what does the nfb do for me

by Dianna Oliveira

You may be asking that question when approached by a member, inviting you for a meeting or even a convention. Each one of us probably came to the NFB looking to socialize, for support, to be among blind or visually impaired people like us who could perceive the world as we do, empathize with the many challenges we face every day. Yes, the Federation is 80 years old and the ground was prepared for us by the founders, who went through more obstacles than we can ever imagine. Throughout the decades of existence, the National Federation of the Blind has achieved many victories, in every aspect, which benefits we enjoy today. Besides all programs offered, the policies adopted, we would not be where we are if it were not for laws that permit the blind and visually impaired to face the world with more confidence. To reap the benefits, we must prepare the soil and plant seeds. Those are the ideas we have and dream of as being reality. How manifest them? How to give them the value they have for our community? By turning them into law.

Turning Ideas into Law

The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to serve as a vehicle for collective action. Our grass roots advocacy work in the Virginia General Assembly and the United States Congress has yielded great results. Our accomplishments are based on the hundreds of members who support our efforts by engaging in the legislative process. However, we can improve our effectiveness by having more members understand the legislative process, our approach for advocacy and how we all can help advance our mission.

Understanding the Legislative Process

As a grassroots organization, with a focus on blind and visually impaired individuals, the National Federation of the Blind proposes courses of action to be adopted. The official policies of the National Federation of the Blind are established every year with annual resolutions adopted at the National Convention. Resolutions are a formal expression of opinion and intention agreed upon by the resolutions committee (our legislative body) and approved by the members. Eventually, a resolution becomes a bill when sponsored by a Congress member.


WHEREAS, on March 14, 2019, Senators Boozman and Cardin introduced S. 815, and on April 4, 2019, Representatives Thompson and Kelly introduced H.R. 2086. What is this about? The high cost of access technology creates a difficult economic reality. Most access technology ranges from $1,000 to $6,000. According to the United States Census Bureau, 69.5 percent of blind Americans are either unemployed or underemployed.[1] Consequently, most blind Americans do not have sufficient financial resources needed to purchase these items. These financial barriers can ultimately lead to a loss of employment, insufficient education, or even isolation from community activities. Medical insurance will not cover the cost of access technology. Current definitions of "medical care," "medical necessity," and "durable medical equipment" within common insurance policies do not include access technology. These definitions were adopted in the 1960’s “when medical care was viewed primarily as curative and palliative, with little or no consideration given to increasing an individual's functional status. Access technology enables blind Americans to participate in today’s workforce. Blindness is well-defined and measurable, but affects each person differently and at different ages. Since individuals’ needs differ, manufacturers have designed various tools that enable each blind American to perform tasks that they were once unable to accomplish otherwise. Access technology equips blind Americans to seek employment and stay employed. Participate in social and community activities. Despite this critical need however, public and private entities struggle to meet consumer demand. This leads to untimely delays in the delivery of necessary technology and ultimately harms the blind consumer. Access Technology Affordability Act: Makes access technology more affordable so that blind Americans can procure these items for themselves. It establishes a refundable tax credit for blind Americans in the amount of $2,000 to be used over a three-year period to offset the cost of access technology. The credit created by ATAA will sunset after five years and will be indexed for inflation. Provides flexibility for individuals to obtain access technology based upon their specific needs. Accessibility requires an individualized assessment of one’s own skills and needs. Therefore, blind Americans should be given the opportunity to procure access technology on their own to ensure that they are receiving the tools that are most useful for them. Will increase federal income tax revenue. More blind Americans working means more people paying taxes. It also means that those blind Americans who obtain gainful employment through this tax credit will no longer need to draw from federal programs such as Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance and will instead be paying into the Social Security Program. IMPROVE AFFORDABILITY OF CRITICALLY NEEDED ACCESS TECHNOLOGY NECESSARY FOR EMPLOYMENT AND INDEPENDENT LIVING.

  • 1. Resolution 2020-01 Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA)
  • 2. Resolution 2020-03 Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education(AIM HIGH)

On December 5, 2019, Congressman Roe of Tennessee and Congressman Courtney of Connecticut introduced H.R. 5312, and on December 18, 2019, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with Senator Ernst of Iowa, Senator Bennet of Colorado, Senator Sullivan of Alaska, and Senator Tester of Montana introduced companion legislation, S. 3095. On the ATAA we,” this organization strongly urge the United States Congress to enact the Access Technology Affordability Act immediately. On the AIM HIGH, this organization commend the congress sponsors and other entities for working with the National Federation of the Blind and for supporting the swift passage of the AIM HIGH Act in the 116th Congress.

Other resolutions, our ideas brought to our resolutions committee, can be “enacted” by negotiating with the organizations or networks.

Blind students are facing unlawful and overwhelming barriers to education. Instead of fulfilling the promise of equal access, technology creates more problems when not developed with accessibility in mind. Data show that students with disabilities face a variety of challenges, including matriculation and college completion failure,[2] solely because, in the absence of clear accessibility guidelines, colleges and universities are sticking with the ad-hoc accommodations model.[3] Currently, schools deploy inaccessible technology and then create another version for blind students, usually weeks or even months into class, creating a “separate-but-equal” landscape with nearly impenetrable barriers. With only 30.5 percent of blind people being employed full-time year-round,[4] compared to 69.5 percent among people without disabilities,[5] students with disabilities should not be denied access by the innovations that can ensure full participation.

