National Federation of the Blind
|Visual Impairment Does Not Stop Active Residents|
By Lindsay Fetzner
In the United States, there
are approximately 1.3 million people who are legally blind, according
to a survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. Out
of that population, only 30 percent of the working age legally blind adults
The National Federation of
the Blind, which began in 1940, works to integrate the blind into the
community on the premise of equal rights, while trying to combat the stereotypes
and discrimination that result from being blind, according to its Web
site. As the largest organization of blind people, they are a source of
educational information and advice but equally as important, a support
system for both the blind and those with sight.
Beth Rival, president of National
Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, wanted a place for people to gather
where they could help and support one another.
"I tried to start chapters
three times," said Gary Allen, president of NFBC Central Connecticut
Chapter. "This one worked, it just stuck."
"It gave me the courage
to deal with the outside world," said West Hartford resident Maryanne
Melley, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users and secretary
of NFBC. "Often, the public image is that if you are blind, you are
The monthly meetings offer
a place where people can come together and talk about their visual impairment
in a non-judgmental environment, while gaining the support of others who
have gone through the same experience.
Bristol residents Paul and
Cheri Duquette have been members of the NFB Central Connecticut Chapter
for just over one year. Paul lost his sight two years ago as a result
of a motorcycle accident.
"As a spouse, I didn't know where to turn," Cheri said. "I needed the support of someone saying 'let him do it alone' because I couldn't help but want to do everything for him."
When the Duquettes discovered
the federation, Cheri presumed she would pull in, drop Paul off and go
shopping for two hours. However, she has yet to do that.
Both have become active members
and attend meetings on a regular basis.
"It (the group) was a
God-send." Cheri said. "I didn't know where to go or what to
do. But now I know that it's okay."
NFBC is a state affiliate of
the National Federation of the Blind based in Baltimore. There are seven
chapters in Connecticut, each of which meet on an individual basis. With
affiliates in every state, members of the National Federation of the Blind
total 50,000 people, according to its Web site.
Currently, NFB is working on
three legislative initiatives. The first is the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement
Act. The act would work to create a vehicle safety standard to the blind
and other pedestrians when silent hybrids and electric vehicles were present,
according to the legislation. The low-volume vehicles not only present
a hazard to the blind, but also to children, the elderly, the hearing
impaired and "any other person in close proximity to the vehicles.
The second initiative is the
Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind, which would make all electronics,
appliances and other technology accessible to their users through non-visual
means, according to the legislation.
The final initiative involves
working to transition the visually impaired of American from being recipients
of Social Security Disability Insurance to becoming "income-earning,
tax-paying productive members of the American workforce," according
to the legislation. This would be accomplished through a series of steps,
all of which would aim to integrate more members of the blind community
into the workforce and encourage them to reach their full working capacity.
Meetings are held the second
Saturday of each month from September to June in the Plainville Public
Library located at 56 East Main St.
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| The National
Federation of the Blind of Connecticut
477 Connecticut Boulevard, Suite 217
East Hartford, CT 06108
|Updated May 12, 2010|