by Chris Danielsen
From the Editor: Chris Danielsen is our director of public relations and was one of the people who served a critical function in helping us arrive at and articulate our branding messages. Who better than Chris to help explain these further. Here is what he says:
In the May 2018 Braille Monitor, we discussed how one of the critical pieces of our brand architecture is a set of brand values. As we said, just as with personal values, brand values make up the code by which the organization lives. Our brand values define the principles upon which our staff, leadership, and members act and make decisions. They are the heart and soul of the organization and do not change very much over time.
The National Federation of the Blind lives by six carefully considered brand values: courage, respect, love, full participation, democracy, and collective action. Back in May we talked about the values of courage, respect, and love and gave examples of how they work in our movement. In this article we’ll consider the values of full participation, democracy, and collective action.
We assert that blind people have a right to live fully and equally in the world, and from this flows our expectation that society will not artificially prevent blind people from full participation. The world is better off when all its people can contribute all that they have to offer.
In his 1957 banquet speech “Cross of Blindness,” our founder, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, laid out the rationale for organizing and growing the National Federation of the Blind. He listed sixteen incidents in which blind people encountered discrimination or barriers to full participation in society. Some of these examples are much rarer today than they were when he made the speech, if they exist at all. It’s unusual today for a bank to flatly deny a blind person a safety deposit box or for an airline to deny us a plane ticket. Most of these barriers have all but disappeared because of the National Federation of the Blind. But other barriers still exist, and there are new ones. The inaccessibility of websites, apps, and other technologies comes to mind. So does the proliferation of household appliances that we can no longer easily label and use. As at our founding and in 1957, our goal is the full participation of blind people in society, and that means the removal of all the artificial barriers that stand in the way of that goal.
The National Federation of the Blind is the original and largest organization of the blind. By virtue of being a democratic organization open to all blind people, we represent the issues that are important to the blind openly and fairly. National, state, and local officers are elected by the membership of the NFB to ensure a representative form of government and democratic decision-making practices. Our membership-driven structure ensures that blind people can determine our own future rather than relying on others to advocate for us.
Understanding our commitment to democracy involves understanding how our leaders are chosen and how we arrive at decisions. The Constitution of the National Federation of the Blind was last amended at the 2014 National Convention. The national convention is the Federation’s supreme authority, so our constitution can only be amended there. The amended constitution was published in the January 2015 issue of the Braille Monitor and is available online at https://archive.nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/bm/bm15/bm1501/bm150111.htm. Because the constitution lays out all our democratic processes, it’s useful for members to read and review it. Understanding how our organization is structured, how we elect our leaders, and how we make decisions helps all of us to more fully participate in our movement.
The primary purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is “to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind,” as stated in our above-referenced constitution. A core belief is that the blind can and will speak for ourselves. Embodied in this self-determination is the understanding that progress comes from blind people working together, sharing individual dreams, and speaking with a more powerful, unified voice than any one person could on his/her own.
Our democratic processes allow us to arrive at organizational decisions, either through the actions of our elected leaders or through direct votes by the convention (for example, on resolutions). Collective action encompasses the things we do in order to put those decisions into effect. For example, if we decide to support proposed legislation, then we tell Congress about our support for it—in person during Washington Seminar and through letters, emails, phone calls, and social media posts throughout the rest of the year. Sometimes we organize informational protests to inform policymakers, businesses, or government agencies that we believe that their practices or policies are unhelpful to blind people. Social media campaigns can do the same thing. We successfully put a stop to the Foundation Fighting Blindness’s misguided #HowEyeSeeIt campaign almost entirely through social media action. The key to collective action, whether direct or virtual, is that we all convey and amplify the same message. That is what gives our movement its power and influence.What other examples come to mind when you think about these values, or any other aspects of the brand that we have discussed? Share them with us by sending an email to [email protected].