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The 2019 AFB Leadership Conference Registration Site Is Now Open!

We are thrilled to announce that the moment you've been waiting for is hereregistration is now open for the 2019 AFB Leadership Conference (#AFBLC19)! Join us at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA, as we bring together leaders in the field to share research and advocate for equal education and employment opportunities, as well as to address the needs of an aging population. The conference will have five primary areas of focus: leadership, aging and visual impairment,

Remembering Stan Lee: A Superhero Who Helped Change the Way the World Sees Blindness

This week we lost a legendary figure in the field of comic books and entertainment, Stan Lee. Among the many characters he helped develop for Marvel Comics is the first blind superhero, Daredevil. About his visually impaired crime-fighter, Lee said: "The one thing that worried me about DaredevilI wondered if blind people would be offended, because we were exaggerating so much what a blind person can do, and they might have felt that we're making it ridiculous. But I was so pleased. After the books were published, we started getting letters from charities for blind people, like the Lighthouse for the Blind in New York. Letters saying, 'We've been reading these stories to the people here and they love them, and they're so

Department of Justice Confirms ADA Applies to Online Accommodations

At the American Foundation for the Blind, we were heartened to read that the Department of Justice confirmed clearly and unequivocally, in a September 26 letter to congressional representatives, that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to online accommodations. "The Department first articulated its interpretation that the ADA applies to public accommodations' websites over 20 years ago. This interpretation is consistent with the ADA's title III requirement that the goods, services, privileges, or activities provided by places of public accommodation be equally

AFB Applauds Legislation to Strengthen the ADA & Help Small Businesses Become Accessible

We applaud the introduction of legislation to strengthen the Americans with Disabilities Act and expand the tax credits already available to small businesses who want to become more accessible to customers with disabilities. The Disabled Access Credit Expansion

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,

The ADA's 28th Year in the Shadow of H.R. 620

HR620A "Solution" in Search of a Problem One of my favorite assistive technology podcasts recently made me grit my teeth, again, over the passage of congressional bill H.R. 620. H.R. 620 is titled the ADA Education and Reform Bill. In episode 107 of the AT Banter podcast, co-hosts Ryan Fleury and Steve Barclay discussed H.R. 620, stating that it would seem reasonable for an individual to approach a business that most likely, inadvertently created a barrier to access and ask/suggest/cajole them into making the necessary changes. Both felt that giving business owners 60 days’ notice to respond,

AFB Applauds Senate Approval of the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act

Mark Richert, AFB's Director of Public Policy A hearty kudos to the United States Senate for ratifying the Marrakesh Treatyunanimously, I might addand passing its implementing legislation, the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559), which aims to facilitate access to materials in a specialized format to eligible individuals, including and especially individuals who are blind or visually impaired. It has been the longstanding belief of the American Foundation for the Blind that access to books is a basic human right, the denial of which should not and cannot be tolerated

Helen Keller: Persistence and Resistance

Head and shoulders image of Helen Keller taken at her 80th birthday in 1960. Helen Keller died 50 years ago today – just a few weeks short of her 88th birthday. As the archivist and caretaker of her collection, I initially wondered how I nearly overlooked this anniversary. Upon consideration, I have several theories about this that I’d like to share with you. In the decade and a half of my professional role, I have never focused on her death date. Keller was fortunate enough to live a long life and she had the joy of witnessing the inroads she made to improve the lives of those with vision loss. But it's good to reflect on how

Engage at Every Age: This Year's Older American's Month Theme

Editor's note: Every May, the Administration on Aging, part of the Administration for Community Living, leads our nation's observance of Older American's Month. The 2018 theme, "Engage at Every Age," emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities. Creating a World With No Limits for Older Persons with Vision Loss The theme of this year's Older American's Month could not be more appropriate to the work that the American Foundation for the Blind is

Thank You to Everyone Who Came Out to Oakland for the 2018 AFB Leadership Conference

Thank you to everyone who came out to Oakland for the 2018 AFB Leadership Conference. From the knowledgeable presenters, panelists, moderators, and attendees to our wonderful sponsors and exhibitors, your participation is what makes our conference a success year after year. This year was the first time we held the Helen Keller Achievement Awards on the eve of the conference, and it was wonderful to kick things off with a celebration of diversity and inclusion.

Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion at the 2018 Helen Keller Achievement Awards

On Thursday April 4, 2018 AFB presented the Helen Keller Achievement Awards (HKAA) to three very impressive recipients. The awardees were Facebook and Microsoft, for their exemplary roles in creating accessible products or improving the accessibility of their already-popular products; and Haben Girma, for her advocacy and dedication to creating equal opportunities for people with disabilities. This is the first time AFB held this prestigious gala on the eve of the

Welcome to the 2018 AFB Leadership Conference and Kick-off Session "How Leading Tech Companies Are Raising the Bar for Blind and Visually Impaired Users"

The 2018 AFB Leadership Conference kicked off this week in Oakland, CA with a technology panel, moderated by Jennison Asuncion, Engineering Manager, Accessibility, LinkedIn. The panel consisted of Megan Lawrence,

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

Changes in AFB's Strategic Direction and Programs

Kirk Adams is president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. This week we announced a partnership with the American Printing House for the Blind to carry on the award-winning web programs AFB has created, so that the American Foundation for the Blind can focus its full attention on creating a more inclusive and accessible society for millions of Americans with vision loss. Last year, we set out to create a new strategic plan for AFB’s future. We recognized a need to refocus our

Delta's New Advance Documentation Requirements Create an Undue Burden on Blind Travelers

Delta recently announced their intention to implement “advance documentation requirements” for customers traveling with service animals. While news stories about service peacocks, comfort turkeys, and gliding possums may seem alarming and absurd, the fact is that Delta’s proposed solution is an overly broad policy with serious implementation problems. We strongly object to any extra bureaucratic hoops or paperwork, which will clearly impact the right to travel freely for people who are blind or visually impaired. We know

How Does the Department of Justice's Withdrawal of Proposed Regulations Change How the ADA Applies to Websites?

On December 26, the Department of Justice (DOJ) officially withdrew pending rulemakings that would have clarified exactly how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to web services. In 2010, the DOJ started the rulemaking process to create new regulations for the websites of public accommodations and state and local governments. These "Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking" (ANPRMs) have now been withdrawn. For two different, but complementary, perspectives on this news, we recommend Lainey Feingold's excellent blog post, No ADA Web Accessibility Regs? No Excuses and the Seyfarth ADA Title III News & Insights

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).

Deepening My Understanding of Social Security, Advocacy, and Disability Rights

I have always loved the idea of working in the policy and research field. As a former teacher of students with deafblindness, I figured out pretty quickly that while I could make a big difference for the students in my classroom, I had very little power to help the students in a school down the street, a school across the state, or a school across the country. I imagined working in the policy field was where I could make the most difference, where I could be a part of the systems change movement. But before I put all my eggs in the proverbial policy basket, I reasoned, I should probably do an internship and determine if this

Breaking News: AFB Applauds Senate Action on Autonomous Vehicles Legislation Benefiting People with Vision Loss

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) applauds Senators John Thune, Gary Peters, Roy Blunt, and Debbie Stabenow for introducing the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act (S. 1885). This groundbreaking bipartisan bill was passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation this morning, and includes many specific provisions drafted by AFB that address our concerns about the earlier House version of the bill. Among other key components, the senate bill would:

On the Brink of Health Care Repeal: Tell Your Senators to Oppose Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Proposal

The Senate is moving forward next week with a vote to pass the latest healthcare proposal, written by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.). The Graham-Cassidy proposal would repeal the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) Medicaid expansion, premium tax credits, and other beneficial programs. States will be able to waive protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This bill will be devastating to people with disabilities and their families, women and children, seniors, low-income Americans, and threaten access to community living, employment opportunities, &

AFB Staff Members Report Back on Three Different Approaches to Experiencing the Solar Eclipse

Yesterday, AFB staff experienced the solar eclipse with a variety of high- and low-tech approaches. Associate Director of Web Services Crista Earl used the new Eclipse Soundscapes App created by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium. AFB Press Executive Editor Alina Vayntrub went old-school, using a colander to cast shadows of the eclipse against a white piece of

Simple Accommodations Can Improve Workplace Safety for All

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. workplace accident death rate is higher for older workers. In the article, however, they also cite Ruth Finkelstein, co-director of Columbia University’s Aging Center, who cautioned against stereotyping. She said older people have a range of physical and mental abilities and that it’s

American Foundation for the Blind and 74 National Disability Organizations Strongly Oppose Revised Better Care Reconciliation Act

