Code of Conduct

Please note: While the Code of Conduct suggests that reports be made within a year of an incident with the exception of special circumstances, President Riccobono clarified on the February presidential release that all current reports submitted will be reviewed, regardless of when the incident occurred, until at least August 1, 2021. This is part of our ongoing commitment to transformative change and accountability and we want those who have been harmed to have an opportunity to be heard. If you have feedback or concerns, please reach out to the Survivor Task Force at [email protected].

Our code of conduct outlines the policies and standards that all National Federation of the Blind members, especially our leaders, are expected to adopt and follow. To report a potential violation of this code, please consult section IX below. Reports can be filed using the code of conduct complaint form or by calling our dedicated voicemail box at 410-659-9314, extension 2475. 

For additional information, please review the Code of Conduct Frequently Asked Questions.

Responsible leaders of the Federation should also consult the guidance on obligations of elected leaders document which provides information about how to share anonymous information into the code of conduct process.

I. Introduction

The National Federation of the Blind is a community of members and friends who believe in the hopes and dreams of the nation’s blind. The Federation knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back. To help carry out the Federation’s vital mission, this Code of Conduct sets forth policies and standards that all members, employees, and contractors are expected to adopt and follow.

II. Diversity Policy

The National Federation of the Blind celebrates and embraces diversity and full participation as core values in its mission to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind. We are committed to building and maintaining a nationwide organization with state affiliates and local chapters that is unified in its priorities and programs and is directed by the membership. We respect differences of opinion, beliefs, identities, and other characteristics that demonstrate that blind people are a diverse cross section of society. Furthermore, the organization is dedicated to continuing to establish new methods of membership and leadership development that reflect the diversity of the entire blind community. In promoting a diverse and growing organization, we expect integrity and honesty in our relationships with each other and openness to learning about and experiencing cultural diversity. We believe that these qualities are crucial to fostering social and intellectual maturity. Intellectual maturity also requires individual struggle with unfamiliar ideas. We recognize that our views and convictions will be challenged, and we expect this challenge to take place in a climate of tolerance and mutual respect in order to maintain a united organization. While we encourage the exchange of differing ideas and experiences, we do not condone the use of demeaning, derogatory, or discriminatory language, action, or any other form of expression intended to marginalize an individual or group. The National Federation of the Blind does not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics.

III. Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy

The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, background, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, citizenship, marital status, age, genetic information, disability, or any other characteristic or intersectionality of characteristics. Harassment on the basis of any of these characteristics similarly will not be tolerated. Although this Code of Conduct establishes a minimum standard prohibiting discrimination and harassment, nothing in this Code should be interpreted to limit in any way a person’s right to report abuse or harassment to law enforcement when appropriate.

Sexual harassment is prohibited by state and federal law and also will not be tolerated by the National Federation of the Blind. Complaints of harassment may be lodged by any person against any other person regardless of gender identity. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.” The following conduct is either considered conduct that by itself is sexual harassment, or that has the potential risk of causing sexual harassment to occur, and this conduct is therefore prohibited:

  • unwelcome inappropriate physical contact or touching;
  • repeating of sexually suggestive jokes/references/innuendoes and comments about an individual’s body/sexual prowess/physical attributes/dress;
  • the use of sexually derogatory language/pictures/videos toward/about another person;
  • the use of inappropriate sexual gestures;
  • sexually suggestive propositions; and
  • explicit or implicit threats that failure to submit will have negative consequences.

Under this policy, harassment can be verbal, written, or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law; or that of their relatives, friends, or associates, and that a) has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment; b) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or involvement in the organization; or c) otherwise adversely affects an individual’s opportunities for participation/advancement in the organization.

Harassing conduct includes epithets, slurs, or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts including bullying; denigrating jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group that is placed on walls or elsewhere on the organization’s premises or circulated by email, phone (including voice messages), text messages, social networking sites, or other means.

