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
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
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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Tuesday, April 4, 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 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.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Monday, April 3, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)firstname.lastname@example.orgScott CoriellLyft(802) email@example.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.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Federation of the Blind Applauds Introduction of AIM HIGH Act
Law Will Promote Equal Access to Higher Education for People with Disabilities
Baltimore, Maryland (March 29, 2017): Today, the National Federation of the Blind commends Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) for introducing the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act of 2017, also known as the AIM HIGH Act (H.R. 1772). This act will promote instructional technology and content that are accessible to the blind and other students with print disabilities.
Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind has worked for years toward the introduction of this much-needed legislation, which will give postsecondary institutions guidance to help them meet their legal obligations to students with disabilities, and also bring more accessible instructional materials to the higher education market. Blind students are adversely impacted daily by educational technologies that artificially limit students because they were designed without accessibility in mind. As a past member of the Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials, whose work identified this crucial need, and a father of three, including two daughters who are blind, I am pleased to see this goal come to fruition. We applaud Congressman Roe and Congressman Courtney for their introduction of this legislation and urge their colleagues to join them in supporting its swift passage."
Congressman Roe said: “No student pursuing their education should be put at a disadvantage because they have a disability, and this bill simply encourages higher education institutions to provide equal access to all instructional materials. With more students’ coursework requiring digital resources, it makes sense to encourage colleges and universities to make accessible material available to support all their students, including those who have a disability. I thank Rep. Courtney for partnering with me on this important issue and I look forward to moving this bill through the legislative process. I also thank all the stakeholders who have worked so hard to develop a commonsense solution that can be supported on a bipartisan basis.”
“The goal of our bill is to ensure that no student is put at a disadvantage while pursuing a higher education degree because they have a disability,” said Congressman Courtney. “With colleges and universities across the country converting to digital resources, we need to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to the tools and resources at the disposal of other students. I want to thank Rep. Roe for once again leading this bipartisan effort with me, and I look forward to working with him to get this measure passed this Congress.”
The AIM High Act will authorize a purpose-based commission comprised of persons with disabilities, developers, and manufacturers, as well as representatives from institutions of higher education. This commission will develop voluntary accessibility guidelines for instructional materials used in postsecondary educational programs. Additionally, the commission will be tasked with developing an annotated list of existing national and international information technology standards as an additional resource for institutions of higher education and companies that service the higher education market.
Institutions of higher education that only use technology that conforms with the guidelines will be deemed in compliance with the provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act that pertain to the use of electronic instructional materials, giving them a safe harbor protection from litigation. Colleges and universities will be permitted to use material that does not conform with the guidelines as long as equal access laws are still honored. Conformity with the AIM High guidelines is only one path to compliance; schools can pursue a different path, but will forfeit the safe harbor legal protection.
The AIM High Act is a collaborative legislative initiative of the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Publishers, Educause®, and the Software and Information Industry Association.
###About the National Federation of the Blind
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)email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Thursday, March 23, 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 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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Monday, March 13, 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 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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Wednesday, March 8, 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 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)firstname.lastname@example.orgScott 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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Friday, March 3, 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 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)firstname.lastname@example.orgSeth 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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASERelease Date: Wednesday, March 1, 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, 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)firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)email@example.com
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