by Mark Riccobono
Having the opportunity to serve as an elected representative in the National Federation of the Blind is an extreme honor and one that brings with it the expectation that we will do our best to represent all blind people and make them proud. In an effort to formalize standards that have long been a part of the expectations we have for leaders and members at all levels in the Federation, the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind has written a document embodying the principles we will uphold as national, affiliate, and chapter leaders. Federationists will recognize that this document formalizes and presents in some detail the long-held conduct expected of our leaders and makes clear our promise to be the kind of diverse and welcoming organization represented by our brand.
The standard we expect from our leaders mirrors those we expect of members and embodies promises we make to one another as we interact at our chapter meetings and at conventions of the National Federation of the Blind. A primary one is to provide a safe and friendly environment for everyone who attends. Our meetings welcome those from diverse backgrounds who have made advancing the good of the blind a goal that is so important in their lives that they commit their time and treasure to securing it. Everyone who attends our events can expect to be safe, to be treated with courtesy and respect, and to be appreciated for who they are. We make no distinction based on age, race, gender, religion, educational level, sexual orientation, or one’s affiliation or lack thereof with a political party or ideology. Here is the formal pledge that we make to one another to ensure that the Federation is representative, welcoming, and open to all who are engaged in our cause.
The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind. The Federation knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. To help carry out the Federation’s vital mission, this Code of Conduct sets forth policies and standards that all members, especially Federation leaders, are expected to adopt and follow.
II. Diversity Policy
The National Federation of the Blind embraces diversity and full participation as core values in its mission to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. We are committed to building and maintaining a nationwide organization with state affiliates and local chapters that is unified in its priorities and programs and is directed by the membership. We respect differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross section of society. Furthermore, the organization is dedicated to continuing to establish new methods of membership and leadership development that reflect the diversity of the entire blind community. In promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity also requires individual struggle with unfamiliar ideas. We recognize that our views and convictions will be challenged, and we expect this challenge to take place in a climate of tolerance and mutual respect in order to maintain a united organization. While we encourage the exchange of differing ideas and experiences, we do not condone the use of demeaning, derogatory, or discriminatory language, action, or any other form of expression intended to marginalize an individual or group. The National Federation of the Blind does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics.
III. Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy
The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics. Harassment on the basis of any of these characteristics similarly will not be tolerated. Although this Code of Conduct establishes a minimum standard prohibiting discrimination and harassment, nothing in this Code should be interpreted to limit in any way a person’s right to report abuse or harassment to law enforcement when appropriate.
Sexual harassment is prohibited by state and federal law and also will not be tolerated by the National Federation of the Blind. Complaints of harassment may be lodged by a female against a male, by a female against a female, by a male against a male, or by a male against a female. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.” The following conduct is either considered conduct that by itself is sexual harassment, or that has the potential risk of causing sexual harassment to occur, and this conduct is therefore prohibited:
Under this policy, harassment can be verbal, written, or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law; or that of his or her relatives, friends, or associates, and that a) has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment; b) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or involvement in the organization; or c) otherwise adversely affects an individual’s opportunities for participation/advancement in the organization.
Harassing conduct includes epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts including bullying; denigrating jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group that is placed on walls or elsewhere on the organization’s premises or circulated by email, phone (including voice messages), text messages, social networking sites, or other means.
IV. Social Media and Web Policy
All members of the Federation, but especially officers of the Federation as well as those in leadership positions such as state affiliate presidents, should follow these recommended guidelines when making comments online, posting to a blog, using Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube/
Pinterest/Instagram/similar tools, and/or using other platforms that fall under the definition of social media:
V. Conflict of Interest Policy
Each NFB officer, national board member, or state affiliate president (hereafter Federation leader) is expected to take appropriate responsibility to protect the Federation from misappropriation or mismanagement of Federation funds (including funds of an affiliate, chapter, or division in which the Federation leader assumes a leadership role).
Each Federation leader is expected to disclose the existence of any potentially conflicting personal financial interest or relationship to the full National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and seek its review and approval, as specified below. For example:
VI. Policy While Interacting with Minors
For purposes of this Code of Conduct and consistent with most legal standards, a minor is any individual under the age of eighteen. While interacting with any minor, a national officer, national board member, or state affiliate president (hereafter Federation leader) shall recognize that a minor cannot legally give consent for any purpose even if said minor is verbally or otherwise expressing consent. For example, a minor may say that he/ or she consents to physical interaction. However, such consent is not valid or legal and should not be accepted. A parent or guardian must be informed and consulted about any action requiring consent from the minor. A Federation leader shall report any inappropriate interactions between adults and minors to the minor’s parents and law enforcement when appropriate.
VII. Alcohol and Drug Policy
Although alcoholic beverages are served at some Federation social functions, members and Federation leaders may not participate in any such functions in a condition that prevents them from participating safely and from conducting Federation business effectively or that might cause embarrassment to or damage the reputation of the Federation. The Federation prohibits the possession, sale, purchase, delivery, dispensing, use, or transfer of illegal substances on Federation property or at Federation functions.
VIII. Other General Principles
In addition to the other policies and standards set-forth herein, national officers, national board members, and state affiliate presidents (hereafter Federation leaders) shall adhere to the following standards:
IX. Violations and Complaint Procedure
Violations of this Code of Conduct, after first being established through the process set-forth below, are subject to disciplinary action by the Federation. Such disciplinary actions may include but are not limited to counselling, verbal and/or written reprimand, probation, suspension or termination of officer/leadership duties, and/or suspension or expulsion from the Federation.
X. Minimum Standard
This Code of Conduct is intended to recite a minimum set of standards expected of Federation members. It sets forth the spirit that the Federation expects of all of its participants toward each other and toward those who work with the Federation at all of its levels. It is intended to be interpreted broadly to instill a respectful, cooperative, and welcoming spirit in members and in the activities of the Federation.
XI. Federation Pledge and Acknowledgement of Code of Conduct
I, (Federation leader), pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its Constitution. I further acknowledge that I have read this Code of Conduct and that I will follow its policies, standards, and principles.