April 2020

President's Letter

Dear Friend, 

I personally never pictured myself leading an organization during a historic time of social distancing due to a pandemic, but this has been my work in the National Federation of the Blind for the past month. If there is anything that has come from the #COVID19 experience it is the confirmation that we are stronger together through the community of support that we have sustained for eighty years. I thank you for being part of our network of strength and I hope you are well.

The National Federation of the Blind continues our work around the nation. We have expanded some of our programs such as NFB-NEWSLINE®, modified others, and added new advocacy initiatives to what we do. Our headquarters building is closed to daily traffic, but the heartbeat of our movement continues through our thousands of members across the nation with support from our staff who are all working from home (we have not allowed any of our staff to be left behind during this pandemic). We have built out the tools for our local chapters and state affiliates to continue their business of connecting and protecting blind people in their communities. Our national convention in July now promises to be the largest gathering of blind Americans in history. We have more events going on in a week than we have at any time in our history and it is driven by the love, hope, and determination of blind people across this great nation.

My office is now embedded in my home but regardless of location, I am working to fulfill the mission of our movement. I have communicated with hundreds of blind people over the past month and it is inspiring to witness the real difference blind people are making in the lives of others every day. Please call or email as usual and I will be pleased to speak with you about the work we are undertaking during the #COVID19 pandemic. We are continuously monitoring the needs of blind people. While we can’t predict the details of how things will evolve, we are certain we will continue to serve.

You should know that the Federation family is here if you need anything. Until the next time we can join together, please take care of yourself, your families, and your friends. A special thanks to all of you working on the front lines of the healthcare system and positive thoughts to any of you impacted directly by the virus.


Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind 

Staying Connected: Introducing NAGDU

The National Federation of the Blind has divisions, committees, and groups. This month we highlight one of our most active divisions, the National Association of Guide Dog Users. The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) is an organization for blind people who currently use guide dogs as mobility tools, those considering getting a guide dog, or those who want to learn more about the use of such dogs. We asked some NAGDU members to tell us about their use of service animals and their membership in the division and what it means to them.

Paul shares, “Being a member of NAGDU ensures that I have current, accurate information about local and national access laws. Being active ensures that I have a voice in policies. I’m married with two children. We own a small business. I’ve been a cane user for most of my life and am now using my first guide. Being a member of the National Federation of the Blind, and its various associated divisions allows me to both learn from and help advocate for my fellow blind community members. I’ve found that being a handler offers great opportunities for outreach, as people seem curious to find out how the team works.”

Raul says, “My second dog and I became a team in 2017. I am active in NAGDU and the National Federation of the Blind now. My involvement has helped me understand that my dog is one of my mobility tools. I got my first dog thinking that a guide dog would replace good cane travel, but now I know better. I like watching good handlers and I know that I can be mobile using a cane or a guide.” 

You can learn more about NAGDU at NAGDU.org. There are many NFB divisions and groups that bring people together around special interests. National virtual events are being hosted regularly to stay connected. To find weekly meetings, visit nfb.org/covid19

Latest News at the NFB

Join the 2020 National Convention from Anywhere

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind, originally scheduled for Houston, Texas, from July 14-19, is going virtual. Details about registration for the convention, as well as details of the convention schedule and logistics as they become available, can be found at nfb.org/convention.

COVID-19 Resource Page Available for Blind People

The National Federation of the Blind is closely monitoring the COVID-19 emergency, which is changing everyone’s lives but has unique effects on blind people. The health and safety of all of our members, colleagues, and friends is always our top priority. This COVID-19 page provides resources that may be particularly useful to blind people facing challenges during the emergency.

NFB-NEWSLINE Expanded to Provide Breaking News on COVID-19

In response to the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, NFB-NEWSLINE has expanded to all states, including those where it is currently unsponsored, and has added a new search feature.

COVID-19 updates are now available in the "Breaking News" category of NFB-NEWSLINE. This means that deafblind people who want up-to-date Braille information can download to a Braille display and stay abreast of current information. This offering is especially helpful to those who do not have internet access since NFB-NEWSLINE can be accessed by any phone in addition to other access methods. For more information and instructions visit NFB-NEWSLINE.

NFB Addresses Businesses Denying Service to the Blind

Some blind Americans are encountering discrimination during the COVID-19 emergency. The Federation recently addressed restaurants, banks, and other businesses, as well as drive-through COVID-19 testing facilities about the law. Businesses must provide equal service to blind customers as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, whether the blind customer is on foot or in a vehicle. Many businesses are offering drive-through service only during the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Federation of the Blind has received numerous reports of discrimination against blind people who have tried to access drive-through windows on foot. Read more about NFB's response to discrimination complaints here.

Take Action This Month

Stay involved in the National Federation of the Blind. There are so many ways to be involved with the Federation at the national, state, and local levels.

  • Read our blog for information on the impact of NFB training centers and women in the movement, coming together and connecting during COVID-19, and the rights of blind students and resources for self-advocacy and accessibility.
  • Share information on our Guide Dog Users Division on social media by sharing a link to NAGDU.org.
  • Watch one of our YouTube videos demonstrating nonvisual techniques for doing every day tasks or entertaining children at home with nonvisual activities like making scented playdough.
  • If you can help, support the Federation with your dollars on Giving Tuesday Now which is on Tuesday, May 5.

Important Dates

Register for the national convention and other virtual events. Check out our frequently updated distance education resources. Mark your calendars.