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The National Federation of the Blind Helped Eric Duffy Know That He Could Be a Blind Dad

From NFB.org - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 09:16
Blog Date: Sunday, June 18, 2017

By: Eric Duffy

I am from a family of eight. I have four brothers and three sisters, and I am next to the youngest. From an early age I knew that I wanted to have a wife and children. I knew, however, that I did not want nearly as many children as my own parents had, but then most people don’t. While growing up, I didn’t know many blind parents. In the instances where I knew of a blind parent, the other parent was sighted. So I questioned whether I would be able to raise children.

In my freshman year of college, I found the National Federation of the Blind. I met a blind father with a sighted spouse. I met a blind mother with a sighted husband. I met blind couples who were successfully raising children, but above all I met blind and sighted people who expected more of me than I expected of myself. The members of the National Federation of the Blind made it clear to me that, if I couldn’t live the life I wanted, including having children, it wouldn’t be because of blindness.

My older son was born in July of 1995. Some of my younger sister’s friends commented that it was too bad that I would never be able to see him. I said that I would love him and care for him and be the best dad that I could be for him. Some of those same people had children whose fathers were not a part of their lives.

Sometimes I wondered how different my children’s lives would have been if I had not been blind. But that kind of thinking didn’t last very long. I quickly asked how different my life would have been if my own father had not been forty-three when I was born. What if my father had been a scientist and not a construction worker? That kind of thinking didn’t last very long either. My father was who he was, and I loved him. He provided a good life for all of us. I have family memories which I will treasure for the rest of my life, including many happy memories with my dad.

Blindness is just one of the many characteristics I possess. My children had responsibilities around the house, but so did my brothers and sisters. I worked to be sure that my boys could participate in the activities they wanted to be a part of. Sometimes this meant arranging transportation, and other times it meant making sure I had the money to buy the equipment or supplies they needed.

Occasionally I would use blindness as a teaching tool. One evening, when my boys were quite young, they wanted to go to Burger King. After getting off of the city bus, they said, “Daddy, we need to go this way.”

I said, “No, Burger King is the other way.” They both insisted I was wrong.

After walking for a while, they said we needed to turn around. But, when they finally saw Burger King, they were both very happy. I said, “That should teach you that you need to listen to your dad.”

My oldest son John, (named after my father) will soon finish a four year stent in the United States Marine Corps. He became a Marine through his own hard work, but I helped him get there.

Lucas Just graduated from high school and has been working for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired for the last six months. I am proud of both of my boys.

Blindness did not stop me from being a dad, and it won’t stop you either if you don’t allow it to do so. The National Federation of the Blind 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.

Posted in: GeneralParentingAuthor: Eric Duffy

Blind Californians and Advocates Sue Greyhound

From NFB.org - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 14:33

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, June 12, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgBlind Californians and Advocates Sue Greyhound

Lawsuit Alleges Blind People Cannot Use Greyhound Website or Mobile App

San Francisco (June 12, 2017): In February of 2015 Tina Thomas, who is blind, was planning a trip from her home in Los Angeles to Las Vegas to visit family and friends. She tried to book the trip on Greyhound.com, but her text-to-speech software couldn't interpret Greyhound's website. She called Greyhound to book her trip, explaining that she could not use the website, but Greyhound still charged her a "convenience fee" for booking by phone. She tried to use the website again earlier this year, but the experience had not improved.

Ms. Thomas and four other blind Californians, along with the National Federation of the Blind, have now sued Greyhound in federal district court. The lawsuit alleges that Greyhound has designed its website and app so that they cannot be used by the blind. This violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and state laws, the lawsuit says.

Blind people use screen reader software that converts the content of websites or apps into speech or Braille. This software can easily read text, but it cannot interpret pictures, graphics, and elements like forms and menus if they are not coded properly.

The Worldwide Web Consortium has published in-depth guidelines on how to make websites compatible with screen readers, known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0, Level AA). Apple and Google have also published accessibility guidelines for apps designed for the iPhone and Android smart phones, respectively. Other major transportation providers, such as Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, and the ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, have websites or apps that blind people can use to book travel. But Greyhound has not made the needed changes to its website or app, despite several requests from blind people and advocates.

The lawsuit may be certified as a class action if the court approves. The suit seeks an injunction requiring Greyhound to make the needed changes to its website and mobile app. The case is National Federation of the Blind et al v. Greyhound Lines, Inc. et al, case number 3:17-cv-03368. The plaintiffs are represented by Timothy Elder of the TRE Legal Practice, www.trelegal.com, and by Lisa Ells and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, www.rbgg.com. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are interested in speaking with any blind individuals who have been unable to use the Greyhound mobile app or website with their screen-reader or who have been charged convenience fees for booking tickets over the telephone.

 "Without the ability to drive, blind people need travel alternatives like Greyhound," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the blind. "It's mystifying, not to mention unlawful, that Greyhound makes it impossible for us to book trips in the same ways everyone else can. Worse yet, Greyhound charges us extra for the convenience of using the only booking methods that work for us, the phone or the ticket counter at the bus station. Paying for Greyhound’s discrimination against us is offensive and this unequal treatment will not be left unchallenged. "

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind 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.

