The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, today applauded the introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act of 2017 in both houses of Congress (H.R. 1734, S. 732). The bill was introduced by Representatives David Young (R-IA) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) in the House and by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) in the Senate. The legislation will establish a per-person individual refundable tax credit to be used over a multi-year period to offset the cost of access technology for blind people. Access technology includes items such as text-to-speech screen access software and electronic Braille displays that blind people use to access computers, tablets, smart phones, and other devices, as well as digital content.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Access technology has enabled many blind people to participate in educational and employment opportunities, but the high cost of this technology is still a barrier for too many blind Americans. Furthermore, different individuals have different skills and requirements, so there can be no one-size-fits-all technological solution; each blind individual must have the flexibility to identify and purchase the access technology that will best meet his or her needs. The National Federation of the Blind therefore applauds the introduction of this legislation, which represents a flexible, practical, and cost-effective means of helping the blind to acquire the technology we need to live the lives we want. We appreciate the outstanding work of Representatives Young and Roybal-Allard and Senators Boozman and Cardin, and we urge all of their colleagues to join them in supporting this initiative and securing its swift passage."
Senator Boozman said: “As an optometrist, I know firsthand how important access technology is for blind Americans trying to engage in their communities. With almost 60 percent of blind Americans unemployed, I am pleased to introduce this commonsense legislation to increase the availability and reduce the financial burden associated with these items to ensure the visually impaired receive the tools they need to succeed in the classroom, the workplace, and within the community.”
“Making access technology affordable is critical to ensuring that blind and seeing impaired individuals can participate fully in our communities and have equal access to every opportunity,” said US Senator Ben Cardin. “I am proud to be a lead cosponsor on this legislation, which gives blind Marylanders, and all blind Americans, flexible economic support to help them lead full and successful lives.”
“The ability to purchase access technology makes all the difference in providing vital quality of life services for blind Iowans,” said Congressman David Young. “I am happy to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that helps these blind Iowans live independent lives and participate in expanded employment and education opportunities, as well as give them flexibility to purchase the technology they need to best fit their needs.”
Rep. Roybal-Allard said: “Technology for the blind can have a prohibitively high cost, and we should not stand by and let that cost prevent blind Americans from accessing current technology. That is why I am proud to help introduce this bill to help the blind afford the technology they need to achieve and excel in the classroom and the workforce. The Access Technology Affordability Act will help blind Americans to pursue their dreams and reach their fullest potential.
National Federation of the Blind press release, Baltimore, Maryland (March 28, 2017)