IV. Social Media and Web Policy

All members, employees, and contractors of the Federation should follow these recommended guidelines when making comments online, posting to a blog, using Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube/Pinterest/Instagram/similar tools, and/or using other platforms that fall under the definition of social media:

  • Promote the mission and branding message of the organization in comments/posts.
  • Recognize that you are morally and legally responsible for comments/pictures posted online.
  • Be aware that the audience includes members and nonmembers of the NFB, both youth and adults, representing diverse cultures and backgrounds.
  • Refrain from using profanity/derogatory/offensive language or making political endorsements that might reasonably be attributed to the Federation.
  • Post/respond with integrity. Though you may disagree with a post, be respectful and factual. Do not fight or air personal grievances online.
  • Do not post materials that are inappropriate for children/minors to view/share/read.

V. Conflict of Interest Policy

NFB officers, national board members, state affiliate presidents and their boards, division presidents and their boards, and local chapter presidents and their boards, employees, and contractors with independent decision-making authority on behalf of the organization (hereafter Federation leaders) are expected to avoid all conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest arises when a person’s personal or professional interests interfere, or even just appear to interfere, with the interests of the Federation. A conflict may arise if a Federation leader takes action or has personal interests that make it difficult for the Federation leader to effectively perform their duties to the Federation. The common factor in all conflict of interest situations is the division of loyalty or the perception of a division of loyalty, between the leader in performing their duties as a Federation leader of the organization and their personal and other interests. In specific, Federation leaders are expected to take appropriate responsibility to protect the Federation from misappropriation or mismanagement of Federation funds (including funds of an affiliate, chapter, or division in which Federation leaders assume leadership roles).

Federation leaders are expected to disclose the existence of any potentially conflicting personal financial interest or relationship to the full National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors and seek its review and approval, as specified below. For example:

  • A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of their receipt of salary or compensation of any kind from the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division).
  • A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of receipt by their spouse, parent, child, sibling, or other close relative of salary or compensation of any kind from the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division).
  • A Federation leader must seek board review and approval of any ownership interest exceeding 5 percent in or of any salary, compensation, commission, or significant tangible gift from any commercial venture doing business or seeking to do business with the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division). This process will also apply to the review of such interests involving spouses, parents, children, siblings, or other close relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins.
  • In reviewing matters brought pursuant to this section, the officer or national board member seeking national board review and approval will refrain from voting.
  • Federation leaders shall take appropriate steps to avoid unauthorized or inaccurate appearances or official endorsement by the Federation (including an affiliate, chapter, or division) of any product, service, or activity that has not been so endorsed. For example, because the Federation never endorses political parties or candidates for elected office, any Federation leader participating in the political process must take care to avoid creating an appearance of official Federation endorsement. With respect to this Section, it is assumed that it is not a conflict of interest for an employee or contractor under the ultimate supervision of the national President to receive a salary and other compensation performed for the Federation. Nothing in this Code prohibits an employee or contractor from holding office in any state affiliate, local chapter, or division of the Federation.

VI. Policy While Interacting with Minors

For purposes of this Code of Conduct and consistent with most legal standards, a minor is any individual under the age of eighteen. Any adult member, employee, or contractor of the Federation while interacting with a minor must recognize that a minor cannot legally give consent for any purpose even if said minor is verbally or otherwise expressing consent. For example, a minor may say that they consent to physical interaction. However, such consent is not valid or legal and should not be accepted. A parent or guardian must be informed and consulted about any action requiring consent from the minor. Federation leaders, members, employees, and contractors shall report any inappropriate interactions between adults and minors to the minor’s parents and law enforcement when appropriate.

VII. Alcohol and Drug Policy

Although alcoholic beverages are served at some Federation social functions, members, employees, and contractors may not participate in any such functions in a condition that prevents them from participating safely and from conducting Federation business effectively or that might cause embarrassment to or damage the reputation of the Federation. The Federation prohibits the possession, sale, purchase, delivery, dispensing, use, or transfer of illegal substances on Federation property or at Federation functions.

