Reading and writing

Urbana woman testifies in Senate at hearing on USPS woes | Senate

Urbana resident Rania Dima, an aspiring historical fiction writer and self-proclaimed lover of the written word, is desperate to learn braille quickly. A rare condition called Usher Syndrome deprived her of the ability to read print and computer screens, and as her hearing deteriorated, her addiction to audio screen readings also waned.

However, delays within the US Postal Service hampered Dima’s ability to learn his new ways of reading and writing. She sends and receives resources to learn braille through the Free Matter for the Blind program, which essentially classifies these items as first class mail. Before the pandemic, Dima’s supplies arrived in one to two weeks.

The wait is now one to two months, she testified before members of the US Senate.

“I have profound hearing loss, and I’m losing the last part of my hearing,” Dima, a member of the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind, said at the hearing. “From my perspective, the federal, state and private agencies that support me are thwarted and I feel marginalized. “

Dima’s testimony, at a hearing Tuesday for a subcommittee that Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland chairs, highlighted the impact of the USPS delays on residents of the state.

“Your testimony shows the very real impact in the world of these unacceptable delivery delays that we are trying to elucidate,” Van Hollen (D) told Dima during the hearing.

The session, highlighted by the testimony of USPS Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb, provided an opportunity for Van Hollen and his fellow senators to better understand the systematic gaps contributing to the mail delays that have plagued the country for more than six months. As Inspector General, Whitcomb’s job is to conduct independent audits and evaluations of the USPS.

The changes Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implemented after taking office last year have exacerbated the USPS infrastructure pandemic, including staff shortages in the face of increased demand for courier, particularly last summer, Whitcomb said at the hearing.

Van Hollen said Maryland had not been spared the woes of the USPS. He said its inefficiencies were particularly pronounced in the Baltimore area.

“Over the past year, I have heard thousands of voters – thousands – talk about the slow pace of postal delivery, and I share their frustration and anger at this unacceptable situation,” Van Hollen said at the time. of the audience.

The senator is seeking to reverse what he called the “short-sighted” cost-cutting measures – including reducing overtime and removing machinery from facilities – that DeJoy oversaw.

The USPS “needs a new direction now,” Van Hollen told the News-Post, adding that he believed DeJoy’s removal should be part of an immediate overhaul of the agency’s leadership.

USPS employees can attest to agency flaws, and one did so on Tuesday. Longtime postal worker Brian McLaurin said he had seen a “slow and steady decline” in service at the agency.

Postal workers are less empowered to deliver mail in a timely manner, he said, adding that it was a “serious problem” for mail to be left behind. McLaurin said he saw mail sitting in a post office for up to three days, due to insufficient staff, processing issues, machine breakdowns and facilities with fewer machines.

The implications of these delays can be as trivial as a birthday card arriving late, and as serious as hampering Dima’s ability to learn a new language as her sight and hearing slowly fade.

Dima is not as advanced in her braille training as she would like. As the necessary resources take longer to reach her, she cannot receive timely feedback from her writing teacher before moving on to her next lesson.

The downsides of Dima’s slow learning braille were evident on Tuesday. She asked a member of the National Federation of the Blind to share most of her testimony.

“If these delays had not occurred, I would most likely be able to read my statement to you today,” Dima said. “But I can not.”

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Margarita W. Wilson

The author Margarita W. Wilson