Imagine a Future Full of Opportunity
Two boys in bamboo tunnel with canesWoman looking at white canesTwo girls holding hands and walking with canes
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Jernigan Institute, the first institute of its kind developed and operated by an organization of blind people, leads the quest to understand the real problems of blindness and to develop innovative education, technologies, products, and services that help the world's blind to achieve independence.
Little girl with Braille writerLaw program participants standing on steps

National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute Programs


Education is the most urgent civil rights issue facing the blind in the twenty-first century, and as such, it must be met with significant resources and collective will. The NFB is now the leading source of best practices in blindness education--working to ensure that the next generation receives an education that prepares them to be contributing members of our society.

National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS) - The collective programming under this initiative demonstrates that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are real options for blind youth. Through this effort we inspire blind youth to pursue careers falsely believed to be dependent upon sight, stimulate the development of educational and technological innovations, and offer a clearinghouse of expertise in these areas. Through the NCBYS initiative we offer:

  • NFB Project Innovation - This pioneer summer program focuses on fostering a sense of innovation and autonomy Girl doing chemistryin young students by allowing them to determine their course of study during the week of the program. Students ultimately focus on one discipline and design an investigation within that area which they showcase at the Innovators Expo. The program primarily serves students of ages seven to eleven, but it also offers a handful of high school students the opportunity to participate in the student-centered, inquiry-based learning while simultaneously refining their skills in the areas of leadership and mentoring as they work hand-in-hand with younger students.
  • NFB Youth Slam - Inaugurated in 2007, this biennial leadership academy centered around STEM brings together nearly one hundred and fifty blind youth at a major university campus for a week of challenging and inspiring activities. This program raises educational expectations for blind students at the pivotal time when young minds begin planning for their future and focusing their interests for college and beyond.
  • - This Web portal is a clearinghouse of tools, techniques, and other information for teaching science to the blind: biographical sketches of blind STEM professionals, conference proceedings, educational materials and resources, and access to online networks. This is also the home for information about the NCBYS initiative.

Braille - Literacy is vital for education, employment opportunities, and countless aspects of daily life. NFB programs lead the nation in tackling the Braille literacy crisis in America. We promote Braille literacy among blind people of all ages, provide education about Braille to the general public, and increase the quality and quantity of Braille produced in the United States.

  • NFB Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) - A unique network of two-week summer programs which provide Braille instruction to blind children who do not receive enough training in school or who could benefit from enrichment over the summer. If blind students receive any Braille instruction at all, they are provided with minutes of literacy instruction compared to the hours of instruction their sighted peers receive. The NFB BELL program provides an engaging learning environment for children who are not receiving enough Braille instruction in public schools. The ultimate goal is to implement the BELL program in every state. 
  • Braille Certification Training Program - Under a contract with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the NFB operates the courses leading to Library of Congress certification in Braille transcribing and proofreading for mathematics, music, and literary Braille.

Early Childhood - Young minds are hard-wired for learning, and as a result children readily absorb information from new experiences. Early access to positive attitudes about blindness, blind role models, and instruction in the skills of blindness are vital to ensure blind children grow up to be successful adults. Most learning opportunities for children of this age occur in the family setting. To ensure families with blind children know how to involve them in learning experiences, and to encourage the acquisition of Braille and cane travel skills, the Jernigan Institute offers two programs for children (ages birth to seven) and their families.

  • NFB Braille Reading Pals Club - An early literacy program that fosters positive attitudes about Braille for children and their families, and promotes a love of reading by encouraging parents to read daily with their blind child. The club provides families with early Braille literacy tools and access to a network of resources. 
  • NFB Early Explorers - Through this program parents receive a cane for their child, as well as the resources that explain how to encourage and teach the use of the long white cane to young children. The resources include an instructional video and a quarterly newsletter which provides ongoing tips and ideas about how to ensure the development of age-appropriate movement in blind youngsters through the use of a cane. Armed with information and the proper tools, the parents of the children in this program feel empowered to be their child’s first cane travel teacher.