We join with members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in strongly opposing the revised Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). While we have serious concerns about many provisions of the BCRA, including a new provision that would dramatically increase costs for people with preexisting conditions, we cannot overstate the danger facing the millions of adults and children with disabilities if the bill’s Medicaid proposals are adopted by the Senate. The bill’s imposition of a per capita cap and the effective end of the adult Medicaid expansion would cut federal support by $756 billion by 2026, decimating a program that for decades has provided essential healthcare and long term services and supports to millions of adults and children with disabilities. Some

Celebrating Civil Rights for People with Disabilities

This week we celebrate the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. As many of you know, the ADA is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. This includes jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and

AFB's Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, Bids Adieu to Summer Interns

The American Foundation for the Blind's DC office has been very fortunate to have shared our summer with several fantastic interns! Today is the last day of Ms. Ann Pilewskie's internshipplease join us in wishing her well as she returns to continue her Ph.D. studies at "the" Ohio State University! Over the past two months, Ann has shared her experience and expertise in transition and supports for young adults (especially those with multiple disabilities)she is a passionate advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, and we have no doubt that she's going to continue to be a leader and advocate in our field. If you haven't already, check out Ann's fantastic guest blog post on VisionAware,

Riding Driverless on the Highway to Independence?

No Limits to the Possibilities, but Accessibility Remains Key Concern The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection voted unanimously this week to advance autonomous vehicle legislation. But the House bill dropped a provision that sought to promote access to self-driving cars for people with disabilities. Mark Richert, AFB Director of Public Policy, expressed concern. “We hope the language the American Foundation

The American Foundation for the Blind and Coalition of Aging Organizations Oppose American Health Care Act Provisions

The American Foundation for the Blind is proud to be a member of Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), the country’s preeminent coalition representing older Americans. This week we joined the LCAO in expressing our strong opposition to provisions of the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) because of the harm they would inflict on our nation’s seniors. The following are key points taken from a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer. We are deeply concerned that the AHCA would: Increase the number of uninsured Americans by 23 million Significantly increase health care costs for millions moreparticularly older adults Cut Medicaid by $834 billion

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

American Health Care Act Passes House: Learn How It May Impact People with Disabilities

The House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) today, 217-213. The bill will now go to the Senate. The New York Times reports that provisions of the plan would cut Medicaid by $880 billion, or 25 percent, over 10 years and impose a “per-capita cap” on funding for certain groups of people, such as children and the elderlya change that would convert Medicaid from an entitlement designed to cover any costs incurred to a more limited program. The New York Times also reported on

The Gift that Keeps Giving: Reviving an Historic Home in Monroe, N.Y. with Strong Ties to Helen Keller

Helen Selsdon here, the archivist at the American Foundation for the Blind. Back in March 2016 I received an email from a gentleman asking me about a house called Rest Haven in upstate New York. I knew about this house and its connection to AFB and I wondered what he wanted to know. Little did I anticipate the wonderful story that was about to unfold. It is my great pleasure to introduce Timothy Mitts, the man behind an incredible campaign to save an historic building that was once owned by AFB’s President M. C. Migel and enjoyed by Helen Keller. Here is Tim’s story: On March 23,

AFB Joins Coalition Urging Careful Use of Data in Disability Stories

Recently, the Washington Post discussed Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in both a headline story and a Sunday editorial. The article and editorial drew pessimistic conclusions based upon selective interviews as well as analysis of data from the Social Security Administration SSDI and SSI Annual Reports. On April 13, the Talk Poverty website, run by the Center for American Progress, published a strong statement about the Post’s use of data in its story and editorial: “Not only does the Post’s reporting paint a misleading picture about SSDI, but the data analysis they published is just plain wrong.” The Washington Post issued a correction to the original article, but

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

You Don't Have to Be Afraid of Going Blind

Kirk Adams is president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. This weekend in the New York Times, personal health writer Jane E. Brody tackled a sensitive topic: the fear, isolation, and anxiety that many people experience when losing their sight. The Worst That Could Happen? Going Blind, People Say. In 2007, AFB commissioned a national study on people's attitudes and opinions of severe vision loss

Entertainment Technology Accessibility Status: The Good, the Bad, and the Delayed

Hollywood is waist deep into its annual awards season. There was a time when there would be little reason for blind or visually impaired people to take note of Tinseltown’s award-caliber offerings, as most visual media would have been largely inaccessible. This is less so today, thanks to emerging technologies that bring visual media to life for visually impaired audiences in theaters and at home, as well as to hard-fought legislation that is slowly making these technologies more widely available. Unfortunately, not everyone can fully enjoy Moonlight at the local multiplex or independently cue up a

