FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)firstname.lastname@example.org
National Federation of the Blind Applauds Introduction of Access Technology Affordability Act
Urges Swift Passage of Legislation to Help Blind People Buy Access Technology
Baltimore, Maryland (March 28, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, today applauded the introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act of 2017 in both houses of Congress (H.R. 1734, S. 732). The bill was introduced by Representatives David Young (R-IA) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) in the House and by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) in the Senate. The legislation will establish a per-person individual refundable tax credit to be used over a multi-year period to offset the cost of access technology for blind people. Access technology includes items such as text-to-speech screen access software and electronic Braille displays that blind people use to access computers, tablets, smart phones, and other devices, as well as digital content.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Access technology has enabled many blind people to participate in educational and employment opportunities, but the high cost of this technology is still a barrier for too many blind Americans. Furthermore, different individuals have different skills and requirements, so there can be no one-size-fits-all technological solution; each blind individual must have the flexibility to identify and purchase the access technology that will best meet his or her needs. The National Federation of the Blind therefore applauds the introduction of this legislation, which represents a flexible, practical, and cost-effective means of helping the blind to acquire the technology we need to live the lives we want. We appreciate the outstanding work of Representatives Young and Roybal-Allard and Senators Boozman and Cardin, and we urge all of their colleagues to join them in supporting this initiative and securing its swift passage."
Senator Boozman said: “As an optometrist, I know firsthand how important access technology is for blind Americans trying to engage in their communities. With almost 60 percent of blind Americans unemployed, I am pleased to introduce this commonsense legislation to increase the availability and reduce the financial burden associated with these items to ensure the visually impaired receive the tools they need to succeed in the classroom, the workplace, and within the community.”
“Making access technology affordable is critical to ensuring that blind and seeing impaired individuals can participate fully in our communities and have equal access to every opportunity,” said US Senator Ben Cardin. “I am proud to be a lead cosponsor on this legislation, which gives blind Marylanders, and all blind Americans, flexible economic support to help them lead full and successful lives.”
“The ability to purchase access technology makes all the difference in providing vital quality of life services for blind Iowans,” said Congressman David Young. “I am happy to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that helps these blind Iowans live independent lives and participate in expanded employment and education opportunities, as well as give them flexibility to purchase the technology they need to best fit their needs.”
Rep. Roybal-Allard said: “Technology for the blind can have a prohibitively high cost, and we should not stand by and let that cost prevent blind Americans from accessing current technology. That is why I am proud to help introduce this bill to help the blind afford the technology they need to achieve and excel in the classroom and the workforce. The Access Technology Affordability Act will help blind Americans to pursue their dreams and reach their fullest potential.”
###About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind Access Technology team made its presence known this year at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. As in years past, we presented on topics of interest to blind technology users. Below, you can download the slides from the presentation on Phones for Low Vision and Blind Seniors by Clara Van Gerven and Amy Mason.
These slides represent only the most basic overview of the original presentation. As such, they may raise a few more questions than they answer for those who are looking to choose a device. If this happens, we invite you to contact us directly through the Access Technology answer line, where we will be happy to discuss the various options in more detail. You can reach us either through email@example.com, or by calling (410) 659-9314 Option 5. (Please note the phone number is a voicemail box, and we will work to return your message within three business days.)Access Technology
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National Federation of the Blind Comments on United States Supreme Court Decision Regarding Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Baltimore (March 23, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind today applauded the unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, (Docket No. 15–827).
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “While we would have preferred an even stronger ruling, this decision clearly represents a shift from the paradigm of low expectations that has led to frustration and failure for so many blind students and their families. I know the frustration with this paradigm all too well myself, as both a blind person and a parent of blind children. The National Federation of the Blind knows that one of the biggest hurdles that students with disabilities confront is the low expectations too often set for them by well-meaning but misguided professionals in the education field. The Supreme Court of the United States has now affirmed that the blind and other students with disabilities can, and should, be expected to meet challenges and advance academically. The National Federation of the Blind stands ready to collaborate with educational administrators, teachers and parents of blind students to ensure that all blind students receive the kind of free appropriate public education that the IDEA and the Supreme Court's new interpretation of it require. At the same time, we will continue to hold school systems accountable when they fail to meet these requirements.”
In delivering the unanimous opinion of the High Court, United States Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in part: “The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives. This standard is more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit. … When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing 'merely more than de minimis' progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all."