Blind Californians and Advocates Sue Greyhound

Latest News - Mon, 06/12/2017 - 14:33
Release Date: Monday, June 12, 2017Category: National

San Francisco (June 12, 2017): In February of 2015 Tina Thomas, who is blind, was planning a trip from her home in Los Angeles to Las Vegas to visit family and friends. She tried to book the trip on Greyhound.com, but her text-to-speech software couldn't interpret Greyhound's website.

Be the STAR of Your Story: Using Your Past Experiences to Excel in Interviews

From NFB.org - Mon, 06/05/2017 - 08:07
Blog Date: Monday, June 5, 2017

By: Bobbi Pompey

From the editor: Bobbi is a member of the National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee. 

With the unemployment rate for the blind hovering around 70 percent, the National Federation of the Blind Employment Committee is dedicated to providing resources and information to help the blind become gainfully employed. One of the primary ways employment-related information is shared is through the jobs email listserv. Job openings, relevant news articles, and the sharing of personal experiences are just a few examples of what you can expect to find on this list. Recently, a job seeker posed a question about how to ensure that their personal attributes and professional qualifications are not overshadowed by conversation about their blindness. Utilizing the STAR method when answering interview questions is an excellent way to do just that.

The STAR technique allows you to tell your story during an interview and is commonly used to answer behavioral/competency based questions. Potential employers use your answers to these questions to gage your abilities by looking at how you have handled prior situations. This ensures that you possess the skills desired for the position.

So what is the STAR technique, and how exactly is it used? STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result. When answering a question, you tell a story about a past experience and use each component of STAR in your response. Here is how it works:

  1. Situation – Set the scene. Describe the context within which you performed a job or faced a challenge at work.
  2. Task – Next, explain your role and responsibilities in the situation.
  3. Action – Then explain what you did. Describe how you completed the task or endeavored to meet the challenge. Focus on what you did, not what your team, boss, or coworker did.
  4. Result – Conclude by stating how everything panned out. Include the outcomes or results generated by your actions. You might emphasize what you accomplished or what you learned.

By following these four steps when answering an interview question, you will be able to showcase your unique talents in a clear, concise, and organized fashion.

Here’s an example:

An employer asks, "How will you be able to create and organize files and documents required for your position?"

You say: "In my past positions, I have found the use of cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Docs extremely helpful. For example, I and several co-workers were required to collaborate on a presentation (Situation).

“I was responsible for compiling research on one section and reviewing the final presentation for spelling and grammatical errors once everyone had submitted their portions (Task).

“To do so, I use what is called a screen reader to utilize a computer. Screen readers simply convert text and other things on the computer screen into speech. From there I explored scholarly articles to complete my research and compile my findings and bibliography in a Google Docs file where the team was combining our portions. Once everyone submitted their parts, I read the entire file for errors and made the necessary revisions (Action).

“By using a screen reader to access the computer, I was able to do my portion of the project and ensure our presentation was a success. At the conclusion of our presentation, our supervisor commended us all on our hard work (Result).”

By answering this way, you have shown you possess professional skills like researching, writing, and collaborating. And you simultaneously address any concerns that the interviewer may have about how you will operate a computer as a blind person. This proactive approach will put them at ease and remove any doubts they may have before they can take root.

When preparing to interview:

  • Study the job description,
  • Pinpoint the skills the employer is seeking,
  • Identify prior experiences that exhibit those skills,
  • Practice describing the experience using the STAR technique.

You may also wish to research common behavioral questions and practice answering them.

In mastering the STAR technique, you will be able to confidently and eloquently articulate your qualifications and abilities. As Federationists we know that the blind are able to compete on equal terms with our sighted counterparts in the workforce. By the conclusion of the interview, the interviewer will share in this philosophy and realize that blindness is merely a characteristic and does not impact one’s potential for success.

To learn more about the STAR technique, and have the opportunity to practice using it, be sure to join us at the 2017 Job Seeker’s Seminar on Monday, July 10, during national convention. The STAR technique is just one of many gems that will be shared during the seminar, and all who attend are one step closer to reaching their employment goals and living the lives they want.

Posted in: EmploymentGeneralAuthor: Bobbi Pompey

Language to End Subminimum Wages Included in New Minimum Wage Bill

From NFB.org - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 12:28

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Thursday, May 25, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgLanguage to End Subminimum Wages Included in New Minimum Wage Bill

Baltimore, Maryland (May 25, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind today applauded the inclusion of language in the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, simultaneously introduced in the House and the Senate, which calls for the end of the payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind has advocated for the elimination of the subminimum wage since our founding. The recognition of this issue by leaders in both houses of Congress and both parties confirms that the time has long passed to eliminate the unfair and separate wage system for people with disabilities. Time and time again, we have demonstrated that the idea of people with disabilities being less productive is simply an antiquated misconception that has been allowed to permeate throughout society. This wrong and harmful notion has resulted in multiple generations of disabled Americans being grossly underpaid and overly reliant on government assistance programs to survive. We want to work. We want to rid society of these low expectations. For those reasons, we applaud the promotion of economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities set forth in the bill."

