NABS NOTES | March 2019

President’s Note 


National Federation of the Blind Applauds the Introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act 

The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest organization of blind Americans, applauds the introduction of the Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA) of 2019 (S. 815) by Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). This bipartisan legislation removes an employment barrier commonly experienced by blind Americans who cannot afford the high cost of access technology by creating a refundable tax credit in the amount of $2,000 to offset the cost of these technologies. Additional champions include Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Robert Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Doug Jones (D-AL), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 


Senator Boozman said: "As an optometrist, I know how essential access technology is for blind Americans to achieve educational and employment goals. The high cost of this technology continues to be a barrier for so many who are ready and willing to work. With almost 71 percent of blind Americans unemployed, I am pleased to work with my colleagues and re-introduce this commonsense bipartisan legislation that will reduce the financial burden associated with these items and ensure that blind Americans can receive the tools they need to succeed in the classroom, the workplace, and within the community." 


"Making access technology affordable is critical to ensuring that blind individuals can participate fully in our communities and have equal access to every opportunity," said Senator Ben Cardin. "I am proud we have bipartisan support for this empowering legislation, which gives blind Marylanders, and all blind Americans, flexible economic support to help them lead full and successful lives." 


Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "My wife, my two daughters, and I are all blind, and the children's technology needs are going to increase as they continue their education and start their careers. My family is not unique; blind people across the nation face this challenge, and this legislation will provide critical assistance. We thank and commend our outstanding senate champions for putting forward this legislation, which will help give blind people the technology they need to live the lives they want." 


National Convention Preregistration 

The annual National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas from July 7 to July 12, 2019. Preregistration for the convention is now open! You can preregister from March 1 to May 31, 2019 at: 

After May 31, preregistration will close, and you will need to register on site at the convention. 


$100 Blind Users Innovating and Leading Design (BUILD) Opportunity 

Individuals Needed to Test an Order Pickup Locker Kiosk 


We are currently seeking 12 blind individuals to test the accessibility/usability of an order pickup locker kiosk. The testing should take approximately 30 to 45 minutes and will take place in New York City on April 3rd and 4th at a location TBA. No special skills are required. 

The tester will receive an email on their smartphone with a pickup code that then needs to be entered into the order pickup locker kiosk. The tester will need to insert their headphones built into the locker and navigate the kiosk menus. Potential testers should have a basic knowledge of using text to speech software on their smartphone to read the email. Individuals will be paid $100 to offset any expenses incurred to participate. 

To be considered for participation in this testing, and other opportunities, sign up as a member of our BUILD team at:


Blind Performers Called to Action 

A message from Julie Mcginnity, President of the NFB Performing Arts Division: 


On April 4th, the CW plans to launch a television series called “In the Dark,” which features a blind character as the lead.  This series is just the latest in a long line of shows and movies about the blind without the blind. The National Federation of the Blind was not consulted at all by the CW during the writing or casting process, and the producers claim they could not find a blind actress to play the leading role.  For this reason, and in light of resolutions passed by our conventions on this topic, we issued a strong statement urging the cancellation of the series. 

You can visit the statement at: 

We now need to follow up that statement with action. We cannot allow Hollywood to define us any longer.  The blind belong at the center of our own stories, playing blind characters and taking our place on screen alongside our sighted colleagues. 

It is time for blind performers to speak up and share our experiences.  We must dispel the myth that blind talent does not exist and demand to increase opportunities for blind actors of all skill levels.  Together we can show Hollywood that there shall be no excuses for their failure to cast us. 


Fellow performers, we would like to hear from you. Connect with us if you have ever been discouraged from being an actor or performer.

  1. Email your story to <>
  2. Likewise, if you have a successful experience acting in a film, TV show, or stage production, please share your story with us by emailing <> 
  3. If you are a performer and would be available to help us with an event in New York City the first week of April, please call me at (410)659-9314 (Ex. 2509). 
  4. Show your support on social media.  Use #LetUsPlayUs. 


I look forward to hearing your stories and working with you to raise expectations in Hollywood. 


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 <> In NFB member can move from any plan to one of these and from one of these to any other Aira plan. 


