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The State of Refreshable Braille Support — Summer 2017

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 15:10
Blog Date: Monday, August 28, 2017

By: Amy Mason

Refreshable Braille displays are undergoing a renaissance. New devices with many different form factors, price points, and features are either on the market, or on their way. Therefore, the access technology team knew it was time for a review — not of the devices themselves, but of their support across different combinations of screen readers and operating systems, because a Braille display is only as good as the software driving it.

The majority of this data was collected in February 2017 for CSUN, and completed prior to the Access Technology Seminar day at this year’s national convention. The operating system and screen access software combinations that we examined are as follows:

  • Windows and JAWS
  • Windows and NVDA
  • Mac OSX with VoiceOver
  • iOS with VoiceOver
  • Chrome and ChromeVox
  • Android and BrailleBack

We learned a ton. Here are the biggest takeaways:

  • JAWS is one of the most customizable Braille experiences, and one of the most complete. It’s possible to run a Windows computer almost entirely, using just the Braille display with output tailored to your own skill levels and preferences; but getting it set up won’t be the easiest part of your day.
  • NVDA is super simple to get started with Braille, but presently suffers from the inability to use contracted Braille for input.
  • Mac OSX has the ability to connect and use multiple Braille displays which makes for some fascinating classroom opportunities, but still requires the QWERTY keyboard to complete most commands that are not directly related to VoiceOver.
  • iOS was our top performer. The ability to use the device, almost entirely from the Braille display, coupled with a largely consistent interface made it a natural standout. The only noteworthy flaw in the current implementation (which is shared by the Mac) is that quirks in translation can make the Braille experience quite difficult for less proficient users.
  • ChromeVox is the new kid on the block, and it shows. Braille support is fine for reading on the web, but text editing and more skilled tasks are still out of reach. Even so, there is true delight to be derived from plugging in a Braille display and suddenly receiving both speech and Braille, no additional work required.
  • At time of testing, Android BrailleBack had not been updated for a long time. Basics like word wrap and contracted Braille input were missing, and it was one of the least consistent and complete implementations we saw. On the up side, connectivity was rock solid. Connect a Braille display once, and every time the display and Android device are in range, it’s like they were never apart.

Of course, the pace of technology is faster than most of us can keep up with for long, and this blog post represents a snapshot in time. Over the coming weeks and months, we expect to see major shakeups in the following areas:

  • We did not detail the Braille support in Narrator on the Windows 10 Creator’s update in the initial review, as it was not officially released during our original testing, but it is available to try and play with for those running this version of the OS. The Braille on this platform is still quite early in its implementation, but promises to be an exciting package to watch in the coming months.
    • Be aware that if you install Braille support for Narrator, it is using its own set of drivers to run the Braille display interface, and this may cause you to lose Braille support in other supported screen readers. You may have to disable this driver to return to using Braille with JAWS or NVDA after working with Narrator.
    • Although it is early, it is exciting to think that with the inclusion of Narrator, all major operating systems, for the first time that the team is aware of, offers Braille support natively, without the installation of third party screen reading software!
    • Finally, there is more exciting news to come. Microsoft plans to significantly improve keyboard input from the Braille display, including modifiers and other special key commands in the Fall Creator’s Update.
  • NVDA 17.3 is expected to include contracted Braille input.
  • BrailleBack on Android is getting an update!
    • Google is publicly beta testing word wrap, and contracted Braille input.
  • At the World Wide Developer Conference, Apple announced major improvements to Braille in iOS 11, including:
    • Improved translation and Braille input
    • Custom keymapping for your Braille display (I’d like to use this key to do this thing)
    • Braille video captions.

For lots more “Brailley” goodness, please download the PowerPoint and spreadsheet documents which are attached to this blog post. In these documents you can review our detailed findings, and learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of each major operating system’s Braille support today.

Posted in: Access TechnologyAuthor: Amy Mason

From Timid to Bold: Reflections on Newcomers to National Convention

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 11:52
Blog Date: Monday, August 21, 2017

By: Patti S. Chang

“Attending the convention has changed me in many ways. For the first time in my life, I did not feel self-conscious or different. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am part of a big family that really cares.” - Ayoub Zurikat, 2017

Most of us talk about how our national convention reinvigorates or recharges us. Recently, I’ve been thinking about why that is. For many of us, it involves setting high expectations for others and ourselves. We are surrounded by people who expect us to do more than is sometimes thought possible for low-vision and blind people. While that is part of it, for me, there is another big reason: the impact on newcomers to convention and our National Federation of the Blind family.