Why 60 Minutes’ Segment on the ADA Is Raising Concerns in the Disability Community

Mark Richert, AFB's Director of Public Policy This week, 60 Minutes aired a piece on lawsuits relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that is creating a lot of discussion in the disability community. [Editor’s note: the 60 Minutes video is transcribed, though not described.] The concern over the segmentwhich focuses on so-called "Drive-by Lawsuits"is that it puts a negative spin on the ADA, one of our country's most comprehensive and celebrated pieces of civil rights legislation. The worry, of course, is that in today's fragile political

Lessons from New Zealand Earthquakes Can Help People with Visual Impairments Prepare for Disasters

In light of the recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck New Zealand's South Island on Monday, November 14th, and the 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan's Honshu Island on Tuesday, November 22nd, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) extends its heartfelt sympathy to all those affected by the initial tremor and aftershocks. To help people with visual impairments, especially older people with vision loss, prepare for similar situations, AFB would like to share a few disaster-preparedness tips from an article that will appear in the forthcoming special issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) on aging and vision. <img src="" alt="Older man sitting on a wooden bench with his

Let's Go Vote! What to Do if You Encounter Problems at the Polls as a Blind Voter

It's almost Election Day. People with vision loss can have the greatest impact when everyone takes action, registers, and voteswhether voting early, absentee, or on Election Day, November 8th! First equip yourself by knowing your rights, and the potential impact of voters in the disability

5 Great Ways to Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month

It's National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)! Observed each October, NDEAM celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a diverse workforce inclusive of everyone's skills and talents. This year’s theme is "#InclusionWorks." The American Foundation for the Blind is proud to participate in NDEAM every year. Here are some ideas for ways you can use AFB’s resources to celebrate and support a workforce that is fully inclusive of people who are blind or visually

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

Voices Heard: Disability Policy Becomes Part of the Public Debate

The growing organization and activism of the disability community is successfully getting the attention of candidates running for office. Today's disability policy speech by Hillary Clinton, as well as the media's interest in asking candidates questions about disability policy, represents a significant shift from how the issues we champion have been acknowledged in past presidential elections. In Illinois, a

When You Can't "Catch 'em All": Overcoming Social Isolation As an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Image: Left to right, William Reuschel stands with Aaron Preece, looking at an iPhone, while Aaron's guide dog, Joel, appears to look for a Pidgey. It's time to dust off the old Gameboy, find the faded trading cards, and watch cartoons starring Ash Ketchum because Pokémon is making a HUGE comeback. The makers of Pokémon, Nintendo America, in cooperation with Niantic Labs, have introduced a new mobile app game, Pokémon Go. This international craze has taken over the world. It is in the news, on social media, and all over town. But what

Pokémon GO: Let’s Catch ’em All!

By William Reuschel and Aaron Preece Image: Aaron Preece stands with his guide dog Joel and a Pidgey Pokémon. Pokémon mania is sweeping the nation once again! The latest incarnation of the game that has players collecting and battling fictional creatures is called Pokémon GO, but this version is a little different from past games. You cant play GO on your couch. In fact, youll have a hard time playing it indoors at all. Pokémon GO is all about getting players outside and interacting with various points of interest around their towns.

Helen Keller in Hiroshima, Japan

Friday May 27th 2016, President Barack Obama will be the first sitting President of the United States to set foot in Hiroshima since the atomic bomb devastated that city 71 years ago Wednesday October 13th 1948, Helen Keller was America’s First Goodwill Ambassador to Japan after the Second World War Helen wrote the following letter to her good friend Nella Braddy Henney on a train from Hiroshima to Fukuoka on October 14th, 1948, the day after her visit to the devastated city. The letter powerfully reminds us of the horrors of war and the suffering that war creates. "…Now I simply

Four Ways Google Is Building a More Accessible World for the Visually Impaired

On the heels of major accessibility announcements from Twitter and Facebook, tech giant Google recently highlighted its own efforts to build a more inclusive world for people with disabilities. Here are four ways Google is working to improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired: 1.