Mobility and Quality of Life 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 Akiva and I'm a visually impaired student studying mobility and its effect on the quality of life of the visually impaired and blind population. For my research paper, I am conducting a survey to learn more about your experiences in regards to mobility as someone with reduced vision. The survey is completely anonymous and is compatible with screen readers. I will be thoroughly reviewing every response I receive, so your participation is vital for me to determine the feasibility of new technologies to aid those with visual impairments and blindness. 

Please follow the link below to complete my survey at your earliest convenience. Rest assured, no identifying information will be collected or shared. No compensation will be provided for completing this survey. 


Any questions? Please feel free to email me at 


NABS Committee Updates 

Get involved! 

  • Legislative Advocacy Committee  

When: third Sunday of the month | 8pm eastern 

Chair: Justin Salisbury (

The importance of equal employment continues to be one of our main focuses. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act was introduced in the Senate by Senator Casey of Pennsylvania and Senator Van Hollen of Maryland, and was assigned bill number S. 260. In the House, Chairman Bobby Scott of Virginia and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington introduced companion legislation, H.R. 873. These bills would phase out Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act over a six-year period, at which point the provision would officially be sunset. Please call or email your senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 260 and call or email your representative and has him or her to cosponsor H.R. 873. We would also like to highlight the launch of the newest initiative of the Legislative Advocacy Committee. 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. We are asking students to write and publish articles in school and university newspapers to inform your student bodies about the issue of subminimum wages for workers with disabilities. An example can be found at: 

If you have room in your pieces, please mention the bill numbers to identify the federal bills, and state bills, if applicable, to end the payment of subminimum wages. If you do not have a school newspaper, look to local newspapers in your communities. Once these articles are published, please share them on social media, the NABS list serve, and spread the message even further! 


  • Fundraising Committee 

When: Second Sunday of the month | 9pm eastern 

Chair: Elizabeth Rouse (

We are in the process of planning and implementing strategies to boost our student division’s financial resources. We discussed topics such as Washington Seminar financial recaps, as well as March Madness.


  • Outreach Committee 

When: first Monday of the month | 9pm eastern

Chair: Janae Burgmeier (

Web Master: Dustin Cather (

This month’s theme centered on how to build and maintain a student division. We provided many helpful tips, such as identifying and taking advice from mentors, meeting people where they are as individuals, accomplishing a little every day, managing time wisely, seeking out resources, establishing and upholding a routine, and having fun. For more details, please check out our NABS Facebook group, where each tip has been posted for your convenience. 


March Blog Post 

From the Editor:  

Katy Olsen is from Iowa and she currently serves as president of the Iowa Association of Blind Students, a proud division of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. Here is her story.  


Starting and Building a Student Division: In 2016, a group of college students and I who were new to the NFB of Iowa, saw what great things the NFB had to offer to us, and we didn’t want to keep it to ourselves. We knew that we had strong supportive mentors from our affiliate that would support us along the way, but we also recognized that if we wanted to start a student division, it would take some work. 

Fortunately, we had a very strong core foundation from the start that eventually turned into the student board that we have today. We came from different backgrounds and were at different points in accepting our blindness, but we all had the same goal and worked together to reach it. Just as expected, many people questioned whether we knew what it would take to start a division and warned us of the challenge we were entering. After some conversations as a group, we decided that we wanted to start an NFB of Iowa “student group”. To begin, we formed a group of leaders, much like a board and we took turns leading conference calls each month. At first, attendance was low and sometimes we questioned whether the time spent planning was worth it. As the year progressed, more and more students started coming to our calls. We improved our marketing strategies and found that personal invitations were extremely valuable. We would set up themed panels for our calls, comprised of both Iowa and outside students. Topics included internships, scholarships, budgeting and many other topics geared towards students. 

After our first year of piloting our student group, we felt that we were ready to take the next step and form the official Iowa student division. In October of 2017, our division took off. Since then, we have implemented new programs and strategies to meet the needs of even more blind students in Iowa. To build our division we have contacted college disability offices and aim to host socials at least 4 times each year in different regions of Iowa. This month, we are excited to be starting our member spotlights on our Facebook page. We will be featuring a new student from our membership each month to emphasize their accomplishments and help our community get to know one another. We have come a long way from the initial idea to form a student division and look forward to our future as the Iowa Association of Blind Students. 


NABS Facebook Group 

Join our Facebook group by visiting: 


Kathryn Webster | President 

National Association of blind Students 

A proud division of the National Federation of the Blind 

(410) 417-8360