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2013 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 Each proposed resolution is read, spoken for by the authoring member, considered, and then ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the Convention.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 2013-01: Regarding Re-establishing the Michigan Commission for the Blind through an Act of the Legislature

WHEREAS, Executive Order 2012 - 10 abolishes the Board of Commissioners, established by Public Act 260 of 1978, as amended, section 393.352 of Michigan Compiled Laws; and

WHEREAS, The abolition of the Michigan Commission for the Blind Board of Commissioners under Executive Order 2012 – 10 eliminates the Commission board’s participation to develop and set the policies that affect the lives of blind citizens both personally and professionally; and

WHEREAS, Executive Order 2012 -10 does not comply with PA 260 of 1978 and the Executive Organization Act of 1965 and other federal regulations required under the Rehabilitation Services Administration as the Board of Commissioners has been abolished and replaced with an Advisory Board. The Advisory Board is only to advise the Director of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons; and

WHEREAS, Executive order 2012-10 grants to The director of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs the authority to make final agency decisions related to grievances filed under due process rights granted by promulgated rules against the department providing no fair and impartial review and judgment of such adjudication, thereby creating an unethical conflict of interest: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization strongly urge the Michigan Legislature to enact a bill to abolish the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons and the position of Director and to re-establish the Michigan Commission for the Blind, The Board of Commissioners and position of Director, and all other rights to the Commission Board found in P.A. 260.

Resolution 2013-02: Regarding Program Access and BSBP

WHEREAS, all Vocational Rehabilitation entities, including the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, (BSBP) have long ago been required to provide “program access” to all the facilities it uses on a daily basis and to hold hearings, meetings and events in fully accessible facilities, even to the point of signing assurances with the Rehabilitation Services Administration annually that it does fully comply with these long-standing obligations; and

WHEREAS, one of those long-standing requirements was, and is to have raised character Braille signage mounted on every permanent room, nearest the latch side of each door in accordance with American with Disabilities Act Guidelines (3.40.1, 4, 5, and 6); and

WHEREAS, all such barriers were to have been removed under the required ADA transition plan by no later than July 26, 1995, exist to this very day in most, if not all, facilities used by the BSBP; and

WHEREAS, the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are civil rights laws requiring affirmative action; and therefore these inactions by the BSBP constitute not only gross dereliction of known duties and deliberate indifference to these civil rights laws, but also must be considered malicious and intentional acts of mass discrimination; and

WHEREAS, members of, and indeed the entire state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan (NFBMI), have promoted the full application of these requirements repeatedly over the years along with documenting violations; and

WHEREAS, the NFBMI has long promoted Braille, including its use in the building environment, for reasons obvious to all: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization will lodge a formal Complaint forthwith with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the United States Department of Education, along with supporting documentation, on behalf of all its members, and indeed all people who are blind in the State of Michigan, against the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons as an entity; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that as a part of this Complaint, this organization urges OCR to promptly enforce our individual and collective civil rights and to make the class whole as its charge.

Resolution 2013-03: Regarding Bureau of Services for Blind Persons Lack of Compliance

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires the following:

  1. Public hearings for the gathering of information regarding the State Plan for provision of rehabilitation services;
  2. The State Rehabilitation Council requires representation from all disability groups;
  3. Information related to the provision of services . and consumer rights be provided in an accessible format as the preferred format of the individual;
  4. Consumers are afforded choice in development and implementation of their Individualized Plan for Employment with regard to career choices and service providers;
  5. Individuals who are beneficiaries of SSI and SSDI shall not be required to contribute such benefits toward the fulfillment of their individualized plan for employment; and

WHEREAS, the experiences of blind consumers of rehabilitation services and the most recent findings of the Federal Monitoring Report of 2009 demonstrates a total lack of regard for the above requirements; and

WHEREAS, not withstanding the individual and collective pleas of blind consumers to the Rehabilitation Services Administration, including to the Commissioner of RSA directly, to address and to correct failure to comply with the provisions of the Act, and nothing has been done: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization calls upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to take immediate and affirmative steps to fully enforce the Rehabilitation Act and its regulations with regard to the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSB P) to ensure ongoing oversight of BSBP operation and administration, including particular attention to consumer choice, public input, the illegal requirement that SSI and SSDI beneficiaries contribute to their employment plan, the appropriate composition of the State Rehabilitation Council and remediation of all findings of the Federal Monitoring Report.

