From the Editor: Our Code of Conduct is an ever-evolving document that reflects both the values we have long-expected to be exemplified by our members toward other members and our understanding that these needed to be put in writing so they could be discussed, agreed upon, and made official policy, complete with the policies and procedures to implement them.
At the most recent meeting of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, held December 4 and 5, 2020, the Code was again modified. It is also on the web, but so important is it that we want it to appear in our flagship publication. The board of directors is continuously seeking feedback on this Code, training that might assist members in meeting the standards, and other best practices to ensure the community within our organization is welcoming, safe, and free of harassment. Please direct your suggestions to the Code of Conduct Committee at [email protected] or call 410-659-9314, extension 2475. Here is the Code:
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, employees, and contractors are expected to adopt and follow.
The National Federation of the Blind celebrates and 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.
The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, background, 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 any person against any other person regardless of gender identity. 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 their 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 their 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.
All members, employees, and contractors of the Federation 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:
NFB officers, national board members, state affiliate presidents and their boards, division presidents and their boards, and local chapter presidents and their boards, employees, and contractors with independent decision-making authority on behalf of the organization (hereafter Federation leaders) are expected to avoid all conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest arises when a person’s personal or professional interests interfere, or even just appear to interfere, with the interests of the Federation. A conflict may arise if a Federation leader takes action or has personal interests that make it difficult for the Federation leader to effectively perform their duties to the Federation. The common factor in all conflict of interest situations is the division of loyalty, or the perception of a division of loyalty, between the leader in performing their duties as a Federation leader of the organization and their personal and other interests. In specific, Federation leaders are 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 Federation leaders assume leadership roles).
Federation leaders are 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:
For purposes of this Code of Conduct and consistent with most legal standards, a minor is any individual under the age of eighteen. Any adult member, employee, or contractor of the Federation interacting with a minor must 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 they consent 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. Federation leaders, members, employees, and contractors shall report any inappropriate interactions between adults and minors to the minor’s parents and law enforcement when appropriate.
Although alcoholic beverages are served at some Federation social functions, members, employees, and contractors 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.
In addition to the other policies and standards set forth herein, all members, employees, and contractors shall adhere to the following standards:
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 counseling, verbal and/or written reprimand, probation, suspension, or termination of officer/leadership duties, and/or suspension or expulsion from the Federation.
This Code of Conduct is intended to outline a minimum set of standards expected of Federation members, employees, and contractors. 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 within members, employees, and contractors and in the activities of the Federation.
Note: The Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind unanimously adopted this revised Code of Conduct on December 5, 2020. In adopting this Code, the Board expressed its clear intent that this Code shall be reviewed annually or at any other time as necessary.
This Code was first adopted on January 26, 2018.