2016 Washington Seminar Fact Sheets

Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (TIME Act)

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) Act

Equal Access to Air Travel for Service-Disabled Veterans (Space Available)

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”)

Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (HR 188) (S 2001)
Current labor laws unjustly prohibit workers with disabilities from reaching their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.

Antiquated public policy encourages workers with disabilities to rely on government assistance such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.

Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, authorizes the Secretary of Labor to issue Special Wage Certificates to certain entities, permitting them to pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages. Ninety-five percent of 14(c)-certificate-holding entities are nonprofit “sheltered workshops” (segregated work environments)1 that pay over 300,000 workers with disabilities as little as pennies per hour, leading many of those workers to seek government assistance.

Current training and employment strategies assist those with even the most significant disabilities to obtain integrated and meaningful employment.

Workers in sheltered workshops often perform mundane tasks that do not use their existing skills, interests, and talents. However, innovative strategies such as customized and supported employment, when paired with appropriate rehabilitative services, training, tools, and expectations allow employees with disabilities to be as productive as their nondisabled coworkers.2

A growing number of former 14(c)-certificate-holding entities have transitioned their business models into effective disability training programs.

No entities in Vermont or New Hampshire use 14(c) certificates. Seminars such as the Vermont Conversion Institute highlight entities that have successfully phased out reliance on Section 14(c) certificates. This transition not only benefits employees with disabilities but the overall productivity of the organizations that employ them.3 Research shows that sheltered workshops cost more to society than alternatives. Moreover, consumers who were not exposed to the low expectations of sheltered, subminimum-wage environments earn more money than peers who were never in those environments.4

Policy and public and private sentiment are moving into a new era of proven competitive, integrated employment for people with disabilities.

In August 2012 the National Council on Disability unanimously recommended that the Department of Labor immediately stop issuing new Special Wage Certificates and that the “Section 14(c) program be phased out.”5 In September 2015 a committee tasked by Congress to increase competitive integrated employment opportunities for workers with disabilities recommended the phase-out of Section 14(c).6 In addition, over eighty disability organizations support the repeal of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.7

The Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act:

Discontinues the issuance of new Special Wage Certificates.

The Secretary of Labor will no longer issue Special Wage Certificates to new applicants.

Phases out the use of Special Wage Certificates over three years.

Three years after the enactment of this Act, no 14(c)-certificate-holding entity will pay workers with disabilities subminimum wages, allowing them to transition to the proven model of competitive, integrated employment for all of their employees with disabilities.

Repeals Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Three years after the law is enacted, the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages will be officially abolished. This will result in the development of integrated and meaningful employment opportunities that encourage people with disabilities to reach their full vocational and socioeconomic potential.

Cosponsor the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act.

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) Act
Until colleges and universities drive the demand for accessible instructional materials, blind college students will be denied access to critical course content.

Technology has fundamentally changed the education system.

The scope of instructional materials used at institutions of higher education has expanded. Curricular content comes in digital books, PDFs, webpages, etc., and most of this content is delivered through digital databases, learning management systems, and applications. The print world is inherently inaccessible to students with disabilities, but technology offers the opportunity to expand the circle of participation. Studies have found that, of the six million plus students with print disabilities in the system, the number who go on to pursue postsecondary education is growing.8

Blind students are facing insurmountable barriers to education.

Instead of fulfilling the promise of equal access, technology has created more problems than the print world ever did. Data show that students with disabilities face a variety of challenges, including matriculation failure, solely because colleges and universities are sticking with the ad-hoc accommodations model instead of embracing accessibility.9 Schools deploy inaccessible technology and then modify another version for blind students, usually weeks or even months into class, creating a “separate-but-equal” landscape with nearly impenetrable barriers. With only a 20 percent employment rate,10 blind students should not be denied access by the innovations that could have ensured full participation.

Institutions of higher education need help to identify accessible material and comply with nondiscrimination laws.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act require schools to provide equal access, and in 2010, the US Departments of Justice and Education clarified that the use of inaccessible technology is prohibited under these laws.11 In the five years since, over a dozen institutions have faced legal action for using inaccessible technology,12 and complaints are on the rise. Most litigation ends with a commitment from the school to embrace accessibility, but that commitment does little in a vast, uncoordinated higher education market 13 that mostly forgets about blind students.

Accessibility solutions are available, but guidelines are sorely needed to guide the market.

Equal access requirements have no criteria for accessibility that schools can use when selecting technology. Innovations in text-to-speech, refreshable Braille, and other accessibility features are widely available, but developers and manufacturers will incorporate only solutions that are demanded by the market. Accessibility guidelines are needed so that schools can streamline demand, stimulate the market, and better identify accessible material. If schools seeking to avoid litigation embrace this path to compliance, blind students will truly attain equal access.

Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act:

Develops accessibility guidelines for instructional materials used in postsecondary education.

A purpose-based commission is tasked with developing accessibility criteria for instructional materials and the delivery systems/technologies used to access those materials. Additionally, the commission is tasked with developing an annotated list of existing national and international standards so that schools and developers can identify what makes a product usable by the blind.

Provides incentive for institutions of higher education to follow the guidelines.

Institutions of higher education that use only technology that conforms with the guidelines will be deemed in compliance with the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act that pertain to schools’ use of technology.

Offers flexibility for schools while reiterating that pre-existing obligations still apply.

Colleges and universities are permitted to use material that does not conform to the guidelines as long as equal access laws are still honored. Conformity with the AIM HE guidelines is only one path to compliance; schools can pursue a different path, but will forfeit the safe harbor legal protection.

Sponsor the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act.

Equal Access to Air Travel for Service-Disabled Veterans (HR 2264)
The Space Available Program unjustly denies 100 percent service-disabled veterans the opportunity to participate.

100 percent service-disabled veterans are not entitled to air travel privileges to which other members of the military have access.

The Space Available Program allows members of the active military, some family members, Red Cross employees, and retired armed services members to travel on military aircraft if space is available. However, members of the military who were classified as 100 percent service disabled before September 23, 1996, do not qualify for this program because they are not considered “retired.”

This exclusion denies 100 percent service-disabled veterans discharged before September 23, 1996, a privilege to which they would be entitled had they not been disabled during service.

Those service members who were disabled during active duty and were medically discharged prior to September 23, 1996, did not have the chance to stay on active duty, to be classified as “medically retired,” or to fulfill the twenty years requirement to become qualified for this program. These men and women have earned the right to space-available travel just as others have because they sacrificed so much for our country.

Military aircraft are already equipped to accommodate passengers with disabilities.

Retired military personnel, their family members, and Red Cross workers with disabilities are already permitted to use the Space Available Program, and according to the AMC Space-Available Handbook & FAQ’s, “Every effort shall be made to transport passengers with disabilities who are otherwise eligible to travel.”14 Therefore, permitting 100 percent service-disabled veterans the opportunity to ride on military aircraft if space is available will not cause any new burden to the program.

The National Defense Authorization Act provides the platform to achieve the goal of this bill.

In a letter dated November 3, 2015, Bob Dole, a decorated World War II veteran and longtime Senate majority leader, urged Senator John McCain, Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, to incorporate this bill into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Indeed, the House of Representatives’ version of NDAA for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 included the language of HR 2264.

Equal Access to Air Travel for Service-Disabled Veterans would:

Provide travel privileges to all 100 percent service-disabled veterans.

This bill amends Title 10 of the United States Code to permit veterans who have a service-connected, permanent disability rated as total to travel on military aircraft in the same manner and to the same extent as retired members of the Armed Forces.

Brave soldiers made the same sacrifices as their fellow veterans, and their disabilities are a direct result of combat or its aftermath. I believe they should be able to participate in the Space Available program.” – Bob Dole Letter to Senator McCain, November 3, 2015

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (“Marrakesh Treaty”)15
An international copyright treaty will give blind Americans access to millions of published works and improve the distribution of books across the globe.

Millions of Americans are being denied access to published works.16

Despite the ability to convert print books into accessible formats like Braille, audio, and digital copies, over 95 percent of published works are unavailable to people with print disabilities.17 Literacy and equal participation in society are critical elements of a fulfilling and independent life, but until uniformity is built into the international copyright system, blind Americans will be excluded from accessing works. A blind student seeking to learn Spanish will likely struggle to find an accessible format;18 a work printed in English may have already been converted into an accessible format overseas, but because copies are not exchanged across borders, domestic entities might need to make a duplicate copy or just might deny access altogether by failing to reproduce the work.

An uncoordinated legal approach prevents the cross-border exchange of accessible books.

Unlike the United States, where copyright code includes the Chafee Amendment and other exceptions,19 two-thirds of the world’s nations do not have domestic copyright laws that permit making copies for the blind, limiting the number of works available in an accessible format. Moreover, many countries consider distribution of accessible copies an infringement as well, and even amongst nations that permit distribution, limitations vary. Instead of exchanging books across borders, works are needlessly duplicated, and circulation is significantly limited.

The Marrakesh Treaty was adopted to achieve this goal.

On June 27, 2013, a diplomatic conference convened by the World Intellectual Property Organization, (WIPO) in Morocco adopted the Marrakesh Treaty with outspoken support from the US delegation. The treaty, signed by the US on October 2, 2013, currently has eighty-two signatories and has been ratified by fourteen countries.20 Because the treaty calls for contracting parties to adopt copyright exemptions similar to those found in US law, the administration is developing a ratification package that should call for only a sleek, narrow set of modifications.

