By Melanie Peskoe
Editor’s Note: The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a valuable APH ConnectCenter partner whose policy, advocacy, and research initiatives positively affect people who are blind or low vision. Learn about their latest efforts in meeting their mission, “creating a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired.” Stay tuned for future updates about their work.
Did you know that the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) was founded in 1921 to support veterans who were blinded in World War I? Within a year of its founding, deafblind activist, Helen Keller, joined AFB and began traveling the United States advocating for expanded rights and services for people who are blind. Visit our timeline to learn more about AFB’s rich history over the past 100 years!
At the close of 2021, AFB wrapped up a whirlwind centennial year. We hosted many special events commemorating our mission, “creating a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired.” We’re excited about that! If you missed any of the events, no worries, you can always watch the replays!
New AFB Programs
AFBs recently launched the Talent Lab program, created to help meet the accessibility needs of companies and technology developers. The program includes apprenticeships, internships and mentoring opportunities for people who are blind or low vision. Talent Lab participants will address the growing demand for digitally inclusive products. Individuals will receive hands-on training through foundational coursework in web accessibility, job shadowing with experienced digital inclusion specialists, and direct client projects.
In early January 2022, AFB published our newest research report, The Workplace Technology Study. The study included interviews, focus groups, and surveys of over 320 participants who are blind or have low vision about how technology influenced their experiences in the workplace. The research examined topics such as what types of mainstream and adaptive technology is most used and what barriers exist for employees to obtain necessary job accommodations.
In 2022, as part of a coalition, AFB organized an advocacy effort in which 181 disability advocacy groups signed on to a letter that was sent to the Assistant Attorney General. The letter asked Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke to urge the Department of Justice to begin a rulemaking process that would issue regulations around web and application accessibility within the current administration. Read the press release about the new guidance that the Department of Justice has just promulgated.
This effort is especially important now because we live in an increasing digital world. From websites with information about COVID-19 testing, to mobile applications for telehealth services, and everything in between, there is a crucial need for all people, regardless of disability, to access these platforms. When websites or mobile apps are built without accessibility features like button labels or section headings, it is difficult (if not impossible), for people who are blind or low vision to access critical information.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers a wide range of protections for people with disabilities. When signed into law 30 years ago, no one predicted such a digital world. Regulations will supply guidance to website and app developers and business owners who want to make their products accessible but have no idea how or where to start. AFB is excited and proud to help bring these efforts to fruition.
On the Horizon
AFB plans to publish our newest research study, Journey Forward, in April of 2022. Journey Forward picks up where the Flatten Inaccessibility study left off. Flatten Inaccessibility examined the barriers to services and systemic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic created for people who are blind or low vision. The Journey Forward study will explore short and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and how services for people with vision loss have been affected.
AFB continues to be committed to creating system change through research, public policy efforts, and innovative programs for the next 100 years and beyond. To stay up to date with what’s happening at AFB, read the AFB blog, check out our monthly technology magazine Access World, and listen to our podcast, Inform & Connect.