“Blind Parents Oppose Foundation Fighting Blindness’s #HowEyeSeeIt Campaign”

Please share and spread the word. This is a harmful campaign that we need to combat as best we can.


Hi. My name is Stacy Servanka and I live in Sacramento, California with my husband, Greg, and our three-year-old son, Leo. My husband and I both happen to be glind and our son is sighted.

I want to make this video today to talk to you about a campaign that I andthousands of other blind people feel is really, really harmful, and one thing that’s really frustrating is that this campaign is being sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, an organization that reports to help people with vision loss. I want to begin by saying that neither my husband nor I, nor most of the people who appose this campaign, are against vision research, or—and—you know, many of us have even benefited from vision research. However, we are against this campaign for a number of reasons.

First of all, the campaign asks sighted people to put on blindfolds and do various different challenges under blindfold without any sight. One of these challenges includes putting on a blindfold and trying to take care of your child for one minute without vision. Now, when most people do this, they feel like it’s very frustrating, maybe even impossible, and sometimes the results even appear to be comical. And another video that the Foundation Fighting Blindness has put out recently is a video that shows some kids playing in a park, and slowly, the screen goes dark, and the message at the endsays that vision loss robs parents of the opportunity to play with their children at the park, and to take their children to the park. 

Why these messages are so very harmful, especially to parents, is that blind people still today face huge amounts of discrimination in employment, housing—even, you know—although it is against the law in most places to take away custody of children based soley on a parent’s disability, blind parents are still regularly questioned by social workers, child protection agencies… Greg and I, when we gave birth to Leo—I woke up about twelve hours after giving birth to a team of thirteen people—doctors—surrounding my hospital bed who were interrogating me about how my husband and I would take care of our son. They made us meet with a social worker, who of course was able to recognize right away that Greg and I—you know—are very fit parents. And so while there is legal protection for blind parents, blind parents still run into issues with social services agences every day, which is why campaigns that imply that it is unsafe or impossible for blind parents to take care of their kids have real-world, devastating consequences.

That fact is that vision loss, as you can see by my husband, who is totally blindby the way—hi Leo, hi Greg!

[Greg and Leo say hi}

Okay, so, as you can see, right here, vision loss does not prevent parents from taking their child to the park. However, negative misconceptions literally does prevent people from having the experience that you see Greg and I having here today.

We also want to throw out there that you don’t understand the experience of being a black person in the country and all the—you know—social and economic, and you know—all the issues that people of color face by putting on black paste, or dressing up as a Latino person for Halloween. You don’t understand what it’s like to be homeless by camping outside for an evening. Putting on a blindfold and purporting that that’s what it’s like to be blind is completely offensive and does not take into consideration the lived experiences that blind people have every single day.

Furthermore, a lot of these videos are supposed to be funny, like “heeey, well y’know I put on a blindfold, now watch how terrible I am at doing all this stuff.” So, it basically makes it feel like you think our lives are… funny. Which, you know—honestly, often they kinda are. We do do a lot of hilarious things—but, uh, I don’t think that’s the spirit we’re going for.

So, really, one thing that I’d like to implore to all of you—I’m going to try turning this around. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully you can see me. Probably better if you can’t—but, um, as much of you know, that, um, the muscular dystrophy telethon was recently discontinued this year because people with disabilities found it offensive, because people with disabilities were portrayed in a pitiful, sort of pathetic manor, and even though we weren’t against the research that was being done by that organization, we were against those telethons, so finally those ended. So, I’m really hoping that the Foundation Fighting Blindness will take a que from the Muscular Dystrophy Association and start actually listening to people with disabilities, because trying to help us when we’re telling you that something is offensive is really, really disrespectful and condescending.

You know, this might not be the best production video—I’m hoping you can actually see me—but uh… In any case, we just are really asking people to really think before you give money to this campaign, and to perhaps—if you want to support vision loss or y’know vision research—to possibly consider either a donation to the National Federation of the Blind, which is an organization that helps people who are already blind, or making a donation to your local hospital or eye-clinic or some other organization.

In any case, hope you’re all doing well. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in comments. Thank you.]

