Missouri BELL Academy
BELL (Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning)
July 31, 2023 - August 11, 2023
In Springfield, MO & St. Louis, MO
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For Immediate Release
National Federation of the Blind of Missouri Calls for Equal Voting Rights for the Blind
Kansas City, Missouri (May 1, 2023): The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri is a nonpartisan organization committed to promoting the welfare and rights of the blind and visually impaired, as well as the sighted individuals who support our cause. We are a diverse group, including conservatives, liberals, democrats, republicans, and independents. We are united around many goals, one of which is ensuring the right to vote privately and independently for blind people.
In recent elections, blind voters have faced difficulties in accessing ballot marking devices, which are essential to enable us to vote privately and independently. These devices allow blind people to hear the ballot choices and reflect their choices on a paper ballot by using a keypad with buttons to make their selections. These devices do not count votes but simply mark paper ballots that are then counted by the units that tally votes according to the selections made by each county. Unfortunately, the availability of ballot marking devices has been inconsistent, which is in violation of two federal laws.
The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri and other concerned organizations of the blind have filed complaints with the Department of Justice, urging the federal Attorney General to address this issue. In response, the Department sent election monitors to verify our concerns, but they were turned away with the argument that no one can interfere with Missouri’s election process. The clear implication asserted and reported was that the federal government was trying to do just that. This refusal to observe and address our concerns has left us as victims in a battle framed around state's rights when the real issue is our right to vote with the same secret ballot that others take for granted.
As an organization, we strive to help everyone without regard to their political affiliation. The diversity of our membership, being a cross-section of Missourians, demands it; so too do the laws that grant us limited tax exemptions.
“The right of blind people to vote privately and independently should not be compromised or overlooked in anyone's messaging in their pursuit of higher office,” said Melissa Kane, Chair of the NFB of Missouri’s Accessible voting Committee. “Blind citizens, like all Americans, have a personal stake in the issues that confront our country and the world. It is vital that our right to vote is not overshadowed by philosophical or ideological wars in which we have no part but end up being the victims.”
We call upon every candidate to embrace our right to vote privately and independently based on two simple principles: Voting is a fundamental right and a sacred obligation in our country and because they may well be the beneficiary of our votes. The National Federation of the Blind of Missouri will continue to advocate for the voting rights of the blind and visually impaired, ensuring that our voices are heard in the democratic process.
Shelia Wright, President
National Federation of the Blind of Missouri
61st. Annual Convention Rewind
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The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.