The official policies of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois 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 Each proposed resolution is read, spoken for by the authoring member, considered, and then ultimately withdrawn or recommended for passage or disapproval by the Convention.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 2021-01: Regarding Accessible Voting
WHEREAS, the casting of a secret ballot is a fundamental right for all Americans, including those who are blind, low vision or print disabled; and
WHEREAS, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and cases affirmed by the state and federal courts require that the right to cast a secret ballot should extend to all voting platforms including vote by mail; and
WHEREAS, SEVERAL STATES, including, but not limited to , Hawaii, Colorado, and West Virginia have passed legislation allowing blind, low vision and print disabled voters to cast a vote by mail ballot privately and independently; And
WHEREAS, the Illinois Board of Elections took a significant step in making accessible voting by mail for the 2020 general election a reality by offering the services of Voting Works to all county boards at no charge to those counties; and
WHEREAS, approximately 1/3 of all counties in Illinois took advantage of the Board of Elections offer; and
WHEREAS, the Board of Elections has maintained communication with the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, the Illinois Council of the Blind, and Equip for Equality to make accessible voting by mail a reality in future elections; and
WHEREAS, Illinois legislators, particularly representative Carol Ammons, and Senator Julie Morrison expressed an interest in introducing legislation that would make voting by mail accessible for those who are blind, low vision or print disabled; and
WHEREAS, HB2951/SB1907 was introduced which would have permanently guaranteed blind, low vision and print disabled voters the right to electronic delivery of their ballot, which was the same right they had in casting a secret ballot during the 2020 election; and
WHEREAS, in an effort to strengthen this bill, an amendment was proposed by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, the Illinois Council of the Blind, and Equip for Equality which would have allowed electronic return of ballots once they were marked; and
WHEREAS, HB2951/SB1907 were withdrawn with promises made that concerns of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, the Illinois Council of the Blind, and Equip for Equality would be addressed in an omnibus bill addressing voting reforms; and
WHEREAS, no provisions were included in Sb 828 proposed by Representatives Burke and Stewart, despite our best efforts to inform all members of the House and Senate on how accessible voting, including electronic return, could be achieved; and
WHEREAS, The above legislation charges the Illinois Board of Elections with the task of conducting two hearings on the need for accessible voting by mail in Illinois, and that by December 31, 2021, the State Board of Elections shall prepare and submit to the General Assembly proposed legislation establishing a procedure to send vote by mail ballots via electronic transmission and enable a voter with a disability to independently and privately mark a ballot using assistive technology in order for the voter to vote by mail; and
WHEREAS, the Illinois Board of Elections has scheduled such hearings on November 3rd in Springfield and on November 10th in Chicago, as required by provisions in SB 828; and
WHEREAS, the announcement of these hearings were not published in a timely fashion to which the stakeholders can participate in an productive manner: Now, therefore
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in Convention assembled this twenty-fourth day of October, 2021 in the Village of Lisle, Illinois, that this organization urge the Board of Elections to further their efforts in providing swift and constant communications with our organization; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board of Elections make a diligent and strong effort to publicize the occurrence and time of these hearings throughout the disability community.
Resolution 2021-02: Regarding the Accessibility of State of Illinois Websites
WHEREAS, in 2005, the Illinois Legislature passed Public Act 095-0307, the Information Technology Accessibility Act, requiring that state websites be made fully accessible for blind and low-vision users; and
WHEREAS, users of access technology such as JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver continue to encounter barriers when they visit official state websites, including but not limited to poor website structure, such as pages without meaningful headings or landmarks; poorly labeled links; and fillable PDF forms that are not fully accessible; and
WHEREAS, users of access technology have brought these concerns to the attention of persons in the office of Governor Pritzker; and
WHEREAS, in 2020, the Governor’s office launched a statewide initiative to update and improve all state websites, making nonvisual access one of its numerous goals; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIt) has launched an effort to develop standards for several public-facing state websites and will extend these standards to all state websites in the foreseeable future; and
WHEREAS, DoIT has procured and begun to implement a program called Site Improve, which allows automatic monitoring of state websites and platforms on a weekly basis; and
WHEREAS, DoIT has obtained a JAWS license and will incorporate access via JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver in its Site Improve reviews; and
WHEREAS, several blind persons who currently work for DoIT and for state agencies have been enlisted to review sites for accessibility; and
WHEREAS, Site Improve still does not catch all of the existing access barriers on state websites; and
WHEREAS, bringing all public-facing and internal state websites up to full accessibility standards will be a slow and ongoing process: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in Convention assembled this twenty-fourth day of October, 2021, in the Village of Lisle, Illinois, that the NFBI commend DoIT and the State of Illinois for their commitment to ensure full nonvisual access to all state websites as new standards are developed; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the NFBI call upon DoIT to invite ongoing input from users of access technology and provide clear and consistent means by which users of this technology can report access barriers when they are encountered.
Resolution 2021-03 Regarding Accessibility of Covid-19 Information, and of the Processes of Obtaining Vaccinations and Testing
WHEREAS, Access to COVID-19 testing and Vaccine information, including but not limited to public health messaging, public health recommendations, and testing or vaccine registration information were not and currently are not fully accessible to blind Illinoisans, thereby risking the health and well-being of blind people; and
WHEREAS, many blind people already face additional barriers in access to healthcare, leading to many issues in access to Covid-19 testing and to the vaccination despite certain categories of disabilities being included in designated earlier groups than the general public during the first doses of vaccinations, including a lack of provided transportation to and from testing or vaccines sites, a lack of easy to access spots off of major public transportation hubs, and the inability to be vaccinated at home: NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in Convention Assembled this twenty-fourth day of October, 2021, in the Village of Lisle, Illinois, that this organization urge public health entities to provide non-visual public health recommendations, testing and vaccination registration, and all pertinent details regarding future COVID Vaccinations including but not limited to first, second, and subsequent doses or boosters; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the state public health entities must provide accessible online and phone access for registration for testing and vaccines including non-visual advertisements containing this information and accessible contact details regarding access to testing and vaccines for those who are blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that future vaccination sites be placed within reach of public transportation, that at home vaccinations during the designated time period for those with disabilities be available and accessible to reserve, and that consideration is given to provide accessible means of transportation to and from testing and vaccine sites for those who are blind, particularly in areas where vehicle transportation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all drive-thru vaccination and testing sites make provisions for those who can’t drive.
Resolution 2021-04: Regarding the failure of the Department of Rehabilitation’s Bureau of Blind Services to Produce and Disseminate a Handbook, Accessible to the Blind, Containing Information on Training Alternatives
WHEREAS, at least ten years ago, members of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois (NFBI) and the Blind Services Planning Council were contacted by the director of the Bureau of Blind Services (BBS) and invited to provide information regarding the PROGRAMS AND SERVICES THE NFBI offers and information about alternative training programs offered by the National Federation of the Blind; and
WHEREAS, it was further explained and promised that this handbook, in addition to the information and referral content described above, would contain information informing customers of their right to challenge decisions that denied them the services and informed choice they were seeking and describing the procedures by which they can do so; and
WHEREAS, it was further promised that this handbook would be compiled and distributed in an electronic format accessible to those using computers with screen readers, recorded on audio cassette, and otherwise produced in ways that rendered its content accessible to blind customers according to their needs; and
WHEREAS, the existence and maintenance of a handbook containing information sufficient to allow customers to exercise informed choice and challenge BBS determinations with which they disagree is a requirement under Rehabilitation Services Administration guidelines; ANDt
WHEREAS, despite the passage of several years’ time and communication with the NFBI, including with the current BBS s Director, BBS has failed to compile and disseminate a handbook of the type and purpose described above: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in Convention assembled this twenty-fourth day of October, 2021, in the Village of Lisle, Illinois, that this organization condemn and deplore the failure of BBS to meet its obligations to its customers, its commitments to blindness organizations, and its obligations under applicable federal guidelines by preparing, maintaining and disseminating an accessible handbook containing this essential information; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization maintain contact with BBS to assure that appropriate information regarding resources available through the NFBI and the NFB training programs be included.
Resolution 2021-05: Regarding the Inaccessibility of Certain Documents at BBS
WHEREAS, The Bureau of Blind Services (BBS) serves a population where most customers have blindness as their primary disability; and
WHEREAS, BBS customers routinely receive and sign documents such as Intake applications, Release of Information forms and Individual Plans of Employment; and
WHEREAS, BBS customers have the right to access and read said documents without sighted assistance; and
WHEREAS, the above mentioned documents are now being sent as image PDF or JPEG files making them inaccessible to customers who do not have who either do not specialized programs or who do not have the ability to access said programs with a screen reader; and
WHEREAS, due to the lack of financial resources, many BBS customers are unable to afford additional scanning programs or screen readers which provide access to scanning programs; and
WHEREAS, many PDF and JPEG files cannot be accessed with current scanning programs; and
WHEREAS, documents can be produced in formats readily accessible by blind computer users, including .DOCX, .DOC, .RTF, Accessible PDF and .TXT ; and
WHEREAS, it is no more difficult to produce said documents in the above mentioned formats than it would be to produce said documents that are inaccessible: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in Convention assembled this twenty-fourth day of October, 2021, in the Village of Lisle, Illinois, that this organization call upon the Bureau of Blind Services to do the following:
- Inform all counsellors of the inaccessibility of image PDF and JPEG files.
- Require all counsellors to send documents which must be read and signed by customers in accessible formats such as .DOCX, .DOC, .RTF, TXT or as an Accessible PDF.
- Permit all customers to return all documents with an electronic signature.