Our benevolent superiors (self-appointed, self-governing, self-important, self-willed) have determined that a wage structure in our country that offers to pay us less than the federally guaranteed minimum wage available to everybody else has been established for our own good…They tell us that our lives have been improved through this system of government-authorized discrimination, while they collect their six- and seven-figure compensation packages.
—  Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, on Goodwill and the practice of paying disabled workers fractions of the minimum wage

Image description: A PSA image for the nonpartisan Election Protection hotline. (I am not affiliated with them, but I think they do important work and that it’s important to be aware that they exist. They’re an organization led by lawyers who care about your right to vote).


“Any questions or concerns about voting? Call us:

Election Protection English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)

Spanish/English: 888-VE-Y-VOTA 888-839-8682

Asian Languages: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)

Arabic/English: 844-418-1682″

(If you’re reading this with a screen reader, you may also be interested in the National Federation of the Blind’s election day hotline (1-877-632-1940 from 7 a.m. EST to 7 p.m. PST) for blind and low vision voters)


“Collateral Damage”

 National Federation of the Blind member john Pere explains why he refuses to become collateral damage of the Foundation Fighting Blindmess’s #HowEyeSeeIt campaign.


“Hi. This is John Pere, and I’m with the National Federation of the blind.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is currently running a campaign to raise money for research to help find a cure to blindness, called HowEyeSeeIt, but there’s a big problem.

Right now, what they do is they have people—sighted people—wear a blindfold, and then ask them to do routine things, like maybe take care of their child for a minute, and then report on that. The problem with this and a lot of the things that they suggest the person do with the blindfold is it has the unintended consequence of making people think that their experience is similar to what a blind person really goes through.

I am a blind person, and I am able to have a job, I get to work every day, I’m able to read the paper using a product called NFB Newsline, I’m able to use a computer, I’m able to travel anywhere in the world using my long white cane, and I’m able to live the life I want because I’ve gotten the training needed to live as a blind person. The key is that you’ve got to get the training. Now if you don’t get the training and wearing the blindfold a minute, blindness will seem like a tragedy. But see, there’s a real problem with portraying blindness as a tragedy.

I lost my job because my employer didn’t think I could work as a blind person People are losing their children; they’re being taken away by social services because the social workers think, just because you’re blind, you can’t raise a child. People aren’t getting the proper education because people in school think “oh if you’re blind, you won’t be able to perform with the same level as your sighted peers.”

So the biggest problem facing blind people around the world today—hundreds and millions of people—is the low expectations that sighted people have of blind people, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness is doing a program to make it worse!

Now, it’s okay for them to raise money to try to find a cure to blindness. But to hurt the lives, and the opportunities, and the future and the hopes of all blind people alive today, to make us the collateral damage, is unacceptable! And I urge the Foundation Fighting Blindness to cease and desist its program called “HowEyeSeeIt.” Please.”]
Boycott Goodwill Industries

It’s sickening to watch a “charitable organization” take advantage of the most vulnerable segments of society.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), one of the oldest and largest organizations of Americans with disabilities, today called for a boycott of Goodwill Industries International, Inc., the nonprofit manufacturer and retailer, for its payment of subminimum wages to many of its workers with disabilities.  Freedom of information requests filed by the NFB confirmed that Goodwill Industries employees have been paid as low as $1.44 an hour.

Meet the 13-Year-Old Who Invented a Low-Cost Braille Printer

According to the National Federation of the Blind, fewer than 10 percent of 1.3 million blind Americans can read Braille. By comparison, in the 1950s, more than half of blind children learned to read the series of raised bumps.

This change has been brought on, in part, by the growth in assistive technology. In the past decade, voice-to-text software has dramatically changed the lives of the visually impaired. There are software programs that read text aloud, and most consumer hardware devices such as smartphones and tablets come equipped with software that can answer questions or provide small bits of information. A surprisingly few people with low vision or blindness even have access to Braille materials.

Shubham Banerjee stumbled across these facts, just as he was trying to come up with an entry-level engineering project in January 2014 for a science fair.

The 12-year-old realized that while many people have devices able to read aloud in some capacity, assuming voice-to-text should replace Braille is a costly proposition and one many people simply can’t afford. What if he could significantly reduce the cost of a Braille printer from $2,000—the going rate for a traditional Braille printer-embosser—to $200? Some Silicon Valley startups had been trying to do the same but with little success.

Read more  -  Facebook


“Keep Calm, it’s Just A Cane.”

