AFB Historical Facts
Did you know . . .
Before AFB led the efforts to standardize braille in English, there were at least eight competing versions in circulation. Standardization made the large-scale printing and distribution of braille materials possible.
AFB distributed radios free or at reduced costs to blind listeners under a program sponsored by the American Radio Association and a newspaper coalition in 1924, a time when radios were incredibly expensive.
The International Convention of Lions Clubs adopted blindness as its special concern following a plea for support from Helen Keller in 1925. Read Keller's speech.
In 1927 AFB was instrumental in the passage of a public law that allowed a person with vision loss and his or her escort to travel at a single fare. Later, this was expanded to include guide dogs.
AFB helped to draft and pass the Pratt-Smoot bill in 1931, under which the Federal government funds services for reprinting books in braille and distributing them through the Library of Congress.
AFB developed one of the first, lightweight portable braillewriters in 1932.
AFB invented the Talking Book machine and long-playing record in 1932. The Talking Books program thrives today.
AFB advocated in Congress for the inclusion of blind and visually impaired Americans in the Social Security Act in 1935.
In 1952 AFB developed the Tellatouch, an electric conversion board for communication with deaf-blind individuals.
In 1953 AFB developed the Megascope, one of the first generation of table-top magnifying devices for readers with visual impairments. Today's closed-circuit televisions perform the same function.
AFB convened a key international conference on technology and blindness in 1961 and subsequently launched a worldwide information exchange program on technology for people with vision loss.
AFB's M. C. Migel Memorial Library is one of the world's largest collections of reference materials on vision loss, including rare and antique books.
Helen Keller worked for AFB for over 40 years, until her death in 1968. She was honored by the nation with a burial at the Washington National Cathedral.
AFB holds the literary rights to Helen Keller's writings and houses and preserves the Helen Keller Archives, which includes personal papers, correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia.
In 1978 AFB developed prototypes for a talking thermometer and a blood glucose monitor device to help blind diabetic patients monitor their own insulin needs.
AFB published the first comprehensive resource guide to sensory aids that enable blind and visually impaired workers to perform their jobs effectively in 1979.
In 1986, AFB established the National Technology Center at its New York headquarters to help blind and visually impaired people participate fully in the computer age. In 2002, as the work of the center expanded to include employment, it was renamed AFB TECH (AFB Technology and Employment Center in Huntington) and relocated to a larger facility in Huntington, WV.
In 1994 Ray Charles became the first recipient of AFB's Helen Keller Achievement Awards, which were created to acknowledge the accomplishments of individuals and organizations who are role models or improve the quality of life for people with vision loss.
In 1996 AFB launched its web site, www.afb.org. Before the web, AFB was on the Internet with Archie, Gopher, and FTP.
AFB celebrated the 65th anniversary of the Talking Books program in 1998 by opening a state-of-the-art digital recording studio to launch audiobook technology into the 21st Century.
AFB consulted with the New York Times to overhaul its Large Type Weekly publication in 1999.
AFB partnered with Pitney Bowes in 1999 to develop its Universal Access Copier System (UACS).
In 1999 AFB opened the National Literacy Center in Atlanta, GA.
In 2000 AFB launched AccessWorld, its free online technology magazine.
In 2001 AFB introduced its new graphically rich, full-featured web site, www.afb.org.
AFB, Time Warner AudioBooks, and Dolphin Computer Access partnered to release James Patterson's The Jester as the first commercial audio e-book in 2003.
In 2006 AFB opened the Center on Vision Loss in Dallas, TX. The Center's accompanying web site, AFB Senior Site, was launched in 2007.
In 2008 AFB partnered with the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) to launch a new web site, FamilyConnect.