About the American Council of the Blind
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) was founded in 1961 but many of its state affiliates and local chapters have a history that can be traced back to the 1880s. Since its inception, ACB and its affiliates have been at the forefront of the creation of policies that have shaped the opportunities that are now available to people with disabilities in our country. ACB has also effectively collaborated with Vision Rehabilitation Service providers to develop the principles and values that should be at the heart of providing adjustment and placement services to people who are blind.
At the heart of the philosophy of the American Council of the Blind is the belief that we must accept people who are blind where they are and value each and every person for their individual accomplishments. Our organization encourages local and state affiliates to operate autonomously and provide through our resolutions process and through our Board of Directors direction to our national office. Each blind person must be valued as an individual and while the American Council of the Blind expects its members to strive to be all that they can be, we do not support the adoption of a set of values that tell people who they are.
Since our organization emerged in the 1960s, we have concentrated on developing and maintaining policies that have substantially determined what appropriate services are for people who are blind. The foundation of our work is our belief that it is the right of every blind person in this country to be included in society.
It is the responsibility of government at all levels to provide the infrastructure of services and equipment that will allow us to fully participate in our communities. This has led us to support the need for governments at all levels to provide accessible information for people who are blind.
On the national level, our efforts to improve the quality of life for people who are blind have included:
- Being actively involved with the development of the principles and policies that became a part of the regulations implementing Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended.
- Working throughout our fifty years to reform social security so as to create more work incentives for people who are blind and to assure that people who are blind who return to work are protected from the immediate loss of medical coverage.
- Working to create accessible technology in Federal jobs by negotiating and working directly on the standards that have now become section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
- Being at the heart of work done to expand the Randolph-Sheppard Program which has created thousands of jobs as blind vendors throughout our country.
- Working with the Rehabilitation Services Administration to assure that services delivered to people who are blind by state rehabilitation programs are appropriate.
- Working directly with other disability organizations to have the rights of people with disabilities extended as they were when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.
- Working with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to create paper money that is identifiable by people who are blind.
- Working with the Department of Education to ensure that blind children receive the instruction they need to excel in school.
- Working towards the passage of The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) which provides for enhanced access to cell phones, television programming menus, video description of television programming, and receiving access to emergency information displayed on television.
The American Council of the Blind determined that we could have more influence over how services are delivered by working directly with service providers. As a result, we remained involved with ongoing efforts to create and implement programs that would lead to accrediting agencies who provide services to people who are blind. We have served on the boards of directors of national organizations such as National Industries for the Blind, the National Accreditation Council of Agencies Serving People Who Are Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind and we have used our influence to shape the policies those organizations have developed. Our history also includes consistently championing the provision of services to people who are blind by separate agencies who have the expertise in such areas as access technology, braille, daily living and orientation and mobility that assure that people who are blind receive the specialized services they need to be successful.
Our history has been filled with a clear and unswerving resolve to work to make it possible for people who are blind to be more independent and self-sufficient in a society whose complexity is making this increasingly difficult. When necessary, we have filed suit where appropriate, to assure that change happens but prefer to work using structured negotiations or mediation to create reform. Our efforts have led to:
- Public transit systems providing auditory stop announcements on buses and subways.
- Municipalities installing Accessible Pedestrian Signals that can be used by people who are blind or deaf and blind.
- States providing voting machines that allow people who are blind to vote privately and independently.
- The state of Hawaii allowing people who are blind to take their guide dogs into Hawaii without the dog being quarantined.
- Banks and other businesses providing Point of Sale (POS) credit and debit card processing devices that allow for people who are blind to conduct their business independently and privately.
In addition, we are working with leading developers of mainstream technology to assure that they understand that technology is becoming more and more visual and graphical but at the same time, must be accessible for and usable by people who are blind.
Developments of roundabouts and other traffic controls have made it more difficult for pedestrians, in general and blind pedestrians in particular, to move about freely in urban areas. The American Council of the Blind has published a state-of-the-art web-based "pedestrian safety handbook" to provide traffic engineers and people who are blind with the tools they need to develop more friendly approaches to urban planning.
Throughout our history, we have also consistently worked with other organizations on civil rights issues because we believe that there is no difference between the way that people who are blind are being treated and the way that discrimination happens for women or individuals from different racial or ethnic or religious groups.
We invite you to review the information found on our website regarding the numerous activities in which the American Council of the Blind is involved—activities guided by our mission of increasing the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all blind and visually impaired people.