VIII. Other General Principles

In addition to the other policies and standards set forth herein, all members, employees, and contractors shall adhere to the following standards:

  • Members, employees, and contractors shall practice accountability and transparency in all activities and transactions.
  • Members, employees, and contractors shall foster a welcoming environment at NFB meetings, events, and conferences to create a cooperative and productive atmosphere for all members and nonmembers alike.
  • Members, employees, and contractors shall interact with one another in a professional manner and follow proper channels of authority and communication. 
  • Members, employees, and contractors shall positively promote the NFB through verbal and written communication.
  • Whenever possible, members, employees, and contractors are encouraged first to handle conflicts or complaints involving other members, employees, or contractors privately, directly, and respectfully. However, nothing in this standard is intended to limit a member’s, employee’s, or contractor’s right to pursue organizational change through appropriate methods or to limit anyone’s right to file a complaint for violation of this Code when necessary

IX. Violations and Complaint Procedure

Violations of this Code of Conduct, after first being established through the process set forth below, are subject to disciplinary action by the Federation. Such disciplinary actions may include but are not limited to counseling, verbal and/or written reprimand, probation, suspension, or termination of officer/leadership duties, and/or suspension or expulsion from the Federation.

  • Any complaint for a violation of this Code of Conduct shall be filed with the Office of the President. Complaints may alternatively be filed with the chairperson of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors or an executive officer of the Federation: vice president, treasurer, or secretary. Before implementing the procedure below, the President may attempt to determine whether a given complaint can be resolved in an informal or alternative manner without appointing a committee under this Section. For example, a complaint filed under this Code may be best mediated by an affiliate board with guidance from the President and national board. However, if a complaining party is not willing to engage in a less formal procedure after discussion with the President, the President shall appoint a committee to investigate the complaint pursuant to the procedure outlined herein. When informal resolution is not successful or is not pursued, then the President shall appoint a committee of no more than four persons to investigate the complaint and provide a recommendation for action or lack thereof. The committee shall be comprised of persons not directly involved in the matters being raised and who can be unbiased, impartial, and fair about the individuals and issues addressed in the complaint. Every effort shall be made to appoint a committee reflecting the broad diversity of individuals in the Federation. If the alleged complaint involves the Office of the President or if there is a conflict of interest involving the President wherein the President cannot act impartially and fairly, a vice president or the chairperson of the board shall be designated to handle the investigation process as outlined herein.
  • Complaints and supporting documentation filed pursuant to this Section shall be treated as confidential to the fullest extent possible.  
  • All complaints shall be filed as promptly as possible. Except under extreme circumstances, no complaint shall be accepted or investigated after a year from the time of the alleged violation of this Code.
  • Anyone filing a complaint concerning a violation or suspected violation of this Code must be acting in good faith and have reasonable grounds for believing the information disclosed indicates a violation. Any allegations that prove not to be substantiated and which prove to have been made maliciously or knowingly to be false will be viewed as a serious disciplinary offense and can be investigated pursuant to the provisions of this Section. 
  • Any person dissatisfied with the resolution of a complaint may file an appeal with the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, which may, in its discretion, take such action as it deems necessary. No national board member shall participate in the consideration of an appeal under this Code if such board member is the subject of the complaint or if such board member cannot be unbiased, impartial, and fair while considering the matter.
  • The President shall appoint a Code of Conduct committee that will review data and procedures regarding complaints filed under this Code. The committee will monitor actions under this Code and make recommendations to the national board from time to time. 

X. Minimum Standard

This Code of Conduct is intended to outline a minimum set of standards expected of Federation members, employees, and contractors. It sets forth the spirit that the Federation expects of all of its participants toward each other and toward those who work with the Federation at all of its levels. It is intended to be interpreted broadly to instill a respectful, cooperative, and welcoming spirit within members, employees, and contractors and in the activities of the Federation.

Note: The Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind unanimously adopted this revised Code of Conduct on December 5, 2020. In adopting this Code, the Board expressed its clear intent that this Code shall be reviewed annually or at any other time as necessary.

This Code was first adopted on January 26, 2018.

(Revised December 5, 2020)