Given that February is Black History Month, my thoughts in this issue are on the work we continue to do around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the National Federation of the Blind. Our members drive this work forward in a meaningful way, and I continue to learn from them as we go.
The best learning comes from working shoulder to shoulder with outstanding leaders like Ever Lee Hairston who happens to have an article in this month’s Braille Monitor. I am grateful that leaders like Shawn Callaway and Colin Wong step up to do this critical work with me. I know that we are stronger together, and we are strongest when we welcome everyone to truly be a part of this amazing movement. I am looking forward to our upcoming national convention in New Orleans in July where we can celebrate both our differences and commonalities, and plan for a future that is more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
This past summer I chose to study the history of our journey and learning as a movement. It intersects with New Orleans because a group of black blind people in that city pushed to be included in our affiliate in the late 1950s. That affiliate was ultimately suspended from the organization because it was not fully inclusive and we built our new dynamic affiliate, which founded the Louisiana Center for the Blind and will host our 2022 convention. Read “Reflection, Revolution, and Race: A Growing Understanding Within the Organized Blind Movement”.
If you haven’t done so yet please consider working with our diversity, equity, and inclusion committees. Shawn Callaway and Colin Wong chair our national committee and you can reach them at [email protected]. Many of our state affiliates also have diversity, equity, and inclusion committees, which rely on active engagement from people like you every month of the year. I invite you to join us in building the National Federation of the Blind better together.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
New Orleans, here we come. Federationists cannot wait to meet in July to connect and reconnect. National conventions accomplish many things. First, they are the governing authority of the National Federation of the Blind and emphasize that we are, first and foremost, a membership organization. Second, they provide much needed information and access to the best and most innovative blindness and low-vision products. But for many of us what we remember most are our convention connections—the encounters with one another that teach and enrich us. Our members express it best:
“When I attended my first convention, I didn’t know anyone and I was scared, but everyone was so friendly that I felt like I fit in and quickly found a home.”
“Convention was the first time I met so many blind people. We discussed life experiences, shared meals and travelled together. I realized that I had an exciting life ahead of me as a blind person.”
“Everyone was so welcoming and the presentations so informative. By the time I went home I was hooked.”
“Convention changed my life. I met more people and became a NFB-NEWSLINE® coordinator as a result. My success as a coordinator showed me that I could succeed at whatever I set my mind to do.”
“I attended my first state convention in 2001, then my first national convention in 2005. In both those conventions, I attended as a blind person with few blindness skills. I used my sighted wife as a guide. I was aware of all the people around me traveling with apparent ease, and without any sighted assistance. That, together with presentations at those conventions from representatives from NFB training centers, convinced me I needed to become a complete blind person, a person with as high a level of independence as I could attain. I was not living the life I wanted to live. All that gave me the fire in my guts to attend and graduate from BLIND, Inc. in 2006—an event that truly changed my life as a blind person.”
As they say in Louisiana, “leissez les bons temps rouler” which is Cajun French for “let the good times roll.” You can join the largest gathering of blind people at our 2022 National Convention in New Orleans and make your own convention connections from July 5 to July 10. Visit our 2022 National Convention page for more information.
Access to At-Home COVID-19 Test Results Increase – Federation Sponsors Aira to Improve Access
The Biden administration announced in December 2021 that it would be distributing free at-home COVID-19 tests to households in the United States. The National Federation of the Blind has communicated with the administration to ensure that the tests they are sending out are accessible for blind people to administer without assistance, but that may take time, so the Federation is sponsoring an interim solution for those who have smart phones. Simply access Aira to take advantage of this option. Aira is also committed to providing continued support to our community by making otherwise inaccessible information and processes related to the latest COVID-19 health concerns and vaccination requirements accessible. With the generous support and collaboration of the National Federation of the Blind, any blind person can use the Aira service free for the completion of COVID-19 at-home tests. Learn more about at-home COVID-19 test accessibility here.
Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Applications Accepted
The National Federation of the Blind is accepting nominations of individuals or organizations who are a positive force in the lives of blind people and help us transform dreams into reality. Each application must include a letter of recommendation. Learn more and submit a nomination for the 2022 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards.
Teachers of Tomorrow Cohort Concludes Immersive Professional Development Program
The 2021 cohort of the Teachers of Tomorrow program gathered in Ruston, LA to conclude their yearlong training. The goal of this professional development program is to connect teachers of blind and low-vision students to the lived experiences of blind people, equipping participants with knowledge about the skills and attitudes that can help blind students thrive in school and beyond. Karen Anderson wrote about the program and participants shared their experiences in the recent post on the Voice of the Nation’s Blind Blog “Modeling a Positive Philosophy on Blindness Today for the Teachers of Tomorrow.”
The National Federation of the Blind Teachers of Tomorrow Training Program is made possible by a gracious donation from the Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation.
Throughout our local chapters and state affiliates to our national headquarters and diverse committees, the National Federation of the Blind is an organization of collective action. Here’s what you can do to get involved this month.
- Read our most recent blog, “See for Me: Finally, We’re on the Right Track” by Danielle McCann and Chris Danielsen about the new thriller starring a blind actor.
- Learn about the issues blind Americans addressed in our 2022 Washington Seminar last week when we met with members of congress to educate them on issues facing our community.
- Listen to President Riccobono’s 2021 Banquet Speech “Reflection, Revolution, and Race: A Growing Understanding Within the Organized Blind Movement” (YouTube)
We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.
- February 22, 2022: Accessibility Boutique, Strategies for Using Web Applications with Screen Readers
- March 1, 2022: Presidential Release, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, CC and Spanish translation available
- March 24-25, 2022: Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, Virtual
- March 31, 2022: Scholarship Application deadline
- April 15: Deadline for the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award nominations
- July 5-10, 2022: National Convention, New Orleans, LA