Under current law, there is no minimum as to how little an employee with disabilities can be paid. Some workers earn pennies per hour. Section 6 of the Raise the Wage Act of 2017 would implement an immediate minimum wage of $4.25 for all workers classified under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This absolute minimum wage rate would increase by two dollars per year until it matched the minimum wage earned by the rest of the American workforce. At which point, employers would no longer be permitted to pay employees with disabilities a subminimum wage.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind 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.

Language to End Subminimum Wages Included in New Minimum Wage Bill

Latest News - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 12:28
Release Date: Thursday, May 25, 2017Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (May 25, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind today applauded the inclusion of language in the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, simultaneously introduced in the House and the Senate, which calls for the end of the payment of subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.

How Love Convinced Gary Wunder to Join the National Federation of the Blind

From NFB.org - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:09
Blog Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

By: Gary Wunder

From the editor: Gary is the former president of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and shared this story as part of our #WhyImAFederationist campaign. This story originally appeared on the NFB of MO Facebook page.

One frequent topic of discussion in the National Federation of the Blind is why we joined, when we joined, and those things that pushed us towards and away from the organization. Very often we find ourselves trying to tell one unified story but, like most things in life, the reason for making significant decisions in our lives often is a culmination of events and maybe even an epiphany or two along the way.

If I really think hard about it, I believe there are at least three reasons why I joined and became an active member of the Federation, and let me emphasize that there is a tremendous difference between joining and being active, though one is necessary before the other. First and foremost I believe that I joined the National Federation of the Blind because I was loved into it. I met with a member or two of the Federation, not knowing that they were affiliated with any kind of organization of the blind. In fact I don't think I knew that there were organizations of the blind, only organizations for the blind. It never occurred to me that there was any particular reason why blind people should unite for common action. The concept of an organization of the blind was not just something I was unaware of or neutral about; I actually thought the idea was stupid, a reflection of the admonition I got from my elementary resource room teacher that too closely associating with blind people would lead to isolation from those who could see, and the goal, after all, was to make our way in sighted society.

The only information I wanted from the blind people who turned out to be associated with the Federation was what it was like to own and use a guide dog. At age fifteen I thought that all dogs that did guiding for the blind were Seeing Eye dogs, and although the blind people I met with set me straight on the fact that the Seeing Eye was the name of the school, both had their dogs from the Seeing Eye, so it seemed to make little difference to me.

After getting all the information I could about how to work, groom, and feed a guide dog, I was ready to get off the phone until more questions popped into my mind, but my new friends were not so anxious to leave the line. They seemed to like it when I told them stories about me, and, to my great gratification, they remembered those stories and would ask follow-up questions in subsequent conversations. In turn I slowly gave up my selfish pursuit of information just for me, and I found that these people had a lot worth knowing about them. One man ran an office supply business — imagine that, a blind guy in his own business. Another man was in law school, a career I had been steered away from because doing legal work took a lot of research, the material to be researched was in print, and blind people could not see or independently read print.

At some point I realized that not only did I like the people with whom I was talking, but I admired them. Because they showed me love and attention, it felt good and right to do the same thing. Eventually I started to take seriously the issues that seemed to mean so much to them: discrimination in employment, unequal opportunity in education, discrimination in housing and transportation, abuse by government agencies whose job it was to serve the blind, the need for advocates when blind people went for financial assistance through Social Security or the Missouri blind pension. At first I was convinced that I would never need help in any of these areas, but I was certainly willing to help them. Later I learned that any blind person out in the world would face these issues, and I came to take seriously the work of the National Federation of the Blind, not just to make my friends happy with me but to make the world a better place for blind people who deserved justice, mercy, and an equal chance. In the bargain I got myself not a new family but a companion family, and I thank God for these people every day.

So as important as the philosophy, policy, and the programs that spring from them are in my Federation life, at least one of the three reasons I am a Federationist is that I was loved into it, and how can anyone do better than love?

Posted in: GeneralStoriesAuthor: Gary Wunder

Just a Mom

From NFB.org - Fri, 05/12/2017 - 10:25
Blog Date: Sunday, May 14, 2017

By: Melissa Riccobono

I hear, “Wow, you’re amazing! I can’t imagine taking care of one child—let alone three—if I couldn’t see!”

To which I say with a smile, “No. I’m just a mom.”

I’m just a mom who happens to be blind. I’m just a mom who got to know each of my children as newborns in the ways most parents do. I learned their personalities—what made them smile and laugh, what made them cry, what could soothe them, and what made them afraid. I’m just a mom who learned that just when I had one stage of development figured out, a new stage would come along and the process of discovery, of trial and error, would begin all over! I’m just a mom who learned how difficult it can be to meet the needs of three screaming children, but who has gotten to experience the joys of these same children playing together, looking out for each other, and interacting with our family. I’m just a mom who feels so much pride in my children’s accomplishments, and who feels the frustration only a parent can feel when I have to give a direction, or say the same thing over and over again, and my child STILL makes a choice I wish she wouldn’t! I’m just a mom who loves to have conversations with my children, and who is amazed everyday with all that they know, think, and feel. I’m just a mom who reads to my kids, helps them with homework, plays games with them, and takes them places. I’m just a mom who attends events at their school, communicates regularly with their teachers, and has even managed two Destination Imagination teams. I’m just a mom—the chef, maid, doctor, counselor, interpreter, and finder of lost things. I’m just a mom who gets tired and grumpy at the end of the day, and sometimes is not as patient as I would like to be, particularly at bedtime. I’m just a mom who sometimes finds it difficult to be cheerful in the morning, but who has learned that if I fake being a morning person, it will mean a better start to the day for all. I’m just a mom who struggles with knowing when loving my children means I should hold on to them tighter, and when it means I need to give them more freedom and let them try their wings. I’m just a mom who tries to enjoy my children every day and who cannot believe how fast time goes—how much they grow up in even a few short years.

