August 2019

President's Letter

Dear Friends,

If you want to know about the power of the National Federation of the Blind, dig no deeper than our programs that engage and inspire blind youth in science, technology, engineering, art, and math. We have been cultivating blind scientists and engineers since 2004, and informally before that through our groundbreaking educational programs. These programs demonstrate to others how to effectively engage the blind in career areas that they are generally tracked out of due to low expectations.

I received an email from one participant in our engineering program that we hosted in June. Their long email can be summarized by this one sentence, "The chance to work on engineering projects and talk to blind engineers was thrilling. Getting this opportunity served to further solidify my desire to become an engineer, and helped me realize that there are lots of successful blind engineers out there." Giving blind youth the tools and skills to do science and engineering for themselves—hands on—and guiding them with the mentorship of blind role models who are successful in their fields is our simple yet powerful formula. The National Federation of the Blind is uniquely positioned to offer these dynamic programs and we have made the commitment to do so for a long time.

When I was young I wanted to be an architect but I had no idea how a blind person would manage the work. Due to the expertise and high expectations of the Federation, I am blessed to oversee a program where we teach blind youth to engineer structures. It is a different kind of architecting and it is fun to witness those youth practicing what I never had the opportunity to pursue. I wonder what these youth will build for the next generation of blind people. I am confident that the National Federation of the Blind will be part of transforming those dreams into reality.

Thank you for the role you play in expanding the opportunities for blind youth in science, technology, engineering, art, and math through our organization.

Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind

NFB Leads in the STEM Arena

All through school, I was constantly told how visually challenging math and science were for me as a blind person. — Stephanie, Member

We are working constantly to change this perception. More than ten years ago, the National Federation of the Blind began raising expectations for blind youth around science, technology, engineering, and math. A variety of programs bloomed across the United States, such as the groundbreaking 2008 Let’s Get Physical about Science academy in Louisiana, where students enhanced their understanding of two and three-dimensional geometric figures. And we haven’t stopped. The 2019 NFB EQ (Engineering Quotient) program continues to raise expectations—read what some have said:

What is cool about NFB EQ is that almost all the staff are blind. At my school for the blind all the staff are sighted and it is really nice that here the teachers are like me. — EQ Participant

Another student wants to be an architectural engineer after meeting a blind professor of architectural engineering. — Natalie, EQ Instructor

NFB EQ was a huge paradigm shift for my daughter. Life changing doesn't do it justice. — Penny, Mother of Blind Child

Through our National Center for Blind Youth in Science, we equip teachers, parents, and blind youth themselves with tools and knowledge needed to provide greater opportunities in science to blind youth across the nation. Learn more about our National Center for Blind Youth in Science.

STEM Programs Impact More than STEM

Clarence attends a small private school with no blindness services. With a graduation in his near future, he plans to walk across the stage—independently. Although he has received skepticism from the school, he is willing to advocate for himself and demonstrate his abilities now that he experienced independence with the NFB STEM programs. Clarence recently joined us for NFB EQ, his third STEM training with us. His experience is another example of how exposure to our blind mentors can changes lives. When we see another blind person living the life they want, we know we can do the same.

This year Clarence’s parents came to national convention in Las Vegas. Initially, they could only attend the first portion of the convention because they had to drive home to Los Angeles midweek to participate in a job interview. However, they were so impacted that they drove back to Las Vegas to attend the banquet. Clarence and his parents now expect more than ever before.

Additionally, Clarence wants the best training possible and plans to attend one of our NFB training centers. He will most likely have his family’s support to accomplish that and walking across the graduation stage on his terms. We look forward to following Clarence’s journey with STEM and independence.

Visit the NFB EQ page to learn more.

Latest News at the NFB

Introduction of the Greater Access and Independence through Nonvisual Technology (GAIN) Act

To stay independent, we need to be able to operate the same in-home products as everyone else. The GAIN Act was recently introduced in the House of Representatives and, if passed, will preserve independence for blind people in their own homes. It will require the development of standards and enforcement for home-use medical devices, exercise equipment, and appliances to be accessible through nonvisual elements. 

Currently, many new products are designed so that vision is the only way of accessing controls. Touch screens with no text-to-speech are a good example of the problem. To stay independent, we need to be able to operate the same in-home products as everyone else.

We applaud the introduction of the GAIN Act and look forward to it passing.

Legal Efforts toward Equality

There are a number of recent lawsuits that are pushing for equality. This work is a critical part of our mission to raise expectations and eliminate obstacles between blind people and our dreams.

The National Federation of the Blind's extensive legal program helps advance disability rights case law to create more equitable workplaces, classrooms, and communities for blind Americans. 

Available Now: NFB-NEWSLINE® Mobile 3.0 Beta with KNFB Reader Basic

The National Federation of the Blind is excited that the NFB-NEWSLINE mobile app beta version is available to download on iPhones and iPads. Included in the app is KNFB Reader Basic, which provides the useful core features at no cost. Within the KNFB Reader section, it will be easy to point and shoot for access to print on-the-go. This beta version is a pre-released, advanced development of the app. Those who participate and provide feedback will expand the amount of testing done, which will ultimately develop a better product.

NFB-NEWSLINE is a free audio service of over 500 publications, emergency weather alerts, job listings, and more for those who are blind or otherwise print-disabled.

Learn more about the NFB-NEWSLINE® Mobile 3.0 Beta with KNFB Reader Basic.

Take Action This Month

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.

Important Dates

Mark your calendars.