###About the National Federation of the Blind
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National Federation of the Blind Supports Blind Healthcare Worker's Discrimination Claim
Blind Man Unable to Perform his Job Due to Inaccessible Software
Boston (March 13, 2017): With the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for the civil rights of blind people, Manuel G. Morse has brought suit in Suffolk County Superior Court (Docket No. 1784CV00773) against his employer, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc. (BWH); its corporate parent, Partners Healthcare Systems, Inc.; and Epic Systems Corporation, a maker of software used at BWH and throughout the healthcare industry. Mr. Morse's lawsuit alleges that he is unable to do his job as a hospital dispatcher because Epic's software is not compatible with the text-to-speech screen reading technology that he uses on his workplace computer, and that his employer and Epic are aware of the problem but have refused to take all appropriate steps to remedy it. Mr. Morse has been on indefinite paid leave since May of 2015 because of this issue. His lawsuit alleges violations of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B, § 4, and the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (MERA).
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "While improvements to workplace technology can benefit all workers, including the blind, if they are properly designed and implemented, inaccessible technology can and does threaten the ability of blind people to obtain and maintain employment. The problem is universal but is particularly vexing in the healthcare sector, where one of the defendants in this lawsuit is a leading provider of software being used in healthcare facilities. The National Federation of the Blind is willing to work with any technology vendor or employer who wishes to ensure that its technology can be used by everyone. At the same time, we cannot and will not tolerate unnecessarily sidelining a skilled healthcare worker who is unable to do his job because of a problem he did not create and was completely avoidable. We will fight for Mr. Morse and for other blind people who find themselves in this untenable situation."
Mr. Morse said: "Until May 27, 2015, I was a loyal, dependable, and productive employee of Brigham and Women's Hospital who loved my job. I felt that I was helping the hospital staff and patients and contributing to society at large. Now I sit at home and wonder if I will be able to work again. I am being compensated, but money is not the issue. I feel abandoned by my employer and as if I have no purpose or value. Since my own efforts to persuade my employers and Epic to act have failed, I must rely on the laws and courts of Massachusetts to help me get back to work."
Mr. Morse is represented, with the support of the National Federation of the Blind, by Christine M. Netski of the Boston firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C., and by Daniel F. Goldstein, Joseph B. Espo, and Albert Elia of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
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National Federation of the Blind Applauds Introduction of Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act
Urges Swift Passage of Legislation to Create Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities
Baltimore, Maryland (March 8, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, today applauded the introduction of the Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment (TIME) Act of 2017 (H.R. 1377) by Representative Gregg Harper (R-MS). Congressman Harper introduced this legislation to remove barriers to employment opportunities for people with disabilities by phasing out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and facilitating the transitioning of people with disabilities now working in segregated employment settings into competitive employment opportunities in their communities.
Congressman Gregg Harper said: “Section 14(c) of the FLSA, enacted out of a false understanding regarding the true capacity of people with disabilities, currently prevents nearly two-hundred thousand people with disabilities from gaining access to the work and training environments that build their capacity and allow them to acquire meaningful skills and better employment opportunities. Segregated work, which too often focuses on mundane tasks that are not transferrable to today's workplaces, is just an expression of low expectations that instills a false sense of incapacity in individuals who could become competitively employed with the proper training and support. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance the bipartisan goal of increasing and improving employment opportunities for all Americans with disabilities.”
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The National Federation of the Blind and our partners representing the 55 million Americans with disabilities seek only the kind of meaningful, remunerative work that other Americans take for granted. We applaud Congressman Harper for rejecting over seventy years of entrenched but false thinking about the capacity of people with disabilities. We strongly urge his colleagues in both houses of the United States Congress to transition from an ineffective employment model to a policy that recognizes the individuality, interests, and skills of workers with disabilities and allows them to live the lives they want. I, like Congressmen Harper, want my own children to be free of the shackles of low expectations and to lead an employment revolution that empowers people with disabilities in the twenty-first century.”
###About the National Federation of the Blind
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Monday, March 6, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)email@example.comScott OverlandPearson202-909-4520
Pearson Announces Career Exploration Mentorship Program for Students, Young Professionals with Disabilities
Collaboration with National Federation of the Blind brings decades of experience preparing blind and low vision students for career success
Today Pearson, in collaboration with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), announced the launch of a new career exploration mentorship program for college students and recent graduates who have disabilities. The program will begin as a pilot, combining the NFB’s expertise in mentoring and advocating for career opportunities for blind and low-vision students and Pearson’s commitment to providing mentorship to a wide range of students with disabilities. The program will provide participants with access to guidance, advice, and support from experienced professionals working in a variety of legal-related positions at Pearson.
