The National Federation of the Blind of NJ is helping to change what it means to be blind.
National Federation of the Blind and Two Blind Students Resolve Complaint Against Atlantic Cape Community College
ACCC to Make Technology Accessible to Blind Students and Take Other Measures to Address Alleged Discrimination
Trenton, New Jersey (June 1, 2015): The National Federation of the Blind and two blind students, Anthony Lanzilotti and Mitchell Cossaboon, have entered into a consent decree with Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC). The consent decree, which resolves allegations by Mr. Lanzilotti and Mr. Cossaboon of discrimination on the basis of disability, has been filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (Case No. 1:33-av-00001) and is subject to court approval. ACCC denies the allegations of discrimination and has admitted no wrongdoing. The agreement requires ACCC to work with a third-party consultant and the National Federation of the Blind to take steps to improve the educational experience of students with disabilities and to prevent discrimination against these students, including:
- Conducting a technology audit and, based on the audit results, developing a plan to make all student-facing electronic and information technology used by ACCC accessible to students with disabilities no later than three years from the completion of the technology accessibility audit;
- Making ACCC’s websites accessible to blind students within 240 days of the execution of the consent decree;
- Making ACCC’s integrated library system and its website fully accessible to blind students;
- Developing a plan to provide accessible instructional materials, including textbooks, course materials, and tactile graphics, to blind students and to other students with disabilities at the same time that these materials are made available to students without disabilities, and to implement this plan no later than three years from the effective date of the consent decree;
- Requiring cooperation among faculty, staff, and ACCC’s Disability Support Services office to handle accommodation requests made by students with disabilities;
- Reviewing and revising ACCC’s policies and procedures for accommodating students with disabilities and for processing and resolving grievances brought by students with disabilities, including requiring ACCC’s Disability Support Services office to self-report any failure to resolve a student’s complaint or accommodation request, triggering an automatic grievance procedure; and
- Requiring training of all personnel on the Americans with Disabilities Act and on ACCC’s policies for accommodating students with disabilities, as well as training for such students on their rights and the procedures available to them to enforce those rights.###
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We commend Atlantic Cape Community College for its willingness to engage in a comprehensive program to ensure that all of its students, including the blind, receive a truly equal education. It is especially significant that ACCC has agreed to make all of its technology and content accessible within three years, and to give its office serving students with disabilities real power and authority to enforce the institution’s policies and resolve student complaints. The National Federation of the Blind looks forward to working with ACCC, and we hope and believe that this institution’s new approach to serving its blind students will be a model for other institutions of higher education.”
About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Vincent Chaney Jr, President
New Jersey Association of Guide Dog Users
National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey
Chairperson of Public Relations
Note: At the time of the press release, Vincent Chaney was President of the NJ Association of Guide Dog Users (NJAGDU). The current President is Dan Facchini. Dan can be reached at email@example.com or 201-906-8655.
New Jersey Association of Guide Dog Users Supports Proposal for Dusty’s Law
TRENTON, NEW JERSEY – Did you know that if a blind person and his/her guide dogare attacked by an aggressive dog that the police can do nothing about it now? Help us change this! The New Jersey Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey (NFBNJ), today announced its support of Assembly A. 2728 and Senate S. 1907, designated as “Dusty’s Law.” The organization is urging legislators and citizens of New Jersey to support the legislation, which would allow the police to intervene when a guide dog or guide-dog team is attacked by an aggressive dog.
Under current law, if a guide dog, guide-dog handler, guide-dog puppy in training, instructor, or volunteer puppy raiser is attacked or interfered with by aggressive dogs; the issue is not handled as a police matter but is turned over to an animal control officer. Animal control officers may not be available or on duty during weekends or evenings, leaving the blind individual and his or her guide dog vulnerable without recourse or protection.
Ginger Kutsch, advocacy specialist at the Seeing Eye, said: “Attacks and interference with guide dog teams grossly interfere with a blind person’s ability to walk freely and safely within the community or anywhere else the team wishes to go.” She added, “Police response is important because the imminent danger to a blind individual whose guide dog is being attacked or subjected to interference is potentially far greater than that of pet owners who do not require the services of their dogs to travel safely and independently. Moreover, people who are blind cannot use vision to avoid other dogs or to defend themselves or their guide dogs.”
Senator Anthony Bucco, District 25, said: “I have seen firsthand the tremendous benefit that specially trained guide dogs provide to those who are visually impaired. Unfortunately there has been an increase in the number of attacks, by aggressive dogs, on guide dogs and their owners. Dusty’s Law will provide greater protection under the law for guide dogs and their owners by allowing police to intervene and aid owners in the event of an attack.”
Dusty’s Law is named for a nine-month-old German shepherd puppy who was being raised as a potential Seeing Eye guide dog. Dusty was attacked by a pit bull and as a result underwent four hours of surgery, lost four teeth, required 96 stitches, and underwent trauma that made it impossible for him to complete the program. Roger Woodhour, Dusty’s volunteer puppy raiser, who was raising his twenty-sixth puppy, was also attacked and lost the tip of the middle finger of his right hand. Details of the story can be found in The Record: Pit bull’s attack may knock Woodcliff Lake puppy out of Seeing Eye program: page all – NorthJersey.com.
