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2019 Resolutions

The official policy statements of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan are established every year with annual resolutions adopted at the state convention.

The resolutions committee meets early during the convention. Each proposed resolution is read, spoken for by the authoring member, considered, and then ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the Convention.

Resolution 2019-01: A Resolution on the closing of the Visually Impaired Services program in Detroit

Whereas, the Visually Impaired Services program (VIS) was founded some 50 years ago, in partnership with the Detroit medical center, to serve clients of Michigan’s designated rehabilitation agency for the blind, which is now the Bureau Of Services For Blind Persons; and

Whereas, VIS has provided nonresidential rehabilitation services including, but not limited to, mobility, Braille, computer IT technology, and independent living skills training, to blind clients in south east Michigan, who’s circumstances do not allow them to attend the Bureau Of Services For the Blind’s Training Center in Kalamazoo; and

Whereas, VIS started as a serious full time program, where students spent 40 hours a week for an average of 6 weeks; and

Whereas, in recent years clients training time has been cut to 10 to 15 hours a week, making positive outcomes for clients nearly impossible; and

Whereas, the BSBP has tolerated increasingly sloppy management of the VIS program for some time, with insultingly low expectations of blind clients, resulting in poor and inadequate instruction for those clients; and

Whereas, Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties, comprise the largest population center in the state of Michigan; and

Whereas the BSBP terminated the VIS program effective sept 30,2019, without discussion with the National Federation Of The blind Of MI (NFBMI), without giving reasonable notice to community members or VIS staff, with lots of promises of high quality services and no apparent plans to provide those services: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan in convention assembled this 9th day of November, 2019 in the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization condemn and deplore the irresponsible lack OF oversite that the BSBP the sole contractor of the VIS program, maintained over its services to Bureau clients; and

Be it further resolved that we call upon the BSBP to, immediately, take all appropriate steps to ensure that its blind clients in the metropolitan Detroit area receive high quality rehabilitation services, including, but not limited to, mobility, Braille, computer IT technology, and independent living skills training; and

Be it further resolved that BSBP shall establish, staff, and maintain one central facility, in Detroit, that contains operationally sound professional grade equipment that may be leveraged by independent Contractors and BSBP Trainers to meet with Clients and conduct training activities in a safe environment; and

Be it further resolved that BSBP shall provide oversight to ensure that All BSBP Service Providers/Trainers are held accountable to high standards of proficiency, professionalism and performance, so that clients are able to reach their goals and objectives; and

Be it further resolved that we, the National Federation Of The Blind Of Michigan, offer our assistance and willingness to work cooperatively with the BSBP in a good faith effort to achieve these goals.

Resolution 2019-02: Regarding the Continuation of Advocacy for Improved Accessibility at Detroit Metropolitan Airport

WHEREAS, The Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) is America’s 17th busiest airport with 35 million passengers/year, including an estimated 700,000 blind travelers and is governed by the Wayne County Airport Authority Board; and

WHEREAS, The National Federation of the Blind of Michigan advocated to the WCAA board and administration for more than 4 years to improve access to public transportation connections at the DTW, improved way-finding and accessible signage; and

WHEREAS, in July of 2018 the DTW has made great and commendable progress by relocating bus stops in accessible proximity to the McNamara Terminal; and

WHEREAS, discussions with DTW were working to create a vision of setting DTW apart as the most accessible, in terms of ease of use by persons with disabilities, airport in America; and

WHEREAS, The National Federation of the Blind speaks for blind peoples’ and not for any other person with a disability, we were working and advocating to create a consumer driven board to work with the DTW to address accessibility issues, including access by blind people; and

WHEREAS, since the centerpiece issue of bus stop locations was resolved, no further progress has been made; and

WHEREAS, there remain many issues with regard to navigating and using DTW independently by blind travelers, including poorly trained Prospect employees, small number and difficult to find phones for assistance, poorly marked elevators, inadequate accessible signage, both indoor and outdoor, inadequate wayfinding systems for blind travelers, inadequate waiting areas for bus passengers, lack of tactile maps of the airport, among many issues; and

WHEREAS, there has been more than adequate time to begin to set a goal for improving accessibility at the DTW: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan in convention assembled this 9th day of November, 2019 in the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization call upon the WCAA board and administration to commence discussions with the President of the National Federation of the Blind or his designee to create a functioning long-term consumer driven mechanism to work toward and accomplish the goal of making DTW a premier facility in terms of accessibility for blind persons and others with disabilities.

