Reflecting on the Power of Collective Action
By Mark Riccobono
As the new year approaches, I reflect on the progress that the National Federation of the Blind has made and look forward to our future advancements. We are creating a future for blind people that is full of opportunities that many of us may not have had. It’s important to note that each of you help to raise expectations of blind people, just by living as your authentic selves in a non-blind society. Further, you demonstrate by volunteering or working with us that blindness does not hold you back. I am grateful to march in this movement with you.
We imagine a world where blind people can live the lives they want as valued and respected members of society. We have made significant progress toward this goal this year, and we have the power to continue this trend in the year to come. Power comes from our working together as a community—a movement for possibility, progress, and positive outcomes.
Each year starts with our collective action being activated for advocacy on the Hill in DC and continues throughout the year. Bipartisanship is critical to passing legislation furthering our rights. This is the second legislative cycle in which the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act, recognized as essential to the blind by key players on both sides of the political aisle, was introduced into Congress. Bills often take several cycles before being signed into law. But the Federation is patient and persistent, and this often leads to legislative success against long odds after years of extensive negotiations and occasional setbacks. It was not long ago that we were told that we would never get the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act across the legislative finish line, but we did with virtually unanimous bipartisan support. With your tireless efforts, I know that we will get this done.
Beyond the legislative efforts, our annual progress also includes the creation and coordination of many Federation programs that build leadership, provide resources, and form lifelong connections. With so much happening in the movement, I work diligently to keep the membership informed. It is a pleasure to host a monthly presidential release with our first vice president, Pam Allen, to share the latest information on the movement and answer your questions. I feel even more energy and determination when I present the progress of the National Federation of the Blind in my presidential report before the National Convention. I hope you feel motivated too when reflecting on our progress.
I am thankful for all of you, the key players in the movement. This includes our leaders at all levels: national, affiliate, chapter, division, and the members who serve on committees, do the critical work of fundraising, show up at legislative hearings, and so much more. Everyone who participates in a minority movement like ours is a leader, because you make an impression on the majority by demonstrating our full capacity in a society that is not built for us.
That being said, the current state of society is not one that we accept passively. There is power in being able to make do with what the majority is generous enough to give you. But there is even more power in being able to compel change. This mindset is what drives me to engage in our present and future work. I hope that this guides you as well. Together we show that we belong in the world and make it better.
As I said in the 2023 banquet speech, we are a movement not yet sustained for one century, but a movement that has already positively changed a harmful pattern of misconceptions that had been largely uninterrupted for multiple centuries. Just as our arrival at this point was not a certainty, neither is our future. To ensure that blind people continue to be centered, we must have the courage, determination, and creativity to continue to march together.
As we move forward, we are beginning to implement our 2023 strategic plan. While the priorities of the national convention continue driving our yearly work, our board of directors will use the plan to strengthen the broader capacity of our movement.
We need your participation to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. Our success is made possible because of your contributions. Thank you for your love, hope, and determination. Let us reflect on our progress, while working to build a better future for the next generation.
With warm regards,
President, National Federation of the Blind