The bill would also allow for restitution for the affected handler and guide dog and would apply to working guide dogs, guide dogs in training and puppies in training.
For further legislative details for the bills, click on http://www.njleg.state.nj.us and search for “Dusty’s Law”.
Vincent Chaney Jr, president of the New Jersey Association of Guide Dog Users, said: “We whom have chosen to independently travel with our guide-dog partner teams have needed Dusty’s Law for many years to be able to engage our New Jersey police officers in instances of attack or when subjected to interference. We request all New Jersey citizens to advocate for these bills to become law by contacting their senator and two assembly-persons today.”
About the New Jersey Association of Guide Dog Users
The New Jersey Association of Guide Dog Users (NJAGDU), a division of the NFBNJ, is an organization for blind people who currently use guide dogs as mobility tools, those considering getting a guide dog, or those who want to learn more about the use of such dogs. We provide a forum for those interested in the guide dog movement to discuss common issues and to increase opportunities for those who have chosen to use a guide dog for independent travel.###
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
National Federation of the Blind Applauds New Jersey Ruling on Braille Instruction for Blind Child
After Three-Year Battle, Hank Miller Will Receive Braille Instruction
Oceanport, New Jersey (May 7, 2012): After a three-year administrative and legal battle against their local school board, the Oceanport Board of Education, Jeffrey and Holly Miller obtained a ruling (docket number: 2011 17218) from an administrative law judge that their eleven-year-old son Henry “Hank” Miller was improperly denied instruction in Braille, the reading and writing code for the blind. The legal victory, obtained with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), comes on the heels of a letter from 26 U.S. Senators urging the Department of Education to take steps to ensure that blind children who need Braille instruction receive it.
Holly and Jeffrey Miller brought the legal case on behalf of their son, Hank, whom they adopted from China and who is blind due to albinism and nystagmus. Hank has limited vision that allows him to read enlarged print for short periods of time, but he is unable to read for sustained periods of time. Although Hank’s parents continued to tell school officials that their son was experiencing visual fatigue and was having difficulty reading, the school board and its consultant, the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI), insisted that Hank was a proficient print reader, notwithstanding his continued placement in a special resource room for language arts. In a nearly ten-day hearing, held under the due process provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Mrs. Miller testified that she watched Hank routinely struggle with his homework, suffering from eye strain and fatigue, but was unable to convince school officials or the CBVI that Hank needed Braille instruction. She also testified that Hank’s schoolwork was not of the same quantity and quality as that of his classmates. Although experts from the school and the commission claimed that Hank was a “visual learner” and should participate in the “sighted world,” experts hired by the Millers and the NFB concluded after thorough assessment that Hank could not read print for extended periods of time without eye strain, neck and back pain, fatigue, and loss of reading speed and comprehension.
In her order, Administrative Law Judge Lisa James-Beavers found that the school board and the commission displayed a clear “bias against Braille.” She found that the school board and the commission had failed to assess Hank’s “sustained reading ability” with print, relying instead on reading assessments involving only brief passages, and citing Hank’s alleged failure to complain about struggling to read print. The judge was unconvinced by the board and CBVI’s contention that Hank could rely on audio technology as reading demands increased through his school years, noting that “as pointed out by all of petitioners’ well-qualified experts, listening does not equate to reading. One does not enhance the active skill of comprehending text by passively listening, even if one is following along with the reading.” The order noted that “the CBVI failed to do what Oceanport relied on them to do, which is to help construct a program that would give H.M. meaningful educational benefit considering H.M.’s future needs.”
Judge James-Beavers ordered that Hank Miller be provided with Braille instruction for forty-five minutes, five days a week, and that the school board provide compensatory instruction because of the three years that Hank was not provided with Braille instruction, in the form of intensive Braille summer programs or tutoring.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Based on the experience of countless parents of blind children and blind adults who had never learned Braille and have contacted us over the years, the National Federation of the Blind has consistently argued that blind children are being improperly assessed and denied Braille instruction when it is clearly appropriate. Now after a thorough and comprehensive examination of the evidence in Hank Miller’s case, an independent judge has confirmed what we always knew. We hope that school and agency officials across the nation take note of this landmark ruling and commit to giving blind children access to Braille, the true key to literacy for the vast majority of children who are blind or losing vision. The National Federation of the Blind will continue to stand with families like the Millers who find themselves pitted against the educational establishment in obtaining the equal education to which their children are entitled and which they deserve.”
Holly Miller, Hank’s mother, said: “I am obviously thrilled with this ruling, although I am still saddened that it took such a prolonged battle to achieve it. I am stepping forward to tell Hank’s story in hopes that other parents of blind children will not have to struggle as we did. I thank the National Federation of the Blind and all of the individuals and experts who came forward to assist in this case. I plan to strongly and publicly advocate with the National Federation of the Blind for Braille instruction for blind children.”
The plaintiffs are represented in this matter by Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein, and Levy, and Jayne M. Wesler of the Cranbury firm Sussan and Greenwald.
For more information about the National Federation of the Blind, please visit www.nfb.org. For more information about Braille, the reading and writing code for the blind, please visit www.braille.org.
About the National Federation of the Blind
With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind people in the United States. The NFB improves blind people’s lives through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs encouraging independence and self-confidence. It is the leading force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation’s blind. In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in the United States for the blind led by the blind.