Resolution 2013-04: Regarding Right to Due Process Administrative Hearings

WHEREAS, all entities of State and local government are required to follow the effective communications requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, including the obligation to affirmatively, let alone upon request, remit information in alternate formats to people who are blind; and

WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that all recipients of federal funds provide auxiliary aids and services to those who are blind; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court found in Tennessee v Lane that state and local courts are not immune from these obligations and, indeed, have high responsibilities in these regards, for lack of access fundamentally denies “due process and equal protection under the law”; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Administrative Hearing Systems (MAHS) is both a Title II entity, federal fund recipient and an administrative law program where blind Business Enterprise Program participants and advocates, as well as others, routinely appear to seek justice and receive due process and equal protection under laws, including Public Act 260 of 1978 as well as major aspects of the Rehabilitation Act; and

WHEREAS, MAHS, in documented fashion and principals therein, have repeatedly denied advocates, petitioners and respondents who are blind information in accessible formats and in a timely manner; and

WHEREAS, these are systemic, chronic, pervasive and fundamental violations of the civil rights of all Michigan citizens who are blind, as a class, by failure to act affirmatively in these regards; and

WHEREAS, the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons has also been complicit in not only ensuring that MAHS follows these laws, but rather, has repeatedly violated these very same provisions of the law in these administrative proceedings which are in and of themselves conscious and malicious acts of discrimination perpetuated repeatedly against numerous blind individuals: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization will lodge a Complaint forthwith against the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (MAHS’s parent), MAHS, and The Bureau of Services for Blind Persons within the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, and the civil rights office of the United States Attorney for Michigan.

Resolution 2013-05: Regarding Effective Communications and the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons

WHEREAS, Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that all Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, including the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) communicates effectively through “appropriate modes of communication with all customers; and

WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Subpart e, Communications) requires that all entities of State and local government provide information to all people who are blind in their most effective format and in a timely manner, including, of course, all those engaged with the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons; and

WHEREAS, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires the same; and

WHEREAS, it has been documented over the years that BSBP does not, in all cases, remit timely materials in Braille, audio, electronic, or large print even after continued requests from customers, Business Enterprise Program licensees and members of the public who are blind; and

WHEREAS, these documented and ongoing breaches of civil rights laws delay, deny and otherwise inhibit delivery of required services and “due process and equal protection” under these laws and thus constitute systemic, chronic and pervasive acts of discrimination against people who are blind in the State of Michigan; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan is the leading advocate for the rights of all the blind of Michigan, and believes such violations of the law by the BSBP denies blind persons of their right to equal access and such violations could be readily corrected by the BSBP: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization will file a Complaint forthwith to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons detailing the chronic acts of discrimination and demanding prompt compliance with all applicable laws in these regards.

Resolution 2013-06: Regarding Promoting STEM and Braille

WHEREAS, there is national recognition that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields of study are not being engaged in by sufficient numbers of all students; and

WHEREAS, historically, blind students have been excluded or limited in their participation in STEM careers and fields of study in K-12 and higher education; and

WHEREAS, such pioneers as Dr. Abraham Nemeth Gereig Vermeij and Cary Supalo, among many others have shown that given the opportunity and training blind people can excel in STEM careers on terms of equality with their sighted peers; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Abraham Nemeth resided in Michigan for most of his adult life and was the world’s premier inventor and innovator of the Braille reading and writing system after Louis Braille, himself; and

WHEREAS, The National Federation of the Blind of Michigan (NFBMI declares its ongoing commitment to Braille as a fundamental means of access to equality with our sighted peers; and

WHEREAS, Braille literacy in America and in Michigan has decreased to a morbidly unacceptable rate; and WHEREAS, the NFBMI has actively been engaged in the support and promotion of Braille by sponsoring a Braille Literacy law; and

WHEREAS, for the past 4 years the NFBMI has been a leader in providing opportunities for blind youth to gain experience in and learn about STEM and Braille activities through summer science and Braille camping programs and birding and nature education programs; and

WHEREAS, our primary base of operations has been Camp Tuhsmeheta through various agreements with Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind (OUB); and

WHEREAS, Camp Tuhsmeheta remains an attractive and rich possible site for future STEM activities; and

WHEREAS, ongoing attempts to negotiate satisfactory agreements with OUB have yielded less than satisfactory results; and

