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In Light of World Braille Day 2019

As a means of consuming literature, learning, and communicating, braille has remained the biggest game changer in the history of inventions for people who are blind. It is only fitting then, that we celebrate the United Nations’ recent resolution designating January 4 of every year as World Braille Day. As a braille user myself, I can say firsthand that those tiny tactile dots represent so much more than the sum of their partsthey are a gateway to independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. Braille lets students who are blind or visually impaired learn at the same pace as their sighted peers, so there are no limits on their potential. I learned braille at a very young age, and to this day feel gratitude towards my early grade school teacher,

AFB’s Holiday Wish List for Older Americans

As we close out 2018 and prepare for 2019, AFB would like to share our hopes and dreams for older people in this country: complete and timely access to vision rehabilitation services, including low vision, rehabilitation, orientation and mobility, and employment for older people who have vision loss; and a fundamental change in the public understanding and acceptance of low vision and blindness that promotes equal access to high quality, fully productive, and independent lives and overcomes employment barriers for older people who are visually impaired. What Makes These

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,

Obtaining Access to E-books ...Again

The American Foundation for the Blind was pleased to learn that the Librarian of Congress had approved the US Copyright Office’s recommendation to exempt certain classes of works from copyright restrictions to improve access to those works by people who are blind or visually impaired. Every three years, the Copyright Office conducts a rulemaking procedure to determine which classes of works should be exempt from the "prohibition on circumvention of copyright protection systems for access control technologies." In general, these access control technologies are any technologies designed to protect the copyright on a given work, such as an e-book, motion picture, or software program. Under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), enacted in 1998,

Ready for Takeoff: Bill of Rights for Flight Passengers With Disabilities

A bill of rights for airline passengers with disabilities and enhanced disability training for Transportation Security Administration officers are on the way under a new federal law. Among the improvements enacted in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, this legislation will: Increase civil penalties for bodily harm to a passenger with a disability and damage to wheelchairs or other mobility aids; Require that DOT review, and if necessary, revise regulations ensuring passengers with disabilities receive dignified, timely and effective assistance at airports and on aircraft; Create the Advisory Committee on the Air Travel Needs of Passengers with Disabilities to identify barriers to air travel for individuals with disabilities and

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

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

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

AFB Urges Progress on Marrakesh Treaty in Honor of World Book Day

Mark Richert, AFB's Director of Public Policy Every year on April 23, the world comes together to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors. World Book and Copyright Day was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to encourage everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading. The American Foundation for the Blind joins with the World Blind Union in highlighting the importance of books and promoting our

Ask Your Senator to Support the Autonomous Vehicle Bill AV START

Mark Richert, AFB's Director of Public Policy AFB has joined with a broad coalition of disability rights organizations and auto and motorcycle manufacturers, suppliers, repairers, and more in urging prompt action on the US Senate's version of autonomous vehicle legislation, AV START Act (S. 1885). This groundbreaking bipartisan bill includes many specific provisions drafted by AFB and our partners that make the Senate's approach dramatically superior to the

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

A Great Day of Education and Advocacy at Gallaudet

This week, AFB participated in a first-of-its-kind event with students, professionals, and advocates from all three sensory disability communitiesblindness and visual impairment, deafness and hard-of-hearing, and deafblindness. The event was the result of excellent partnership with many groups coming together over several months to plan an informative, accessible, interactive event. Accessibility was everywhere! ASL interpreters, tactile ASL interpreters, pro-tactile support, braille, large print, and electronic files. The event was co-hosted by the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), the

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

Join AFB's Advocacy Network!

Mark Richert, AFB's Director of Public Policy These are challenging times for America, and it's more important than ever that we each get involved in our own way and make our voices heard. On behalf of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), I would like to invite you to be part of a dynamic community of advocates who have a passion for systems change and for improving the lives of individuals living with vision loss by joining AFB's Advocacy Network. The concept here is very simple. We want to reach out directly to people in our communityjust like youto inform you

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

New Design for Medicare Cards Raises Accessibility Questions for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

In September of this year, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) announced that redesigned cards will be issued to all Medicare recipients starting in April of 2018. This project is known as the Social Security Number Removal Initiative (SSNRI). The reason for the change in card design is so that individuals' Social Security numbers can be replaced by a new "Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI)"a unique, randomly assigned series of numbers and upper-case letters for each card holder. The move away from placing Social Security numbers on Medicare cards is

