NABS NOTES | February 2019

In this issue, you will find: 

  • President’s Note 
  • 2019 Scholarship Program 
  • A Call to Action from our Legislative Chair
  • Lawsuit Brings Equity to Blind Voters Registering to Vote 
  • Engineer Your Summer! Announcing STEM Program for Blind and Low-Vision Teens 
  • National Federation of the Blind Celebrates Ratification of Marrakesh Treaty 
  • Aira Plans for NFB Members 
  • Work Experience Survey  
  • NABS Committee Updates 
  • February Blog Post 
  • NABS Facebook Group 

President’s Note 

‘We are the National Federation of the Blind and we cannot be shut down.’ This was our slogan proudly cheered by all at the end of January, as NABS landed with a splash in our nation’s capital. We kicked the weekend off with a leadership training, supported by our national president and attended by a handful of national and state leaders, as well as 30 selected stars across our affiliates. Blind students with promising potential were brought together to challenge, grow, and learn alongside each other as we develop into future leaders of the Federation. Students were pushed to think on their feet and improve their presentation skills, when given only a few minutes to structure and pitch an idea for a disruptive startup. Ample opportunities were available to apply these leadership skills, as we facilitated parts of the national mentor program, which coincided with our leadership seminar. Finally, we benefited most from bonding with one another and, through combining our diverse ideas, we created lasting connections.

On Monday, everyone headed to the Hill to get to work! Over 100 blind students attended our NABS Winter Seminar, 32 of which were sponsored through the NABS funding program and the gracious financial assistance of our national president. There were presentations by Stanford University student Trisha Kulkarni, our Government Affairs manager Gabe Cazares, and our trusted national President, Mark Riccobono. We finished Day 1 of Washington Seminar at our inaugural Federation Fiesta, previously NABS Café, where Federationists wined, dined, and bid while listening to delightful music. Shout out to Edward Shaham of Connecticut for coordinating such a phenomenal event for NABS!

Your NABS family is beyond excited for 2019 and all it has to offer! The Midwest Regional Student Seminar is right around the corner, with the southeast and pacific later this summer. You will not want to miss this year’s National Convention in Las Vegas, as it promises to be one of the largest conventions in Federation history. I wish you the best of luck this semester; and remember, we are always a phone call away.




2019 scholarship Program 

Apply today for an opportunity to attend this year’s national convention in Las Vegas!

Every year, the National Federation of the Blind awards more than $120,000 in scholarships to blind students across the United States. Visit for more information and to start your application! The deadline to apply is March 31st so please don’t wait until the last minute to apply! Good luck!



A Call to Action from our Legislative Chair

Aloha to the members and leaders of the National Association of Blind Students!

I am proud to announce the launch of the newest initiative of the Legislative Advocacy Committee. Every theme in this initiative is likely going to be familiar: writing, subminimum wages, and school newspapers.

As a proud Division of the National Federation of the Blind, part of our task is to carry the message of the Federation into the unique space that we occupy: the student bodies of high schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities. We have unique opportunities to use our connections to student bodies to get them talking about subminimum wages for workers with disabilities. Maybe some of us will even succeed at building coalitions with student governments and campus organizations. This is already happening in Hawaii, and it is making a noticeable difference in the political scene.

The ask is simple. Please write and publish articles in school and university newspapers to inform your student bodies about the issue of subminimum wages for workers with disabilities. Here is an example of one that I wrote: "Workers with Disabilities Deserve Protections<>." If you have room to mention the bill numbers to identify the federal bills, and state bills if your state has one, to end the payment of subminimum wages, that might help guide people to take action. Not every school has a newspaper, so, if you don't have one, I encourage you to write for a local newspaper that your student body might read.

As students, most of us often feel stressed when it comes to writing. We always have assignments and deadlines, and we don't always know what to write. This will be different, though. This is a topic that we already understand better than 99 percent of the students on our campus. School newspapers are always looking for interesting new content, and they always have a place where students like us can submit op-ed style articles, opinion pieces, guest columns, or letters to the editor. Please just take a few minutes to tell them all what's going on with subminimum wages. After all, our classmates are going to college to build their earning potential so that they can earn a real wage, too.

Once you've published in your school newspapers, I encourage you to remember that this is only a starting point. Publishing can be addicting, and you can continue to use your student brains and writing skills to keep publishing in more newspapers and magazines. The further our message carries, the stronger our movement will be.

Don't forget, you have tons of Federationists available to help. Our movement is 50,000 members strong, and we are all here to help each other. I am happy to be a resource to anyone who needs me, and I'm sure you hear the same from your local leaders, too.

Once you get these articles published, please share them on social media and spread the message even further! I would love to see these articles posted on the NABS-L mailing list.

Let's go build the Federation!

