Statement from Stacy Cervenka, Director of Public Policy, American Foundation for the Blind

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 30, 2020)—The American Foundation for the Blind vehemently opposes the Trump Administration’s proposal to make life-sustaining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) more difficult to obtain for people with disabilities.

Although people who are blind and low vision are succeeding in almost every career field, they still face numerous barriers to finding employment. From a young age, many blind students are held to low academic expectations and often don’t have the same access to classroom materials and textbooks as their sighted peers, leaving them under-prepared for the workforce. Vocational rehabilitation agencies that provide people with disabilities the technology and skills they need in order to be gainfully employed are often insufficiently funded and staffed. Because of inadequate public transportation and paratransit services in many areas of the United States, many blind adults have no access to affordable, efficient transportation. Many employers continue to hold inaccurate misconceptions about the wide range of jobs blind and low vision people can do.

Taking away people’s Social Security benefits isn’t going to result in more blind people entering the workforce. It’s going to result in people facing major financial hardships, including homelessness, hunger, and abject poverty. This is confirmed by the Social Security Administration’s own research; in a recent study, 78 percent of people who had recently had their benefits terminated were still not in the workforce three months afterward.

In fiscal year 2016, 8,699 Americans died on the waiting list for Social Security Disability Insurance. In 2017, this number rose to 10,002. Countless newly blind adults wait so long to be approved for Social Security disability income that they can no longer pay their rent or mortgages and move in with friends or adult children; many become homeless before their applications are approved. Living with no income for six months or more is nearly impossible.

Instead of spending time, money, and staff resources to constantly make people prove their disabilities, the Trump Administration should spend these staff resources on eliminating the egregious wait times for people to be made eligible in the first place. Better yet, they should use these resources to put systems in place, such as more and better vocational rehabilitation and transportation options, that will actually make it possible for people with disabilities to become employed and make valuable contributions to their communities.

Additional information:

Trump seeks to bring back Social Security rule changes, one of Reagan's worst ideas
The Hill
January 27, 2020

Trump administration cuts to Social Security disability benefits among the cruelest
USA Today
January 27, 2020


About The American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: