President Trump’s budget proposes a major restructuring of the way electricity is bought and sold in Western states, which rely on hydroelectric power generated by government structures like the Hoover Dam in Nevada.
Most of these proposals would increase end user energy costs, and decrease energy sector employment. So that's two more campaign promises broken. And for no reason, because most of these proposals are so directly the opposite of the Congressional leadership's plans that they're dead on arrival.
[Image: tweet by Titanium Cranium (@FelicityTC) including three screenshots of a Harry potter book in three different formats on Amazon. Text:
“Harry Potter on Amazon -
So, let me explain this a bit.
The defenders of CripTax prices will say that those prices cover the cost of production. This is, without a doubt, true. I work at a university where we often have to take written materials and convert them into braille – it takes a LOT of people hours, special software, and a braille embosser.
But those defenders of higher prices are reversing the argument to justify fleecing disabled readers.
What do I mean by that?
Braille is not magic. It is done by taking plain text and feeding it through fairly affordable translation software, creating a document that can easily be printed in braille.
All that time and effort and special software? IS NOT FOR THE BRAILLE.
It is to take the document provided by the publisher (usually in PDF format, the same file they send to the printers) and turn it into plain, unadorned text, by hand. Text has to be “stripped” (OCR/text recognition); images have to be described; footnotes have to be embedded; special pullouts and other formatting shifted or removed.
Printing in braille is cheap; reverse engineering a finished text to print it in braille IS NOT.
Same with those audio books. After a book is completed and, often, after it has already been published, the publisher arranges to have the book recorded by a professional voice actor/reader, which usually also involves a recording producer, if not a recording studio, which all stacks up to $$, no two ways about it.
However: that cost? IS RARELY FACTORED INTO THE BUDGET OF PRINTING A BOOK.
Oh, it might be, if the author is JK Rowling and it is well known that readers will want audio versions right away. But most of the time, nope, the audio book is produced only after the hard copy book has become a decent seller, and so it’s an extra cost which is claimed must be covered by making the audio version extra expensive to buy. (Even then it’s somewhat ridiculous, since honestly, creating an audio book is, in the end, cheaper than printing, factoring in the cost of paper.)
If publishers factored audio book production into the assumed costs of publishing a book, they would have very little reason to price it higher.
If publishers factored in creating a “plain text” file – including having editors/authors describe images – that could be used to print braille copies or to be used with refreshable braille readers (electronic pinboards, basically), then there would be zero reason to price those books higher.
tl;dr: Yes, it’s a #criptax, and the excuse that “those formats are more expensive to produce so they have to be priced higher” is only true if you completely throw out the premise that publishers have an obligation to account for disabled readers when they are actually budgeting for and publishing the book.
I’m really glad you brought this up, because this is exactly the sort of argument thatpeople try to use to justify inaccessibility in all kinds of areas. When we tell a company that their website or appliance or piece of technology isn’t accessible, they frequently tell us that they are sorry to hear that but that the accessibility is too expensive and time-consuming to add in now. There is also a provision in the law that allows companies to not bother including accessibility in their products if the cost of building in the accessibility is more than 5% of the total cost to build the whole product in the US.
That seems reasonable on the surface, doesn’t it? Except here’s the thing—the accessibility should have been a part of the original plans to begin with and designed in from the very beginning and should have been considered a necessary element and just another ordinary part of the cost of producing the product, not some extra feature that can be opted out of if it’s too expensive. The problem is that these companies do not understand the fact that if you cannot afford to build the product with the accessibility included, then you cannot afford to build the product and that is that. It’s exactly the same as not being able to afford to make the product with all elements up to safety and health codes and standards. If you can’t afford to meet the legal standards, then you can’t afford to make the product, and it’s that simple. Accessibility is not an exception to this and it should not be considered as such. It should be just as much an ordinary required part of the design process as any other element, not an extra, shiny, fancy feature that you can just choose not to bother with if it costs a little bit of money.
Accessibility should be part of the standard design process just as much as safety codes and health standards and other legal regulations. The ADA has existed for 20 years so companies have had ample time to catch up and learn to plan for accessibility from the beginning as a part of the standard required design process. If you can’t afford to create the product fully up to code, standards, and accessibility laws, then you simply can’t afford to make the product. No excuses, no exceptions.
Thanks for this awesomely informative post; this is precisely what I used to do for a living, in a college environment. People were often surprised that this work was not somehow already done by the publishing companies, but nope. My department did it all by hand, more or less. From scanning, to creating PDFs, to OCR text extraction, to formatting the files for JAWS, to making the corrections and image descriptions.