In short I’m just a mom like you. I have days when I feel like supermom. I have days when all I want to do is pull the covers over my head or get a do over. I have times when I know what I am doing for my kids is right, even if it is not easy. I have times when I feel as if nothing I am doing is right, and I have to remind myself that parenting is not for the faint of heart.

And so I say, to all the moms out there, you are amazing—we are all amazing! We are doing the hardest and most rewarding job every day. We are just moms! Thank you for your hard work and sacrifices. Thank you for the support you give your children and the support you give to other moms. Thank you for your sense of humor, your inventiveness, and your patience. Thank you for all of the lessons you teach your children, the consequences you enforce when they disobey, and the safe place you give them to land when things get hard. Thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for being a part of the village that helps to raise your children’s friends and classmates. Thank you for your love. We all have our differences. We all have our challenges. But still, at the end of the day, we are just moms, and we are all amazing.

Posted in: ParentingAuthor First Name: MelissaAuthor Last Name: Riccobono

National Federation of the Blind Announces 2017 Scholarship Program Finalists

From NFB.org - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 08:43

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Thursday, May 11, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.org

National Federation of the Blind Announces 2017 Scholarship Program Finalists

Baltimore, Maryland (May 11, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the finalists for its 2017 Scholarship Program, which awards thirty scholarships each year to recognize achievement by blind scholars. The students are listed below in alphabetical order with their home states and vocational goals.

  • Lindsay Ball, ME: Adaptive physical education teacher
  • Cricket Bidleman, CA: Anthropology professor
  • Katherine Brafford, CA: Work at the intersection of science and religion
  • Aneri Brahmbhatt, IL: Record label manager
  • Shannon Cantan, HI: Business administration
  • Melissa Carney, CT: Clinical psychologist
  • Trinh Ha, AR: Dietitian
  • Afton Harper, MO: Journalism
  • Qusay Hussein, TX: Psychologist
  • Catherine Jacobson, MN: Healthcare policy analyst
  • Cassandra Mendez, OH: Assistive technology developer
  • Tabea Meyer, CO: Advocate for marginalized groups
  • Ibeth Miranda, TX: University professor
  • Regina D. Mitchell, NV: Psychologist
  • Jackie Mushington-Anderson, GA: Braille instructor
  • Maureen Nietfeld, CO: Dietitian/Nutritionist
  • Efose Oriaifo, VA: Biotechnology
  • Chelsea Peahl, UT: Law/Advocacy
  • Gloria Rodriguez, WA: Disaster mitigation and emergency preparedness
  • Carla L. Scroggins, CA: International politics
  • Luke Schwink, KS: Athletic marketing/Player development
  • Alyssa Shock, NJ: Child psychologist
  • Heather Simmons, CA: Literature professor
  • Wayne Smith III, MD: Computer engineering/Data security
  • Andrew Sydlik, PA: English teacher or disability advocate
  • Sophie Trist, LA: Novelist
  • Rachel Wellington, GA: STEM career
  • James N. Yesel, ND: Entrepreneur
  • Zeynep S. Yilmaz, AZ: Rehabilitation counselor education
  • Ayoub Zurikat, TX: Mental health care provider

“The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are proud to honor these blind scholars, who are studying everything from biotechnology to anthropology, and to welcome each of them to our upcoming national convention and to the family of the National Federation of the Blind. The accomplishments of these outstanding students are proof of our conviction that we, the blind of this nation, can live the lives we want; blindness does not hold us back.”

Each finalist will attend the NFB’s seventy-seventh annual national convention, beginning July 10, in Orlando, Florida, where the Scholarship Committee will spend several days getting to know each student and then decide which scholarship (ranging in value from $3,000 to $12,000) to award each of them. The scholarship winners will then be announced at the banquet of the NFB National Convention on Saturday, July 15.

For more information on the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Program, visit www.nfb.org/scholarships.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind 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.

National Federation of the Blind Announces 2017 Scholarship Program Finalists

Latest News - Thu, 05/11/2017 - 08:43
Release Date: Thursday, May 11, 2017Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (May 11, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the finalists for its 2017 Scholarship Program, which awards thirty scholarships each year to recognize achievement by blind scholars.

Isabel Espinales Regains Independence through the National Federation of the Blind

From NFB.org - Tue, 05/09/2017 - 09:46
Blog Date: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

From the editor: Isabel is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and shared this story as part of our #WhyImAFederationist campaign. This story originally appeared on the NFB of MD Facebook page.

