The American Council of the Blind commends U.S. Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) on the introduction of H.R. 3457, which calls for the Controller General of the United States to investigate the government’s systemic failure to provide materials in accessible formats for recipients of Medicare and Medicaid.
“This legislation will make it possible for people who are blind to independently read and understand important health-related information — an issue that has been on our radar for many years now,” said ACB president Kim Charlson. “With today’s technology, the continuing lack of vital health documents in an accessible format for people who are blind and visually impaired is inexcusable, and puts up a barrier to quality healthcare for a growing percentage of Americans.”
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees many of the administrative functions of the federally funded insurance programs, and is required under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide materials in an accessible format for recipients who are blind and visually impaired. According to the National Institutes of Health, roughly 24 million Americans experience some significant degree of vision loss even after the use of corrected lenses like glasses or contacts. However, it has been difficult to track the number of blind and visually impaired individuals covered under CMS programs, making it difficult to track CMS’ effectiveness in meeting the requirements of Section 504.
“There’s a lot of missing data that makes it hard for us to know just how widespread the problem is,” said ACB executive director Eric Bridges. “But what we do know is that our office continually receives complaints on CMS’s failure to provide accessible materials, which is resulting in serious disruptions for individuals’ health care coverage due to a lack of equal access to vital print materials.”