by Eve Hill
From the Editor: Here are comments made during the meeting of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors that were too long to be captured in the 2018 Convention Roundup but simply must not be left out of this issue. Eve Hill now works for Brown, Goldstein & Levy and has a long history of involvement with the Federation as a result of her legal work at this firm and in a number of other government jobs. Here is what she said to the board and its substantial audience:
President Riccobono asked me to make it snappy so we can get on to the reveal, maybe. So I’m not going to thank everyone, and I’m not going to say how honored we are at Brown, Goldstein & Levy to be working for the NFB, but I do want to take this moment to talk about the cases and how we and NFB’s other lawyers do fit into a bigger framework.
When NFB sends a demand letter to the Boeing Employees Credit Union [BECU], we’re not just trying to get access for the three individuals who complained about their mobile app not being accessible. We’re not even just getting the app fixed for all the blind people in Washington who want to bank with the same convenience as everyone else. We are working to change how credit unions think about mobile access. Right now the credit union industry is pushing back hard on having to make their websites and mobile apps accessible, but BECU is showing them that they have to, and they can, and it’s the right thing to do if you want to be in business.
And when we work with the NFB of Maryland to challenge inaccessible checkouts at one of the biggest retailers in the world, we are teaching that retailer that it can’t achieve staff savings by switching everyone else to self-service checkout but leaving blind people to rely on the fewer and fewer staff they’ll keep.
When we tell Blue Cross Blue Shield’s federal employee program they can’t have an inaccessible website, we’re not just saying that blind people want equal access to healthcare; we’re saying that even if the federal government neglects to enforce its rights to accessible technology, we, the blind people will.
When we sue the Department of Education for abdicating its responsibility to enforce our rights, we’re not just saying we have rights to education; we are saying the blind are full taxpaying citizens, and the government can’t use our tax money to fund discrimination. [applause] Don’t applaud; I’m going too slow.
When we sue employers in Maryland and Florida and Michigan for excluding blind people from employment and advancement by employing inaccessible job technology, we’re not just saying we want accommodations. We are saying that when you build new things and new technology, you have to build it accessibly.
When we tell online web design sites like GoDaddy that it has to make its own websites accessible, and it has to help its customers make its websites accessible, we’re not just making a website accessible; we’re saying stop the flow of inaccessible websites into the world at its source.
So there are a number of surveys out. This is where you come in. Asking you about your experiences, filing Department of Education complaints, using GoDaddy, encountering inaccessible educational technology, using mobile banking apps, getting accessible bills from your doctors or health insurance, and experiencing employment technology barriers. Your answer is not just about solving the problem you face for you; it’s about getting rid of that barrier for everyone and stopping new barriers for everyone.
So thank you for your responses and your advocacy and for making the world a better place. [applause]