Certified mail requirement harms blind pensioners

The National Federation of the Blind held its annual legislative agenda days Monday and Tuesday.

The organization had a number of priorities it wished to convey to lawmakers, according to Rita A. Lynch, a member of the organization.

It comes together to address issues of importance to its fellow blind citizens, according to an email from Lynch. It promotes programs that encourage self-determination, independence and equality of opportunity.

Federation members met with lawmakers to discuss House Bill 510, sponsored by Rep. Dave Griffith, a Jefferson City Republican. HB 510 removes the requirement that Missouri Department of Revenue correspondence to blind state residents (concerning the Department of Social Services' Blind Pension program) be sent via certified mail.

Established in 1921, the program provides assistance for blind persons who do not qualify under the Supplemental Aid to the Blind law, and who are not eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits. Each eligible person receives a monthly cash grant alongside MO HealthNet (Missouri's Medicaid program) coverage.

"The well-intentioned insertion of the word 'certified' has caused significant expense to the state as well as to blind recipients who are often forced to go to the post office to pick up mail that would otherwise be found in their box," according to the email. "Not only is this an unnecessary expense -- it reduces the time blind pension recipients have to fill out the yearly re-certification required and has caused a number of blind people to be terminated and subsequently reinstated, again at significant cost to the state of Missouri and its blind residents who receive the pension."

Many blind Missourians have experienced significant issues because of the certified mail requirement, the email stated.

Another challenge the federation is trying to overcome is a lack of medication labeling that helps the blind -- either using Braille, large print or labels providing audible signals.

Making sure they are taking the proper medications in the correct dosages and at the correct times can be challenging for blind residents.

"Many people who are blind rely on the shape and size of medication bottles, the type of lid on the bottle, the size and shape of the medication itself and the feeling of the inscription or split lines on the medication," the email states. "The problem with this method is that bottles can remain the same size with similar lids for months or years, and suddenly, either the manufacturer or the pharmacy changes it up for whatever reason. A pill that is small and squared may have a brand that is more economical for the pharmacy that produces this pill in a larger oblong format. Some brands of medications are solid caplets while others are capsules."

Under the act, anyone who receives a prescription drug from a pharmacy shall be notified that an accessible prescription label is available at no additional cost. If a person who is blind or visually impaired may receive an accessible prescription label. A pharmacy providing a prescription reader, defined as a device designed to audibly convey the information contained don the label of a prescription drug, shall ensure that the prescription label is compatible with the prescription reader.

"This technology requires pharmacy staff to run the medication bottles through a label maker based on the end user's mode of accessibility," the email stated. "Many pharmacies may not want to offer the accessibility if there is another pharmacy within 25 miles. This becomes problematic for those without access to transportation that will take the person to the pharmacy that offers this level of accessibility."

Another priority for the federation is to assure blind residents may vote securely and independently. It did not support any specific legislation, but did restate its position over the two days of advocacy that the state offer electronic voting technologies to provide blind voters the ability to cast their votes privately, and to verify without sighted assistance that their ballots accurately reflect their choices.

"Accessible machines are already required for the state to comply with the Help America Vote Act," the email states. "Some election boards may set these machines up more frequently than others. We ask that they be used consistently in all elections."

House Bill 510: Modifies provisions relating to mail sent by state agencies

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Sponsor: Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City

House Bill 812: Establishes the Accessible Prescription Labels Act


Sponsor: Mike Stephens, R-Bolivar


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