RE: State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies’ Purchase of Assistive Technology for Blind Clients’ Use on the Job

Year: 
2008
Resolution Number: 
2008-09

RESOLUTION 2008-09
RE: State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies’ Purchase
of Assistive Technology for Blind Clients’ Use on the Job

WHEREAS, at the outset of employment and on an as-needed basis, blind people may require certain assistive technology to allow them to compete equally with their sighted peers in the workforce; and

WHEREAS, the blind across the nation have experienced attempts by state vocational rehabilitation agencies to palm their responsibilities off on others by demanding that employers who hire their clients purchase the assistive technology those clients require before the state vocational rehabilitation agencies will consider purchasing the needed accommodations themselves; and

WHEREAS, state vocational rehabilitation agencies often justify this practice by stating that they do not want to supplant employers’ distinct responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and

WHEREAS, this practice of state vocational rehabilitation agencies places blind vocational rehabilitation clients’ employment in jeopardy since it results in delay in acquiring needed assistive technology and causes tension in, and even an adversarial beginning to, the employment relationship; and

WHEREAS, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, not state vocational rehabilitation agencies, is responsible for enforcing employers’ obligations under the ADA; and

WHEREAS, rehabilitation technologies are not “comparable benefits” exempted from state vocational rehabilitation agencies’ responsibilities under the Rehabilitation Act, nor are employers “comparable services”; and

WHEREAS, a decade ago, through technical assistance circular 98-04, the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration expressly advised state vocational rehabilitation agencies that they are not to shift responsibility for providing rehabilitation technology to employers, stating that there is no basis in Title I of the Rehabilitation Act or its implementing regulations for state vocational rehabilitation agencies to provide necessary rehabilitation technology contingent on employers meeting an undue-hardship test under the ADA; and

WHEREAS, state vocational rehabilitation agencies’ primary obligation is to their clients, and they should do whatever is needed to help their clients get and keep jobs: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 2008, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call on all state vocational rehabilitation agencies to accept their responsibility for purchasing assistive technology needed by their blind vocational rehabilitation clients to ensure that job opportunities are not lost in the morass of bureaucracy and debate over who ought to be responsible for such purchases.

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