The Marrakesh Treaty has broad stakeholder support.

Blind people should have full and equal access to all works that enrich lives, further education, and share critical information; the treaty balances this priority with the interests of rights holders. WIPO’s adoption of the Marrakesh Treaty was supported by American-based companies,21 the international publishing community,22 legal experts,23 and blindness advocates.24 The treaty will have tangible benefits for all involved.

The Marrakesh Treaty calls for contracting parties to provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception that allows for the:

Reproduction of works, by an authorized entity, for the purposes of converting them into accessible format copies exclusively for beneficiary persons.

Distribution of accessible format copies exclusively to beneficiary persons.

Import of accessible format copies, for the purposes of making them available domestically.

Export of accessible format copies, for the purposes of making them available to a beneficiary person in another country.

Remove Barriers to Access of Published Works.
Support ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty.

1 United States Department of Labor. “Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) List.” Last modified October 1, 2015. http://www.dol.gov/whd/specialemployment/CRPlist.htm.

2 United States Department of Labor. “Customized Employment Works Everywhere.” Last modified October 2009. https://www.hdi.uky.edu/setp/materials/vignette_v3_blue_508_FINAL.pdf.

3 Szlyk, Janet. “Letter of Support Issued by the Chicago Lighthouse.” Last modified September 30, 2011. https://archive.nfb.org/Images/nfb/documents/word/Chicago_Lighthouse_Support_letter.doc.

4 Cimera, Robert E.; Wehman, Paul; West, Michael; & Burgess, Sloane. “Do Sheltered Workshops Enhance Employment Outcomes for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder?” Autism. 16 (2012): 87.

5 National Council on Disability. “National Council on Disability Report of Subminimum Wages and Supported Employment.” Last modified August 23, 2012. https://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/August232012.

6 Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. “Interim Report.” Last modified September 15, 2015. http://www.dol.gov/odep/pdf/20150808.pdf.

7 National Federation of the Blind. “The following groups support the repeal of Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Last modified February 12, 2015. https://archive.nfb.org/groups-supporting-repeal-section-14c-fair-labor-standards-act.

8 Association of Research Libraries. “Report of the ARL Joint Task Force on Services to Patrons with Print Disabilities.” Research Library Issues. (2012) 6.

9“Report of the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities.” (2011) 13.

10United States Department of Labor. “Current Disability Employment Statistics.” Last modified November, 2015. http://www.dol.gov/odep/.

11 Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Department of Education Office of Civil Rights letter to College and University Presidents, June 29, 2010.

12 National Federation of the Blind. “The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM-HEA) Act.” Last modified December, 2015. https://archive.nfb.org/AIMHIGH.

13 Government Accountability Office. “Education Needs a Coordinated Approach to Improve Its Assistance to Schools in Supporting Students.” Report to the Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives.10-33 (2009).

14Air Mobility Command. “AMC Space-Available Handbook & FAQ’s.” Last modified September 17, 2013. http://www.amc.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-130917-139.pdf.

15 Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled, June 28, 2013 http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/diplconf/en/vip_dc/vip_dc_8_rev.pdf.

16 World Health Organization, Fact Sheet, Visual impairment and blindness, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/ last modified August 2014.

17 World Blind Union, FAQ Sheets on UN and Human Rights Instruments, Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, http://www.worldblindunion.org/English/resources/Pages/Global-Blindness-Facts.aspx  last modified March 2014.

18 LaBarre, Scott. “Literacy Without Borders: The Road to Marrakesh,” Braille Monitor, August/September 2013. “Originally I had planned on a double major in government and Spanish. Ultimately I dropped that Spanish major precisely because I could not get access to Spanish novels and other materials.” https://archive.nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm13/bm1308/bm130811.htm.

19 17 U.S.C. § 121.

20 World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO-Administered Treaties webpage http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ShowResults.jsp?treaty_id=843, Last modified on October 8, 2015.

21 Association of American Publishers, Statement on Completion of WIPO Treaty, Press Release, June 27, 2013. http://publishers.org/press/112/.

22 International Publishers Association, Closing Statement by the International Publishers Association, 27 June 2013. http://www.internationalpublishers.org/images/stories/copyright/statements/closing_statementFinal.pdf.

23 American Bar Association, Resolution 100, August 11, 2014. http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/mental_physical_disability/2014_hod_annual_100%20Marrakesh.authcheckdam.pdf  

24 National Federation of the Blind, National Federation of the Blind Joins Stevie Wonder and World Blind Union Calling Upon International Negotiators to Conclude Successful Treaty for the Blind and Print Disabled, Press Release, June 24, 2014. https://archive.nfb.org/national-federation-blind-joins-stevie-wonder-and-world-blind-union-calling-upon-international.