Dear Friends,

The word blind people hear more than anything else is “no.” The idea that blindness is so limiting that blind people are not capable of doing even the most basic tasks goes back centuries but the instinct still exists today despite our progress.

We can all agree that intentions are good—meaning that a desire to protect the blind person from harm triggers the “no.” However, the real impact is not immediate. The constant negative answer slowly teaches blind people that they must rely on someone else.

This is why we in the National Federation of the Blind work to tell blind people “yes.” We work to build confidence by putting blind people in situations which we know they can handle but they do not believe they can manage. This is best observed at our affiliated training centers, BLIND Inc., the Colorado Center for the Blind, and the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Our centers teach self-reliance better than any other places in the world. Overcoming low expectations is also a critical part of the Federation’s annual convention, one of the best travel experiences a blind person can find. There are mentors everywhere you turn and use of the long white cane is the norm not the exception.

Confidence cannot be built when there is a fundamental misunderstanding that blindness is the characteristic that defines you or your future. Thus, in any Federation program you will find an element challenging the misconceptions about blindness woven into what we do. There is always something intentionally raising expectations. Most recently I taught a leadership seminar here at our headquarters. One of the activities is to grill steaks over an extremely hot wood fire. Blind people are not expected to cook in many places and certainly not over an open flame. Everyone enjoyed the outcome of their work on the grill. No one had it done for them and everyone was instructed by a blind person. Members’ confidence was changed by this experience. Another way to say it is that the taste of freedom is best when you have taken it for yourself.

Thank you for your support of our work raising expectations in the blind of America. It is making a real difference in our nation and it is changing the nature of opportunities for the blind around the world.

Sincerely,

Mark A. Riccobono signature
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind