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Giving Thanks that Helen Keller Remains in the Texas School Curriculum

Photo: Helen Keller seated in an armchair next to Winifred Corbally (right). Keller's young grandniece Margot Keller and another child stand in front. Texas, 1961. Today we give thanks for all the wonderful things in our lives, and on this particular Thanksgiving, the American Foundation for the Blind has a special word of gratitude to the Texas Board of Education. On Friday, November 16, the board voted to keep Helen

Helen Keller's Life and Impact

On September 14, a national conversation began when the Texas School Board recommended the removal of Helen Keller from its required Grade 3 social studies curriculum. We realized this was an important moment to share Helen Keller’s extraordinary life story, and the many lessons she left us: perseverance, service, determination, compassion, inclusion, and the ability to change the world. Helen Keller (1880-1968) worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for 44 years, and today,

"Miracle Work" Reflections of a French Deafblind Scholar on the Digital Helen Keller Archive

Helen Keller at the Union of the War Blind in Paris, 1946. She is with French veterans blinded during World War II, one of whom is playing the piano. In June 2018, more than a century after she was born, an enormous amount of Helen Keller's archive is available to everyone all over the world with an internet connection; this ‘miracle work’ has happened by virtue of digital technology, the will of an organization, the resolute eyes and hands of transcribers and the endless energy of an archivist and her team. As a deafblind French researcher, I am

Joseph E. Chamberlin: Journalist and Early Advocate of Helen Keller

Joseph Edgar Chamberlin As it turns out, in a certain generation, our family’s best memory keeper was Helen Keller. I am indebted to the Helen Keller Archive at the American Foundation for the Blind for allowing me to come to know – four generations later – my great-great grandfather, the Boston author and journalist, Joseph Edgar Chamberlin. My current book in progress, called Letters from Red Farm, reveals new information about Helen Keller as it tells the untold story of her deep and enduring friendship with her beloved "Uncle Ed, " my

Born Accessible: The Digital Helen Keller Archive

Helen Keller seated and reading a book in braille, Westport, CT, 1960. I have the honor of being an advisor for the Helen Keller Digital Archive, a project of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). One of the great aspects of a digital archive is that it makes the content more accessible to people with disabilities. AFB has gone even further to make the Helen Keller archive more usable by people with visual impairments or blindness. Helen Keller was one of the most famous social activists of the 20th century, and a notable

Thank You to Everyone Who Participated in the Cogswell-Macy Act Hill Day, 2018

The Cogswell-Macy Act Hill Day, February 28, 2018, was an activity of Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), the American Foundation for the Blind, National Association of the Deaf, and other advocacy partners. Our heartfelt thanks go to Barbara Raimondo, Executive Director of CEASD, who helped us coordinate the registration process with participants from schools for the Deaf and other advocacy groups in the Deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) community. In addition, she made office visits, recruited attendees from the DHH community, and facilitated communicationthe list could go on. Barbara's leadership was an integral part of making the event so successful. Our day started bright and early at 8:30 a.m., in the Rayburn House

American Foundation for the Blind Statement on the Department of Education Rescinding Guidance Documents on Students' Rights

Last Friday, October 20, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) announced that it had rescinded 72 federal guidance documents relating to children's rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. OSERS wrote in a newsletter Friday that a total of 72 guidance documents that help clarify students' rights had been rescinded on October 2 "due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective." Of the documents, 63 were from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 came from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

Sharing Our Progress in Making the Helen Keller Archive a Gold Standard of Accessibility for Other Digital Archives

We were so honored today to present at the Society of American Archivists 2017 Annual Meeting to discuss the Helen Keller Archive digitization project, and our work to create a

For Teacher Appreciation Week, Enjoy Helen Keller's Tributes to Her Teacher, Annie Sullivan

"What do I consider a teacher should be? One who breathes life into knowledge so that it takes new form in progress and civilization." - Helen Keller in a speech to the National Education Association, 1938 <img src="" alt="Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan playing chess, 1900. Helen is about to move a white queen. She has already captured one of Anne's black pawns, which

National Teacher Appreciation Day Is May 9, 2017

This week, we pay homage to teachers and the tireless work they perform and the meaningful impact they have on our children's lives. Teachers of students who are visually impaired work with a wide variety of students every day. They provide educational services to students of all ages and ability levels who are learning academic skills, as well as skills needed for success outside of the classroom. AFB CareerConnect has developed a wide variety of resources for teachers working with students who are blind or visually impaired. These

Celebrate Annie Sullivan's Birthday: Support the Cogswell-Macy Act!

Happy birthday, Annie Sullivan! Annie was born on April 14, 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. Today, we celebrate her legacy and excellence as an educator. She insisted that her student, Helen Keller, could learn and accomplish just as much as any seeing and hearing child could and she was right. Helen was a brilliant student, but Annie turned out to be an equally talented teacher. It was

Celebrating the Foundations of Education

Left to right: editors Cheryl Kamei-Hannan, M. Cay Holbrook, Ph.D., and Tessa S McCarthy at today's launch of Foundations of Education, Third Edition On March 3, 1887130 years ago to the dayAnnie Sullivan arrived in Tuscumbia, Alabama. The minute Annie met six-year-old Helen Keller, she began to sign into her hand, laying the foundation for Helen’s education. Not four weeks later, the now famous moment at the water pump took place, and Helen understood for the first time that everything had a

Be a Part of Cogswell-Macy Act Hill Day: A Bipartisan Bill to Transform Special Education for Students with Sensory Disabilities

On Wednesday, March 1, more than 120 advocates for children who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind will visit congressional offices in Washington, D.C., sharing their stories and asking our new Congress to rally behind students with sensory disabilities in support of the newly reintroduced Cogswell-Macy Act. "This bipartisan bill will help the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) keep its promise of a free and appropriate education for all students who are

The American Foundation for the Blind Applauds the Supreme Court Ruling in Support of Service Animals

Mark Richert, AFB's Director of Public Policy We were very pleased to see the Supreme Court ruling today in Fry v Napoleon Community Schools. The Supreme Court held unanimously that Ehlena Fry's family can pursue a lawsuit against her former public school district for denying access to her service dog, Wonder. The ruling made clear that if a school discriminates against a child for using a dog guide or service animal, parents are legally able to go straight to court to enforce the student's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and

If I Could Ask the Candidates: A Presidential Debate About Blindness and Visual Impairment

The upcoming presidential debates have me thinking about what I might ask the candidates if I were a debate moderator. It isn’t often that disability issues get front-and-center attention during a nationally televised event like a presidential debate, let alone issues specific to people who are blind or visually impaired. But what if they did? Would I use my opportunity to ask the candidates about their position on the payment of subminimum wages to people with disabilities? Would I ask them about the need to ensure that people with disabilities have an unequivocal and supported right to full

AFB Awards Scholarships to 11 Outstanding Students with Vision Loss

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has awarded its 2016 scholarships to eleven outstanding students who are blind or visually impaired and are pursuing their studies at institutions of higher education. The grants support one of AFB’s most important goals: expanding access to education for students with vision loss. The awardees are as follows: The Delta Gamma Foundation Florence Margaret Harvey Memorial Scholarship: One scholarship of $1,000 to an undergraduate or graduate student in the field of rehabilitation or education of persons who are blind or visually impaired. Kayla

A Breath of Fresh Air: Helen Keller and the Importance of Playgrounds for Children

Helen Keller was always a vocal supporter for the rights of children. In 1923, she wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of the National Playground and Recreation Association of America. In it she passionately advocated for the need for outdoor spaces where children could run around safely and enjoy themselves. Keller instinctively understood that play is as important to the healthy development of a child as is study indoors. Read her words below they are as applicable today as when she wrote them over ninety years ago. I have been asked to write a letter on behalf of the "National Playground and Recreation Association of

Happy 150th Anniversary Anne Sullivan Macy!

Dear Annie, Happy birthday! Today, we celebrate your legacy and excellence as an educator. You insisted that your student, Helen Keller, could learn and accomplish just as much as any seeing and hearing child could and you were right. You were a tough teacher when Helen misspelled a word in an essay or letter, you made her rewrite the entire text but you also had a finely tuned insight into a child’s psychology. You instantly recognized that Helen was a very bright child who just needed the tools to communicate with the world around her. You were critical of the conventional teaching methods of your day.

Join Parents and Teachers in Supporting the Cogswell-Macy Act on April 14th!

The American Foundation for the Blind needs your help! This week, we are asking all of you to support the Cogswell-Macy Act, the most comprehensive special education legislation for students with sensory disabilities to date. Call in on April 14th to ensure key resources are available to these students and their parents and educators through and expansion of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Parents and teachers around the country are rallying around this bill. We asked for stories about the importance of

AFBLC 2016 Has a Valentine's Day Treat for You!

As our special Valentine to you, we’re giving you an extension on the Early Bird Rate! Now you can register for the 2016 AFB Leadership Conference at the lower rate until February 16—but after that, rates are going up, so don’t delay! If your agency is sending three or more people, please contact Scott Truax about a group registration discount. Also note that hotel rooms at the group rate are going

Playing Santa at the Atlanta Center for the Visually Impaired's Early Intervention Program

Ike Claus I was delighted to join the staff at the Atlanta Center for the Visually Impaired BEGIN Program (Babies Early Growth Intervention Network) for their infants and toddlers holiday program last Saturday. We sang songs, ate way too many cookies, and I was honored to don the big guy’s red suit (the beard is my own!). Each child had the opportunity to have their photos taken with Santa. Children this young and some with additional disabilities often do not receive a friendly welcome at many of the commercial locations where Santa

Living (and Succeeding) with Vision Loss

If you havent read this USA Today piece on what its like to be visually impaired, you should. Every year or almost every year, my friend Mickey Damelio includes me in his Florida State University class called the Blindness Experience, which he has designed over the years. I feel lucky to have gone to graduate school with Mickey at Florida State University. He became one of my first friends from the program when he asked me to attend the free MTV on Campus concert with his wife and him. He is also the guy who introduced me to Paralympic sports and goalball. We were in a class on the psychosocial aspects of blindness taught by Lynda

Tips for Teaching Reading from Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments

We asked, you answered. Here are a collection of teacher comments made on the AFB Press Facebook page in response to the question, "What is your best advice or success about teaching reading skills to children who are blind or visually impaired?" “When I first became a TVI [teacher of students with visual impairments] I had a group of teens who were not very motivated to read or write. This was many moons ago and they wanted computer games for

Celebrating Annie Sullivan's Birthday

Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936) was a woman whose brilliance, passion, and tenacity enabled her to overcome a traumatic past. She became a model for others disadvantaged by their physical bodies, as well as by gender or class. Anne was born on this day, April 14, in 1866the eldest daughter of poor, illiterate, and unskilled Irish immigrants. She grew up to become a pioneer in the field of education. Her work with Helen Keller became the blueprint for education of children who were blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired that still continues today. Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) dubbed her a "miracle worker." However, Anne's personal

ALERT!—Historic Bill Breaks Down Braille Barriers for All!

BLINK Act on Fast Track for Congressional Action! In a surprise move early this morning, key leaders in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have reached bipartisan agreement on brand new landmark legislation requiring all sighted students across America to exclusively learn and use braille. The bill, entitled the Braille Literacy Is Necessary Knowledge (BLINK) Act, was only introduced late last evening in an attempt by the bill’s champions to thwart mobilized opposition by proponents of vision dependency. Under the BLINK Act, which somewhat radically makes trafficking in printed textbooks and inaccessible electronic instructional

Get to Know the DataFerrett! The Census Bureau and AFB's Webinar March 26th

Last month, the AFB Policy Center ramped up our focus on demographics and data with two exciting projects: our Research Navigator edition, “Just how many blind folks are there anyway?”, in collaboration with the Census Bureau, we presented the first in a series of webinars about exploring existing population data in the field of vision loss

AFB 2015 Scholarship Program

Free money for college. I bet that got your attention! Right now, AFB is making this happen: we are currently accepting applications for our 2015 scholarships. Visit to apply. We offer financial assistance to students who are legally blind (i.e., have best corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less in both eyes and/or a visual field of less than 20 degrees in both eyes) who are pursuing all levels of post-secondary education, including those who will be, or are already, attending undergraduate, technical, or graduate schools. Thus, high school students in their senior

3 Titans: Alexander G. Bell, Anne Sullivan Macy and Helen Keller

Today, March 3rd, we salute 3 titans of American history: Alexander Graham Bell, Anne Sullivan Macy and Helen Keller. Alexander Graham Bell was born on this day in 1847. Famous for his pioneering work with the telephone, Bell was also very influential in the field of education for the deaf. In 1886 Helen Keller’s parents Captain Arthur Keller and Kate Adams Keller contacted Bell seeking assistance for their deaf and blind daughter. Bell put them in touch with the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston, Massachusetts, and Perkins subsequently recommended Anne Mansfield Sullivan as a governess for their child. Anne

Diving for Data: Finding the Numbers We Need in a Sea of Statistics

Upcoming Opportunities to Learn More! As we begin 2015, the AFB Policy Center has jumped feet-first into the wide (and deep!) world of demographics and data. Hopefully you saw the latest edition of the Research Navigator, “Just how many blind folks are there anyway?,” where we tackled seemingly simple (but actually very complicated) questions about population and demographic statistics for adults

Helen Keller: What Would She Say if She Attended Davos Today?

Yesterday was the first day of the Annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. At a time of global concern over economic disparity and cultural polarization it is interesting to read a letter that Helen Keller wrote in 1922.

A Blind Professional's Take on the Batman Episode, "This American Life"

A friend of mine sent me a link to an episode of NPR's "This American Life" on Dan Kish. I had not heard it yet, though I do listen to that show often. I listened to the piece right away, and I thought I would share my take on the piece. First of all, Dan Kish is an extremely successful and brilliant individual who is blind. He has trained youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired on how to travel independently for a long time. He founded World Access for the Blind, and trains individuals in the skill of echolocation, orientation and mobility, and independence. I should preface this by

Blind Boy Has White Cane Taken From Him, Replaced With A Pool Toy

Recently, you may have read a story or seen it on the news about the little boy whose white cane was taken away from him because of behavior reasons. I wanted to take a minute to discuss this situation and why this is so wrong. The purpose of the white cane is to be a tool to allow a person or child who is blind or visually impaired independence. As a person who is blind or visually impaired who depends on the use of my white cane for travel and independence, I am truly upset by this. We teach youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired to keep their cane with them. We encourage them to use it. The white cane is a tool and a pool toy is not a

How Do Schools Meet the Needs of Students with Visual Impairment Who Are English-language Learners?

According to 2013 data from the American Community Survey (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014), an estimated 668,000 American children and youth ages 5 to 21 are blind or have trouble seeing. Of those, over 159,000 (almost 24%) speak a language other than English at home. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees that if these children have a visual impairment or other disability which impacts their access to education, then they are eligible for special education services, including individualized evaluation and educational supports and instruction. At the same time, both IDEA and Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act require special

Feedback From the Field: AFB Organizes Letter to the Institute for Education Sciences Advocating for Research in Blindness, Visual Impairment, and Deaf-blindness

The Institute for Education Sciences (IES) is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, responsible for sponsoring and conducting research and disseminating evidence to support education practices and policy. IES sponsors research through grant competitions run by its national centers, including the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER). In August of 2014, IES asked stakeholders to provide feedback about the focus and work of NCER and NCSER, in order to help ensure that the centers are supporting and promoting significant, meaningful research. The American Foundation for the Blind organized a national conference call of professionals in the fields of blindness/visual impairment (BVI) and

AFB Launches an App for AFB CareerConnect and It's FREE!

You might be excited or just ecstatic that the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has just launched the CareerConnect App with some of your favorite features of the CareerConnect resource center. Hold your applause and high-pitched sounds of jubilation for the full deal on this momentous occasion. Am I hyping this app? Oh, yes! But I will tell you that this launch is just the beginning of more great things to come. AFB has worked hard to include some of the new and exciting features that vision professionals, job seekers, youth, and parents of children who are blind or visually impaired use from CareerConnect. The CareerConnect App includes four main tabs, and it follows the model of the widely used AccessWorld App (a free monthly technology magazine that

Laura Bridgman, and What Might Have Been

Laura Bridgman, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Ever heard of Laura Bridgman? Bridgman is generally acknowledged as the first deaf-blind child to be successfully educated. Here's an interesting article from Slate about her life titled "The Education of Laura Bridgman. She was Helen Keller before Helen Keller. Then her mentor abandoned their studies." As I read the piece, excerpted from the book For the Benefit of Those

Tell Us Why You Support the Cogswell-Macy Act

It's Teacher Appreciation Week, and we want to highlight one of our favorite teachers: Emily Coleman is a mother of three children, one of whom is visually impaired, and a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI). She is also the voice behind Raising a Child Who Is Blind and...", a popular FamilyConnect blog. We asked her to tell us what the Cogswell-Macy Act would mean to her as a parent and as a teacher. As part of a national campaign to better meet the special needs of students with visual impairments, we ask that you take a moment to learn about the Cogswell-Macy Act and

What You Must Know Before Assessing a Child for Orientation and Mobility Instruction

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from a recent article posted on the Professional Development section of There are important differences between how you teach orientation and mobility (O&M) skills to an adult and how you teach them to a child. Effective instruction of children begins with a careful assessment that takes into consideration their unique development and needs. From the very beginning, an instructor must understand these needs to be able to conduct an effective assessment.

Attention Blindness Professionals: JVIB Wants Your Input

Are you interested in employment and transition? The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) is planning a free online event that will coincide with the November-December JVIB Special Issue on Employment and Transition, edited by Karen Wolffe. The week of November 18th, JVIB will be hosting an open forum with a blog by Joe Strechay, program manager for

The Importance of Specialized Education Services

Editor's note: We recently asked Emily to write this post for us, discussing the importance of specialized services. You can also read Joe Strechay's thoughts on specialized employment services here. Simply walk into your average classroom, pre-school through high school, and you will immediately be aware of how much learning is processed visually. The obvious examples are posters on the wall. They're often not

AFB Press Interviews Cynthia Sun, Mother of a Visually Impaired Student

[Editor's note: In 2007, AFB Press published "Cortical Visual Impairment: An Approach to Assessment and Intervention" by Christine Roman-Lantzy. Pictured on the cover was 12 year-old Jeremy Sun. We recently caught up with his mother, Cynthia, to see how Jeremy, now 18, was doing.] Tell us about Jeremy. How has he been doing? Jeremy is now 18 years old and ready to move on to a new environment this

Webinar Alert: Using iPads in the Classroom for Students with Visual and Multiple Disabilities

The AFB eLearning Center is pleased to offer the second of an ongoing series of webinars that focus on the use of iPads in the classroom for students with visual and other disabilities. The webinar series is presented by Dr. Betsy Flener, who has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and consultant including serving as a regional consultant for the Kentucky School for the Blind. She is currently an assistive technology consultant for the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative. This second webinar, titled

Listening Guidelines for English Language Learners

Editor's note: The following is a transcript excerpt from "Listening Guidelines for English Language Learners," a webinar presented by Madeline Milian. Teachers who work with students who are visually impaired know that smell, touch and hearing explain the world. But when the individuals can no longer rely on listening skills because the language they're using is different from the language of instruction, they suffer a significant setback in understanding what's going on around them.

For Teachers: Basic Tips For When You Have a Visually Impaired Student in Your Class

[Editor’s Note: The following post is excerpted from When You Have a Visually Impaired Student in Your Classroom: A Guide for Teachers, edited by Susan J. Spungin and available via AFB Press. Further details available at the end of this post.] Will you have a child with a visual impairment in your classroom this year? Individuals working with children with visual impairments, whether or not they have other disabilities, will find the following basic guidelines helpful in interacting with students:

On June 27, Support the Anne Sullivan Macy Act – Here's How

On June 27, the anniversary of Helen Keller's birth, you are invited to participate in a unique opportunity to honor the legacy of Helen Keller's beloved teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, and to advocate for improved educational results for all students living with vision loss, including students who may have additional disabilities. Be a part of the National Call-In Day to support the Anne Sullivan Macy Act, and tell Congress to get moving on making America's special education system more accountable for meeting the unique learning needs of students who are blind or visually impaired. Find the full text of the Macy Act and an online support petition at

Expanding Literacy and Beyond

On May 1, I'll be attending the Reading and Literacy Summit hosted by our good friends, Lions Club International. This event presents a promising opportunity to share vital information on topics such as accelerating global literacy, improved reading material distribution, expanding inclusion, and overcoming illiteracy through technology. AFB has been working with the Lions over the past year to

You're Invited! AFB Bookstore Virtual Open House - Save 20%!

We invite you to tour the newly redesigned AFB Bookstore and save 20% on all publications during AFB's Virtual Open House this Wednesday through Friday, March 27-29, using code AFBSTORE13. Other activities include giveaways and contests to win AFB Press books and DVDs. AFB will announce details each day of the Open House on the AFB Bookstore page at and through the AFB Press Facebook page at beginning Wednesday morning. The redesigned store makes it

Finding Fitness, Sport and Recreation: From Physical Education to the Paralympics

[Editor's Note: The following post is authored by Dr. Lauren Lieberman. Dr. Lieberman is a graduate of Oregon State in the Movement Studies in Disabilities Program, and is currently a Distinguished Service Professor at SUNY Brockport in the area of Adapted Physical Education. Dr. Lieberman is the founder of Camp Abilities, a developmental sports camp for children with visual impairments. She is also co-author of the upcoming AFB Press book Physical Education and Sports for People with Visual Impairments and

Scholarship Alert: The Joseph Roeder Assistive Technology Scholarship

If you are interested in pursuing a career in the field of Assistive Technology, I encourage you to check out the Joseph Roeder Assistive Technology Scholarship offered by the National Industries for the Blind. As the deadline is drawing near, please read the information below and follow the links for further information. The Joseph Roeder Assistive Technology Scholarship Application is due May 5, 2012 National Industries for the Blind (NIB) Joseph Roeder Assistive Technology Scholarship is seeking applicants for the Joseph Roeder Assistive Technology Scholarship, a $2,500