May 2020

Message from President & Parent Mark Riccobono

Dear Friend, 

Here is hoping this message reaches you after a great Mother’s Day weekend even in the midst of social distancing. I am inspired as I reflect upon the essential contributions of the mothers who I know and especially those who are active in the National Federation of the Blind. Our work to support our blind parents is crucial at any time, but the coronavirus presents its own challenges. A special thank you to Lisamaria Martinez from California. Lisamaria is a blind mom who manages her own small business while volunteering to coordinate the Federation’s Blind Parents Group.

As blind parents, my wife, Melissa, and I confront the issues that all blind parents must overcome. Accessing affordable and timely transportation for essential business and struggling with inaccessible learning platforms are just two examples of the artificial barriers we encounter. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are serving as our children’s at-home teachers while we are dedicating more hours than ever to advancing the Federation’s mission to connect and protect blind people. We are encouraged by the support and expertise of other blind parents and we hope others find a similar benefit from our outreach and sharing.

We are stronger together and we need your help to make this network even better. If you know a blind parent, grandparent, or other caretaker please let them know about the resources of the Federation. Put them in touch with us and help them be a part of our ever growing mentoring network. That way no matter what issues we confront, we can solve them together with love, hope, and determination.


Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind 

Parenting During the Pandemic

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blind parents are fully capable and have been successfully raising children for generations. There are aspects of parenting as a blind person which take some thought, and there are specific alternative techniques blind parents use in order to keep their children safe, healthy, and happy. This goes for grandparents as well. Our parents and grandparents have been sharing resources and advice for a long time, but those resources and that advice might be a bit different as we navigate this pandemic.

Patti shared, “I’m a blind parent who raised two children who are now adults. My first granddaughter was born in March just before the shutdowns. Being only fifteen minutes away from her, I looked forward to lots of quality time and of course being able to provide support to my son and daughter-in-law. We saw her in person once but have been learning how to navigate platforms like Zoom and Skype non-visually to hear her in person. It is a good thing she is a very verbal baby and we know other blind people who have shared their methods of connecting. Our family gets together every week with Kayla on Skype or Zoom. I’m so glad we aren’t totally missing her first few months.”

The mentoring and teaching that the Federation provides is incredibly valuable. Please visit our blind parents page to learn more about mentoring, podcasts with everyday tips and tricks, and much more. Stay tuned for our planned conference call on May 21 to share tips and tricks for parenting during the pandemic.

Latest News at the NFB

Scholarship Finalists Announced

The 2020 National Federation of the Blind scholarship finalists have been announced. Scholarship finalists will receive mentoring and financial assistance totaling more than $120,000. Read more about our finalists, their vocational goals, and where they are from.

Secretary of Education Follows NFB Recommendations – Education Advocacy Continues

The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped, or even slowed, the work of the National Federation of the Blind. On April 10, we sent a letter to the US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, urging her to not recommend any waivers for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or the Rehabilitation Act during this national emergency. On April 27, Secretary DeVos sent her report to Congress and recommended no unnecessary waivers for the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or the Rehabilitation Act. We sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the relevant House and Senate committees urging them to heed the secretary’s recommendations, while making a few of our own recommendations that will strengthen educational opportunities for students with disabilities during the pandemic and beyond.

Survey Shows Accessibility Barriers on Forty-eight State Coronavirus Websites

A recent survey found accessibility barriers on forty-eight of fifty state websites that provide critical information about the coronavirus pandemic, and we responded.

“Equal access to websites is always critical, and we have been advocating for an accessible internet for over twenty years,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “During this national emergency, it is particularly important that blind people get timely and accurate information about the coronavirus and the steps that we should be taking to protect ourselves and our families.” Learn more about the coronavirus website survey and the Federation response.

Transportation Available to Blind Americans for Essential Services through Lyft during COVID-19

As part of ongoing efforts to protect and connect blind Americans during the pandemic, we have partnered with Lyft to provide Lyft discount coupons. The partnership is a LyftUp initiative, Lyft’s comprehensive effort to expand transportation access to those who need it most.

Access to affordable, reliable transportation is always critical for blind people, but particularly at this time, since public transportation and paratransit services are being scaled back to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Learn more about transportation assistance.

Convention Memory Minute Contest Announced: Share Your First Convention Experience

Tracy says, “In 2005, I attended my first convention where I learned the Texas two-step while wearing learning shades…well, no, I wore a pair of black socks over my eyes. That experience taught me that I could do anything.”

For many, our very first convention becomes a life-changing experience.

As a means of encouraging others to register for this year’s national convention, which has gone virtual, we ask that past attendees share a video or audio message about a special memory of their first convention in less than sixty seconds. By tagging social media posts with #NFB20 or submitting the entry directly to us by email or phone, submissions will be entered to win a cash prize. We will play some of these throughout our national convention. Visit our convention page for contest rules. If you aren’t registered yet, be sure to register for the national convention before June 15.

#GivingTuesdayNow Celebration Exceeded Expectations

#GivingTuesdayNow was a global day of giving and unity which took place on May 5, 2020, as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. Our partner, the Gibney Family Foundation, generously contributed matching funds to help us connect and protect blind Americans. Thank you to all who participated by magnifying our message, making phone calls, and contributing. We exceeded our goals. You can still see our Facebook discussion for posts related to #GivingTuesdayNow for more.

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.

  • If you are a student, parent, teacher, or administrator please complete the education technology survey. As a result of COVID-19, many schools have shifted to virtual instruction. We are gathering information regarding the accessibility of virtual instruction and education technology.
  • Check out the May issue of the Braille Monitor. There are a number of articles this month related to COVID-19 that may be of interest, an article about counseling, a perspective on well-being authored by Candace Chapman and Jeannie Massay, and more.
  • Learn about the distance education resources we offer. All of the videos can be found on the National Federation of the Blind YouTube channel. Share your own tips and tricks.
  • Participate in Federation virtual events that are hosted weekly across the country by affiliates and divisions. Find the upcoming events on our COVID-19 resource page.
  • Register for the convention. The 2020 National Convention is set to be the largest gathering of blind people in history. Be part of this historic event!

Important Dates

We certainly are a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.