I was born in Nicaragua. At ten years old, I was forced to leave my country to escape death threats because of my father’s reputation in the military. I came to America, went through school, and then worked as a nurse in hospitals and nursing homes. I was first exposed to blindness by my patients; yet, I only saw the first stages of vision loss and not the aftermath of how they succeeded.

Then I too became blind. I lost my vision two years ago due to diabetes. I felt that my life completely stopped. I felt stuck, overwhelmed, and so depressed that I considered suicide. But thanks to God, I was surrounded by family and friends who supported me and refused to let me quit. I worried about what job I could have, how I could get around, and who would understand me. But the hardest part about blindness was that I had to depend on people after being independent for so many years.

One year ago, I decided to get training in an adult blindness program. It showed me that I can go back to being independent and it also introduced me to the National Federation of the Blind. I participated in the 6 Dot Dash race, which was the first time I was surrounded by so many blind people. Soon after, I was asked by Sharon Maneki and Melissa Riccobono to volunteer as a translator for Spanish-speaking parents who were learning tools to better raise their blind children. I fell in love with the kids and the parents. I fell in love with the NFB because of all that they do to pave the way for blind persons and to spread the message that it is okay to be blind. I felt that I found a new family. At my first national convention, I was initially overwhelmed by even more blind people in one area. Yet I soon realized that I was surrounded by talented, powerful, and professional people who achieved their goals, and blindness was not an obstacle for them. That gave me more power to press forward and finish the training program, go back to school, become a physical therapist, and reenter the medical field with boldness. Meanwhile, I will also continue helping the NFB in any way that I can, both in my state and nationally.

To anyone who is losing vision or is blind, I encourage you not to give up. That should never be an option. You have to get your mind together, get yourself together, and keep pushing forward. If you need a family, a group of people who understand and who fight every day for equality and opportunity for blind people, then consider joining the National Federation of the Blind. For me, this was the greatest opportunity to use my gift of advocacy and stand up for the rights of blind persons. It also ignited my passion to encourage and educate more Spanish-speaking blind persons and their families. The tools, resources, and support that I received are meant to be passed on to others. Because of the Federation, I feel that I am a part of change. I am learning, growing, and sharing with others.

Posted in: GeneralStoriesAuthor First Name: IsabelAuthor Last Name: Espinales

National Federation of the Blind Launches Ridesharing Testing Program

From NFB.org - Mon, 05/08/2017 - 08:21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, May 8, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.org

National Federation of the Blind Launches Ridesharing Testing Program

Organization to Monitor Uber, Lyft Efforts to Accommodate Service Animals

Baltimore, Maryland (May 8, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind today announced the launch of a program to test the effectiveness of ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft's efforts to accommodate passengers with guide dogs and other service animals. The NFB seeks the participation of blind people and other service animal users, or those who travel with them, across the United States and in Puerto Rico. Volunteers will be asked to fill out an online questionnaire to indicate whether or not they were denied service because of their service animals or if they were treated in a discriminatory or disrespectful manner. Both positive and negative experiences should be reported. Pursuant to agreements with the National Federation of the Blind, both Uber and Lyft are taking steps to prevent discrimination against, and improve service to, riders with service animals. The agreements require the National Federation of the Blind to provide feedback to the companies over a three-to-five-year period. The program is open to both members and non-members of the National Federation of the Blind. The online questionnaire is available in both English and Spanish.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Companies like Uber and Lyft are empowering blind people to live the lives we want by providing fast, convenient and affordable transportation. This empowerment can only be real and complete, however, if all blind people, including those who use guide dogs, are able to access these transportation options when and where they need them, without fear that they will be refused service. My wife Melissa uses a guide dog, and consequently our family has occasionally experienced the refusal of transportation services, which violates the legal and civil rights of the blind and other people with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind applauds the commitment by Uber and Lyft to improve their service to service animal users, and we look forward to working with these companies to ensure that their efforts to do so are meaningful and effective. I urge all service animal users to use our new online questionnaire often so that we can provide comprehensive feedback throughout the terms of our agreements with Uber and Lyft."

For more information about the program and to access the online questionnaire, please visit www.nfb.org/rideshare.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind 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.

National Federation of the Blind Launches Ridesharing Testing Program

Latest News - Mon, 05/08/2017 - 08:21
Release Date: Monday, May 8, 2017Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (May 8, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind today announced the launch of a program to test the effectiveness of ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft's efforts to accommodate passengers with guide dogs and other service animals.

To See, or Not to See

From NFB.org - Mon, 05/01/2017 - 09:30
Blog Date: Monday, May 1, 2017

By: Arielle Silverman

From the editor: Arielle Silverman is, in her words, “a disabled activist and a social scientist who is passionate about improving public understandings of disability.” This post originally appeared on her website, Disability Wisdom.

I have been blind since the day I was born. When people first meet me, they often wonder if I would want a “cure” for my blindness. So, would my life be improved if I could see?

Sure, seeing sounds like fun, just like the ability to fly, an invisibility cloak, X-ray vision or the ability to read minds. All are things we might idly dream about during life’s pauses before we get back to its regularly scheduled programming. For me, sight is as exciting and mystical as any of these other superpowers, but having never had it before, it is something relegated to my imagination. In the meantime, I have found that most activities that the average person does visually, I can participate quite ably using my other senses, sometimes with the help of assistive devices. And the few things in which I cannot participate, I never cared much for anyway.