Facebook Launches Its Own Approach to Making Photos Accessible to Blind Users

Today, Facebook announced a new feature, "automatic alternative text": Using Artificial Intelligence to Help Blind People ‘See’ Facebook. The feature takes advantage of Facebook's object recognition technology to offer people using VoiceOver on iPhones or iPads a description of their friends' photos. The descriptions are coded as alt text, a standard HTML attribute that allows web designers to provide text alternatives for images. "This step toward automatically describing photos helps those of us who are blind or visually

In Memoriam: Patty Duke, Actress and Advocate Who Captured the Spirit of Helen Keller

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of actress and advocate Patty Duke. Ms. Duke immortalized the intelligent and rebellious spirit of the 6-year-old deaf and blind Helen Keller in her performance of William Gibson's play, The Miracle Worker. She starred in both the original Broadway production and went on to win an Academy Award in the 1962 film version with Anne Bancroft playing her teacher Anne Sullivan. Patty Duke was a longtime friend and supporter of AFB. In April 1963, AFB’s Executive Director M. Robert Barnett congratulated her on her Oscar win on behalf

Big News: Twitter Is Adding Alt Text for Images

Twitter released a blog post today announcing Accessible Images for Everyone. The post explains, "Starting today, people using our iOS and Android apps can add descriptions also known as alternative text (alt text) to images in Tweets," and goes on to describe how to enable the new feature. “We applaud Twitter’s access efforts. Tens of thousands of people who are blind or visually impaired use Twitter every day, and they will be excited to use and benefit from this increased level of accessibility,” says Lee Huffman,

Day 2 of the 2016 AFB Leadership Conference

The AFB Leadership Conference (AFBLC) seeks to improve the quality of programs and services to blind and visually impaired children and adults. AFBLC provides a forum in which leadership personnel, in both education and rehabilitation, have the opportunity to increase their awareness of student and client needs, expand their knowledge, refine leadership skills, and share concerns and strategies. We were delighted to speak with Tanya Hilligoss, director of outreach for the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, another first-time participant in an AFB Leadership

Stevie Wonder Calls for Accessibility at Last Night’s Grammys—Bravo, Stevie!

I am still applauding Stevie Wonders call for accessibility at last nights Grammys; it was fabulous. First, he made everyone laugh when he teased the audience with a na na nana nayall cant read this huh? referring to the fact that the Song of the Year winner was written in braille. And then right before he announced Thinking Out Loud as Song of the Year, he said, We need to make

In Memory of Phil Hatlen, A Preeminent Leader in the Field of Blindness and Dear Friend

It is with a heavy heart that I share that Phil Hatlen, AFB trustee emeritus and a preeminent leader in the blindness field, passed away earlier this week after an extended illness. Phil was an incredible mentor and dear friend to many, including myself. He was loved and admired by this field. A true visionary, Phil is widely recognized as the person who coined the phrase, expanded core curriculum and detailed its importance to the education of the blind and visually impaired. Because of Phils work, children across the United States who are blind or visually impaired are receiving a more comprehensive education that will help them to succeed in

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Reform and the Right to Read

“At the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), we have worked for nearly a century to break down societal barriers and eliminate discrimination by achieving equal access to the world of copyrighted works. But for all the promise of technology to provide equal access to copyrighted works, the copyright laws that protect those works have sometimes served to impede that technology.” Mark Richert, Esq., Director of Public Policy, was part of an expert panel at a free Public Knowledge luncheon today, entitled “DMCA Reform: Lessons from the Copyright Office’s Triennial Review.” Read his post on the Public Knowledge blog,

"Democracy is a searching test of character" Helen Keller

Helen Keller’s book "Let Us Have Faith" was published in 1940. Her words are a timely reminder of the importance of vigilance in the face of prejudice and bigotry. Helen was acutely aware of the dangers of political and social discrimination. Seven years earlier, in 1933, her book entitled "How I became a socialist" was burned by Nazi youth during the book burning frenzy that took place in Germany. The following excerpt from "Let Us Have Faith" counsels us to be active participants in maintaining our democratic freedoms. "...Democracy is a compound of faith embodied in fellowship, knowledge and action. These cannot be sundered

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 2

Welcome to the second day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. We are thrilled to report that our total has risen by $2,212 and we have reached $12,957. Please help us reach our $25,000 goal by September 30th. Every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. A Supreme Communicator "I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty and joy to

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

Standing Ovation for Netflix on its Audio Description Announcement

Big news from Netflix this week: the internet television network announced that it is adding audio description to its platform as a setting. This is huge news for those of us with vision loss. When I read and started talking to people about this announcement, I literally got chills. We all have our outlets for entertainment, relaxation, and even stress relief. Netflix is one of mine; it’s something I truly enjoy. I view it via my Apple TV or my iPhone. And up until today, unless my wife or a friend fills me in on what’s happening on the screen, I end up missing facial expressions,

Self-driving Bicycles Add to Transportation, Fitness, Independence for Blind Riders

I heard such exciting news this morning! A well-known drone company, Auto-Fly, and a major bicycle manufacturer, Trekker, have teamed up to make a self-driving bicycle. The new device has pedals and seat much like a conventional bike, but the steering and braking are handled by electronic and mechanical devices based on recreational drone technology. What's exciting about this? Soon I'll be riding my bike to work! Imagine, the only obstacle to riding my old-fashioned bike is ... obstacles. With the new drone-bike, I set my destination on my phone, hop on my bike, and pedal. The bike navigates the streets

Helen Keller: A Champion Among Presidents

"Only people count. Only people who think and feel and work together make civilization. Only governments that keep every door of opportunity wide open are civilized governments...Civilization means a fair chance to live. It means an equitable share of the resources of the earth for every one. It means health and freedom and education for all men." <div

Make Your Super Bowl Extra Super with Our Game Day Tips for Viewers Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

The Super Bowl kicks off on Sunday, so get into the spirit with our roundup of resources for every football fan! Even if you are only interested in the Super Bowl commercials, you’ll want to check out Web Director Crista Earl’s look at Comcast’s new talking guide for accessible television and how it can help everyone get more out of the viewing experience. It was a memorable year in professional sports, and our own resident sports expert Joe Strechay shared his

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

ESPN's Stuart Scott Brought the Cool to Sports Coverage and Dealt with Vision Loss

As an avid sports fan, and someone who was a bit more than obsessed with sports growing up, the passing of Stuart Scott after a long battle with cancer was extremely sad news. I will admit that I spent more than my share of time in front of the television with ESPN on. I watched college basketball games late into the night and started my day with "Sports Center" and a few sports pages. For me, Stuart Scott was my idea of the coolest sportscaster on television. I can remember

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

Comcast Announces New Talking Guide for Access to Television

Comcast has just announced a solution to a huge television-watching problem. What is the problem? Imagine if there were a way to turn on the description (the special feature to narrate the visual elements of a show for people who are blind or visually impaired) on your favorite shows! Imagine being able to check your television to find out what is on right now, or up next, the name of the show, the channel the show is on, or the channel the TV is tuned to. (If you are wondering what "description" could be, check out this overview of audio description.) Back in the olden days, I bought a device at Radio Shack that had, among other features, a button that would

Recent Poll: Disability Issues Could Have a Major Impact in the 2014 Elections!

Recently, RespectAbility (a national, disability-focused nonprofit) collaborated with major political pollsters to ask questions of likely 2014 voters in battle-ground states (states whose choice of U.S. Senate candidates in the November elections is uncertain and thus will determine the balance of power in the Senate). The poll results clearly indicate that candidates must consider disability issues in the upcoming elections! The poll found that 56 percent of likely voters in the battleground states identified as disabled and/or had a close friend or family member with a disability. This held true

Helen Keller: Nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize

Last week, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Almost fifty years ago, there was a movement afoot to secure nominations for Helen Keller. Keller did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but the letters that were received from around the world are a wonderful reminder of this extraordinary humanitarian. Two are excerpted here below: Letter from S. T. Dajani, Chairman, Arab Blind Organization, Jerusalem, to the Secretary-General World Council for the Welfare

AFB Remembers Dr. Richard Welsh

On September 13, we lost a brilliant leader and I lost a dear friend, Richard "Rick" L. Welsh, Ph.D. Rick was a driving force in the blindness field and a huge advocate for quality services for people with vision loss. He had the ability to identify challenges and rally the field around critical issues. His professional experience spanned university preparation programs, schools for the blind, and adult agencies; he excelled in every endeavor. He was the first president of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind (AER), the leading professional organization in our field, and his work with AER paved the way for those who followed. One of his most notable contributions to our field was his work as co-editor of Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, first

John DeWitt Leaves a Legacy of Access and Mentorship for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

I recently learned that John DeWitt passed away. He was the founder of DeWitt & Associates, an organization that provided technology assessment and training in New Jersey for persons who are blind or visually impaired. He also worked for the American Foundation for the Blind from 1978 to 1989 as a resource specialist. John's passing was a great loss to New Jersey, the blindness community, his family, and all of the people he touched through his work and volunteering. I grew up in New Jersey and I also worked for the state for a period. I knew of John prior to my work, but I first had the opportunity to speak to him when he spoke at a "Circle of Bell Ringers" at the Joseph Kohn Training Center in New Brunswick,

