I find myself frequently asking blind people I meet why they are not members of the National Federation of the Blind. The most common answer by far is that they did not know about the organization or they did not understand that membership was an option. What we do in the National Federation of the Blind is powerful and unique, but there still are so many out there who do not understand that they can be part of this great movement. It means that, despite our success, we have work to do. This is one of the areas that excites and motivates me every day.
When I found the National Federation of the Blind in the summer of 1996, I learned right from the beginning that the way to improve my opportunities and raise my expectations was to become a member. I learned that just taking all of the free knowledge and resources from the Federation would be helpful, but it would not propel me to unimagined places.
I have observed the transformation that comes from belief in oneself in thousands of people since then. I have attended hundreds of Federation meetings in all but five of our Federation affiliates during the past twenty-three years. I have sat in living rooms, hotels of all sizes, favorite local businesses, businesses owned by the blind, and agencies for the blind all across this nation. In every instance, the real power of the NFB membership was apparent.
All of us must spread the word about blindness and the NFB. If you are not a member, we need for you to join with us. The strength of what we do is the diversity and reach of our membership across the nation. In fact, I believe that the Federation is a model for demonstrating that people of various backgrounds, ages, cultural perspectives, and dozens of other characteristics can come together for one common purpose—every day we raise expectations for the blind because we know that low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams.
If you want to know more about membership in our organization, I encourage you to read the April issue of the Braille Monitor. I also encourage you to meet people in your local chapter and ask them all of your burning questions. Finally, come to our national convention in Las Vegas this summer. The convention is where, in the span of six days, you can learn about the power, influence, diversity, determination, and love that we share. I promise that if you open your heart and mind to exploring membership, you will not regret it.
Thank you for what you do every day for us.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
Through our large network of members, the National Federation of the Blind coordinates many programs, services, and resources that defend the rights of blind Americans, provide information and support to blind children and adults, and build a community full of opportunities. In other words, membership is the heart of our organization. In fact, it’s so important to us that we made it a major pillar of our new, three-year strategic plan.
As outlined in the strategic plan, our membership vision is to have an active, diverse, coordinated, and ever-growing network of affiliates, chapters, and divisions across the country. We want to attract lifelong members and friends that are engaged in our innovative and empowering initiatives so that we can build a community unified in our purpose. We are already doing this in many ways, of course, but in the coming years we plan to develop a more formal new membership process, ensure common practices among chapters and affiliates, strengthen leadership development, and expand recruitment efforts. Become a member today.
I heard about the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey about five years ago from a long-time member. I was having difficulty coping with blindness. We spoke at length, but at the time I could not fully connect or commit to it. Eventually, I came around, and in 2017 I started to involve myself with the member-at-large conference calls. By doing this, I realized that there were quite a few people who were going through the same thing I was going through. It helped to ease my mind.
People encouraged me to attend a state convention. I was unsure, and a bit hesitant, but I attended and I’m so glad I did! Everyone I met was so pleasant, engaging, and more than willing to help. The atmosphere was warm and felt like family. It was a fantastic feeling to finally mingle with people I could relate to. I joined numerous divisions during that convention and have never looked back.
Ada Crandle, Proud Member
National Federation of the Blind
A new television series, In the Dark, tells the story of a blind woman whose character is played by a sighted actress. In response, the National Federation of the Blind is launching an ongoing effort to demand authentic representation and engage with the entertainment industry. Learn more in our press release protesting refusal of entertainment industry to cast blind actors and our blog post on real stories from blind artists.
Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) recently said, “Far too often, access technologies that blind individuals need to be competitive employees, like screen readers or Braille note takers, are so expensive that blind individuals can’t purchase them and are underemployed or unemployed as a result. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Access Technology Affordability Act, which creates a refundable credit to help purchase technology needed to compete in the workforce.” Learn more about this important legislation in our latest press release on the introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act.
From our local chapters and state affiliates to our diverse committees and divisions, the National Federation of the Blind is an organization of collective action. Whether you’re new to our organization or you’re a lifelong supporter, here’s what you can do to get involved this month.
- Become a member – spread the word!
- Read the April 2019 issue of our flagship publication, the Braille Monitor.
- Listen to the April 2019 presidential release from President Mark A. Riccobono.
- Register to attend the NFB National Convention in Las Vegas in July.
The National Federation of the Blind is certainly a busy organization. Don’t miss these upcoming events, workshops, and deadlines.
- April 15, 2019: Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award application period ends
- April 30, 2019: Accessibility Boutique: Accessible Content with Blackboard, Baltimore, MD
- May 1, 2019: Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award nomination deadline
- June 16-22, 2019: NFB EQ, Baltimore, MD
- July 7-12, 2019: NFB National Convention, Las Vegas, NV
- February 10, 2020: Washington Seminar Great Gathering In, Washington, DC