Tech Tips

Welcome to our Technology Tips section! The NFB Jernigan Institute Access Technology team is always on the lookout for new and better ways to give blind people access to technology, as the ever-growing International Braille and Technology Center attests. In these tips we want to share some of the pointers manufacturers and developers share with us to help you learn about new applications and new programs, and to help you find new functionality in familiar products. The Access Technology team works with the relevant manufacturers and developers to obtain the tips listed here, to make sure that you get the best and latest about anything new in the world of non-visual access technology.


If you have any feedback on the tips, please contact Clara Van Gerven at [email protected].

Commitment Is More Than Checking a Box: Uber Fails to Get It

The National Federation of the Blind is the leader in nonvisual accessibility. We work diligently to assist those in government, education, and the private sector to gain a true understanding that accessibility is not an expensive burden that stifles innovation. Accessibility is an enhancement that makes products and services available and usable by people with disabilities, while simultaneously making the same products and services better and easier to use by everyone. The ever-growing integration of devices that talk and devices you can operate with your voice are examples of the innovation that emerges while striving for accessibility. We realize that in order to be successful, it is essential to consider accessibility throughout the lifecycle from concept, to design, to development, to implementation. Consumer involvement in this process at every stage is essential.

It Starts with Me: Fundraising for the National Federation of the Blind

As I begin my second career as Director of Outreach for the National Federation of the Blind, I am privileged to work to build our movement by focusing on our fundraising. We need funding to help blind people live the lives we want, and we have an obligation to fundraise on behalf of this organization which has so positively impacted so many people.

I thought I would share with you all some tips and tricks. The first tip is to "make the ask." Many people are uncomfortable asking for money. So, the easiest person to ask is yourself.

Have you donated to the National Federation of the Blind this year?  It’s easy. There are lots of ways to give. And, once you have given, you can begin your “ask” by saying something like, "I just gave to the National Federation of the Blind."

Getting Out in Our Community for Meet the Blind Month

I am a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind.  I am the Outreach Chair for the Winchester Chapter of the NFB of Virginia.  I have had many opportunities to go to local events in the community to educate people and help to make them aware of blindness. Meet the Blind Month provides a great opportunity to do outreach to the Winchester community.

Our chapter has participated in various activities around our city. On October 15, 2016 we worked an informational booth where we distributed NFB brochures and discussed the resources that are available in our community.  

The Goal of Goals in IEPs

In preparing for meetings of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team, both parents and educators spend a great deal of time focused upon goals. Understanding the purpose and basis of goals can help all involved achieve this objective.

Federal law requires that IEP documents contain “measurable annual goals,” and directs that these goals should ameliorate the skill deficits a child has in accessing and progressing in the regular curriculum and in other educationally-related areas. 20 U.S.C. section 1414(d)(1)(A)(i)(II). In order to determine what the child’s skill needs are, we must have excellent data on (1) the child’s present levels of achievement, and (2) the requirements of the regular education curriculum. In other words, if we don’t know where we are or where we are headed, our journey has little chance of success.

Progress Through Telling Our Stories: The Truth About Blindness Makes a Difference

The members of the National Federation of the Blind work on a daily basis to demonstrate that blindness is not the characteristic that defines us or our future. Every day we work to raise expectations for blind people because we experience daily the harmful impacts of low expectations on our lives. Today we can celebrate another important milestone in combating low expectations and educating the public regarding the truth about living with blindness.

The Importance of Keeping Written Records for IEP Meetings

What is the purpose of your upcoming meeting? What has been going well? What needs to change? These are three questions you should ask yourself before each IEP meeting for your child. It is essential to know what things you want to accomplish and to be able to steer the meeting in the direction you need it to go and avoid being sidetracked by other topics or concerns. I have found the best way to accomplish this is to write things down ahead of time, make sure my points are as clear as possible, and to share my writing with the IEP team. Writing things down helps in the following ways.

  • It gives you a chance to think about what you want to accomplish at each meeting.

  • It gives you the opportunity to develop arguments for why you believe what you want should be put into place.

An Open Letter to Our Friends and Families About the #HowEyeSeeIt Campaign

Dear Friends and Family Members:

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve been posting a lot on social media in the past week about the #HowEyeSeeIt campaign, a social media challenge that encourages sighted people to put on blindfolds, engage in a list of everyday activities, and then share what they’ve learned about how difficult or impossible that task would be for a blind person and how sad that is. You’ve likely seen me post that, while I certainly support research into the causes and treatment of retinal diseases, the National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States, opposes this campaign.

Don't Participate. Don't Donate. Educate. The National Federation of the Blind and #HowEyeSeeIt

Members and leaders of the National Federation of the Blind from across the nation do a fantastic job of countering low expectations, misconceptions, and stereotypes about blindness.  We believe the #HowEyeSeeIt Blindfold Challenge being promoted by the Foundation Fighting Blindness unnecessarily perpetuates negative perceptions and fears about living with blindness. If you haven't taken action yet, or want to let others know how to counteract this harmful fundraising campaign, here are three quick tips:

1. Don't participate. Putting on a blindfold for a few minutes is not the way to learn about blindness and blind people. This does not demonstrate the reality of what it is like to live successfully and independently as a blind person. Do not participate in the #HowEyeSeeIt Blindfold Challenge.

Shooting Selfie Videos

To start, it's important to know some terminology. A "selfie" is a self-portrait typically taken while holding a smartphone. Most smartphones have two cameras: a front camera and back camera. The front camera is the one located just above the screen, next to the speaker. The back camera is typically in the top left corner on the back of the phone. Selfies are most easily taken while using the front camera.

Here are some tips for shooting a great selfie video:

  • Always be sure your phone is in landscape mode when shooting video, selfie or otherwise.

  • Make sure there's not so much background noise that you can't be heard. If you have headphones with a microphone, like those that come with iPhones, you can use those to help cut down on ambient noise.

If you want to help the blind, blindfolding yourself isn’t the answer

Recently I heard about a new social media campaign where people are posting videos of themselves doing things blindfolded. This wasn’t the first time I had seen sighted people blindfold themselves in hopes of understanding blindness. I was born blind, and as I was growing up, some of my friends would borrow my cane and walk around with their eyes shut. At school there were “disability awareness days” where people would pretend to have disabilities, including blindness, and walk around or eat a meal together. Other times, people would try to imagine what blindness was like, and would say things to me like “if I were blind, I couldn’t do it”. It struck me that when people blindfolded themselves or imagined doing so, they thought they understood my world better, but they really didn’t learn much.