Helen Keller Letter on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Goes Viral

On Saturday March 29, NPRs Scott Simon read an excerpt from a letter that Helen Keller wrote describing her joy at listening to Beethovens Ninth Symphony over the radio. The source of this feature is AFBs Facebook post on Helen Keller: The Official Fan Page. We are thrilled that this post has been viewed by almost 2 million people so far. This letter is just one of the over 80,000 items in Helen Kellers archival collection that AFB seeks

Marcus Roberts on 60 Minutes: Let's Look at Accessible Music Technology

Marcus Roberts was on 60 Minutes last night! Take a look, if you didn't get a chance to see it. He plays piano, he talks about music, and, my favorite part, they talked a little bit (too little to suit me) about the fact that he uses technology. No question, Marcus Roberts' most important piece of technology is the piano. He is first and foremost a talented musician, composer, and entertainer (this is my blog, I'm allowed to have three foremosts). But like any successful blind person, he uses any and all the tools that will get him access to what he needs and wants to do. Marcus, I'd love it if you'd comment here, or e-mail, to tell us about the music technology you use!

AFB Applauds the Adoption of the Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 Recommendation

On March 20, 2014, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) took an important step to make web content and applications more accessible to people with disabilities by publishing Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation. WAI-ARIA defines ways that developers of browsers, media players, mobile devices and assistive technologies, as well as content developers, can achieve greater cross-platform accessibility. Learn more about WAI-ARIA. "ARIA is general tool which can be used to add accessibility to many different technologies," said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C

AFB CareerConnect Thoughts on the WSJ Article, "Are You Disabled? Your Boss Needs to Know"

You may have recently read the Wall Street Journal article by Lauren Weber about bosses asking employees to disclose whether they have a disability. Ms. Weber frames the issue pretty accurately, and I loved the comments included overall. Starting next week, all federal contractors (i.e., companies that do contract work for or with the U.S. federal government) will have to 1) ask whether their employees are disabled and 2) employ a minimum of 7% disabled workers or demonstrate that they are taking steps to hire disabled workers. This new language specific to federal contractors is a great follow up to President Obama's initiative for the U.S. federal government to become a model employer

Why Do People Fear the Blind?

On Saturday, the New York Times published a stunning essay by Rosemary Mahoney, a teacher at a school for the blind, entitled "Why Do We Fear the Blind?" She opens with a quandary seemingly absurd on its face, but one that we unsighted people know all too well: A few years ago, when I mentioned to a woman I met at a party that I was teaching in a school for the blind, she seemed confused. "Can I just ask you one question?" she said. "How do you talk to your students?" I explained that the students were blind, not deaf. Raising the palms of her hands at me, as if to stem further misunderstanding, she said: "Yes, I know they're not

Remembering Dr. Abraham Nemeth

Everyone in the blindness field, and every braille reader, knows the name of Abraham Nemeth. He's probably the biggest name in blindness, if there is such a thing. This morning, I was saddened and shocked to hear of his passing. I had the lucky, really just lucky, opportunity to meet Dr. Nemeth several times. The first was at an NFB convention in Chicago. It was my first convention, and I had just started a new job at... you probably won't remember... Computer Aids Corporation... and they had sent me to the conference to bone up on blindness technology. Standing at one of the tables in the exhibit hall, I struck up a conversation with the random convention-goer next to me who was waiting to talk to the table's rep. He told me his name was Abraham

What the Government Shutdown Means for People with Vision Loss

Now that the U.S. Congress has once again given the American people a reason to lose confidence in them by failing to avoid a federal government shutdown, there are more questions than answers. What will become of so many of the programs and services affecting people who are blind or visually impaired? What are the long-term implications? How long will the government be closed for business? Well, at least with respect to core programmatic functions, such as special education and vocational rehabilitation, the services provided by the states, supported with federal dollars, should continue without substantial disruption. These programs are

On Martin Luther King, Jr, "I Have a Dream," Inspiration, and Mentors

As you likely already know, today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I have a dream" speech in Washington, DC. I think about how appreciative I am to live in a country where people such as King have stood up for the rights of all individuals, including persons who are blind or visually impaired. Helen Keller is also one of those people who stood up for the rights of all. She educated populations about how persons with disabilities can be an integral part of society. I am psyched to work at an organization where Helen Keller also manned a desk. I grew up with Martin Luther King, Jr. as one of my major idols

Barking Up the Wrong Tree: Phony Service Dogs?