Newcomers to our conventions bring fresh ideas and energy. They transform us as we influence them. I marvel at the ease with which our younger generation embraces technology and STEM, and I have had to progress to keep up with them. At our 2017 convention, the impact we have on newcomers pervaded my thoughts.

This year one of our scholarship winners and first-timers to convention called me ahead of time. He was worried about travel and explained to me that he had not received formal orientation and mobility training. He was nervous and unsure he was ready for this huge event. We discussed how he could manage, and I promised to connect him with a good traveler who would assist.

When Ayoub Zurikat met me in our hotel, he had a short cane, which is truly the heaviest I have ever had the pleasure, or displeasure, to try out. I traded him canes for the evening. So he went from his short, heavy cane, which might have been forty-five inches high, to my straight carbon fiber sixty-five inch cane for the duration. Truthfully, I just hoped to get a cane in his hand that wasn’t bound to lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Of course, Ayoub far exceeded my expectations.

Midweek I mentored Ayoub, and he wanted to visit the job fair. So we did. Once we got there, I left him to work the room on his own. I was a little worried that he might be upset about my letting him be, but I needn’t have worried. My mentee thanked me for doing so, explaining that his friends never “let him get lost.” I understand the transformative experience of getting lost and figuring it out. Again, he rose to the occasion, exceeding even his own expectations.

Many of Ayoub’s first-time convention experiences were enlightening, as is true for most of us veterans. In his inspiring thank-you note he wrote:

“Attending the convention has changed me in many ways. For the first time in my life I did not feel self-conscious or different. For the first time in my life I feel like I am part of a big family that really cares.”

Ayoub’s success at the job fair left me feeling good, but that wasn’t all. On the last day of convention, my husband stopped me to say that Ayoub was travelling with a long white cane from the hotel to our meeting rooms and was using the cane with good technique. If you were at convention, you know that the long hallway involves moving back and forth and winding one’s way through crowded restaurant areas and at times, throngs of people. This young man went from very low confidence in his travel abilities at the beginning of the week to confidently navigating the most challenging area of the hotel for anyone by the end of the week. His expectations were most certainly raised. And exceeded!

I love how our conventions invigorate and inspire me, but even more I love watching what our conventions do for others, especially those new to this transformative experience. There are thousands of life-changing moments at each of our conventions. It is an amazing privilege to be a part of any of them.

Posted in: GeneralStoriesAuthor: Patti Chang

Experiencing the 2017 Eclipse Nonvisually

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 08:44
Blog Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2017

While some scientists at Harvard are working to turn light into sound by way of an Arduino, you don’t have to get so high-tech to experience the solar eclipse that will occur on August 21. NASA and other organizations have developed fun and unique ways for people to experience the eclipse with all of their senses. Check out the following resources so you can experience this rare event.

Getting a Feel for Eclipses
With support from NASA, scientists and artists have come together to create a tactile guide to eclipses. The two page book includes the path of the eclipse over a map of the United States, and graphs to represent the position of the sun, moon, and earth in relation to one another during the eclipse. NASA has provided these books to schools and libraries for the blind, science centers and museums, state libraries, NASA centers and other institutions. Contact your local libraries or science centers to find out if they have the books available.

Eclipse Soundscapes
NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium is working to create an app that will let users hear and feel the eclipse. According to the Eclipse Soundscapes website, “Soundscapes change dramatically as the Moon passes between the Earth and Sun.” For example, nocturnal animals wake up and start to emit their calls during the brief period of darkness. Eclipse Soundscapes project will work to gather recordings of these changes during the eclipse and make the recordings available to users following the event. You can participate by providing your own sound recording to the sound database. Learn more about submitting your recording at EclipseSoundscapes.org.

You don’t have to wait until after the eclipse to experience it with Eclipse Soundscapes. The app will provide narration of the eclipse’s progression based on your location. The app will also feature a “rumble map” that will allow you to feel the qualities of the eclipse using your phone’s touch screen and vibrations.

Be a part of this fascinating celestial event that everyone will be talking about! Check out these resources and follow #Eclipse2017 on social media to join the conversation. Enjoy!

