Whereas, agencies in the south Carolina blindness field potentially provide important educational and vocational support to equip blind South Carolinians with the necessary skills and means to live the lives they want; and, Whereas, (while a variety of local, state, and federal agencies provide services to members of the public from time to time throughout life) it is often the agencies for the blind that have the most frequent contact with blind consumers during their lifetimes; and, Whereas, agencies in the blindness field are often among the most prolific employers of blind people; Now, therefore, be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in convention assembled this 20th day of August, 2023, that agencies in the South Carolina blindness field will recognize and respect the contributions of blind employees and the dignity of blind consumers and that this respect will be demonstrated in hiring practices, opportunities for career advancement, access to services, buildings and other physical structures, as well as the right to travel safely and independently to and from agency facilities, and to navigate independently on the premises; And be it further resolved such actions will take place with the input of the blind individuals affected. And be it further resolved that agencies in the South Carolina blindness field will take such action as is necessary to carry out policies consistent with this directive
Regarding the Roles of Able South Carolina and the South Carolina General Assembly in the Effort to End the Payment of Subminimum Wages to Disabled Persons in the State of South Carolina
WHEREAS, the organization known as Able South Carolina (Able SC,) according to their website, “seeks to make South Carolina a national model of equity and inclusion for all people with disabilities;” and
WHEREAS, the mission of Able SC includes a dedication to “advocate for access, equity, and inclusion at the individual, local, state, and national level;” and
WHEREAS, Able SC took the lead role in advocating for the passage of S. 533 on the state level, which phases out the practice of exploiting the work of disabled persons through the use of certificates issued in accordance with Section 14(C) of the Fair Labor Standard Act; and
WHEREAS, an overwhelming majority of the South Carolina General Assembly voted in favor of passing S. 533; and
WHEREAS, S. 533 was signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster on Monday, May 23, 2022, positively impacting the lives of all disabled persons in the state of South Carolina, including but not limited to the 2900 people who held jobs in programs that participated in the subminimum wages program in 2020; now therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in convention assembled this twenty-eighth day of August, 2022, that while we in the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina may differ in opinion and philosophy on various matters from those involved in the work of Able SC, we must commend Able SC for its lead role and hard work in the passing of S. 533 as well as both recognize and applaud the South Carolina General Assembly for its intentional progress toward ending a discriminatory practice targeting disabled South Carolinians.
Regarding Access to Electronic Health Records
WHEREAS, electronic health records are becoming more prevalent in our daily lives; and
WHEREAS, these records are not always accessible by blind South Carolinians; and
WHEREAS, Under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and under Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, electronic medical records must already be accessible yet many health care providers in South Carolina still maintain electronic platforms which are not accessible to the blind and low vision;
WHEREAS, lack of accessibility to electronic health records places the health, independence and right to privacy of the blind at risk; and
WHEREAS, it is essential that blind South Carolinians have full accessibility to electronic health records in order to establish independence and improve their health, well-being and overall quality of life and maintain their right to privacy; now therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in convention assembled this twenty second day of August, 2021, that this organization call upon the South Carolina State Legislature to amend the Physicians' Patient Records Act to require medical providers to adopt policies that ensure electronic health records platforms are fully accessible to blind individuals.
Regarding Requiring Minimum Standards for the Training of Blind Individuals Provided Through the South Carolina Commission for the Blind
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness does not define one’s potential and that, if given the proper training and technology, a blind individual can fully compete with sighted peers; and
WHEREAS, a blind individual is more likely to succeed in employment with at least a basic knowledge of Braille, technology, independent living skills, and orientation and mobility; and
WHEREAS, one of the purposes of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind (SCCB) is to address barriers to employment for blind individuals by providing adequate training and guidance about current technology; and WHEREAS, the amount and level of training can vary widely for each SCCB Client, depending on the SCCB counselor’s knowledge and understanding about blindness; and
WHEREAS, clients may wait months or years before they can obtain training in basic skills; and
WHEREAS, although clients have the right to exercise informed choice about where to receive training, they are not always made aware of this right and are sometimes forced to receive training that does not adequately address their blindness needs; and
WHEREAS, clients are often discouraged by their counselors from attending out-of-state training centers, even if the in-state agency does not meet the needs of the clients’ employment goals: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina convention assembled this twenty-second day of August, 2021, that this organization urge the South Carolina Commission for the Blind to establish a recommended list of client pre-employment skills necessary to support employment, and that during the Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) process, clients must be provided the opportunity to accept or reject offers of training for these skills. Key employment skills which may be included on a recommended list of pre-employment skills list might include: training in contracted braille; training in basic computer skills; effectively operating a smart phone; preparing a variety of meals and safely storing food; performing independent living skills including using a variety of home appliances; training in basic mobility skills including crossing different types of intersections and including lighted intersections; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a client must agree that they have been offered satisfactory opportunities to learn all these pre-employment skills before their case may be closed; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a client must be informed in writing that only after they agree that these pre-employment skills have been offered and completed, their case may be closed; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that if services required to be provided to meet the pre-employment skills are not readily available in time to address a client’s disability needs, for example, if Braille or orientation and mobility training are unavailable for multiple months, then the SCCB counselor must identify and fund alternative sources of those services, or demonstrate to the client that those services are not available from alternative sources; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all clients shall be informed and provided with information about training centers outside of South Carolina, including the training centers operated by the National Federation of the Blind, in order for clients to examine and evaluate which center adequately addresses their blindness pre-employment needs.