Imagine my surprise when I read the following in Monday’s edition of the New York Post: Liars use phony vests and ID tags to get fake service dogs into posh New York restaurants. Huh? No surprise here, but was just blown away by this. As you may know, AFB headquarters are located in New York City (although I mainly work out of the Huntington, WV, office), as are over three dozen other blindness agencies. Over the last few years, service dogs have been introduced for a variety of different jobs, in addition to

All Rights Preserved? How Copyright Law Can Leave People Who Are Blind Left Out

Did you know that since January 1, you can get in serious legal trouble for unlocking your cell phone? That is, the process of liberating your phone from the specific mobile carrier, such as Verizon or AT&T, to which your phone is likely linked right out of the box? Before, you had the freedom to unlock your phone without being subject to the severe penalties of the draconian Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). So what happened on January 1? Well, the DMCA permits the Librarian of Congress to exempt from liability behavior that would otherwise run afoul of the DMCA. The Librarian of Congress had been recognizing the right of cell

Wall Street Journal Story Sheds Light on Common Issue for Job Seekers with Vision Loss

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story titled "When It Comes to Hiring, Blind Workers Face Bias." It examines a study conducted by our friends at the National Industries for the Blind, and the many misconceptions employers (and hiring and HR managers) have when it comes to hiring potential employees with vision loss. They are just thatmisconceptions. NIB's president and chief executive, Kevin Lynch, had a few interesting things to say on the matter, and I agree

Erik Weihenmayer is off to new adventures; new book may help others follow suit

[Editor's Note: The following post is authored by Paul Ponchillia, Professor Emeritus at Western Michigan University and Olympic Torch runner. Dr. Ponchillia is the founder of sports camps for children with visual impairments nationwide and also co-author of Physical Education and Sports for People with Visual Impairments and Deafblindness: Foundations of Instruction, recently published by AFB Press.] If you’re a New York Times reader, perhaps you saw the

Around the web: What we're reading this week

With a number of AFB staff attending the 27th annual CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference this week, we've been keeping a close eye on the goings-on there. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Congressman Markey (D-Mass) just introduced an important piece of legislation. In addition to these topics, here are a few stories that caught our attention this week: Congressman Ed Markey (press release): Markey Introduces Legislation to Improve Prescription Drug Labeling for

Around the web: What we've been reading

Here at AFB Headquarters, we like to keep up on important news related to vision loss. Here are some interesting news stories and blog posts from this past week: InnovationNewsDaily: New App Lets You Text Without Looking This article examines a forthcoming (free) app, Brailletouch, that would allow users to text without ever looking at their phones. (More information on this story via CNN's What's Next blog.)

Judi Dench's diagnosis sheds light on macular degeneration

Perhaps you know her as "M" from some of the James Bond films. With Oscar season upon us, maybe you recall she nabbed the Best Supporting Actress honor for 1998's "Shakespeare in Love." And at this point, you've probably read the headlines: Judi Dench has been diagnosed with, and is receiving treatment for, macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is a degenerative eye condition

Announcements from AFB

In the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, AFB works with many other agencies in the blindness and low vision fields. These other agencies often share information with us to reach a broader audience. Below are a few of the more recent announcements we've received. To view all announcements, you can visit AFB's Announcements page. REVISED! Light Box This newly revised Light Box has a lighted translucent white work surface, providing a high contrast background for opaque materials and a source of illumination for colored transparent and translucent items. It also includes a dimming control to meet the needs of


AFB Puts, eHarmony, and Love is Blind to the Accessibility Test By Adrianna Montague-Gray, AFB Communications, and Marc Grossman, AFB Consulting With Valentine's upon usthat time of year when everyone's talking about relationships and datingI was curious about the accessibility of online dating sites, so I asked my colleague Marc Grossman to help me evaluate a few. We didn't do a formal evaluation of each. Instead we looked at the homepages of, eHarmony, and Love is Blind,

Glenn Beck Makes Offensive Comments on CNN

Guest Blogger Paul Schroeder, Vice President, Programs and Policy Group --> Late last week Glenn Beck made some offensive comments on his CNN Headline News program about braille signs on walls. Media Matters has a clip on their site. The reality is that braille signage is extremely important for information and orientation purposes just like signage for anyone. And though we wish Mr. Beck would have thought twice before making such stupid remarks on national television, it has given us the opportunity to address some of the questions people have about braille in public spaces.