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

Takeaways from "Medicare Should Pay for Low Vision Devices: Views Through Different Lenses" Teleseminar

On October 4, 2017 AFB and the 21st Century Agenda on Aging and Vision Loss hosted a teleseminar, "Medicare Should Pay for Low Vision Devices: Views Through Different Lenses." We would like to thank all of the panelists (listed below) and participants who joined us for this informative discussion. A special thanks goes out to VFO who generously sponsored the event. Following are a few of the main takeaways from the call: Medicare must determine that low vision devices are eligible durable medical equipment

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, &

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

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

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

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

Analyzing Labor Markets and Employment Outcomes for the American Foundation for the Blind

Introduction Hello, AFB community, I'm Lorenzo Amani, currently a second-year doctoral student at Virginia Tech in the College of Public Administration and Public Affairs. I'm also a graduate assistant for Virginia Tech's Office of Budgeting and Financial Planning. My research interests are in labor market policy analysis, human capital management, and workforce development. I'm assisting the AFB staff this summer to develop various research designs that could inform employment and workforce development practitioners who serve people who are blind or visually impaired. Thus far,

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

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

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

My Perspective on the 2017 Cogswell-Macy Act Capitol Hill Day

For the second time, the American Foundation for the Blind, joined by other groups representing students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or deafblind, held an advocacy day on Capitol Hill for the Cogswell-Macy Act. A vast and diverse group of advocates came from 29 states with the intent of convincing members of Congress to support a bill that would immensely help to give children with sensory disabilities an equal chance to excel in the classroom and beyond. We kicked off our Hill Day with a briefing at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington,

Wrapping Up the 2017 AFB Leadership Conference

From left to right: Bernadette Kappen, Ph.D., Executive Director of the New York Institute for Special Education, Mark Richert, Esq., Kirk Adams, president and CEO of AFB, Lee Huffman, editor of AccessWorld Magazine, Matt Kaplowitz, President and Chief Creative Officer of Bridge Multimedia, Tanseela Molani, Design Researcher for United Airlines, and David Jeppson, Executive Director of Computers for the Blind The AFB Leadership Conference has been jam-packed. We were so proud last night to honor Bridge Multimedia,

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

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

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

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

Checking in from the CTIA Super Mobility Conference

Paul Schroeder, AFB Vice President, Programs and Policy This week in Las Vegas it's everything wireless at the CTIA Super Mobility conference. CTIA, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, hosts the show and notably also hosts an Accessibility Outreach Initiative Forum as part of the conference. I am pleased to participate in the forum and express appreciation to CTIA for making it possible to attend. I thought I'd share some of the points from the forum on September 7. AFB has been collecting the views of people with vision loss through a series of

The ADA Anniversary: What We're Not Celebrating

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each year, advocates look for ways in which to properly commemorate the ADA and to celebrate the promise of equal access that it represents. We at the American Foundation for the Blind are also weighing in, not only with praise for the barriers that the ADA has broken down, but also with concern about the work that still needs to be done. We are deeply disappointed that we're celebrating yet another ADA anniversary without the long-overdue clarifications of the ADA's application to cyberspace that the Obama Administration promised us years ago. Sadly, the latest

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

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

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,

Save the Helen Keller Archives: Day 6

Welcome to this, the sixth day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. The total has risen to a fabulous $22,656! However, we still need to raise $2,344 to reach our goal of $25,000, and we only have two days left of the fundraiser. Remember, every dollar we raise will be matched by the National Endowment for the Humanities, so please donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook. See beyond a person’s disability… "When we do the best that

25 Years After the ADA: Blind Still Missing from the Workforce

Struggles to achieve equality are never completely won. Allegations of bias and the tragic stain of racist violence dominate headlines decades after the Civil Rights Act was signed. American women strivestillfor equal pay in the workplace. And even as LGBT Americans celebrate the U.S. Supreme Courts affirmation of same-sex marriage, the response in some sectors of the country signals that their fight for acceptance is far from over. The lesson, always, is that no law or court decision promising equality can deliver as intended without a sustained, collective effort to follow through on its protections. At a moment when equality is very much on the minds of Americans, its fitting that weve arrived at the