Posted in: GeneralAuthor: Stephanie Eller

National Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind Students

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 15:35

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Thursday, August 3, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgNational Federation of the Blind Recognizes Thirty Outstanding Blind StudentsMaureen Nietfeld of Colorado Awarded Top $12,000 Scholarship

Baltimore, Maryland (August 3, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, today announced the winners of its 2017 scholarships, which were awarded at the organization’s recent national convention in Orlando. The winner of the organization’s top prize of $12,000, donated by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, is Maureen Nietfeld of Colorado, who is studying human nutrition and dietetics and specializing in the care of organ transplant patients. "When I lost my sight I dreamed of being confident, and I dreamed of being independent and successful. I dreamed of being able to go back to work and go to school," said Ms. Nietfeld. "Thank you to the National Federation of the Blind for helping me to make my dreams a reality!"

Each of the other twenty-nine winners received, at a minimum, a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the amount of $3,000. In addition to their scholarship, each received a $1,000 check and plaque from inventor and futurist Dr. Ray Kurzweil, a Google Chromebook laptop, a $1,000 cash award from Google, and a certificate towards the purchase of a Talking LabQuest from Independence Science, for a total award for each winner with a minimum value exceeding $5,000. Here is an alphabetical listing of the other winners, with their home state, career goal, and scholarship name and amount (where appropriate):

  • Lindsay Ball, ME: Adaptive physical education teacher
  • Cricket Bidleman, CA: Anthropology professor ($3,000 Charles and Betty Allen Scholarship)
  • Katherine Brafford, CA: Work at the intersection of science and religion ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science)
  • Aneri Brahmbhatt, IL: Record label manager
  • Shannon Cantan, HI: Business administration ($5,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship)
  • Melissa Carney, CT: Clinical psychologist
  • Trinh Ha, AR: Dietitian
  • Afton Harper, MO: Journalism
  • Qusay Hussein, TX: Psychologist
  • Catherine Jacobson, MN: Healthcare policy analyst
  • Cassandra Mendez, OH: Assistive technology developer ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Tabea Meyer, CO: Advocate for marginalized groups ($5,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship)
  • Ibeth Miranda, TX: University professor
  • Regina D. Mitchell, NV: Psychologist ($8,000 Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in a STEM Field)
  • Jackie Mushington-Anderson, GA: Braille instructor ($10,000 JAWS for Windows Scholarship)
  • Efose Oriaifo, VA: Biotechnology
  • Chelsea Peahl, UT: Law/Advocacy ($5,000 Pearson Scholarship)
  • Gloria Rodriguez, WA: Disaster mitigation and emergency preparedness
  • Carla L. Scroggins, CA: International politics ($3,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship)
  • Luke Schwink, KS: Athletic marketing/Player development ($5,000 Mimi and Marvin Sandler Scholarship)
  • Alyssa Shock, NJ: Child psychologist
  • Heather Simmons, CA: Literature professor ($3,000 Larry Streeter Memorial Scholarship)
  • Wayne Smith III, MD: Computer engineering/Data security ($3,000 Expedia Scholarship)
  • Andrew Sydlik, PA: English teacher or disability advocate ($3,000 Adrienne Asch Memorial Scholarship)
  • Sophie Trist, LA: Novelist
  • Rachel Wellington, GA: STEM career ($3,000 NFB Science and Engineering Division Scholarship)
  • James N. Yesel, ND: Entrepreneur ($3,000 E. U. and Gene Parker Scholarship)
  • Zeynep S. Yilmaz, AZ: Rehabilitation counselor education
  • Ayoub Zurikat, TX: Mental health care provider

“The scholarship program is one of our most important initiatives,” said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We are proud to honor these blind scholars, who are studying everything from biotechnology to sports marketing, and in so doing raising the expectations of what blind people can achieve. Their accomplishments are proof of our conviction that we, the blind of this nation, can live the lives we want; blindness does not hold us back.”

Several hundred students competed for the scholarships. A committee of blind persons representing a cross section of the NFB membership, including several former scholarship winners, narrowed the field to thirty finalists. Each finalist was then given roundtrip transportation, hotel accommodations, and assistance to attend the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Orlando, where the committee spent several days getting to know each student. Only after that process was complete did the committee decide which scholarship to award each finalist. Nearly three thousand blind people attended the convention, the largest gathering of its kind in the United States this year.

Special thanks go to the Jesse and Hertha Adams Charitable Trust for its support of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

National Federation of the Blind Names Amy Lund 2017 Distinguished Educator of Blind Students

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 14:34

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, August 1, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgNational Federation of the Blind Names Amy Lund 2017 Distinguished Educator of Blind StudentsDo NOT remove these tags!!!!

