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In my written statement, I have given the name and citations of a couple of these studies, and I am sure there are more.
However, since the selection of inappropriate materials and the improper placement of markers could make those markers useless, or even worse, make them dangerous, and since there is a widespread belief among, if not most, certainly of a very high percentage of blind people in the United States that such markers could be helpful, we believe that, pursuant to Title V of the bill, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board should be asked to study this matter thoroughly, carefully, and objectively before issuing minimum guidelines and requirements for accessibility design for the purposes of Titles II and III.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. If you have any questions, I will be pleased to answer them.
Mr. MINETA. Thank you very much, Mr. Miller, for your very complete and thorough submission. Let me ask whether or not, based on your experience with public mass transit and inter-city transportation services, as to whether the enactment of the ADĂ bill will provide for the elimination of existing barriers or discrimination for individuals who are blind?
Mr. MILLER. Concerning transportation, as I indicated, there are not the enormous obstacles facing blind people that there are, perhaps, facing our mobility-impaired colleagues. Most of the changes, the modifications, accommodations or whatever that I have referred to—and there are many others—would, certainly, make transportation easier. I think they would probably attract more blind people, encourage them, urge them to use, public transit facilities.
In terms of ending all discrimination, all discriminatory acts, and so forth, that is a wonderful ideal. Some of the regulations that are on the book now are not being followed very well, so I guess some of it would depend on how well the law is complied with.
Mr. MINETA. Mr. Miller, do you think there is any chance that there might be any unintended practices that might come from the adoption of ADA that may create more discriminatory practices?
Mr. MILLER. That is difficult to say. I can't think of any right off. I referred to the one-size-fits-all approach, earlier, which is a way of saying the providers may think that if they do one thing, then that takes care of their complete obligation toward all disabled people.
I don't think of anything else right off.
Mr. MINETA. Very well. Counsel, any questions? Mr. Miller, thank you very, very much for your very complete testimony but, more importantly, your patience at this late hour of the day.
Mr. MILLER. Tenacity pays off.
I am Oral 0. Miller and I am the National Representative (Executive Director) of the American Council of the Blind. the largest membership organization of blind and visually impaired people in the United States. The American Council of the Blind is made up of 50 state/regional chapters or affiliates as well as 21 national special interest affiliated organizations established along professional, vocational or some other common interest.
Among these national special interest affiliated organizations are the American Blind Lawyers Association, National Association of Blind Teachers, Randolph Sheppard Vendors of America, Visually Impaired Data Processors International, Visually Impaired Piano Tuners and Council of Citizens with Low Vision. In short, our members come from all parts of the United States, all age categories and all walks of life. The primary objective of the American Council of the Blind is the advancement of the well-being of blind people and the betterment of our total community.
It has been our pleasure to support the Americans with Disabilities Act since its introduction and we appreciate this opportunity to present our testimony to you today regarding the transportation and related needs of blind people and people with severe visual impairments. My remarks will focus primarily on public transportation provided by public entities--fixed route service, special service and facilities that are to be used to provide public transportation service.
Fixed Route Service
Title II of the proposed Americans with Disabilities Act considers as "discrimination" the purchase or lease of a new fixed route bus, intercity rail vehicle, commuter rail vehicle, etc. if it is not readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. The objective of providing transportation with accessible vehicles is also sought in connection with used vehicles and remanufactured vehicles. Although we certainly do not oppose any of the requirements that will make vehicles accessible to people using wheelchairs, we continue to be concerned about the use throughout the bill of the phrase "accessible to and useable by persons with disabilities, including
individuals who use wheelchairs" because such references, among others, tend to create the impression that the bill may be intended primarily to remove architectural barriers and we know, of course, that absolutely is not the intent. There are probably no physical modifications that are absolutely necessary in such vehicles to enable a blind person to use them. However, there are a few simple and extremely inexpensive modifications or accommodations that would immensely increase the usefulness of such vehicles--simple things such as a loud speaker outside a vehicle that would enable its operator to identify its route or destination to a waiting blind passenger, a loud speaker inside a vehicle that would enable its operator to give information easily to blind or other passengers needing it or larger and more legible signage outside a vehicle to aid visually impaired and elderly passengers, among others, in identifying its route or destination. In recent years we have made recommendations to the Department of Transportation concerning these and many other inexpensive accommodations or simple changes in operating procedures that would make fixed route service much more accessible to blind passengers, but to date we have not seen regulations issued that would accomplish these ends.
In order to make it clear that the ADA is intended to protect all disabled people regardless of the nature of their disabilities and in order to eliminate the temptation to provide "one size fits all" service to all disabled people, regardless of the nature of their disabilities, we recommend clarifying language be included in the Act or at worst in the record to the effect that the Act is to be construed so as to eliminate discrimination faced by all people with disabilities regardless of disability category or type and that nothing in the act shall be construed to require a disabled person to accept an accommodation, service, opportunity or benefit which is not appropriate to or desired by that person.
Title II of the Act would require a public transit entity that provides public transportation to provide paratransit or special transportation service for disabled people who can not otherwise use fixed route public transportation and to other individuals associated with such disabled people in accordance with service criteria established under regulations promulgated by the Secretary of Transportation--unless such special service would impose an undue financial burden on the public transit entity. The Senate report on this subject was very specific in stating that such service should be available to all disabled people not able to use fixed route service and that local transportation authorities should obtain meaningful input from all sectors of the disability community in establishing service eligibility criteria. Because of unfortunate wording in ilations issued by the Department of Transportation a few years ago many local transportation authorities have ruled that blind people are not eligible for special service because they are physically able to walk to a bus stop or subway station and then get on and off the bus or train. This position ignores the reality that other factors may make it very difficult, virtually impossible or dangerous for some blind people to get to fixed route stations. In referring to the inability of mobility impaired people to get to fixed route service the Senate report referred to the lack of curb cuts as a barrier. Conditions which could be serious obstacles for blind people could include the need to cross a very busy highway having no traffic controls, the illness of a guide dog that is customarily relied upon or the existence of a secondary handicap, such as impaired hearing, that could reduce a blind persons mobility We believe that blind people should be encouraged to live as independently as possible and that they should be given proper orientation and mobility training to enable them to do so. However, the reality is that there may be unique features in a community that make independer mobility for even the best trained blind people di::cult; that there are significant differences in the le of independent mobility performance among blind pec;:-; that some blind people, especially those who lose their sight in their older years, never attain the confidence or level of independent performance attained by other blini people and that on balance there will always be many cases in which special service is more appropriate for some hiind people. For these reasons we believe the record shord make it clear that blind people are eligible for special service if they choose to use it and meet appropriate service standards.