Release Date: 
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
(410) 659-9314, extension 2330
(410) 262-1281 (Cell)
Lisa Westermann
Wells Fargo & Company
VP, Corporate Communications
(415) 222-6236

National Federation of the Blind, Wells Fargo Launch the 2017 Bell Academy Program

325 students participated across 30 states and 45 academies in 2016

Baltimore, Maryland (January 4, 2017) ─ Today, on the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of the reading and writing system for the blind that bears his name, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Wells Fargo launched the 2017 Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy program. The program takes place throughout the country each summer and provides blind children initial or advanced Braille instruction so that they may learn how to use this powerful reading medium in fun, interactive ways. In addition to sponsoring the BELL Academy, Wells Fargo will provide strategic input into the program and offer team member volunteers at select academies.

Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said "The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines children or their future. Our BELL Academy helps these children learn the basics of Braille, as well as meet other blind children and adult mentors. They engage in activities designed to increase their independence, allowing them to make friends, gain support, and start on the road to a future in which they will live the lives they want. In an environment where only ten percent of blind children receive Braille instruction, we deeply appreciate Wells Fargo’s support of this critical nationwide effort to increase literacy and raise expectations for blind children."

This is the second year Wells Fargo is sponsoring the Bell Academy. In 2016, 325 students participated in the BELL Academy across 30 states and 45 academies. To spotlight this 2016 work, Wells Fargo released a video showcasing the Rhode Island BELL Academy program:

Kathy Martinez, head of People with Disabilities Segment Strategy at Wells Fargo, said "Wells Fargo is committed to the full inclusion of blind people and other people with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind represents an integral part of our corporate mission. We are pleased and proud to support, and promote the innovative NFB BELL Academy, which teaches critical life skills to be successful adults."

To learn more about NFB and the BELL Academy, please visit