Published by the
IOWA COUNCIL OF THE UNITED BLIND
An American Council of the Blind Affiliate
Carrie Chapman, President
304 W. Cedar St.
Goldfield, IA 50542
Don Wirth, Co-Editor
921 9th St., #208
Ames, IA 50010
Sandy Tigges, Co-Editor
2904 34th St.
Des Moines, IA 50310
Table of Contents
Dear Members and Friends,
First, let me apologize. In the last issue of the Bulletin, I listed the dates for our State Convention incorrectly. The correct dates are August 26-27, 2022. The Convention will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott, 2405 SE Creekview Drive, Ankeny, Iowa, 50021. I am sorry for any confusion.
Have you checked out ICUB’s recent blog? There you can find our Bulletin archives, Convention updates, Chapter news, and more. We are just getting started adding content, so check back often. You can find our blog on our website at: www.icublind.org .
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Thank you to everyone who is submitted their 2022 membership dues. We are still accepting dues for the 2022 year and would love to have you join us. If you would like to find out more about ICUB or become a member, please visit our website at: www.icublind.org . You can also call 1-866-436-0141. We are always happy to hear from you.
Below you will find information about consumer issues with which ICUB and other organizations have been dealing: web and application accessibility, electronic absentee voting, and service animal restrictions. ICUB has joined over one hundred organizations—including the American Council of the Blind, (ACB), American Foundation for the Blind, National Disability Rights Network, and National Federation of the Blind—in signing a letter insisting that the Department of Justice take quick action to finalize rules on web and application accessibility. That letter follows this article.
The other two items are bills that had been proposed this year for passage by the Iowa legislature but did not make it through the funnel. ICUB registered its support of the electronic absentee voting bill (HF2426). Unfortunately, it did not survive this year as a stand-alone bill, but could still be added to another bill. Although HF2426 doesn’t include all of the provisions we need, it is a start. The text of the bill appears following the letter to the Department of Justice.
SF2035, which also did not pass through the funnel this year, attempts to put restrictions on the use of service animals, including guide dogs, in the context of county and city breed restrictions. Current law grants a person with a disability, a person assisting a person with a disability by controlling a service animal, a service-animal-in-training, or a person training a service animal the right to be accompanied by the service animal or service-animal-in-training, under control, at public facilities and accommodations without being required to make additional payment for the service animal or service-animal-in-training. The proposed bill provides that the right does not apply if the public facility or accommodation is in a county or city that prohibits or restricts the possession of a specific breed or perceived breed of dog and the service animal or service-animal-in-training is of the prohibited or restricted breed or perceived breed of dog. For example, if you have a service animal that falls under a prohibited breed in a particular area, that area does not have to follow the guidelines which typically protect you and your dog. ICUB has joined the Humane Society, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, the Iowa Pet Alliance, the ACLU of Iowa, and others in registering opposition to this bill.
Take care and stay safe!
Carrie Chapman, President
Letter to the Department of Justice
Editor’s Note: This is the letter President Chapman refers to in her message above. While only ACB is shown as a signatory because of space restrictions, the letter was signed by more than 100 advocacy organizations.
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Assistant Attorney General Clarke:
The 181 undersigned disability organizations believe that there is an urgent need for digital accessibility regulations. We urge the Department of Justice to maintain this rulemaking process as a priority and finalize a rule by the end of the current administration.
The U.S. Department of Justice has long held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) includes websites and other technologies that are critical to accessing a business’s or agency’s services or facilities, but has failed to define when and how they should be accessible. In 2018, the Department reconfirmed its position that the ADA applies to the internet but never completed rulemakings that were begun in 2010 under Titles II and III of the ADA and withdrawn in 2017. Meanwhile, courts have diverged in interpreting when and how the ADA should apply to the internet, and business groups are on the record seeking clear standards that clarify their obligations under the ADA.
In 2016, the National Council on Disability (NCD) recommended that the Department of Justice issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that reinforces that the ADA applies to the internet. NCD also recommended that multiple agencies complete existing rulemakings and initiate new rulemakings on accessibility of various types of information and communication technology (ICT), including web content, applications, hardware, and software. The absence of digital accessibility regulations in the intervening time period has resulted in persistent exclusion of people with disabilities from digital spaces covered by the ADA.
Recent research has shown the breadth of barriers that people with disabilities face. Several studies find persistent barriers in telehealth accessibility. A study of 74 deaf participants who had recently used telehealth found that 65% of participants experienced communications accessibility barriers. Deaf patients frequently experience the inability to connect remote medical interpreters or real-time captioners through a secure telehealth platform, the inability to see the provider on video, and other technical issues, including poor audio quality. Another study found that of 285 blind and low vision participants who had used telehealth to meet with their healthcare provider, 21% reported the telehealth platform was not accessible with their assistive technology, and preliminary data from a forthcoming study suggests that the number could exceed 50% a year later. Moreover, while there are no studies directly examining the telehealth experiences of deafblind people, anecdotal reports suggest that the vast majority of deafblind people are completely unable to utilize telehealth as it currently exists.
The challenges are present in every sector of society. Nearly 60% of the educators surveyed in a fall, 2020, study reported their blind and low vision students could not access one or more of the digital learning tools they were expected to use in class. A 2022 study found that about 50% of survey respondents experienced accessibility challenges when filling out electronic onboarding paperwork. Moreover, an annual automated analysis demonstrates how common inaccessibility barriers are, finding that of one million webpages reviewed in 2021, 97% had accessibility issues, and an average of 50 errors appeared on every page.
These findings are neither exhaustive of all website-related issues nor comprehensive of the entire disability community. The disability community is large and diverse, facing access issues that continue to grow and evolve with the ever-changing landscape of websites and applications. While the studies cited primarily explored the experiences of people with sensory disabilities, accessibility issues are pervasive, frequent, and harmful for people with other disabilities as well.
The scale of inaccessibility and its impact on access to nearly every type of web or application-based activity necessitates regulatory action. As the COVID-19 pandemic has made abundantly clear, we live in a society that increasingly lives and works through digital tools and online spaces. When websites and applications are inaccessible, people with disabilities cannot apply for jobs, work efficiently, attend school, access healthcare, schedule a ride, shop, find public health information, apply for public benefits, and more.
We remind you that Congress intends the ADA to cover the internet and applications. We urge you to continue the rulemaking process at a pace that ensures a rule can be finalized by the end of the current administration. Thank you for your consideration and work on behalf of people with disabilities.
American Council of the Blind
Clark Rachfal, CRachfal@acb.org
HOUSE FILE 2426
BY GERHOLD, BRADLEY, and DUNWELL
A BILL FOR An Act relating to the electronic delivery of absentee ballots for persons with certain physical disabilities. To BE ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF IOWA:
Section 1. Section 53.2, subsection 2, Code 2022, is amended by adding the following new paragraph:
NEW PARAGRAPH. e. Absentee ballot applications shall include a space for a registered voter with a physical disability that prevents the registered voter from reading or marking a printed ballot without assistance from another person to request that an absentee ballot be delivered to the registered voter electronically. A voter requesting that an absentee ballot be delivered electronically shall explain why the voter cannot read or mark a physical absentee ballot without assistance from another person. The state commissioner shall adopt rules regarding the form of electronic absentee ballots.
Sec. 2. Section 53.8, subsection 1, paragraph a, unnumbered paragraph 1, Code 2022, is amended to read as follows:
Upon receipt of an application for an absentee ballot and immediately after the absentee ballots are printed, but not more than twenty days before the election, the commissioner shall mail an absentee ballot to the applicant within twenty-four hours, except as otherwise provided in subsection 3 or 5. The absentee ballot shall be sent to the registered voter by one of the following methods:
Sec. 3. Section 53.8, subsection 3, paragraph c, Code 2022, is amended to read as follows:
c. Nothing in this subsection nor in section 53.22 shall be construed to prohibit a registered voter who is a hospital patient or resident of a health care facility, or who anticipates entering a hospital or health care facility before the date of a forthcoming election, from casting an absentee ballot in the manner prescribed by section 53.10 or 53.11, or from completing an electronic absentee ballot in the manner prescribed by subsection 5.
Sec. 4. Section 53.8, Code 2022, is amended by adding the following new subsection:
NEW SUBSECTION. 5. a. (1) When an application for an absentee ballot is received by the commissioner from a voter who has indicated that the voter has a physical disability that prevents the voter from reading or marking a printed ballot without assistance from another person, the commissioner shall determine whether the voter qualifies to receive an electronic absentee ballot. If the commissioner determines that the v