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California Congressman Introduces Accessible Tech Act

Rep. Mike Thompson introduced the Access Technology Affordability Act, and if passed, it would provide a refundable $2,000 credit to blind and vision-impaired people to purchase equipment that allows them to work.

Sacramento, Calif., Capitol
(TNS) — Congressman Mike Thompson, D-Yolo, introduced the Access Technology Affordability Act this week that, if passed, would provide a refundable $2,000 credit to blind and vision-impaired people to purchase equipment that allows them to work.

"No one should be excluded from the workforce because of a disability," Thompson emphasized. "The Access Technology Affordability Act will provide those with vision loss the resources they need to access tools and equipment that will help them pursue a career. Proud to work with Rep. Kelly to Introduce this bill and help more Americans participate in our economy."

Thompson introduced the legislation with Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly who argued that "every American deserves the chance to earn a productive living."

"Almost 70% of blind Americans are either underemployed or unemployed due to the high cost of computer access technologies," Kelly stressed. "Our legislation will make those tools more readily accessible and empower more blind Americans to fully participate in the U.S. job market.

Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, noted that his wife, two of his daughter and he are blind.

"The childrens' technology needs will increase as they complete their education and start their careers," he asserted. "My family is not unique — blind people across the nation face this challenge and this legislation will provide critical assistance."

"We thank and commend Representative Kelly, Representative Thompson and the bipartisan group of origination co-sponsors for being champions of this act, which will help give blind people the technology they need to live the lives they want."

Manufacturers have designed various tools that enable each blind American to perform tasks that they were previously unable to accomplish, according to a press release from Thompson.

"Braille note takers are frequently used in schools, screen reading software allows workers to check their email at home and screen magnification software can help seniors losing vision learn about community activities," the release remarked. "Access technology equips blind Americans to seek employment and stay employed."

Furthermore, the cost of this technology creates an economic barrier for many because costs range from $1,000 to $6,000 for most access technology.

"For example, a leading screen reader is $900, a popular Braille note taker is $5,495, one model of a refreshable Braille display is $2,795 and a moderately priced Braille embosser is $3,695," the release highlighted. "According to the United States Census Bureau, 69.5% of blind Americans do not have sufficient financial resources needed to purchase these items. These financial barriers can ultimately lead to a loss of employment, insufficient education or even isolation from community activities."

The release noted that medical insurance does not cover the cost of these devices due to the current definitions of medical care, medical necessity and durable medical equipment not including access technology.

"These definitions were adopted in the 1960s 'when medical care was viewed primarily as curative and palliative, with little or no consideration given to increasing an individual's functional status,'" the release stressed. "Many states' Medicaid programs and individual health insurance plans have adopted similar definitions and likewise will not cover the cost of access technology."

© 2023 The Daily Democrat, Woodland, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.