Experts: the change is “concerning”
About half a million people use special notification options, according to data from the SSA. Over 388,000 do so in large print. Almost 47,000 opted for a phone call, approximately 27,500 for a registered letter, 23,000 for a data or audio CD and approximately 11,700 for communications in Braille.
Tiggemann said SSA sent messages to My Social Security users on June 14 “explaining that we would no longer be providing notices in SNO format for notices available online to our customers who have opted for paper notices.” . The agency followed up two weeks later, she said, with “certified mail notices, in SNO format,” to ensure affected recipients were notified.
Some people with vision loss may use assistive technology products such as specialized magnifiers, electronic braille note takers, and screen reading software. Others may rely on their friends or family to help them create and use a My Social Security account.
Still, requiring visually impaired people to take action online to avoid being taken off the SNO list is “a bit of a concern,” says Phil Armor, a labor economist who studies social security and disability insurance .
“As the pandemic has shown, not everyone has the Internet or is Internet savvy or does not have a reliable Internet,” says Armor, professor of policy analysis at Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California.
Clark Rachfal, director of advocacy and government affairs at the American Council of the Blind based in Alexandria, Va., Also calls the change “worrying” and potentially “confusing” for visually impaired beneficiaries.
“As they age, people are more likely to develop a disability, including age-related vision loss,” he says. “This change has the potential to impact millions of Americans.”
The American Nonprofit Foundation for the Blind estimates that approximately 32 million American adults, including 9.2 million aged 65 or older, have significant vision loss, based on 2018 data from the National Center for Health Statistics.