July 2021

Message from our President

Dear Friend,

I come from a state, Wisconsin, with a simple one-word but powerful motto, Forward. Last week the National Federation of the Blind held our most important event of the year, our 2021 National Convention. As the largest gathering of blind people, we are stronger together: transforming and unifying our future. I feel our strength based in collective action and common cause. As addressed in my banquet speech, we can find hope, opportunity, and safety in knowing that we have created something meaningful within our nation. Our movement, like our nation, is unfinished. 

The National Federation of the Blind members drive our change. During the convention thousands spoke up and demonstrated that as the transformative membership and advocacy organization of the blind we are truly stronger together. Celebrate the accomplishments of the last year as detailed in my 2021 NFB Presidential Report

If you have not yet joined the National Federation of the Blind and you would like to be part of the organized movement, please join us. If you are already a member, I am honored to work together with you, and I thank you for all that you do.


Mark Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind

NFB BELL® Academy Evolves 

The NFB BELL® Academy provides children with Braille and nonvisual skills instruction through fun, hands-on learning activities. The parent of a 2021 participant shared:

“My child had an enjoyable time and her confidence in Braille has grown. My favorite thing that has come out of this camp: You removed the fear and anxiety she had about going blind!”

The NFB BELL Academy—which stands for National Federation of the Blind Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning—is a nationwide (United States and Puerto Rico) summer program that prepares blind and low-vision children to grow into confident and independent blind people who live the lives they want.  First started in one state in 2008, the BELL Academy continues to evolve and adapt. Based on feedback we received after our first BELL Academy that was held virtually in 2020, this year we individualized instruction by dividing students into three levels: beginning, intermediate, and advanced, based on their prior experience with Braille. 

Undoubtedly, we will continue to incorporate feedback from members, mentors, parents, and students to provide the best Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy in the future so we can help make dreams come true and raise expectations. Because we know low expectations create obstacles between blind children and their dreams. Visit our BELL History Page to learn more about the evolution of BELL. 

Latest News at the NFB

Collaboration to Improve Airbnb Service to Blind Customers

Airbnb and NFB recently announced a new collaboration. Airbnb affirmed its commitment to making travel more inclusive and NFB will provide guidance and feedback on products and policies as we work to better meet the needs of people who are blind or who have low vision. Learn more about Airbnb collaboration here.

Congratulations to the 2021 Bolotin Award Winners

During the recent NFB national convention, the 2021 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Winners received trophies and $60, 000 in prize money. The Bolotin Awards encourage individuals and organizations to break down barriers faced by blind people in innovative ways, change negative perceptions of blindness and blind people, and push past existing boundaries to inspire blind people to achieve new heights. The three individual winners are: 

  • Darnell Booker, coach and general manager of the four-time world champion beep baseball team, the Indianapolis Thunder.
  • Dr. Natalie Shaheen, assistant professor of low-vision and blindness, Illinois State University.
  • Krishna Washburn, founder and artistic director of Darkroom Ballet.

The three organizational winners are: 

  • Davis Technical College of Kaysville, Utah, for its program to train blind aerospace machinists.
  • Eye Learn, for providing technology and blindness skills training to blind and low-vision people in the Detroit, Michigan area. 
  • Independence Science, for innovative products that make the STEM fields accessible to blind students and professionals. 

The Bolotin Awards are made possible in part through a generous grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation and the Alfred and Rosalyn Perlman Trust. You can learn more about how the 2021 Bolotin Award winners are raising expectations here.

2021 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Recognized

Last week at the NFB Board of Directors meeting Jordana M. Engebretsen received recognition as the 2021 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. “I believe my students can do what they want with the right tools and a positive attitude.” The education of blind children is one of the National Federation of the Blind’s highest priorities. Every year, the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award recognizes an outstanding teacher of blind students. Learn more about Jordana and her work here.

2021 Blind Driver Challenge Update: Meet Dan Parker

NFB announced our partnership with Cruise early this year for the initiatives to accelerate accessibility with regards to autonomous vehicles and to sponsor Dan Parker in breaking a world record this fall. We are racing to the record and more. Meet Dan Parker in this two-minute video.

Federationist Testifies at U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Regarding USPS

National Federation of the Blind member, Rania Dima, testified on July 13 at the Hearing to Review the FY 2022 Budget Request for the USPS Office of Inspector General and USPS Service Issues before the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations. Rania testified on the importance of the timely delivery of “free matter for the blind” materials that are supposed to be processed as first-class mail and how the current delays are impacting her ability to access Braille. Read Rania’s story.

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.

  • Catch what you missed and watch our National Convention Highlights as they become available.
  • Please complete our survey on access to digital library services if you have any experience or feedback with using any of the services including account information, streaming, or other online services provided by libraries.
  • Reach out to your state president to help raise expectations of the blind in your own community or to say thank you for all they do.
  • Participate or join one or more of our divisions and groups that provide support, information, and resources for a wide range of professions, recreational activities, special interests, legislative issues, fundraising projects, and other areas related to blindness.

Important Dates

We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events.