Baltimore, Maryland (August 1, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind has presented its annual Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award to Amy Lund of Springfield, Illinois. Ms. Lund, a teacher of blind students since 2001, currently teaches blind and low-vision students throughout the Springfield, Illinois public school system. She became involved with the National Federation of the Blind in 2009 and has served as coordinator and lead instructor of the Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academies conducted by the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois in both Springfield and Chicago. She holds a B.S. in Special Education, Low-vision/Blindness and a Master of Special Education, Behavior Interventionist and Material Adaptation, both from Illinois State University.

“Ms. Lund has shown an admirable commitment to teaching blind students the Braille code,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, “as well as to ensuring that they have the independent travel and living skills they will need to live the lives they want from an early age. Parents of blind students throughout her home state testify not only to her excellence as a teacher, but to her warmth, friendliness, and lifelong commitment to her students. We are delighted to present her with our highest honor for educators of blind students.”

The Distinguished Educator award carries with it a $1,000 cash prize and a trip to the National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Orlando. While at the convention, which took place July 10-15, Ms. Lund addressed hundreds of parents of blind students and networked with other blind individuals and teachers of blind students.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

National Federation of the Blind Awards $50,000

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 08:13

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgNational Federation of the Blind Awards $50,000Tenth Annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Presented at 2017 Convention

Orlando, Florida (July 18, 2017): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) has presented $50,000 in cash awards to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. At the National Federation of the Blind annual convention in Orlando, the tenth annual Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards honored five innovators and advocates who are helping blind people live the lives they want.

A $5,000 award was presented to the American Bar Association, the national professional organization for lawyers, for its commitment to making its resources and conferences fully accessible to its blind members. A $10,000 award was presented to Dr. Paul Barlett of Cleveland Chiropractic College for his innovations in making complex medical diagrams and other materials accessible to a blind student. A $10,000 prize was also awarded to the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois for its FreedomLink program, which pairs blind youth with blind adult mentors to participate in independent travel excursions and recreation activities in the Chicago area. This year, two awards were presented to documentary filmmakers. Ten thousand dollars was awarded to Rooted in Rights, a project of Disability Rights Washington, for its film Bottom Dollars, which exposes the pitfalls of sheltered subminimum-wage employment for people with disabilities, and profiles disabled workers who have obtained integrated and meaningful employment. A $15,000 award was presented to co-directors Sarah Ivy and Abigail Fuller for their documentary Do You Dream in Color?, which follows four blind teenagers as they seek to achieve their dreams in the face of low expectations and barriers in the education system.

Dr. Jacob Bolotin, the namesake of the award program, was a blind physician who lived and practiced in Chicago from 1912 until his untimely death at age thirty-six in 1924. Dr. Bolotin was especially recognized for treating diseases of the heart and lungs. Despite his rigorous schedule tending to his patients’ needs at all hours of the day and night, Dr. Bolotin also became known as a public speaker and advocate for the employment of the blind and their full integration into society.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Dr. Jacob Bolotin was a pioneer who overcame low expectations and discrimination to become a renowned member of the medical profession without the benefit of the support services and civil rights protections available to blind people today. The National Federation of the Blind is proud to honor the memory and spirit of Dr. Bolotin by recognizing and financially supporting those individuals and organizations, both from within the blindness field and outside of it, who are doing exceptional work to help achieve the shared dream of Dr. Bolotin and the National Federation of the Blind—a society in which the blind, like all other Americans, can pursue their goals and live the lives they want.”

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Program is funded through the generosity of Dr. Bolotin’s nephew and niece-in-law, Alfred and Rosalind Perlman. The late Mrs. Perlman established the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust to endow the awards. Income from the trust is distributed to the National Federation of the Blind and the Santa Barbara Foundation for the purpose of administering the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards Program. For more information about the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards
Program—including more about this year’s winners, as well as eligibility criteria and application procedures—please visit www.nfb.org.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

United States Secretary of Labor to Address Blind Americans

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 11:59

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Thursday, July 6, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.orgUnited States Secretary of Labor to Address Blind AmericansR. Alexander Acosta to Speak at National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Orlando

Baltimore, Maryland (July 6, 2017): The Honorable R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary, United States Department of Labor, will address the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando on the afternoon of Friday, July 14, at approximately 2:55 p.m. His topic will be "Building the Twenty-First Century American Workforce: Disability Does Not Define Your Employment."

"The low expectations that society has of blind people, as well as inaccessible workplace technology and other factors, still make finding and retaining meaningful employment one of our primary challenges," said Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "We are delighted that Secretary Acosta is coming to our convention to share the administration's thoughts on this topic with the members of America's leading organization of blind people."

