Content warning: the following statement addresses sensitive topics regarding sexual misconduct and violence.
In light of recent discussions taking place in the blindness community, the National Federation of the Blind offers this statement expressing our unwavering commitment to supporting blind people and others in our community while emphasizing the importance of our NFB Code of Conduct. As the leading civil rights organization of the blind in the United States, every day we work to bring equality, love, and hope to our community. The blind community, like the rest of society, is not immune to violence and sexual misconduct, and we deeply regret and express our sincerest empathy for any blind person who has suffered pain and hardship from instances of abuse and violence.
The National Federation of the Blind and our affiliated training centers—the Louisiana Center for the Blind, Colorado Center for the Blind, and BLIND, Inc.—strongly condemn sexual violence and sexual misconduct of any kind. We stand in solidarity with victims and survivors. Additionally, we acknowledge how difficult it is for many to come forward, and we continue to seek avenues for victims and survivors to be heard. As the collective voice of the nation’s blind, we are committed to and welcome an ongoing process of learning how to heal from past trauma, to prevent future instances, and to protect victims and survivors. In undertaking this priority we rely on learning, both through internal discussion among members with lived experiences as well as through consultation with outside experts, to strengthen and improve our policies and practices and to support victims and survivors. To that end, we continually encourage comment and seek input on these issues.
The National Federation of the Blind works hard to create a welcoming and safe environment for our members and the public. For several years now, Federation leadership has endeavored to understand how to appropriately handle the difficult topics of sexual misconduct and other forms of abuse within our organizational structure. It has long been the policy of the Federation to, at the very minimum, prohibit sexual misconduct of any kind at our events or in our programs and create the most inclusive, welcoming, and safe environment to conduct our business. In an effort to address our sexual misconduct policy as well as other important issues, in 2018 we determined more was needed, and we created an additional written Code of Conduct and Grievance Process to ensure that consistent and assertive actions were taken. The written Code is only one aspect of committing more organizational resources to the ongoing effort to improve our Federation. As part of our normal practice, we report instances of sexual abuse and misconduct to law enforcement when necessary and required, support victims in filing reports when needed, report our findings to relevant certifying entities when appropriate, and remove members and employees from the organization when warranted. We take all steps necessary to maintain confidentiality, and we do not tolerate retaliation of any kind. Our Code of Conduct is routinely reviewed and continues to evolve as we learn and grow in these efforts. Furthermore, we continue to implement programs to support this work throughout our organization. Nevertheless, we know there is more work to be done, and it is a priority for our organization to be a safe space.If you feel unsafe, under imminent threat, or in immediate danger, you should contact law enforcement or other appropriate authorities. This is also a reminder to our members to report violations of our Code, especially those involving sexual misconduct or any form of abuse, as soon as you are able, and a reminder that concerns can be raised anonymously. Comments about our policies and practices, or concerns and reports alleging violations of the Code, can be recorded verbally at 410-659-9314, extension 2475, or sent via email to [email protected]. Together with love, hope, and determination, we will continue building the Federation to be the most inclusive, safe, and welcoming place where we support one another and carry out our important, life-changing work. Our full NFB Code of Conduct can be found at https://www.nfb.org/about-us/history-and-governance/code-conduct.