May 2021

Message from our President

Dear Friends,

It is a great time to be talking about collaboration. As our nation overcomes the COVID-19 pandemic and we all safely re-integrate into public spaces, many are thinking in new ways about how we work and play together. Yet collaboration has been a value of the National Federation of the Blind for a long time.

Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something. What we find is that when we work to bring our authentic expertise and perspective to a project with one of our partners who brings their own unique talents, it works best when we are clear and honest about how we add value. For example, when working with NASA, we do not presume to tell them how to manage the study of science and we expect that they will not assume what works for blind people. With a clear understanding and shared goals, we end up with an outcome that is stronger and more meaningful than either of us could have accomplished alone. This is true with employers, community organizations, technology companies, corporate entities, and other advocacy organizations. When we stay true to our brand and authentic expertise and value the same merits of others, we create outcomes that change the world.

Collaboration is not simply about using the words, it is about doing the hard work of learning about your collaborators. Furthermore, just because a commitment to collaboration is made does not mean it always works out. Sometimes, especially as it relates to advocacy, we might disagree on fundamental approaches or key strategies being considered. For the National Federation of the Blind, our collaborators know we will not sell out blind people in the process of working together.

As the American people transition to the new normal, we should keep in mind who we are as blind people and as a civil rights movement. We should also recognize that opportunities come from combining our perspectives with others and finding new ways to generate progress. As an organization we are emerging from the pandemic as a stronger, more tightly connected movement of blind people. We should not forget the collaborators who we leaned on during the past year.

Thank you to all our friends who bring their unique talents, energy, and resources to our movement. Together, we transform dreams into reality.

Mark Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind

Authentic Relationships with Advocacy Organizations

The National Federation of the Blind enjoys many collaborative partnerships with organizations, corporations, and individuals. Some of our most important partners are organizations of disabled people and other like-minded advocacy groups. We recently sponsored the 2021 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium which brought together innovative thinkers and practitioners from many of our valued partners in disability advocacy, and we are currently planning for the National Federation of the Blind 2021 National Convention where we will further develop many of our key relationships with organizations, corporations, and individuals.

"National Disability Rights Network and NFB have been long term partners in our work to protect and expand access to the vote for people with disabilities. Our work together has been invaluable in understanding the access needs of all types of voters, including those who are blind, low vision, and deaf-blind. In particular, we’ve worked closely together the past few years to make vote by mail systems more accessible in a number of states. These innovations proved invaluable and solidified our partnership when voters cast their Presidential ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic."

The NFB continuously looks for positive synergistic relationships with organizations like the National Disability Rights Network. Mutually beneficial relationships amplify voices and messaging, improve accessibility, encourage employment, and create higher expectations for all. You can learn more about some of our partners by visiting our sponsors and exhibitors during our 2021 National Convention, and if you have ideas for future collaborations, please reach out to [email protected].

Latest News at the NFB

Partnering with Deque on Gift Matching Campaign for Global Accessibility

Thanks to generous gifts from Deque Systems and an anonymous donor, you can double your Give 20 contributions during the week of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The National Federation of the Blind is celebrating global accessibility all week long! Every dollar you contribute will be matched up to $25,000 during the week of May 16 through May 23. Participate in our Give 20 Convention Drawing and double your donation at the same time. Contributions of $20 or more will be eligible to win a trip to the 2022 national convention OR take the cash prize of $2,000.

Learn more about the GAAD matching gift campaign.

Wages Update: Biden-Harris Executive Order on Wages for Federal Contractors

NFB released the following statement on the recent executive order issued by the Biden-Harris administration regarding wages for federal contract workers:

“We commend the Biden-Harris administration for expressly including workers with disabilities in the new requirements for wages paid by federal contractors,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “This is a significant step toward ending the antiquated and discriminatory practice of paying workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage, a practice based on outdated stereotypes and low expectations regarding the capacity of blind and disabled workers. We urge Congress to take ending this practice further by passing the Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act, which will responsibly phase out subminimum wages for all American workers with disabilities.”

McDonald’s and National Federation of the Blind Collaborate on Self-Service Kiosks

The National Federation of the Blind and McDonald’s USA are collaborating to make McDonald’s self-service kiosks in company-owned, U.S. restaurants even more accessible to customers who are blind. McDonald’s USA’s company-owned restaurants will implement these enhancements by December 31, 2021. Using new and advanced technology, enhancements to existing accessibility features include screen-reading software, tactile keypads, and the ability for customers to connect their headphones or ear buds to the kiosk and independently place their orders by responding to audio prompts. Read more about the McDonalds collaboration in our press room.

California DMV Kiosks to Become More Accessible to the Blind

NFB and three blind Californians have collaborated with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and Intellectual Technology, Inc., a provider of self-service kiosks, regarding accessibility features for DMV Now kiosks utilized in California. The new features will include Braille labels, tactile controls, and speech output through a headphone jack. These features will allow blind people to complete transactions with the DMV through the kiosks just as sighted visitors can. With much of the work having already been completed during the collaboration process, the remaining features are expected to go live within ninety days. Read more about California DMV kiosk accessibility collaboration here.

Lyft Offering Free Rides to Federation Members

Our rideshare partners at Lyft, through their LyftUp Vaccine Access program, will be providing access to free and donated rides. The code is being made available for use through June 30 for travel to and from COVID-19 vaccination appointments. There will be a code for dose one and a separate code for dose two. Members will need to contact affiliate presidents for more details. Thank you to our partners, Lyft.

Congratulations to the 2021 Scholarship Program Finalists!

Each year the National Federation of the Blind is proud to honor blind scholars, each of whom are raising expectations and expanding possibilities. On May 12, we announced the 2021 scholarship finalists. The scholarship program provides financial assistance and connects students with mentoring and other resources. Meet the finalists and learn about their vocational goals.

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.

  • Apply for 2021 NFB BELL® Academy In-Home Edition. Virtual programs of the NFB BELL Academy are offered this summer to prepare blind and low-vision children to grow into confident and independent blind people by enhancing their education. Options are available for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students.
  • Deadline approaching: register by May 31 for the 2021 NFB National Convention.
  • Participate in our Give $20 Convention Drawing for a chance to win, and double your dollars during the week of Global Accessibility Awareness Day thanks to Deque Systems and an anonymous donor. Be sure to donate from our Give $20 Convention Drawing page, call 410-659-9314, extension 2282, or send a check to National Federation of the Blind 200 East Wells at Jernigan Place Baltimore, MD 21230 and indicate that your gift is for Give $20.
  • Get involved and celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Deque is offering multiple events and resources in support of GAAD. Learn more at:
  • Read President Riccobono’s Open Letter on Safety and Support Progress.

Important Dates

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