services is a promising step forward. Although there’s a national program designed to help older adults with vision loss maximize their independence, it’s woefully underfunded. By AFB’s estimates, it currently provides services to only 2 percent of its potential clients. Learn about AFB’s aging priorities.
Immediately revoke the Trump Administration’s public charge rule, which discriminates against immigrants with disabilities. Immigrants with disabilities may be prevented from receiving an immigration status simply because of their disability or, conversely, may have to forego necessary medical services in order to be granted a visa or residency status. AFB strongly condemned this unethical and inhumane policy.
“Blind and low vision people care about the same issues as other voters, such as healthcare, education, and foreign policy,” said Stephanie Enyart, Chief Public Policy and Research Officer. “However, the blind community is also impacted by many issues and policies that are unique to people with disabilities and people with vision loss. AFB’s direct advocacy work included paratransit reform recommendations, such as reducing application processing times and ensuring paratransit portability. We were pleased to see these provisions included in the Biden disability plan.”
These are but a few of the items in the plan that AFB has already supported or spoken out about. We commend the Biden campaign on developing a plan that addressed many of the questions AFB posed for presidential candidates.
The American Foundation for the Blind is a nonpartisan national nonprofit and neither rates nor endorses political candidates.
About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org