Introduced by Representatives Brooks of Montpelier and Kitzmiller of Montpelier
Subject: Blind and disabled; accessibility to electronic information
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to establish an accessible electronic information service program for blind and disabled persons and appropriates $100,000.00 in funding for the program.
AN ACT RELATING TO ACCESSIBILITY TO ELECTRONIC INFORMATION FOR THE BLIND AND DISABLED
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. LEGISLATIVE FINDINGS
The general assembly finds:
(1) Thousands of citizens in this state have disabilities, including blindness or visual impairment, that prevent them from using conventional print material.
(2) The state fulfills an important responsibility by providing books and magazines prepared in Braille, audio, and large-type formats made available to eligible blind and disabled persons.
(3) The technology, transcription methods, and means of distribution used for these materials are labor-intensive and cannot support rapid dissemination to individuals in rural and urban areas throughout the state.
(4) Lack of direct and prompt access to information included in newspapers, magazines, newsletters, schedules, announcements, and other time-sensitive materials limits educational opportunities, literacy, and full participation in society by blind and disabled persons.
(5) This limitation can best be overcome through use of high-speed computer and telecommunications technology combined with customized software, providing a practical and cost-effective means to convert electronic text-based information (including daily newspapers) into synthetic speech or Braille suitable for statewide distribution with modern telecommunications technology.
(6) Low cost interstate telecommunications rates make distribution of electronic text-based information to eligible users both efficient and cost‑effective for the state.
(7) Federal funds have been used to develop the technology and infrastructure needed for statewide toll-free access to daily newspapers and other timely information of local, state, and national interest through a service known as NFB-NEWSLINE®, providing an efficient and cost-effective means of reader registration, content acquisition, and interstate telecommunications support.
(8) Use of the accessible electronic information service will enhance the state’s current efforts to meet the needs of blind and disabled citizens for access to information which is available in print, thereby reducing isolation and supporting full integration and equal access for such individuals.
Sec. 2. 33 V.S.A. chapter 5, subchapter 1 is added to read:
Subchapter 1. Accessible Electronic Information Service Program
§ 551. DEFINITIONS
(a) As used in this subchapter:
(1) “Accessible electronic information service” means news and other timely information (including newspapers) provided to eligible individuals from a multi-state service center, using high-speed computers and telecommunications technology for interstate acquisition of content and rapid distribution in a form appropriate for use by these individuals.
(2) “Blind and disabled persons” means those individuals who are eligible for library loan services through the Library of Congress and the State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped pursuant to 36 C.F.R. § 701.10(b).
(3) “Commissioner” means the commissioner of disabilities, aging, and independent living.
(4) “Qualified entity” means an agency, instrumentality, or political subdivision of the state or a nonprofit organization that:
(B) obtains electronic news text either over the internet or through direct transfer arrangements made with participating news organizations; and
(C) provides a means of program administration and reader registration on the internet.
§ 552. ACCESSIBLE ELECTRONIC INFORMATION SERVICE
(a) The commissioner shall enter into an agreement with a qualified entity to provide an accessible electronic information service program for eligible blind and disabled persons. This program shall be planned for continuation from year to year and make maximum use of federal and other funds available by obtaining grant or in-kind support from appropriate programs and securing access to low‑cost interstate rates for telecommunications by reimbursement or otherwise.
(b) The commissioner shall adopt regulations necessary to develop and implement the accessible electronic information service program.
Sec. 3. APPROPRIATION
There is appropriated the amount of $100,000.00 from the general fund in fiscal year 2007 to the commissioner of disabilities, aging, and independent living for the accessible electronic information service program.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street