The National Federation of the Blind
of Connecticut
Visual Impairment Does Not Stop Active Residents

By Lindsay Fetzner
Reprinted from The Plainville Citizen, Thursday, January 14, 2010

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 are employed.

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.
The Central Connecticut Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, which is in its fourth year, held its monthly meeting Jan. 9 at the Plainville Public Library.

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."
Through word of mouth and the help of media outlets, the group continued to grow and attract more members.

"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 not capable."

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.
For more information, contact Rival at (860) 289-1971 or Allen at (860) 589-2241. The Web site for the Connecticut Affiliate of NFB is and for the federation on the national level.


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For more information, E-mail us at:

The National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut
477 Connecticut Boulevard, Suite 217
East Hartford, CT 06108
(860) 289-1971


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Updated May 12, 2010