Thursday, July 1, 2010

From $10 Million to Zero...for Deaf-Blind People!

Today the National Association of the Deaf posted about the markup of HR 3101. One sentence caught our eye:

For example, advocacy efforts will be needed to recover the section in H.R. 3101 which provided funding for specialized communications equipment needed by people who are deaf-blind, such as refreshable Braille devices. That section was not included in the new H.R. 3101.

What? This means that there is now NOTHING in HR 3101 for deaf-blind people. Before, there was something:

(3) ANNUAL AMOUNT- The total amount of universal service support that may be obligated or expended under this subsection for any fiscal year may not exceed $10,000,000

To see for yourself the difference(s), compare Old_HR3101.pdf and New_HR3101.pdf (both are on the blogroll).

How much does a refreshable Braille device cost? We checked the manufacturers' websites. On the HumanWare site, we found products, but no prices. Customers have to contact the company to get prices. There was a price on the site of Freedom Scientific: almost $4,000. On, there was an Alva braille display costing "only" about $6,300. The least expensive one we found was the Seika braille display, costing about $2,500.

If you are deaf-blind, it is not too late. The bill has another markup to go through before it reaches the full House floor. If the deaf-blind community wants to get this provision restored in the final version of HR 3101, it has to get active and put pressure on Energy and Commerce Committee members.

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