Blind, low vision and students with disabilities often face low expectations or unnecessary roadblocks when identifying and pursuing career paths. This can result in a ‘channeling’ into jobs that they are not passionate about or that limit their true potential. Participants in this three-month pilot program will be paired with a mentor who has been specifically trained on how to guide and advise blind or disabled students who may be unfamiliar with the opportunities and preparation necessary to succeed in corporate environments. Mentors work in a variety of functions on the Pearson legal team and will help students access a breadth of resources – from meetings with senior leaders to advice on preparing and tackling education and career goals to building a resume and identifying interesting internships and jobs.
“I am excited and proud at the level of enthusiasm we have seen in Pearson’s legal department as we have prepared to announce this program. Our goal is simple, yet incredibly important: to help guide young professionals who are disabled to find the career opportunities that match their passions,” said Bjarne Tellmann, general counsel for Pearson. “With the experience and partnership of the NFB, we want to open the door to careers that many young, disabled people didn’t know existed or were accessible to them, and support them as they take the next step in their professional lives.”
“For over seventy-five years, the National Federation of the Blind has fostered mentoring relationships in order to raise the expectations of the blind and to help them achieve their dreams and live the lives they want. Partnering with Pearson is a natural outgrowth of this important work, allowing aspiring blind professionals to establish mentoring relationships with their peers and obtain career guidance that will increase the odds of success. We look forward to working with Pearson to build this program and get more blind people on the pathway to the board rooms of major corporations around the world,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind.
Students can begin applying for the pilot program immediately by e-mailing Elizabeth Delfs at elizabeth.delfs(at)pearsoned(dot)com. Pearson and the NFB hope to continue and expand the program past the pilot stage.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
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National Federation of the Blind and Two Blind Students File Suit Against Los Angeles Community College District
Los Angeles, California (March 3, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for equal access to higher education for the blind; its California affiliate, the National Federation of the Blind of California; and two blind students, Roy Payan and Portia Mason, have filed suit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, against the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) (Case 2:17-cv-01697). The lawsuit alleges that the LACCD has violated the Americans with Disabilities act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 by failing to provide accessible instructional materials and other accommodations required by these statutes and needed by these students. As a result, Mr. Payan and Ms. Mason have been unable to complete required coursework or have received grades that do not reflect their true aptitude, intelligence, and industry, but rather the artificial educational barriers that have been erected by LACCD.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind continues to expect that our nation's institutions of higher education meet their legal obligations to make their educational programs accessible to the blind. Many colleges and universities fail to meet accessibility requirements because of a lack of knowledge about accessible technology and best practices for creating accessible content, and the National Federation of the Blind is actively engaged in efforts to give educational institutions the information and resources they need in order to provide equal educational opportunities to their blind students. But the experiences of Mr. Payan and Ms. Mason also demonstrate that there are low expectations of blind students and other attitudinal barriers as well. Faculty and staff in the Los Angeles Community College system have demonstrated a deliberate lack of regard for the rights of Mr. Payan, Ms. Mason, and other blind students. The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate this discriminatory behavior."
The plaintiffs are represented by Patricia Barbosa and Ayman Mourad of the Huntington Beach, CA firm The Barbosa Group, and by Daniel F. Goldstein, Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum, Joseph B. Espo and Jean M. Zachariasiewicz of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)email@example.comSeth PackroneDisability Rights Advocates Fellowship Attorney(212) 644-8644
Access to the Blind Ensured at LinkNYC Communication Network
New York, NY – January 31, 2017 – A settlement has been reached between the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and CityBridge, LLC to ensure that the LinkNYC public communications network is fully accessible to the blind now and in the future. LinkNYC, touted as a “first-of-its-kind communication network,” provides free mobile device charging, domestic phone calls, access to city services, and a dedicated function to reach 911 to millions of New York residents and visitors.
There are already hundreds of Links deployed across the five boroughs and CityBridge will install thousands more over the next few years. By instituting policies that will ensure that access for the blind is built-in before a new service is offered to the general public, CityBridge becomes a model for technology companies across the country. The far-reaching accessibility plan settles a 2016 lawsuit brought by the National Federation of the Blind and several blind New York City residents who have been unable to access all features of the Links. The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center. DRA co-counseled with Brown, Goldstein & Levy of Baltimore, MD.