Regarding Knowledge Competency and Uniformity of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors Employed by the South Carolina Commission for the Blind
Whereas, the South Carolina Commission for the Blind (SCCB) serves blind individuals of all ages in the state of South Carolina; and
Whereas, not all blind individuals are considered experts on their vocational rehabilitation rights as listed in Section 103 of the Rehabilitation Act; and
Whereas, it is the expectation that vocational rehabilitation counselors hired by SCCB be both qualified and knowledgeable regarding all services providable to clients; and
Whereas, not all clients currently receive appropriate and/or adequate information pertaining to the services available to them by SCCB according to the aforementioned law; and
Whereas, clients currently served by SCCB receive widely varied information, depending largely on who currently serves as their vocational rehabilitation counselor; therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in convention assembled this twenty-fourth day of August, 2021 that SCCB implement practices to better train all current and future vocational rehabilitation counselors, as well as those who internally shift from serving one client population to another, regarding what services clients are entitled to receive in order to establish uniformity of disseminated information; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SCCB’s vocational rehabilitation counselors be required to prove their consistent knowledge competency by way of quarterly, mandatory assessments; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that SCCB create a uniform curriculum that can be provided to clients in order to both increase client knowledge surrounding the rights denoted in the aforementioned law and better foster and environment that cultivates strong self-advocates.
Regarding the dropping of JAWS by Richland School District One
Whereas students and teachers who are blind use screen reading software to complete their work; and
Whereas the leading screen reading software currently in use worldwide is JAWS for Windows; and
Whereas a significant role of the education system is to prepare students to enter the work force; and
Whereas the South Carolina Commission for the Blind and other rehabilitation agencies tend to provide JAWS for Windows for their consumers entering the work force; and
Whereas the administration of Richland School District One has ruled that JAWS For Windows cannot be used in its schools by either staff or students because several features pose a risk to its privacy policies; and
Whereas any of these features can be disabled at the Network level; and
Whereas JAWS is currently deployed at all levels of government, including the most secure networks, and
Whereas the alternative access methods allowed by Richland One’s administration are either limited in functionality (Windows Narrator) or Open source (NVDA) and provide a far greater risk to network security than JAWS; now therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in convention assembled this twenty second day of August, 2021, that this organization call upon the Administration of Richland School District One to abolish this policy and consult with experts who understand JAWS to assist them in resolving their security concerns to allow their blind staff and students to utilize the most effective product for their accessibility needs.
Regarding Agencies for the Blind
WHEREAS, agencies for the blind are established to serve blind people; and
WHEREAS, an essential part of the governing structure of an agency for the blind is to include the processes, policies, and procedures that will ensure that the agency for the blind administration comprehends the interests, needs, and aspirations of its constituency; and
WHEREAS, the most logical representatives of the constituency of agencies that serve the blind are blind people who have shown the interest and the commitment to engage in self-organization and who are willing to be partners of agencies for the blind and advisors to them: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in convention assembled this twenty second day of August, 2020, that this organization call upon the South Carolina Commission for the Blind to adopt a governing structure that will assure partnership with the organized blind of this state by adopting a best-practices governance pledge as follows:
Our agency, the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, was created and exists to help blind people. We believe that those we serve should have a significant say in the help we give, in supervising how we give it, and in seeing that we are most effectively using our resources to benefit them. We, therefore, pledge ourselves to the values and commitments that follow:
We are managed by executives who are compensated for their work, and they are, in turn, managed by a board of commissioners. We believe that blind people must be a part of our management team at both of these levels. While their numbers may appear to be arbitrary, we know that, without them, it is impossible to measure whether we are meeting our goal of significant involvement. We therefore pledge that this agency will have at least half of the management team be people who are blind and make the same commitment for the board of Commissioners. So that this is more than an aspirational goal, we pledge to meet these numbers within five years and to maintain or better them going forward.
We believe there is no better way to demonstrate our commitment to the constituency we serve than to have blind people as a part of our managing structure. The agency's current operation and its goals for the future must involve those we serve, and we must, in appearance, and in fact, be run and guided by blind people.
Our commitment to those we serve and those who work for us is that every document we create will be accessible. We will strive to see that our presence on the World Wide Web is exemplary and that it serves to demonstrate that websites can be both visually attractive and completely usable with screen reading technology. Our commitment to accessibility will extend far beyond the written word. When we produce charts, graphs, and documents with pictures, we will use state-of-the-art technology to make these accessible for the blind. We further commit ourselves to working collaboratively on solutions that extend the power of this technology and to work collaboratively to develop new paradigms that will help blind people in going beyond the written word for meaningful communication.
We value the feedback and active participation of our consumers in the development and implementation of the services we provide. We pledge to establish a committee consisting of the consumers we serve. The members of the committee and the chairperson of the committee will be chosen by the consumers themselves, and the committee will meet monthly with agency executives.
Regarding Accessible Absentee Voting
Whereas, the State of South Carolina has established procedures by which citizens may vote by absentee ballot upon meeting one of the criteria set forth under current election law; and
Whereas significant progress has been made in establishing Accessible voting systems that enable blind and print disabled individuals to vote privately and independently at polling places throughout the state; and
Whereas, Electronic absentee ballot systems, such as Democracy Live, offer accessible alternatives to voting for individuals who are blind or print disabled; and
Whereas under current state law, a person with a disability is eligible to vote by absentee ballot in this state, and there is no time like the present to consider measures to accommodate blind and print-disabled voters while protecting the integrity of the voting process; now therefore,
Be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in convention assembled this 22nd day of August 2020 that this organization call upon the South Carolina Election Commission to develop a means by which blind and print disabled individuals can vote using an accessible absentee ballot marking system.