What is the National Federation of the Blind?

Blind people enjoying a MLB baseball game. -- The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness is only a physical nuisance. --

The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of the blind in America. Interested sighted persons also join. Founded in 1940, the Federation has grown to include over 50,000 members.

Purpose

The ultimate purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. This objective involves the removal of legal, economic, and social discriminations; the education of the public to new concepts concerning blindness; and the achievement by all blind people of the right to exercise to the fullest their individual talents and capacities. It means the right of the blind to work along with their sighted neighbors in the professions, common callings, skilled trades, and regular occupations.

Changing What It Means To Be Blind

Two blind people taking a stroll using their long white canes.It is estimated that over one million persons in the U.S. are blind and each year 50,000 more will become blind. Studies show that only AIDS and cancer are feared more than blindness. However, blindness need not be the tragedy which it is generally thought to be.  

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is a consumer organization of blind people working together to improve opportunities for the blind and the understanding of blindness by the general public. The NFB has affiliates in all fifty states, in the District of Columbia, and in Puerto Rico, and over seven hundred local chapters in most major cities. There are currently more than fifty thousand members nationwide.

State and Local Organizations

The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to act as a vehicle for collective self-expression by the blind.  Since its beginning in 1940, the NFB has been working toward the ultimate goal of helping blind persons achieve self-confidence and self-respect, and the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. The National Federation of the Blind is doing this by providing public education about blindness, information and referral services, scholarships, literature and publications about blindness, aids and appliances and other adaptive equipment for the blind, advocacy services and protection of civil rights, employment assistance and support services, development and evaluation of technology, and support for blind persons and their families.

A blind young man with his guide dog.In the NFB we say, -- The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight, but the misunderstanding and lack of information which exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance. --

The newly blinded person faces difficult adjustments. One of the best medicines is to meet other blind people and learn of the techniques they use. Membership in the NFB provides this common meeting ground and a sense of participation and restoration of confidence. By means of speeches, pamphlets, and radio and TV appearances, members of the NFB strive to educate the public that the blind are normal individuals who can compete on terms of equality.

The Newly Blind

The newly blinded person faces a difficult adjustment. One of the best medicines is to meet other blind people and learn of their jobs and the techniques they use in doing things without sight. Membership in the NFB provides this common meeting ground and, even more important, a sense of participation and restoration of confidence. Members of the NFB contact newly blinded persons to help them with problems of adjustment and orientation.

Information is also given concerning available services from governmental and private agencies, as well as facts about laws and regulations concerning the blind.

Resources for the newly blind

Want mentoring on blindness? NFB-LINK: Linking Individuals to a Network of KnowledgeNFB-LINK provides mentoring relationships for individuals who would like resources and guidance on a variety of blindness topics. The easy-to-use online system will match you with a knowledgeable, experienced mentor who can answer your questions and refer you to additional resources. Information on a variety of vocational, educational, and recreational interests is available through this innovative program.

Straightforward Answers About Blindness is a general information online document which includes answers to many common questions about blindness, information about services and programs for the blind, and resource listings. This document points the way to new hope and unexpected opportunity for those who are blind or are losing their sight.

A Distinctive Role

The Federation corresponds to blind people in the same way that labor unions correspond to workers, the Chamber of Commerce to business people, the American Bar Association to lawyers, the NAACP to blacks, the American Medical Association to doctors, and the Farm Bureau to farmers. It is a vehicle for joint action by the blind. In other words, the National Federation of the Blind is the voice of the blind. It is the blind speaking for themselves.

Who Represents the Blind?

A blind man using his Braille notetaker.There are numerous governmental agencies and private charitable organizations and foundations providing services for blind people, but only the blind themselves (acting through their own organization, the National Federation of the Blind) are able to speak for the blind. This is a basic concept of democracy.

The government has a Department of Labor, but it cannot truly speak for workers. They speak for themselves. Likewise the Department of Agriculture does not replace farm organizations, nor do governmental agencies or private foundations take the place of democratic membership organizations of minority groups. This is true even if the agency or foundation is headed or largely staffed by members of the minority. As with others, so with the blind. More and more of the governmental agencies and private foundations are becoming responsive to the views and needs of the blind and are learning new concepts and attitudes about blindness. The future looks bright. There is an overwhelming feeling of goodwill and a wish to help on the part of the general public. Most important of all, the blind are moving forward to speak for themselves and take a hand in the management of their own affairs through their organization, the National Federation of the Blind.

Protection of Rights

There are barriers to full participation in society by the blind. The National Federation of the Blind stands ready to help blind people overcome these barriers when collective action is necessary.

Many blind mothers and fathers are currently experiencing challenges from social service agencies who want to take their children. The recent increase in the number of such reported instances reflects not just an increase in government meddling or custodialism (although there is plenty of that), but heightened awareness and determination to take action on the part of the blind and their friends.

The National Federation of the Blind is responding to the challenge. A blind mother in Florida is once again busy raising her child without interference from a social service agency. The agency backed down when the National Federation of the Blind came to her defense. Several cases are currently under way in which blindness is a central question in a custody suit. Because the National Federation of the Blind was not contacted, it is already too late for some blind mothers and fathers. The organization is determined to establish sound case law on this issue.

The NFB Is Important To You

Blindness knows no discrimination. Any child can be born blind. Any individual can become blind in childhood or in later life. It is in the best interest of every individual to understand blindness and how to cope with its problems.

You Can Help

 A father with his blind daughter.The most important thing you can do is help us spread the new concepts about blindness. When you see our literature in the mail or meet one of us on the street, remember that we are people, just like you-- with all the range of talents and capacities, wits and wants that you possess. You can also help by making cash contributions to our organization or remembering the National Federation of the Blind in your will. The National Federation of the Blind is principally supported by public contributions. Donations are tax-deductible.

Want to become a member? 

Please visit how to join.

The Courtesy Rules of Blindness

When you meet me don't be ill at ease. It will help both of us if you remember these simple points of courtesy:

  1. I'm an ordinary person, just blind. You don't need to raise your voice or address me as if I were a child. Don't ask my spouse what I want -- "Cream in the coffee?" -- ask me.
  2. I may use a long white cane or a guide dog to walk independently; or I may ask to take your arm. Let me decide, and please don't grab my arm; let me take yours. I'll keep a half-step behind to anticipate curbs and steps.
  3. I want to know who's in the room with me. Speak when you enter. Introduce me to the others. Include childen, and tell me if there's a cat or dog.
  4. The door to a room or cabinet or to a car left partially open is a hazard to me.
  5. At dinner I will not have trouble with ordinary table skills.
  6. Don't avoid words like "see." I use them, too. I'm always glad to see you.
  7. I don't want pity. But don't talk about the "wonderful compensations" of blindness. My sense of smell, touch, or hearing did not improve when I became blind. I rely on them more and, therefore, may get more information through those senses than you do - that's all.
  8. If I'm your houseguest, show me the bathroom, closet, dresser, window - the light switch, too. I like to know whether the lights are on.
  9. I'll discuss blindness with you if you're curious, but it's an old story to me. I have as many other interests as you do.
  10. Don't think of me as just a blind person. I'm just a person who happens to be blind.

President Maurer and guests at our annual event, the Celebration.In all 50 states, the law requires drivers to yield the right of way when they see my extended white cane. Only the blind may carry white canes. You see more blind persons today walking alone, not because there are more of us, but because we have learned to make our own way.

 

For more information about gifts, bequests, programs for the blind, or other matters concerning blindness or the blind, contact the local chapter in your area or contact:

The National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street
      at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Phone: 410-659-9314
E-mail: nfb@nfb.org

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