There were times in my past when I fantasized about seeing for more than a few seconds. Usually the fantasy would go, “If I could see, I’d be friends with those popular girls at school” or “If I could see, that cute boy would invite me to the dance”. I wanted sight not for its own sake, but because I thought it was a means to inclusion and acceptance, or to an easier life.

A few years ago, as my husband and I prepared to move across the country for my new job, we were getting rid of some old linens. I decided to send an old comforter of ours to my best friend “KJ” who lived out of state. As I walked to the post office with the comforter tucked under one arm and my cane in the other, I struggled to locate the post office door. I knew I was near it, but could not find the entrance. I kept searching for the right sidewalk, readjusting the heavy comforter which was making my arm ache.

“I wish I could see,” I thought. “Then I’d be able to drive to the post office, or at least, I could find the damn door!”

And then, the next thought made me freeze in place for a moment, the comforter spilling out of my hand.

“If I could see,” I realized, “I wouldn’t be making this errand at all. Because I never would have met KJ.”

You see, I met KJ when we were both at a summer camp for blind kids back in Arizona, when we were 13. We went to different schools, and without blindness in common, it’s unlikely we would have met. I could have missed out on lots of hilarious teenage conversations conducted in our secret braille-speak (that’s B R L, for the uninitiated). I might never have enjoyed nearly twenty years of mutual, unconditional friendship that was, at times, one of the only constants in an ever-changing young adult life.

Nor, if I could see, would I have marched through the streets of Atlanta one summer morning ten years ago with more than a thousand other members of the National Federation of the Blind. I wouldn’t have sat listening to Congressman John Lewis tell us to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble” to bring equal opportunity to the blind. I wouldn’t have had that infectious sense of being a part of something necessary and something big.

So you might say, “Well, if you could see, there would have been other best friends. And there would have been other chances to make a difference”. And you are probably right. But, this belies the fact that the speculation on a life without disability is an exercise in futility. We really cannot predict how our lives would have been shaped differently, for better or worse, if we had or didn’t have a disability, nor if we had been born a different gender or to a different family. We can only recognize the good we have, improve what we can change, and accept what we cannot.

Certainly, having a disability is a pain at times. Sometimes physically, and when it is used as a reason for exclusion, sometimes emotionally. But over the years I have discovered the value of being a part of the disability community, the friendships, the special cultural connections, the mentors, and the chance to be part of such a dynamic collective. I don’t think I would trade that in for super eyeballs.

Related article: What Do We Really Think of Sight?

Posted in: General

Ellana Crew Shares Why She’s a National Federation of the Blind Member

From NFB.org - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 09:05
Blog Date: Monday, April 24, 2017

By: Ellana Crew

From the editor: Ellana is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. Her #WhyImAFederationist story originally appeared on the NFB of MD’s Facebook page.

I came to the Federation with no cane, having never met another blind person, and having already had three different career ideas shot down by my TBS’s (teachers of blind students) and special educators. I was 16, I was failing half of my classes with no motivation to fix it, and my parents had finally convinced me to go to this residential summer program for blind high schoolers to learn a bunch of independence skills that I was pretty sure I didn't need. I threw a fit the first time I had to wear sleep shades, and I begged to come home for the first three weeks. These people were way too ambitious for me and there was no need for me to do all this stuff.

Around the halfway point, though, I attended my first NFB national convention with that summer program, and the longer I sat there and listened, the more I started to get it. I was surrounded by an entire community that I didn't even know existed, and these people were loud and proud and getting things done to change the nation. It was like I had found an incredible secret that had been just under my nose the entire time, and it initiated the biggest change my life had ever seen. I finally started to see the point in everything I was learning.

I wasn't completely on board right away, though. I was still relieved to finish the summer program and didn't see any reason to come back again or try out the adult program. But after I left, the change was unmistakable. Suddenly I was using VoiceOver and walking around with a cane, and I started to actually do my own homework. I was starting to do all kinds of things I'd never tried before, and two years later, I came back. I went through another round of summer training, and after that, I came back again for ten months of adult training. I started taking risks I had never dreamed of before, taking on tasks and challenges I would have previously declined without a second thought, even stepping up and becoming an officer of the Maryland Association of Blind Students. I became loud and proud and dedicated to getting things done to change the nation.

The National Federation of the Blind had finally given my life to ME. They had shown me what I was really capable of and taught me that I was as equally deserving of living exactly the life I wanted as anybody else. I finally learned to be comfortable with myself and to even be proud of myself, and I felt like I had even found a second family. I finally had the confidence to go after exactly what I wanted and the skills to know exactly how to do it, and that is #WhyIAmAFederationist.

Posted in: General

Why Are You a Federationist?

From NFB.org - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 08:07
Blog Date: Monday, April 17, 2017

The National Federation of the Blind has tens of thousands of members and is constantly growing. It is no surprise, then, that there are a myriad of reasons why people become and remain members of the National Federation of the Blind. In the month of March, we challenged our members to share these reasons with us using #WhyImAFederationist. They went above and beyond in rising to this challenge. These stories come from people in all walks of life, from parents to students, travelers to techies. Blindness clearly does not define any of them, and they are all living the lives they want. Here are just a few of the tweets and snippets from Facebook posts that we received in response to our question, “Why are you a Federationist?”

