November 2019

President's Letter

Dear Friends,

The National Federation of the Blind is principally a membership organization. We are a united group but our members are incredibly diverse. We come from across the country, different backgrounds, age groups, education levels, and interests. Our members determine the policies and programs and our elected leaders are blind. The most important part of our name is “of” because it distinguishes the Federation from agencies “for” the blind.

Despite our vast diversity, we all have a connection to blindness. Our committees, divisions, and groups help our members support one another. Much of the work, mentoring, and building of relationships within the National Federation of the Blind is done through our divisions, committees, and groups.

These entities provide support, programs, and resources for a wide range of professions, recreational activities, special interests, legislative issues, fundraising projects, and other areas related to blindness.

I found mentors within our divisions when became a member and I now mentor students, emerging leaders, and parents. My wife, Melissa, and I are parents of two blind daughters and not only do we teach other parents, we learn from them every day.

I urge each of you to explore our divisions, committees, and groups. You are likely to find the connections as rewarding and helpful as I do.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind

Divisions and Committees and Groups, Oh My!

The Federation has many divisions, committees, and groups. Most focus on a common interest or affinity. We highlight one of our strongest divisions this month. Founded in 1983, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) is a nationwide membership organization of families, friends, and educators of blind children. 

NOPBC welcomes all families. Many NOPBC children have both blindness and other disabilities. The division helps to maximize the child’s abilities and opportunities; high expectations for all of our children are encouraged. As a division of the Federation, members are well informed about the societal, legislative, and technological issues that impact blind people. Members also enjoy the resources, support, and expertise of fifty-thousand blind people who can serve as mentors and role models. 

Other divisions include common interests such as blind educators, blind merchants, seniors, writers, deaf-blind, and more. Additionally, we have committees and groups that provide support, information, or resources about programs, special interests, or other areas related to blindness such as awards, resolutions, employment, webmasters, blind parents, and more. Learn more about our divisions, committees, and groups here.

Hear from Cynda

As we raise our grandson, Caleb, we are pleased to belong to NOPBC. We feel welcomed as family each year when we attend our Idaho state conventions and the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Academy (NFB BELL®). The information about resources we receive is invaluable. Both provide opportunities for our grandson to meet other blind students and adults and to master daily living skills. He learns Braille and improves his orientation and mobility every time we attend events. 

These are just a few of the many reasons that we feel fortunate to belong to NOPBC!

Latest News at the NFB

Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Registration Open

Who can read the most pages from December 1 to January 18? Braille Readers are Leaders is a contest to promote Braille literacy with a fun competition for children and adults. It is administered by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top readers in each category and each participant will receive a packet of Braille-related gifts. Find the registration form, reading log form, and contest rules by visiting Action Fund BRAL.

NFB Announces Opening of Application Period for 2020 Scholarships

Every year, the National Federation of the Blind awards more than $120,000 to blind scholars in recognition of their achievements and professional aspirations. The scholarship program is part of our commitment to academic excellence and leadership among blind students, and each scholarship is awarded based on academic excellence, community service, and leadership. The application process is now open until March 31, 2020. Learn more about the scholarship program and how to apply.

It’s No Secret; We Are Santa’s Helpers

It is time for Santa letters. Between November 11 and December 16, parents can request NFB Santa Letters. Beginning Monday, December 2, the Braille letters from Santa will start going out to children around the country. A Braille and print letter from Santa is accompanied with some other fun seasonal activities such as holiday recipes or winter games. The deadline for letter requests is December 16 to ensure that a return letter in Braille is received before Christmas.

Our Continued Commitment to Pedestrian Safety and Quality Education

One way we advocate is to provide official comments to government agencies. Recently, President Riccobono provided comments to both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regarding sound choices of automobiles and to the U.S. Department of Education about accessible digital instructional material.

Regarding pedestrian safety, the NFB has no objection to car manufactures providing a suite of sounds a car can make as long as the sound meets the minimum requirements set forth by the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act. The Act mandates minimum sound levels for quiet cars so that blind people can continue to travel independently. Proposed regulations related to that law suggest that multiple different sounds will be prohibited. Multiple sounds have the potential to create greater societal acceptance, and any sound that manufacturers provide must be compliant. Read our recent official comment to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Additionally, we submitted our position regarding the accessibility of digital educational content and instructional materials, as well as the continued instruction and utilization of Braille in the classroom. Read our recent official comment to the U.S. Department of Education.

Combatting Employment Barriers with Recent Lawsuit against Beacon Health Options

The Federation is helping Amy Ruell to combat employment barriers. Ms. Ruell, a blind licensed independent clinical social worker, is suing her employer, Beacon Health Options, because inaccessible software and online resources that it uses prevent her from doing critical parts of her job independently. Among other things, Ms. Ruell cannot fully participate in mandatory job trainings (although she is still tested on their content), or access patients’ clinical records in order to make accurate assessments and recommendations. We will not hesitate to fight for blind workers who experience unlawful discrimination like this. Read more about the Ruell case.

Take Action Now

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.

  • Please share your thoughts about this newsletter. Take our IOF survey so we can improve Imagineering Our Future.
  • Make a difference for blind children and their parents. Help us send out Santa Letters and give academic scholarships. Contribute to our end of year campaign.

Important Dates

Mark your calendars.