Leadership - The NFB offers blind teens a unique educational experience combining leadership training and practical lessons about how government works. Through the Leadership and Advocacy in Washington (LAW) program, blind students take a journey into the legislative process by studying the implementation of laws impacting the blind and by meeting leaders in Washington, DC. Additionally, through a variety of other weekend seminars at the Institute, the NFB provides hands-on leadership and skills training to blind youth of all ages from across the country.

Parent Outreach - Building a future full of opportunity for blind youth begins in the early years by empowering parents with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that support the development of the blind child in an environment of high expectations. Parent education is woven throughout our education effort, as the parent is the blind child's first and most important teacher.

Teacher Excellence - Great teaching bolsters the growth and development of our children. Great teaching emerges from an intimate understanding of subject matter, quality mentoring, and access to instructional resources. As the leader in the blindness field, the NFB offers the support that educators need to provide great instruction to blind children, support that otherwise does not exist. The NFB is committed to providing continuing education and a professional network of mentors, resources, and tools for educators. This includes offering online resources, building better assessment tools, and designing enrichment programs to ensure teachers are connected, skilled instructors and advocates for all of their students.


Technology holds the promise of increased access to information but it is not always built with accessibility in mind. The NFB has assembled the resources to test, evaluate, and consult on nonvisual access to any type of technology. We are now seen as the consumer reports of blindness technology and the leaders in nonvisual accessibility. We even engage directly in building innovative technologies to help the world’s blind achieve independence.

International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) - Since 1990 this comprehensive evaluation, demonstration, and training center has displayed over $2.5 million worth of nearly all tactile and speech output technology. The onsite access technology team consults with individuals, employers, rehabilitation and education professionals, and technology developers alike. This vendor-free access technology advice ensures that the consumer perspective is represented and that technology choices are the best for each blind person.

Educational Technology Accessibility - Technology is transforming the delivery of educational content and the management of academic services at a rapid pace. While this transformation offers the promise of improved access to education to more learners, the reality is that technologies are being widely deployed that greatly restrict access for many students. The NFB is leading the way in gaining full access to mainstream technologies for the blind and others with print disabilities. Through advocacy, policy, technology expertise, testing, standards development, and consultation the NFB is opening new opportunities through a wider market of accessible technologies. The blind deserve access to education and the NFB is providing the expertise to ensure that technology does not shut blind students out of the classroom.

Engineering Innovations - Through partnerships with universities and companies, the NFB is leading the way in the research and development of new technologies to promote the independence of the blind. The Institute's initial project was the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader, the first handheld portable reading machine, which is now available for use in cell phones. The largest of these engineering initiatives is the Blind Driver ChallengeTM--an effort to stimulate the development of ground-breaking technologies that would allow the blind to independently drive cars.  The technology required to meet the Blind Driver ChallengeTM--will have far-reaching spin-off benefits similar to those realized from America's quest to go to the moon. Learn more at

NFB Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification - This process recognizes websites and web applications that implement the highest standards in usability with access technology for the blind.

Senior lady using accessible voting machineNFB Jernigan Institute executive director Mark Riccobono standing beside the BDC vehicle at Daytona International SpeedwayWoman using Braille Sense

Access Technology Training - Through the fully accessible technology training lab, the Institute provides cutting edge training on access technology and related issues to parents, educators, rehabilitation and technology specialists, and to the blind themselves.

The NFB Nonvisual Election Technology Project - This project, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates and makes familiar the features of accessible electronic voting technology for voting officials and protection and advocacy state agencies. Training materials on the NFB website educate election judges to work properly with blind voters, thus improving the implementation of technology that ensures the right of every blind voter to a secret, independent ballot.

NFB-NEWSLINE® Service - The NFB’s innovative NEWSLINE® technology provides blind and print-disabled individuals with equal access to newspapers, magazines, and other important publications. With free access from a touchtone telephone, via the Internet or email, or through an iPhone app, NFB-NEWSLINE® is a powerful tool for empowering the blind with the latest information about our society and increasing participation in employment, education, and other ventures.


The Possibilities Fair is an Institute-developed model for local communities to use to produce an annual program providing resources, tools, tips, and mentors to area seniors who seek to maintain their independence despite declining sight. The powerful expertise of the NFB, combined with local nonprofit and governmental organizations, empowers seniors in many communities across the country, and we continue to seek the development of new outreach models aiding seniors losing vision.


Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research logo

The Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research (JBIR) is the first international, interdisciplinary, open access journal created by blind people, parents, teachers, administrators, and academic researchers designed to further efforts to address the real problems of blindness. The JBIR is a component of the Institute's research program to facilitate collaboration with investigators and graduate students. These relationships help to ensure that future research will address the greatest needs of the blind, as identified by the blind themselves, resulting in more meaningful program, product, and policy development.


Man in sculpture gardenLittle girl at Project Innovation with her projectTeachers with accessible science toolsGirl reading Braille

Jacobus tenBroek Library

This unique resource--the only research library on blindness owned by the blind themselves--was established in 2004 and is named for the founding president of the NFB, Jacobus tenBroek, a distinguished professor at the University of California. A scholar and activist, Dr. tenBroek published books and articles that have profoundly influenced constitutional law, social welfare reform, civil rights, disability policy, and the philosophical underpinning of the NFB. The tenBroek Library honors his memory by preserving, and making available to researchers, his personal and professional papers. The library also serves as repository for the archives of the NFB, containing thousands of documents from blind people in all walks of life, including transformational leaders such as Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, Marc Maurer, and our current President Mark Riccobono. Our archival audiovisual collections are unmatched as a resource for sound, photographic, and moving image documentation of the history of the organized blind in the United States. Researchers can find information on the collections in the archives at the tenBroek Library through our accessible online finding aid database, The Cane Tip.

The tenBroek Library features a growing collection of books and journals--in print, Braille, and electronic formats--on all non-medical facets of blindness. Our online catalog, The Blind Cat, provides access to the collections of the library, and is a component of the first general-purpose integrated library system fully accessible to the blind.

Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium - That blind and other disabled people have been able to gain a substantial measure of participation in American life is largely due to Dr. tenBroek's pioneering thoughts and tireless energy. To carry forward his work to advance the civil rights of people with disabilities, the NFB established an annual symposium, beginning in 2008, to bring together the best scholars and practitioners in disability law. This yearly symposium is now the premier forum for examining the legal status of disability rights and for planning the next steps on the path that Dr. tenBroek first laid out more than seventy years ago.

Independence Market

Through our market we distribute blindness-related literature and other resources helpful to the blind and their families. Products such as white canes, Braille and talking watches and clocks, Braille and print writing aids, magnifiers, and other devices that enhance the independence of the blind may be purchased online, by phone, through the mail, and in person. Our extensive free literature collection includes how-to materials, inspirational speeches and articles, and stories on all aspects of blindness--all from the perspective of the blind person. Parents of blind children, blind students, blind job seekers, blind parents, blinded veterans, and seniors new to severe vision loss will find literature that addresses their specific needs. This literature may be browsed online or ordered in various formats.

Free White Canes - We believe the long white cane is a means to independence. The white cane has proved a useful tool to millions of blind people in navigating their environments with confidence and safety. It is a tool which allows blind people to travel where and when they want, and, as such, leads to self-sufficiency. We believe that independence and freedom to travel are so important to the quality of life of blind people that every blind person should have a cane, regardless of ability to pay. Therefore, we offer a program to give any blind person a free white cane.

Video Description ClassGirl walking in the park with a white caneWoman with technology

About the National Federation of the Blind

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the largest organization of the blind in this country. Founded in 1940, the Federation's purpose is to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind and as a mechanism to help blind people achieve self-confidence, self-respect, and self-determination. Our goal is the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.

Led by Mark Riccobono as the NFB's elected President, the more than fifty thousand members organized into affiliates in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and over seven hundred local chapters make up a Federation that's truly the voice of the nation's blind. It is that element--the blind dreaming and building for themselves--that makes the NFB Jernigan Institute uniquely effective in forging a future full of opportunity for the blind. 

NFB Jernigan Institute Logo


National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute 
200 East Wells Street
     at Jernigan Place 
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
410-659-9314, ext. 2357

Programs of the NFB Jernigan Institute as well as innovative programs in local NFB affiliates are made possible through the NFB Imagination Fund. You can help support the mission by sending your check to National Federation of the Blind 200 East Wells at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230 or donating online at Please indicate that your gift is for the Imagination Fund.