Do you hear that? It is the sound of progress, persistence, and positive change led by the National Federation of the Blind. It is also the sound of our positive impact on the rest of society. Nearly twenty years ago a member of the Federation started to raise concerns about the problems posed to pedestrians by hybrid and electric vehicles. These machines do not provide the typical auditory feedback that we all are used to as pedestrians.
Blind people rely on the sound of traffic to travel safely and confidently on the streets of our nation. It turns out that lots of sighted pedestrians, especially runners, cyclists, and children, rely on these cues as well. No one in the auto industry or government was giving this real consideration until the National Federation of the Blind repeatedly brought it up in meeting after meeting and in the halls of Congress. At first, we were asked for a count of how many blind people had died from these circumstances—as if there was a magic number of lives that would trigger some action. Through our persistence, the government analyzed its data sets and found that there were in fact an increasing number of pedestrian-involved accidents with these hybrid and electric vehicles.
March 1, 2021 marked the first day that all hybrid and electric vehicles manufactured in the United States must meet a minimum sound standard. Every vehicle going forward will be required to meet this standard and all pedestrians will be safer because of the National Federation of the Blind.
The legislation that led to this outcome was signed on January 4, 2011. Many years of advocacy led up to that date and, as you can tell, another decade of tracking and pushing the regulations forward to get to March 1, 2021, followed passage of this law. This is a prime example of the positive, progressive, and persistent approach we take in our advocacy efforts. We follow through and do not go away until the work is done.
As a father of three children, I am proud to know that the streets are safer for all children because of the work of our movement. Thank you for continuing to support our work. I hope you feel the same pride in the work we are doing every day to raise expectations for the blind around the nation.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind hosts Washington Seminar each year, which brings members together to educate our congress, mentor one another, attend career fairs, participate in student division events and other meetings, and experience the confidence boost that comes from gathering with our Federation family. The planning required to coordinate hundreds of individuals who are ready to talk with congress is complex, but the woman who spearheads our Washington Seminar logistics planning, Buna Dahal, is honored to do so.
“My first chapter meeting was in May of 1993. Before I came I did not know how to travel. I did not know I could take the train, ride a bus, or use a long white cane. I remember that people told me they got around by just using a cane. So I learned, and for my next meeting I took the train from Downers Grove, Illinois into Chicago. Since then I have not stopped. I am so honored to follow in Diane McGeorge’s footsteps to plan our Washington Seminar. Diane and I are both small in stature, but we take this big responsibility seriously. Being asked to take on this role touched me very much. Because of the Federation I know I can do it.”
Hundreds of blind people learn through Federation events that they too can live the life they want. Whether it is a local chapter meeting, a state or national convention, or Washington Seminar, our events raise expectations of blind and sighted people alike. You can learn more about Washington Seminar here.
Scholarship Winners Announced
Each year the National Federation of the Blind awards more than $100,000 in scholarships based on academic performance and leadership. During Washington Seminar 2021 NFB announced the winners of our named scholarships. Learn about our scholarship winners, and read So Much More Than the Money: A Scholarship Story from our blog from Cayte Mendez who was a scholarship winner twenty years ago and is now the committee chair.
The 2021 scholarship program applications are open until March 31, 2021.
Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act Takes Effect After Twenty Years of Effort
Blind pedestrians travel safely every day relying on sound cues. When electric and hybrid cars first emerged, the National Federation of the Blind recognized that truly quiet vehicles posed a danger to all pedestrians and bike riders, and that the lack of sound posed a special danger to blind people. Twenty years ago we began work on the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act which was signed into law by President Obama. The law gave manufacturers time to comply and regulations were promulgated with input from stakeholders. Finally, all hybrid and electric vehicles manufactured on or after March 1, 2021 must emit a safe level of sound while stationary, in reverse, and moving up to thirty kilometers per hour thanks to the collective efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.
Advocacy on COVID-19 Testing and Vaccine Access Continues
NFB President Mark Riccobono wrote to all United States governors in February about the urgent need to ensure access for individuals with disabilities to COVID-19 vaccines and tests. A copy of the letter is available on the NFB’s Policy Statements webpage.
NFB BELL® Academy Application Period Opens
The National Federation of the Blind is offering three virtual programs of the NFB BELL Academy this summer to prepare blind and low-vision children to grow into confident and independent blind people by enhancing their education. Options are available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students for the following dates:
- Session 1 - June 7-18, 2021
- Session 2 - July 19-30, 2021
- Session 3 - August 9-20, 2021
Receive Braille and other fun materials for lessons. Connect with experienced teachers. Build relationships with other blind students and mentors.
NFB BELL Academy, an annual summer program, is appropriate for blind and low-vision children, ages 4-12, who:
- do not receive enough Braille and nonvisual skills instruction in school
- could benefit from more Braille exposure over the summer
- would enjoy connecting with blind role models
Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium Keynote Speaker Announced
Kathy Martinez, who recently joined Disability Rights Advocates as president and CEO, will be the keynote speaker for the 2021 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium. An internationally recognized disability rights advocate, Ms. Martinez previously served as senior vice president at Wells Fargo, as U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, and as executive director of the World Institute on Disability. Visit the law symposium webpage to view the agenda and speaker bios.
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.
- Register to attend the National Federation of the Blind 2021 National Convention. Our convention will be virtual, and registration is free.
- Encourage blind and low-vision students to apply for a national scholarship.
- Check out Seeing is Believing, or Is It? In the March issue of our flagship magazine the Braille Monitor.
- Invite children to join the NFB BELL® Academy.
The following events are scheduled for this year. All events are open to members and nonmembers. We welcome your participation.
- March-June 2021: Accessibility Boutiques and Seminars
- March 24-26, 2021: The Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, virtual
- March 31, 2021: Scholarship Application Deadline
- April 5 and May 3, 2021: Presidential Release Live 8:00 p.m. ET (Spanish translation and CC available)
- April 15, 2021: Bolotin Award nomination deadline
- July 6-10, 2021: National Convention, anywhere and everywhere