I am concerned about a couple of points made in this response to questions
regarding the accessibility of the citizenship interview process. First,
and most obviously, I feel that blind and visually impaired people should
not be exempted from any requirement due to their disability, but that all
requirements ought to be made accessible in audio, Braille and large print
formats to meet all needs.
Second, I believe it is unacceptable for the blind or visually impaired
person to need to bring their own sighted assistance to complete and sign
the paperwork. Instead, the interviewer needs to be willing to assist the
person with these tasks. The letter below states that such a person may be
brought along to assist, but does not state that as a requirement, so,
hopefully, interviewers are able to provide this needed assistance if the
applicant comes without a sighted person in tow.
If any Blind Access Journal readers have undergone the citizenship process,
I would be very interested in knowing how it went for you, especially with
respect to its accessibility. Please feel free to comment to this post or
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with testimonial evidence or any other
interesting, relevant information.
KAIZEN Program, WA, USA
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Letter: The U.S. Citizenship Test, for applicants who are blind or visually
By Sylvie Kashdan, M.A.
This email was kindly forwarded by Mary Turner of the Central Coast Center
for Independent Living in California, after we tried to assist with a
research enquiry. It's not technically news but was recieved today and
could be very useful information for some people. Leon Gilbert, blindnews
mailing list volunteer (Middlesex, UK, 17/4/07).
Hello Jeannie and Leon,
I have now obtained quite an extensive reply to my inquiry about the US
citizenship test being offered in Braille. I am sending along the reply for
your information. Thanks for your help in getting an answer to my question.
Mary Turner, MPH
Central Coast Center for Independent Living
234 Capitol Street, Suites A & B
Salinas, CA 93901
mturner at cccil.org
KAIZEN Program for New English Learners with Visual Limitations, WA, USA
—– Original Message —–
From: "Kaizen Program" <kaizen at literacyworks.org>
To: <mturner at cccil.org>
Sent: Tuesday, April 17, 2007 2:52 PM
Subject: question about citizenship test for applicant who is blind
This is Sylvie Kashdan of the Kaizen Program for New English Learners With
Visual Limitations. Joe Harcz forwarded your question to me.
We have assisted a number of visually impaired and blind immigrants in
becoming citizens, so I am quite familiar with how it can be done.
The citizenship test is not now currently available in braille although it
legally should be under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, section 504. We are
conducting a campaign to ask Senators and Representatives to require the
government to make the redesigned naturalization/citizenship test and all
preparation materials, including the N400 form available in all accessible
formats, including braille, large print, electronic text and audio
However, currently, people who are blind or have low vision can have the
oral interview and be exempted from the reading and writing part. They must
do two things:
1. They must indicate on the N400 form in the space that asks if they can
read and write in English that they are legally blind, and can only read and
write using braille or large print, or that they can only answer orally.
2. Along with their completed N400 form, they should also provide a copy
of a letter from an eye doctor, rehabilitation professional or other
professional indicating that they are indeed legally blind.
An applicant who is blind or has low vision can also request that she or he
be accompanied during the interview by a sighted guide, who will not provide
any prompting for answers to questions, but will act as a guide and assist
the applicant in presenting various print material upon request and signing
the photograph with the very small signature that is required. If the
applicant does not feel she or he needs such a guide, it is certainly
Before the interview/exam, the applicant needs to practice answering all the
questions on the N400 form orally as well as learning more than the 100
questions by heart. She or he also needs to practice making that very small
signature, which many people find difficult.
If the interviewer is hesitant to exempt the applicant from the reading and
writing part of the interview/exam, the applicant needs to ask her or him
to read the entry about her or his blindness that has been made on the N400
form and to read the letter certifying blindness from the qualified
professional. If the interviewer is still hesitant to exempt the applicant
from the reading and writing parts of the interview/exam, the applicant
should politely ask to speak to the supervisor, because it is her or his
legal right to be exempted if the material is not available in the reading
medium she or he uses, and if there is no one available to read braille for
those who can only write with braille.
Applicants who can write large print should indicate that. Some interviewers
will write sentences in large print for such people to read too. They should
be asked to print clearly so that the applicant is not challenged by the
formation of the letters.
Those applicants who are braille users should offer to spell words in
sentences instead of writing. That is usually satisfactory.
Let me know if you need more information. If the citizenship applicant who
is blind wishes to contact me directly, I will be glad to help her or him in
whatever way I can.
Sylvie Kashdan, M.A.
KAIZEN PROGRAM for New English Learners with Visual Limitations
810-A Hiawatha Place South
Seattle, WA 98144, U.S.A.
phone: (206) 784-5619
email: kaizen at literacyworks.org
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What perhaps bothers me more is the request for a letter proving disability from a doctor or other professional. What does that have to do with requesting citizenship in our country?