As a home for nonprofits, foundations, and corporate allies engaged in every kind of charitable endeavor, Independent Sector is proud to have a long history of working on public policy issues that impact nonprofits across the board. We are also fortunate that our efforts often entail working closely with many of our own members that are engaged in the public policy arena. One such member, American Council of the Blind (ACB), strives to increase the security, independence, equal opportunity, and quality of life for people who are blind and visually impaired. To learn about this aspect of their work, we spoke with Clark Rachfal, director of advocacy and governmental affairs.
Independent Sector: What are your organization’s goals in the public policy arena?
Clark Rachfal: In the 116th Congress, our legislative imperatives are improving the affordability and accessibility of low-vision devices and durable medical equipment for the blindness community, and enhancing personal independence and economic opportunity through equal access to all forms of transportation.
IS: How do you engage your constituents and partners in these advocacy efforts?
CR: We engage our nationwide membership and 70 state and special interest affiliates through as many mediums and platforms as possible. This includes accessible print publications, email newsletters, radio programming, podcasts, conference calls, and social media posts and live videos.
Q: Why is it important for them to advocate themselves?
CR: It is important for our members to remain engaged on our public policy priorities so that their members of Congress hear real-world anecdotes about how cosponsoring and passing the Medicare Demonstration of Coverage for Low Vision Devices Act, H.R. 4129, will directly impact the lives of their constituents.
Q: Tell us one thing that policymakers are surprised to learn about you and the people you serve.
CR: Policymakers are surprised to learn that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness for working aged Americans, and yet, the durable medical equipment approved by the federal government to manage and treat diabetes is not accessible and cannot be used independently by a blind person with diabetes.
Q: What has been the most noteworthy area where you have seen progress lately?
CR: The most notable area of progress in recent years has been the acknowledgement by corporate America that disability rights are civil rights. Many companies understand the value of including people with disabilities in their workforce and as consumers of their products and services. For these reasons, many companies are developing universal policies placing disabled employees in the best position to succeed, and engineering websites that are equally accessible to all consumers. For example, at the 2019 ACB annual convention, Walmart announced that accessible prescription labels are now available at all of their pharmacy locations upon request to better serve customers who are blind or print disabled.
Learn more about ACB’s advocacy efforts at acb.org.