I just returned from a trip to Texas where I was honored to deliver the commencement address to graduates of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I ran a school for the blind twenty years ago and appreciate the important relationship in Texas between the mentors offered by the Federation and the leadership at the school. I went From Austin, Texas, to Wellington, New Zealand to attend the Executive Committee meeting of the World Blind Union. The networking and sharing among blind leaders across the globe enhance our work within our own organization. I returned just in time for my youngest child’s birthday, and I’m looking forward to Father’s Day just around the corner. Celebrating Pride Month and the end of the school year for our children, as well as getting ready for the Federation’s annual convention, means there is little time for slowing down in June.
Father’s Day is especially relevant as we launch our upcoming Ride for Literacy involving Dan O’Rourke, an NHL referee, who is going to honor his blind dad, Tom, and bring awareness to the National Federation of the Blind, by bike riding the whole of Route 66. What an amazing tribute to Tom who lives our philosophy.
Speaking of honoring, this month we honor our blind members and friends who also happen to be LGBT+. Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate members of our Federation family but also rally around the work we still need to do to help those individuals gain access to accessible resources within the LGBT+ community. While in Texas, I learned that some school districts are preventing all blind students from getting accessible books from the limited sources of accessible digital libraries because those libraries also provide access to LGBT+ resources. As an organization of blind people, we will not allow our blind students to be shut out of access to entire libraries of accessible books and we will continue to work to make sure blind people have access to the full array of resources to address all parts of their identities.
Federation members come together to show support, share resources, and initiate advocacy in these areas through the NFB LGBT+ group. You can also learn more about our LGBT+ group by joining the listserv at NFBNET and Facebook group.
Our commitment is to make our movement welcoming and inclusive of all blind people regardless of their intersecting characteristics. I urge all of us to celebrate Pride Month by recommitting to creating safe spaces for everyone within our community.
As I close this letter and return to convention preparation, let me remind everyone that it is not too late to attend our 2023 National Convention in-person or via the virtual convention experience. Visit our convention page to learn more.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
In common vernacular doing things blind is expressed as a negative, but we know that many things can be done blind with success, and we seek to be respected a valued for our capacity. Many people cannot imagine parenting blind. This uninformed belief can lead to trauma and distress when children are removed from their blind parents based on blindness alone or when others do not respect our abilities. Briley shared a painful moment:
“I took my son to Sunday school and heard another mom talking about how overwhelmed she was and how she needed help. When I offered to help, she no longer needed any help, but when a different mom agreed to assist two or three minutes later, the same woman who turned me down gladly accepted someone else’s babysitting time. It hurts that she did not trust me to care for her child when she could easily see that my son was happy and healthy.”
We know that blind parents are fully capable and have been successfully raising children for generations. There are aspects of parenting as a blind person which take some thought, and there are specific alternative techniques blind parents use to keep their children safe, healthy, and happy. The National Federation of the Blind has developed resources specifically for blind parents and those who want to learn more about parenting blind which are collected on our Blind Parents page. Through these resources, we strive to build a strong network for blind parents, grandparents, guardians, caregivers, and other interested persons where questions can be answered, experiences can be shared, and alternative techniques can be learned.
Celebrate Outstanding Blind Students
The Federation announced the thirty finalists for 2023 national scholarships. Finalists will participate in the largest-of-its-kind scholarship program which provides financial assistance, mentoring, and brings each finalist to the 2023 National Convention of the Federation in Houston in July. Read more about the 2023 NFB scholarship finalists.
U.S. Department of Justice and Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education Commended for Dear Colleague Letter
The National Federation of the Blind recently praised the Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education for issuing a joint Dear Colleague Letter. The letter highlights the obligations of colleges and universities to provide equal access to their programs and services, including those provided online. It underscores the importance of adopting accessible technology, providing auxiliary aids and services, and ensuring that communication with students with disabilities is as effective as with other students. The letter also reminds institutions that content they offer to the public must also be accessible. Finally, the letter includes guidance and resources to help institutions meet these obligations. Read more about the NFB's stance on the joint Dear Colleague letter.
Share Braille Updated
The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults recently updated Share Braille, an online platform which was developed to increase the use of Braille by facilitating the sharing of hardcopy Braille. The contemporary Olivero theme has been launched, the website has a new look, and the layout is easy to follow. New elements will be added throughout the year. There are books in every genre, age range, and reading level. Try it today by going to Share Braille. All the books are free and yours to keep.
NFB EQ for Teachers: A Nonvisual & Accessible Engineering Free Curriculum Launched
NFB EQ for Teachers is a free, online curriculum and collection of resources for educators who want to teach NFB EQ, a week-long engineering program designed for blind and low-vision youth. We believe that STEM learning should be accessible for all, including blind and low-vision youth. As our world is evolving to become increasingly more digital, we discovered a need to create a version of our popular NFB EQ curriculum that is digitally accessible, free, and publicly available. Learn more about NFB EQ Curriculum.
Push Beverages Continues Partnership to Raise Awareness of the Federation
Push Beverages, a maker of premium beverages, recently refreshed labelling on all their bottled water, and each bottle of water will continue to tell people about the National Federation of the Blind. We know that spreading our message is key to finding blind people and we are grateful that Push Beverages is part of this effort.
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.
- Enter the Give $20 Convention Drawing and Aira will double your dollars.
- Share our free NFB EQ Curriculum with teachers.
- Register and join us for our next Where the Blind Work Webinar on June 15, 2023, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. The webinar includes a panel discussion with blind professionals on performing job duties and managing successful careers.
- Check out the National Federation of the Blind Accessibility Fellowship Program which empowers educators with the knowledge and ability to teach their students about accessibility today to ensure that it is integrated into the tools of tomorrow
We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.
- June 15, 2023: Where the Blind Work Webinar, 8:00 p.m. ET
- July 1-6, 2023: 2023 National Convention, Houston, TX
- July 27, 2023: Kick-off for the Route 66 Ride for Literacy, Santa Monica, CA