The comprehensive agreement includes:
“People with disabilities have a right to full participation in new technological innovations,” said Mindy Jacobsen, a plaintiff in the suit and a blind individual who teaches the blind and those who are losing vision how to use computers. “I'm excited to use LinkNYC's features and I'm glad I can tell my students they can access LinkNYC too.”
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind is committed to ensuring that blind Americans can access innovative technologies like LinkNYC, and we are glad to see that the city and CityBridge are committing to making this new service available to all New Yorkers on an equal basis. We urge other entities contemplating similar services to follow the example being set by CityBridge in its implementation of this comprehensive agreement, and we stand ready to partner with municipalities and other entities as they plan and implement these services."
“By integrating accessibility into its policies and practices, CityBridge will be an industry leader in providing accessible technologies to the blind,” stated Michelle Caiola, Director of Litigation at DRA. “We are extremely pleased that this litigation has resulted in such a productive agreement.”
A copy of the Settlement Agreement is available at: http://dralegal.org/press/access-blind-ensured-linknyc-communication-network/
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 Disability Rights Advocates
Founded in 1993, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-change, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
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National Federation of the Blind, Sensotec NV Announce Launch of KNFB Reader for Microsoft Windows 10
March 1, 2017 (San Diego): The National Federation of the Blind and Sensotec NV, creators and developers of the KNFB Reader smart phone app, today jointly announced the launch of KNFB Reader for Microsoft Windows 10. This groundbreaking new product, which brings the world's best document-reading software for the blind and print-disabled to the Windows family of personal computers and tablets, was announced as part of the 32nd annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference hosted by California State University at Northridge.
Like its smartphone counterparts, KNFB Reader for Windows 10 allows the blind and others with print disabilities to access the content of printed documents, including bills, brochures, books, magazines, handouts, and more. Users can simply photograph the document and KNFB Reader will almost instantaneously convert the image to text that can be read aloud in synthesized speech or output to a connected refreshable Braille display using a compatible screen reader. KNFB Reader for Windows 10 incorporates KNFB Reader's signature audio and vibration guidance to help the user align the camera and take the perfect image of a document so that processing is fast and accurate. It's also the perfect desktop PC or laptop application for recognizing image-based PDF files.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to bring our one-of-a-kind reading technology to the Windows platform so that more blind people can acquire the information they need to live the lives they want. The blind and others with print disabilities who benefit from this product will now have instant access to printed documents, at their desks or on the go, on the device of their choice. We continue to break down the barrier of access to print that has been faced by the world's blind, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our partners and friends at Sensotec NV and Microsoft to integrate this life-changing technology into Windows now and in the future."
Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft Corp. said, "We are thrilled to add KNFB Reader to our Windows 10 family of applications and deeply appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to work with the National Federation of the Blind and Sensotec NV to bring its valuable capabilities to our customers. At Microsoft, we believe in the opportunity for accessible technology to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and KNFB Reader is a great example of technology that can help people do exactly that."
Thanks to support from Microsoft, KNFB Reader will be available to download for an introductory price of USD $19.99, 80 percent off the normal purchase price of USD $99.99. This offer is for a limited time only. Prices vary by country.
For more information about KNFB Reader, please visit www.knfbreader.com.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)email@example.com
National Federation of the Blind Assists Blind Woman in Litigation Against Massage and Body Work Licensing Authority
Kristen Steele Not Allowed to Take Licensing Examination in Braille
Baltimore, Maryland (February 28, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for equal education and career opportunities for the blind, is assisting Kristen Steele in her lawsuit (Case 1:17-cv-00004-RP-SBJ) against the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), which has denied her request to take its examination, the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), in Braille. Ms. Steele seeks to become a licensed massage therapist in Iowa and Nebraska, both of which require passing the MBLEx in order to receive a license. Strangely, the FSMTB claims that Braille would somehow provide her with an unfair advantage.
Ms. Steele began learning Braille at the age of three and is a fluent reader. Furthermore, she has used Braille throughout her education, including her studies at the Midwest School of Massage in Omaha, NE, where she graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Her lawsuit, which has been filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Western Division, alleges that FSMTB is violating federal law, specifically Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), by denying her request to use Braille to take the MBLEx. Regulations pursuant to Title III of the ADA require that testing entities administer examinations in ways that best ensure that "when the examination is administered to an individual with a disability that impairs sensory, manual, or speaking skills, the examination results accurately reflect the individual’s aptitude or achievement level or whatever other factor the examination purports to measure, rather than reflecting the individual's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills . . . ” In Ms. Steele's case, this means administering the examination in Braille, since she has used Braille throughout her education and in similar testing situations, such as taking the ACT in high school. Her lawsuit asks the court to order FSMTB to administer the MBLEx to her in Braille.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "In the nearly two centuries since its invention by a blind student, Braille has become widely recognized as the most effective means of reading and writing for the blind, and countless blind individuals have achieved educational and career success and the ability to live the lives we want by using it. Braille does not afford Ms. Steele any unfair advantage in taking the MBLEx or any other test, any more than using print provides an unfair advantage to sighted test takers. Indeed, requiring her to use a method other than Braille will place Ms. Steele at an unfair disadvantage compared to other test takers. The National Federation of the Blind will continue to fight for the right of blind people to use the auxiliary aid of their choice when taking high-stakes tests."