Justin M. Hideaki Salisbury
Chair | Legislative Advocacy Committee
Board Member | National Association of Blind Students
  A proud division of the National Federation of the Blind
(808) 797-8606



Lawsuit Brings Equity to Blind Voters Registering to Vote 

Settlement Is Most Comprehensive Ever to Make Voter Registration and Election Information Accessible to Millions of Blind Voters

Blind voters in New York will now have access to websites operated by the State Board of Elections (BOE) and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In a settlement just reached by blind voters, advocates, and the two state agencies, the BOE and the DMV have agreed to ensure fully accessible voter registration by the end of 2019. The agreement resolves a lawsuit brought in 2016 by the National Federation of the Blind<> (NFB), the Center for the Independence of the Disabled, New York (CIDNY), and two individual blind plaintiffs, Eva Eason and Meghan Parker. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Disability Rights Program, Brown Goldstein & Levy, LLP, and Disability Rights Advocates.

Plaintiffs in this lawsuit had tried repeatedly to register to vote online-a process that should be both easier and more confidential than a trip to the DMV. However, both websites presented barriers to those who use screen-reader software-a common type of assistive technology that allows blind users to hear text and navigate websites. Other portions of the DMV and BOE websites were also inaccessible-including important information on polling places, election information, and voting results.

Eva Eason, plaintiff, said, "I am thrilled that we have settled the suit and increased understanding of the importance of accessible web formats. It is my fundamental right to access and navigate websites as freely as my sighted counterparts. No voter should be overlooked by the state. Every vote must count. This is long overdue."

Under the agreement, the BOE and the DMV will make their websites accessible to screen-access software within two years. They will also work with an accessibility consultant and put in place practices and procedures to ensure that the websites stay accessible in the long term. A federal court publicly approved the settlement last week.

"Voting is one of the most precious rights that we have as citizens, and while it culminates in the casting of a ballot in an election, it involves much more," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "We commend the New York State Board of Elections and Department of Motor Vehicles for recognizing that the privacy and independence of blind voters are no less important than those of other voters, and we look forward to working with these agencies to make voter registration and access to critical information fully accessible to blind New Yorkers. We further hope that other state election officials will take note of this historic and comprehensive agreement as they work to ensure the rights of their blind voters."

Susan M. Dooha, executive director of the CIDNY, said, "For people who are blind, an inaccessible website is voter suppression. We are proud to have brought about an agreement with the NYS BOE and DMV...This shows that the state can eliminate barriers that prevent the enfranchisement of people with disabilities."


Engineer Your Summer! Announcing STEM Program for Blind and Low-Vision Teens 

Text available in Spanish from:

Join the National Federation of the Blind at our NFB Engineering Quotient (EQ) program this summer. NFB EQ is a week-long program of hands-on lessons and various recreational activities that does not require a specific level of previous engineering experience. Receive countless opportunities to gain greater experience, confidence, and independence, while forming new friendships along the way.


Who: 30 blind and low-vision teens

What: A weeklong summer engineering program

When: June 16-22, 2019

Where: Baltimore, Maryland.

How: Apply Now! Applications are due March 17, 2019. 

Cost: No registration fee! Read the FAQs for more detail about cost.

Eligibility Requirements: Students must be enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2018-2019 school year in a school (public, private, charter, residential, or home school) in the United States, be blind or have low-vision, and be available to attend the entire program. Participant’s transportation to and from the program will be arranged by the National Federation of the Blind. Students will travel to Baltimore on Sunday and will travel home on the following Saturday. This is a residential program; students will stay in dormitories at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute and all meals will be provided.

What Are People Saying About NFB EQ?

“NFB EQ gave me more confidence to keep doing what I want—no one can stop me! The program opened my eyes to even more options in the field [of engineering] and it gave me some confidence that I can do some mechanical stuff that I didn’t think I could do before.” – Michael, Texas

“I increased my drawing skills at NFB EQ. The tactile drawing board helped me, because I could feel what I drew. Visualizations also have gotten easier [going from drawing to model to prototype]. In engineering, you have to picture an idea in your mind and then draw it before you can build it. When you draw it, you can really see how it's going to come together.” – Trey, Kentucky

“I am amazed at how the people involved in organizing this program made everything so easy for us. From organizing logistics to making sure the schedule was running smoothly for the students—the whole event was very successful. The staff’s warmth and attention to detail really eased my mind and made me feel good about leaving my son at the program for the week.” Mark (father), North Carolina

If you have any questions, please email or call 410-659-9314, extension 2418.

Visit our NFB EQ web page to learn more and to apply!


National Federation of the Blind Celebrates Ratification of Marrakesh Treaty 

This month, the United States government formalized its ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty by depositing the US instrument of ratification with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). This action begins a ninety-day waiting period, after which the treaty will officially be in force as US policy, throwing open the doors to expanded literacy for the blind of America and the world. "The National Federation of the Blind seeks the removal of all artificial or unnecessary barriers to access to knowledge by the blind," said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. "That is why we championed the Marrakesh Treaty and fought for its signing and ratification by the United States. Today's deposit of the US ratification instrument represents the culmination of that effort, but even more importantly, it represents greater access to the world's literature and knowledge for blind people in America and across the world. We are therefore pleased to celebrate this historic moment with our blind brothers and sisters everywhere."

