1921 The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) was founded by a group of educators and leaders in the burgeoning field of rehabilitation for blind people, with the support of M.C. Migel, a philanthropist who wanted to help the large number of veterans blinded in World War I. AFB began its mission to:
- provide a national clearinghouse for information about vision loss
- create a forum for blindness service professionals
- generate new directions for research
- represent the needs of people with vision loss in the creation of public policy
1924-1968 Helen Keller—the world-famous author, activist, and advocate—helped to raise AFB's profile when she began working with the organization in 1924. Helen Keller worked for AFB for 44 years and changed the world's perception of what it means to be blind and deaf. In addition to serving as AFB's counselor on national and international relations, she made countless speeches and appearances at home and in more than 39 countries around the world on behalf of the organization. She lobbied extensively for the creation of State Commissions for the Blind and the construction of schools for those with vision loss, as well as for the government to print and distribute books in braille for use across the United States.
1928 AFB distributed radios to citizens who are blind, giving them firsthand access to breaking news. This was the Foundation's first direct service to blind individuals.
1929 AFB created a nationwide Directory of Services for people with vision loss. Now available online, the Directory remains an indispensable resource.
1932 AFB developed Talking Books and Talking Book machines. These long-playing records, played on special machines, opened the door of knowledge and transformed the lives of thousands of Americans across the country. AFB later successfully advocated for the distribution of talking books by the National Library Service for the Blind. AFB was instrumental in the passage of a law to establish the NLS.
1938 AFB played the leading role in the passage of the Wagner O'Day Act, which radically improved employment opportunities for people with vision loss. This law required the federal purchase of blind-made products.
1945 Following World War II, the Veterans Administration asked AFB to help set up its rehabilitation program for blinded soldiers. M. C. Migel, AFB's President and CEO gave what was at that time a large donation of $10,000 towards the establishment of the Blinded Veterans Association.
1966 AFB improved the education of blind and visually impaired children by helping to develop nationwide standards. AFB established the National Accreditation Council (NAC) to ensure uniform educational services and standardized teaching practices for children with visual impairments by developing educational standards and curricula that agencies and schools could follow nationwide.
1975 AFB played a major role in the passage of legislation to ensure that children with vision loss are mainstreamed into America's public education system. Until this time over 90% of blind and visually impaired students were taught in residential schools. This legislation, known as IDEA, ultimately resulted in the creation of comprehensive curriculum guidelines for public school programs serving visually impaired children.
1980 Two years of study and discussion on the needs of parents of visually impaired children culminated in the establishment of the National Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired, the first national organization for parents of children who are blind or visually impaired. Together, the two organizations later created FamilyConnect.
1983 AFB began marketing a talking device which identified U.S. paper currency.
1990 AFB was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This landmark civil rights law gave Americans with disabilities more public access and greater protections against discrimination.
1990s AFB successfully rallied educators, parents, and professionals to keep braille in the school systems.
1991 Access Awards, which honor individuals, corporations, and organizations that are eliminating or substantially reducing inequities faced by people who are blind or visually impaired, established.
2000 AccessWorld, AFB’s technology magazine first published.
2002 AFB opens AFB TECH in Huntington, WV. AFB TECH worked with companies to make medical devices, household appliances, office equipment, and communications technology accessible to people with vision loss.
2002 AFB fought to ensure that people with vision loss can vote independently and privately. Great progress was made with the passage of the Help America Vote Act.
2003 AFB Consulting was founded to help organizations and partners advance their accessibility and inclusion goals.
2004 AFB led the advocacy effort to ensure children with visual impairments receive their textbooks and classroom materials on time and in braille, large print, and electronic formats. The National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) was established to facilitate access to electronic versions of textbooks for students in grades K-12.
2006 AFB opened its Center on Vision Loss in Dallas, Texas to help provide information to older Americans with low vision. Its centerpiece is Esther's Place, a fully furnished, model home fitted with simple adaptations and products designed to make daily life more manageable for individuals with vision loss.
2007 Corinne Kirchner Research Award, which honors the best minds in the field of visual impairment, established.
2007 AFB launched Senior Site®, to provide aging adults, their families, and caregivers with practical advice and help on living independently and productively with vision loss. In 2012, to better respond to the information and rehabilitation needs of the increasing numbers of adults with vision loss, the American Foundation for the Blind and Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation joined forces to integrate Senior Site and VisionAware into a single website, visionaware.org.
2008 The American Foundation for the Blind and the National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (NAPVI) launched FamilyConnect, an online community for parents and guardians of children with visual impairments. FamilyConnect.org is now stewarded by the American Printing House for the Blind.
2010 AFB led the way for passage of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. This landmark law requires television programs, smart phones, and other modern communications technologies to be accessible.
2014 Stephen Garff Marriott Award established to honor a blind or visually impaired individual who has served as an extraordinary mentor or who has had a remarkably successful career.
2015 AFB creates the first fully accessible digital archive. The digital Helen Keller Archive disseminates Keller's life and legacy to a global audience.
2019 AFB convened major organizations in the blindness field to study the the social, economic, and civic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adults and students who are blind or have low vision, resulting in the Flatten Inaccessibility and Access and Engagement reports.