The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC), a division of the National Federation of the Blind, has been selling these “keep calm, it’s just a cane” t-shirts for a few years now during the NFB national convention, and I finally got one this year.

The shirt is blue-gray (though it also comes in neon red), and it says “KEEP CALM” followed by the blind person symbol (side profile of a stick person like the ones on bathroom signs walking with a long white cane) inside of a square outline, then followed by “IT’S JUST A CANE,” all written in white text.

They only sell them in July during convention both in person and online, but all of the proceeds go directly to the organization. Here is the link to the annual booster campaign that will be back up next year:

The Courtesy Rules of Blindness

(From the National Federation of the Blind website:

Some simple, straightforward pointers which encourage sighted persons to feel comfortable and at ease with blind individuals

When you meet me, don’t be ill at ease. It will help both of us if you remember these ten simple points of courtesy:

  • I’m an ordinary person, who happens to be blind. You can talk to me as you would anyone else—no need to raise your voice. If you have a question, please address me directly rather than asking my companion.
  • I may use a long white cane or a guide dog to walk independently. If I use a guide dog, please don’t pet, feed, or play with my dog without my permission. If I’m in an unfamiliar place, I may ask you for directions or assistance. Please don’t grab my arm, my cane, or my dog. If I need to and if you don’t mind, I’ll ask to take your arm just above the elbow and keep a half-step behind to anticipate curbs and steps.
  • When I am in a room, I like to know who else is there. Please speak or introduce yourself when you enter.
  • Please keep in mind that a door left partially open, particularly to an overhead cabinet or a car, is a potential hazard to me.
  • I do not have trouble with ordinary table skills. At meals, I can serve myself and pass items to other diners, so please don’t reach over or past me. Just let me know what’s being offered and I’ll take it from there.
  • There is no need to avoid words like “see” or “look.” I use them too—for example, I watch television.
  • Blindness is just the loss of sight. My sense of smell, touch, and/or hearing did not improve when I became blind. I simply rely on them more than you might and, therefore, may gather more information through those senses than you do.
  • If I’m your houseguest, there is no need to be extra attentive or to move any furniture; I’ll use my cane and other senses to find things or I will ask for your help.
  • I’ll discuss blindness with you if you’re curious, but feel free to talk to me about anything that interests you. I have as many other interests as you do.
  • In all 50 states, the law requires drivers to yield the right of way when they see my extended white cane or guide dog. Only the blind may legally carry white canes. Normally I can hear the sound of traffic and will behave like any other pedestrian. If you drive a hybrid or electric vehicle, I may not hear your car approach, so exercise caution and use the horn if needed. You see more blind persons today walking alone, not because there are more of us, but because we have learned to make our own way.

(Again, I did not write these. You can find them here.)

What the Shift to Mobile Means for Blind News Consumers

If a website is designed haphazardly, it doesn’t only look out of control. The user experience can be just as messy for someone who can’t see.

“News apps are just completely frustrating,” said Christopher Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind. "Blind people, the way we deal with this, is we share information about what apps tend to work, so I don’t tend to download something unless I have a pretty good sense that I’m going to be able to deal with it.“ 

The problem with much of the web—and, in particular, its newsier corners—is that it’s designed without consideration for people who aren’t navigating by sight. In many cases, the busier a website looks, the harder it is for people who use tools like audio screen-readers to get where they want to go, or even figure out where to go in the first place.

But Danielsen says design for accessibility is getting much better, albeit largely by accident. "The mobile world is taking over where the web used to be dominant,” he told me. “For blind people as well as for sighted people in many cases, that’s a good thing.”

Read more. [Image: Reuters]


Honored as a White House Champion of Change, and the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, Haben Girma advocates for the civil rights of persons with disabilities. A celebrated speaker, she provided the introductory remarks for the 25th Anniversary of the ADA at the White House. Her TEDxBaltimore Talk has garnered over 43,000 views.

Haben joined Disability Rights Advocates in 2013 as a Skadden Fellow, and became a Staff Attorney in 2015. She helped achieve a legal victory in National Federation of the Blind v. Scribd, the second case to hold that the ADA applies to e-commerce. She received her J.D. in 2013 from Harvard, and her B.A., magna cum laude, in 2010 from Lewis & Clark College. Haben lives in Berkeley, California.

Text for today’s post was taken from Haben Girma’s official website, where you can learn much more about her.