Advocates for the blind community from across Massachusetts came together at the State House on Tuesday and pushed for increased financial support for various programs and services.
Event organizers, including Perkins School for the Blind, requested a state budgetary increase of more than $90,000 for both the Perkins and Worcester Talking Book Libraries and an appropriation of an additional $250,000 to the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind’s (MCB) Community Services account.
Advocates said the increased funds would enable the recipients to better serve individuals with visual impairment. New funds, they said, would help them streamline information outreach efforts, expand assistive technology training supports, bolster special education throughout the commonwealth and more.
“We want to be able to collaborate,” said David D’Arcangelo, commissioner of MCB, addressing a crowd of both advocates and lawmakers. “We want to partner with you and whatever other organizations there are that are interested in helping further independence, dignity and access [for people who are blind].”
The event, known colloquially as the Blind Legislative Informational Networking Day and now in its 10th year, was organized by Perkins, MCB, the Carroll Center for the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind, Lowell Association for the Blind, Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, National Braille Press and the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts.
While promoting new advocacy efforts, the event also provided an opportunity for organizations to recognize the work already being done by ally politicians.
This year, State Senator Joan B. Lovely was named Legislator of the Year by the event’s leaders. Representing the state’s Second Essex district, Sen. Lovely serves as Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.
“I just want to pledge my continued support to all of your initiatives – budget initiatives, legislation – in order to ensure access for all,” said Lovely during an acceptance speech.
After a series of speeches from other advocates, including from Perkins’ own Ed Bosso, superintendent, and Kim Charlson, executive director of the Perkins Library, attendees met with lawmakers in a more informal setting to discuss and advocate for the issues.
The state budget will be finalized later this year.