Braille Monitor June 2008
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How to Share the Federation Message with Other Blind People
Most of us are active in the Federation today because NFB members reached out to us, befriended us, answered our questions, or said just the thing that made us want to be a part of the organization. Though we often yearn to reach out to other blind people, we sometimes find it difficult to know just what to say to someone who has reservations about the organization or even about blindness itself. Below are some of the reservations we frequently hear expressed and various suggestions for ways to respond to them as we extend our hands to other blind people. Not all of the responses to a question or reservation will be appropriate for you or for a specific situation. Become familiar with all these ideas. Soon you will find yourself able to answer questions in words that come from your own heart and experience.
1. What does the NFB do?
• Our goal is to achieve full integration of blind people into all aspects of society. We work to make this happen through public education, legislation, programs for children, mentorship, scholarships for students, senior outreach, professional groups, and much more.
• We are the civil rights movement of blind people.
• We are a nationwide group of blind people who come together to provide support, encouragement, and practical advice for one another.
2. I’m not a joiner.
• I know what you mean; I have never considered myself a joiner either. But the NFB helped me personally, and that’s what brought me into the organization.
• Our organization has room for all levels of involvement. You can join a listserv or come to an occasional meeting if that’s all you can do.
• By virtue of being blind, you are already part of a group. As group members we want to work together to see that all blind people have the chance to live their lives with dignity.
3. I don’t like politics, and I’m not political.
• You can do many things in the organization, and you don’t have to participate in every activity. Holding an office is not the only way to get involved in the organization.
• The NFB doesn’t affiliate with political parties. We work only for the passage of legislation that will expand opportunities for blind people.
4. I’m not really blind.
• Most people in the NFB are not totally blind; you'll fit right in.
• Our focus is not on how much vision you do or don’t have. We focus on helping blind people figure out ways to get things done.
• We encourage people to use every tool that will help them get the job done as efficiently and easily as possible, whether it is a magnifier, a screen reader, a CCTV, or a cane.
5. The NFB is radical.
• In the NFB we believe that blind people can lead fulfilling, productive lives. Does this sound radical?
• Because of society’s negative attitudes about blindness, many people think believing that blindness isn't a tragedy is radical, but we are working together to change society's attitudes about blindness so that someday our belief in the capabilities of blind people won’t be considered all that radical.
6. The NFB opposes guide dogs.
• We are not opposed to guide dogs. We believe that blind people have the right to use the tools that work best for them.
• Many of our national leaders and members are guide dog users.
• We even have a guide dog division so that you can meet other guide dog users.
• We have filed many lawsuits to protect the rights of guide dog users.
• All blind people are welcome in our organization.
7. The NFB opposes audible traffic signals.
• We are not opposed to audible traffic signals where they are necessary; we just believe that blind people should be able to travel anywhere without feeling limited to crossing only those streets with audible signals.
• You don’t have to agree with every policy of the organization. If you want to improve the lives of blind people, you belong with us.
8. I can’t get to meetings.
• We want you to be a part of us, and we will be happy to help figure something out.
• If no meeting is close to you, start attending a meeting a little farther away. Often members of a chapter help to get someone to the meeting by finding a driver or asking another member to help the new person get there.
• You can also get involved through listservs. The NFB has a number of email lists in which you can talk to people and exchange ideas.
9. How do I join?
• Local chapter meetings.
• State conventions.
• National convention and Washington Seminar.
• Reading the Braille Monitor.
• Spending time on our state and national Websites.
Other Useful Tips
• Recruitment is an all-the-time, everywhere commitment. Don't let blind people or their family members pass you by.
• Make sure you get their contact information so that you can follow up.
• Try to become a friend.
• Listen to their concerns about blindness and go out of your way to help them.
• Don't scare them away by coming on too strong. Remember, you probably wouldn't appreciate a stranger telling you that you are doing everything in your life wrong.
• Find out their interests and introduce them to other Federationists who share those interests.
• Don't get bogged down trying to explain the nuances of our philosophy. Remember that coming to terms with blindness is a slow process.
• Go out of your way to make them feel welcome in the organization.
Remember that bringing in new members is another way of saying, be a friend. Help where you can; listen to concerns; offer your friendship. We have received this gift from others; recruiting is a good way of passing along the gift.