In the National Federation of the Blind you frequently hear about the big, bold, advocacy initiatives we are taking on—such as getting the Marrakesh Treaty ratified by the United States. While those efforts are important, the critical aspect of what we do happens at the individual level, where we teach blind people to be their own best advocate.
We recognize that as a blind person, if you know the laws and understand your rights you are the most authentic spokesperson for yourself. Thus, much of our work centers around training each other to self-advocate, and backing each other up with more support as needed. We know from our decades of experience that both are essential.
My wife Melissa, who also happens to be blind, and I often have to attend educational team meetings to advocate for our two daughters who receive services in the public schools because of their blindness. Thank goodness we both have received training from the National Federation of the Blind network, and fortunately we have each other and the support of our friends in the Federation. If we did not have that background and support, those meetings would be even more emotionally taxing than they already are. Melissa also spends a lot of her time going to meetings to support other families, but, despite our best efforts, we know there are so many families and blind people who are not yet connected with us; as a result, they are fighting against the artificial barriers all alone.
Advocacy is one of the most important reasons for us to connect with blind people and their families. When we do, we teach them that they are not alone, we empower them with the tools to raise their own expectations, and we connect them with an unparalleled network that will be a lifelong resource for them to continue to be strong advocates for themselves.
As part of our network, you are an important component of this self-advocacy training and support program. Thank you for your role in raising expectations for the blind every day.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
Advocacy—Our Vision and Objectives
The National Federation of the Blind has been advocating and teaching self-advocacy for more than seventy-eight years. At first we worked to gain economic security for blind people. The next generation focused more on civil rights. Now we are well known for our efforts to protect students, veterans, blind children, blind workers, and senior citizens losing vision. Along the way NFB taught tens of thousands of blind people to advocate for themselves politely, persistently, and persuasively.
The third pillar of our strategic plan aims even higher. Our vision reads:
The National Federation of the Blind is the leading advocate for all blind Americans in areas such as education, employment, transportation, voting, and civil rights. Blind people, their families, agencies for the blind, corporations, and the government turn to our organization for expert advice on programs, skills building, encouragement, nonvisual access, and technology that levels the playing field for blind people.
Our objectives are:
- To strengthen the advocacy capacity of National Federation of the Blind members;
- To establish and strengthen our relationships with industry and federal, state, and local government officials; and
- To increase public support to achieve acceptance, full integration, and equal opportunity of blind people.
We will reach our goals with love, hope, and determination. You can read our strategic plan here.
Self-Advocacy and Beyond—Hoby Wedler’s Story
Dr. Hoby Wedler exemplifies how self-advocacy and championing universal advocacy both stem from our philosophy. Hoby has earned a PhD in computational organic chemistry and is a co-founder of both a nonprofit organization and a sensory advising and education company.
Along the way Hoby had teachers who expressed positivity about his love of science, and some who started out less enthusiastically. Hoby’s junior-year chemistry instructor worried much about his ability to perform chemistry experiments and repeatedly proclaimed that chemistry was a “visual science.” In Federation spirit, Hoby advocated for himself and figured out that he could simply use a student who had already taken the course to convey visual information and no more. When Hoby felt discouraged by the instructor, he explained to her that nobody can see atoms. Sure, we use our eyesight when needed to observe chemical changes, but fundamentally chemistry is a cerebral science. After that, the instructor provided him with encouraging support.
After graduate school Hoby chose to straddle the fine intersection of art and science when he co-founded Senspoint Design. Senspoint has offered sensory insight and innovation to many industries since. Senspoint partners with clients around the world to provide experience and product design as well as creative brand strategy using all five senses. Senspoint often uses sleepshades to show the sighted community that they can get a great deal out of life without eyesight. At the core of Senspoint’s philosophy is a desire to make the world more universally accessible and inclusive.
Hoby is grateful for the impact of the National Federation of the Blind on his ability to be an advocate. He helps to build the Federation as he works for himself and others—all while living the life he wants.
Latest News at the NFB
Scholarship Finalists Announced
Based on academic excellence, community service, and leadership, the NFB presents thirty scholarships ranging in value from $3,000 to $12,000 during our national convention each year. The program is the largest of its kind. In addition to the cash awards, each winner benefits from intensive mentoring by leaders in the Federation. Discover who we selected as a scholarship finalist. Learn more about their next steps as finalists from recent scholars, Elizabeth Rouse and Shane Lowe.
Blind Parents Connection Podcast
Because we know that blind parents are fully capable parents and have been raising children for generations, the National Federation of the Blind supports blind parents. As part of our blind parents initiative, we recently added new episodes to our Blind Parents Connection Podcast about resources and feeding. Listen and learn about personal stories, tips, and tricks from blind parents themselves. This podcast is supported by the Gibney Family Foundation and brought to you by the National Federation of the Blind. Subscribe and listen by searching for Nation's Blind Podcast in your podcast client.
Partnering and the Development of Innovative Technology
The National Federation of the Blind is committed to participating in forums like the M-Enabling Summit that foster independence through accessible technology and design. The summit brings together industry leaders, allowing us to establish robust, meaningful partnerships that result in the development of software and devices for the blind and low-vision community. Read more about Anil Lewis’ participation in the M-Enabling Summit.
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.
- Make a contribution to help grow our advocacy programs.
- The room block is filling up fast, so book your hotel room and register for the 2019 National Convention today.
- Participate in the M-Enabling Summit in June.
- Read and share Pam Allen’s article: “Finding My Place, Accepting the Challenge, and Helping Others as I have Been Helped.”
- Recommend our Blindness Experience Teaching Internship to professionals who are either currently working with blind individuals or who are preparing to work in the blindness field.
Mark your calendars with these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.
- May 28, 2019: Accessibility Boutique - Building a Culture of Accessibility in Your Organization, Online
- May 31, 2019: Last day to preregister for NFB National Convention
- May 31, 2019: Last day to apply for Blindness Experience Teaching Internship
- June 16-22, 2019: NFB EQ, Baltimore, Maryland
- June 25, 2019: Accessibility Boutique - Nonvisual Accessibility of G-Suite Products, Baltimore, MD
- July 7-12, 2019: NFB National Convention, Las Vegas, Nevada
- February 10, 2020: Washington Seminar Great Gathering-In, Washington, DC