Future Reflections October 1981, Vol. 1 No. 1

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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND... WE ARE CHANGING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BLIND

The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of the blind in the United States. It is not a governmental or private service
agency for the blind, but rather the blind speaking for and helping themselves.

Founded in 1940, the federation has grown to become the nation's largest organization of blind people--(over 50,000 members). The federation is organized in every state and has local chapters in almost every community of any size in the nation. Where there is no local chapter, there are almost certainly members at large. Every year the National Convention of the Federation is attended by some 2,000 blind persons, the largest gathering of blind people anywhere in the world, and the largest in history.

The long-range purpose of the NFB is to integrate blind people into society as normal people who can participate on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life. To achieve this purpose, we work to educate the public to new concepts about blindness and we strive to remove the legal, economic and social discrimination that prevent blind persons from achieving their fullest potential. In short, the National Federation of the Blind does whatever is necessary to improve the lives of blind people.

By doing so, we are changing what it means to be blind for thousands of people. Blindness does not need to mean helplessness and dependency. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate some of the specific ways the federation goes about promoting a new image of blindness, an image of respectability and normalcy, is to share some comments of members and non-members alike whose lives have been touched and improved by the National Federation of the Blind.

BLIND COLLEGE STUDENT, FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP, WASHINGTON D.C.: "I grew up ashamed to admit that I was blind. I thought that blind people begged or worked in a sheltered workshop or lived on welfare. Because I refused to carry a cane, I was afraid to cross the street by myself. Meeting successful, employed blind people from all walks of life through the National Federation of the Blind helped me to believe in myself. Through their encouragement I returned to school and am working on my doctorate."

BLIND SISTER OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, REHABILITATION TEACHER, ALCOHOL COUNSELOR, MILWAUKEE: "The NFB is very much a priority in my life. I need to be with people who have a positive philosophy about blindness. It's discouraging to feel alone, with people who stereotype and underestimate me. The NFB helps blind people believe in ourselves, motivates us to go out and help the other guy. Federationists are in this because we want to help other people."

AMERICAN ADOPTION AGENCY: "You cannot know how wonderful it is to get some adequate information to share with families adopting blind children from Korea. We appreciate so much the complimentary copies that you sent us (A Resource Guide for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children, recently published by the NFB) and we'll certainly refer parents to you."

BLIND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER, SMALL TOWN, CALIFORNIA: "If it were not for the NFB I wouldn't have a job. In 1954 the NFB gathered the statistics about blind teachers looking for jobs and got the law rewritten so that vision wasn't required for a physical. Hopefully some day we will have educated enough of the public that we blind people can walk down the streets and be treated like anybody else."

ELDERLY AMERICAN, INDIANA: "I want to thank you for the letter and kind thought that your Federation had for my wife's troubles. She has lost 85% of her sight and the doctor tells us that she could lose all of it. Now after reading your letter we contacted the public library and are now receiving talking book records and a player to handle them."

BLIND SHELTERED SHOP WORKER, UTAH: "I have made brooms in a sheltered workshop for 18 years. Every day I take the bus 40 miles each way and make just enough money to pay for my bus fare. Why do I work? I am like many older blind people. I haven't had very many opportunities and I want to contribute to society. It is better than sitting at home with nothing to do. I never heard of the NFB until recently. The NFB visited our shop and is trying to improve wages for blind shop workers."

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