As you may know, the Wyoming Talking Books Program (TBP) has been in danger of being defunded due to recent budget cutting efforts by the state to reduce spending. The Wyoming Council of the Blind (WyCB) has been working for well over a year on ways to save this program. Thanks to many of you, earlier letter writing efforts to the state legislators and the Department of Education (WDE) have resulted in the state finding the means to extend funding for the TBP for one more year - thru June of 2022. This is a good start, but there is still a need to find permanent funding past this date.
To this end, WyCB has enlisted the help of the folks at Wyoming Protection and Advocacy System, Inc. (WY P and A) to help us develop an all inclusive policy paper on the TBP. This lengthy document is attached for your review. Appendices are available upon request. It contains a very good history of the program, as well as meaningful statistics that have been collected over the years. The paper also references appropriate federal laws which call for equal access to all printed materials by individuals with visual impairments, physical disabilities, and learning challenges. This policy paper has been sent to the Governor, selected members of his staff, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
As with all advocacy activities, it is necessary to conduct an ongoing effort to encourage our legislators to understand the importance of the TBP in our state. To this end, we are asking you to take the time, once again, to contact our state legislators by phone, letter, or email expressing your thoughts on this issue. Contact information for these elected officials is also attached.
The following talking points are included for your convenience. Feel free to incorporate any of them when submitting your input.
- Although funding has been secured for the Talking Books Program thru June of 2022, permanent funding is still necessary to provide for it’s long term stability.
- The 700 or so Wyoming patrons with visual impairments, physical disabilities, and learning challenges depend on the TBP to assist them in their daily lives.
- I have a visual impairment and I depend on the talking Books Program to keep me informed and up-to-date in my daily life.
- I have a physical disability and, since I can not hold books or newspapers, I need the digital equipment provided by the TBP to help me read printed materials.
- Because I have learning challenges, the Talking Books Program allows me to access printed materials that are necessary for me to continue my education.
- The TBP has become an important part of my life. I’m asking you, as a member of the state legislature, to help secure permanent funding for this essential program as you struggle with the current budget cuts.
- Federal law requires equal access to all written materials for individuals who have visual impairments, physical disabilities, and learning challenges. As you make your current budget cuts, please consider the implications of these laws as they affect the TBP.
- Permanent funding for the Talking Books Program will eliminate the need for the WDE to struggle with the funding for this program every two years during the legislative budget sessions.
- The trained consultants with Vision Outreach Services (VOS), within the WDE do an excellent job of providing the Talking Books Program to the patrons of Wyoming. It would be difficult to duplicate their cost effective services. Please provide permanent funding to allow them to continue to do so.
- The Talking Books Program is used by persons of all ages and backgrounds, in every county across the state, to enhance their daily lives by providing access to printed materials.
- Federal law requires equal access to all printed materials. This may come as good news to the TBP patrons within Wyoming, “The Equality State.”
- Earlier departmental budget-cutting successes not withstanding, I encourage any and all efforts by the state legislature to secure permanent funding for the Talking Books Program.
It can easily be said that the Talking Books Program “is ours to lose.” Our advocacy is absolutely necessary if we want to continue to enjoy this wonderful program, so please take the time to contact our elected state officials and ask them to ensure it’s permanent funding.
If you need additional information to assist you when writing a letter, feel free to call either WyCB President, Sherry Leinen in Newcastle at (307)746-6166 or Tom Lealos in Powell at (307)764-3664.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Tom Lealos, Director
Wyoming Council of the Blind
Please download the below three attachments: