As we march forward into 2021, I am reflective of those outstanding mentors and teachers who have shaped my journey in life. Many of them have been members of the National Federation of the Blind. I am reminded of what I wrote about my walk to work last November on the Federation’s anniversary. The influence of a teacher can be truly transformative. Yet, if you are a blind person that transformation is only positive if the teacher truly has high expectations and positive attitudes about blindness.
The Federation is strengthening our efforts to invest in stronger teachers for tomorrow. We are setting higher expectations for the young blind people behind us on our march by making it possible for teachers who work with blind students to have the best possible training and understanding of blindness. This happens through our programs, our publications for educators and families, and the thousands of diverse blind people in our community of practice that make up the National Federation of the Blind. Teachers better understand the capacity of blind people when they personally know hundreds of blind people through our movement. By regularly bringing educators together in our community, we are all made better. Most importantly, we are making a difference in educating and empowering a stronger generation of blind youth. Those youth will take the movement of blind people even farther than we can imagine today. Moving forward and raising expectations, that is our theme for 2021.
Thank you to each one of you who helped us do more than ever in 2020 despite challenging circumstances. Our goal for 2021 is to use that support to exceed your expectations in 2021. Let’s move forward together with love, hope, and determination to transform dreams into reality.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
Many of us remember teachers who went the extra mile. One member shared, “My teacher of blind students helped me understand that I could earn some extra pocket money by babysitting in my neighborhood. Those age-appropriate expectations led to my first job which led to my recommendations for college which led to my career. She will never know the importance of her input in my life; but I will tell future educators about her high expectations and what they led to for me.”
The NFB Teachers of Tomorrow Program is designed to provide the training and mentorship to raise the expectations of our blind and low-vision students throughout the country. The year-long program is free to participants thanks to a partnership between the National Federation of the Blind and the Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation.
Anil Lewis, Director of Blindness Initiatives at NFB, explained, “The NFB Teachers of Tomorrow program is an immersive, professional development program that connects teachers of blind and low-vision students to the lived experiences of blind people, equipping participants with knowledge about the skills and attitudes learned and developed by successful blind adults that can help blind students thrive in school and beyond.”
Twenty-three diverse teachers of tomorrow have been selected to participate in the 2021 cohort. Participants will inspire thousands of blind students throughout their careers by applying Federation philosophy and having high expectations. You can learn more about the Teachers of Tomorrow program here.
Getty Images Partners with the National Federation of the Blind and Tactile Images to Deliver 25 Million Images to the World's Blind Population
Getty Images, a world leader in visual communications, and the National Federation of the Blind have partnered with Tactile Images to deliver more than 25 million images to the world's blind population at museums, science centers, libraries, schools, and government agencies. This initiative will significantly enhance educational opportunities and cultural inclusion worldwide.
Read our press release about the partnership to deliver tactile images for more information.
Open Letter to Airlines on Final Rule for Traveling by Air with Service Animals
On December 10, 2020, the Department of Transportation released the final rule for traveling by air with service animals. The rule, which was effective on January 11, permits airlines to require passengers to complete a Service Animal Air Transportation Form. With extensive involvement from the National Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the Federation, we have been working with the Department of Transportation to provide feedback on the accessibility of the form. Additionally, on December 22, 2020, we issued an open letter to all airlines urging them not to require the form for passengers with service animals. The form requires access to a printer and to the internet and is likely to pose transportation barriers for guide dog handlers.
In the News: “Is It Better to Be a Braille Reader Than a Print Reader?”
NFB supports Braille literacy and public awareness of the importance of Braille, and we are pleased that President Mark Riccobono’s recent Education and Career News article titled, “Is It Better to Be a Braille Reader Than a Print Reader?” with input from Natalie Shaheen, EdD was featured in USA Today on December 29, 2020. The article explores what is needed to improve Braille literacy.
NFB Independence Market Product of the Month
The NFB Independence Market is a blindness products store which sells items designed to increase the independence of blind people. Our Independence Market is starting a new trend for 2021 with the “Product of the Month.” The January products of the month are talking thermometers, both oral and infrared (non-contact). You can obtain more information by calling 410-659-9314, extension 2216.
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.
- If you are blind or have low vision, please take our very short poll to kick off the tactile image initiative.
- Send your story highlighting an impactful teacher of blind students to [email protected].
- Read about remote science learning advancements in the latest issue of the Braille Monitor.
We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.
- January 28: Smart Cities Summit, 12:00-8:00 p.m. ET
- February 1 and March 1, 2021: Presidential Release Live 8:00 p.m. ET (CC Available)
- February 8, 2021: Washington Seminar and Great Gathering-In, virtual
- March 24-26, 2021: The Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium
- March 31, 2021: Scholarship Application Deadline