With summer nearly upon us, we invite you to join us as we explore the two largest blindness/low vision groups in the United States throughout the month of May. Regardless of whether you plan to participate in a convention this summer, we will cover the ins and outs of these organizations and how they can provide support to transition-age students.
- May 3: Overview of ACB and NFB
- May 10: ACB and NFB 2022 National Conventions
- May 17: ACB and NFB Statewide
- May 24: Students in the ACB and the NFB
- May 31: Parents and Families in the ACB and the NFB
In this first installment of our organization exploration, we will provide an overview of these two consumer groups and share how they can enrich the lives of those who are blind/have low vision.
The two largest and most active blindness/low vision consumer-driven groups in America are the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Both of these organizations feature national conventions every summer, regularly advocate on Capitol Hill for accessibility and rights for the blind, and foster opportunities for mentorship for blind people across the United States. Many blind Americans choose to participate in these organizations in some capacity, whether they want to volunteer, need assistance or mentoring, are seeking community, or most often some combination of the three.
The Importance of Mentorship
Finding a community within the membership is part of what makes these groups so successful and effective. Maybe you are the only student at your school with blindness/low vision, or the only person in your family.
Many members of both of these organizations did not know any other blind people before joining. These organizations are an opportunity to connect with individuals who share similar life experiences, and with that comes a perfect place to learn from one another.
Members can have conversations about how they accomplish a task and trade ideas about how to navigate particularly visual situations. In this way, all members share information with one another, and everyone benefits as they add more tools to the toolbox. Mentorship, both formal and informal, is a cornerstone of both of these organizations in terms of practical and emotional support.
Special Interest Groups
Both ACB and NFB have special interest groups within their organizations. These groups are focused on a hobby, profession, or topic and allow all participants to learn and share about that particular subject. For example, both organizations have a Lawyers’ group where blind lawyers and prospective law students can network and learn from those in the profession. Both organizations also feature an art or crafting group where one can learn all about all this nonvisual creativity.
Usually, these special interest groups will have a meeting at the national convention. Even if you are not going to either convention, many of these groups meet virtually throughout the year, and you can feel free to reach out to the contact person listed on the website to learn how you can start attending meetings.
Explore the lists (ACB Special Interest Affiliates List and NFB Divisions, Committees, and Groups List) and see what matches your interests. You never know – someone out there may just have the nonvisual tip that you have been looking for or are ready to welcome you with open arms into their community!
Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- Text: Send to: (410) 305-9199
- Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page or Facebook Messenger
- Voice mail: Call (443) 320-4003, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.