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American Foundation for the Blind

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is an American non-profit organization for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology, elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss, and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. Kirk Adams, formerly the first blind president and CEO of The Lighthouse for the Blind, has been AFB's president and CEO since May 2016.[1]


AFB, with the support and leadership of M.C. Migel, a philanthropist who was moved to help the large number of veterans blinded in World War I, was formed in 1921 to provide both a national clearing house for information about vision loss and a forum for discussion for blindness service professionals. Its founding, made official at the convention of the American Association of Workers for the Blind in Vinton, Iowa, was also intended to spur research and represent the needs of people with vision loss in the US government.[2]

AFB's early accomplishments included taking the lead to standardize English Braille code and establishing the first professional publications program for teachers and administrators of programs for people with vision loss. In 1926, AFB's Directory of Services for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons was first published.[2]

In 1932, AFB engineers developed the Talking Book and Talking Book Machine[3] and set up studios for the recording these books, marking the advent of the modern audiobook. AFB played a major role in persuading the federal government to include talking books in the National Library System for blind people operated by the Library of Congress.

AFB's advocacy efforts have led to the passage of significant legislation for people with vision loss. AFB was instrumental in creating and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and more recently worked on the renewal of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to ensure that it contained provisions to meet the specific needs of children with vision loss.

For many years, AFB designed, manufactured and sold products that were made specifically for people with vision loss, such as braille writers, magnifiers, and audio blood pressure monitors. AFB also works with technology manufacturers at the design stage to develop products that can be used by everyone, sighted or visually impaired. Especially since the advent of digital technology, AFB believes that working to establish universal design practices among technology producers is the most promising and cost-effective option for making all products accessible in the long term.

AFB is the organization to which Helen Keller devoted her life. She worked for AFB for more than 40 years and was instrumental in the foundation of the Talking Books Program, among many others. She remained with AFB until her death, in 1968. Under the terms of her will, she selected AFB as the repository of her papers and memorabilia, which AFB maintains in the Helen Keller Archives of its New York City headquarters.[4]

Louis Braille was the Frenchman who invented the raised dot code that bears his name. On January 4, 2009, the 200th anniversary of his birth, AFB created an online gallery that includes pictures of him and digitized books and articles.


AFB's main headquarters is in Arlington, Virginia. Other offices include New York City; Dallas, Texas; and Huntington, West Virginia.


In 2012, AFB added VisionAware to its family of sites in partnership with the Reader's Digest Partners for Sight Foundation. The site folded in content from AFB's Senior Site, with new information and resources for adults of all ages with vision loss.

VisionAware's goal is to help adults and their family members to cope with age-related eye diseases, a growing public health problem in the United States. According to research on vision problems in Americans over 40, rates of vision loss from diseases like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are expected to double by 2030, as America's 78 million baby boomers reach retirement age.[5]


In spring 2008, AFB and the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) launched FamilyConnect, an online community for caregivers of children with visual impairments.[6] NAPVI is an affiliate of Lighthouse Guild.


  1. ^ Montague, Adrianna (2006). "Kirk Adams is next AFB President and CEO". (Press release). American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Koestler, Frances A. (2004). The Unseen Minority: A Social History of Blindness in the United States (2nd ed.). New York: AFB Press.
  3. ^ "Milestones in AFB's History". American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Helen Keller Biography". American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  5. ^ Vision Problems in the U.S.: Prevalence of Adult Vision Impairment and Age-Related Eye Disease in America (Update to the 4th ed.). Schaumburg, Illinois: Prevent Blindness America. 2008.
  6. ^ "About FamilyConnect". American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved 9 January 2016.

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