Read more regarding the Marrakesh Treaty in the following articles:

Marrakesh Express Rolling Home

US House of Representatives Passes Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act

United States Senate Greenlights Marrakesh Treaty and Implementing Legislationhttp://<>

Senate Committee Votes to Advance Marrakesh Treaty>

The National Federation of the Blind Applauds the Introduction of Legislation Implementing the Marrakesh Treaty 


Aira Plans for NFB Members 

Two Aira plans are now available only to members of the National Federation of the Blind. A new introductory plan offers thirty minutes a month for twenty dollars. The regular NFB plan, which has been in place for some time now, offers 140 minutes per month for ninety-nine dollars. The regular NFB plan comes with smart glasses, allows for minute sharing, permits purchasing additional non-expiring minutes if one is running short, and lets members get credit for referrals. One can also buy additional minutes with the larger plan. These options are not available with the introductory twenty dollar per month plan.

One can subscribe to these plans by calling an Aira agent at 800-835-1934 or by signing up online by going to http://<> In NFB member can move from any plan to one of these and from one of these to any other Aira plan.


Work Experience Survey 

The below research participant solicitation is being provided for informational purposes only. The National Federation of the Blind has no involvement in this research, but we believe that it may contribute to our research mission.

My name is Mike Knott. I am a Doctoral Candidate in Industrial Organizational Psychology at Louisiana Tech University. As part of my dissertation, I welcome your participation in a survey on the challenges and negative experiences that people who are significantly visually impaired or blind experience in the workplace.

Qualifications: To qualify for the research, you must be at least 18 years old, significantly visually impaired or blind (visual acuity of 20/100 or worse, with correction), and employed at least part time. Even if you work from home or work for a few hours per week, I welcome your participation as long as you meet the other criteria.

The following link will take you to the survey.

If you provide your e-mail address at the end of the survey, you will be entered in a drawing for a $100 Visa gift card. The survey should take 15 to 20 minutes depending on your responses. If for some reason you experience technical difficulties with the online survey, or would prefer a phone survey, please email me at and I will set up a call.  I very much appreciate your help with this research.


NABS Committee Updates 

Get involved! 

  • Legislative Advocacy Committee  

When: third Sunday of the month | 8pm eastern 

Chair: Justin Salisbury (

Our work on Capitol Hill does not stop when we leave Washington DC. Competitive employment bills, which would help to eliminate atrocities such as subminimum wages, are on the rise in both the House and Senate. AS such, it is vital that we as students make others aware of the issues at hand. We are asking students to submit content about employment discrimination to their local college newspapers in order to spread awareness.


  • Fundraising Committee 

When: Second and fourth Sunday of the month | 9pm eastern 

Chair: Elizabeth Rouse (

After Federation Fiesta at Washington Seminar, one of our most successful and entertaining fundraisers yet, we are in the process of brainstorming creative and innovative plans for this year’s national convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. Stay tuned to see how you can get involved!


  • Outreach Committee 

When: first Monday of the month | 9pm eastern

Chair: Janae Burgmeier (

Web Master: Dustin Cather (

This month’s theme was STEM careers. We held a very successful call in collaboration with the Science and Engineering Division. Going forward, we hope to host another informational call about the national scholarship program. On another note, we are gearing up for the Mid-West Student Seminar, which promises to be an unforgettable weekend filled with dynamic speakers, unique learning opportunities, and fun!


February Blog Post 

From the Editor:

Taylor Arndt is a freshman at Western Michigan

University studying computer science. She is part of the Michigan Association of Blind Students and the computer science division. She does many other things relating to the NFB, but those are the most important at this point.

Why Did I Want To Get Into Computer Science?

I wanted to get into computer science because I felt like there is a need to make software accessible while software is still being developed and tested. Today, software gets released to the public and is inaccessible for users. As a result, lawsuits and other consequences developed because of one simple problem of lack of accessibility training. My experiences, while I am still a freshman, I haven’t had that many computer science classes yet. Because in a computer science degree, math is a prerequisite which means I have to get my math before I can really dive in. With that being said, I have resorted to teaching myself and using other resources to get ahead. Some examples of resources I use are the computer science organization on my school's campus, online tutorials, and networking with the NFB computer science division. The advice I have for prospective computer science students who may not have the best math background just do it anyway. Don’t let the math stop your plans for living the life you want


NABS Facebook Group 

Join our Facebook group by visiting: 

Kathryn Webster | President 

The National Association of blind Students 

A proud division of the National Federation of the Blind 

(410) 417-8360