“Because I got one of the most important things all parents need. HOPE for my daughter's future!”

“So that the blind may read, travel safely, vote privately & independently, and compete 4 jobs on terms of equality is #WhyImAFederationist”

“@NFB_voice confirmed my own belief that blindness is not what defines me or my future, happiness or success in life”

“The NFB supported me and gave me the tools I needed for success in college! Also, it helped me find my passion in law.”

“Growing up, I often wondered how I could accomplish my dreams while blind. With the Federation, I got my answer.”

“I learned that there are no limits to what I am capable of doing regardless of my blindness.”

“NFB has given me the power and the confidence to live the life I want, not just the life prescribed to me by society.”

“Because I knew I had sparkling potential, but no one showed me how to shine.”

“I'm a member of the National Federation of the Blind because we are fighting for equal rights & opportunities for blind individuals across the country.”

“Because of the Federation, I feel that I am a part of change. I am learning, growing, and sharing with others.”

“Witnessing students raising expectations for themselves and seeing families transformed by the love, hope, and determination embodied in the Federation is an incredible blessing.”

In the coming months, we will share more stories from members about why they joined the National Federation of the Blind and what the organization means to them. Stay tuned for more #WhyImAFederationist!

Posted in: General

2017 National Federation of the Blind Youth Slam

From NFB.org - Thu, 04/06/2017 - 09:28
Blog Date: Thursday, April 6, 2017

By: Seth Lamkin

“In the classroom people don’t always ask us to get involved…”

“My science teacher didn’t want me to do anything…”

“People say, ‘it’s for your own good, it’s better if you don’t have to do it…'”

Far too often blind youth are not provided with the same opportunities as their sighted peers to explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Students are told that without the ability to see, there is no way to explore the cosmos through an astronomy lesson, perform a chemistry experiment in a laboratory, or engineer a solution to a design problem. Instead, while their sighted classmates actively participate in these lessons, blind students are set aside, given menial tasks or told to sit quietly, missing out on potentially uncovering a hidden talent or future career aspiration. Teachers, parents, and the students themselves do not know that nonvisually accessible solutions have already been created by blind scientists and engineers who have mastered the field.

This is where the National Federation of the Blind comes in. We know 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.

And so we created the NFB Youth Slam, a groundbreaking effort to immerse blind high school students in hands-on experimentation and exploration of a host of STEM subjects. Led by experts from agencies such as NASA, from universities across the country, and from innovative technology firms interested in engaging the next generation of top talent, the program’s curriculum showcased how simple adjustments can enable blind people to fully participate in STEM, and do some amazing things in the process.

We launched rockets. We launched a weather balloon. We dissected sharks, programmed robots, investigated mock crime scenes, and built a hovercraft. One year, we drove a dune buggy, as the NFB Youth Slam became the testing ground for the NFB Blind Driver Challenge.

This year, on the tenth anniversary of the inaugural NFB Youth Slam, we’ve done it again. From July 23-29, we’ll be at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, with a whole new set of tracks, short sessions, recreation activities, and some of the brightest minds in STEM. This year, why not try your hand at video game design or explore how art intersects with STEM to form STEAM. Don’t put it off too long—applications close May 7. Apply today!

“What I liked most about Youth Slam was all the people that I met and being able to see how much I really can do in my life.”

“I learned a little about shark anatomy, but the main thing was that I gained confidence. Before I wasn't sure how I would do the labs in my upcoming biology class, but now I think I know exactly what I need to succeed.”

“It showed me that the things that people have always told me I couldn’t do, I CAN DO.”

Posted in: EducationGeneral

National Federation of the Blind Proud to Present Documentary on Blind Youth

From NFB.org - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 14:43

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, April 4, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.org

National Federation of the Blind Proud to Present Documentary on Blind Youth

Do You Dream in Color? Tells Stories of Blind Students

Baltimore, Maryland (April 4, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, in collaboration with the filmmakers, is proud to present Do You Dream in Color?, a new, critically acclaimed documentary about blind youth and the educational and societal challenges they face. The film, directed by Abigail Fuller and Sarah Ivy, is available through video-on-demand platforms from Uncork’d Entertainment, and public screenings are being planned.

Connor, Nick, Sarah and Carina are like most teenagers navigating the growing pains of high school, but unlike their peers these four teens face another challenge – they’re blind. Do You Dream in Color? is a poignant coming of age story that captures the inspired journeys of four courageous teenagers as they strive to achieve their goals: to be a sponsored skateboarder, to travel the world, to become a rock star and to be the first family member to graduate high school. Their extraordinary stories shine a provocative light on both the social and institutional obstacles faced by people who are blind in the sighted world and what it takes to surmount these barriers.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "This film is a beautiful and powerful chronicle of four young people striving to achieve their goals and live the lives they want in the face of the low expectations and misconceptions that too often erect barriers between blind people and our dreams. In particular, the film accurately portrays the ways in which our public education system fails blind students. Watching it deeply moved me and made me more determined, as a blind person, a father of blind children, and the leader of the National Federation of the Blind, to fight all the harder for young people like the courageous, focused, and charismatic teens we see on screen. The National Federation of the Blind is pleased and proud to work with the makers and distributors of this well-crafted and enlightening movie to bring it to a wider audience. This collaboration is a natural fit for us because the film highlights the need for our continuing work to promote Braille literacy, expand opportunities for blind students in STEM education, advocate for equal access to educational technology, and fight for the legal and civil rights of blind students throughout the nation. We believe that the stories told in this film will spark discussion and enhance understanding of the true challenges faced by the blind, as well as demonstrating that blindness itself is not the characteristic that defines an individual or his or her future."