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

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

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

The Joy of Voting Independently as a Blind or Visually Impaired Citizen

Man voting with an accessible voting machine Yesterday was Election Day, the day that we all head to the polls to cast our ballot for our chosen candidates for the many races impacting our lives. By all, I mean a decent amount of the population, especially during a non-presidential voting year. I can't tell you the pride and joy that I get out of being able to vote. It is not even just voting; it is that I was able to go to my polling location and ask to use the accessible polling option. Then, crazy thing, I was able to access the ballot and vote without the assistance of another individual. What a conceptto want to

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

It's National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Expect. Employ. Empower.

Each October, we mark National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme for 2014 is “Expect. Employ. Empower.” AFB’s CareerConnect team is dedicated to building tools, content, resources, and awareness around employment for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. We believe it is an exciting time in the United States with so many big changes and legislation working toward equality for persons with disabilities. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are making progress. I often hear stories around the United States from professionals working in the blindness field and for

Helen Keller at the United Nations

As world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly, it is interesting to read the speech that Keller wrote for the United Nations in 1950. "Dear Friends: Truly it is an exalted privilege for me to address such a splendid gathering representing the humanitarian public spirit of world citizenship. As United Nations Week brings home to us the far-speeding activities of our global Prometheus, it is fitting that we hail an organization whose final triumph is bound up with the salvation and

The Need for Access: AFB Testimony on Intellectual Property Law

Note: The following is testimony made by Mark Richert, AFB's director of public policy, on how copyright law affects those with vision loss. For a primer on this topic, please see All Rights ReservedHow Copyright Law Can Leave People Who Are Blind Out. Video of this testimony is also available from the U.S. House of Representatives. Before the United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Hearing on Chapter 12 of Title 17

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

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

Too Little, Too Late: On DOT’s New Rules for Air Travelers with Disabilities

So many of us who have been waiting for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to get off the dime and issue their long-awaited regulations on airline website and airport kiosk accessibility were excited this week to finally see them published. However, like so much it seems in the technology and civil rights for people with disabilities context, we are given relatively little and expected to gush with gratitude. That's certainly the case with these new DOT rules. Even though airlines have been repeatedly challenged to improve

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

Be an Advocate! Help Strengthen Specialized Services

As advocates for people who are blind or visually impaired, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) knows first-hand the value of specialized services. They change lives by teaching people with vision loss the skills needed to thrive in the classroom, the workplace and everyday life. Yet, these services are almost perpetually in danger of being cut due to shrinking state budgets. It is therefore crucial that we continue to advocate to our policymakers of their importance, and to ensure such services are kept in place. To that end, AFB has created new advocacy materials on strengthening specialized services that we hope you will share with your

More on the Government Shutdown: Do We Fully Understand What’s at Stake?

As the federal government shutdown continues, I am troubled by some of what I've been hearingand some of what I've not been hearing. On October 1, as the shutdown began, I heard some comments on news programs that they didn't really notice any change. And as Day 1 of the shutdown came to a close, the House of Representatives took up bills to fund certain parts of the government, the ones that people may already be noticing, such as closed national parks. This is sad and irresponsible. Of course, the most noticeable activities of our federal government do, in fact, continueair traffic controllers, military and Social

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

Be Like Helen on Her Birthday; Be an Advocate!

[Editor's note: The following post is authored by Keller Johnson-Thompson, Helen Keller's great-grandniece.] My Great Grand Aunt, Helen Keller, was a unique woman. Not only did she overcome the double dungeon of darkness and silence in her own life, but she fought to help others overcome the obstacles that stood in the paths of their lives as well. From women's suffrage, to civil rights, to labor laws, my aunt wanted a world in which every individual would have equal rights under the law. I know without a

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

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

One Major Step Closer to Ending an International Book Famine

Convenient and affordable access to books in formats that can be read by individuals who are blind or visually impaired has long been a major struggle. With high-quality audio and braille production, and more recently, digital production, books are now far more available for those of us with vision loss, at least in the wealthier nations. Although copyright laws in many nations allow production of accessible books for people who cannot read print, it is quite difficult and often illegal to share these accessible books across international borders. And, even with all the progress we've made, only a very small percentage of published books