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

3,000 Blind People to Arrive in Orlando

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 14:54

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release Date: Wednesday, July 5, 2017Category: NationalChris DanielsenDirector of Public RelationsNational Federation of the Blind(410) 659-9314, extension 2330(410) 262-1281 (Cell)cdanielsen@nfb.org3,000 Blind People to Arrive in OrlandoExpected to Be Largest Disability Conference This Year

Orlando, Florida (July 5, 2017)

Event:             National Federation of the Blind National Convention

Dates:             July 10–15, 2017

Place:             Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819

Attention Politics and Business Editors:

Secretary of Labor to Address Convention of Blind Americans

On the afternoon of Friday, July 14, The Honorable R. Alexander Acosta, Secretary, United States Department of Labor, will address the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Secretary Acosta will discuss the integration of individuals with disabilities into the twenty-first-century workforce. His presentation is scheduled to begin at 2:55 p.m.

Attention Technology Editors:

Self-Driving Technology to be Featured at Convention of Blind Americans

Self-driving automobile technology has the potential to bring unprecedented freedom and independence to blind Americans. At 3 p.m. on the afternoon of Thursday, July 13, David Strickland, General Counsel and Spokesperson for the recently formed Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, of which the National Federation of the Blind is a member, will discuss the role of the blind in leadership to develop this technology and the public policies that will make it a new transportation alternative for the blind.

Attention Technology Editors:

Expedia Executive to address Convention of Blind Americans

Bhala Dalvi, VP of Technology and Executive Sponsor of Accessibility for Expedia Inc., will address the convention of the National Federation of the Blind on Expedia's extraordinary efforts to make its travel websites and apps accessible to blind users and how accessibility has been integrated into Expedia's corporate culture. The presentation is scheduled to take place at 9:40 a.m. on Saturday, July 15. Leaders of technology companies catering specifically to the blind, as well as Microsoft's chief accessibility officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, will also be addressing the convention throughout the Saturday general session.

Attention Education, Culture, and Arts Editors:

Critically Acclaimed Documentary about Blind Students to be Screened at Convention

The new critically acclaimed documentary, Do You Dream in Color?, will be screened as part of the National Federation of the Blind National Convention. This powerful film tells the stories of four blind teens as they strive to achieve their individual goals and to live the lives they want in the face of educational and other obstacles. One of the film's directors, Abigail Fuller, and one of the featured students, Carina Orozco, will participate in a panel discussion following the film. The free screening will take place Friday, July 14, at 7 p.m. in Panzacola Ballrooms F-1 and F-2.

Note: The entire convention agenda is available at www.nfb.org.

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

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

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 09:16
Blog Date: Sunday, June 18, 2017

By: Eric Duffy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blindness did not stop me from being a dad, and it won’t stop you either if you don’t allow it to do so. The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

Posted in: GeneralParentingAuthor: Eric Duffy

Blind Californians and Advocates Sue Greyhound

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 14:33

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

Lawsuit Alleges Blind People Cannot Use Greyhound Website or Mobile App

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

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

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 08:07
Blog Date: Monday, June 5, 2017

By: Bobbi Pompey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

When preparing to interview:

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

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

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

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

Posted in: EmploymentGeneralAuthor: Bobbi Pompey

Language to End Subminimum Wages Included in New Minimum Wage Bill

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 12:28

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

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

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 15:09
Blog Date: Tuesday, May 23, 2017

By: Gary Wunder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in: GeneralStoriesAuthor: Gary Wunder

Just a Mom

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 10:25
Blog Date: Sunday, May 14, 2017

By: Melissa Riccobono

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Federation of the Blind Announces 2017 Scholarship Program Finalists

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 08:43

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

National Federation of the Blind Announces 2017 Scholarship Program Finalists

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

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

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

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

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

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

Isabel Espinales Regains Independence through the National Federation of the Blind

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 09:46
Blog Date: Tuesday, May 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Federation of the Blind Launches Ridesharing Testing Program

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 08:21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

National Federation of the Blind Launches Ridesharing Testing Program

Organization to Monitor Uber, Lyft Efforts to Accommodate Service Animals

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

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

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

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About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

To See, or Not to See

Mon, 05/01/2017 - 09:30
Blog Date: Monday, May 1, 2017

By: Arielle Silverman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related article: What Do We Really Think of Sight?

Posted in: General