A winner with film festival audiences and critics, garnering major awards at the Dallas International Film Festival, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, and Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Do You Dream in Color? has been described as “powerfully human" by Truth on Cinema and as "a film that will touch your head and your heart" by Unseen Films.

For more information, including the trailer and where and how to experience the film, visit www.doyoudreamincolor.com.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind 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.

National Federation of the Blind Proud to Present Documentary on Blind Youth

Latest News - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 14:43
Release Date: Tuesday, April 4, 2017Category: National

Baltimore, Maryland (April 4, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, in collaboration with the filmmakers, is proud to present Do You Dream in Color?, a new, critically acclaimed documentary about blind youth and the educational and societal challenges they face.

Lyft and the National Federation of the Blind Announce Comprehensive Accessibility Improvements for Lyft Riders Who Travel with Service Animals

From NFB.org - Mon, 04/03/2017 - 16:38

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Monday, April 3, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgScott CoriellLyft(802) 353-1449scoriell@lyft.com

Lyft and the National Federation of the Blind Announce Comprehensive Accessibility Improvements for Lyft Riders Who Travel with Service Animals

Lyft and the National Federation of the Blind today announced a collaborative effort to ensure reliable and equal service to individuals who are blind and use service animals. Lyft’s affirmative and proactive efforts will help ensure its convenient and affordable transportation services are available to riders who are blind and use service animals across the United States.

As part of that effort, Lyft today kicked off the company’s first Service Animal Month, which is part of a multi-pronged initiative to ensure that all individuals with disabilities who travel with service animals on the Lyft platform can fully enjoy the benefits of connecting with drivers through the Lyft app.

Lyft has also announced a new policy which clarifies that every Lyft rider who has a service animal must be accommodated, regardless of a driver’s preferences or circumstances. Lyft drivers who don’t comply with the new policy may face immediate and permanent deactivation from the platform. Lyft is also committing to a number of driver education initiatives that are aimed squarely at raising awareness of the new service animal policy amongst its driver community. Drivers will be educated about the new service animal policy through videos, announcements, and other outreach, that will begin as soon as a driver is approved to perform rides, and will continue throughout the driver’s business relationship with Lyft. Lyft is also working to improve customer service for blind riders.

Lucy Greco, Accessibility Evangelist for UC Berkeley said “I am so pleased that Lyft was willing to work with us to improve access for riders with service animals. I look forward to using Lyft once the changes are in place.”

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Companies like Lyft are empowering blind people to live the lives we want by providing fast, convenient and affordable transportation. This empowerment can only be real and complete, however, if all blind people, including those who use guide dogs, are able to access the service when and where they need it, without fear that they will be refused service. My wife Melissa uses a guide dog, and consequently our family has occasionally experienced the refusal of transportation services, which violates the legal and civil rights of the blind and people with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind applauds Lyft's commitment to improve its service to guide dog users, and we look forward to working with Lyft to ensure that its efforts to do so are meaningful and effective."

Laura Copeland, Lyft’s Head of Community said, “Lyft is excited to partner with the NFB to confirm its commitment that everyone who requests a ride through the Lyft app is provided with equal service, regardless of whether the rider is accompanied by a service animal. At Lyft, we are committed to creating a community where everyone feels welcome, comfortable, and respected. Drivers should always say yes when it comes to transporting riders with service animals.”

Lyft is implementing these changes pursuant to an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), and Lucy Greco and Lynda Johnson, who both travel with guide dogs. NFB, Ms. Greco, and Ms. Johnson were represented by Michael Bien, Gay C. Grunfeld and Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, Mary-Lee K. Smith and Julia Marks of Disability Rights Advocates, and Timothy Elder of the TRE Legal Practice, in the negotiations that led to these changes.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind 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.

About Lyft

Lyft was founded in June 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmer to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation. Lyft is the fastest growing rideshare company in the U.S and is available in more than 300 cities. Lyft is preferred by drivers and passengers for its safe and friendly experience, and its commitment to effecting positive change for the future of our cities.

About the TRE Legal Practice

TRE Legal is a law firm focusing on the rights of blind people, including the right to independently access technology-based services. For more information, visit www.trelegal.com.

About Disability Rights Advocates

DRA is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center advancing equal rights and opportunities for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org, or contact Julia Marks, jmarks@dralegal.org.

About Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP

Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP is a law firm that has extensive experience representing people with disabilities in litigation against public and private entities. For more information, visit http://rbgg.com/, or contact Michael Nunez, mnunez@rbgg.com.

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