Ms. Steele is represented, with the assistance of the National Federation of the Blind, by Tai Tomasi of Disability Rights Iowa, and by Sharon Krevor-Weisbaum and Emily Levenson of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) 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. Since 1940, the members of the National Federation of the Blind have come together in state affiliates and local chapters to share the real life experiences, practical techniques, and innovative strategies we use to transform our dreams into reality. In 2004, we established the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute as the first research and training facility developed and directed by blind people. Fueled by the dreams of the blind of America, the Jernigan Institute is now a leader in creating innovative education programs, accessible technologies, pioneering research projects, and collaborative partnerships that empower the blind to live the lives we want.
As we continue to raise expectations of and for the blind, we realize that we must actively work to empower the next generation of dynamic leaders and innovative thinkers that will dream, develop, and implement the next ground-breaking project or program that changes the lives of all blind people. To that end, we must share our acquired knowledge and life experience with young motivated blind students as they travel their individual paths toward full participation. We seek to accomplish this goal through our National Federation of the Blind Summer Internship Program, a unique learning experience that can only be directed by the National Federation of the Blind.
Our National Federation of the Blind 2017 Summer Internship Program will provide an opportunity for individuals to contribute to the programs of the Federation, while gaining valuable experience at the center of innovation in the blindness field. Our 2017 summer interns will be hosted at the NFB headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. NFB internships will begin on May 29 and end on August 4, 2017 (ten weeks). NFB summer interns will be provided a stipend and may take advantage of the sleeping accommodations at the NFB Jernigan Institute if necessary. One of the requirements of the internship is participation in program activities at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind to be held in Orlando, Florida, from July 10-July 15, 2017.
Our 2017 summer interns will have the opportunity to actively participate in a variety of project and program areas including:
The National Federation of the Blind Summer Internship Program is like no other. It is filled with unique opportunities for personal and professional growth. The following are some comments from our 2016 summer interns:
Julie: “My experience as an NFB summer intern proved to be more than just a summer job. The various work assignments enhanced my administrative and interpersonal skills. More importantly, the mentoring and support of the leaders of the Federation continue to help me set a path for my future. I continue to grow as a student at the Colorado Center for the Blind, and I look forward to living the life I want.”
Michael: “The NFB Summer Internship [Program] was truly a transformative invaluable experience. Having the opportunity to be mentored by a variety of leaders throughout the Federation while working on individual and group projects that impacted the members of the NFB, was a wonderful experience; as a recent college graduate, I decided to continue my personal and professional journey as a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.”
Jerad: “Learning from our national leaders, developing better communication strategies, and working effectively with a team to accomplish a task are only a few of the benefits I received as an NFB summer intern. The experience was life-changing and helped me acquire personal and professional skills that I will use in my future employment and in my role as a newly elected NFB affiliate president.”
If you are interested in applying to be a 2017 summer intern for the National Federation of the Blind, please prepare the following materials and submit them via email in an accessible electronic format to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than March 10, 2017:
We anticipate selecting members of our 2017 internship cohort by April 14, 2017. Questions regarding NFB internships can be directed to Anil Lewis at 410-659-9314, extension 2374, or email@example.com.
Anil Lewis, Executive Director
National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
By: Chris Danielsen
With a new administration in Washington promising sweeping change, many wonder what the prospects for legislative success are in the rapidly evolving political environment. Throughout our history, the National Federation of the Blind has worked with political leaders of both parties to craft public policy that helps blind Americans live the lives we want, and our goal is to continue to do so. Judging by the outstanding success last week of our 2017 Washington Seminar, there are plenty of partners willing to work with us and champion our issues, presenting ample and exciting opportunities to make positive change.
