October 2020

President's Letter

Dear Friend,

When people say “diversity” they often do not recognize that characteristics like blindness contribute significantly to the life experience of a group. When we first designated October as Meet the Blind Month, we did not use diversity as the theme. This was almost twenty years ago, and we simply wanted to enhance the awareness of the real experience of blind people among the general public. With the leadership of the National Federation of the Blind both the authenticity and the diversity of blindness itself is coming more and more to the front of public consciousness. Yet, we recognize, we have more to do to address the disparities among blind people in this nation.

This month, we are focused on telling the stories of the wide range of individuals who experience blindness. Blindness does not know race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, or any other characteristic. However, we know that blindness also has a relationship to institutionalized racism in our society. For example, diabetes is a leading cause of blindness. 18.7% of all African American adults compared to 7.1% of non-Hispanic white Americans have diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes. We also know that access to the rehabilitation system among our Black friends is significantly more difficult than it is for others. The result is that people who are Black and blind have more artificial barriers to overcome in minimizing blindness and leveraging the resources and training critical to living life to the fullest as a blind person. We seek to develop a set of solutions based on the authentic experience of a wide range of blind people. We know that together we can transform dreams into reality and our togetherness must include a harder examination of the disparities experienced by blind people from diverse backgrounds.

We need your help as we explore these concerns. More urgently for this letter, I need your help. As the elected leader of the blind of America and as a white male who does not have the same lived experience as many others in our society, I want to be guided by the diverse perspectives of blind people with other experiences. That is our goal with this year’s Meet the Blind Month activities. Like every October, the work does not stop here. This is just a concentrated time to push the public understanding forward. This year, we are working to push our own understanding forward as well. Please contribute to our work. Please contribute to helping us advance the lives of all blind people. Please be part of the conversation with us and help us ask and explore hard questions.

Be part of our diverse unity and we will be better off having you as a member. Together, with love, hope, and determination, we will transform the dreams of all blind people into reality.


Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind 

Enhancing Education and Building Confidence in our Blind Children

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. BELL focuses on Braille, orientation and mobility, daily living skills, and adjustment to blindness training. Mentoring serves as the foundation for BELL. This summer BELL went virtual and was available to students all over the country. Each student received a big box of supplies and participated via zoom. Testimonials like the following show how successful the program was in 2020 despite the constraints of coronavirus and social distancing:

“My daughter, Elizabeth (Liz), and I are so thankful to have the opportunity to join in on the virtual BELL Academy this year. It's neat that her sighted siblings have gotten more excited about honing their Braille and non-visual skills alongside her by playing Monza, practicing navigating with her old canes, scribbling on slates with styli, and writing words with the Perkins Braille-writer.  Liz loves all of the activities and learning from blind adults who are so encouraging as her mentors. Thank you for the myriad of resources you sent in the supply box. All of the contracted Braille resources will be of great help to us.”

Learn more about NFB-BELL Academy here.

Latest News at the NFB

Double Your Dollars: Matching Gift Opportunity from Freedom Scientific

Freedom Scientific, a Vispero brand and the maker of JAWS for Windows and Focus Braille displays, has pledged to match the first $50,000 in donations made to the National Federation of the Blind during October which is Meet the Blind Month. Double your contribution and help ensure that we fulfill this matching gift if you are in a position to support us financially. Thank you to Freedom Scientific and all of our supporters for helping us continue our important work.

New Agreement to Promote Equal Access to Education

Agreement to improve accessibility comes as blind students are increasingly affected by COVID-19 disruptions.

NFB and Pearson, the world's learning company, have announced a formal agreement to enhance the accessibility of Pearson's educational products and courses, deepen Pearson's culture of accessibility, and accelerate the effectiveness of Pearson's accessibility efforts broadly. More on the NFB and Pearson agreement here.

NFB-NEWSLINE® Mobile 3.0 with KNFB Reader Basic Released

Version 3.0 of NFB-NEWSLINE Mobile Released to the Apple App Store. The brand new, redesigned app not only allows subscribers to access all of the content available through NFB-NEWSLINE from their iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device, but includes a free basic version of the KNFB Reader mobile app. NFB-NEWSLINE Mobile includes these features and much more:

  • KNFB Reader Basic, a free version of KNFB Reader with the core functions necessary to quickly scan any printed text–just point, shoot, and read!
  • The ability to share articles from publications in the breaking news category to social media channels.
  • Multiple customization options to organize, save, and manage both NFB-NEWSLINE content and documents scanned with KNFB Reader Basic.

More about the new release of NFB-Newsline Mobile here.

Call for Ending Subminimum Wages – New Report Issued from U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

NFB issued the following statement regarding a report from the United States Commission on Civil Rights entitled Subminimum Wages: Impacts on the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities.

“Ever since our founding eighty years ago, the National Federation of the Blind has opposed the payment of subminimum wages to blind and disabled Americans under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We commend the report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights issued today and applaud the Commission’s call for the end of the antiquated and discriminatory 14(c) program. While we will further review the report to assess its details and recommendations, the Commission’s work is a giant step toward eliminating the historic injustice of subminimum wages and creating true equality of opportunity for workers with disabilities. We urge the general public to actively join us in standing against this injustice and to work meaningfully toward its elimination from our local communities.”

NFB STEM2U Application Period Open

The National Federation of the Blind has been working for more than fifteen years to improve opportunities for blind students in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In NFB STEM2U, we are bringing what we have learned directly to students and families in their homes. Blind students of varying ages will receive instruction from NFB personnel and expert instructors via the Zoom platform. Students from Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah, and Virginia are eligible. Check out our NFB STEM2U information and registration page here.

Equal Access in Education Blog Post Published

As schools reopen this fall, some virtually, some in person, and some in hybrid formats, blind students may encounter new and challenging accessibility barriers; some students already have. Many questions remain regarding how schools will implement instruction this fall, but with certainty the NFB will continue to prioritize equal access to education within all the work we do. To find out what we are doing and how you can participate, please read our new blog post, “Equal Access in Education: An NFB Priority.”

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.

  • Double your donation by contributing during the month of October. Freedom Scientific is matching donations. Donate online, by mailing a check to 200 East Wells Street Baltimore MD, 21230, or donate by phone by calling 410-659-9314 and pressing 4.
  • Check out the latest issue of the Braille Monitor, the National Federation of the Blind’s flagship publication. There are a number of articles this month about issues related to Meet the Blind Month, as well as a presentation from the 2020 NFB National Convention and an article on Ryan Boudwin’s lived experience in politics as a blind person. Read Ryan’s article in the October 2020 Braille Monitor.
  • Join our October Twitter Chats. The National Federation of the Blind regularly offers Twitter chats as a way to engage with our members and the public. Join us each Wednesday in October on Twitter to discuss our lived experiences with various intersectional identities—many of which are also subject to inequalities, public misconceptions, and injustices. Follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #MeetTheBlind.
  • Calling all blind and low-vision voters who participated in the 2020 United States presidential election—the National Federation of the Blind needs your feedback! Whether you voted during early voting, at your local polling place on Election Day, or by mail, we want to hear about your experience. Please complete the blind and low-vision voter experience survey at surveymonkey.com/r/NGFMPF2.

Important Dates

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