WHEREAS, the NFBMI wishes to use its energy to focus on programming and not to have to be concerned with tangential contractual and philosophical matters; and

WHEREAS, the OUB Board has continued to drift further from an acceptable philosophical base for working with blind adults and youth; and

WHEREAS, a tipping point has been reached which makes it preferable to seek new relationships and create STEM programs which meet our academic standards and are presented within a positive philosophy of blindness which affirms that any blind student can successfully engage in STEM activities and enjoy a supportive, encouraging environment and understand that all activities, policies and practices maintain the highest expectations for all participants and employees: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization adopt as an ongoing project the active presentation of STEM and Braille training to youth in any setting or season deemed appropriate for such teaching; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization actively seek out and expend funds and enter into contractual or other agreements necessary to provide high quality teaching programs, employees and goods and services which conform to the principles set forth herein; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization support STEM and Braille teaching staff and administrators by funding board approved positions, salaries, training, acquiring equipment and materials and paying reasonable expenses including travel, room and board and related expenses under the guidance and oversight of the President and board of this organization.

Resolution 2013-07: Regarding Reopening and Expanding Business Employment Opportunities for the Blind through the Michigan Business Enterprise Program

WHEREAS, the Michigan Business Enterprise Program (BEP) of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) has a rich history of providing business employment opportunities to blind persons through the Randolph Shepherd Act and Regulations, and Public Act 260 of 1978 as amended; and

WHEREAS, the BEP is the single largest employer of blind persons within the state of Michigan; and

WHEREAS, over a period of years the business employment opportunities for the blind have gradually declined from a program high of 119 vending facilities to a current low of 72 vending facilities due to systemic factors as well as unqualified and incompetent management and unethical and illegal business and administrative practices; and

WHEREAS, such practices have resulted in the closure of locations, the failure to appropriately maintain and remodel existing facilities, discrimination against qualified blind individuals and the ongoing use of ineligible unqualified sighted persons: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization condemns and deplores the actions of the BEP leading to the decline in the number of business employment opportunities for blind persons; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NFBMI demand compliance with all applicable program laws, rules and regulations; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demands that Governor Snyder take immediate action to protect job opportunities for blind people in Michigan by ordering that all state officials comply with all BEP laws, rules and regulations and re-establish sound business practices in the BEP.

Resolution 2013-08: Regarding Guide Dog Statute Changes

WHEREAS, the Michigan penal code Michigan Compiled Laws 750.502 includes a provision making it a misdemeanor for any responsible person to prohibit a person who is blind or disabled from entering a public facility with a guide dog or service dog; and

WHEREAS, this same statute includes a number of provisions that violate the Americans With Disabilities Act and stand in stark contrast to white cane type statutes in other states; and

WHEREAS, these include but are not limited to:

  1. Requiring a guide dog handler or trainer to carry a photo ID certifying that the animal is a guide dog or service dog;
  2. Requiring that guide dogs must wear a vest, harness, backpack or leash of blaze orange, identifying it as a service animal;
  3. Requiring that the Department of Labor maintain a list of all schools and/or trainers that are certified to train guide dogs; and

WHEREAS, the statute improperly refers to blind people and/or dog trainers as being led by their guide dogs rather than simply using the term "accompanied" and repeatedly uses the term "leader dog" which is a term of art used by one particular school and should not in the generic sense refer to a guide dog: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization take all appropriate and necessary steps, including working closely with the state legislature to amend Michigan Compiled Law 750.502 to bring it into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act and consistent with similar statutes in other states by removing the requirements involving specific identification or certification and eliminating references to guide dogs "leading" their handlers and removing the term "leader dog" from the language of the law.

Resolution 2013-09: Regarding Abraham Nemeth Commendation

WHEREAS, Dr. Abraham Nemeth has changed the lives of countless blind people through his pioneering work, creating the Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Scientific Notation; and

WHEREAS, the Nemeth Code continues to make it possible for blind men and women to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, supporting themselves and their families and changing the public perception of blindness in a positive way; and

WHEREAS, Michiganders blind and sighted, would profit by knowing about the life and work of this inspiring man who happened to be blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, in convention assembled, this twentieth day of October, 2013, in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, that this organization call upon the Michigan Legislature to formally and officially recognize the pioneering work and remarkable life of Dr. Abraham Nemeth and designate October 16 of each year as Dr. Abraham Nemeth Day in Michigan in remembrance of his birthday and accomplishments.

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