This year's Washington seminar featured an unprecedented level of involvement by members of the United States Congress. At the Great Gathering In on Monday, January 30, we were addressed by US Representative Dr. Phil Roe of Tennessee, the champion of our Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) legislation. Ten members of Congress attended our congressional reception the next day and addressed the gathering. These included four senators and six members of the United States House of Representatives. Senator Jon Tester of Montana and Senator Dean Heller of Nevada both spoke of their determination to see that all blind veterans, as well as other veterans with disabilities, receive the benefit of the Space Available program and other important benefits that they have earned. Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi pledged his continued commitment to ending the practice of paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities. Rep. David Young of Iowa used his turn at the podium to announce that he would introduce our proposed Access Technology Affordability Act.
At noon on Tuesday, January 31, Federationists who were not meeting with members of Congress on Capitol Hill turned Upper Senate Park into a rally space, where students spoke about the need for equal access to instructional materials and education technology. Nearly thirty blind college and graduate students told their stories of struggling to complete their education in the face of artificial barriers created by delayed or denied access to their textbooks, inaccessible online course management systems, unusable university websites, and other technological barriers that need not exist. Over a hundred Federationists gathered from across the nation pledged their support for these students. If you were unable to attend the rally, you can still help by taking a moment to sign the Change.org petition calling on Congress and President Trump to support the AIM HE Act.
Of course, there is still the work of following up from this successful event with members of Congress and their staff. Stay tuned for continued developments throughout the 115th Congress. Together, with love, hope, and determination, we will turn our priorities into legislation that will help transform the dreams of blind Americans into reality.Posted in: General
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Wednesday, January 18, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)firstname.lastname@example.org
National Federation of the Blind Comments on Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos’ Remarks Regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Baltimore, Maryland (January 18, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for the equal education of blind students, commented today on responses given by President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, at her confirmation hearing yesterday regarding the obligations of schools under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind believes that all blind students, regardless of where they attend school, are entitled to equal educational opportunities, and that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and its implementing regulations are clear on this point. Sadly, all too often schools across the country fail to meet their federal obligations to the blind and other students with disabilities, and so it is critical that the Department of Education continues to enforce IDEA's requirements. We therefore call upon Betsy DeVos to publicly commit that she will, if confirmed, vigorously enforce IDEA and take all other necessary measures to protect the rights of students who are blind or who have other disabilities throughout our nation. As a father of two blind children and President of the National Federation of the Blind, I am well aware that innovation is sorely needed in educational services provided to blind children, and we are prepared to work closely with our nation’s educational leaders to raise the standards of excellence for the blind in our schools.”
###About the National Federation of the Blind
By: Clara Van Gerven, Manager of Accessibility Programs at National Federation of the Blind
A little over a week ago now, President Riccobono and myself were at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. President Riccobono demonstrated the AIRA service in front of a large audience at the AT&T developer summit on our first day there, which made for a high-profile way to kick of the NFB's participation. There was, however, also time the next day, Thursday, to tread the vast exhibit floor. As has been the case in the past, the small and medium businesses are often those that make the biggest impression by dint of being approachable and not entirely constituted of PR videos. Whirlpool was showing off its Alexa integration for appliances and their booth personnel proved knowledgeable. While I would be a little reluctant to rely on wireless connectivity to operate my washer, it makes for a very appealing feature that lets users set and query the state of any of Whirlpool's current and next generation of connected devices.
There is now an accessibility area at CES, but accessibility is not solely found there; in fact, most of the devices of interest were elsewhere. AIRA's visual interpreter was at Eureka Park; and apart from VFO most of what we found that specifically targets blind users was to be found elsewhere. The Blitab tablet took persistence, but in the end we did get our hands on a prototype. It's an interesting technology, but the company behind it seems to have some gaps in its understanding of the US market, with their claims that tablets are currently inaccessible, and their plans for doing server-based translation into Braille. Another Braille device at the show was Bonocle, a single-cell Braille device aiming to be something of a virtual Braille display. Again, the concept is interesting, and I look forward to future iterations.
On Friday, the day started with President Riccobono participating in a panel on autonomous vehicles and their potential for people with disabilities. It proved a fascinating overview of the many scenarios where autonomous vehicles can now flip the script and cut down barriers to employment, healthcare and, yes, entertainment. The rest of the day was largely devoted to the automotive industry, and in learning more about what operating systems drive in-vehicle entertainment. As Android already drives much of this segment of the industry, accessibility would be easy to enable, providing a powerful example of how such interfaces can work for blind users. With that in place, the step to using autonomous vehicles would be a much smaller one.
