Content warning: The first two sections mention instances of abuse and sexual misconduct. If you are a victim or survivor of sexual assault and are in need of support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline provided by RAINN at 800.656.HOPE (4673). If you would like to skip ahead please check out the Latest News at the NFB.
April is a time of renewal. Spring is in the air, all baseball teams play the first games of their championship seasons, and people start thinking about graduations and summer. Each morning, I try to take a walk through Riverside Park, which sits just east of our headquarters building in South Baltimore. As the auditory signs of spring begin to emerge in the park, it has had me thinking a lot about how we listen. In fact, that is something I have been doing more carefully for the past four months or so.
April is sexual assault awareness month, and it is a good time for listening. During recent months, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be present with the stories shared with me by a number of survivors of assault. Many of the incidents they have experienced have been within the community of blind people. These are hard, emotional, and painful experiences to share. They are more difficult for me personally when I cannot fix them. So, I am learning that by listening, I can find ways to make the future better.
That is what we in the National Federation of the Blind are currently doing. We are listening to the experiences that blind people have had, and we are using that understanding to make our movement better, safer, and stronger than ever before. This month we are training nearly one thousand leaders, staff, and students throughout our organization. At the same time, we are examining our code of conduct and associated procedures to make them stronger. We are strengthening the policies and practices in our affiliated training centers. We are assessing perceptions among blind people throughout the nation to determine what more we can do. This important work is in addition to the normal advocacy, policy, and program work we do on a daily basis.
If you are reading this and have had painful experiences with sexual assault, discrimination based on blindness and intersecting characteristics, or are held back by the low expectations for blind people that still exist in many places, please know that the National Federation of the Blind is ready to listen. We are prepared to sit with you and let you know you are not alone. We are prepared to march with you to a stronger future that we build together. I am thankful for those who have shared their stories with us so that we can listen, learn, and help move forward. I am also grateful that so many of you continue to read our publications and carry our message through the community. I am even more grateful that you choose to contribute to our work and invest in the future we are building for the blind of America.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the National Federation of the Blind is reflecting on what more we can do to prevent sexual misconduct and celebrating those who make a difference in creating safe and nurturing environments for all. RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, and NFB have partnered to do the work of healing from past trauma, to preventing future instances, and to protecting victims and survivors while holding perpetrators accountable. The Federation is committed to initiatives guided by survivors, and we commend those who are serving on and working with our survivor task force.
Daphne Mitchell, who is one of our Survivor Task Force members, shares,
“Advocacy is a skill that I have sharpened through various opportunities to help members in the National Federation of the Blind and other arenas. Lending a hand to persons who need a guide through unfamiliar territory or times of uncertainty is one of the ways I give back. When I reflect upon why advocacy work is valuable, my mind immediately conjures up individuals who supported me through challenging crises. I am a survivor of sexual assault and intimate partner abuse. The compassion, dedication, validation, and protection offered by advocates and allies have proven priceless. Their actions have enabled me to rebuild a sense of security and self-worth.
In late December, President Riccobono extended an invitation to join the Survivor Task Force. Our mission is to recommend practices and systems to create a trauma-informed approach to support survivors/victims within the organization. Being an advocate for other survivors is a sacred honor. The daily recitation of my heart is that our labor of love results in a culture of consent and accountability. Ultimately, that validation of every survivor/victim is the norm, and each survivor receives the necessary supports to reclaim their life."
You can find more information on Sexual Assault Awareness Month here and explore ways you can help or follow the latest on National Federation of the Blind safety and support efforts here.
Latest News at the NFB
Cruise to Sponsor Racecar Driver Dan Parker in the National Federation of the Blind 2021 Blind Driver Challenge
Dan Parker, a blind man, will attempt to break a world speed record in his Corvette at 201 miles per hour. NFB recently announced that zero-emission self-driving company, Cruise, will sponsor Dan Parker in his fall 2021 attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the “fastest speed for a car driven blindfolded.” It is more than a race—we are accelerating the challenge in 2021 because the need for urgency in the development and implementation of accessibility in emerging technology is even greater.
Amazon to Make More Employment Opportunities Available to the Blind
NFB and Amazon recently reached an agreement to expand opportunities for jobs at fulfillment centers by increasing accessibility and improving accommodation processes. Amazon will consult with internal and external experts to determine what technologies and accommodations are needed to make more job paths available to blind employees. The company will also provide extensive training to management and HR staff regarding best practices around accommodations. Read more about efforts to improve employment opportunities at Amazon here.
Bolotin Award Application Due
Until April 15, NFB 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 2021 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards.
National Federation of the Blind Applauds the Introduction of the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act in the House
The Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act (H.R. 2373) was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA-3) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5). This legislation gradually eliminates the payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities over a four-year period. It prohibits the issuance of new special wage certificates under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The legislation also incentivizes employers to transition away from a segregated workplace model for people with disabilities and toward competitive integrated employment.
Chairman Scott said, “By fostering collaboration between employers and services providers, this bipartisan legislation makes clear that it is not only possible but beneficial to invest in fully integrated and competitive jobs for people with disabilities.” Read more about the bill in our press room.
Take Action This Month
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.
- Learn more and submit a nomination for the 2021 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards.
- Read “Raising Expectations: That’s What We Do in the National Federation of the Blind” by Curtis Chong in the April Braille Monitor.
- Enter our Give20 Convention Drawing. You can support the NFB, and you could win $2,000 or a trip to New Orleans in 2022.
- Check out the 2021 Blind Driver Challenge. Read the Cruise partnership announcement from April 5 and watch the video teaser.
We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.
- April-June 2021: Accessibility Boutiques and Seminars
- April 15, 2021: Bolotin Award nomination deadline
- May 3, 2021: Presidential Release Live 8:00 p.m. ET (Spanish translation and CC available)
- July 6-10, 2021: National Convention, anywhere and everywhere