Resolution 2019-03: Regarding Protecting the Civil Rights of Blind Parents

WHEREAS, in Michigan, there are approximately 112,000 babies born each year; and

WHEREAS, approximately 2,240 babies born each year have at least 1 parent who is blind; and

WHEREAS, for most people a fundamental aspect of living life to the fullest includes the joy of being a parent and sharing in the nurturing, growth, and development of a child; and

WHEREAS, being a parent and raising children is a fundamental right which is protected under the Constitution of the United States of America by the First and Ninth Amendments thereto and under the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to the states; and

WHEREAS, protecting the rights of parents with disabilities is a notion that, incredibly, was rejected by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927), in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind”; and

WHEREAS, this insulting and unjustified example of the implicit bias held by many people today, including some hospital medical staff, some social workers and some courts, view that people with disabilities, including blind people, are somehow “manifestly unfit” to be parents (or otherwise to live the lives they want and to participate as members of society with all rights and privileges associated therewith) has too often continued to prevail in the courts even as we move further into the twenty-first century; and

WHEREAS, this bias is reflected in matters involving adoption and guardianship and in contested child custody proceedings, because blind parents have been perceived by the courts, child protection agencies, guardians ad litem, hospital staff, and others as incapable of caring adequately for their children’s needs, which has resulted in blind parents, thankfully rarely, but sadly all too routinely being denied the right to be parents without unfair bias or unnecessary overreach by government entities; and

WHEREAS, in the case of blind parents, there is a need to protect this fundamental constitutional right; yet Michigan and many other states have no laws to Adequately protect the right of blind citizens to be parents and raise their children without being fearful of the horrifying prospect of having their newborn babies unjustly removed from their care and other discriminatory treatment or unnecessary inquiries of fitness solely based on blindness: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan in Convention assembled this 9th day of November, 2019, in the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization call upon the Michigan state legislature to enact laws that establish procedural safeguards to protect the right of blind people to be parents and prohibit discriminatory presumptions of manifest unfitness solely because a parent (or prospective parent) happens to be blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Michigan attorney general, in protecting the best interest of the child(ren) in each proceeding, to use their good offices affirmatively to protect blind parents against discrimination and bias based solely upon blindness and to urge the courts, guardians ad litem, and officials of child protection agencies to base decisions about what is in the best interest of the child on issues regarding fitness to parent, not on blindness.

Resolution 2019-04: Regarding Accessible and Secret Voting

WHEREAS, universal suffrage, the hard won right of every citizen to vote freely and secretly, is the bedrock upon which our democracy functions; and

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that voters with disabilities be provided the opportunity to exercise the right to vote that is equal to the opportunity provided voters without disabilities; and

WHEREAS, according to The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Under Title I, states are required to develop plans to improve the election systems. Federal funds have been made available to assist states in making these improvements: and

WHEREAS, Michigan has received funds to improve and upgrade voting equipment and has permitted the purchase of illegally inaccessible and sub-standard equipment which deters and frustrates blind persons attempts to exercise our constitutional right to vote; and

WHEREAS: Under HAVA, Voting systems must provide for independent and private voting for all voters including disabled citizens and must allow voters to verify their selections and make changes before casting their vote; and

WHEREAS, under HAVA voting systems must create records that may be recounted and audited. There must also be a provisional ballot which allows voters to cast ballots when there is a problem with any vote cast, question of registration, which precinct to vote at and other issues which may arise on election day. The state must have procedures for reviewing provisional ballots and counting them; and

WHEREAS, under HAVA Title 1, states may expend funds for Educating voters concerning voting procedures, voting rights, and voting technology and Training election officials, poll workers, and election volunteers; and

WHEREAS, HAVA Title 1 provides funding for Improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places, including providing physical access for individuals with disabilities, providing nonvisual access for individuals with visual impairments, and providing assistance to Native Americans, Alaska Native citizens, and to individuals with limited proficiency in the English language; and

WHEREAS: In many consecutive recent elections blind voters have either been discouraged to the point where they do not attempt to vote, give up and leave the polling place due to the inaccessibility of voting equipment or have waited for hours while election officials consult each other, their supervision, manuals and equipment providers to attempt to resolve voting machine issues which prevent blind voters from voting; and

WHEREAS, many of the voting problems are due to inadequate training of election staff, setup or lack of understanding of how blind people use voting equipment; and

WHEREAS, despite NFB of Michigan participation in the mock election and subsequent reviews plus numerous and repeated complaints and notifications of the deficient, inoperable and inaccessible voting equipment, the state of Michigan has allowed individual counties to select the Dominion and Hart voting machines which are demonstrated to be either totally inaccessible or so difficult to operate that they deter blind people from voting in those precincts; and

Whereas, federal courts have made a ruling that applies to Michigan, that Ohio must make absentee ballots and the absentee voting process accessible for blind persons, Michigan has done little or nothing to comply with the ruling and provide accessible absentee or provisional voting to blind persons which would alleviate the problems with the illegally faulty voting equipment; and

WHEREAS, in 2020 one of the most important election seasons of the century including presidential primaries, congressional primaries and the quadrennial presidential election will be held while there has been no progress on making voting accessible to a majority of Michigan’s blind citizens thereby suppressing our vote: Now, therefore

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan in Convention assembled this ninth day of November, 2019, in the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization condemns and deplores the purchase of illegally dysfunctional and inaccessible voting equipment and the lack of response to our repeated and consistent calls for resolution of this illegal, inexcusable and intolerable matter; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this organization calls upon the Secretary of State to declare an emergency and provide accessible voting equipment in all precincts which use Dominion or Hart voting machines; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of State take all steps necessary to roll out a fully accessible and tested absentee and provisional voting system as an alternative to the illegal, dysfunctional and inaccessible Dominion and Hart voting machines; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of state use appropriated federal HAVA training funds to contract with the National Federation of the Blind to provide authentic and expert training for blind voters and election officials throughout the state.

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