With that, it was over already, and as traffic to CES has increased, as evidenced by the endless lines of vehicles everywhere, so has the attention for consumers who use alternate means of access. When I first went to CES, nobody had any idea of what I meant when I asked about accessibility. While knowledge still frequently lags behind awareness, this is now a rarity. Most companies now at least have a general acquaintance with the topic, and many can answer in-depth questions. Nor are blind people or those with disabilities rare at the show anymore, at least in part because of the efforts of the foundation arm of the Consumer Technology Association. It's further evidence of changing trends in the ongoing dance of electronics accessibility. Moreover, it shows the importance of the National Federation of the Blind being there to lead the way, and to be a voice for good and accessible design as the blueprints for the next big thing are drawn up, even as the evidence of our previous endeavors, such as the Blind Driver Challenge™, is already present.Posted in: Access Technology
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)email@example.com
National Federation of the Blind Announces Winners of 2016 Onkyo Braille Essay Contest
Competition Encourages Braille Usage Among the Blind
Baltimore, Maryland (January 11, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the United States, is proud to announce the winners of the 2016 Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. The NFB administered the Onkyo Braille Essay Contest on behalf of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. The essay contest, sponsored by Onkyo Corporation, a Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer, and the Braille Mainichi, part of the Mainichi Newspaper Company in Japan, was created to promote Braille literacy and to encourage the sharing of social and cultural information among blind and visually impaired persons.
The essays were required to be written in Braille and could be written on a variety of proposed topics related to the importance of Braille. There were two groups of competitors: a junior category for persons up to age twenty-five and a senior category for persons aged twenty-six or older. Each winner received a substantial cash prize, a plaque, and other gifts from the Onkyo Corporation.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We are very pleased to have been a part of this important contest. There can be no doubt that the ability to read and write Braille competently and efficiently is the key to education, employment, and success for the blind. Despite the undisputed value of Braille, however, only about 10 percent of blind children in the United States are learning it. We congratulate the contest winners and commend them for demonstrating the positive impact Braille has had on their lives through their essays, and also for raising awareness of the importance of Braille literacy as they live the lives they want.”
The seven winners from the North America/Caribbean Region were as follows:
Larry Johnson, Texas, US
Excellent Work Award, Senior
Carol Begay Green, New Mexico, US
Fine Work Award, Senior
Charmaine Co, British Columbia, Canada
Ann Parsons, New York, US
Excellent Work Award, Junior
Juan Avila, California, US
Fine Work Award, Junior
Josh Andrews, Illinois, US
Samoya Jordan, Kingston, Jamaica
The NFB encouraged all countries in the North America/Caribbean Region to participate in the Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Essays were submitted from the United States, Canada, and Jamaica.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Monday, January 9, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)firstname.lastname@example.org
National Federation of the Blind Applauds Issuance of "508 Refresh" Regulations
Baltimore, Maryland (January 9, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's leading advocate for blind Americans to gain equal access to information and technology, today applauded the publication of new technical standards to bring information and communication technology (ICT) into compliance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973, which requires government agencies and contractors to make their electronic information and technology accessible to the blind and others with disabilities.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "Information and communication technology has changed a great deal since the last Section 508 regulations were issued, and has become an even more integral part of everyday life. Yet blind people, particularly blind federal employees, continue to struggle with access barriers when interacting with electronic and information technology used or procured by federal agencies. For these reasons, we are extremely pleased that the new Section 508 standards have finally been published. Government agencies and contractors should now understand how to make information and services accessible to the blind, allowing federal employees to perform their job functions effectively and other blind Americans to exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens."
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their ICT accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, open new opportunities for people with disabilities, and encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Wednesday, January 4, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)email@example.comLisa WestermannWells Fargo & CompanyVP, Corporate Communications(415) 222-6236
National Federation of the Blind, Wells Fargo Launch the 2017 Bell Academy Program
325 students participated across 30 states and 45 academies in 2016
Baltimore, Maryland (January 4, 2017) ─ Today, on the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of the reading and writing system for the blind that bears his name, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Wells Fargo launched the 2017 Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy program. The program takes place throughout the country each summer and provides blind children initial or advanced Braille instruction so that they may learn how to use this powerful reading medium in fun, interactive ways. In addition to sponsoring the BELL Academy, Wells Fargo will provide strategic input into the program and offer team member volunteers at select academies.
Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said "The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines children or their future. Our BELL Academy helps these children learn the basics of Braille, as well as meet other blind children and adult mentors. They engage in activities designed to increase their independence, allowing them to make friends, gain support, and start on the road to a future in which they will live the lives they want. In an environment where only ten percent of blind children receive Braille instruction, we deeply appreciate Wells Fargo’s support of this critical nationwide effort to increase literacy and raise expectations for blind children."
This is the second year Wells Fargo is sponsoring the Bell Academy. In 2016, 325 students participated in the BELL Academy across 30 states and 45 academies. To spotlight this 2016 work, Wells Fargo released a video showcasing the Rhode Island BELL Academy program: https://stories.wf.com/kids-realize-sight-not-essential-success/?cid=adv_-_-_-_1701_104043
Kathy Martinez, head of People with Disabilities Segment Strategy at Wells Fargo, said "Wells Fargo is committed to the full inclusion of blind people and other people with disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind represents an integral part of our corporate mission. We are pleased and proud to support, and promote the innovative NFB BELL Academy, which teaches critical life skills to be successful adults."
To learn more about NFB and the BELL Academy, please visit https://nfb.org/bell-academy.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
By Amy Mason
Every year on January 4 we celebrate Louis Braille’s birthday because of his invention of the Braille code—the most powerful and successful reading and writing system designed for the blind. It has given us freedom that only a scant 200 years ago we couldn’t have imagined. It allows us to study the sacred and mull the mundane. From Christmas cards to Coraline, The Great Gatsby to grocery lists, the Bible to the beer menu, and everything in between, Braille has changed the fortunes of the blind by opening the written word to us.
In the same way that Braille has transformed the lives of the blind, the refreshable Braille display has transformed the way that many of us use Braille. Braille displays make Braille portable so we can read anytime and anywhere. Automatic translation means any text can be Braille in a few moments, so even text messages, and face to face communications for the deaf-blind can be Brailled instantly.
I began learning Braille in the latter half of my high school career, and through the support of some amazing role models from the NFB of Nebraska who inspired me to practice (a lot), I learned to read about 40 WPM before starting college. Unfortunately, my nomadic university experience did not provide me with much space or time to spend with Braille books, and my speed and comprehension suffered.
Fortunately, two opportunities were presented to me before I returned to college for my junior year. First, I was able to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind, and second, I was able to get my hands on a Braille notetaker with a display.
I credit these two opportunities with my literacy today. If I had not had the time to keep Braille under my fingers for an extended period of time, I could have never improved, and the Notetaker was a huge part of that for me. Because of the Braille display, I was able to practice whenever I found a free moment. On the bus, between appointments, in bed as I was reading. I could quickly and easily get my hands on all sorts of documents, long and short. In a word, it was “magical.”
Because of all of this practice, my speed increased to just above 100 WPM. I can’t imagine going back to working without a Braille display. I wouldn’t be nearly as efficient or as good at my job, and I know many others who would agree.
Refreshable Braille is sadly still very expensive, though prices have improved some over the last ten years. The cost of 40-cell displays now average about $3000 and even better is on the near horizon. I cannot express how exciting this is.
A few years ago, the National Federation of the Blind and several other blindness organizations decided it was time to make a significant change to the cost and availability of Braille, and did so by creating the Transforming Braille Project. They donated money, time and testers to the process of finding a cheaper way to produce refreshable Braille, and the first fruits of this partnership are coming to market shortly.
The Orbit Reader is a 20-cell display that employs a new method of raising and lowering the dots. The new cells use less electricity, increasing the display’s battery life, and are less expensive to create than traditional refreshable Braille cells. The new cells also refresh one at a time, and remain very firm when dots are raised. The Orbit Reader will work with all major screen readers (mobile and desktop) that support Braille today, and its cost will be just below $500 for 20 cells of Braille. The NFB will be selling the Orbit Reader – details coming soon.
The Orbit Reader won’t meet everyone’s needs, but in a very real way it is opening the door to more affordable refreshable Braille. Given my own transformative experience with Braille displays, I am a firm believer in what these devices can do for others. I can’t wait to see them in the hands of Braille readers who were unable to afford them previously.
Whether the Orbit Reader is the device you’ve been looking for, or another display would better suit your needs, the Access Technology team would love to help you learn what is possible when it comes to refreshable Braille. The International Braille and Technology Center houses a wide variety of devices including simple Braille terminals, smart Braille displays, and full-fledged notetakers. If you have been wanting to learn more about a specific device, or just about what refreshable Braille can do for you, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Access Technology Answer Line, (410) 659-9314, option 5.Posted in: Access Technology