The thing is, college textbooks are so image heavy, compartmentalized, and splashed with text boxes on every page, with increasingly convoluted diagrams that sometimes take up multiple pages, I was basically *writing* half the textbook myself. Basically, you have to take an image like this diagram (which might be in a book, or part of a handout, or be embedded in an inaccessible online module, or part of a video lecture, or maybe it’s part of a powerpoint or slideshow):
and figure out how to describe every bit of pertinent information that is happening visually, decide in what order to present that information, and do it in a way that doesn’t make the student just decide to give up because holy crap, right??
And this part is *just* the textbook. I did this for all class materials-in all topics, in all formats, for every teacher, in every discipline. everything from astronomy, world history, american history, economics, biology, literature, art history, history of modern philosophy, poetry, and even a few things for extracurricular and clubs.
And you know what? A lot of the time professors would seem to think they’re doing everyone some kind of favor by giving us the books and materials like, the DAY before class starts. Or, y’know, sometimes like a week AFTER.
There’s a reason I decided to become staff in Disability Services rather than a professor as I’d originally intended-I was a disabled student too, and I wanted to do my best to prevent others from having to fight like I had to fight. I started out with like 5 people working under me to get the stuff scanned and processed and I was doing the final corrections, formatting, and image/diagram descriptions; by the time it was nearing its end it was just me literally flopping books on a scanner with one hand and typing with my fingers and wrist with the other.
They eliminated my department like 2 years ago, and I got laid off. **there’s** your “commitment” to accessibility in higher education.
That’s how the sausage gets made, my friends….and in this case, how it doesn’t.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s “taxpayer focused” budget for fiscal 2018 includes smaller cost-of-living adjustments for veterans benefits payouts and eliminating those adjustments for some federal civilian retirees altogether. The controversial suggestions are likely to be met with opposition from outside advocates and some lawmakers, but White House officials insist the moves are part of a broader strategy to balance the budget without sacrificing essential government services. “(In past budgets) we haven’t put ourselves in the role of going back to taxpayers and say, ‘Here’s a program that is worth spending your money on,’” said Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. “These are the programs we can justify. “I can look a taxpayer in the eye and say, ‘I need your tax money so I can help a veteran who lost two legs in the Middle East.’ But we’re not doing that for a long list of social programs that have little impact.”
The $1.1 trillion spending plan includes $54 billion more for the Defense Department than is currently allowed under congressionally approved spending caps, and a $4 billion boost in Veteran Affairs discretionary spending from current levels.
To offset those costs and balance the budget over the next decade, the proposal calls for significant cuts in State Department funding, foreign aid accounts and a host of other non-military programs.
It also includes the cost-of-living adjustment changes. The White House plan would extend the practice of rounding down veterans payouts to the nearest whole dollar, trimming a few cents off their checks.
Veterans groups have successfully fought the practice in recent years, arguing the small amounts build up to significant losses for veterans over time. White House officials say the move will save about $20 million in fiscal 2018 alone and almost $2.7 billion over the next decade.
The civilian retirees changes would be even more dramatic. Trump’s plan calls for eliminating annual cost-of-living increases Federal Employee Retirement System enrollees completely, and lowering the adjustments for Civil Service Retirement System enrollees by 0.5 percent.
Together, those changes generate more than $500 million in savings for fiscal 2018 and almost $42 billion in savings over 10 years.
But they also represent substantial reductions in payouts for the estimated 70,000 federal retirees each year, along with the hundreds of thousands more already collecting their pensions. CSRS beneficiaries are not eligible for Social Security payments. FERS employees are, but those government pensions still make up a significant portion of their retirement income.
White House officials did not directly address any of those payout reductions ahead of the official budget roll out Tuesday morning.
But explanatory documents released early said the plan will “restore fiscal discipline and make the hard decisions to put our country on a path to repay the debt in full.”
The plan also includes almost $29 billion more for the VA’s Choice Card program over the next decade, extending the contentious program which allows veterans to seek care outside the department’s medical system with taxpayers paying the bill.
Administration officials also plan to increase the number of additional Afghan Special Immigrant visas in coming years, spending an extra $15 million on the program next year alone. That effort has drawn praise from many in the veteran community for helping to bring translators and other at-risk foreign nationals to the U.S.
And Trump White House officials hope to close a loophole in the post-9/11 GI Bill benefits that allows veterans to attend pricey flight schools. Capping tuition at those institutions would save at least $42 million annually.
House and Senate officials have already voiced skepticism about the overall Trump budget plan, noting that it still requires lawmakers to find a deal to lift the federal spending caps. They’ve been unable to reach that compromise for the last six years.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at <a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.