Advocacy Request: Tell the FCC No Waivers For TV Industry Groups

Hurricane Sandy sent us a potent reminder of the need to ensure that information about emergencies is available to people with vision loss. Television has become the most common way to distribute information about weather or other emergencies, including notices regarding evacuation. Unfortunately, people who are blind or visually impaired are unable to read the scrolling information that often appears on television screens during an emergency, so they do not have efficient access to information about closures, evacuations or other pertinent local emergency information. As we prepare for winter weather, we again

Urgent: Take Action to Ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Please take action today—this afternoon and early tomorrow—and contact your U.S. senators to urge them to vote yes to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Senate will take up the CRPD tomorrow (December 4) at noon. It is fitting that we take this action today, as we recognize the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The CRPD has strong support, with every major disability organization supporting it and the business community also expressing support. Unfortunately, some political leaders who resist international efforts are spreading lies about the impact of the CRPD on laws in the United States. In short, the CRPD will have no impact on U.S. law, which already sets the standard worldwide for disability rights and

Braille Remains Vital, But Modifications Needed

Since its inception, the American Foundation for the Blind has been dedicated to promoting the use of braille. We have championed braille literacy, the use of technology to facilitate access to information in braille, the development of effective codes to allow for efficient production of braille material, and even for sharing of braille material across international borders. We continue this work by stating our strong endorsement of the Unified English Braille Code (UEBC) and call upon the Braille Authority of North America to adopt this code. Adoption of the UEBC is all the more important as it would allow the United States to take advantage of

Tell the FCC to Say NO to Inaccessible Gaming and Communications Technologies!

An Email Today'll Keep the Waiver Away! A while back, lobbyists representing the highly lucrative gaming technology industry filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking a formal waiver from any requirement stemming from the landmark 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), ensuring key communications features, such as text chat and other forms of electronic messaging included with their gaming technologies, will be accessible. While the CVAA does permit the FCC to grant waivers in those instances where specific technologies may be both designed and marketed for primary

Urge Your Senators to Ratify International Disability Rights Accord!

On July 26, the 22nd anniversary of the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is considering whether to recommend that the Senate ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Now is the time for all advocates to urge each of your two Senators to support the CRPD when it comes before the Senate. While the Foreign Relations Committee is expected to report the CRPD out favorably, clearing it for Senate floor action, some vocal opposition generally rooted in anti-UN, anti-internationalism ideologies has been getting attention. Contact

Accessible Drug Label Bill Passes in House; on Course for President's Signature

On Wednesday, June 20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed comprehensive legislation, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. Advocates will recall that companion legislation had previously passed the Senate including provisions that would establish national best practices for retail and other pharmacies to use in providing accessible prescription drug labeling to their customers with vision loss. Once these best practices are promulgated, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study will assess the extent to which pharmacies are employing such best practices and improving access. Once enacted,

Senate Passes Accessible Drug Label Bill

On May 24, by a vote of 96 to 1, the U.S. Senate passed a massive package of policy updates known as the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. Read more about the legislation at: The Senate-passed version of this bill includes provisions that would establish national best practices for retail and other pharmacies to use in providing accessible prescription drug labeling to their customers with

Education, Technology and Accessibility

We're pretty focused around here on trying to improve opportunities for people with vision loss to use our talents and pursue our dreams. Certainly, education is one of the most important opportunities and we know that the right technologies are opening up access to education like never before. This week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) convened a hearing to spotlight the need to ensure that access to education is enhanced through the deployment of accessible technology. You can read more about the hearing in our breaking news item from AccessWorld. Senator Harkin was

Coming Soon to a Living Room Near You: Video Description

Big news for all the TV lovers out there: the FCC just took a decisive step toward ensuring more video described programming is available to people with vision loss. This week, the FCC voted unanimously (4-0) to require leading broadcast and cable channels to offer at least 50 hours of described programming every calendar quarter. This will allow those of us who are blind or visually impaired to keep up with news and pop culture and more fully participate in society. When the new rules kick in July 1, 2012, video description will begin to take its rightful place along side closed captioning as a useful and popular means for enjoying TV. And just like captioning, we can expect that a service first deployed for people with disabilities will grow into a medium with much wider