The National Federation of the Blind helps change public perceptions of blindness by preserving and sharing the stories of blind people. Our members do this daily in sharing their perspectives. I tell parts of my story in these letters. Another way that we share the lives of blind people is through our Jacobus tenBroek Research Library. I invite you all to visit the library housed at the Jernigan Institute to learn more about us, our leaders, and our history. You can explore the collections in our fully accessible resources online, too. Although we do not yet have a museum to highlight the progress of the organized blind movement and the stories of the people who have made that progress possible, that day will come.
Our Jernigan Institute in Baltimore is also the base for our technology initiatives under the Center for Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA). I know that I want accessible technology, equipment, and household appliances. Helping to make those things accessible without sight is only part of what the CENA does. When you visit our building, you should be sure to experience the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind—the largest collection of nonvisual access technology in the world.
Please come and share in all we do and experience the stories of our members by touring the Jernigan Institute, our national headquarters. You can come and learn about all the ways we make a difference and help blind people live the lives we want every day. I hope to greet you when you visit and welcome you to the home of the organized blind movement.
Mark A. Riccobono, President
National Federation of the Blind
In order to correct the negative stereotypes and misconceptions about blindness, we must highlight our history and take control of telling our story. The National Federation of the Blind Jacobus tenBroek Library is the only research library on blindness that is owned and controlled by the blind, and seeks to reveal our authentic history to the world.
The Jacobus tenBroek Library welcomes all researchers interested in investigating and learning about the non-medical aspects of blindness. It includes collections of literature such as the tenBroek Papers and it offers physical exhibits that showcase important historical events like the Louis Braille coin that went into space in 2009.
A significant resource of the tenBroek Library is the personal and professional papers of Jacobus tenBroek, founder of the NFB. Dr. tenBroek (1911-1968) was a towering figure in many areas. The NFB as he built it in the 1940s and 1950s foreshadowed many of the features of today’s disability rights movement, most importantly by asserting that the blind must speak for themselves as consumers and as a demographic minority that experiences discrimination.
We provide facilities for using our collections, regardless of format, by both sighted and blind readers. The Cane Tip and The Blind Cat are fully accessible portals to the collections of the Jacobus tenBroek Library. Moreover, we recognize that much of the history of the blind resides in the lived experience of the blind, and we are committed to recording that history.
Mobile phones, websites, household appliances, and more can be developed to be useable without sight. Nonvisual access to information technology creates opportunities to obtain quality education, secure competitive employment, and live the lives we want.
Our Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access (CENA) is a concentrated center of expertise, best practices, and resources that enables businesses, government, and educational institutions to more effectively provide accessible information and services to the blind community. It includes:
- The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, the leading evaluation and training center on technology for the blind in the world—housing a comprehensive collection of speech and Braille technology;
- Resources such as Accessibility Boutiques and the Accessibility Switchboard;
- The Strategic Nonvisual Accessibility Partnership program (SNAP);
- The Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design program(BUILD);
- The Higher Education Accessibility Online Resource Center; and
- The National Center for Nonvisual Election Technology.
The National Federation of the Blind is committed to providing the expertise and resources to educate our members about the innovative technologies available to increase their independence. We are further committed to working with any technology developer to enable nonvisual access features that make their products and services better for everyone, not just the blind. Building on the expertise of the blind, the CENA seeks to create a more accessible world.
Take advantage of an upcoming opportunity to participate in an Accessibility Boutique to learn the basics of website accessibility through the use of the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This boutique will be held on September 24 at no cost. To sign up, contact the access technology team at [email protected] or 410-659-9314, extension 2235.
The Nation’s Blind Pushes Back on Low Expectations Conveyed on The Breakfast Club
Recently The Breakfast Club went on air asking if listeners would allow a blind person to watch their kids. The low expectations that were perpetuated by the show will encourage discrimination against blind caretakers and blind parents. Blind people have been pushing back via Twitter, Facebook, and by calling and emailing IHeartMedia, the shows distributor. You can check out our responses on social media. We are working to engage the radio show to present voices of blind people to dispel the myth that we cannot supervise children.
Amazon.com Uses Inaccessible Interface for Job Applicants
After trying to work with Amazon.com to make job applications accessible, the NFB and Maryann Murad have filed suit. Ms. Murad tried to apply for a virtual customer assistant position but could not fill out the application because software Amazon.com designed would not work with screen readers. Ms. Murad talked with Amazon about the problem. An Amazon representative acknowledged the inaccessibility of the software and suggested she apply for another “appropriate” job. Learn more about Amazon.com and Ms. Murad’s response in our press room.
Federal Court Rules in Favor of Blind Students, Finds that Los Angeles Community College District Violated Disability Laws
The NFB, its California affiliate, and two blind students, Roy Payan and Portia Mason, have won their disability discrimination lawsuit against the Los Angeles Community College District. The Federal District Court found that the colleges violated the students’ rights by, among other things, failing to provide them with accessible documents and course materials, failing to provide equal access to library resources, procuring and using inaccessible educational technology, and maintaining an inaccessible website. You can read more in our press room.
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.
- Share this event information with contacts who are interested in the National Federation of the Blind but are not members yet: On Wednesday, September 18, 2019, at 8:00 p.m., we are hosting another call for blind people to learn more about the benefits of membership. Take advantage of this opportunity to hear from active members and leaders about us. Sign up by emailing [email protected] or calling 410-659-9314, extension 2509.
- Invite one of our members to speak at your library, workplace, place of worship, or club in honor of Meet the Blind Month, which is October. Please use #MeetTheBlind in your social media.
- Read about the federal law that creates a second-class workforce in the recent blog post, “Shout Out to the Forgotten Laborers.”
- Commend those who are committed to fair wages for all, such as Microsoft, who will not work with any supplier that participates in subminimum wages.
- Listen to our back-to-school series of podcasts.
Mark your calendars.
- Fall Conventions: review the calendar for details
- September 18, 2019: Open-House Gathering; email [email protected] to sign up
- September 24, 2019: Accessibility Boutique on Website Accessibility Basics; email [email protected] to sign up
- October 2019: Meet the Blind Month
- October 15, 2019: White Cane Awareness Day
- November 2019: Accessibility Boutique – Strategies to Make STEM Accessible. Date TBD
- February 10, 2020: Washington Seminar and Great Gathering-In, Washington, DC
- March 26–27, 2020: Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, Baltimore, MD
- June 30-July 5, 2020: National Convention, Houston, TX – listen to the big announcement