Higher education institutions struggle to identify accessible material and comply with nondiscrimination laws. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act require schools to provide equal access, and in 2010, the US Departments of Justice and Education clarified that the use of inaccessible technology is prohibited under these laws.[6] The 2011 AIM Commission recommended to Congress that accessibility guidelines be developed for postsecondary instructional materials.[7] In the nine years since,[8] over three dozen institutions have faced legal action for using inaccessible technology,[9] and complaints are on the rise. Most litigation ends with a commitment from the school to embrace accessibility, but that commitment does little in a vast and uncoordinated higher education market.[10]

Solution: Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act: Develops accessibility guidelines for instructional materials used in postsecondary education. A purpose-based commission is tasked with developing accessibility criteria for instructional materials and the delivery systems/technologies used to access those materials. Additionally, the commission is tasked with developing an annotated list of existing national and international standards so that schools and developers can identify what makes a product usable by the blind. Provides a digital accessibility roadmap for institutions of higher education. The guidelines developed by the commission will contain specific technical and functional criteria that will clearly illustrate how to make educational technologies usable by the blind and other students with print disabilities. Such criteria will be beneficial to procurement officers, informational technology staff, chief technology officers, and other key personnel at institutions of higher education. Offers flexibility for schools while reiterating that pre-existing obligations still apply. Colleges and universities are permitted to use material that does not conform to 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 in doing so will forfeit the combined expertise of the relevant stakeholder communities involved in the development of the AIM HIGH guidelines. GOAL: REMOVE BARRIERS TO EQUALITY IN THE CLASSROOM.

  • 1. Resolution 2020-11 regarding the Amazon Employment practices
  • 2. Resolution 2020-14 regarding Audio description on Youtube
  • 3. Resolution 2020-16 regarding increasing in funding for the independent living services for individuals who are blind program through the Rehabilitation Services Administration
  • 4. Resolution 2020-17 regarding college board advanced placement exams
  • 5. Resolution 2020-25 regarding HBO, HBO Max and audio description

Historical Resolutions Which are Now Law

The White Cane Law: It is easy to forget the history of White Cane Safety Day and the importance of the Model White Cane Law. For this reason, we are reprinting an article that President Maurer wrote in 1978 and the text of the Model White Cane Law as Dr. TenBroek wrote it. A variation of this legislation is now law in every one of our fifty states. We use it every day and may take it for granted, so it is good to remind how it came about.

In 1966 Dr. Jacobus TenBroek, the founder of the National Federation of the Blind, drafted the model White Cane Law. This model act—which has become known as the Civil Rights Bill for the Blind, the Disabled, and the Otherwise Physically Handicapped—contains a provision designating October 15 as White Cane Safety Day. Today a variant of the White Cane Law is on the statute books of every state in the nation. The National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled on the 6th day of July, 1963, called upon the governors of the fifty states to proclaim October 15 of each year as White Cane Safety Day in each of our fifty states. On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day.” This resolution said: “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives, that the President is hereby authorized to issue annually a proclamation designating October 15 as White Cane Safety Day and calling upon the people of the United States to observe such a day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”(Braille Monitor October 2012 for full article and model White Cane Law go to White Cane Safety Day: A Symbol of Independence (nfb.org)

Important Achievements The Apple Accessibility

The National Federation of the Blind has partnered with Maura Healey, attorney general of Massachusetts in 2015, in several actions which have resulted in significant advancements in access. On July 10, 2015, Ms. Healey, made remarks on how that partnership was able to reach an agreement with Apple to ensure that iTunes and iTunes U would be accessible to blind and print-disabled consumers who depended on screen-reading software. That was groundbreaking. It took NFB members demonstrating the technology and failures, the workarounds, and fixes to get this done.

(For full article see Braille Monitor, October 2015) Leadership Through Law: Perspectives on Advancing Civil Rights for the Blind

Moving Around with Safety Sami Law (HR 4686)

As blind or visually impaired individuals we are unable to drive. As part of our independence efforts, many a time we depend on public transportation to get to keep up with our schedule. However, special occasions require shared ride such as UBER or LYFT as the most common examples. Even though the apps are accessible and we pretty much learned to navigate them, how do we identify our ride without sight?

On July 29, 2020 Bipartisan legislation named in honor of Samantha “Sami” Josephson—a senior at the University of South Carolina who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in 2019 by a predator pretending to be her Uber driver—was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives. Sami’s Law will “require ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to deploy a verifiable electronic access system to match drivers with passengers before the ride begins to enhance safety for the ride-hailing public.

In his August 2020 letter, president Riccobono notes that Rep. Chris Smith, (R-NJ) bill’s prime sponsor, specifically thanked the NFB from the House floor. The Federation is now urging the Senate to pass HR4686. UBER is already providing its users with a PIN code on the app which is accessible by Voiceover or text and has to match the one on the driver’s app. for full text of Sami Law go to Sami's Law (for Chris Smith go to Chris Smith (house.gov)) 30 Years of ADA

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